Imperial China

DK. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780744020472. $50. REF
Six DK authors, two professorial consultants, and the Encyclopedia of China Publishing House celebrate the sweeping richness of Chinese civilization. Great men (Xuanzong, Zhu Di, Zheng He, Matteo Ricci) and dynastic achievements are central, but so are innovations, whether widespread (money, rice) or elite (writing, literature, philosophy). Compression helps make abundance accessible. The dozen main dynasties, condensed in a two-page chronology, outline the succession of reigns; later, DK devotes a paragraph to each of nearly 400 rulers. Two chapters cover prehistory, the first hereditary dynasties, and semi-legendary emperors; five chapters stretch from the Qin, through triumphs and disasters (natural and military), to the last Qing emperor, who abdicated in 1912 following the Xinhai Revolution. As rulers rise and fall, cultural contributions multiply: music, the zodiac, medicine, governance, and more. Scattered liberally, brief quotations from historical, philosophical, and literary sources, including Confucius and Sima Qian, provide authentic voices. Women (not just Empress Wu or Yang Guifei) are a focus whenever possible. Time lines (a key one tracks China’s history with world history) aid comprehension; an index helps searchers; and the many gorgeous images will guide readers through centuries of creation and conflict.
VERDICT It is more important than ever that China’s history be widely known, and this irresistible volume will help readers recognize its many cultural legacies.
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