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
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. Dynasties r ...more
It's comprehensiveness is astonishing yet ultimately its biggest letd ...more
I was wrong.
This is truly the BEST introduction a lay reader would prefer before going into serious and period/person- specific stu ...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
Firstly, despite this book being a history book (and the reputation that precedes ...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
But Keay does an admirable job of crunching that history into a mere 500 pages. The prose is easy to follow. And gave me a strong introduction to a comple ...more
How can an amateur historian begin to understand a country of which the official Cambridge History (begun in the 1960’s) is at 16 books and growing? For perspective, the Cambridge historical analysis is still publishing volumes on the Sui and T’ang dynasties (ending around 900AD) forty years after publishing volumes on the 1800’s.
China: A History is written with the express intent of giving a reasonably concise history of key moments and changes across ‘China’. Just ...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
So, a comprehensive book covering more than a thousand years is a doozy. I had little experience with eastern culture. Really, I fell into an orientalist mindset of not quite discrediting "their" history, but definitely not spending time to explore it. There is, after all, so much to read.
After reading some Chinese poetry, I was intrigued. Must know more. So goodreads helped me out, and I found this concise history. I wanted to have a broad sc ...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
Keay also writes in a somewhat informal prose that is moderately refreshing, but his prose does appear wanting of eloquence and lucidity at times.
I've read several of these attempts (personally favoring Spence's), and this is one of the better ones. It comes from a western voice, and with that are the expected shortcomings of a liberal worldview. This shows especially near the end of the book as we enter Mao's era; while it could have been worse, ...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; m ...more