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There are many more people in the world today who consider themselves Chinese than there are residents of all of Europe and North America combined. How did China as a culture and a state grow to be so large? Why hasn't it broken up like the Roman or Ottoman empires? How has it been possible for a single government to rule so many people? In The Cambridge Illustrated History of China Patricia Ebrey pursues these and other basic questions about the shaping of Chinese civilization. Her scope is phenomenal, embracing all aspects of Chinese arts, culture, economics and society, as well as China's treatment of women, foreign policy, emigrations and politics. However, key emphasis is placed throughout on the major social and cultural developments and on the way in which these wider forces impinged on the lives of ordinary people. Aware that hers is an outsider's interpretation, Professor Ebrey compensates by referring wherever possible to traditional Chinese interpretations of events and developments. Both a comprehensive introduction to this extraordinary civilization, and a detailed exploration of the continuities and disjunctures of Chinese history, this book is essential reading for all those interested in China, its society and culture.
"Patricia Ebrey's Illustrated History of China is a fine book....With great economy of text, it outlines the major elements and changes in four millennia of Chinese history and social life; the art work and photographs, skillfully chosen and admirably reproduced, both illuminate the text and supplement it." Jonathan Spence, Yale University
"Of all the general histories of China written to date, this book is among the most comprehensive, objective, and well-balanced, and it will surely be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of teachers, students, and anyone else interested in understanding the broader evolution of Chinese civilization." China Review International
"...Patricia Buckley Ebrey masterfully synthesizes more than four thousand years of Chinese history in a single volume....The Cambridge Illustrated History of China provides an excellent introduction to the study of China and Chinese civilization. It offers a straightforward, yet complex account of historical events and issues that is well supported and augmented by the supplementary special-topic sections and illustrations....In the foreword, Kwang-Ching Liu expresses his belief that this book will eventually be regarded as a classic....Professor Liu's confidence in this matter certainly seems justified." China Review International
Ebrey is always sensitive to the implications of events for ordinary people and for women. She constructs her history like a vast collage of voices, and strives to include every sort of person in the tale. Her narrative features numerous sidebars offering fascinating sub-plots, on topics like Tang-era love stories, house construction, The Biographies of Heroic Women by Liu Xiang (79-8 BC), codes of crime and punishment, legendary demons, village fairs, popular dramas such as Injustice to Dou E, modern painting, or the life of feminist writer Ding Ling (1904-85). Almost every page is quietly entertaining.
--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
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