City of Heavenly Tranquility: Beijing in the History of China

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In City of Heavenly Tranquility, long-time resident and journalist Jasper Becker brings back to life the emperors, eunuchs, courtesans, and warriors who for centuries ruled from behind the red walls of the Forbidden City. Becker mixes his own experiences with poignant stories from those who have tried to preserve China's past, struggling against ruthless officials and a fiercely nationalistic government set on changing the fabric of a nation by jettisoning the past and clearing space for the future. In the ...
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Overview

In City of Heavenly Tranquility, long-time resident and journalist Jasper Becker brings back to life the emperors, eunuchs, courtesans, and warriors who for centuries ruled from behind the red walls of the Forbidden City. Becker mixes his own experiences with poignant stories from those who have tried to preserve China's past, struggling against ruthless officials and a fiercely nationalistic government set on changing the fabric of a nation by jettisoning the past and clearing space for the future. In the process, China's officials are demolishing homes and destroying livelihoods, and evicting over three million residents in Beijing alone.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

There's nary a tranquil moment in this tumultuous history of China's capital. Journalist Becker (The Chinese) surveys centuries of invasion, civil war and revolution played out against vicious infighting in the Forbidden City. Throughout, Becker observes, Beijing stayed remarkably intact, a charming cityscape of bustling markets and intimate courtyard houses. Far more destructive, in the author's telling, has been China's plunge into modern capitalism, with the 2008 Olympics delivering the coup de grace: soulless high-rises, roaring highways and Wal-Marts have replaced most of Old Beijing. Becker pens an engrossing elegy for that vanished city, and a cri de coeur against China's contempt for its own past. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141031033
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 6/28/2009

Meet the Author

Jasper Becker, an award-winning author, has worked as a foreign correspondent for twenty-five years, including fifteen years based in Beijing. He is author of Hungry Ghosts, The Chinese, and, most recently, Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea. An expert on East Asian history and politics, Becker's work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New Republic, The London Review of Books, National Geographic, and Time Asia.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Maps

Introduction 1

1 In Xanadu 15

2 The Emperor of Perpetual Happiness 33

3 Madness in the Forbidden City 45

4 On the Wild Wall 61

5 The Ming Tombs 71

6 In the Garden of Perfect Brightness 80

7 The Broken Bowl Tea House 96

8 The Last Sanctuary of the Unknown and Marvellous 109

9 The Last Manchus 127

10 In Search of the Golden Flower 148

11 Mao and Beijing 162

12 History in Stone 183

13 The Strange Death of Lao She 196

14 The Red Maid's Tale 219

15 The Last Playboy of Beijing 236

16 The Protectress of Flowers 255

17 Radiant City of the Future 276

18 Destroy! 301

19 The Eternal Present 314

Bibliography 327

Index 345

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