My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Review: The Story of China: The Epic History of a World Power from the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream

The Story of China: The Epic History of a World Power from the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream The Story of China: The Epic History of a World Power from the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream by Michael Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chinese history in not something that is studied with any depth here in the west. As a casual student of history, I have frequently attempted to do this on my own with mixed results. Most of the books that I have read are structured a lot like the history text books from which we learn our own history ... basically a list of dates, events and people on a timeline to memorize. Rarely do we see any attempt to explain the impact of these events on the social consciousness of the society in which they happen. This book not only provides an accessible survey of Chinese history, it compares and contrasts the social difference as well as presenting a reasonable hypothesis for why East and West have such divergent approaches to governance. Key to this examination are the references to contemporary western (greek/roman) philosophers and historians. From this I believe that I have a better understanding of the importance of conformity within eastern cultures, and how such could fall under the influence of such "Machiavellian" thought found within "The Book of Lord Shang." (Loc 1088/12%).

As expected given the time periods covered, this is a huge book packed with a great deal of information; some more interesting to me and some less so. I found myself skimming over a lot of the literary references in part because I had a hard time understanding how they reinforced or supported some of the authors points on Chinese culture. That still left a lot of material to slog through. The book is organized by dynasties (Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing) and interregnums (Warring States, Three Kingdoms, Five Dynasties, Taiping & Boxer Rebellions, etc.), highlighting the cultural contributions (and continuity) of each as well as the reasons for decline and inevitable fall (loss of the Mandate of Heaven). What I found most interesting was the intersection of the Confucian ideal of the sage-ruler and the evolution of rather autocratic rulers (almost as if they knew they didn't have what was needed and through increasing paranoia harshly suppressed any criticism). Criticism and/or failure of any kind seems detrimental to life (not just your own, but your entire family to the 9th degree). This all has something of a discordant feel to people raised within a modern western culture (aka me). For pivotal events ... such as Mao's revolution ... the author tries to show multiple viewpoints (from traditional history to how it played in the rural areas with the common man).

Over all I found this book to be significantly helpful in understanding the differences between the east and west world views and I highly recommend it.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheStoryofChina #NetGalley

View all my reviews

No comments:

My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.