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Reviews 255 Conrad Schirokauer. A BriefHistory ofChinese Civilization. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1991. xix, 415 pp. Paperback $16.00. Conrad Schirokauer's textbook offers a survey ofChinese history from Peking man to Deng Xiaoping, drawing usefully on recent scholarship and archaeological Wndings. The book features lively writing, excellent maps, well-selected illustrations , and suggestions for further reading that guide students to recent scholarly literature. It presents a survey and a summary ofrecent scholarship rather than an analysis of Chinese civilization. The work is concise and short enough that instructors could supplement Schirokauer's text with other readings. It would make an appropriate text especially for courses that survey the history of China in one academic term. Any book dealing with the whole history of Chinese civilization in four hundred pages must obviously leave out more than it leaves in. For the most part, Schirokauer's work makes decisions that are both reasonable and justifiable, even if other scholars would inevitably make different choices. Schirokauer emphasizes political and cultural themes, and it struck me that his treatments of philosophy, literature, and the fine arts rank as the strongest points of the book. He devotes little attention to social and economic themes before reaching the nineteenth century , and some instructors will no doubt regret the relative lack of attention to the material foundations of Chinese civilization before the Qing dynasty. Since the civilization of the Middle Kingdom never developed in a vacuum, I personally would have appreciated more attention to China's relations with foreign lands and communities. The tributary system, long-distance trade, the silk roads, the role of Tang and Song China in the larger Eurasian economy, Song dynasty commerce in southeast Asia and fhe Indian Ocean basin, and China's relations with Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and central Asian peoples all receive a bit of attention in Schirokauer's work, though not enough to place Chinese civilization securely in its larger hemispheric and global context. Some mention of particularly interesting topics of recent research would also have made a desirable addition: studies of the Ming-Qing transition, analyses of cities and central places, and interpretations from the world-systems school have enriched scholars' understanding of Chinese history, and discussion of these bodies ofliterature would have deepened Schirokauer's text and provided students with an entrée into the world of scholarship . In a way, of course, these points imply fhe success of Schirokauer's volume: "Thus for this text to succeed," the author says in his preface, "it must fail: readers c 1994 y University must come awayhungry, their appetites whetted but not satiated" (p. vi). Two other problems with Schirokauer's work will cause some confusion for readers. Errors in pinyin transcription will mislead students: the emperor Han ofHawai'i Press 256 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 Gaozu appears both as "Gaozu" and as "Gaozi," for example, and the city Chongqing appears both as "Chongqing" and as "Chongjing." More importantly, the lack of an analytical framework becomes a serious problem toward the end of the book, where Schirokauer seems to lose control of his material. The last three chapters oVer a kind of histoire événementielle, dwelling on political and especially military developments, with little or no reference to larger themes. The last chapter in particular lacks coherence, as it attempts a rapid survey of Chinese political, economic, and cultural experience since 1949. A stronger analytical framework would have enabled the author to offer a better integrated text and to place contemporary experience more securely in the longer run of Chinese history. Instructors will of course devise ways to overcome these problems, which will perhaps even disappear in future editions of Schirokauer's work. Jerry H. Bentley University of Hawai'i® Stuart R. Schräm, editor. Mao's Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-1949. Volume 1, The Pre-Marxist Period, 1912-1920. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1992. Hardcover $110, Paperback $37.50. This is the first volume of a comprehensive, ten-volume edition of Mao Zedong's writings from 1912 to 1949 in English translation. A collection of historical source material, this first volume includes a translation of every item of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 255-256
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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