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The Everlasting Empire: The Political Culture of Ancient China and Its Imperial Legacy

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Overview

Established in 221 BCE, the Chinese empire lasted for 2,132 years before being replaced by the Republic of China in 1912. During its two millennia, the empire endured internal wars, foreign incursions, alien occupations, and devastating rebellions—yet fundamental institutional, sociopolitical, and cultural features of the empire remained intact. The Everlasting Empire traces the roots of the Chinese empire's exceptional longevity and unparalleled political durability, and shows how lessons from the imperial past are relevant for China today.

Yuri Pines demonstrates that the empire survived and adjusted to a variety of domestic and external challenges through a peculiar combination of rigid ideological premises and their flexible implementation. The empire's major political actors and neighbors shared its fundamental ideological principles, such as unity under a single monarch—hence, even the empire's strongest domestic and foreign foes adopted the system of imperial rule. Yet details of this rule were constantly negotiated and adjusted. Pines shows how deep tensions between political actors including the emperor, the literati, local elites, and rebellious commoners actually enabled the empire's basic institutional framework to remain critically vital and adaptable to ever-changing sociopolitical circumstances. As contemporary China moves toward a new period of prosperity and power in the twenty-first century, Pines argues that the legacy of the empire may become an increasingly important force in shaping the nation's future trajectory.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
A unique perspective, well presented in accessible language and backed up with extensive notes and bibliography, the work represents high-quality scholarship from broad-based social science at its best. It belongs in all college and university libraries.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012

"A unique perspective, well presented in accessible language and backed up with extensive notes and bibliography, the work represents high-quality scholarship from broad-based social science at its best. It belongs in all college and university libraries."Choice

"Pines is successful in pointing out many critical characteristics of Chinese imperial system and political culture, not only the ideological but also the institutional and the practical, which are indeed highly relevant to the system's sustainability."—Hsiao-wen Cheng, Insight Turkey

"[T]here is enough in this book to make it a valuable contribution to the study of empire and its legacies."—Brian Moloughney, Asian Studies Review

"Moving between ideology and the real world, the author has gone far to deepen our understanding of the practical impact of traditional Chinese political culture on the empire. In so doing, he debunks various myths and stereotypes prevalent in both China and the West. This book is a good starting point for those who wish to provide a more comprehensive answer. It should be of interest to both students and scholars."—Jingbin Wang, H-Net Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691134956
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/27/2012
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Yuri Pines holds the Michael W. Lipson Chair in Chinese Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a visiting professor at Nankai University in Tianjin, China. He is the author of "Foundations of Confucian Thought" and "Envisioning Eternal Empire."

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi i
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: The Ideal of "Great Unity" 11
Chapter 2: The Monarch 44
Chapter 3: The Literati 76
Chapter 4: Local Elite 104
Chapter 5: The People 134
Chapter 6: Imperial Political Culture in the Modern Age 162
Notes 185
Bibliography 209
Index 233

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