Great Wall: China Against the World 1000 BC - 2000 AD


"Legendarily 2,200 years old and 4,300 miles long, the Great Wall of China seems to make an overwhelmingly confident physical statement about the country it spans: about China's age-old sense of itself being an advanced civilization anxious to draw a clear line between itself and the "barbarians" at its borders. But behind the wall's intimidating exterior - and the myths that have built up around it - is a complex history that has both defined and undermined China. Author Julia Lovell has written a new and important history of the Great Wall that ...
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The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - AD 2000

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"Legendarily 2,200 years old and 4,300 miles long, the Great Wall of China seems to make an overwhelmingly confident physical statement about the country it spans: about China's age-old sense of itself being an advanced civilization anxious to draw a clear line between itself and the "barbarians" at its borders. But behind the wall's intimidating exterior - and the myths that have built up around it - is a complex history that has both defined and undermined China. Author Julia Lovell has written a new and important history of the Great Wall that guides the reader through the conquests and cataclysms of the Chinese empire, from the second millennium B.C. to the present day." The Great Wall is a tale that stretches over two millennia as it follows the rise and fall of the great Chinese ruling dynasties. Full of astonishing details and extraordinary characters - from emperors to engineers, statesmen, to soldiers - this is essential reading for anyone wino wants to understand China's past, present, and future.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
There is no Great Wall of China, argues Lovell, who teaches Chinese history at Cambridge University. Instead, there are many Great Walls-physical, mental, cultural, military and economic-separating China from the outside world. The 4,300-mile-long wall is far more complex than any of the thousands of tourists taking a photo along its famous battlements realizes. Indeed, to the Chinese themselves, their wall has variously signified repression, freedom, security, vulnerability, cultural superiority, economic backwardness, imperial greatness and national humiliation. Still, myths about it abound. Far from it being unbreachable, Chinese emperors relied on the wall only as a last resort to fend off their enemies. (The Ming dynasty, for instance, found it useless against the victorious Manchus, who merely bribed the gatekeepers to let them in.) "As a strategy that has survived for more than two millennia," Lovell writes, "China's frontier wall is a monumental metaphor for reading China and its history, for defining a culture and a worldview...." Lovell tells the gripping, colorful story of the wall up to the present day, including a perceptive discussion of the "Great Firewall"-the Internet, which has replaced nomadic raiders as the most threatening of China's attackers. And no, you cannot see it from the Moon. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
One might have thought that there was little need for another book on the Great Wall, especially after Arthur Waldron's masterly study, but Lovell demonstrates that the subject is far from exhausted. She brings together facts and figures to show what an awesome engineering feat the construction of the wall was. It included enough bricks to build a wall five meters high and one meter thick to encircle the globe; the sections that still stand would be sufficient to link New York and Los Angeles. Yet Lovell's interests lie more in how the wall shaped Chinese political and strategic thinking. The wall served contradictory purposes for China's rulers: it was there to keep the barbarians out but also to awe outsiders, to protect the Chinese people from outside forces but also to prevent exposure to the outside world.
KLIATT - Daniel Levinson
Nominated for the 2006 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, Lovell's book is a remarkable accomplishment. Filling an increasing need for those outside this growing power's borders to understand China's history, Lovell provides some thoughtful, provocative evidence and conclusions. She sweeps through 4000 years of history with confidence and skill, tying it all together through the symbolism of The Great Wall. She finds through all those different eras and dynasties some remarkable consistent themes: a less united national state than most of us might have imagined, periods of alternating political and economic stagnation and renewal, ambivalence about being open or closed to the outside world, and persistent myth-making by dangerously isolated, xenophobic leaders. The book has some useful additions: indices of dates and names and dynasties, useful maps, some excellent picture sections, bibliography, notes and a solid index. In the coming years, we are likely to see commentators and historians around the world present quite contradictory evaluations and predictions about China's future: some urging us to follow China's lead (remember the 1980's craze for Japanese-style educational and business models?), some urging us to make her our new best friend, some seeing her as our most dangerous political and economic competitor who we have to prepare to combat. Our chances of seeing China clearly depend on more books like this.
Library Journal
For a long time in both China and the outside world, the Great Wall was the symbol of isolation, self-sufficiency, and arrogant tradition. But now that China has opened itself to the world (or "re-opened" itself, as it were), that stereotype no longer fits. A new understanding of China is needed, and historians have flocked to rethink historic foreign relations. With wide experience in contemporary China, Lovell (Chinese history & literature, Cambridge; trans., A Dictionary of Maqiao) tells the story of the wall as she shows how China was shaped over the course of 2000 years by interactions with Central Asia and the peoples of the steppe (she calls them barbarians, a term smacking of those old stereotypes). The opening chapter on the 18th- and 19th-century encounters with Britain does not reflect recent scholarly debates, but the terrific concluding chapter, "Great Wall, the Great Mall, and the Great Firewall," contains insightful personal observations on China's relations with the world today. Larger public libraries would do well to acquire this lively survey for curious readers with some knowledge of China.-Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802142979
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 632,015
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : who made the Great Wall of China? 1
1 Why walls? 25
2 The long wall 47
3 Han Walls : plus ca change 66
4 Shifting frontiers and decadent barbarians 93
5 China reunited 117
6 Without walls : the Chinese frontiers expand 137
7 The return of the barbarians 159
8 A case of open and shut : the early Ming frontier 181
9 The wall goes up 210
10 The great fall of China 232
11 How Barbarians made the Great Wall 262
12 Translating the Great Wall into Chinese 296
Conclusion : the Great Wall, the great mall and the great firewall 323
App. 1 Principal characters 351
App. 2 Chronology of dynasties 359
App. 3 Significant dates in Chinese history and wall-building 361
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2006

    well written, but lacks insights on China's bureaucracy

    Well written, and good presenation as well. Also, very easy to read, which makes this book unique. But there is one major weakness: it lacks insights on the Chinese bureaucracy. But this is the most significant issue when talking about China. In fact, its bureaucratic issue has been and remains the key problem for China, as brilliantly discussed in a new book: China's Global Reach: markets, multinationals, and globalization by a Chinese scholar.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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