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.
“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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Great Read, Difficult Chinese
I would certainly recommend this book as it is both comprehensive and concise. Spence does a great job at covering China's history in a easily digestible read.
Nothing out there really compares to Spence's tome, but to supplement this history, Arthur Smith's 19th and 20th century writings cover Chinese culture and society from a more humanistic perspective. Together, the reader will get a good feel for China.
Chinese pronunciation is difficult for a non-native speaker and the reader's attempts, while noble, fall short of the mark. For those who speak Mandarin, the Chinese pronunciation is annoyingly incorrect making it difficult to follow the narrative when it comes to places and names. It's a struggle, at best. However, for non Mandarin speakers, this may not be a problem.
An undisputed classic