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The New York Times Book Review[A] spirited and highly intelligent book. . . . A splendid reflection on the nature of the Chinese relationship to history, culture, and morality. . . . What gives Wills's [book] its originality and its effectiveness is the artful span of examples he has chosen, examples that not only range across time . . . but are also chosen to illuminate major themes and continuities within the Chinese universe. . . . There is high drama, cruelty, and excess in many of these stories. . . . And there is also wit and charm mixed with the telling of great events.
— Jonathan Spence