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Photos that tell of a people's journey to greatness

This volume on China will please the browser as well as the scholar. Designed with visual appeal in mind, the eight contributors and numerous photographers have crafted a delightfully informative history of imperial China.

The book covers ancient China up until 1912. The authors' approach to this ambitious project brings to mind the poet Wen Yiduo's poignant verse, "Please tell me, who are the Chinese? Show me how to cherish memory. Please tell me of this people's greatness. Softly tell me, don't shout it out."

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Softly and elegantly, the authors unwrap cherished moments from China's past. The first section on the Chinese world introduces readers to the geography of China, the various linguistic and ethnic cultures, as well as the imperial bureaucracy, and the daily routines of the emperors and their attendants. The second section focuses on belief and ritual. And the final section looks at China's achievements in art, architecture, medicine, and technology. A concluding essay notes that the legacy of the imperial past continues to shape modern China.

Placing a premium on clarity, the authors do an outstanding job of tackling complex topics with integrity. They are aided in their mission by the photographers. Each page displays one or more breathtaking photographs as well as sidebars and inserts. For example, in the pages on women in society, the text describes the traditional role of daughters, wives, and mothers. An insert describes the two times when concubines in the imperial court actually became powerful rulers of China. A sidebar describes the practice of footbinding. In addition, a photograph of Empress Cixi and a reprint of a Qing dynasty print illustrate the topics being discussed.

The end result is a book that does indeed tell the story of a people's journey toward greatness.

Kim Risedorph taught Chinese history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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