Demystifying China: New Understandings of Chinese History

Demystifying China: New Understandings of Chinese History

by Naomi Standen
     
 

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For westerners, China’s history is often reduced to a choice between timeless Confucian ideals or incomprehensible barbarisms such as footbinding or mass slaughter, fueled by generalizations such as “China has five thousand years of history,” “China was a Confucian society,” “Chinese women were victims,” “China is a

Overview

For westerners, China’s history is often reduced to a choice between timeless Confucian ideals or incomprehensible barbarisms such as footbinding or mass slaughter, fueled by generalizations such as “China has five thousand years of history,” “China was a Confucian society,” “Chinese women were victims,” “China is a communist country,” and many more. But China is now too globally important to allow such oversimplifications to continue unchallenged, and this engaging and deeply knowledgeable volume counters them vigorously. In concise and accessible style, the contributors scrutinize a range of historical misconceptions that have ramifications for the present and future of China and its relations with the rest of the world. They consider how misunderstandings have arisen and present more sophisticated and nuanced interpretations. Readers will learn how numerous popular beliefs about China’s history are mistaken and what new interpretations can help build the more accurate understandings of present-day China that we so badly need. By explicitly addressing common misconceptions, the book persuades readers to reexamine their assumptions about China’s history—and thus China in general—and begin to see it as a real rather than largely imagined place.

Contributions by: Elif Akçetin, Bridie Andrews, Tim Barrett, Felix Boecking, Michael C. Brose, Marjorie Dryburgh, Imre Galambos, Stanley E. Henning, Christian Hess, Clara Wing-chung Ho, Judd Kinzley, Fabio Lanza, Peter Lorge, Julia Lovell, Rana Mitter, Barbara Mittler, Ruth Mostern, Peter C. Perdue, Hai Ren, Andres Rodriguez, Tansen Sen, Elliot Sperling, Naomi Standen, Wasana Wongsurawat, and Ling Zhang.

Editorial Reviews

David A. Graff
Standen and her collaborators have made an outstanding contribution to the literature on China. Written by prominent authorities but accessible to nonspecialist readers, Demystifying China demolishes longstanding popular misconceptions about many key aspects of Chinese history and culture. A particular strength is that it does not simply engage in debunking but also explains how and why the conventional wisdom took shape and even acknowledges the partial validity of some long-held views. It is ideal reading for introductory courses in Chinese studies and indeed for anyone seeking reliable orientation on this increasingly important subject.
Pamela Kyle Crossley
Outstanding writers fully grounded in current scholarship have banded together to provide a comprehensive, convincing, yet open view of the complex problems of Chinese history. The authors forsake the easy conventions of previous generations to create a new platform for accessible yet deeply informed discussion of the past three millennia. Tired and unproven generalizations about China's technological and scientific development, its engagement with the sea, the diversities within its culture, and its approach to modernization will no longer satisfy anybody who has read this innovative book.
CHOICE
This book presents 22 short topical articles, each by a different scholar, intended to dispel misconceptions that becloud understanding of China's long history from antiquity to Tiananmen. Brief, up-to-date suggestions for additional reading appended to each entry add to the value of this volume. Generally, as one would expect of the book's distinguished editor, the entries are well written and authoritative, making this therefore a major resource for anyone teaching broad survey courses or seeking a summary of current thinking on a particular vexing issue. Most of the entries can stand alone, but they are best considered within the context of Chinese history as a whole. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442208964
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
10/24/2012
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
260
Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

David A. Graff
Standen and her collaborators have made an outstanding contribution to the literature on China. Written by prominent authorities but accessible to nonspecialist readers, Demystifying China demolishes longstanding popular misconceptions about many key aspects of Chinese history and culture. A particular strength is that it does not simply engage in debunking but also explains how and why the conventional wisdom took shape and even acknowledges the partial validity of some long-held views. It is ideal reading for introductory courses in Chinese studies and indeed for anyone seeking reliable orientation on this increasingly important subject.
Pamela Kyle Crossley
Outstanding writers fully grounded in current scholarship have banded together to provide a comprehensive, convincing, yet open view of the complex problems of Chinese history. The authors forsake the easy conventions of previous generations to create a new platform for accessible yet deeply informed discussion of the past three millennia. Tired and unproven generalizations about China's technological and scientific development, its engagement with the sea, the diversities within its culture, and its approach to modernization will no longer satisfy anybody who has read this innovative book.

Meet the Author

Naomi Standen is professor of medieval history at the University of Birmingham.

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