Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chinese History

I tend to hit the local library every couple of weeks or so because it's a lot cheaper than buying all of the books from the bookstore. Of course, the fact that I have no shortage of books at any time is not something that makes my better half happy at any time but it's one of the few vices (as she would see it) that I have so she's patient enough with them. And, in the last couple of weeks, I've found books on the Chinese in America by Iris Chang (just finished yesterday and an interesting read), Ezra Vogel's biography of Deng Xiaoping (just started and looks like it'll be informative - not to mention I've heard several good reviews of it) and David Cordingly's Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean, a story about the life of Captain Woodes Rogers who was what the title states. I also reserved a copy of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones which I've heard a great deal about and of which there is a mini-series on HBO that I've not and will probably never see. Yes, libraries are a wonderful thing and I am certainly a great believer in them.

But I sometime have to temper my enthusiasm because the library does not necessarily carry all of the books I would like to read at any given time. As a matter of fact, I started thinking about the reading selections available as they pertain to China and Chinese history. If I were to use the library as my source of all information on China, I would only know the history of China mainly from the end of the Qing dynasty through to the current day and projections on the upcoming conflict between the US and China. While I've heard vague rumours about 5000 years of Chinese history, one would not know it from the books available on China in your local libraries. Even university libraries are hardly better in this regard - I had to look long and hard for any books that went much further into Chinese history beyond the Ming when I was in college not so many years ago.

So, now I will ask the few people who actually read my blog if they have any good recommendations for books on Chinese history that extend past the Communist-imposed history or the Qing dynasty? I am truly an avid learner on the subject but feel terribly inadequate in terms of my own knowledge. Oh, and the only real requirement is that they be in English - I am probably eternally a functional illiterate in Chinese. Any and all suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. I'd suggest as good primers Valerie Hansen's "The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600" and Patricia Ebrey's "Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook." I read both during college and I continue to use them as reference books in the present.