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Publishers Weekly Review
Spence advocates democracy in China and presents contemporary views of its oppressive history, including Chiang Kai-Shek's fascist supporters and the bloodbath known as the Cultural Revolution. ``A splendid achievement, this sweeping . . . epic chronicle compresses four centuries of political and social change into a sharply observant narrative,'' said PW . Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
YA --The difficulty of finding a complete, one-volume history of China is no longer a problem with publication of this work, which covers Chinese history from the 16th-century Ming Dynasty to the 1989 ``China Spring'' demonstrations. The 200+ photographs and illustrations, many in color and previously unpublished, include historical notes that add understanding to the art and the stories illustrated. The text is written in an informative manner that will appeal to students; their lack of knowledge of Chinese history is forstalled by the comprehensive glossary that explains phrases, people, and events. High-school teachers will bless you for buying this well-researched volume.--Dolores Steinhauer, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Since the Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing, many observers have lamented China's suppression of its students and intellectuals. But in a new work, Spence (Yale) reminds readers that Chinese intellectuals and its people have suffered similar disappointments before. Chronicling nearly 400 years of history, from the late Ming to 1989, Spence traces the attempts of Chinese rulers and reformers to wrestle with problems of national integration, population pressure, economic development, and foreign challenges. He defines a modern nation as one that is receptive to new markets, new technologies, and new ideas. By this criterion, he argues that China has never been a modern nation, nor is it likely to be able to make such a claim in the future unless its people are given a voice in determining their fate. Spence's rich and lucid narrative is informed by an admirable synthesis of recent scholarship, all amply documented in the endnotes and bibliography. Generous references to literature and art woven into the text make this the most well rounded survey of China's last four centuries. Suitable for undergraduates, lower-division and up, graduate students, faculty, and general readers. F. Ng California State University, Fresno
Kirkus Book Review
A stunning, one-of-a-kind history of China over the past 400 years; by the author of The Question of Hu (1988), etc. By the end of the 17th century, China was still a heterogeneous country whose vast expanses and endless variations in culture, economy, and religious practices have made the writing of any coherent history a daunting task. As Yale professor Spence points out, scholars have begun to tackle it by defining ""macroregions""--in which it is possible to describe and analyze these differences and to relate them to central political decisions. But until now there has been no work as comprehensive and comprehensible as his own. Moving from the Ming dynasty through the Manchus, the Revolution, the Kuomintang, and on through Tiananmen Square with an unparalleled combination of erudition, vision, sweep, and grace, Spence integrates a formidable amount of information about politics, culture, religion, land use, lineage patterns, poverty, wealth, and change--and at the same time manages to flesh out the leading characters in the continuing drama. Dominating the entire scene are the defiant problems of integrating the diverse elements of the country into an administrative whole and consolidating its borders. Along the way, Spence offers invaluable insights into the long history of literature and the arts, attitudes towards intellectuals and women, efforts at population control, and the intensely moral and ethical ideals of the Confucian tradition, which--though rebelled against and defused through time and change--still permeate the society. In the picture that emerges, China's ambivalent moves toward and away from the rest of the world become less of a mystery. Extraordinarily involving and insightful: a masterwork. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.