China Book reviews : page 4

Showing books 61 to 80

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Myths and Legends of China, Werner, Dover, 1922

453 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 0-486-28092-6 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text Chinese traditions book
A survey of a country's myths and legends is a very difficult task. By their nature they are hard to tie down and there are usually many alternative stories that have developed over the centuries. The book is handicapped by using wade-giles for names; and lacks cross-references and source information. It was originally published in 1922 and the language and attitudes reflect this period. It covers Buddhist and Daoist figures as well as folk heroes. The myths and legends of China are not widely described and it is useful as a reference.
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Nagel's Encyclopedia guide: China, Nagel, 1978

1503 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-2826307310 Details/purchase Color illustrations Pinyin text History book Chinese traditions book Travel book
Up to about 1970 Nagel produced the definitive guides to all the major countries in the World, they were required travelling companions for diplomats and tourists. They are voluminous guides and concentrate on historic sites on a province by province basis. My copy dates to 1978 and so is well out of date in terms of town and city plans and statistics. It has a 400 page introduction covering geography, language, history, art, culture and traditions. Originally written in French some illustrations are bi-lingual. There are several fold-out maps and plans. The depth of detail of the historic sites is exceptional. As it was 'the' guide for diplomats to use, trouble was taken to keep it as accurate as possible, and some material remains very useful.
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Nearly a Chinese: A life of Clifford Stubbs, Charles Tyzack, Book Guild Publishing, 2013

233 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 978-1846249631 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text Modern history book
This recent book documents the life of Clifford Stubbs, a rare example of a Christian missionary who truly engaged with the Chinese people. He taught at the West Union University, Chengdu, Sichuan and garnered the affection of many ordinary Chinese people. There was widespread grief when he was assassinated in 1930, a victim of rabid anti-foreign sentiment at the time. A dedicated and true friend of China.
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Old Beijing: In the Shadow of the Imperial Throne, Xu Chengbei, Foreign Languages Press,2001

240 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 7-119-02786-7 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text History book Chinese traditions book Modern history book
I was excited to find this book at the local Oxfam bookshop. It contains hundreds of archive black and white photographs of pre-1949 Beijing. Unfortunately the text is not brilliant and it lacks an index. As it is produced by a native Chinese enthusiastic about the subject there are many insights into life under the Imperial Qing dynasty that you will not find elsewhere. My other main quibble is the size of the book, as it is only A5 in size it is hard to appreciate the detail of the fine historic illustrations, they deserve to be reproduced at a larger size.
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Poems of the Late T'ang, Various: translated by A.C.Graham, Penguin, 1977

173 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 0-14-044157-3 Details/purchase No illustrations Wade-Giles text Literature
Tang dynasty poetry has for a thousand years been considered the zenith of this Chinese literary form. Poems read fresh and relevant even today. This collection includes seven poets including Du Fu and Du Mu. The excellent translations include notes that aid the reader in understanding the places and people mentioned.
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Red China Today, Edgar Snow, Pelican, 1970

749 pages. 4.0 stars ISBN 978-0394462615 Details/purchase No illustrations Wade-Giles text Modern history book
Edgar Snow became a personal friend of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. He is most famous for his first book 'Red Star over China' which documents the Long March and the foundation of the PRC. This follow-up book documents his visits in the 1960s with an extra chapter added later about the 1970s. He is extremely positive about the achievements of Communist China in breaking the bad habits of the dynastic period. He was condemned as a 'fellow traveler' who offered just propaganda, but in hindsight he wasn't too far wrong on many aspects of China.
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Red Dust: A path through China, Ma Jian, Vintage, 2002

324 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-0099283294 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text Travel book Modern history book
Ma Jian is a noted 'dissident' artist who took part in the Tiananmen protests. This book recounts a tale of his eventful travel throughout China to try to discover himself. It is a warts and all exposee of 'modern' China in 1981. It is the sort of book you need to read to get some counterbalance to the government line. I think he set out to shock too much and portray China as a flawed system. It says much about the author but not very much about China.
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Return to Dragon Mountain, Jonathan Spence, Quercus, 2008

332 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 978-0143114451 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text History book Chinese traditions book
Jonathan Spence is renowned for his scholarly works on Chinese history. In this book he gives a detailed biography of the famous Ming historian Zhang Dai who saw the dynasty fall in 1644. After a life as a member of the rich, scholar elite of Ming China Zhang became an impoverished recluse under the Qing and spent many years writing a history of the Ming. The book starts off well but somehow runs out of steam towards the end. It gives a unique insight into life in late Ming China.
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Revolution in a Chinese Village : Ten Mile Inn, Isabel and David Crook, Routledge and Kegan, 1959

190 pages. 4.0 stars ISBN 0-7100-3393-1 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text Modern history book
To understand how the Chinese Communist Party rose to power 1921-49 you need to know how their reforms brought the rural peasants to their side. Rather than rely on bland national statistics this in depth study looks at the individuals in one particular village and track the effects of the reforms. A series of reforms met with mixed success but eventually a more equitable and prosperous village was the end result. For critics of communism, this study will challenge deep-trenched antipathy - mistakes were made but in the end a better system resulted.
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Routledge Grammar, Basic Chinese, Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington, Routledge, 1998

221 pages. 4.0 stars ISBN 978-0415472159 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text Chinese characers Language book
If you want to go beyond speaking and writing 'tourist Chinese' you need a good grounding in Chinese grammar. This Routledge guide goes far beyond memorizing useful phrases and serves as an essential course if you want to speak Chinese well and understand Chinese text. All the Chinese is in both pinyin and characters. It does not include a dictionary section so you will need a separate dictionary in conjunction with the book.
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Selected Stories, Lu Hsun, Foreign Languages Press ,1980

323 pages. 4.0 stars ISBN 978-0393008487 Details/purchase No illustrations Wade-Giles text Literature
The writings of Lu Xun had great impact in the Republican period. He was the pioneer of modern Chinese literature - written in the vernacular for ordinary Chinese people not just the educated elite. This collection of short stories is all very readable. He satirizes the ancient traditions and customs of dynastic China most famously in the 'True Story of Ah Q' which is included in this collection.
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Social life of the Chinese, Justus Doolittle, Harper and Brothers, 1865

968 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-1539469803 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text History book Chinese traditions book
This mammoth two volume was written by a Protestant missionary to Fuzhou in 1865. It is particularly useful to read of the customs and traditions in these relatively early days of contact. There is a lot of detail but his grasp of Chinese traditions although good was not entirely sound. The book was written for new missionaries coming to China and there are sections showing how the Christian message could be spread in China. It covers a wide range of topics: foot-binding, opium, gambling, festivals, marriage etc..
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Son of the Revolution, Liang Heng; Judith Shapiro, Vintage, 1984

292 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-0394722740 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text Modern history book
A rare book that covers from the Cultural Revolution from the perspective of personal experiences of ordinary, poor people rather than the country's leadership. Each stage of the revolution affected the author and his family. He explores the many ways people coped with the upheavals. It is not eloquent descriptive writing and does become a little turgid in places. Essential reading if you want to trully understand the impact of the period 1966-76.
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Streetlife China, Michael Dutton, Cambridge University Press, 2000

304 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 0-521-63719-8 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Pinyin text Modern history book
This is a sociological study of China's urban communities. It is a collection of articles written by mainly Chinese writers about urban culture, how it has changed and how it is changing. It covers the transitional period of the 1980s with the drift away from Maoism and covers such things as slang, tattoos, work units - which you won't find anywhere else.
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Symbols of China, Feng Jicai, Compendium, 2010

248 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-1849120180 Details/purchase Color illustrations Pinyin text Chinese characers Chinese traditions book
A lavishly illustrated book covering all aspects of China not just 'symbols': traditions, scenic sights, festivals, arts, legends and famous figures. Unfortunately many of the description are too short, just an overview and their are no references. At times the English is also rather poor. However it does give a very good overall coverage and the photographs and illustrations are very good.
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The Analects of Confucius, Confucius: translated by Arthur Waley, Quality Paperback Book Club, 1992

262 pages. 2.5 stars ISBN 978-1135764364 Details/purchase No illustrations Wade-Giles text Philosophy book Literature
If there is a Chinese book that gets close to a 'Chinese Bible' then this is it. It is essential to understand Confucius's philosophy if you want to understand China. The translation is old and uses Wade Giles and the notes require you to be a scholar to make sense of them. More recent translations are better than this one.
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The book of Chuang Tzu, translated by Palmer and Breuilly, Arkana, 1996

320 pages. 3.5 stars ISBN 0-14-019488-6 Details/purchase B/W illustrations Wade-Giles text Philosophy book
Many Westerners turn to the Dao De Jing to learn of the Daoist tradition. However it is the Book of Zhuangzi that gives a much more accurate reflection of the philosophy of Daoism. It is a series of entertaining, often amusing, tales that generally reveal a thought provoking paradox. It gives food for thought even in today's world. This translation is rather dated as it uses Wade-Giles but is otherwise admirable.
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The Book of Laozi: A Taoist classic, Ren Jiyu, Foreign Languages Press, 1995

103 pages. 2.0 stars ISBN 7-119-01571-0 Details/purchase No illustrations Pinyin text Philosophy book Literature
There are many translations of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) and this is a fairly modern one produced by a Chinese scholar. I find the English adequate but it does not have the poetic ring of other translations. The nuances of translation are particularly hard to get right for this ancient classic. It does not include the original Chinese text.
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China, ed. Brian Hook, Cambridge University Press, 1991

502 pages. 3.0 stars ISBN 978-0521355940 Details/purchase Color illustrations Pinyin text History book Art book Chinese traditions book Modern history book
An extensive and heavy book that covers all aspects of China: history, geography, religion, arts and language. Unfortunately it is written by a large number of different 'experts' and quality is mixed. It can not be used as a standard encyclopedia - you need to read whole sections. The text is 'academic' rather than readable prose and lacks vitality. Because it is written by so many authors there is overlap and no cross references, even so some parts are very valuable, particularly on technology.
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The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, Patricia Embury, Cambridge University Press, 2010

352 pages. 4.0 stars ISBN 0-521043519-6 Details/purchase Color illustrations Pinyin text History book Chinese traditions book
Cambridge University Press produce a mammoth in-depth history of China, this can be considered an abridgement of this work. It has copious illustrations and useful panels describing key parts of Chinese culture and history. It covers the whole time period from pre-history to the present day - a lot to cover in one book. It is a fascinating and engaging read and to be recommended as a key overview.

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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