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China: A New History Paperback – May, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674116733 ISBN-10: 0674116739 Edition: Revised & enlarged

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Revised & enlarged edition (May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674116739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674116733
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,068,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

No American scholar of China was better known to the public and academia alike than Fairbank. This history of China, completed two days before his death in 1991, is a fitting final work. In covering the breadth of the country's history, from the earliest archaeological records to the present, the author is occasionally short on details, but lay readers and undergraduate students will appreciate the perceptive analysis and explanation throughout, leading to a better understanding of this complex nation, its people, and its importance in the world. Furthermore, Fairbank's command of recent research, along with an excellent bibliography, will appeal to the scholarly audience. Highly recommended. History Book Club selection.
- Kenneth W. Berger, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


China sets out to cover, in 432 pages of text, the entire span of China's history from the Paleolithic the Tiananmen massacre of 1989, and it does so with a brisk and sprightly air but also with an awesomely thorough overview of the current scholarly work of scores of historians. The book is indeed a kind of reprise...of Fairbank's life as a reader and teacher...An admirable achievement. (Jonathan Spence New York Times Book Review)

One has to admire the smooth self-assurance with which Fairbank lopes through the centuries, effortlessly incorporating the latest and best in English-language scholarship, and he is, of course, hard to beat on the Republican period, to which he himself was a witness. (T. H. Barrett Times Literary Supplement)

History, Fairbank says, is what we historians think happened, and this volume is Fairbank's distillation of what he thinks happened in China from the time of Beijing man some 400,000 years ago to the Beijing massacre of June 4, 1989. It is an ambitious, audacious undertaking, befitting the man who was the progenitor of modern China studies in the United States. (Anne F. Thurston Boston Globe)

[This book] elegantly synthesizes a prodigious range of recent scholarship and is equally ambitious in chronological sweep...The result is a multilayered, multicausal extravaganza, dealing with cosmology, economics, state institutions, social forces, even daily life--a kind of `All under Heaven under one cover"...Anything but pedantic, it bubbles with relaxed wit. (Paul M. Evans Globe and Mail)

Manages to tell its sprawling, turbulent, 4,000-year story in a single volume without either losing clarity or oversimplifying its subject...Rich and fascinating. (Arnold R. Isaacs San Francisco Chronicle)

Will serve for decades to come as a standard reference and textbook. (Robert L. Worden Washington Post Book World)

This remarkable New History from the hand of the doyen of historians of China, John King Fairbank...bears eloquent witness to the depth and breadth of his knowledge and understanding. This is no mere reworking of generally accepted ideas of developments in China under successive dynasties. Here is a fertile enquiring mind at work, keeping pace with a flood of new research...He writes here with an easy authority, with zip and zing, and sometimes the use of the first person, challenging and stimulating. (Victor Funnell Asian Affairs)

A scholarly but readable introduction to the broad sweep of Chinese history. (David Mattin The Times 2004-01-22)

Succinct, highly readable and "down to earth," this updated version of Fairbank's last work combines the erudition born of a half-century of scholarship with the educator's sense of relevancy and organization...China: A New History provides the general reader and students with a highly accessible and readable introduction to the vast history of one of the world's oldest surviving civilizations...Overall, this text is a fitting culmination to an exemplary life devoted to both teaching and research. (Jeffrey Dippmann Education about Asia 1999-10-01)

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Customer Reviews

This book is a great overview of Chinese history.
R. E. Jackson
It is written sometimes with too much detail on minorly important dates where it could instead be more general.
Shawndel Fraser
I must say that this book was quite the enjoyable read for the most part.
Irrational Expectations

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By events3 on October 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This, along with Wing-Tsit Chan's A SOURCE BOOK IN CHINESE PHILOSOPHY provided my first serious look at Chinese culture.
Fairbank's CHINA details the development of China from earliest times through the Tiananmen massacre: Xia & Shang, Zhou, the Spring and Autumn period, the Warring States period, the Qin Unification, the Han dynasty, disintegration, the subsequent rise of Sia and Tang dynasties, disintegration and the rise of the Song, the Northern and Southern Song along with the development of the kingdoms and empires of the Mongols who slowly conquered China, the Ming dynasty that expelled the Mongols, the Manchurian Qing dynasty that conquered all China and ruled until China became a Republic, Sun Yatsen, Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kaishek), fascism and communism, the rise of Mao and the Nationalist flight to Taiwan, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and Deng Xiaphing (Dong Zai-phong).
Of special interest are discussions on the rise of Confucianism, Daoism, Chinese Buddhism and Christian in-roads created by missionaries; the respective roles of Legalism, early imperial Confucianism and neo-Confucianism in the formation and evolution of the Chinese state; the horrors and extent of foot-binding among Chinese women; the influence of both communists and fascists in the Guomindang party and the open conflict between the "blue shirt" fascists (formed by Chiang Kaishek) and the Communist party; and the role of the USSR and Comintern in the development and organization of Communism in China (originally in the Guomindang and later in the Chinese Communist Party).
Thought-provoking and interesting, the book does suffer from infrequent flaws such as irrelevant personal attacks (e.g., Reaganesque = simple-minded) and giving too little details in some areas.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Phillip J. Moore on September 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am not a scholar of Chinese history. I just wanted to know more about the culture. I found the book to be very enjoyable. The topic was too broad for the book to spend much time in any detail of the subject. The book is well reasoned and excellent for those of us that want to know the basics about Chinese history. For those that read the other reviewer comments, bear in mind that the book covers Chinese history for prehistoric time to present day. Any commentary about US policy occurs in the very tail end. The book does do a good job contrasting the Chinese outlook to the western viewpoint.
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92 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on April 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
You can get a lot out of this book as a basic introduction to Chinese civilization if you are willing to slog through it. It is clearly written and covers the essential facts, but it lacks taste and deep interpretation. In others words, it can be studied but should not be read for pleasure or even intellectual stimulation. I used it to complete certain gaps in my knowledge of Chinese history, which was necessary and useful, but it just feels so academic and pedantic. Maybe that is what must happen in most general survey introductions like this one: it is stripped down so far that it cut not just fat but muscle and bone. In contrast, "The Search for Modern China" by J. Spence is a work of art as well as history, and constantly stimulates the reader to probe deeper, farther, opening a world. Unfortunately, Fairbank and Goldman accomplished none of that.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Specialists in Chinese history and culture will not learn anything from this book. But that's not why it was written. Westerners are very ignorant of Chinese history, and this book is a good introduction to the big themes in China--government and protest, economic development and poverty, the influence of the West, education, and more. For example, the mistrust of China's government of Falun Gong is much more understandable when you know about the earlier religion-based revolutions and civil wars in Chinese history, which I'm sure the President of the United States is not aware of, despite his well-meaning platitudes about freedom of religion. I enjoyed this book greatly and reread portions often.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Peter McNulty on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book certainly provides a complete chronology of China's political, military, and economic history, but it is like dry wheat toast - good for you, but not very enjoyable. In places, the authors themselves seem uninterested in the subject. For example, the end of thousands of years of imperial rule is dispensed in one paragraph - no discussion. Personally, I wish I had bought a different book.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Crossfit Len on August 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
I agree with the many different comments people have had for this book. It contains a lot of information, its very dull at times, and it does not go into great depth all the time.
The bottom line is that is exactly what this book is. Its a short basic history of China. This is more of a reference book than a specific look at a very specific event.
No, China experts will not be in love with this book. But anyone looking for a survey of Chinese History or looking for a decent desk/bookcase reference book on China will find this book useful.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By natron on March 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Most fascinating for me in this history of China was the discussion of the recent economic opening that this huge and populous nation has undertaken. The reasons given for why they have been becoming capitalistic, (in fear of becoming like the USSR and to try to modernize their society) were intriguing. I must admit that I had a long prejudice against Chinese politics, as I considered it a state run by thugs. But after reading this book, I realized the long tradition of Confucian thought, and its effects on governance over the history of China. Also interesting was the role the US had in the Nationalist cause at the turn of the last Century. The tragic situation of women in the society, which was not elaborated on very much, but still fascinating and disturbing was also explored. I also enjoyed the stories of the dynasties, although I still don't have them all straight in my mind. But I did get a feel for why the dynasties rose and fell, and how they interacted with the rest of the world. The rise of the Communist party in China was very interesting, and I am very curious to see where things go now. The civic traditions and endemic corruptions inherent in the social structure could be seen in their interrelated complexities rising over the millennia as governance of this vast and diverse land was figured out. Mostly this book opened my mind to a society and culture I knew little about, and helped me to begin to appreciate it much more. Compared to the ever-present violence and destruction, religious persecution and conflict, and social disruption and seemingly unending tales of power-drunk warlords conniving to divvy up and consume land and influence that I gleaned reading the history of Europe, the history of China seems almost stable and consistent.
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