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China: A Macro History (An East Gate Book) Paperback – November 30, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-1563247316 ISBN-10: 1563247313 Edition: 2nd
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From Library Journal

Several good histories of China for general readers have been published in recent years, e.g., Witold Rodzinski's The Walled Kingdom (Free Pr., 1984). Cotterell's book, however, is too amateurish to be among them. It alternates between convention and error and often condenses history in a confusing way. Huang's macro history, on the other hand, is most welcome. It builds a structure of novel interpretation and vivid anecdote on a solid base of original research and covers the whole sweep of Chinese history, making comparative references to Western history. Huang seeks to explain the present Chinese reforms as the culmination of a commercialization trend that has broken down the old peasant society and brought China into the mainstream of world history. It is debatable whether Imperial China was as stagnant as Huang says, and his theory of the breakup of traditional China bears a resemblance to old-fashioned modernization theory. Still, his book is a boldly opinionated, freshly written synthesis that will be read with pleasure and profit by all. Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia Univ.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 335 pages
  • Publisher: M. E. Sharpe; 2 edition (November 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563247313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563247316
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Boris Aleksandrovsky on November 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ray Huang's "China: A Macro History" kept me up for a few nights in a row. Dr. Huang posed an extremely ambitious goal to explain fundamental differences of Western and Chinese civilizations, and to explore trends of Chinese government, military, cultural and religious institutions as they develop from legendary to modern times. The book is organized in chapters, each covering roughly a time span of the major dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. Concentration is more on trends (thus the title word "macro") then on events, more on developments of concepts rather then careers. People and events are represented inasmuch as they represent the underlining trend. As such every dynasty rise and eventual fall is represented, with credits due to each for the developments of Chinese nation. The institution of monarchy is a fascinating blend of ritual, unreal and fantastic, and idealistic, with an impressive organizational achievement in management of the country with the base of millions of agrarian households.
The only grievance I have with the book is that understandably enough Dr. Huang had to skip over a lot of material (or he would risk leaving us with yet another "The Decline and fall of the Roman Empire"); however in doing so he is rarely consistent, e.g. not explaining the elemental precepts of Confucianism, organization of Chinese army and bureaucracy; and fundamental principles behind state examinations. All those, however, can be gotten from other sources, and as such will tempt the reader to explore more.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tony Kronecker on September 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
As a Hong Kong Chinese, I find this book unputdownable. Except for the fact that the Taiwanese-style spelling of the names of Chinese historcal figures a bit hard to grasp (to me), it does not in anyway discount the readability because Ray Huang did not let any contemporary political situation/ideology to hinder his anaylsis of Chinese History on a Geo-political, fiscal policy and monetory policy grounds. Indeed, KMT or not, Communist or not, the Ruling class's primary concern is on how to achieve en effective governance over the vast number of ruled. The central theme of the book is powerful, well presented, and logical. Interestingly, Milton Friedman , in his book "Money Mischief", has discussed the monetory policy (Gold standard ) in the Western world from 1830 - 1930 which has impacted on China directly and significantly, which echoes Ray's finding.
Indeed as advocated by Ray Huang in this book, time for the Chinese to depart form the traditional chinese views on our history (moral vs immoral; rural vs urban; poor vs rich). We should analyse our hisotry based on issue of effective governance (e.g. what is it? To promote well-being of people or of hardliners with iron-fist and tanks?)
Alas, Ray has passed away in 2000. I would like to convery my thankfullness for what he left to us.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Late Professor Huang's review of Chinese history offers the most inspiring reading experience I have ever had. Although there are a few points which may appear a bit difficult to grasp, his unmatched depth in understanding and vision of China provides the reader with a refreshing perspective of interpreting Chinese history. This is especially true to Chinese readers who have been exposed to more or less the same interpretation of history for hundreds of years. His analysis of the so-called "blunders" and humiliation derived from Ming and Qing dynasties into early 20th century, was particularly interesting.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tintin on April 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most enlightening books I've read. Maybe only a person with Ray Huang's life experience, his mastery of both the eastern and western languages and culture can write a book so refreshing and so uncolored by party politics or ideological beliefs. Growing up in China, Huang spent 12 years serving in Chiang Kai-Shek's army; then trading guns for books, he earned his PhD in history in the US at the mature age of 46. He lived the rest of his life in the US, marrying a stunning Caucasian woman and teaching history in a university. His fame came when he was 61 with the publication of "1587, a year of no significance", whose Chinese edition later became a best seller in China.

Compared to "1587", this book is more ambitious but equally scholarly and insightful. This is not your typical history book. Instead of focusing on who what and when, it asks and answers the question of why. Huang found intrinsic laws in the seemingly random events of Chinese dynastic and modern history. Suddenly, all the things that happened become inevitable, history progresses in its own trajectory regardless of any individual's wishes. He convincingly explored the reasons why Confucius and Mencious philosophy dominated the Chinese society for two thousand years, the impetus to the rise and fall of the three Chinese empires and why capitalism never developed in China till the late 20's century. He urged us not to judge an event or figure by rigid moral standards, but by their effect on the overall (macro) progress of history.
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