China: A History

China: A History

by John Keay

The book also examines the many non-Chinese elements in China's history, such as the impact of Buddhism, foreign trade, etc.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 3.89
  • Pages: 512
  • Publish Date: July 1st 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers
  • Isbn10: 0007221770
  • Isbn13: 9780007221776

Read the Book "China: A History" Online

If the documented history of China is approximately four thousand years this book will give you eight years per page. John Keay gives a glorious overview of the genesis and development of China with its multiple regime changes and the role of Confucianism throughout all of the turmoil up to, and including, the present day. Many histories can be difficult to read due to dry style and an expected level of knowledge before you start.

Prior to this reading I had scant knowledge of the nearly continuous 3-6ooo year history of the region that spans from Mongolia to the Himalayas and from Afghanistan to the China Sea. Granted, although China celebrates its dynastic chain of succession of All Under Heaven, the broad scoping historical reference of Keays book reveals that China has hardly been so blessed to celebrate a continuous rule of everlasting peace. His introduction did a great job of orienting this reader to a region I know little about and he also clearly acknowledges that the novice reader will struggle with the Chinese names that are often repetitious (dynastic emperors will recycle names just like European rulers would) and without turning the book into a linguistic orientation he does provide some clarification of the meaning of some words (such as Bejing literally meaning northern capital). Keay provides much acknowledgement to the richness of Chinas historical record with written texts spanning at least 3000 years of history and he also provides welcome explanation of the influences of classical Confucianism, the import of Buddhism, and eventually Islam and Christianity upon the Chinese mindset. Keay relies too heavily upon the historical documents written by the learned class for the ruling class and much of his book is a catalog of emperors, generals, with much discussion of development of great cities and epic battles.

and before you know it, the British import opium at gunpoint, the Empire falls & China is up to its neck in Japanese & Mao. John Keay's book is a perfect introduction to imperial China.

It's so unbelievably huge that 375 pages in, 3/4 of the book, I realize we're just getting to the Ming. That's right, no matter how fascinating China's long and glorious past is, post-1911, the Mao Mix, the Cultural Revolution, Deng, and everything since gets less than 50 pages.

THE SKIN OF THE DRAGON BOOK REVIEW : CHINA A HISTORY In year 1793, Qianlong Emperor received George Macartney, representing King George III of England, in Beijing. In contrast at that time, to Qianlong Emperor it was completely out of logic to give a barbarian state equal status to that of Celestial Empire, that he was ruling. There are 15 volumes in The Cambridge History of China, still it is far from complete. Such is the immensity of Chinas history, that in a way it outweighs that of rest of the world combined. As a solution to this, I will deal with some of the important questions which might be of contemporary interest and whose answers can be found in Chinas history. ( The Cambridge History of India is six volume thick ) 2. So actually, Chinas history is not immense mainly because of its size, antiquity and population, but thanks to an early practice of record keeping. It is meticulous documentation dating back to Han period (206 BC 220 AD), which has resulted in this immense body of work which we can call as History of China. Conquests in the adjacent areas, which in historic sense can be considered all the parts of Peoples Republic of China (PRC) outside Yellow river basin, was one of the direct outcome of empire building. The fact that dynasties came and went, and empire remained ever since, is credited to colonization. Colonization which would gain token in wider world history in the 17th and 18th century was a state or rather imperial policy in China. Around the same time as Buddha and Mahavira, Confucius went on to create a body of thought to guide social and personal behavior. Unlike Buddha and Mahavira, who around the same time in India, which was enjoying a period of prosperity, grappled with questions on human existence and cause for sufferings, Confucius teachings are like a sophomores guide to the freshmen, a to do and not to do list. (Earliest Chinese records call the common peasants as black head commoner and all its emperors claimed divine right to rule China by virtue of being heavens son.) The social control according to Confucius is through the sense of shame. I am sure there are many other such interesting questions which can be answered by referring them to Chinas history. Chinas empire was long lasting one, apart from colonization it was its bureaucracy which led to this longevity.

I'm fascinated by the insights that collations of archeology and political/social history affords. Search for the larger patterns of Chinese political history - one phase of territorial unification succeeded by another phase of disunion and disintegration, all accompanied by relentless, unremitting and remorseless slaughter.

John Keay is the author of about 20 books, all factual, mostly historical, and largely to do with Asia, exploration or Scotland.