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The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution
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The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  272 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
“A milestone in Western studies of China.” (John K. Fairbank)

In this masterful, highly original approach to modern Chinese history, Jonathan D. Spence shows us the Chinese revolution through the eyes of its most articulate participants—the writers, historians, philosophers, and insurrectionists who shaped and were shaped by the turbulent events of the twentieth century.
Paperback, 560 pages
Published October 28th 1982 by Penguin Books (first published 1981)
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Loring Wirbel
Sep 25, 2011 Loring Wirbel rated it really liked it
Spence tried an odd, hybrid approach to recent Chinese history, focusing on little-known (in the West) poets, painters, fiction authors, and tracking their work, lives, and loves/relationships against the background of China from the Boxer Rebellion through Japanese occupation and on into the Maoist era. In the first few chapters, I had my doubts as to whether this hybrid would work, and was ready to give the book a 2 or 3. Did I really want to know the details of the philosophies of Kang Youwei ...more
May 28, 2016 Murtaza rated it really liked it
Very ambitious intellectual history of modern China, from the dying days of the Qing Dynasty up to Deng Xioaping's era. Its kind of a telling of China's contemporary history through the lives of a number of writers and philosophers who tried to grapple with the incredible changes, challenges and ruptures that their society experienced during this period. Most of these people are lesser known in the West, and to me the only one who was previously familiar was Liang Qichao, thanks to the writings ...more
Jan 11, 2014 Qmmayer rated it really liked it
Spence profiles a number of important (but often lesser known) figures from recent Chinese history. They are collectively described as the revolutionaries, writers, and philosophers of the time. Spence frequently quotes from their original works, and it seems clear that he chose people in large part because of the extensive written record each left behind. The book's introduction notes that three individuals form the backbone of the story, but there is an extensive cast of characters to keep tra ...more
灏 陈
Oct 17, 2015 灏 陈 rated it it was amazing
One of the best narratives of Chinese intellectuals and their making of modern nation-state in the twentieth century, a book which influences generations of modern China historians in both the East and the West.
Sandra Wagner-Wright
Jun 29, 2014 Sandra Wagner-Wright rated it really liked it
Spence published Gate of Heavenly Peace in 1981. At the time, his concept of personalizing history through the people who lived it was innovative. But which people. Spence used Chinese intellectuals as the focus of his discussion of revolutionary China from 1895 to 1980. Given the level of upheaval during those years, a person could hold the same opinions throughout and be categorized from extreme revolutionary to extreme reactionary. Interesting construct, but hard going for the reader who lack ...more
Oct 18, 2015 Alex rated it liked it
Account of several revolutionary figures in Chinese history, beginning with the end of the Sino-Japanese War and ending in 1980.
Jeffong Gol
Apr 09, 2012 Jeffong Gol rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I can't believe Spence quoted so much texts,and more important the quotation was appropriate.He really has the ability to abstract the key points among thousands of materials.Then expressed it in an unique angle by telling several famous persons' stories.Historian,when narrating the history,should be rational,and value it with the comprehension based on sympathy.Spencedid it very well.However,it sometimes will be boring,that's why I put it aside after reading 50 pages and days later picked it up ...more
May 04, 2015 James rated it it was amazing
His best book on China
Karlo Mikhail
Dec 15, 2012 Karlo Mikhail rated it really liked it
While the author is critical of the Chinese communists, this book gives a panoramic overview of the Chinese revolution from the vantage point of its intellectuals and writers like Lu Xun rather than from the main protagonists like Mao and Sun Yat Sen. Incredible introduction to the literary debates of the time alongside the larger socio-political and historical context.
Jul 05, 2013 Dan rated it liked it
Ultimately a little slower to unfold than I would have liked—it kind of floats in an unsatisfying space between conventional and narrative history, periodically lurching toward either side—but the material's fascinating.

For $1 at a thrift store in Tucson while Lindsay was looking for furniture, I consider that a win.
Jun 10, 2008 Emily marked it as to-read
Shelves: did-not-finish
I didn't finish this book because everyone else that read it said 'Bleh! It is very confusing and hard to follow.' So it will go back to live at the library until I decide that I want a challenge.

Technically speaking, I can say that I read part of the book because I did read the first page-3 times.
T.l. Harris
Oct 23, 2014 T.l. Harris rated it really liked it
A compelling read that humanizes one of the most important periods in Chinese history and world history by focusing on some of its most important and over looked participants.
Jan 04, 2008 Mariannalynn11 rated it liked it
Follows modern history of Chinese politics (from a somewhat revolutionary stance) from the early 20th century to the 1980's and the incident at Tinanamen Square. Lots to absorb, but fascinating!
This mix of non-fiction and kind of novel is not meant for me. I agree that there's a lot of information, I just don't like how it is put. So I can't be a fair judge of it.
Sep 16, 2008 Sundee rated it liked it
I have shelved this book for a while as it was not the easiest read during a move. I am planning on coming back to it though as life settles down.
Sep 03, 2008 Maureen rated it it was ok
Only read this book if your professor assigns it or if you are going to tour China.
Sep 09, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
A great review of the history that led up to the current political situation in China.
Jun 23, 2016 sakura rated it it was amazing
I am impressed by the story of Harry, but their parents have died.
Sep 16, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Interesting insight on Chinese government and culture
Ryan Mishap
Nov 03, 2008 Ryan Mishap rated it it was ok
Oh,man, I read this so long ago I don't remember.
Nizam uddin
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Jun 20, 2016
Ma Sol
Ma Sol rated it it was amazing
Jun 16, 2016
Febrian Aquariska
Febrian Aquariska rated it it was amazing
Jun 03, 2016
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May 30, 2016
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May 29, 2016
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Jonathan D. Spence is a historian specializing in Chinese history. His self-selected Chinese name is Shǐ Jǐngqiān (simplified Chinese: 史景迁; traditional Chinese: 史景遷), which roughly translates to "A historian who admires Sima Qian."

He has been Sterling Professor of History at Yale University since 1993. His most famous book is The Search for Modern China, which has become one of the standard texts
More about Jonathan D. Spence...

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