Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Spence may now be the most important Sinologist writing in the West. A master of both breadth and detail, he writes in a vivid, free-flowing style that produces critically acclaimed masterpieces ( The Search for Modern China , LJ 4/15/90, is the most recent) one after another. This welcome collection contains reprints from more than a score of Spence's earlier books and other writings. He likes the word roundabout , he tells us, because it suggests ``meandering that is yet somehow purposeful''--precisely the effect achieved here in a gathering of diverse perspectives on China's history and culture, from the Jesuit presence in the Middle Kingdom four centuries ago to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, including such topics as opium smoking, poetry, movie criticism, and cuisine. A delight to read, ponder, and enjoy, Chinese Roundabout offers scholarship for the scholars and intellectual enjoyment for most general readers as well.-- John H. Boyle, California State Univ., Chico (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Spence's intellectually adventurous essays help us understand the dynamics of China's past and the dormant promise of its future. Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Renowned Chinese scholar Spence presents a series of loosely interrelated essays that provides an arresting overview of contemporary China. Spence's offerings range in subject matter from the poignant experiences of Chinese nationals in the West and Westerners in the Far East to the insidious expansion of the opium industry. From the demise of the Ming dynasty in the seventeenth century to the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, specific aspects of Chinese history and culture are introduced and analyzed by a veteran Orientalist who displays a prodigious knowledge and respect for his subject matter. Another valuable addition to cross-cultural understanding and enlightenment from the author of the best-selling The Search for Modern China. ~--Margaret Flanagan
Kirkus Book Review
More erudite history and eminently readable scholarship from Yale Sinologist Spence (The Search for Modern China, 1990, etc.). Many of these essays and reviews, previously published in both scholarly and nonscholarly journals, were inspired by Western inquirers of yore like 16th-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and novelist André Malraux, both subjects of essays in an opening section entitled ``Crossing the Cultures.'' In ``Looking East: The Long View,'' Spence concedes that Western confusion about China began with accounts by Ricci and other missionaries, but, still, he relishes these reports' delicate balance and appreciation for culture. A second, scholarly and vigorous group of essays, ``The Confucian Impulse,'' surveys a range of topics from the Mings to the Manchus. Outstanding is Spence's recovery of the Ming painter Tao-chi, member of a brilliant artistic circle that Spence brings to life with remarkable color. A third section consists of a hodgepodge of essays on topics from food to opium. While exhaustively detailing Chinese culinary pleasures, Spence notes that, through much of Chinese history, ``it was the danger of famine that gave such urgency to agriculture and such joy to eating.'' He describes the crucial economic function of opium in late-19th-century China and measures political swings in the country according to its use. Other highlights include a penetrating analysis of Chinese director Bai Hua's controversial 1980 film, Bitter Love, and an admiring essay on eminent Harvard Sinologist John Fairbank. Spence conveys vast knowledge with a style and grace unique in academic writing. A pure pleasure cruise through the Middle Kingdom. (Photos--not seen.)
Author notes provided by Syndetics
Jonathan D. Spence was born in Surrey, England on August 11, 1936. He received a B.A. in history from Clare College, Cambridge University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. He was Sterling Professor of History at Yale University from 1993 to 2008. As a historian specializing in Chinese history, he wrote several books including The Search for Modern China, The Death of Woman Wang, and The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. The Gate of Heavenly Peace won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Henry D. Vursell Memorial Award of the American Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters.
(Bowker Author Biography)