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China: A History

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Overview

Many nations define themselves in terms of territory or people; China defines itself in terms of history. Taking into account the country’s unrivaled, voluminous tradition of history writing, John Keay has composed a vital and illuminating overview of the nation’s complex and vivid past. Keay’s authoritative history examines 5,000 years in China, from the time of the Three Dynasties through Chairman Mao and the current economic transformation of the country. Crisp, judicious, and engaging, China is the classic single-volume history for anyone seeking to understand the present and future of this immensely powerful nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
There are only a handful of English-language books that encapsulate the five millennia of Chinese history in one volume. To date, only John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman's China: A New History, Jacques Gernet's A History of Chinese Civilization, and Patricia Buckley Ebrey's Cambridge Illustrated History of China come close to Keay's concise précis of the imperial dynasties, influential characters, and major turning points of Chinese history. Without sacrificing substance for brevity, Keay manages to illustrate China's history very much as a narrative of the rise and fall of strong and feeble emperors, bureaucratic cliques and factionalism, the development of philosophical traditions and religious incarnations, and the constant restructuring of the empire's geographical boundaries. A journalist by trade, Keay is well experienced in scripting historical tomes, with India: A History being most comparable in scale and ambition to this latest work. VERDICT Readers already interested in, or wishing newly to embark upon, Chinese history will adore this book. Highly recommended.—Allan Cho, Univ. of British Columbia Lib., Vancouver
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465015801
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 642
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Keay is a former special correspondent for the Economist and contributes regularly to the Sunday Telegraph, Times Higher Educational Supplement, and the Literary Review. His past books include the best-selling India: A History. He lives in Argyll, Scotland.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xiii

List of Maps and Diagrams xvii

Acknowledgements xix

Introduction

Rewriting the past 1

Spadework 5

Cradle, core and beyond 10

The dynastic dynamic 15

The triumph of Pinyin 17

A matter of scale 20

1 Rites To Writing, Pre c. 1050 BC

The Great Beginning 25

Glint of bronze 31

Finding family 38

In the oracular 42

2 Sages and Heroes, c. 1050-c. 250 BC

Footprints of Zhou 50

Less spring than autumn 60

The Confucian conveyance 66

Warring states and statist wars 71

3 The First Empire, c. 250-210 BC

Stone Cattle Road 80

Qin's cultural revolution 88

Crumbling wall, hidden tomb 97

4 Han Ascendant, 210-141 BC

Qin implodes 106

Pawn to king 111

Jaded monarchs 118

5 Within and Beyond, 141 BC-AD 1

Han and Hun 128

Explorer Zhang and the Western Regions 135

Administering an empire 143

Confucian fundamentalism 151

6 Wang Mang and the Han Reprise, AD 1-189

A one-man dynasty 156

Across the watershed 164

Decline and fall 174

7 Four Hundred Years of Vicissitude, 189-550

Three Kingdoms and the Red Cliffs 184

Dao and the Celestial Masters 192

Enter the Enlightened One 198

Into the abyss 203

Luoyang again 210

8 Sui, Tang and the Second Empire, 550-650

Intercalary conjunction 216

Sui-cide 224

Sons of the sunset and the sunrise 233

Beyond the Jade Gate 239

9 High Tang, 650-755

Wanton, not wayward 246

The greatest power in Asia 259

Like a breath of spring 267

A turning point 273

10 Reconfiguring the Empire, 755-1005

Low Tang 279

Five Dynasties or Ten Kingdoms 290

Song and Liao 300

11 Caving In, 1005-1235

The Great State of White and High 308

Reform and reappraisal 314

In Singing-girl Towers 321

Jin and Song 327

12 By Land and Sea, 1235-1405

Sunset of the Song 341

Mongol reunification 350

Mongol misadventures 361

Triumph of the Ming 369

13 The Rites of Ming, 1405-1620

From the edge of the sky to the ends of the earth 376

Misadventures and misfortunes 386

The Great Rites Controversy 393

Landmarks and inroads 402

14 The Manchu Conquest, 1620-1760

Overwhelming Ming 410

From Jurchen to Manchu 420

Much in demand 431

Zungharia, Xinjiang and Tibet 437

15 Death Throes of Empire, 1760-1880

Self-evident truths 446

Insults and opium 455

Taiping and Tianjin 467

16 Republicans and Nationalists, 1880-1950

Brush to pen 48o

From empire to republic 490

War and more war 499

Long March, long war 507

Epilogue 517

Notes 537

Bibliography 549

Index 561

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

4 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 1, 2011

    Attractive and most readable

    A book that conveys tremendous enthusiasm for China but written with a clear appraising eye and well informed by wide reading and reflection. Keay contests many of the traditional textbook notions of Chinese history: that there is a more or less unbroken strand of national statehood and that at some deep level there have always been centralizing ideas that make regionalism a marginal force. Keay brings out the huge range of regional influences and forces and calls into question the very idea of a Chinese statehood apart from a few somewhat artificial impositions. At the same time with a wealth of detail he shows how much cultural continuity has meant to China. China, he seems to indicate, is a state of mind more than a state or a place. The book's strength is in conveying the ideas and outlooks that make up this state of mind. He recognizes that his approach goes against much thinking inside and some outside of China. It has certainly spiced up this reader's thinking about China, and made it seem even more fascinating and attractive.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2010

    Avoid

    While the information in this book is useful, the overuse of metaphors and confusing sarcasm makes it very difficult to read the book for more than five minutes at a time. If you are reading to improve your writing or general knowledge, choose another book where you will not be forced to wade through useless metaphors and possible sarcasm that make identifying actual content nearly impossible.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2013

    The ulrimate guidebook to chinese history

    This is the most straight forward work on the sum of Chinese history in one book in English I have ever come across. It is not all inclusive, but it admits as much. A must read for anyone who is interested in Chinese history, especially if you don't know where to begin. This is the book to start with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2013

    This is a wonderful summary of Chinese history with a lot of mat

    This is a wonderful summary of Chinese history with a lot of material all in one place. The writing style is simple and readable, and the book is well researched. In terms of scholarship, this book is probably better than his better known book on India. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Hazel

    "Let's go to your place." I smile shyly.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Crypt

    "TO WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE(A deep inhales happens and I can't finish...) " I take your hand and walk back..."

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Im right here

    Ready? Gavin

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Or...

    She wants to live a life not talking to complete strangers and wants to meet real people...

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2013

    Gabriel

    Gavin were are you

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    thorough without being boring

    as we get older we value good quality writing; this is a textbook on china. completely thorough, completely unboring. i don't know why textbooks get such a bad rap! this is an increadibly long book at first blush - but you will end up wishing it was part of a multi-volume set.

    china is in the headlines; take the time to read this book and understand.

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    Posted October 26, 2013

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    Posted November 11, 2013

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 15 Customer Reviews

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