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262 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 to testify that the essays in this volume can enrich and stimulate our students' understanding of major issues. Hoyt Cleveland Tillman Arizona State University Jonathan D. Spence. Chinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1992. 400 pp. Hardcover $24.95. Compared to the substantial monographs Jonathan Spence has already published, the essays in this collection can perhaps be viewed as canghai yizhu, 'unpicked pearls of the deep blue sea.' They are comparatively short, ranging in length from four pages ("Fang Chao-ying") to forty ("Food"), but they are written with the same erudition and style as his odier works, and reveal the judgment and perception of a seasoned scholar of Chinese history and culture. Most of the pieces are reviews that have been reprinted from periodicals such as the New York Review ofBooks; some of fhe essays have appeared in books edited by other people; and only a couple are heretofore unpublished. The title, as the author explains, suggests among other things "a meandering that is yet somehow purposive," as well as a sense of excitement akin to that felt by a child on a carousel, not unlike the auAior's own excitement working in the field of Chinese studies. Spence has organized the essays by topic into five categories. The first category , 'Crossing the Cultures,' is devoted to men such as Matteo Ricci and Arcadio Huang, who "tried to cross over into each other's cultures." The second category, 'The Confucian Impulse,' concerns "Confucian theory and Chinese state power." 'Sinews of Society,' the third category, contains four lengthy studies of Chinese society with regard to food, medicine, taxes, and opium. This section takes up almost one third of the book. 'After the Empire,' the fourth category, contains essays dealing with revolutionary China; and finally under the heading 'Teachers,' appear Spence's essays "reflecting on my own teachers and mentors." The full spectrum of Spence's academic interests unfolds before us. One cannot but marvel at the breadth of his knowledge, which encompasses all the important aspects of mod-© 1994 by University ern Chinese life: from history, science, religion, and society to art, film, and literaofHawai 'i Pressture. He deals with a diverse range of people, from emperors to ricksha pullers, officials, missionaries, and soldiers of fortune. Reviews 263 For this wide variety of topics, Spence uses an equivalent variety of sources, some of which are not conventional and may be frowned on by purist historians. As a backbone of his research he uses basic historical sources such as official histories , local gazetteers, and published and unpublished government records and documents pertaining to the period. These are augmented by missionary records; personal correspondence; travelogues; classical Chinese fiction and drama; modern Chinese literature and film; and Chinese works on Chinese history, society, philosophy, the arts, science and technology, agricultural manuals, and even cookbooks . Nor has he neglected Western works on these topics in several languages; he has even included Western popular fiction, drama, and film(s) about China that have appeared over the last few decades. In my view, his lengthy essays on food, medicine, taxes, and opium are the most valuable contribution here to specialists in the field of Chinese studies. All are in-depth studies and show Spence at his most authoritative and carefully researched best. Take the essay on food—my favorite—which previously appeared in Food in Chinese Culture, edited by K. C. Chang, a work that was published in 1977 by Yale University Press and is difficult to obtain. Spence treats food on three levels: staple foods for ordinary people, gourmet food(s), and Aie food of the emperors . Using local gazetteers he discusses the range of staple foods available to people in the provinces in the Qing dynasty. Tables of food prices during the eighteenth century and later have been constructed or incorporated from sources as varied as publications of the Qing palace, books byWestern observers, and sociological studies from the early twentieth century. In the section concerning the service and distribution of food, a glimpse is afforded of the various trades responsible for the distribution and carriage...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 262-266
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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