China: A History
The simple answer is very easily. John Keay gives a glorious overview of the genesis and development of China with its multiple regime changes and the role of Confucianism throughout all of the turmoil up to, and inclu ...more
I'm 230 pages into this fascinating book. I've been reading serious history for about 45 years now, and I'm glad to encounter one that introduces me to the history of China, which I have known only through its archeology and ceramics. I'm fascinated by the insights that collations of archeology and political/social history affords. I will also say that the "dynastic kaleidoscope" is a bit more than even I, who possesses a very high tolerance for tedium, can take. I have become s ...more
John Keay's book is a perfect introduction to imperial China. The most important realisation is the myth of continuity as professed by Chinese historiography. ...more
The size of the book and the period it covers might seem a bit daunting, but it's actual a very accessible history, I think. It is a lot to take in, but because there's this abundance of information on the entirety of Chinese history, Keay can only devote so much time to any dynasty. This allows the narrative to flow quite smoothly and you get sufficient coverage of major events and people in that time period.
At first, going through the introduction, I didn't think I wa...more
In year 1793, Qianlong Emperor received George Macartney, representing King George III of England, in Beijing. Macartney was an object of interest but not of respect. His request of setting up British Embassy was rebuffed as also his proposal to sign trade agreement with Britain. Later in history books it would go down as one of the biggest mistakes of modern times. In contrast at that time, to Qianlong Emperor it was completely out of logic ...more
John Keay does a very good job in writing about this, and his use of maps makes this very clear. The reasons for the fall of the various dynasties is also detailed very well, and considerable space is given to the Qing. I would have personally wished for a little more de ...more
Not surprisingly, it turns out a lot has happened in China over the course of 4,000 years. Though I was and I believe many westerners generally are ignorant of Chinese history, it is somewhat familiar to any ...more
However, despite my inability to make comparisons with other works I did find this book very useful and learnt a lot. It may be that further rea ...more
It gets tedious at times for westerners with repetitive unfamiliar names representing faceless empires conquering one another; however that's what comprehensive history is. I like the idea of intercutting Chinese history with short contemporary reminders ...more
It is a mind-boggling endeavor to write a history of such an long lasting civilization like China. It is equally overwhelming to read and make a sense of it for layman like me.
Her towering civilization and expanse can be ascribed, with a caution, to her geography of a huge accessible landmass and cultural inclination to accommodate and assimilate people within and without. But not without heavy tolls.
Though she remains intact in terms of continuous culture and territory for millennia, her long ...more
Chinese today has 28 provinces. You can figure out a few of their names if you know these words:
Bei = north
Nan = south
Dong = east
Xi = west
Shan = mountain
He = river
Hu = lake
John Keay leaves no stone unturned, beginning with China's creation myth, and linking this with the essential, underlying theme of "all under Heaven", Keay chronicles the history of the history of the Middle Kingdom from the legendary 5 Emperors, to the modern China of the 21st Century.
The organization a ...more
John Keay presents this fairly well - but with China being foreign in pretty much every respect to me, this got to be a difficult read. I'm not being facetious when I say it gets to be hard to keep track of all the Wu, Hu, etc. names... just for the sake of being unfamiliar.
I honestly think it could be broken (and expanded) into 2-3 books - but I'm not sure it'd help i ...more
To be honest I was expecting to enjoy this more and to get a better understanding of how China developed into the country is today. And while I got a bit from it, I certainly don't have the grasp I expected. Overall I found the writing style too dense and I didn't appreciate the skipping around in time (from one centu ...more
But what most appeals is the forward momentum the author achieves while taking us through how many millenia? (5-6? if you count the legendary emperors) of what has always been the most populous, almost always the most advanced, and absolutely the ...more
John Keay is the author of about 20 books, all factual, mostly historical, and largely to do with Asia, exploration or Scotland. His first book stayed in print for thirty years; many others ...more