The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution

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 “A milestone in Western studies of China.” (John K. Fairbank)
In this masterful, highly original approach to modern Chinese history, Jonathan D. Spence shows us the Chinese revolution through the eyes of its most articulate participants—the writers, historians, philosophers, and insurrectionists who shaped and were shaped by the turbulent events of the twentieth century. By skillfully combining literary materials with more conventional sources of political and social history, Spence provides an unparalleled look at China and her people and offers valuable insight into the continuing conflict between the implacable power of the state and the strivings of China's artists, writers, and thinkers.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
Praise for The Gate of Heavenly Peace:
“Absolutely first rate; it is adventurous in form, scrupulous in content, passionate in its revelation of complex human drama.”
Saturday Review
“[Jonathan Spence] has woven a magical symphony that tells us as no conventional history could of the agony of a nation in awesome labor.”
—Harrison E. Salisbury, Chicago Tribune Book World
“With a novelist’s flair for life and a historian’s grounding in fact . . . there is no other work to match this in sweep, vivacity, and humanity.”
Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140062793
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1982
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 805,075
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Spence's eleven books on Chinese history include The Gate of Heavenly Peace, Treason by the Book, and The Death of Woman Wang. His awards include a Guggenheim and a MacArthur Fellowship. He teaches at Yale University.

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Table of Contents

The Gate of Heavenly Peace - Jonathan D. Spence List of Illustrations
Note on Pronunciation
1. Arousing the Spirits
2. Visions and Violence
3. Wanderings
4. The Far Horizon
5. The Land of Hunger
6. Extolling Nirvana
7. Whose Children Are Those?
8. Wake the Spring
9. Farewell to the Beautiful Things
10. Refugees
11. Rectifications
12. A New Order
13. The Noise of the Renegades

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2004


    The Gate of Heavenly Peace thoroughly documents the naivety of a prevailing idea during the conflict. During the occupation of Tiananmen Square in 1989, some student leaders and their followers alike believed a simplistic formula: Bloodshed would awake people; the awakened people would rise up; and democracy would somehow naturally result. But as the whole world sadly witnessed, there were only severe bloodsheds and casualties but no uprising whatsoever. The Gate of Heavenly Peace presents this fact metaphorically with blood stains on the stone pavements in the subsequently tranquil Tiananmen Square after the crackdown. We can calmly observe that after all the people's uprising did not happen. This might be a less miserable outcome though. In my judgment, an uprising of the unorganized civilians would have accomplished everything--nationwide chaos, for one--but democracy. The spectacles of revolutions in the world history can be deceptive in that many do not see the behind-the-scene efforts of mobilization. One of the more thoughtful and influential Chinese thinkers of his generation, Kang Youwei, first visited Hong Kong in 1879 and came away with impressions of a well-run city with grand buildings, clean streets and a dependable police force, all of which contrasted favorably with the urban scene in nearby Canton, capital of Kang's home province of Guangdong. Westerners in treaty ports like Canton also intrigued this Cantonese reformer, who noted how these foreigners, subject primarily to laws of their respective countries, were able to rule themselves. As Kang continued to analyze the roots of the success and power of the West he also emphasized the openness of lines of communication between the people and their rulers. These were among the ideas and observations that one of Kang's students, Liang Qichao, took with him to the inland province of Hunan in 1897. This province, one of the last opened to foreigners, became famous as the home of Mao Zedong, but the future revolutionary was just a boy when Liang arrived in the capital city of Changsha. The language of reform popularized by Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei did, however, indirectly affect Mao and his peers in years to come. In particular, Liang and his colleagues encouraged their listeners in schools and study societies to begin to practice `self-government', to talk about `democracy' and `people's rights', and to strive for `equality' in human relationships. In contrast to Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, Sun Yat-sen is known as 'The Father of the Revolution' or 'The Father of the Republic.' Sun Yat-sen based his idea of revolution on three principles: nationalism, democracy, and equalization. These three principles, in fact, were elevated to the status of basic principles: the Three People's Principles. The first of these held that Chinese government should be in the hands of the Chinese rather than a foreign imperial house. Government should be republican and democratically elected. Finally, disparities in land ownership should be equalized among the people, wealth more evenly distributed, and the social effects of unbridled capitalism and commerce should be mitigated by government. The latter principle involved the nationalization of land; Sun believed that land ownership allows too much power to accrue to the hands of landlords. In his nationalization theory, people would be deprived of the right to own land, but they could still retain other rights over the land by permission of the state. Lu Xun is the greatest writer of modern China. Lu Xun studied to become a doctor in order to help the Chinese people fight foreign domination, corruption and crushing feudalism. After two years of medical school, however, he realized that to reform society, a fit body is useless if the spirit is weak and apathetic. Thus he decided to become an author rather than a physician, and went on to lead a new literary movement that would take China by storm. In 1918 Lu Xun publishe

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2014

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