China

China

China

China

Synopsis

An up-to-date, concise examination of China's past and present- providing detailed information on a country whose substantial impact on the global economy and consumer culture continues to grow.

Excerpt

On a cool afternoon in March 2009, I set out from the eastern city of Taian for an ascent of Mount Tai, a storied mountain that has appeared in Chinese writings for more than 2,500 years. The 10-kilometer (six-mile) climb up the mountain’s winding path is punctuated by temples, teahouses, and arches. Hiking through the easily negotiated early section that weaves its way from the Dai Temple, through a great arch, and past several iconic sites tucked behind the city’s streets, I came to a place where China’s great sage, Confucius, was said to have looked down and remarked, “From here, even my home state of Lu seems small.” Over the next three hours, I hiked—amidst throngs of people of all ages—from a few hundred feet above sea level to almost a mile, following a path similar to the one Confucius traveled over 2,500 years ago. Even in Confucius’s time, the mountain was a cultural icon, if not a singular mountaineering feat. When he reached the summit, he is said to have looked down again and stated, “From the top of Mount Tai, the whole world (‘all under heaven’) looks small.”

I often have similar sentiments when looking back at China’s history and culture from the lofty vantage point of the early 21st century. Any single set of events seems small, indeed, when surveying the course of 3,000 years of written records, and 5,000 years of historical tradition. Examining the tumult during Confucius’s time and attempting to understand his approach to government service and proper human conduct in an age he perceived as deeply flawed is not unlike trying to glimpse the Shandong countryside from a mountain temple on a blustery day. This analogy only . . .

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