China Book reviews : page 2

Showing books 21 to 40

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China through the sliding door, John Gittings, 1999

261 pages. 4.0 stars 978-0684870229 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text Modern history book
The book is a collection of articles written 1968-98 by the admired and perceptive Guardian reporter John Gittings. The book contains first hand accounts of the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square, Tibet and Deng Xiaoping reforms. Each chapter contains an overview of a group of related reports. An invaulable guide to China over this period of rapid change with fascinating details of everyday life.
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China Wakes, Nichola Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, Random House, 1995

500 pages. 1.5 stars ISBN 978-0679763932 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text Chinese traditions book Modern history book
This weighty tome is written by a married couple who were journalists for the New York Times. Sheryl is Chinese-American and her ethnicity helped her gain access to people and places usually blocked to Westerners. Much of the book is woeful tales of the plight of dissidents and others who were victims of the oppressive Chinese government. As journalists they investigated all the 'bad' news stories and scandals in China and this gives it a very negative outlook. It was written in 1994 and the authors had first hand experience of the Tiananmen Square massacre. They predicted the imminent collapse of a corrupt and evil system - they were wrong - the picture is much less bleak than that. The worst feature of the book is its length, the same tale could have been told in half the pages. The last few chapters do look at some more positive observations and findings. It is very much a book of its time - general U.S. dismay at a corrupt, authoritarian regime. It tells little about life beyond political activists.
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China, Sir Henry Arthur Blake, A & C Black, 1909

129 pages. 3.0 stars ASIN B00DB5HDQK Details/purchase Color illustrations Wade-Giles text History book Chinese traditions book Travel book
Although titled 'China' this is only a cursory sketch of the country. Written by the British Governor of Hong Kong in 1909 it gives an interesting perspective on China at the time. Details bring the various short scenes and topics to life, as do the skilful watercolours scattered through the pages. The attitude of the British to China is clear from his writings - sympathetic but paternalistic. It is really a miscellaneous set of jottings but still of value.
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China: A Concise History, Meyer, Littlefield Adams, 1984

354 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 0-8226-3033-8 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text History book
To understand Chinese history it is important to view it from as many perspectives as possible. Each historian has their own slant and particular points to make. Meyer, in this survey up to 1976 does an admirable job of putting each time period into focus. It has a good bibliography and index. The first section quite rightly looks at the Chinese way of life (110 pages): age old customs and traditions, before launching into the historical survey.
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China: A Geographical Sketch, Foreign Language Press, 1974

130 pages. 1.5 stars ASIN B001OT7PF4 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text
A book full of facts about the geography of China: mountains, rivers, plateaus, vegetation, soils. Rather dated now but has the merit of being written by Chinese authors.
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China: A Macro History, Huang, Sharpe,1990

281 pages. 2.5 stars ISBN 0-87332-728-4 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text History book
A 'macro' view of history is a way of stepping back from details and trying to make sense of the complex patterns that form the bigger picture. Ray Huang summarizes each major period of Chinese history highlighting the key trends and developments. This is really aimed at undergraduates studying Chinese History. However, there is little factual material that can not be found elsewhere, its value is in analysis and context.
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China: Library of Nations,TimeLife,1984

160 pages. 2.0 stars ISBN 0-7054-0840-X Details/purchase Color illustrations Wade-Giles text History book Travel book
More of a coffee table picture book than a work of reference this book is a series of 'essays' about different aspects of China. It is a pleasant enough book to look through but there is no list of references and as this was produced in 1984 it documents a bygone age.
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Chinese Art, Mary Tregear, Thames and Hudson,1980

216 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-0500202999 Details/purchase Color illustrations Wade-Giles text Art book Chinese traditions book
This book gives a good survey of the decorative arts (pottery, painting, ornaments) from earliest times to the present day. There are only a few color illustrations, most are small and in black and white; and so the art examples are hard to appreciate in detail. It is a vast subject to try to condense into a small book so this can only be regarded as an overview.
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Chinese Characteristics, Arthur Henderson Smith, North China Herald, 1890

278 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-1230225128 Details/purchase No illustrations Wade-Giles text History book Chinese traditions book Philosophy book
Written at the height of Christian missions to China, this book gives the Westerner's perspective of the Chinese character. The book gives many examples of the life in China at the time (pre-Republic) and is generally negative. The author sees little hope for reform without Christianity providing the necessary moral and spiritual guidance.
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Chinese Civilization - A source book, Patricia Ebrey, The Free Press, 1993

524 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 978-0029087527 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text History book Chinese traditions book Literature
Most of the time we see Chinese history through the distorting lenses of the historians who have translated and analyzed the source documents. Often we are not entirely sure what historians have actually read to form their view. This is where this source book is invaluable. It is a set of one hundred source documents all gathered together and translated into English. It covers the whole of Chinese history from the Shang dynasty to the 1989 democracy protest. Each article is given a brief introduction but is then just printed unmodified. Obviously the choice of which 100 articles to include has a strong bearing on the attitude to an event and this is where care needs to be taken in interpreting one document from one time period as representative of the whole.
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Chinese Cultural Traditions, Yujing He, CreateSpace publishing, 2013

16 pages. 2.0 stars ISBN 978-1481983211 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text Chinese traditions book
This very short booklet gives some useful everyday traditions that are useful to know when visiting China.
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Chinese Customs, Hu Lingque and Xiang Wei, Better Link Press, 2008

115 pages. 2.5 stars ISBN 978 1602201040 Details/purchase Color illustrations Pinyin text Chinese traditions book
A short book that concentrates on the traditional foods rather than general customs of China. It does cover all the major festivals but is patchy elsewhere. It would have a higher rating if it had fewer typographical and factual errors (e.g. firecrackers are not made of dynamite! Jiaozis not jaozis!). As it is written by a Chinese person there are some genuine insights and traditions that aren't generally recorded in other similar books.
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Chinese Lattice Designs, Daniel Dye, Dover, 1974

469 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 978-0486230962 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text History book Art book Chinese traditions book
One of the key features of traditional art has been the intricate and varied designs of the wooden lattices used to decorate windows. This book gathers together designs from all over China and carefully categorizes them. Some designs go back hundreds of years to the Ming dynasty. The geometric patterns are fascinating and immediately convey an Oriental flavor.
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Chinese Painting Techniques, Jean Long, Studio Vista, 1994

224 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 0-289-80114-1 Details/purchase Color illustrations Wade-Giles text Art book Chinese traditions book
This is a practical guide to the Chinese painting technique. It gives a good grounding in calligraphy, symbolism as well as painting. It does not cover art history in any depth.
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Chinese Painting, James Cahill, Booking International, 1995

211 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 978-2605003068 Details/purchase Color illustrations Wade-Giles text Art book Chinese traditions book
Covers Chinese painting through the ages with many color illustrations. Paintings are critically analyzed and the changes of style over the centuries carefully explained. It does not have much to say on symbolism or general Chinese culture and traditions; it is very much a treatise on the painters and their paintings.
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Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs, C.A.S. Williams, Tuttle, 1993

472 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 0-8048-1586-0 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text Chinese characers History book Art book Chinese traditions book
A treasure trove of Chinese symbols in alphabetical order. Unfortunately now a bit dated, particularly as it uses Wade-Giles not pinyin. He covers a lot of Buddhist deities and motifs that are neglected elsewhere. Each entry has source references. However illustrations are disappointing, as the book title says 'art motifs' you may have expected lots of illustrations from art works, there are some but not very good ones.
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Chronicles of Tao, Deng Ming-Dao, Harper Collins, 1993

476 pages. 2.0 stars ISBN 0-06-250219-0 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text Philosophy book Literature
The Daoist tradition in China remains important. The chronicles is a fictional account of a Daoist master during the difficult times of the Japanese occupation, the Communist suppression of religion and then finally ends up in America. Deng Ming-dao's prose style is rather labored and unrefined.
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Chronicles of the Chinese Emperors, Ann Paludan, Thames and Hudson, 1998

224 pages. 4.0 stars ISBN 0-500-05090-2 Details/purchase Color illustrations Pinyin text History book Chinese traditions book
A lavishly illustrated delight. Covers all the dynasties in time order with every emperor getting a mention. The most attractive feature are the illustrated panels covering related cultural topics. It is a most commendable factual account of Chinese history. The only things it lacks, may be, are overviews of the time periods and putting events into a global context. As it is titled a 'chronicle of emperors' one would not expect it to cover the lives of ordinary Chinese people but all major developments are covered.
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Colloquial Chinese: A Complete Language Course, Routledge, 1995

330 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 0-415-11386-5 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text Chinese characers Language book
This is a basic guide for 'Getting by in Chinese', suitable for tourists and businessmen. It takes the student through a number of 'real-life' situations giving conversational Chinese. It is mostly in pinyin but some of the most common characters are introduced. Provides a sound introduction to the language.
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Disputers of the Tao, A.C. Graham, Open Court, 1989

502 pages. 2.0 stars ISBN 0-8126-9088-5 Details/purchase No illustrations Wade-Giles text Philosophy book
This scholarly work looks at the currents in the development of the Daoist philosophic tradition. He compares Daoist thought to those of Kongfuzi (Confucius) and Mozi. He covers the Yi Jing and Wu wei as well as many other traditions. Of interest to anyone who wants to study ancient Chinese thought in depth.

Key to symbols used in the book descriptions

Note: More up-to-date editions of these books may well exist.

star ratingOur overall star rating for the book up to five stars.
black and white illustrationsHas black and white illustrations, none in color.
colour illustrationsHas color illustrations, often has black and white illustrations too.
no Chinese textDoes not have Chinese text in it.
Chinese pinyin textUses the modern Pinyin system for romanizing Chinese text.
Chinese wade-giles textUses the old Wade Giles system for romanizing Chinese text.
Chinese characterIncludes Chinese characters.

Many books cover more than one topic, these icons reflect all topics it may touch on.

art bookCovers Chinese art.
history bookCovers Chinese dynastic history up to 1912.
modern history bookCovers Chinese modern history from 1912 into PRC.
Chinese traditions bookCovers Chinese traditions.
Chinese literatureA work of Chinese literature (translated into English).
Chinese languageAn introduction to learning the Chinese language.
Chinese philosophyCovers Chinese philosophy / religion.
Travel in ChinaUseful travel guide to China.
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