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 ...
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.
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.
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.
Introduction: The Creation of History in China
Part I: Images of an Ancient and United Nation
Chapter 1: The Chinese
Peter C. Perdue
Chapter 2: The Great Wall
Chapter 3: Foreign Conquerors of China
Chapter 4: Confucius: The Key to Understanding China
Part II: Cultural Traditions
Chapter 5: The “Decline” of Buddhism in China
Chapter 6: Islam in China
Chapter 7: Chinese Medicine
Chapter 8: Traditional Chinese and the Environment
Chapter 9: Chinese Martial Arts
Chapter 10: Women in Chinese History
Clara Wing-chung Ho
Part III: Imperial China
Chapter 11: China’s Age of Seafaring
Chapter 12: Civil Service Examinations
Chapter 13: Xinjiang at the Center
Chapter 14: Tibet
Chapter 15: Modern China’s Borders
Chapter 16: The Opium War and China’s “Century of Humiliation”
Part IV: Making Modern China
Chapter 17: Sun Yat-sen
Chapter 18: Republican China under the Nationalists, ca. 1925–1945
Chapter 19: The Rise of the Chinese Communist Party
Chapter 20: Simplified Characters
Chapter 21: The One-Child Policy
Chapter 22: The Cultural Revolution, 1966–1976
Chapter 23: China’s Political System
Chapter 24: Tiananmen 1989