Cultural Atlas of China

Cultural Atlas of China

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237 pages, illustrated. Plastic wrapper

Blunden, Caroline. And Mark Elvin

Title: Cultural Atlas of China.

Publisher: Phaidon Press, Oxford

Publication Date: 1983

Binding: Hardcover

Condition: Fine

 

Review:

For all the importance of China to world history and contemporary affairs alike, Western readers lack for general overviews of the country. This oversize, heavily illustrated atlas goes a long way to fill that gap. The authors, both specialists in Chinese history, begin with a description of the physiographic regions of China, a complex series of environments whose rivers, valleys, and mountains have conditioned the growth of cities and empires over thousands of years. They move on to a detailed account of Chinese history from the Paleolithic to the present, deftly negotiating the complexities of dynastic lines and multiple kingships and surveying the growth of the modern, postimperial Chinese state, forged in warfare and under considerable hardship. Finally, the authors examine the arts for which China is justly famous, calligraphy, architecture, and cooking among them. The authors take care to explain many of the realities of contemporary Chinese society by noting past events. China has always been open to outside influences, they write, but foreign invasions beginning with the medieval Mongol and Manchu conquests have also led China to guard its frontiers jealously; even today, in a time when foreign investment is courted, China keeps a certain distance from outsiders. "Chinese intellectual and cultural assimilation of the West during the present century," they note, "has been extremely selective, concentrating almost entirely on the most recent times and showing no interest in the Western Middle Ages and only the most marginal interest in Western antiquity." With so much history of its own, as this volume well summarizes, China's apparent lack of interest in the outside world of long ago is understandable. --Gregory McNamee

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