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224 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Roxann Prazniak. Dialogues across Civilizations: Sketches in World History from the Chinese and European Experiences. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996. xii, 212 pp. Hardcover $65.00, isbn 0-8133-2735-0. Paperback $14.95, isbn 0-8133-2736-9. Thanks to the length and accessibüity of their historical records China and Europe offer the richest possibüities for comparison in the teaching ofworld history. In this book, Roxann Prazniak has ingeniously designed and skiUfidly fashioned a tool for use in that enterprise. The volume's contents and approach reflect the author's long interest in cross-cultural perspectives and considerable experience with undergraduates. The preface mentions the early intellectual influence ofthe neighborhood Goodwill book bin; Karl Jasper's Socrates, Buddha, Confucius and Jesus, acquired in high school; undergraduate courses at Berkeley; and her contribution ofan Asianist's perspective to the team teaching ofWestern civilization at Linfield CoUege. The dialogue Prazniak speaks ofis a metaphorical one, the examination of topics from two cultural traditions placed side-by-side, as opposed to direct encounters . The book consists ofeight chapters, each exploring one topic. The chapters are not arranged by strict chronology but instead are grouped under three general headings that are not elaborated beyond the insertion ofa tide page: "Society and fhe Individual," "Social Change and Conflict," and "History and Cosmology." Five of the chapters are devoted to intellectual history and take up pairs of individuals whom we might encounter in coUected source readings from survey courses on Western civilization or Chinese civilization. Three are obvious matches both in chronology and topic. Chapter 1 compares the thought of Confucius and Socrates at the beginnings ofthe Chinese and European phUosophical traditions. Chapter 6 pairs Huiyuan, founder of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, with St. Augustine as Buddhism and Christianity gained acceptance in the wake ofthe Han and Roman empires. Chapter 7 takes up the great synthetic fhinkers Zhu Xi and Thomas Aquinas in the social crises of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Less obvious is the pairing in chapter 2 of Ban Zhao (48-117) and Christine de Pisan (1365-ca. 1430). Despite the chronological gap between these two, Prazniak makes a strong case for parallels in their lives both in terms oftheir personal situations (educated, upper-class women who pursued writing careers after being widowed) and the social conditions diey experienced (emerging postfeudal orders inimical to the aristocratic patriarchy that had aUowed them a degree ofself-actualization). Chapter 4, which compares fhe insurgencies ofThomas Müntzer (1489-1525) and Hong Xiuquan (1813-1864), makes another quantum Reviews 225 leap in time. But here again, the discussion finds many points ofintersection in terms oftheir Utopian religious visions. The remaining three chapters probe different kinds ofhistory. Chapter 3 looks at commerce and urban life in the capital cities ofParis and Hangzhou during the twelfth century. Perhaps fhe strangest pairing in the book is that ofOtto von Bismarck and Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) in chapter 5. Whüe differences in career and mentality make this comparison a stretch, the chapter does provide a wide-ranging examination ofindustrial capitalism, late-developing nationstates , socialism, democracy, imperialism, and cosmopolitanism—all worthy subjects for classroom discussion. The final chapter, chapter 8, compares two artists: Claude Monet and Qi Baishi. Instructors wül find fhis book easy to use. Each chapter is self-contained, has concise background information, clear statements of the main issues, and a section tided "Comparisons and Conclusions," aU in about twenty-five pages. Prazniak makes flexible use ofquotations from primary texts, her own description and analysis, and occasional citations ofscholarly specialists. Students should find die issues raised provocative and the prose accessible but challenging. Dialogues across Civilizations is part of the Essays in World History series edited by Wüliam H. McNeUl and Ross E. Dunn. Those of us who teach world history courses wül look forward to more tides in this series. Edward L. Farmer University ofMinnesota Edward L. Farmer L· aprofessor ofhistory and EastAsian studies who teaches courses on comparative early modern history and world history. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 224-225
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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