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The Open Empire: A History of China Through 1600 (Paperback)

The Open Empire: A History of China Through 1600
5.0 out of 5 stars
  
As more and more people discover that China is going to be part of their future, a book like this becomes all the more precious. In my 15 years of groping to understand Chinese civilization, this is the single most insightful work of general history I have found. Valerie Hansen has a genius for condensing large subjects in deft strokes. In the process she answers in advance the kinds of questions I as a Western reader want to raise myself, whether the subject be oracle-bone divination or foot-binding.

The work of synthesis here is impressive for the consistency with which it improves on the clichés of Chinese historiography by incorporating the latest findings. Also she makes sure to include snapshots of the life of families and the place of women, long ignored in standard histories. For example, when she wants to shows how some oracle bone inscriptions from the Shang Dynasty record negative outcomes, she chooses the birth of a daughter to Lady Hao, explicitly...Read more

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   As more and more people discover that China is going to be part of their future, a book like this becomes all the more precious. In my 15 years of groping to understand Chinese civilization, this is the single most insightful work of general history I have found. Valerie Hansen has a genius for condensing large subjects in deft strokes. In the process she answers in advance the kinds of questions I as a Western reader want to raise myself, whether the subject be oracle-bone divination or foot-binding.The work of synthesis here is impressive for the consistency with which it improves on the clichés of Chinese historiography by incorporating the latest findings. Also she makes sure to include snapshots of the life of families and the place of women, long ignored in standard histories. For example, when she wants to shows how some oracle bone inscriptions from the Shang Dynasty record negative outcomes, she chooses the birth of a daughter to Lady Hao, explicitly...Read more
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