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The Everlasting Empire: The Political Culture of Ancient China and Its Imperial Legacy Hardcover – May 27, 2012
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"A unique perspective, well presented in accessible language and backed up with extensive notes and bibliography, the work represents high-quality scholarship from broad-based social science at its best. It belongs in all college and university libraries."--Choice
"Pines is successful in pointing out many critical characteristics of Chinese imperial system and political culture, not only the ideological but also the institutional and the practical, which are indeed highly relevant to the system's sustainability."--Hsiao-wen Cheng, Insight Turkey
"[T]here is enough in this book to make it a valuable contribution to the study of empire and its legacies."--Brian Moloughney, Asian Studies Review
"Moving between ideology and the real world, the author has gone far to deepen our understanding of the practical impact of traditional Chinese political culture on the empire. In so doing, he debunks various myths and stereotypes prevalent in both China and the West. This book is a good starting point for those who wish to provide a more comprehensive answer. It should be of interest to both students and scholars."--Jingbin Wang, H-Net Reviews
"Professor Pines writes with the benefit of wide and deep reading that enables him to survey the intellectual, political, and social background against which kingdoms and then empires were founded, maintained, declined, and closed from the time of the Warring States until the modern age."--Michael Loewe, Journal of Chinese Studies
From the Back Cover
"An important study of classical Chinese political culture, The Everlasting Empire develops exciting and provocative arguments concerning the reasons that imperial unity came to be seen as a defining norm in classical China. This book has far-reaching implications for understanding contemporary Chinese political culture as well."--Michael Puett, author of To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China
"Deeply researched, packed with detail, and bold in scope and analysis, The Everlasting Empire offers a compact yet profound interpretation of the ideological foundations of Chinese political culture. Reflecting on imperial China through its cycles of unity and disintegration from antiquity to the present, this magisterial contribution to empire studies and global history comes at a pivotal moment in time."--Martin Kern, Princeton University
"This is a knowledgeable and original book about imperial Chinese political culture. Pines argues that China displayed a remarkable tendency to unite over the course of its centuries-long history and that no serious alternative to the imperial model was proposed before the advent of the West in the nineteenth century. Surprisingly few, if any, books have addressed this subject, despite its importance not only for Chinese history but also for world civilization."--Paul Goldin, University of Pennsylvania
Top Customer Reviews
Pines identifies 5 crucial components-aspects of this ideological package that overlaps with considerably with what is usually termed Confucianism. The first is the idea of a unified state to prevent chaos and constant warfare. The second is the need for a central Imperial figure whose existence is necessary for a unitary state and whose role is both strictly political and sacral, mediating between the earth and the larger cosmos. Pines follows discussions of these concepts with interesting discussion of the role of the literati, local elites, and commoners in the imperial system. The Confucian system attached self-conscious intellectuals (shi; literati) to the state and through different forms of the examination system both provided routes into the system and a considerable degree of ideological hegemony. This ideology and system also provided very useful ways to align the interests of local elites with the center of the imperial system.Read more ›
Pines also makes interesting points about the role of rebellion in sweeping away older, less efficient regimes and installing newer ones, which then in turn go through a cycle of decay. The new emperor, usually a very able person, institutes reforms and whips the bureaucracy into shape; but eventually, often quite quickly, the combined power of local authorities and the office-holders of the court leads to weaker emperors, corruption, and eventual collapse. The emperor, always both a sacred and a secular figure, is more and more hidden away in his august situation, burdened with ever more onerous ceremonial duties. A nice supplement to this overview is the detail in 1587, A Year of No Significance, by Ray Huang. In that case, an emperor rebelling against the court officials claims to be too ill to perform his ceremonial duties, with, the author argues, eventual deleterious effects on the Ming empire.