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The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T'ang Exotics Paperback – September 6, 1985

ISBN-13: 978-0520054622 ISBN-10: 0520054628 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (September 6, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520054628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520054622
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Probably the most informative, most scholarly, and most delightfully written book on China that has appeared in our time. -- Journal of Asian Studies

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
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18%
2 star
9%
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See all 11 customer reviews
It really is a pleasure to read this work.
absent_minded_prof
Except this tiny blemish, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history as well as cultures.
Phil Maurice
What a marvelous study of the T'ang Dynasty!
Karma

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By absent_minded_prof on May 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I myself am not a scholar of China. I found this book while doing a search online about Samarkand, for an historical fiction novel I'm working on. This book tempts me to drop everything else I'm doing in my life, and just study China all the time.
Let me just quickly point out that there are only three or four illustrations in this book, and that they are in black and white. The constant references in other reviews of this book to its "gorgeousness," and beauty, apply to the style in which it is written. It really is a pleasure to read this work. Every page brims over with measured, cadenced sentences that just flow, like terraced waterfalls of prepositional phrases. It all sounds so natural that one suspects that Mr. Schafer actually spoke like this. It simply doesn't have the feel of extensively edited prose... In reading this book, oddly enough, it is best to start with the introduction, and the first chapter, pausing to dwell carefully upon the last two sections of the first chapter, entitled "Exotic Taste" and "Exotic Literature." Then, I recommend taking some time to just browse back and forth, to see what catches your eye. The book isn't really set up to be read straight through cover to cover -- it's more of a wandering browser's feast. Also, it's not a bad idea to return periodically to the table of contents, just to reinstate and solidify your own sense of the context, and the taxonomy of all these funky knick-knacks. Finally, there are kind of a lot of footnotes, but it's usually worth being patient and flipping back and forth to the back of the book. Most of then are pretty interesting.
Some of my personal favorite bizarre, hilarious sections in this book are as follows...
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Bonnycastle on April 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
This remarkable and highly readable book abounds with information on tribute goods sent to the T'ang Court from all over Asia. These exotic materials included plants, animals, perfumes, drugs, jewels, books, even slaves. Schafer identifies each item as they appeared in the extant writings of numerous Asian and European cultures, and provides anecdotes and stories related to them. Did you know ambergris was known as "dragon spittle" in eleventh century China? Reading this book is like opening a chest filled with the most wonderful treasures in the world.
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63 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Susan Shwartz on April 16, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the course of acquiring a PhD and writing about 25 books, I've encountered a LOT of scholarly works, but never one as richly textured, evocative, and just plain beautiful as THE GOLDEN PEACHES OF SAMARKAND. It lives up to its title, which is a hard enough act to follow, and takes readers through the splendor and tragedy of T'ang Dynasty China, including the revolt of An Lushan (Rokshan).
He has another book out, THE VERMILION BIRD, which deals with Southeast Asia.
Schafer strikes me as a sort of literary Marco Polo, opening up a strange new world for the specialist and nonspecialist alike.
Five minutes after encountering his book in the NY Public Library (it had been recommended to me by a scholar at Columbia), I knew I was going to have to buy it. It has enriched my cultural life.
Susan Shwartz
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Phil Maurice on February 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
... I haven't read any book like this for a long long time. The flowing texture of writing, the unique choice of organization, the depth of the author's knowledge in T'ang empire and its relation with city-states in Serindia as well as other peripheral states, the grasp of Chinese classical literary texts, of this book, clearly set a high standard that's hard to surpass.
This is not a chronicle of events between 7 and 10th century. There is no clear time axis to the theme. Yet it reveals to us a vivid, alternative facade of T'ang empire. It is not an overstatement to say, for me, it is rather shocking to find out that so many things that are considered quintessentially Chinese are actually product of people of many origins. For example, in Chapter II Men | Musicians and Dancers, the most celebrated Chinese classic "Rainbow Chemise, Feathered Dress" was actually a rendition of Serindian song "Brahman". (This song is now lost. Once rediscovered by a lyricst of Sung era, 2-3 centuries later. Lost again later on). This once again strengthen my view of Sinic culture as a fruition of multi-cultural interation.
I do wish author had put in the book a timetable of major political events. He had only one for dynasties timetable, and one succession table for T'ang Emporers. For example, when he repeatedly referred to the conquest by T'ang (Emporor Tai Chung) of Kogoryo, if he has a table for political events we wouldn't have to confer a history book to find it out what year that's and how that's related to other major events (such as Rebellion of Rokhsan).
Except this tiny blemish, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history as well as cultures.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Golden Peaches of Samarkand has been very well-beloved by professional Sinologists ever since it first came out in 1963. Happily, it still remains available, 44 years later, in this paperback incarnation. The book features an obsessivly complete listing, with judicious commentary, of nearly every trade product that came into Tang China by sea or land. Equally helpful, are the end notes which reference each such product to the Chinese sources that mention it.

However, general readers will want to know that this is a very detailed reference book that is mostly of interest to professionals. Don't be misled by the glowing (and deservedly so) scholarly reviews! An example:

"PATCHOULI

A Malayan mist yields the fragrant black oil which was called malabathron or phyllon Indikon, "Indian leaf," in the classical West. Its Sanskrit name is tamala-pattra, but we know it by a name derived from Tamil, paccilai, "green leaf." In Chinese, patchouli was called "bean-leaf aromatic," from its appearance..."

If the idea of reading 300 pages like this turns you on, hey, go for it :-)
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The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T'ang Exotics
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