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In a brisk revisionist history, William Rowe challenges the standard narrative of Qing China as a decadent, inward-looking state that failed to keep pace with the modern West. This original, thought-provoking history of China's last empire is a must-read for understanding the challenges facing China today.
The Qing dynasty was China’s last, and it created an empire of unprecedented size and prosperity. However in 1911 the empire collapsed within a few short months, and China embarked on a revolutionary course that lasted through most of the twentieth century. The 1911 Revolution ended two millennia of imperial rule and established the Republic of China, but dissatisfaction with the early republic fuelled further revolutionary movements, each intended to be more thoroughgoing than the last, from the National Revolution of the 1920s, to the Communist Revolution, and finally the Cultural Revolution. On the centenary of the 1911 Revolution, Chinese scholars debated the causes and significance of the empire’s collapse, and this book presents twelve of the most important contributions. Rather than focusing on Sun Yat-sen’s relatively weak and divided revolutionary movement, as much previous scholarship has, these studies examine the internal dynamics of political and socio-economic change in China. The chapters reveal how reforms in education, army organization, and constitutional rule created new social forces and political movements that undermined dynastic legitimacy within China and on its frontiers. Through detailed analyses, using new archival, memoir, diary, and newspaper sources, the authors cast new light on the sudden collapse of an empire that many thought was at last embarked on a road to reform and national rejuvenation. China: How the Empire Fell will be of huge interest to students and scholars of modern Chinese history as well as those of contemporary China.
The Tang dynasty is often called China’s “golden age,” a period of commercial, religious, and cultural connections from Korea and Japan to the Persian Gulf, and a time of unsurpassed literary creativity. Mark Lewis captures a dynamic era in which the empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Chinese rule, painting and ceramic arts flourished, women played a major role both as rulers and in the economy, and China produced its finest lyric poets in Wang Wei, Li Bo, and Du Fu.
After the collapse of the Han dynasty in the third century CE, China divided along a north-south line. This book traces the changes that both underlay and resulted from this split in a period that saw the geographic redefinition of China, more engagement with the outside world, significant changes to family life, developments in the literary and social arenas, and the introduction of new religions.
As the twenty-first century dawns, China stands at a crossroads. The largest and most populous country on earth and currently the world's second biggest economy, China has recently reclaimed its historic place at the center of global affairs after decades of internal chaos and disastrous foreign relations. But even as China tentatively reengages with the outside world, the contradictions of its development risks pushing it back into an era of insularity and instability—a regression that, as China's recent history shows, would have serious implications for all other nations. In Restless Empire, award-winning historian Odd Arne Westad traces China's complex foreign affairs over the past 250 years, identifying the forces that will determine the country's path in the decades to come. Since the height of the Qing Empire in the eighteenth century, China's interactions—and confrontations—with foreign powers have caused its worldview to fluctuate wildly between extremes of dominance and subjugation, emulation and defiance. From the invasion of Burma in the 1760s to the Boxer Rebellion in the early 20th century to the 2001 standoff over a downed U.S. spy plane, many of these encounters have left Chinese with a lingering sense of humiliation and resentment, and inflamed their notions of justice, hierarchy, and Chinese centrality in world affairs. Recently, China's rising influence on the world stage has shown what the country stands to gain from international cooperation and openness. But as Westad shows, the nation's success will ultimately hinge on its ability to engage with potential international partners while simultaneously safeguarding its own strength and stability. An in-depth study by one of our most respected authorities on international relations and contemporary East Asian history, Restless Empire is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the recent past and probable future of this dynamic and complex nation.
As China reclaims its position as a world power, Imperial Twilight looks back to tell the story of the country’s last age of ascendance and how it came to an end in the nineteenth-century Opium War. As one of the most potent turning points in the country’s modern history, the Opium War has since come to stand for everything that today’s China seeks to put behind it. In this dramatic, epic story, award-winning historian Stephen Platt sheds new light on the early attempts by Western traders and missionaries to “open” China even as China’s imperial rulers were struggling to manage their country’s decline and Confucian scholars grappled with how to use foreign trade to China’s advantage. The book paints an enduring portrait of an immensely profitable—and mostly peaceful—meeting of civilizations that was destined to be shattered by one of the most shockingly unjust wars in the annals of imperial history. Brimming with a fascinating cast of British, Chinese, and American characters, this riveting narrative of relations between China and the West has important implications for today’s uncertain and ever-changing political climate.
In 221 B.C. the First Emperor of Qin unified what would become the heart of a Chinese empire whose major features would endure for two millennia. In the first of a six-volume series on the history of imperial China, Lewis highlights the key challenges facing the court officials and scholars who set about governing an empire of such scale and diversity.
From about 1600 to 1800, the Qing empire of China expanded to unprecedented size. Through astute diplomacy, economic investment, and a series of ambitious military campaigns into the heart of Central Eurasia, the Manchu rulers defeated the Zunghar Mongols, and brought all of modern Xinjiang and Mongolia under their control, while gaining dominant influence in Tibet. The China we know is a product of these vast conquests. Peter C. Perdue chronicles this little-known story of China's expansion into the northwestern frontier. Unlike previous Chinese dynasties, the Qing achieved lasting domination over the eastern half of the Eurasian continent. Rulers used forcible repression when faced with resistance, but also aimed to win over subject peoples by peaceful means. They invested heavily in the economic and administrative development of the frontier, promoted trade networks, and adapted ceremonies to the distinct regional cultures. Perdue thus illuminates how China came to rule Central Eurasia and how it justifies that control, what holds the Chinese nation together, and how its relations with the Islamic world and Mongolia developed. He offers valuable comparisons to other colonial empires and discusses the legacy left by China's frontier expansion. The Beijing government today faces unrest on its frontiers from peoples who reject its autocratic rule. At the same time, China has launched an ambitious development program in its interior that in many ways echoes the old Qing policies. China Marches West is a tour de force that will fundamentally alter the way we understand Central Eurasia.