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Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China Paperback – January 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0824829056 ISBN-10: 0824829050

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824829050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824829056
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Timely and valuable... a substantial and indeed fascinating contribution to the study of early China." - American Historical Review; "An important contribution to our understanding of the complex process of interaction, indigenous invention, assimilation and rejection by which the civilization of early imperial China was formed." - Journal of Asian Studies"

Customer Reviews

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Kurjian on April 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China is more a collection of related articles than a history of the powerful Chu state in pre-dynastic China. The depth of the chapters is spotty; some offer only a general overview of their subject, with little analysis or broader context, while others are dense and developed and could themselves be expanded to book-length. As a previous reviewer points out, maps are not clearly linked to the text and seem like an afterthought; this is true for some illustrations also. And that an academic work about China published relatively recently can still only use transliterated Chinese and have no characters, except in the references, is inexplicable.

While I would recommend Defining Chu to anyone interested in early Chinese history, it should be pointed out that this is a mix of history, anthropology, and sociology. Substantial parts of several later chapters, for example, are taken up with the discussion of Chu religion and shamanism. Finally, I felt one of the main goals of the book as stated by the editors, to show that Chu was a mix of northern and southern influences and an amalgam of cultures, was not clearly achieved. Perhaps a project like this needs to be much bigger, to take more space to define both north and south, to characterize other states and ethnicities, in addition to Chu, that existed at the time, and to give a broader context of Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By usabear on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of our traditional histories of China paint a picture of a mainly monolithic state passing through a more-or-less straight line of Dynasties functioning around the designated "Han" peoples. Even where Dynasties were ruled by non-Han peoples (the Yuan, e.g.), we have been given the view that the essence of the "real" China was still the central "Han" culture.

In recent years we have seen numerous studies, archeological discoveries and discourses written about the geographic areas of current China outside of the classical area. The inescapable conclusion that must be drawn from these is that China is, and always was, an extraordinarily multicultural entity.

"Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China" is an important addition to the literature on early China. Chu was possibly the most important of the states existing in China during the Eastern Zhou period (771/770 - 221 BCE), until its ultimate demise at the hands of the Qin. In fact, the later overthrow of the Qin was led by descendents of Chu - an aristocrat (Xiang Yu) and a commoner (Liu Bang, who, having disposed of Xiang Yu, would become the first Han emperor).

Edited by the eminent scholars Constance Cook and John Major, "Defining Chu" draws together a group of highly regarded Sinologists to explicate the culture and history of the Chu state. Including essays on geography, spatial organization, art, culture, ideology and religion, the book is an important addition to the library of anyone interested in ancient China.
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By Toni Sammons on June 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book. Anyone interested in early China could be helped in understanding this complex area and near cultures .
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More About the Author

John S. Major is the author or editor of more than two dozen books, ranging from serious scholarly works on early Chinese intellectual history to an illustrated children's book on the Silk Route, from a collection of Tibetan Buddhist folktales to a study of his family's Huguenot roots in colonial New Jersey; he is co-editor of an anthology of world poetry and co-author of two books on the joys of reading. He began his career as a professor of East Asian history at Dartmouth College and later became a senior editor at the Book-of-the-Month Club. Now retired, he continues his research and writing as an independent scholar based in New York City.