The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History

The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History

The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History

The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History

Synopsis

China, the world's oldest and most populous state, remains an enigma to most people in the West, even at a time when that country is playing an increasingly prominent role on the international stage. At the heart of modern Chinese history have been the efforts of the Chinese people to transform their polity into a modern nation state, the Confucian orthodoxy into an ideology that can help direct that process, and an agrarian economy into an industrial one. These efforts are ongoing and of great importance. This book is both an introduction to the major features of modern Chinese history and a resource for researchers interested in virtually any topic relating to the Chinese experience of the last 220 years. This valuable reference contains: ¿ a historical narrative providing a comprehensive overview of five core aspects of Chinese history: domestic politics, society, the economy, the world of culture and thought, and relations with the outside world; ¿ a compendium of 250 short, descriptive articles on key figures, events, and terms; ¿ a resource guide containing approximately 500 annotated entries for the most authoritative sources for further research in English, as well as descriptions of important films depicting modern China and a guide to electronic resources; and ¿ appendices, including a chronology, excerpts from key primary source documents, and a wealth of tables and graphs on demographic, social, and economic trends.

Excerpt

The Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History is an introduction to major features of modern Chinese history and a reference for general readers interested in pursuing certain topics. This introduction points first to the importance of understanding Chinese history, as it sets forth some of its distinguishing aspects; it then explains the guide's approach to the history of modern China.

At the heart of modern Chinese history have been the efforts of the Chinese people to transform the traditional polity into a modern nation-state, the Confucian orthodoxy into an ideology that could help shape the process, and an agrarian economy into an industrial one. The result has been the largest revolution in world history in terms both of the radicalism of the changes and of the numbers of people affected. The revolutionary twists and turns have brought alternating cycles of hope and despair to the world's most populous country. At the opening of the twenty-first century, as the search for a new definition of modern China seems to be quickening, the United States, like the rest of the world, ponders whether the China coming into being will be friend or foe, challenger or collaborator. Hence, the need for an up-to-date understanding of the history of China.

Embedded in the effort to understand modern China are significant difficulties. On the surface and simplest level is the fact that there are many Chinas. Though a standard geographical division is between north and south China, the reality is much more complex. The standard dialect taught in schools is Mandarin, but there are more than 250 dialects, many of them as different as different languages. Traveling from mountain valley to mountain valley, one encounters these different dialects, each used to carry its own cultural traditions and practices, its own patterns of social and economic life.

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