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The Dynasties of China: A History

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  169 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Shang, Chou, Han, T'ang, Sung, Yuan, Ming, Ch'ing — for most Westerners, they stand only as adjectives to describe a lacquer, a bronze, a silk, a watercolor. And for all the familiarity a blue and white porcelain vase from the Ming dynasty or the bright and sturdy pottery figures of horses and grooms from the T'ang may now have acquired, the history of the civilization tha ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 25th 2003 by Running Press (first published 1973)
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Nov 11, 2015 Justine rated it it was ok
Shelves: library
I've run into some pretty serious problems trying to find a good standard text for Chinese imperial history. I understand that few other places have viewed history as Western Europe has-- and that it's hard to find a good account of what happened (either because concepts of history are different.. or people rewrote it whenever a new dynasty took place)-- point being, I'm still on the quest and this was a good start.

It is a very quick history, written in the tone of a well done TV doctumentary ra
Leonard Woods
Feb 06, 2010 Leonard Woods rated it liked it
I found The Dynasties of China to be a pretty enjoyable tour through Chinese history. I sometimes found the focus to be a bit odd, but with such a quick tour of over 2,000 years it is hard to enjoy. Gascoigne definitely succeeds in giving the reader a general flavor of the various dynasties, and it could certainly be a launching pad to more specific research. He also discusses the events with a fairly even hand. Highly recommended.
Paul Chiswick
Nov 09, 2016 Paul Chiswick rated it it was amazing
An excellent 'fly through' of 3500 years of dynastic history. In 200 pages it gave sufficient information to be easily memorised. Never intended to be a heavy tome, Bamber Gascoigne neatly covers history, culture, philosophy and changing technology. I learned a few interesting facts - such as the innovative Chinese use of paper (I'll leave it for you to guess).
My knowledge of China is limited to a primer I read recently and the appetite was certainly whetted. This "a Brief History" has no less whetted the interest and China is now a subject I will read with anticipation. There is, obviously, 3 millennia of history to cover and if I have a little bit of criticism of the book it tends to struggle to cover the dynasties themselves. Be that as it may what could the book have been called??? The coverage is therefore limited and so discusses specific histor ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Silke rated it it was amazing
It is of course impossible to write a 200 page book about several thousand years of history, so B. Gascoigne takes you on a journey where he highlights the most famous emperors of each dynasty and the developments in religion, philosophy, science and art that are taking place in them. Highly entertaining, makes it easy to remember the different dynasties and one of the few books I have read twice already.
Feb 23, 2009 Cassa rated it it was amazing
Fantastic brief overview of the dynasties of China. Certainly fueled my interest; the easy-to-follow narrative style kept me interested in what could have been a boring history--it's hard for me to keep a fascination with a subject when all the information I find on it is dull. I'll definitely be looking for more history of this period; I'm sure I can tolerate less rapt description now that I have an idea of what's going on.
Gareth Evans
Jan 26, 2013 Gareth Evans rated it it was amazing
Two thousand years of history in 200 or so pages, it really shouldn't work. However, this is a very clever book. Firstly, it does not seek to give a blow-by-blow account. Secondly, in taking a more synoptic view it never forgets that reading history for pleasure is as much about carefully chosen detail and stories as about giving a precise overview. With a focus on the arts, culture and language this little book is a vivid and fascinating read.
Apr 04, 2008 Wade rated it liked it
How can you dislike a book by a man named Bamber Gascoigne? This helpful sketch reviews the traditional dynasties, from Shang to Qing, skipping only a few. It helped me get a sense of the sweep of events in the political, technical and cultural history of China. Such information was completely absent in my education.
Chase Parsley
Jun 09, 2013 Chase Parsley rated it really liked it
It is impossible to cover all of Chinese history in such a slender book, but Gascoigne does a decent job trying. Intended for a beginner, this is a decent book to start learning about Chinese history with.
Tom Oman
Jul 21, 2013 Tom Oman rated it it was amazing
Quick and dirty rundown of the dynasties. Good reference for quick refreshers on the Dynasties of China.
Dec 08, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
This was really interesting and informative, particularly given my relative lack of knowledge when it comes to Chinese history.
Lance Kent
Lance Kent rated it liked it
Aug 20, 2010
Aram rated it it was ok
Jul 28, 2015
Patrick rated it it was ok
Jan 08, 2016
Lucie Cela
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Sep 12, 2016
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Aug 27, 2013
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Jan Oosterwijk
Jan Oosterwijk rated it really liked it
Apr 05, 2015
James rated it liked it
Nov 19, 2015
Chris rated it it was ok
Aug 03, 2011
Nov 10, 2014 Anthony rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a really good whistle stop tour of the history of China.
Fil rated it liked it
Jan 13, 2011
Ashley rated it it was amazing
Jan 15, 2012
toroltao rated it it was amazing
Jun 05, 2015
Alex James
Alex James rated it liked it
Nov 24, 2015
Tash rated it it was amazing
Dec 18, 2015
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Bamber Gascoigne is an Eton and Cambridge educated television presenter and author. He was for several years a drama critic for the "Spectator" and the "Observer", and has written a number of books on theatre, art and cultural history.

He came to fame as the presenter of the popular television quiz show, University Challenge (1962 - 1987) and subsequently wrote and presented a 13-part TV series, "T
More about Bamber Gascoigne...

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