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Publisher's Summary

For most of its 5,000-year existence, China has been the largest, most populous, wealthiest, and mightiest nation on Earth. And for us as Westerners, it is essential to understand where China has been in order to anticipate its future. These 36 eye-opening lectures deliver a comprehensive political and historical overview of one of the most fascinating and complex countries in world history.
You'll learn about the powerful dynasties that ruled China for centuries; the philosophical and religious foundations-particularly Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism-that have influenced every iteration of Chinese thought, and the larger-than-life personalities, from both inside and outside its borders, of those who have shaped China's history. As you listen to these lectures, you'll see how China's politics, economics, and art reflect the forces of its past.
From the "Mandate of Heaven," a theory of social contract in place by 1500 B.C.E., 3,000 years before Western philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, to the development of agriculture and writing independent of outside influence to the technologically - advanced Han Dynasty during the time of the Roman Empire, this course takes you on a journey across ground that has been largely unexplored in the history courses most of us in the West have taken.
In guiding you through the five millennia of China's history, Professor Hammond tells a fascinating story with an immense scope, a welcome reminder that China is no stranger to that stage and, indeed, has more often than not been the most extraordinary player on it.
©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

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By David on 10-03-13

Good broad brush information

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The professors speach candence was too slow for me. I had to play the entire thing on 2x speed for it to be tolerable.

Any additional comments?

Great information overall with some solid broad brush coverage of the subject. I would have liked to have gotten more details in a number of places, but that would have made it too long.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Kristi Richardson on 07-25-15

"Only powerful people have liberty." Sun Yat-sen

History of China
1. Geography and Archaeology
2. The First Dynasties
3. The Zhou Conquest
4. Fragmentation and Social Change
5. Confucianism and Daoism
6. The Hundred Schools
7. The Early Han Dynasty
8. Later Han and the Three Kingdoms
9. Buddhism
10. Northern and Southern Dynasties
11. Sui Reunification and the Rise of the Tang
12. The Early Tang Dynasty
13. Han Yu and the Late Tang
14. Five Dynasties and the Song Founding
15. Intellectual Ferment in the 11th Century
16. Art and the Way
17. Conquest States in the North
18. Economy and Society in Southern Song
19. Zhu Xi and Neo-Confucianism
20. The Rise of the Mongols
21. The Yuan Dynasty
22. The Rise of the Ming
23. The Ming Golden Age
24. Gridlock and Crisis
25. The Rise of the Manchus
26. Kangxi to Qianlong
27. The Coming of the West
28. Threats from Within and Without
29. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
30. Efforts at Reform
31. The Fall of the Empire
32. The New Culture Movement and May 4th
33. The Chinese Communists, 1921-1937
34. War and Revolution
35. China Under Mao
36. China and the World in a New Century

“In the construction of a country, it is not the practical workers but the idealists and planners that are difficult to find.” Sun Yat-sen

I really enjoyed this Great Course. Professor Kenneth J. Hammond from New Mexico State makes this 5,000 year history of China come alive.

It helped me to begin to understand the difference in cultures between the western world and the east. It also helped me to see that because I was brought up in a democracy/republic that all nations may not want that kind of government.

I was surprised to learn that under Communism women had more rights than they had previously and as capitalism grabs hold of China, women’s rights are disappearing. I also found it interesting to learn why the students were protesting in Tiananmen Square and the eventual outcome of that protest.

I also found intriguing the family dynasties that ruled China over the years and the Mongols taking control under the Khans when Marco Polo visited. I was disgusted to find Great Britain as the biggest drug cartel in history and how they pushed opium on the Chinese people in order to have an advantage in trading in silver with them.

In America we learn little of Chinese history and these classes are about thirty minutes in length which is perfect for a little at a time. This took me a long time to finish but I feel I have a better understanding of the Chinese people and history thanks to Prof. Hammond.


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17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By A Customer on 09-29-13

Wonderful set of lectures

Where does From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This set of lectures was definitely one of the best I have listened to. Really engaging, the lecturer covers an incredible range of eras in these lectures. One of the best things about it for me was that it give you an in depth outline of how each of the Chinese dynasties fits in with the other, which then enables you to read into which ever one interests you the most without feeling totally lost (the Harvard UP set on Chinese Imperialism is particularly good for this).

What was one of the most memorable moments of From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History?

All of the lectures were really well put together, though perhaps a couple of the most memorable were the ones on the ancient civilisations and the evolution of the writing system, simply because it speaks to the origin of language itself, which is always fascinating. The other is probably when Wu Sangui opened the gates of the Great Wall at Shanhai Pass letting the Qing forces through, then allying his forces to help them take the capital at Beijing. Wu did all this mainly so that he could ensure that the recent usurper of the Ming throne, Li Zicheng, didn't take the woman he loved into his harem. Dramatic events!

What does Professor Kenneth J. Hammond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The lecturer was really good, in all honesty I listened to the lectures at 1.5x speed, mainly because the speed people naturally give lectures tends to be a tad on the slow side.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful


By David on 12-16-14

Interesting but slow delivery grated in the middle

Chinese subject is perhaps too vast a subject to tackle in even a long set of courses such as this and certainly Professor Hammond seemed to struggle to make it manageable in the middle sections of this course. I confess I zoned out a little and got a bit lost in the series of dynasties in the Middle Ages. That being said the rest of the course was fascinating and it really picked up in the later periods when it is, perhaps, easier for a westerner to relate to the individuals involved.

My only serious gripe with the course was Professor Hammond's delivery. He is clearly knowledgable and highly qualified but at times it sounded like his heart wasn't in it with a lot of sighs and very flat delivery. That combined with a habit of finishing a sentence with "OK?" grated a little but not enough to spoil the overall product.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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By Vivien on 02-19-16

From Yao to Mao by Professor Hammond

This is a tremendous series and a tour de force from Professor Hammond. It is dense and for me often required a couple of replays -and I could listen to it all again. He explained the entire history of China with such eloquence and understanding. I am so pleased to have heard this - it has further increased my curiosity to know more about China. Many thanks!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Mike on 10-22-16

Great overview on the politcal history of China

Wish there was more in the way of what China was like for the peasantry. Also there's very little on the role of the military under the Chinese Empire and how it was maintained in times of peace.

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