The Search for Modern China

  • by Jonathan D. Spence
  • Narrated by Frederick Davidson
  • 36 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The history of China is as rich and strange as that of any country on earth. Yet for many, China’s history remains unknown, or known only through the stylized images that generations in the West have cherished or reviled as truth.
With his command of character and event - the product of 30 years of research and reflection in the field - Spence dispels those myths in a powerful narrative. Over four centuries of Chinese history, from the waning days of the once-glorious Ming Dynasty to Deng Xiaoping’s bloody suppression of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Spence fashions the astonishing story of the effort to achieve a modern China. Through the ideas and emotions of its reformist Confucian scholars, its poets, novelists, artists, and visionary students, we see one of the world’s oldest cultures struggling to define itself as Chinese and modern.

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What the Critics Say

“To understand…China’s past there is no better place to start than Jonathan D. Spence’s excellent new book.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Monumental…History that is always lively, always concrete, always comprehensible.” (New York Times)
“Rich and dramatic…A pleasure to read, as well as being immensely informative.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent book, lazy narrator

This is a classic textbook on early modern and modern Chinese history. I've very happy to see it finally appearing in audio form, and I hope there are more on the way.

I have one complaint: The pronunciation of most of the Chinese names is so wrong that the reader might as well be making up random noises. For example, "zhou" is pronounced "joe," not "zoo," and it matters because "zhou" appears in the names of most Chinese geographic locations outside Beijing and Shanghai. It would take 10 minutes for the reader to learn the absolute basics of how to pronounce Chinese names. By being too lazy to take those 10 minutes, the next 20? 30? hours of audio lose much of their value for any listener who hopes actually to learn something.
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- Delano

The narrator doesn't know how to pronounce Chinese

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I really looked forward to the book, but the narrator is so awful I felt as though it was a total waste of time. I am not a Chinese speaker but have a rudimentary knowledge of the language and pronunciation - enough to cringe every time he tried to pronounce any Chinese names or words. Awful!!


What could Jonathan D. Spence have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I couldn't really continue listening after a few hours.


Would you be willing to try another one of Frederick Davidson’s performances?

Not one that related to anything Chinese.


Was The Search for Modern China worth the listening time?

Unfortunately no. . ..


Any additional comments?

Don't buy this is you have the slightest idea of how to pronounce anything Chinese. I really can't comprehend why the narrator was hired to read this book!

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- Jan Vanderlinden "jml"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-17-2012
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.