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China: Its History and Culture (4th Edition) 4th Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0071412797
ISBN-10: 0071412794
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

A concise and thorough history of one of the world's most powerful nations

This brilliantly lucid and concise study traces China's history and culture from Neolithic times to the present, working into an integrated and authoritative narrative that covers centuries of politics, warfare and government, science and technology, economics and commerce, religion, philosophy, and the arts. Most valuable of all, Dr. Morton illuminates the essential Chinese design, the underlying mental set of the people and the society. He has given approximately equal treatment to all premodern periods, as each has its importance in the evolving history of the Chinese experience, and has illustrated the work with numerous photographs, maps, paintings and drawings and quotations from the literature.

Newly updated and revised, China: Its History and Culture, Fourth Edition, also carefully examines the crucial social and economic changes that have taken place in China over the last decade.

"A wonderful job! So lucid, beautifully written, with great range and insight. This will set a new standard for short general histories of China."--Michael Gasster, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University

"Simple, concise, factual, and yet comprehensive, penetrating and readable."--Wing-Tsit Chan, Professor of Chinese Philosophy and Culture Emeritus, Dartmouth College

About the Author

W. Scott Morton (New York, NY) is a full professor emeritus in Chinese and Japanese history and culture and in ancient history at Seton Hall University, in New Jersey.

Charlton N. Lewis (Brooklyn, NY) is a professor emeritus of Chinese history at Brooklyn College, CUNY.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 4 edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071412794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071412797
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Callaway on November 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book does an excellent job of condensing centuries of history into its most salient points. The authors manage to pick the biggest factors of change or stability in each time period, and do a good job of tieing in the high points of Chinese culture, including art, religion and philosophy. I read this book before my trip to China and felt very well briefed on the long and diverse history of the area, especially for such a short volume. I thought it was a great introduction to Chinese history and culture, and found many reference items included to follow up on. Well done.
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With such a huge subject, this book makes easy work of approaching the dynasties and intellectual movements without fear of overload. In roughly 350 pages, the authors take the reader from Zhou to Zemin with a minimum of effort and confusion. For those who think China has no exciting movements and tales, think again. the most indelible impression on the Chinese nation was made by a single 15-yr dynasty (the Qin Dynasty, for which the westernized name "China" came into Romanized coinage, and which, speaking of coinage, finally standardized coinage to a state that remained unchanged until modern times. The Qin expanded to the current borders closer than any other had done before or since, and codified laws via Legalism, rather than the lax Confucian tradition of reasonable mediation). Most other dynasties lasted several hundreds of years, yet made far less noteworthy statebuilding achievements, nor were as unsupported by the populace at large. The Qin also hosted the first "cultural revolution" in Chinese history, which would much later be repeated under Mao with unexpectedly disastrous effects.

Rome never knew of China beyond the association with silk trade, mostly from merchant tales. This state of affairs held largely unchanged until modern times, whereas China knew Romans intimately from around 300 AD onward. Learn why China fell so quickly in with Communist ideology and why the color red was so natural a choice for a Chinese revolutionary movement (if somewhat ironic).

After reading this, for an expanded look, buy Gernet's legendary work of same subject.
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I loved Scott Morton's book on Japan. The China book, however, was difficult to get through. I think part of the reason is that China is too big. I've tried other books on Chinese history and they all seem to have the same problem. There is so much going on its hard to get a feel for each time period. To get a more intimate look China's history would probably have to be studied by region (or by periods).
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I wanted a short history of China before my trip to Shanghai and Xian, so that I might more fully appreciate the artifacts and sites I was going to see. I luckily chose this book by Scott Morton. I got so much more out of the trip than my "fellow travelers," and was able to assist them in keeping the dates and facts straight. Now I need to continue in depth my study of China, but I highly recommend this book for a starter. I am sending this book to my Shanghai guide as a handy reference for him.
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By Lothe on November 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
The history of China is so vast that trying to comprehend it can be daunting--and summarizing it, perhaps, even more so. So W. Scott Morton and Charlton Lewis's China: Its History and Culture faces a challenge as it tries to encompass the whole scope of Chinese history in just a few hundred pages.

The idea of a concise history is attractive, given that some books dealing with just the last hundred years or so run six hundred to a thousand pages long. A book that sketched the flow of the whole history of the country would be welcome.

Morton's book succeeds partially in this regard. It begins with the advent of humankind in China millennia ago, and carries the history straight up through 2004, the publication date of the most recent edition. The book strives to dedicate the same number of pages (about twenty) to each era of history described.

Despite its achievement in scope, the book seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. It might have been more successful were it simply "China: Its History"; the historical accounts often feel truncated by the need to include sections dealing with cultural developments in each era--which includes literary, artistic, religious, and a range of other cultural streams. Because of length these, too, must be cherry-picked, leaving the reader with an all-too-brief taste of a few major trends. Though one can hardly argue that culture should be ignored, Morton's narrative does not often draw the impact of culture on historical events (or vice versa), leaving the parts of each chapter feeling less than unified. The book might have benefited had most of the "culture" been left out and replaced with a more thoroughgoing exploration of the ways each era of history interacted with those before and after it.
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Very clearly written and understandable. The author concentrates mostly on political, military and economic affairs, but highlights broader cultural and social trends where they are relevant. I wish a little more space had been devoted to culture, art and the like.

China's ancient history is covered in about 150 pages, and the second half of the book looks at the last 200 years and the interaction with the West and Japan. What was most relevant to a modern Westerner was emphasized. Also emphasized were reoccurring trends in ancient history that seem to find expression in Communist and post-Communist life. I felt this was an acceptable way of highlighting 3000 years of history, but if you are most interested in ancient Chinese history for its own sake this book will not be for you.

There aren't as many photos and illustrations as I would have liked. Also, as I stated, I wish the culture had been more deeply penetrated. This is still a serviceable introduction to the interested layman with little prior exposure to the subject. I liked well enough that I will buy the author's companion piece on Japan.
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