The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth

The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth

by Arthur Waldron
     
 

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This is the first full scholarly study of the Great Wall of China to appear in any language and, drawing both on primary sources and on the latest archaeology, it challenges many deeply held ideas about Chinese history.See more details below

Overview

This is the first full scholarly study of the Great Wall of China to appear in any language and, drawing both on primary sources and on the latest archaeology, it challenges many deeply held ideas about Chinese history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
China's modern rulers have nurtured the popular myth that the Great Wall of China is a single, continuous barrier built in the third century B.C. and surviving to the present. Actually, as Princeton historian Waldron demonstrates in a landmark study, most of what we today call the Great Wall was built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Despotic, palace-reared Ming rulers, fearful of a potential invasion by Mongols and other nomads, chose wall-building over trade or diplomatic relations. But the Ming fortifications, like the French Maginot Line, proved ineffective: Manchu warriors entered China in 1644, captured Peking and established the Ch'ing dynasty, a vast multiethnic empire which lasted until 1912. The Great Wall became a symbol of failure and irrelevance. Its recent transformation into China's unofficial national symbol is an enigma deftly unraveled in Waldron's investigation, one of the few books that change our basic assumptions about China. Illustrations. History Book Club selection. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The Great Wall is a powerful symbol of China's national tradition and historical continuity, a monumental defensive barrier supposedly built more than 2000 years ago to keep out Central Asian nomadic aggressors. However, as Waldron demonstrates in this learned and lively work of scholarly iconoclasm, the notion of a Great Wall is a historical myth developed over the past few centuries. Carefully examining the history of wall building in China, particularly during the Ming dynasty (1369-1644), he suggests that domestic political conflict, not cultural or ecological factors, determined why and when defensive walls were built. In examining the economic and political-military interactions between the nomads of the steppe and Chinese court officials, Waldron probes deeply into basic questions of China's national identity. A superb scholarly work that belongs in all academic and larger public collections. History Book Club selection.-- Steven I. Levine, Duke Univ . , Durham, N.C.
From the Publisher
"In this absorbing, tour de force account of the cult of the Wall, Waldron propels the reader along a fascinating journey of the frontier of China and into the factionalized inner circles of dynastic politics to capture the tension between the syncretic and conservative approaches to foreign policy....an exquisitely crafted chronicle of China's ironic approach of using 'walls' as a way of embracing the larger world." Asian Thought and Society

"Waldron makes a valuable contribution to our historical understanding of China." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

"China's modern rulers have nurtured the popular myth that the Great Wall of China is a single, continuous barrier built in the third century B.C. and surviving to the present. Actually, as Princeton historian Waldron demonstrates in a landmark study, most of what we today call the Great Wall was built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644)...one of the few books that change our basic assumptions about China." Publishers Weekly

"This book has a wisdom, a patience, and a confidence about it that enrich Waldron's wonderful knack for writing history." History Book Club

"Historical writing at its best, a brilliant and very readable account." The Asia Society

"This should be the standard work for some time to come, and may be assigned to graduate students and senior history majors as a model of historical scholarship. Having also pubished interpretive essays on 'warlORD taking fresh looks at concepts Chinese history specialists have taken for granted." Roger B. Jeans, The China Quarterly

"In this absorbing, tour de force account of the cult of the Wall, Waldron propels the reader along a fascinating journey of the frontier of China anad into the factionalized inner circles of dynastic politics to capture the tension between the syncretic and conservative approaches to foreign policy....an exquisitely crafted chronicle of China's ironic approach of using 'walls' as a way of embracing the larger world." Asian Thought and Society

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521365185
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
07/28/1990
Series:
Cambridge Studies in Chinese History, Literature and Institutions Series
Pages:
310
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 1.18(d)

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