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426 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Stephen G. Haw. A Traveller's History ofChina. New York: Interlink Books, 1995. x, 310 pp. Paperback $14.95, isbn 1-56656-180-9. During the 1980s, I worked for several years organizing and escorting American tour groups to China. In making the arrangements for these excursions, and in preparing the participants for their impending encounter with China, one problem I encountered that plagued the travel industry was the lack of a single book which could serve both as a guide to the major tourist destinations in China and as an adequate introduction to the vast expanse of Chinese history. Most travelers to the People's Republic are very interested in China's traditional culture and the imperial past, and want a broad overview within which they can situate the wonders of Qinshihuangdi's tomb or the gardens of Suzhou. Stephen G. Haw's A Traveller's History ofChina is not the perfect solution to the problem of a single source for the prospective China tourist, but it is by far the best attempt at such a book I have yet seen. It is primarily devoted to presenting a comprehensive account of China's long history, in accessible, nonacademic prose, and it does this very clearly and effectively. It also addresses many of the auxiliary concerns of travelers to China: the mysteries ofwritten and spoken Chinese, the social and political order ofpresent day China, and the National Minorities. Haw begins with an introduction that covers three themes. First, he discusses Western views of China, how they have changed over time, and how this is often more revealing of changes in Western society than in China. This helps to establish a healdiy skepticism about preconceptions travelers may be bringing with diem. The rest of the introduction is concerned with the Chinese language, in two ways. Haw provides a useful account of pinyin romanization and a guide to pronunciation . He also includes a list of names ofprovinces, which can be especially troublesome to people attempting to read maps of China. A geographic overview of China follows, covering the major river systems, the main regional divisions within the country, and climate. This sets the stage for the main body of die book, a chronological narrative beginning with archaeology and prehistory and proceeding through a sequence of chapters on the origins of Chinese civilization; the formation of the Chinese empire; Confucianism, Buddhism , and Daoism; China and the world during the Tang and Song dynasties; China under foreign domination; the end of the empire; and the revolutions of die twentieth century. The organization of the chapters is somewhat idiosyncratic.© 1997 by University The chapter on China under foreign domination includes both the Mongol and ofHawai'i PressManchu eras, but also the entire Ming period when China was ruled by an imperial line of Han ethnicity. Haw certainly notes this, but the use of such broad, Reviews 427 single-theme chapter headings detracts from the generally solid historical content of the book. After surveying the overall course ofChinese history, Haw devotes three chapters to the contemporary scene. He discusses life in China today, the situation of the ethnic minority peoples (referred to, rather unfortunately, as minority "races"), and the complexities of the present and future ofGreater China in Hong Kong and Taiwan. His discussion of the minorities question is very balanced, acknowledging the aspirations for independence among some peoples, such as the Tibetans , yet placing this in a context ofpolitical realism that recognizes the improbability of Chinese accession to any disruption oftheir current territorial domain. The final fifty or so pages are in some ways the most useful part ofA Traveller 's History ofChina. There is another short section on language, this time devoted largely to the written characters. There is a chronology ofmajor events and a list of dynasties and principal emperors. A briefbibliography provides guidance for further reading. Finally, there is a historical gazetteer, which gives typical site accounts and is convenientiy cross-referenced to the main historical narrative. Stephen Haw has provided a great service to the ranks ofpresent and future travelers to China. This book is readable, informative, reasonably priced, and a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 426-427
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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