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Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0804707206
ISBN-10: 0804707200
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A fascinating picture of a lively and brilliant society. . . . Every major aspect of life during this period is treated with meticulous exactitude. . . . an unrivalled glimpse of Chinese society as it was seven hundred years ago."—Journal of Southeast Asian History


"A pioneering high popularization of Sung social history. . . . An elegant work."The Journal of Asian Studies

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)
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Product Details

  • Series: Daily Life
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1962)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804707200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804707206
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Stroup on January 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Translated from the French by H.M. Wright. The overall theme of the book is to dispel the notion of a China that was immobile, and that this lack of change is what aided in the success of the Mongol invasion. From a plethora of sources, Gernet reconstructs a snapshot of how society functioned during the end of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), only a few years before the invasion. To accomplish this task the book looks at a twenty-six year period (1250-1276), focusing on the Southern Song capital, Hangzhou, and its immediate surrounding areas. Areas of exploration include Hangzhou's social makeup (the upper classes, the merchants [which had increasingly gained importance], and the lower classes) to even details on clothing, cooking, festivals, and leisure hours.
The book overall is facinating in its detail and in the subject matter the author chose to explore. Many of the subjects have not been written about since, so there are still many avenues for further research. It has to be pointed out here that in light of the recent scholarly debates questioning the validity over Marco Polo's writings (see: Frances Woods, 1998 ; US News and World Report, 7/24/00), the quotes used in the book must be looked upon with this in mind. Gernet even points out that a few of the quotes he used in the book did not correspond with Chinese sources of the time (pp. 36, 47).
Although Gernet shows us a glimpse of Southern Song daily life, one with any knowledge of daily life in today's China will notice certain similarities between the two. The growth in mercantilism, rural to urban mass migration, the great disparity between the rich and poor, the popularity of prostitution and other promiscuous behavior all can be found in both societies.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of my earliest and most valuable finds, an excellent resource for the study and/or reenactment of the period. The first several chapters detail city life, social classes, housing, cooking and personal grooming. The later chapters cover the broader subjects of life cycle (birth, marriage and death rituals), and the yearly cycle (festivals, religions observances). Detailed and well footnoted.
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Format: Paperback
This book deals with one the the periods when China, numbering sixty million inhabitants, was the richest and most powerful empire in the world. (Another one would be some 500 years later.) During the Sung dynasty the country flourished, even though wealth was far from evenly distributed, and the excesses of a small minority contributed to a worsening balance of payments and eventual weakening of the economy.

This empire would take a beating because of the Mongols' invasion in 1276, but up to then it was an even more impressive China than that Marco Polo would witness several decades later.

The capital was in Hangzhou, a port city near today's Shanghai, and its commercial fleet plied the seas exporting porcelain and silk. There was also relative peace, despite the fact that the Northern provinces had been lost already to the Mongols.

The book is written in scholarly academic style, but its flowing prose remains accessible to the non specialist as well.
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Format: Paperback
The title of this book suggests that it is a dry account of ancient history. It is anything but; it is a fascinating account of daily life in China almost 800 years ago. As one of the other reviewers points out, one of the major themes of the book is that China changed over time, not only in response to invasions, but due to internal forces as well. A great book.
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By Voodooking on September 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was very interesting. It was Bought as a required text for my Daughter in College. I picked it up on one of her trips home and began reading it. Now that I have started it I dont think it will leave our home library. She has learned a great deal from it and now I am also
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Format: Paperback
History books in Greater China usually depict Southern Song as a weak Dynasty having one half of the land annexed by Jin (Chin), and later defeated completely by the Mongols. Weak except on the literary side, the people, perhaps cultured and fun-loving, but more on the "decadent" side, as judged by historians of Confucius bend. It is therefore a great found reading this comprehensive account on daily life of Chinese people, high and low, in this most prosperous city, with more objective facts and analysis. The book focused on the city of Hangzhou, the capital and the most populous and affluent city of the world. Written in easy-to-follow language, and based on abundance of written materials with many reference to accounts given by the famous Marco Polo and a Japanese traveler/writer, the book revealed, including, a detail account of the city planning (such as the highly organized fire-fighting brigades), the bath houses (cold water bath for Chinese, for health benefit purpose, and warm water for foreigners); the newly-rich merchants (with professionals forming various guilds, and varieties of servants/entertainers/prostitutes moving into this already crowded city to serve them), and the peasants (the poorest had to sell their kids during bad time) who had to suffer from one of the most brutal justice system in world history - in addition, worsen by being brutalized and biased against in court, being the illiterate and poor, as in all Chinese history).

The book also mentioned the low-status of the military, with the elites flocking to take public exam leading to lucrative posts in the administration. The administration, though very corrupted (as was in all other Dynasties), actually ran effectively and efficiently.
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