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Imperial China 900-1800 Paperback – December 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0674012127 ISBN-10: 0674012127

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1128 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (December 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674012127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674012127
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.2 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


This massive tome crowns the long, distinguished career of Frederick Mote, an influential scholar of Late Imperial China in the United States… An outstanding feature that distinguishes this book from similar works is the author’s effort to readdress the imbalance in traditional historiography with its lopsided focus on the political and geographic center of the realm. He does a wonderful job of reconstructing the history of such historically neglected regimes as Khitan–Liao, Jurchen–Jin, and Tangut–Western Xia, from the perspective of the Other… What I find most praiseworthy is the lucid, elegant expository style of writing. In spite of the wealth of knowledge the author clearly possesses about traditional China, he chooses to cover in depth a select number of topics—personages, events, institutions, etc.—in a language that is understandable to the average man in the street, without relying on opaque verbosity. Consequently, the book is likely to leave a profound and lasting impact on the reader in areas it focuses on, which will in turn help him or her better understand a given period of Late Imperial China from a long-term perspective. (Victor Cunrui Xiong Chinese Historical Review)

A personal meditation on the later imperial history of China by an author who has studied and taught the subject all his life and whose knowledge of it is truly formidable. It is written in a readable, accessible style that attracts the reader’s sustained attention. (John W. Dardess, University of Kansas)

A major contribution to our present literature on the general historiography of late Imperial China. Not only is it eminently accessible to a wide nonspecialized intellectual public, it also provides a major corrective within the field to some of the tendencies that have dominated the writing of Chinese history. Mote has highly cogent things to say about the nature of what has been called the ‘gentry’ in China and highly relevant questions to raise about the notion of a demographic explosion in eighteenth-century China and examines many of the prevailing abstract conceptions which dominate the field. Yet, he vividly demonstrated how limited our effort has been to explore in depth the vast documentary materials available to us, which are supposed to provide the ‘empirical data’ for our models, paradigms, and structural theories. Mote’s major contribution is his detailed account of the growing complexity of relations between the Chinese state and the surrounding East Asian world during the period 900–1800. (Benjamin I. Schwartz, Harvard University)

About the Author

F. W. Mote was Professor of Chinese History and Civilization, Emeritus, at Princeton University, author of Intellectual Foundations of China, and coeditor of several volumes of The Cambridge History of China.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George Coppedge on August 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This nearly thousand page book successfully manages to summarize imperial Chinese history from the

formation of the 'Five Dynasties' (actually about ten) to the end of the Qianlong emperor's reign in 1799.

The author is F.W. Mote, a professor emeritus of Chinese history and civilization at Princeton.

Mote's focii in the book are on all the emperors and other significant historical personalities, the structure

of imperial governments, social organization, philosophical systems, warfare, and culture. This book

includes the histories of the 'Five Dynasties', the Northern Song, the Liao, the Jin, the Southern Song, the Xi

Xia, the Yuan, the Ming, and finally the Qing. Despite the massive scope of this book, Mote does an

excellent job of penetrating the character of each emperor and defining the events of his reign.

Unlike some Chinese scholars, Mote refutes the theory of dynastic lifecycles. Instead, he argues that the

rise and fall of dynasties is largely dependent on the individual leadership of each emperor. Regardless of

dynastic age, vigorous emperors, such as the Yongzheng emperor, can successfully halt and turn around

governmental decay. Another common presumption he refutes is the sudden rapid population increase

during Qing times. The author presents a convincing case that this sudden population increase is actually

accounted for by more accurate census taking during the late Qing versus early Qing/late Ming. In addition,

the author presents the distinctive decline in human rights during the disastrous Mongol invasions and

carried forward by both the Ming and Qing dynasties.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By philipmerrill on January 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is about as good a book as I have ever read. It certainly helped that I was already familiar with the outline(s) of China's history and I actually jumped into this after finishing Gernet's 1-volume history. But there is so much here that even someone starting with a lot more knowledge than me would find it a lot to keep track of. Therefore, any newcomer could find themselves feeling at sea in all this. But that is part of the glory of China. Spatially and temporally there is so much of it.

I love the cultural sensitivity with which Mote tries to reach into the inner guts of the Khitan, Jurchen and Mongol northern neighbors and conquerors.

I actually hesitated buying this book because a review criticized its lack of footnotes. Oops on that. How about pages 979-1056. And they were interesting. And the books they referenced in the bibliography are an adventure in themselves, many of which I've already purchased and many more of which are on my Wish List(s).

It's a great read. Every sentence holds up. It may be hard but it's rewarding. I took it very slowly. Sometimes I could only handle a few pages a day. But I'm sure I've never had a BETTER time reading a work of non-fiction. So ... maybe you would enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary Gilberd on June 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There seems to be a lot of books out there now about China's imperial period. This one is a good mix of hard facts and interpretation. I would not call Mote's style light and breezy but the book is certainly accessible to amateur historians. Mote obviously cares about his subject and cares about his readers. That is not a common combination in professional academics.

The text is 970 dense pages not including the front and back matter. I found myself losing track of time as I let the narrative flow over me.

Yes, I recommend this book.
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