- Series: History of Civilisation
- Paperback: 317 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition Thus edition (August 31, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520225600
- ISBN-13: 978-0520225602
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Japanese Experience: A Short History of Japan (History of Civilisation) First Edition Thus Edition
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In the late ninth century, a Japanese scholar of Chinese literature named Sugawara Michizane received an unexpected promotion from on high: the emperor appointed the outstanding young commoner to the Council of State, "an advancement," author W.G. Beasley writes, "almost unheard of for one of his birth." The emperor apparently wanted Michizane to help him in an intrigue against a rival family, but the emperor's plot failed. The emperor was deposed, and Michizane went into exile to Kyushu, where he died in 903. After his death, storms and earthquakes, events attributed to Michizane's ghost, struck the imperial capital.
The story of Sugawara Michizane, a footnote in a long epic of interfamilial struggle, illustrates several of the problems scholars of premodern Japanese history face. For one, important actions were directed by members of the imperial household, who took pains to conceal their motives. For another, actors in the historical record tend to appear and disappear quickly from the scene. For still another, that record is shot through with mythology and, in Beasley's words, "distortions of fact and chronology." Beasley ably negotiates these considerable difficulties, taking pains to distinguish conjecture from fact as he unfolds a sweeping chronicle of Japanese history. Covering a period of 30,000 years, Beasley's book stands among the best one-volume histories of Japan, accessible to general readers and scholars alike. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Within the constraints of a short book, Beasley has done an admirable job of integrating Japan's cultural and political history into a readable and consistent narrative. A major theme throughout the book is the Japanese response to outside influence (China, Korea, Europe, America), from the Kofun period (250-350 AD) to the present, that the book explains in a thoughtful and easy-to-understand manner.
Like any expert, Beasley has his own opinions (against Heian-period Japan, for example, and against the idea of Japan's "cultural uniqueness.") However, one doesn't have to agree with everything in the book to appreciate its overall value to the general reader, homeschooler, or beginning student.