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This is a history of China for the 900-year time span of the late imperial period. A senior scholar of this epoch, F. W. Mote highlights the personal characteristics of the rulers and dynasties and probes the cultural theme of Chinese adaptations to recurrent alien rule. No other work provides a similar synthesis: generational events, personalities, and the spirit of the a This is a history of China for the 900-year time span of the late imperial period. A senior scholar of this epoch, F. W. Mote highlights the personal characteristics of the rulers and dynasties and probes the cultural theme of Chinese adaptations to recurrent alien rule. No other work provides a similar synthesis: generational events, personalities, and the spirit of the age combine to yield a comprehensive history of the civilization, not isolated but shaped by its relation to outsiders. This vast panorama of the civilization of the largest society in human history reveals much about Chinese high and low culture, and the influential role of Confucian philosophical and social ideals. Throughout the Liao Empire, the world of the Song, the Mongol rule, and the early Qing through the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns, culture, ideas, and personalities are richly woven into the fabric of the political order and institutions. This is a monumental work that will stand among the classic accounts of the nature and vibrancy of Chinese civilization before the modern period.


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This is a history of China for the 900-year time span of the late imperial period. A senior scholar of this epoch, F. W. Mote highlights the personal characteristics of the rulers and dynasties and probes the cultural theme of Chinese adaptations to recurrent alien rule. No other work provides a similar synthesis: generational events, personalities, and the spirit of the a This is a history of China for the 900-year time span of the late imperial period. A senior scholar of this epoch, F. W. Mote highlights the personal characteristics of the rulers and dynasties and probes the cultural theme of Chinese adaptations to recurrent alien rule. No other work provides a similar synthesis: generational events, personalities, and the spirit of the age combine to yield a comprehensive history of the civilization, not isolated but shaped by its relation to outsiders. This vast panorama of the civilization of the largest society in human history reveals much about Chinese high and low culture, and the influential role of Confucian philosophical and social ideals. Throughout the Liao Empire, the world of the Song, the Mongol rule, and the early Qing through the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns, culture, ideas, and personalities are richly woven into the fabric of the political order and institutions. This is a monumental work that will stand among the classic accounts of the nature and vibrancy of Chinese civilization before the modern period.

30 review for Imperial China 900-1800

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    The only history of China for me. For my purposes (steppe study) - he is no less than fantastic on the frontier states or conquest dynasties... right up until the Mongols. I felt let down in that section, and much prefer The Cambridge History of China, Volume 6: Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368 as a look at the Mongols in China. Of course the Cambridge has more detail on its period, and after the Cambridge, Mote seems interpretive: you have his views. However, he still gets five stars f The only history of China for me. For my purposes (steppe study) - he is no less than fantastic on the frontier states or conquest dynasties... right up until the Mongols. I felt let down in that section, and much prefer The Cambridge History of China, Volume 6: Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368 as a look at the Mongols in China. Of course the Cambridge has more detail on its period, and after the Cambridge, Mote seems interpretive: you have his views. However, he still gets five stars for Liao, Jurchen and the book in general - yes, even the Chinese stuff. In fact the latter is great; gives you much on the mental life or philosophy and the changes thereof (not in a dull way). For a thousand-page-book, comes close to unputdownable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I first read this in college in 2005, it opened my eyes to the non-Mongol frontier peoples of China being often just as interesting as the Mongols themselves. I re-read it (or the most interesting sections anyway) when I was writing my own book as well as just recently. There are few places outside of Cambridge History of China Vol.6 that have so much not only on the Khitans and first Jurchens, but on the Tanguts as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    K

    This is the first major English-language history book to cover the process of how Chinese and non-Chinese peoples grew accustomed to and accommodated each other over almost a thousand years. Mote's book rejected previous ethnocentric histories and focuses on the relationships between Han Chinese and other cultures. The book starts with the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms era in the 10th century before moving onto the Song Dynasty and its coexistence with the Khitan Liao dynasty controlling the n This is the first major English-language history book to cover the process of how Chinese and non-Chinese peoples grew accustomed to and accommodated each other over almost a thousand years. Mote's book rejected previous ethnocentric histories and focuses on the relationships between Han Chinese and other cultures. The book starts with the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms era in the 10th century before moving onto the Song Dynasty and its coexistence with the Khitan Liao dynasty controlling the north of China, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty, and the Tangut Xi Xia. The Song dynasty, which retained the lands south of the Yangtze river throughout, pursued interstate relations through diplomacy and trade. While internally the Han Chinese retained their conceptions of cultural superiority, they addressed these different kingdoms with the terminology of equals. Given the importance attached to ritual, it's easier to imagine how the residents of the Southern Song still imagined their superiority to their neighbors in how many of them adopted ritual forms of governance. After the Ming returned to power and threw out the Mongols in the 14th century, the dynasty reconstituted the 'imperial tributary' system of the earlier Han and Tang Dynasties, where outside polities made a ritualized presentation of tributary offerings as a recognition of the emperor's authority. When European explorers wandered into this part of the world, they were informed, and they indeed believed, that this had been the continuous state of affairs. As for Mote's treatment of the Mongols themselves, he notes that this was a period of continuity as much as disruption. Authors, artists, and philosophers were still able to produce work in the finest of their native traditions. He notes a contradiction here, they recognized the legitimacy of the dynasty but hoped that they would eventually become more Chinese. Later historians would challenge Mote's characterization of the Qing, especially those grouped into the "New Qing" school of history. Ironically, they would Manchu rule more resembles what Mote describes in the earlier chapters this book, and that Han-Manchu relations were not just a 'one-way street'. But with this minor drawback, Imperial China is an impressive volume. Academic historians would dream about writing something this impressive.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Marney

    Probably the best one book overview on imperial China. Basically similar to the later several books of the cambridge history of China series, but more up to date on scholarship and the names updated from Wades-Giles romanisation to Pinyin (While it is a small thing, once one is used to pinyin it must be said that Wades-Giles is rather disconcerting). While by no means a perfect book (Mote is often very quick to make value judgements, and the epilogue comes across a tad incoherent) it is by far t Probably the best one book overview on imperial China. Basically similar to the later several books of the cambridge history of China series, but more up to date on scholarship and the names updated from Wades-Giles romanisation to Pinyin (While it is a small thing, once one is used to pinyin it must be said that Wades-Giles is rather disconcerting). While by no means a perfect book (Mote is often very quick to make value judgements, and the epilogue comes across a tad incoherent) it is by far the most through and engaging one volume work on imperial China, and for those who want to have a clear and relatively straightforward narrative of Imperial Chinese history from the five dynasty period onward, they need look no forward. In terms of political, diplomatic and intellectual history it is certainly much more comprehensive than the Harvard University Press History of Imperial China series (Admittedly I have only read the ones on the Ming (Which also briefly covers the Yuan) and Qing, the Song book may be better in that regard), which I would nonetheless recommend as a supplement for their insight into Chinese culture, society, position of women, economy, legal system etc. Certainly a book I shall reread many a time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    James

    Frederick W. Mote was an eminent American sinologist and in this opus, Imperial China one sees the dedication and love towards the history of China that this man had. Covering nearly a millennium, from the fall of the Tang and the Five Dynasties, the Liao Dynasty, the Song Dynasty, the Xi Xia state, the Jin Dynasty, the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty to the first century and a half of the Qing Dynasty, this book is a major contribution to scholarship. Readable and accessible to layperson and scho Frederick W. Mote was an eminent American sinologist and in this opus, Imperial China one sees the dedication and love towards the history of China that this man had. Covering nearly a millennium, from the fall of the Tang and the Five Dynasties, the Liao Dynasty, the Song Dynasty, the Xi Xia state, the Jin Dynasty, the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty to the first century and a half of the Qing Dynasty, this book is a major contribution to scholarship. Readable and accessible to layperson and scholar alike, Mote intimately brings alive 900 years of history and in spite of its length, is able to maintain the reader's attention throughout. As scholarly material, this book is well-researched with an excellent bibliography. This is an excellent addition to any sinologist's library or to an interested layperson.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Menser

    different tone on the mongols than weatherford, that's for sure! Curious praise of Yelu Chucai's administrative innovations, which reminds me, any anarcha/o should def consider the conditions under which bureaucracy and administration arose to better understand what it means to dispense with them and the limits of what they replaced--basically loose confederations. different tone on the mongols than weatherford, that's for sure! Curious praise of Yelu Chucai's administrative innovations, which reminds me, any anarcha/o should def consider the conditions under which bureaucracy and administration arose to better understand what it means to dispense with them and the limits of what they replaced--basically loose confederations.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Norman Smith

    This is a very rich source of information and analysis. The author covers 900 years in about 900 pages and it was always possible to follow him along this path. Some parts are less compelling than others. I find it difficult to have much enthusiasm for different forms of philosophical belief held by a small group of scholars 500 years ago. And, of course, for someone like me who is generally unfamiliar with the history and the names of the people involved, there are a LOT of names to keep straigh This is a very rich source of information and analysis. The author covers 900 years in about 900 pages and it was always possible to follow him along this path. Some parts are less compelling than others. I find it difficult to have much enthusiasm for different forms of philosophical belief held by a small group of scholars 500 years ago. And, of course, for someone like me who is generally unfamiliar with the history and the names of the people involved, there are a LOT of names to keep straight. Emperors normally wound up with three forms of identification, which by itself is no worse than aristocratic nomenclature in Europe, but it doesn't make it easier to follow. The one thing, above all others, that I really liked about this book is that the author puts China in its Asian context. For example, when describing the various invaders - Khitan, Jurchen, Uighur, Mongol, etc. - he will stop and present a chapter from their point of view. This makes the history more whole. Mote's writing style is also very good, although very dense. There is seldom a really gag-inducing stretch of text, but there is almost something worth reading in every sentence. I found it a slow book to read because it is so full. No skipping along (except for the passages on philosophy). The book was written 25 years ago, so it could probably do to be updated, but as it stands it is an excellent survey of 900 years of history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frederick

    Written by one of the greatest of scholars on the history of China this magnificent work is very well written and easy to understand. Certainly, the goings-on of any empire make TV shows like 'Game of Thrones' seem timid by comparison. History enthusiasts as well as lovers of dramatic events will find great game inside the covers of this great work of history. Clearly, Mote's lifetime of study and teaching at Princeton University and his deep respect for Chinese history make him a worthy resourc Written by one of the greatest of scholars on the history of China this magnificent work is very well written and easy to understand. Certainly, the goings-on of any empire make TV shows like 'Game of Thrones' seem timid by comparison. History enthusiasts as well as lovers of dramatic events will find great game inside the covers of this great work of history. Clearly, Mote's lifetime of study and teaching at Princeton University and his deep respect for Chinese history make him a worthy resource for learning about the history of one of the world's great political entities. Ming China's contribution to seafaring technology, its ability to sail huge ships long distances, and its place as a great maritime power in the fifteenth century pose one of those great what-if questions about history. I truly enjoyed this book and it took me nearly two years to read, study, and read important passages, full of information, again and again.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    This is an awesome book, and I use that adjective in it's original sense that I am in awe of it. 900 years of history can't exactly fly by and there were a few sections (namely on artistic and cultural accomplishments I don't have much of a grounding in) I skimmed, but overall just a stunning work of historical analysis. I think what I most appreciate is the sense of continuum, the echos and so on of past events that reverberate still. There's also a sense of wistfulness, regret for that long spa This is an awesome book, and I use that adjective in it's original sense that I am in awe of it. 900 years of history can't exactly fly by and there were a few sections (namely on artistic and cultural accomplishments I don't have much of a grounding in) I skimmed, but overall just a stunning work of historical analysis. I think what I most appreciate is the sense of continuum, the echos and so on of past events that reverberate still. There's also a sense of wistfulness, regret for that long span of history that hasn't been lost exactly, but is no longer relevant to the lived experience of the population. But it's an incredibly important history nonetheless, highly recommend if you've got the interest and the time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Only got up to Chapter 27, on the Ming Dynasty, but what I managed to read before my loan ended was enough to convince me to track down a more permanent copy. Very good overview that, while you do sometimes get the sense some important things are left out, seems to hit on most of the immediate questions. Mote does a good job moving up and down in scale, giving just enough biographical information to personalize the periods he's talking about (and, significantly, to make clear how different life Only got up to Chapter 27, on the Ming Dynasty, but what I managed to read before my loan ended was enough to convince me to track down a more permanent copy. Very good overview that, while you do sometimes get the sense some important things are left out, seems to hit on most of the immediate questions. Mote does a good job moving up and down in scale, giving just enough biographical information to personalize the periods he's talking about (and, significantly, to make clear how different life was at various points), while never losing sight of the big picture. I especially appreciated the digressions on China's nomadic neighbors, which despite being even more abbreviated than the main body of the text were detailed and consistently engrossing in their own right.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eng Lim

    An amazing book. I particularly like his dissection of the minds of significant individuals such as those of Abaoji, Kubilai Khan, and especially (even though speculative) what could have raced through the mind of the last emperor of Northern Song/first emperor of Southern Song when a fugitive from Jin troops tracking him. You can see both the author's mastery n passion for his subject. This book is a classic historiography of Chinese civilisation. An amazing book. I particularly like his dissection of the minds of significant individuals such as those of Abaoji, Kubilai Khan, and especially (even though speculative) what could have raced through the mind of the last emperor of Northern Song/first emperor of Southern Song when a fugitive from Jin troops tracking him. You can see both the author's mastery n passion for his subject. This book is a classic historiography of Chinese civilisation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marc Cenedella

    It’s a big commitment, probably truly 2,000 pages given font size. Very very rewarding. The scope and scale are tremendous. Mote’s command of the material world-leading. Perhaps the most astonishing thing is I came away from each section wanting to read more, rather than feeling over-burdened. A worthwhile, large reading project for anyone deeply interested in Chinese history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    AskHistorians

    a tremendous work of longue durée scholarship from one of the venerable old guard of American Sinology. This book is not only meticulously researched, but engagingly written. For narrative history of China, it is unparalleled.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tlaloc

    A dazzling, comprehensive work on Chinese history. I was quite ready to go into an undergraduate of Chinese history after putting this down. Covers everything you could possibly want. Sadly, and for whatever reason, The Cambridge History of China series (to go-to place after reading this) is appallingly expensive, so my little dread ended there.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Mote is an engaging and passionate historian who has put together a readable and fascinating history of China from the 6 dynasties through the height of the Qing

  16. 5 out of 5

    Taochou

    emm... this is going to take awhile. Pretty good considering it's written in English. emm... this is going to take awhile. Pretty good considering it's written in English.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Theredsandal

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  19. 5 out of 5

    William Johnson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eva

  21. 5 out of 5

    Seamus

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jon

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shrike58

  25. 5 out of 5

    jo

  26. 4 out of 5

    Neotony21

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chimsk

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Gutner

  29. 4 out of 5

    Neha

  30. 5 out of 5

    Per

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