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Excellent history of an attempted coup in ancient China
Rumours as a source of evil has always bedevilled mankind. As early as the 18 th-century China , 14 Dec 1728 to be precise, General Yue Zhongqi concluding his report on an interrogation of a prisoner to Emperor Yongzheng reflected on the way rumours spread in general :Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
One person said something ,someone else misheard it and repeated it, someone heard the new version for the first time and believed it to be true.
A good recent example , Yue observed, was the rumours swirling around that the current emperor was a heavy drinker, ... an initial statement by a senior official ...that the emperor now found wine bad for his health, had been transformed by the rumour mill into the fact that the emperor drink immoderately.
-extract from `Treason by the book' by Jonathan Spence 2001 Penguin edition page 79. An interesting read on the astonishing true story of a plot to overthrow the Manchurian Emperor in 1728. A lot of fascinating insight into the mind of a Confucian ruler.
The book is a revelation. It shows :-
a) how hardworking was Emperor Yongzheng,
b) how even in early 18th century the Chinese officials can trace a rumour to a group of prisoners in a chain gang seen on a certain road at a certain time several years earlier, and then check the files to locate and interrogate every single suspect,
c) how Emperor Yongzheng struggled with the critical questions ,"What is a good ruler? " "What is the law ?"
Yongzheng has always been overlooked by historians who highlighted the achievements of his father and his son. A book that to a certain degree redeems Yongzheng's reputation is this book.Jonathan Spence has written an outstanding history book.
Posted September 19, 2006
A wonderful book
This is a wonderful book. One will be hard put to find a better book on how a Ching Emperor governs China. Brilliantly written .It reads more like a thriller than a real life story it is.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 26, 2001
Early 18th Century Imperial China Administration
Poor Emperor Yongzhang, the third emperor of the Manchu dynasty, attempting to, but seemingly unable to crush unfavorable rumors. Jonathan Spence reconstructs a very short-lived attempted rebellion and its suppression or more precisely spreading of invidious rumors and their suppression. The rebellion was so short-lived that it actually was only manifest in a letter delivered from a near-do-well scholar, Zhange Xi, to the regional commander-and-chief of Sichuan province, General Yue Zangqi. The General immediately interrogates Zhang and relays the interrogation notes to the Emperor. Dr. Spence describes the bureaucracy in the authoritarian, imperial China of the 1720s and 1730s as if he is describing a modern highly efficient totalitarian regime. He interprets the mindsets of the conspirators, the interrogators, and the bureaucrats using language and imagery that grabs and holds the reader, even one unfamiliar with China. Two categories of relationships are explored in depth: the emperor-bureaucrat (governor, interrogator, or general) relationship and the emperor-conspirator relationship. The relationships between individual bureaucrats and conspirators are only touched upon and they do not necessarily support Spence's conclusions.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2001
A riveting thriller!
Spence has really written a riveting thriller set in China over two hundred years ago. This book is not the typical heavy brain-squeezing spence novel, but instead it's a rather fast-paced intriguing and easy read. I'm sure it will introduce a lot of new readers to Spence. There aren't that many books in this type of setting that deal and describe thsi particular era in the way this author does as he's an absolute authority in Chinese history having written well over a dozen book in this regard. Another loaded thriller that I found excellent and which deals with the modern-day China/Far East plot to become the leading world power is Alec Donzi's THE CONSULTANT.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2001
Jonathan Spence provides another brilliant piece of scholarship on Chinese history. An unquestioned authority on the subject, Spence's use of written evidence allows him to weave an interesting and intricate web of intrigue. What may be most important about this book, as some other reviewers have mentioned, is the way it illuminates the attitude of the Manchu dynasty and the historical 'Chinese' ways of handling governmental publicity. Spence's book is a scholarly and well-written example of a larger trend in the struggle for Chinese governmental legitimacy that has a relevance for today. I highly recommend this book not only for its insight into Chinese government and society but also for its entertainment value. Well worth the buy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.