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The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - AD 2000
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The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - AD 2000

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  179 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Legendarily 2,200 years old and 4,300 miles long, the Great Wall of China seems to make an overwhelmingly confident physical statement about the country it spans: about China’s age-old sense of itself being an advanced civilization anxious to draw a clear line between itself and the “barbarians” at its borders. But behind the wall’s intimidating exterior—and the myths that ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 21st 2007 by Grove Press (first published February 28th 1981)
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Most of this book felt tainted by an obnoxiously sarcastic undertone which seemed to hint at derision for much of Chinese history. While I've nothing against criticizing modern or historical leaders, the kind of criticism, implied or obviously stated, that was found in the pages seemed more snide than helpful. Overall, though, this was a very readable overview of Chinese history. It is definitely from a macro view, so you don't get a lot of the details, but from this view it presented well the c ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: geschiedenis
De Chinese Muur staat toch China zoals de Eiffeltoren tot Frankrijk. Het is onlosmakelijk deel van haar cultureel patrimonium en symbool van het land. Uiteraard is het een mythe dat het werk zichtbaar is vanuit de ruimte, maar het blijft een enorme inspanning om deze te bouwen. Arbeid die zich over meerdere eeuwen heeft gespreid. Daarbij beschouwt de auteur de Chinese Muur veeleer als een isolement, eerder dan een beschermende rol. Het taalgebruik doet vermoeden dat Lovell zowel de Chinese tradi ...more
Brian Bigelow
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought the book was well researched. One concept that surprised me a bit was that the wall was used for consolidating territory. There are a few other surprises in store too.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wasn't sure at the outset whether this would be a subject that I would find compelling, as I've always found Chinese history to be a bit mysterious and shrouded. The book turned out to be as interesting as any non-fiction I have ever read. It presents a great overview of Chinese history, presented as somewhat of a "biography" of the Great Wall. I was unexpectedly impressed with the author's wit and keen sense of irony as she uses the Great Wall to trace the ups and downs of Chinese foreign relat ...more
Delia Hannon
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
The book I chose to read was The Great Wall: China Against the World by Julia Lovell. It covered Chinese culture from 1000 BC to modern times. The book focused on walls, particularly the Great Walk, throughout China, their purposes, and what they meant, both figuratively and physically.
This book turned out to be a fascinating examination of the Chinese mentality when it came to interacting with other cultures. Lovell used walls as a metaphor for Chinese isolationism and imperialism, discussin
Mar 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
I was rather disappointed with this book. While I really enjoyed the concept and following the history of China using the Great Wall as a constant, I found this book extremely difficult to read. It's like the author wrote one section at a time and then tried to mash them together to make a chapter. Often they could be very repetitive, which makes me wonder if they edited the book properly. It was weird to have something said at the beginning chapter that was again explained later on. Now, I read ...more
Persephone Abbott
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I prefer reading long history books confined to limited periods in history however, I thought this book would hold my interest. I was wrong. I do wonder if the author would write about the United Kingdom using the same tone. Some other readers have made remarks about her style. I don’t in any way doubt Ms. Lovell’s intense knowledge of Chinese history at all, it just seems to me that the entire premise of the book was based on the thought, “Everyone knows about the Chinese Wall, let’s write a bo ...more
Harald Groven
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, china
An excellent 3000 year history of China. The book's recurrent theme is the imperial regimes different foreign policies towards the outside world, excemplified how to keep the barabarians out by maintaining the Great Wall fortifications.
The first chapters are truly remarkabl examples of cultural history, stressing the surprising point that it was actually western visitors in 18th and 19th century that taught the Chinese to appreciate the Great Wall as something to be proud of (as national identi
Pros: By focusing on the history of wall-building and public perception of the Great Wall, Lovell does a good job of making 3000 years of history digestible. This book is a good resource for an overview of Chinese history that includes greater themes as well as little details.

Cons: The repeated stories of uprisings, massacres and famines were a little depressing- how could nobody ever learn? Also, the author's (justifiably) snide tone was funny at first but got tiresome and made me wonder- if al
vor langer Zeit ließen die chinesischen Kaiser die Gesandten der Barbaren aus allen Herren Nationen zu sich kommen. Die Gesandten wurden kleine Geschenken mitbringen und dem Kaiser den Kotau machen. Wenn die Gesandten aus militärischer überlegenen Nationen kamen, gingen sie dann mit großen Mengen, sehr prachtvollen Geschenken zurück nach Hause (d.h. Tribut der Chinesen). So bewährte sich die Chinesen Ihr Gesicht und der Illusion Ihrer Überlegenheit.

Ob sich inzwischen etwas geändert hat??
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Julia Lovell has worked at Birkbeck since 2007. Before then, she was Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge; she also studied for a year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Centre for Chinese Studies. She has translated many works, as well as writing insightful works into the history of China.

She has written arti
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