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The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China (History of Imperial China) Hardcover – April 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0674031463 ISBN-10: 0674031466 Edition: First Edition

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The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China (History of Imperial China) + The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties (History of Imperial China) + China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty (History of Imperial China)
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Product Details

  • Series: History of Imperial China (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674031466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674031463
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,081,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of the leading historians of the Song period offers an empirically rich and well-informed book that is especially good on material culture and the history of technology. Kuhn offers strong overviews of the transformation of the capital cities, education and examination, commerce, and the Song fiscal system, as well as lively discussions of religious beliefs, the study of natural phenomena, and private life in the public sphere. For readers who want an in-depth look at mid-imperial Chinese history and culture, Dieter Kuhn's Age of Confucian Rule promises to become the book of choice. (Paul Jakov Smith, Haverford College)

The first four chapters of this well-researched, clearly written book present a balanced synopsis of the political, institutional, and military history of Song and its neighbors during some three centuries, when this was 'the most advanced civilization on earth.' The remaining eight chapters deal with thought, life cycle rituals, poetry and painting, education and the examination system, dynastic capitals, the world of production, money and taxation, private lives, and the public sphere. The author's enthusiasm is matched by his erudition and outstanding expertise in Song material culture as he ranges widely from the plethora of goods for sale in bustling shops and markets to the origins of foot binding, and finds space for dental hygiene as well as tomb construction...Scholars already versed in the period can learn much from this book, while those just beginning to delve into Chinese history are very well served. (C. Schirokauer Choice 2010-02-01)

[An] admirable account of the Song dynasty...This series on China, brilliantly overseen by Timothy Brook, is a credit to Harvard University Press. Above all, it encourages us to think of China in different ways. (Jonathan Mirsky Literary Review 2010-11-01)

One hopes [Kuhn's] work will find a larger audience, for he has much to teach to general readers, world historians, and China specialists alike. (Mark Halperin American Historical Review 2010-06-01)

The Age of Confucian Rule is a book that everyone who teaches Chinese history should have on his or her shelf and consult frequently...The attention [Kuhn] gives material culture is refreshing and helps him to make his case for the importance of China in Song times. (Patricia Ebrey International Journal of Asian Studies 2010-08-01)

About the Author

Dieter Kuhn is Professor and Chair of Chinese Studies, University of Würzburg.

Timothy Brook is Professor of History and Republic of China Chair at the University of British Columbia.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor on March 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very nice overview of the Song dynasty. It's comprehensive yet concise. The book begins with a historical overview and then proceeds thematically. The chapters are:

1. A Time of Turmoil
2. Model Rulers
3. Reforming into Collapse
4. The Song in the South
5. Three Doctrines
6. Education and Examination
7. Life Cycle Rituals
8. Exploring the World Within and Without
9. Transforming the Capitals
10. A Changing World of Production
11. Money and Taxes
12. Private Lives in the Public Sphere

Chapter 7 has an interesting discussion of the education of women and women's property rights. Chapter 8 has a nice overview of Song dynasty literature, scroll paintings and scientific developments. The book has black and white photos of scroll paintings, diagrams of Buddhist temples, and makes good use of maps. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it highly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By kkbs on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This fourth volume of HUP's History of Imperial China focuses on the Song Dynasty between the 10th and the 13th century, a period during which Confucianism (re-)gained its role as a government doctrine in China. Contrasting its European contemporary societies, this also implied government by officials, who were primarily chosen because of (certain) merits, versus feudal governments chosing their officials through parentage.
The book outlines the many technological and commercial developments in China during this period, as money paper (including inflation) was introduced, trade was boosted and the infrastructure was improved. On the other hand, the Song Dynasty was constantly fighting against its Northern neighbours, the Khitan Liao and the Jurchen Jin dynasties, while the latter even pushed the Song out of their Chinese heartland and established a border along the Huai River in 1126. Nevertheless, until the Mongol invasion in 1279 the Southern Song recovered and established a different China, focussing much more on the South and its traditions.
In his set up of the book, the author Dieter Kuhn follows the example of the previous three volumes, written by Mark E. Lewis, starting with a rather short summary (90 pages) of the political history, followed by chapters on religion and philosophy, the system of recruiting officials, arts and science, the capitals, and economy and government finances.
The main text of roughly 280 pages is accompanied by maps (there could be more) and explanatory images, and followed by dynastic tables of the Song and their counter-dynasties in the North, as well as a 30 pages bibiography.
Again this volume is written well and gives an interesting overview of the period. Recommendable for all interested in Chinese history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Another nice entry in the Belknap series on Imperial China. Kuhn opens with a set of chapters that lay out the basic narrative. This covers the origins of the Song state in the politically fragmented milieu that followed the demise of the Tang state, the emergence of competing states founded by Inner Asian and Manchurian groups in northern China, the withdrawal of the Song to southern China, and the eventual conquest by the Mongols. He stresses the innovative features of the Song state, particularly the development of the Confucian bureaucracy. The chaos that followed the end of the Tang apparently resulted also in the extipation of the aristocratic, essentially feudal families that dominated much of China. In their absence, the founding Song Emperors were able to greatly expand the examination system and make Confucian bureaucrats the center of the state. This appears to have also expanded Imperial authority. A very useful aspect of Kuhn's narrative and subsequent analyses is that he provides information not only about the Song but also about the competing non-Chinese states of northern China during this period. Kuhn stresses also the diplomacy of the Song, a largely succcessful effort to accomodate the reality of powerful states to the north of the Song.

Kuhn follows the narrative chapters with a series of informative chapters that cover social, intellectual, and economic history. At its apogee, the Song state was the most highly developed society of its time, and arguably had some features, that would not be duplicated by western cultures until well into the 19th century.
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