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All The Emperor's Horses
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All The Emperor's Horses

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  37 reviews
This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into pri ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published August 11th 2011 by Nabu Press (first published 1960)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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 ·  218 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nora by: David Bowie
Update: Dear David Bowie fans, yes indeed, this book was retitled Peking Story: The Last Days of Old China. So if you're having trouble finding it, try looking for the other title.

I loved this book! It's the true story of a very young American man living in China who marries into an aristocratic Chinese family shortly after the Maoist revolution. For generations the Yu family has been living a life of elegance and splendor in their mansion which is crammed with antiques and gardens. But the wri
Andrew Schirmer
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, china
This is a wonderful book. A series of Peking stories, tributaries forming into a grand narrative of the last days of imperial Peking. David Kidd wanted to get the fuck out of the U.S.A. so he went to China in 1946, teaching at Tsinghua University, among other places, staying until 1950. His circle included brilliant expats William* and Hetta Empson, as well as Bob Winter.

There he is, a good little aesthete in his box at the Chinese opera, minding his business, cracking watermelon seeds, waiting
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A moving family story handled with Kidd gloves

Arriving in China in 1946 as a student, David Kidd witnessed Peking in its grandest splendor: "a great walled and moated medieval city" through which pulsated a life in what was considered "the world's largest empire." Within its walls lay the Forbidden City, the center from which "imperial power reached out to all of China, and from there, the world."

He hobnobbed with other expatriate elite, and married Aimée Yu, the daughter of a high ranking supr
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This would make a fantastic movie. And Kidd has done much of the work for a potential screenwriter with his very scenic, cinematic, suggestive prose. His narration makes me think of all the critical phrases that cluster around Howard Hawks--spareness, economy of shots, artistry of severe formalism, all that. I was hooked from the first scene, in which Kidd meets his future wife at the opera, because it is such a calm, serenely paced arrangement of striking images. But even if Kidd wasn't such an ...more
Stephen Douglas Rowland
A brief but exceptionally moving portrait of Beijing in the early 1950s and beyond. The final chapter unexpectedly tore my heart out.
A rather interesting account of life in tough times, but at the same time a difficult nut to swallow. I guarantee that if I was in Kidd's shoes, I would have been horrified to see the gorgeous, ancient city around me destroyed and vulgarized. And yet at the same time, it's also the disingenuous voice of a privileged individual-- when you start to complain about lazy servants and are that blind to the position you occupied in a feudal society, I frankly start to not like you very much, even as mu ...more
Mary Paul
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A charming and triste collection of vignettes centered around a wealthy household in Beijing and the American who marries into it in the last days of Old China. In a matter of weeks, the family sees their fortunes fall and lives change forever, in a metaphor for the death and vast reorganization of Chinese culture as the Communists take control of Peijing. Through Kidd’s humorous and modest tone, these stories give the reader a glimpse into a conflicted and fascinating time on a deeply personal ...more
Kidd was a very young sinologist when he found himself stranded in Peking as a result of the communist take-over. Although he tells his story rather elliptically, I understood that, having married Aimee, the fourth daughter of Judge Yu, he couldn't leave China until their paperwork was in order. The book starts with their wedding, which Aimee has decided to speed up for fear that her father's impending death and the long mourning period which must follow it may derail everything. After Old Yu's ...more
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019, asia
5🌟David Kids really led one of the most unusual lives and his memoir was a superb read! As a young American graduate of the Chinese studies with a taste for all things refined, he went to Peking in 1946 to teach English. Here he met and married the daughter of Imperial Chief Justice, moved into the family mansion and got a glimpse of what life was like for the Manchu aristocracy. Unfortunately for him, the People’s Revolution had been in full swing by then and in a few years he and his wife ende ...more
Brian Trinh
I'm really torn by this book. It makes you really think about the costs that often come with any attempted revolution. I can sympathize with Mao's vision of building an alternative future: people actually thought they could change society. And yet I can see why Kidd detests the Communist party's inhuman destruction of all the old and cherished values, cultures, and artifacts of ancient China. In the words of Bob Winter: "Those snotty-nosed high school students, they hated everything old" (178). ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent first-hand account of the tragedy that was the early years of the PRC, but too of the decay that was always present even before then. The author, who marries an aristocratic Chinese woman, describes equally the decay that served as stage for the revolution. Dilapidated palaces that are too expensive to maintain, vast collections of priceless artifacts that lose all value when the ruling society deems everything old to be useless and imperialist. Anxieties of how to leave the country, g ...more
Octavia Cade
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, history
A really well-written account of the brief period in which the author, as a young man, lived in Peking (now Beijing) when it was taken over the People's Liberation Army. Kidd was in a doubly difficult position at the time, being an American on an exchange programme, and recently married to a young Chinese woman of aristocratic family. Although the money and influence of Aimee's family is failing, Kidd still seems almost insulated from all but minor difficulty, and he and his wife eventually leav ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this fascinating true story of an American who married into an aristocratic Chinese family at the time of the Communist take over. Society changed so fast it could make your head spin. This reads like a good novel. But it gets increasingly sad while still maintaining a sense of fascination. I started reading this book a day after attending a lecture on China from WWII to current times and I couldn't have chosen a book that better illustrates the first part of the changes. I am n ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Kidd lived in Peking before and after the communist revolution. His story is a first-hand account of how life changed for the aristocratic Chinese (he married a Chinese woman) and how, when he came home to the U.S. in the 1950s, he was caught up in McCarthyism and branded as a traitor, just for having lived two years under a communist regime.

The convoluted logic of the fanatics, who found themselves in positions of power after the revolution, speaks so strongly for the dangers of being sw
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, history
A sad, but thrillingly intimate look into the radical and even violent transformation of ancient Peking into modern Beijing. Highly recommend this book to anyone living in or planning to visit Beijing.
Fatma Sajwani
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting prospective on Great China. A short mind provoking read, recommended especially to accompany you on a trip to china
Stephen Gallup
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to be sure now, but I believe my copy of this fine memoir was given to me by my old pal Li'l Red. It was probably the best book I read that year, and remains one of the best accounts of a certain period in China's history I know of.

It starts off quite factually: "Peking was my home from 1946 to 1950, two years before the Communist revolution and two years after. As the American half of an exchange between the University of Michigan, where I was a student of Chinese culture, and Peking'
Shawn Thrasher
I was really torn between 2 stars and 3 stars for this book, and finally settled on 3 because Kidd has a really interesting - albeit it maybe questionable - point of view. He is sort of a snob, and the entire book is kind of look at what happens when snobbery and entitlement run up against revolutionary fervor. No one comes out of this looking washed clean, except perhaps the delightful old bridge playing aunt and her mute companion; I wish the entire book had been about them. Kidd's return to C ...more
Our latest Bowie Book Club pick was Peking Story by David Kidd and one thing I keep harping on was: why did Kidd change the title? I prefer the original, "All the Kings Horses" as in the excerpt from the book:

"Aimee was completely demoralized, and I was staggered myself. . . The last illusion of a link with the past had been broken, and all the emperor's horses and all the emperor's men couldn't put the old China together again."

In the book a young Kidd experiences China's turn to communism and
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's a very personal account, on a very personal level, the journal of a foreigner in the early days of China. Here is a guy who married into a rich Chinese family. While I don't feel for communism, the overt reference of class and the complete lack of a larger context of the Chinese political environment at the time almost beg readers to wonder if this expat really understand why the communists had succeeded in appealing to the mass (particularly the rural poor) in the early days of the New Chi ...more
An irresistible chronicle of the demise of an aristocratic Chinese family after the communist revolution, as seen through the eyes of an American who married one of its daughters, that can simultaneously be read as an account of the birth of the new China.

The writing style is a little too fruity for my taste, dwelling excessively on details of clothing and architecture (the author is indeed a homosexual, despite marrying a woman) and he delights just a little too much in playing the unaffected,
Amy Young
My friend Joann lent this to me, describing it as a 'fascinating read.' Bingo! (as she says.) David moved to Beijing in 1946 to teach English and ended up marrying daughter number four of a Chinese supreme court justice at an interesting bridge from one type of system of governing to another. They lived in Beijing until 1952. David described a world that was experiencing changes at a daily rate and had some interesting foreshadowing of the world I live in. So much has been written about the time ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bowie-book-club
As the publisher's note says: "For two years before and after the 1948 Communist Revolution, David Kidd lived in Peking, where he married the daughter of an aristocratic Chinese family."

Years later he wrote a few short pieces about this for the New Yorker, then, in the '80s, he went back to China & visited his remaining in-laws, & wrote about that -- all collected here.

A short, well-written book by someone who lived through "interesting times."

Ian Billick
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good quick read about what Peking (Beijing) was like right after the communists took over, from the perspective of an american who seems to have wandered into the center of high peking society. Part of my recent readings on China it provides yet another fascinating facet of a country experiencing rapid change. The details are fascinating and poignant; essentially a retrospective where every detail foreshadows the loss of a rich and beautiful culture. Definitely worth reading for anybody who is ...more
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Worthy of a screenplay - remarkable reportage and insider's view, as an outsider, to the end of one of the world's greatest civilizations, and the devastation of recent Chinese history. In a series of linked essays (most published originally in the New Yorker) at times funny, erudite, poignant, remarkable - a definite must-read for Sino-logists and anyone interested in bygone days, or anyone who likes Downton Abbey.
Todd Myers
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book of various stories about a family in China, and an American who marries into the family, in the late 40's, after the Communist government comes to power. How it effects the family and others at the time. A fast read, and overall interesting to a brief glimpse of how things were in the Beijing area at the time.
Lian Chang
Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
evocative memoir by david kidd (an american living in china who married into an aristocratic peking family) that covers the brief and brutal transition from the old beijing of artistry and walled mansions with garden yuans to the post-1949 beijing of mao suits and applied conformity (mixed with ideological fervor).
Jun 22, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
This book is a great first person account of living in Peking (Beijing) right before, during and after the Communist Revolution. It is an interesting glimpse into a long-lost lifestyle and into a city that has changed tremendously since the 1940s.
Tom Perkins
Very interesting story from someone who lived through this time. Not to diminish the story or the experience but the view is colored by the circumstances of a very wealthy privileged family losing their wealth and status.
Jun 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rare and precious jewel.
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