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China: A History Paperback – December 6, 2011
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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“Without sacrificing substance for brevity, Keay manages to illustrate China’s history very much as a narrative... Readers already interested in, or wishing newly to embark upon, Chinese history will adore this book. Highly recommended.”
“China: A History marks a welcome advance… [Keay’s] touch is deft and faithful to the tenor of the debates, especially those between archaeologists and literary scholars.”
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
However, the book gives the impression that the supporting research was done in a great hurry, and contains errors, inconsistincies, and a number of sensational conclusions, some of which are not supported by sufficient evidence. It was therefore little wonder to me when I learned that the author is, in fact, a journalist and not a historian. It seems as though the author has attempted to make some attention-grabbing statements in a clumsy attempt to turn Chinese history on its head.
I will give just three examples of the kind of sloppiness that I have referred to. 1) One theory, which is entirely undeveloped apart from a small amount of hypothesising on the part of the author, is that the Great Wall did not prevent northern tribes from entering China and was never designed for this purpose. In stating this, the author appears unaware of the extraordinary career and accomplishments of Qi Jiguang, perhaps China's greatest military leader of the Ming (or any other) period. He built, and successfully defended the Great Wall against all comers.Read more ›
THis is a well written account of a fascinating country and its people. It does what few books do which is to ignore the present and instead give the past a fair shake in terms. There is no telescoping the narrative so that the last hundred years gets half the book, instead the las thundred years of Chinese history receives just a few dozen pages, giving the reader the correct impression that China's past is as important as her present.
In general the book also gives the reader a great deal of handy charts to keep track of dynasties and people. A very well written account,
Seth J. Frantzman
After reading this book, I've learnt that China's history is very complicated, but Keay does a fantastic job to provide objectively a good picture of each era. He is very descriptive on the important moments in Chinese history (it's impossible to fit every moment of Chinese history in a book of this size), so after reading this book, the reader is likely to remember these important points in Chinese history.
The maps are also very helpful to get an idea of all the warfare that was going on. I thought more maps would have even been better, and more pictures/portraits/photos (e.g. of important emperors and other leaders) would have also been good as it puts a face to a name.
I am not a frequent reader, but I can still tell that Keay chooses his words carefully and skillfully. I had to reach for the dictionary plenty of times. Hopefully someone with a better vocabulary base can appreciate this aspect more than myself.
It terms of over-all balance there are a four areas that I felt were slightly lacking. The first is on the coverage of Ghengis Khan. He only gets a few pages despite founding a dynasty. The second is a coherent perspective on the Japanese occupation. Although the topic is covered it is dispersed throughout the text and not treated as a subject in its own right. I think that this is quite an important topic in understanding contemporary China and its relationship with Japan. There is no mention of Unit 731 in Harbin (where the Japanese committed major atrocities) and the denial by the Japanese of the Nanjing/Nanking massacre for example. The third topic that I thought was inadequately and insensitively addressed was the destruction of the old Summer Palace by French and British expeditionary forces. He states "Though no great loss to architecture, it was a body blow to Qing prestige". He makes no reference to the loss of innocent lives ( those who were burned to death), nor the destruction of hundreds of years worth of priceless chinese historical artifacts and cultural treasures (other than to describe the palace as a "fanciful Louvre"). The forth topic treated rather superficially was that of the philosophical underpinnings of Daoism, Confucianism, Legalism and Moism.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting and educational to say the least. It was easy to read. It is amazing to me that for so may centuries all was going on in that part of world alone.Published 18 days ago by luiza i. tillery
Good historical perspective on China but author is English so not as easy to read as a normal "American" writer.Published 1 month ago by K. Snyder
This was a great overview of what is known about Chinese history, from the earliest known Xia dynasty through to the Mongols and finally to the chaos of the 19th-20th centuries. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Scott Burgan
Brings out a tremendous amount of clarity from the long recorded chaos of cultural events. Amazingly clear and concise!Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Wonderful research, which to the layman, covered the subject in detail. Text book feel to story and somewhat difficult to read in early years.Published 4 months ago by Richard
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. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Bijsmom