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Showing 1-10 of 75 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 98 reviews
on September 12, 2016
Wow, I love this book, but I definitely recommend getting it in paperback or Hardcover. Though this is an overwhelming subject, Keay has shaped the narrative in such a way that a new student to China has a foothold and the stories are amazing, The maps are important to see to connect this complex country, and I didn't realize that there were photographs to underscore the detail until I ordered a used copy to support my Kindle copy. There just are books that should not be read on the Kindle.
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on March 16, 2016
It is lengthy, and for me, trying to keep the names straight was a bit daunting. However, this book has given me so much insight into a culture I know so little about. It is easier to understand the China of today in light of its history.
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on August 21, 2012
Granted, it's trying to jam thousands of years of history into a single volume and it does the job admirably. I would have liked it if the author had spend a little more time on some of the more interesting stories, even if that meant that the book needed to be split into two volumes. It was fairly dry reading, and seemed like a good source for history buffs...but not for the casual reader.
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on March 29, 2017
A great overview of China's long history. Very readable and gives the reader enough detail to decide areas they would like to learn more about
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on September 8, 2017
Clear writing. Clarity induced in me the reader. Although I've visited 29 countries I've not yet got to China. Now I want to. This book makes China's current actions so much more clear.
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on July 29, 2016
While the author shows typical British knee-jerk skepticism and modern revisionist tendencies the book is filled with good details, vignettes, stories, and facts that the reader who is interested in Chinese history will find invaluable: a must read.
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on January 7, 2015
An awesome compendium of historic details of Chinese history assembled into a very readable story. Only occasionally does it drag, and not for long.
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on October 21, 2016
The history of China is complex. John Keay gives an overview of China and its rich history starting from before the country was unified under the Qin and up until modern times excluding the Communist party from the second half of the 20th century. There is of course a lot to try to convey in this 3000 year period but the author does well to give the reader an overview of both the history and evolution that China has witnessed. Having grown up with an absence of books on China's entire history this is a good addition to the literature for a wide audience.

The author begins with some of the earliest records of China starting before 1000 BC but quickly gets into the period of warring states and the unification and beginning of the Qin dynasty. The author gives all the background needed to understand how later conflicts reference back to the early conflicts faced in China. The author gives the reader a brief picture of the world Confucius lived in and the philosophy he created that was probably the strongest current in Chinese government through its history. The book details the dynasties and the philosophies that drove each age. It also discusses how dynastic transitions were described by Chinese historians as the legitimate passing of the mandate of heaven on as rulers failed in their duties. The author gives an overview of all the major dynasties and in particular he focuses on the Han dynasty which is often seen as the golden age where borders were expanded and leadership was just. He focuses on the Tang dynasty where China resurfaced as a unified power and the Song where China was last ruled by its own people before being over run by a series of outside powers. One reads a history where China has not been unified throughout its history and fragmentation of the empire has been distinct in multiple periods. One learns of how China had frequent dynastic turnover as emperors were invaded and lost the faith of the people only for the cycle to repeat itself. One of course learns of the Mongolian invasion and their Yuan dynasty as well as the peasant uprising that led to the Ming dynasty. It is fascinating to learn about how the mandate of heaven was transferred to a peasant in more than one occasion when the broad population was discontent with the ruler of the times. The relative decline of China is described in the last 500 years as it went from most properous and populous to exploited as industrialization took place in the west and gun boat diplomacy defined trade relations. This happened in particular with the Manchu's as they conquered the Ming in the 17th century. From there one sees a sequence of bullying trade deals and incremental isolation of China. The author spends time discussing the opium wars and the nationalist movement in China with Sun Yat-Sen and leaves us at the end of the second world war.

China: A History gives a relatively quick overview of the major dynasties in China and its early modern history. Multiple more volumes could no doubt be written but this is a good starting point to get a sense of how China has evolved and where its civilization started. The archaeological record continues to broaden as its academic world opens up. This book gives you exactly what the title says, a History of China. The writing is clear and the content is interesting, worth the read.
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on May 23, 2013
This is an objective and thorough history of China, especially of the imperial period. It had considerably less coverage of the modern communist period but did cover the revolution in some detail. However, it is best for a very thorough and fact driven history of imperial china. This is an overall work. I had read his book on India and this is a similarly detailed work.
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on August 27, 2012
I bought China for an independent study focusing on the I-Ching. I wanted historical context to Shang bone oracles as well as the Book of Changes itself, and I got them almost immediately (within the first two chapters). I've decided, from purchasing and reading both a history of China and a philosophy of it, to continue this trend whenever I read a history book. If you're going to buy this product, buy a copy of the I-Ching as well and read them in tandem. You'll fall upon the Warring States and be filled with dread as you lament battles and deaths that occurred thousands of years ago. Which, for a work of academia, is an incredible feat of literature.
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