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Imperial China 900-1800 Hardcover – February 9, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A major preoccupation of this work by Princeton's highly respected professor emeritus, Frederick W. Mote, is the interplay between China and Inner Asia, a region that includes Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet. This is an important advance on previous broad examinations of imperial China, which have a distinct bias toward sinocentric dynastic politics. The year 907 marked the final breakdown of the Tang government and the establishment of a series of non-Chinese dynasties, from the Liao to the Qing, who ruled over all or much of Chinese territory for the next thousand years. Mote explains the impact on China of the Turkic and Mongol tribes to the north and west, a cultural influence that, for political reasons, is normally neglected by Chinese historians. The book's many excellent maps show how China's boundaries were constrained by powerful neighbors, a fact that also has political significance today. Economic questions are discussed, such as transportation systems and trade with the northern tribes. Environmental issues, such as the silting and flooding of the Yellow River, firmly insert geography into historical studies. Meanwhile, the next edition--and there will surely be another edition--will benefit from a standardized modern romanization of such languages as Mongolian.

Imperial China 900-1800 represents the distillation of a lifetime's study by a senior scholar steeped in Chinese history, yet it incorporates recent archaeological discoveries and is up to date, even radical, in its concepts. The author has the stature and confidence to avoid compulsive footnoting without losing credibility, which assists the easy unfolding of the book's narrative and analysis. This excellent work will stimulate the general reader and be an extremely useful text for the next generation of students of Chinese history. --John Stevenson

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A personal meditation on the later imperial history of China by an author who has studied and taught the subject all his life and whose knowledge of it is truly formidable. It is written in a readable, accessible style that attracts the reader's sustained attention. (John W. Dardess University of Kansas)

A major contribution to our present literature on the general historiography of late Imperial China. Not only is it eminently accessible to a wide nonspecialized intellectual public, it also provides a major corrective within the field to some of the tendencies that have dominated the writing of Chinese history. Mote has highly cogent things to say about the nature of what has been called the 'gentry' in China and highly relevant questions to raise about the notion of a demographic explosion in eighteenth-century China, and he examines many of the prevailing abstract conceptions that dominate the field. Yet he vividly demonstrates how limited our effort has been to explore in depth the vast documentary materials available to us, which are supposed to provide the 'empirical data' for our models, paradigms, and structural theories. Mote's major contribution is his detailed account of the growing complexity of relations between the Chinese state and the surrounding East Asian world during the period 900-1800. (Benjamin I. Schwartz Haravrd University)

This massive tome crowns the long, distinguished career of Frederick Mote, an influential scholar of Late Imperial China in the United States... He does a wonderful job of reconstructing the history of such historically neglected regimes as Khitan-Liao, Jurchen-Jin, and Tangut-Western Xia, from the perspective of the Other. What I find most praiseworthy is the lucid, elegant expository style of writing...The book is likely to leave a profound and lasting impact on the reader in areas it focuses on, which will in turn help him or her better understand a given period of Late Imperial China from a long-term perspective. (Victor Cunrui Xiong Chinese Historical Review)

An outstanding feature that distinguishes this book from similar works is the author's effort to readdress the imbalance in traditional historiography with its lopsided focus on the political and geographic center of the realm. He does a wonderful job of reconstructing the history of such historically neglected regimes as Khitan-Liao, Jurchen-Jin, and Tangut-Western Xia, from the perspective of the Other...What I find most praiseworthy is the lucid, elegant expository style of writing. In spite of the wealth of knowledge the author clearly possesses about traditional China, he chooses to cover in depth a select number of topics--personages, events, institutions, etc.--in a language that is understandable to the average man in the street, without relying on opaque verbosity. Consequently, the book is likely to leave a profound and lasting impact on the reader in areas it focuses on. (Victor Cunrui Xiong Chinese Historical Review 2005-09-01)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1128 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 2/1/2000 edition (February 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674445155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674445154
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 6.7 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
In an earlier generation, the one-volume textbook East Asia: Tradition and Transformation, by John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig, considerably reduced from the original two-volume version, unwittingly left many students with the impression that the history of premodern East Asia, and especially China, could be categorized meaningfully as "traditional." Such a misrepresentation may have held some appeal for students of twentieth-century China who wanted to regard China of the Qing dynasty as an incarnation of unchanging essentials of traditional society, a foil against which the dynamism of revolutionary China could be viewed. That perspective could find generous reinforcement from China itself where the official historiography of the People's Republic classified the entire span of the imperial era as a feudal stage of historical evolution. Imperial China 900-1800 is an antidote to the toxin of such erroneous conceptions; it traces nine hundred years of profound changes that precede d the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Why the period 900 to 1800? Mote tells us in the Preface that these dates defined his teaching field at Princeton; early portions of the book incorporate accounts he wrote years ago for use by students in his classes. Superficially, the rounded Western dates, 900 and 1800, are close to real events in Chinese history--the end of the Tang in 907 and the death of the Qianlong emperor in 1799--but the true rationale lies at a deeper level than those events.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
F. W. Mote, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, has produced by far one of the most comprehensive and authoritative renditions on Chinese history ever published in English. What makes this book so great is that it combines many disparate texts (often in Chinese) into one comprehensive, chronological volume that is accessible to everyone with but a modest interest in Chinese history. It is hard to find other more complete works in English on such a vast and eventful span of China's history.
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Format: Hardcover
About 30 years ago, I married a cute guy who happens to have been born in (mainland) China. So we had these two kids, but really I never thought about Chinese civilization until #1 child (a girl) decided to teach English there. So, being a good mom and all, I bought Mote's book, figuring it was high time to learn a bit about this corner of the world. !!!!!!!! Well, Dr. Mote is a wonderful storyteller with the uncanny ability to explain a whole civilization to ignorant me, teaching respect for one of humankind's greatest achievements -- a civil society mature enough to run along while its government messed up. Of course, as a modern Western woman, I can see room for improvement here and there, but I am happy to claim the role of Dr. Mote's #1 groupie!! Wow, what a book!!!!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book to be read carefully, as it is filled with well reasoned analysis and historical details. A very long book, 973 pages excluding footnotes and index, it would take too long to summarize the main points in the book. However, I highly recommend this book to any person having a serious interest in Chinese history and culture, especially during the time period covered in this book. One can imagine how this book is the result of decades of teaching, reading and research by Frederick W. Mote.

I was especially impressed by how Dr. Mote emphasizes the importance of Inner Asian history, especially the Liao, Jin, Mongol and Qing conquest dynasties, in Chinese history. While some material relating to the conquest dynasties in the book is basically repeated in certain sections, it is done so primarily to look at the same events from different perspectives.

My only relatively minor quibbles with the book are I would have preferred greater discussion of Chinese poets, writers and their important literary works. I found the coverage of Neo-Confucian philosophical thought to be uninteresting and it is easy to see why some Chinese thinkers considered much of Neo-Confucian writings to be irrelevant to the actual needs of the Chinese people and China as a nation.

I completely agree with Dr. Mote's contention the collapse of the Ming dynasty was not inevitable and could have been prevented, especially if the last two or three Ming emperors had made better decisions affecting two very capable Chinese generals and enacted different policies. I highly recommend reading Jonathan Spence's "The Search for Modern China" to accompany Frederick M. Mote's coverage of the fall of the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty up to about 1800.
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