Covering 3,500 years from the earliest records to the introduction of gunpowder, considers China, Japan, South Asia, and Central Asia as well as the tradition core of western culture. Defines terms from the various ages and languages, and identifies people, places, dynasties, battles, armies, and other aspects. Longer boxed articles scattered throughout provide depth and background for the regular entries. Extensive cross-referencing stands in lieu of an index. No illustrations. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.