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Barbarians and the Birth of Chinese Identity: The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms to the Yuan Dynasty (907 - 1368) (Understanding China Through Comics) Paperback – April 25, 2017

4.6 out of 5 stars 25 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up—The third volume of this series on Chinese history quickly summarizes the previous installments before starting its coverage of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907–960 CE), the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE), and the Yuan Dynasty (1206–1368 CE). While addressing political and geographic upheavals, Liu reveals just enough information to make readers aware of the devastating effects of being conquered, without getting into details that might be too upsetting for younger audiences. He also touches on the theory that the practice of foot-binding was started to protect women, as the custom rendered them unable to ride a horse, making them harder to kidnap as trophies of war. Liu focuses on the foreign invasions that mark this period and the resulting academic, governing, and economic changes that were made to give the people a sense of Chinese cultural and national identity. Overall the text is clear, with a few stumbles during descriptions of dynastic upheavals and border wars, which are somewhat light on information. Character comments and antics in the artwork add humor , which readers will appreciate. The author's comedic tone and tendency to stick to key moments and broad trends help him keep a lively pace even when covering dry subjects. VERDICT Like previous installments, this volume features uncluttered artwork and lucid explanations, making it a wonderful and enjoyable option for middle and high school readers seeking a general overview of Chinese history.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA


"A great way to learn about China's vast history!"

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club


"Excels at clarifying the often-confusing transitional periods between dynasties… An excellent introduction to the large trends of early Chinese history.”

School Library Journal


"Chinese language is being taught in all but one state... A comic format teaching China's history is the perfect companion."

US-China Review


"Combines breezy style with historical rigor to strike just the right gong-tone for a middle school audience approaching the vast scope of Chinese history."

Education About Asia 


5/5 Stars "An invaluable source... Chinese history is a vast subject, but Jing Liu has a skillful ability to condense it all into an interesting and manageable narrative."

Kids' Book Buzz


"The combination of silhouettes—often threatening, martial ones—with open-faced, expressively individualized figures of many social classes adds dramatic tension while neatly balancing the big-picture narrative. There's a lot to absorb even in this abbreviated form, but the visual approach lightens the load considerably."

Kirkus Reviews


"The lucid, economical text makes one eager for successive volumes."



"Simple and effective…This direct, appealing introduction to the foundations of one of the world’s oldest civilizations is recommended for teens and adults."

Library Journal


"Given China's superpower ambitions, it goes without saying that our politicians must pick up a copy."



"A clear and concise survey of Chinese history and culture that is sure to please."

The Comics Grinder


4.5/5 Stars "A very nice way to establish a foundation to understanding China’s history and a possible gateway to more intense study and comprehension of a very complex subject."

Portland Book Review


"The book does what it says it does: a child will come away with a basic understanding of early Chinese history, what makes the Chinese tick as a people and culture."

—Asian Review of Books


"It is certainly a fascinating look at Chinese history, and doing it in comics has certainly made it more accessible to people, especially for the Western world."

Radio Australia


Teacher and Professor Testimonials


"This book is “The Magic School Bus” for those starting to explore Chinese culture."

Dan Cao, Instructor at Confucius Institute at UC Davis


"An excellent history that clearly explains the great (and ordinary) people who have made China what it is and the conflicts and debates that have shaped Chinese history. There is nothing else like it in English or Chinese."

Alan Baumler, Professor of History at Indiana University of Pennsylvania


"No more burying yourself in text-heavy history books to learn about China, this comic-style book manages to be rich in information and bring Chinese history to readers in a more clear, fun, and accessible way than it’s ever been done before. Easily integrated into a social studies or Chinese culture curriculum, I can’t wait to get a copy for my class."

Grace Zeng, Chinese Teacher and Middle School Chinese Curriculum Area Leader at International School of Beijing



"Jing Liu has brought to life the long and complex early period of Chinese history in this wonderful graphic novel. Foundations of Chinese Civilization is a delight to read; humorous, informative, and truly captivating."

Alexandra Pearson, Founder of The Bookworm Literary Festival


"Since the 1990s, Jing Liu has been entertaining and informing foreigners about China with his cartoons. His new series of comic books is a fun, easy, accessible way to gain a basic understanding of Chinese history and culture."

Jeremy Goldkorn, Founder of Danwei


"This comic series is fantastic to use in the classroom. My students are drawn to this book - not only do they enjoy this graphic-novel style, it also helps them understand difficult historical concepts. What a fun supplement to the regular textbook!"

—Leslie Burgoine, Middle School History Teacher, Portland, Oregon


"I was really impressed with how the author explained, taught, explored and visually told the story of China. Impressive and very informative. It was not only a page turner for me, but my students would run into class to get their hands on a copy to keep reading!"

—Sasha Johnson, World History Teacher at Black Pine Circle School, Berkeley, CA




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