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China: A History Paperback – December 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465025188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465025183
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Library Journal
“Without sacrificing substance for brevity, Keay manages to illustrate China’s history very much as a narrative... Readers already interested in, or wishing newly to embark upon, Chinese history will adore this book. Highly recommended.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
China: A History marks a welcome advance… [Keay’s] touch is deft and faithful to the tenor of the debates, especially those between archaeologists and literary scholars.”
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Keay is a former special correspondent for the Economist and contributes regularly to the Sunday Telegraph, Times Higher Educational Supplement, and the Literary Review. His past books include the best-selling India: A History. He lives in Argyll, Scotland.

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Customer Reviews

It was therefore little wonder to me when I learned that the author is, in fact, a journalist and not a historian.
Haotian
I think part of the reason I liked this book so much is the author comes right out and says that this topic is very hard to understand and that it will be a tough go.
Benjamin Ray
All in all, a very good and readable book with balanced analysis, historical depth, and cultural explanations that make one feel the power of Chinese civilization.
Akhilesh Pillalamarri

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Haotian on July 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Firstly, the author should be commended for even attempting to condense such a vast and complex subject as the history of China into a single volume. On the whole, it is an accessible account which will give an introductory understanding of many parts of China's history.

However, the book gives the impression that the supporting research was done in a great hurry, and contains errors, inconsistincies, and a number of sensational conclusions, some of which are not supported by sufficient evidence. It was therefore little wonder to me when I learned that the author is, in fact, a journalist and not a historian. It seems as though the author has attempted to make some attention-grabbing statements in a clumsy attempt to turn Chinese history on its head.

I will give just three examples of the kind of sloppiness that I have referred to. 1) One theory, which is entirely undeveloped apart from a small amount of hypothesising on the part of the author, is that the Great Wall did not prevent northern tribes from entering China and was never designed for this purpose. In stating this, the author appears unaware of the extraordinary career and accomplishments of Qi Jiguang, perhaps China's greatest military leader of the Ming (or any other) period. He built, and successfully defended the Great Wall against all comers.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on August 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
John Keay is correct in observing that Chinese history is often impenetrable to all but the specialist. Yet it is an important and ancient history and one many people would like to know more about. So he has set out to do for China what he did for India in India: A History and make it accessible to an English speaking audience.

THis is a well written account of a fascinating country and its people. It does what few books do which is to ignore the present and instead give the past a fair shake in terms. There is no telescoping the narrative so that the last hundred years gets half the book, instead the las thundred years of Chinese history receives just a few dozen pages, giving the reader the correct impression that China's past is as important as her present.

In general the book also gives the reader a great deal of handy charts to keep track of dynasties and people. A very well written account,

Seth J. Frantzman
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Sid Sheng on February 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I bought and read this book because I am Chinese but know nothing about Chinese history (having grown up in Australia), so I was probably always going to enjoy this book.

After reading this book, I've learnt that China's history is very complicated, but Keay does a fantastic job to provide objectively a good picture of each era. He is very descriptive on the important moments in Chinese history (it's impossible to fit every moment of Chinese history in a book of this size), so after reading this book, the reader is likely to remember these important points in Chinese history.

The maps are also very helpful to get an idea of all the warfare that was going on. I thought more maps would have even been better, and more pictures/portraits/photos (e.g. of important emperors and other leaders) would have also been good as it puts a face to a name.

I am not a frequent reader, but I can still tell that Keay chooses his words carefully and skillfully. I had to reach for the dictionary plenty of times. Hopefully someone with a better vocabulary base can appreciate this aspect more than myself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By StillLearning on March 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was looking for a good over-view of chinese history without an obvious bias or emphasis on a particular era. I found this book excellent in its scope and largely fulfilled what I was looking for. At over 500 pages it takes time to get through, but it is sufficiently well written to be enjoyable and interesting enough so that you do not want to give up.

It terms of over-all balance there are a four areas that I felt were slightly lacking. The first is on the coverage of Ghengis Khan. He only gets a few pages despite founding a dynasty. The second is a coherent perspective on the Japanese occupation. Although the topic is covered it is dispersed throughout the text and not treated as a subject in its own right. I think that this is quite an important topic in understanding contemporary China and its relationship with Japan. There is no mention of Unit 731 in Harbin (where the Japanese committed major atrocities) and the denial by the Japanese of the Nanjing/Nanking massacre for example. The third topic that I thought was inadequately and insensitively addressed was the destruction of the old Summer Palace by French and British expeditionary forces. He states "Though no great loss to architecture, it was a body blow to Qing prestige". He makes no reference to the loss of innocent lives ( those who were burned to death), nor the destruction of hundreds of years worth of priceless chinese historical artifacts and cultural treasures (other than to describe the palace as a "fanciful Louvre"). The forth topic treated rather superficially was that of the philosophical underpinnings of Daoism, Confucianism, Legalism and Moism.
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