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Reviewed by:
  • Encyclopedia of Modern China
  • Xiaoqing Diana Lin (bio)
David Pong, editor. Encyclopedia of Modern China. 4 Volumes. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Cengage Learning, 2009. lxxiv, 2,500 pp. Hardcover $495.00, isbn 978-0-684-31566-9.

David Pong's four-volume Encyclopedia of Modern China covers the period from 1800 to the present. Its significance lies not only in its 936 entries and over five hundred authors, but also in its meticulous scrutiny of how these entries were [End Page 559] chosen. Much thought has gone into the planning of the encyclopedia, which distinguishes it from online venues of informational warehouses and gives it a nuanced coverage of modern Chinese history. The entries include both conventional and broad topics and sharply focused entries that are both historically significant in their own right and often important in bringing a perspective to modern and contemporary Chinese history, especially social, economic, and cultural history. Examples of the latter include entries for Chu Anping, City and Regional Planning, Clothing since 1800, Community Care, Connoisseurship, Cultural Policy, Corruption, Democratic Ideas, Reforms, Experiments since the 1880s, Desertification, Dialect Groups, Earthquake, Famine since 1800, Fashion, Filial Piety, Fifth Generation Filmmakers, Sixth Generation Filmmakers, Hairstyles, Hutong, Life Cycle, Nepotism and Guanxi, Personality Cults, Sincere Department Stores, and Wing On Department Stores. Many students of Chinese history may not think of looking up some of these entries to learn about modern China. The publication of these entries, therefore, provides a very helpful guide to a quick and in-depth understanding of modern China. This assistance is made possible by the fact that almost all entries are written by experts in the field. Furthermore, they are followed by bibliographies that very often include the works of authors having particular expertise in the specific subject.

The encyclopedia also has an extensive coverage on art. The following entries are included: Dance, Commercial Art (mini-series), Folk Art, Nineteenth-and Twentieth-Century Japanese Bunjinga (literati) painting, Maoism and Art (which has a photograph of Andy Warhol's pictures of Mao in different shades), Lingnan School of Painting, Literati Painting, Lithographic and Modern Painting (with entries for individual artists), Model Operas and Ballets, Modernist Art of the 1920s and 1930s, Music, Western and Russian Influence, New Print Movement, New Wave Movement, '85: Oil Painting, Peking Opera and Regional Operas, Photography, Pictorial Magazines since 1880, Propaganda Art, New Nianhua, Posters, Peasant Painting, Art Products of the Cultural Revolution, Shanghai School of Painting, Socialist Realism in Art, and Woodblock Printing.

In-depth studies of large subjects are often made possible by a group of experts who have divided the topic into a series of small scholarly essays, such as in the entries for Chinese Marxism, Companies (including an entry on companies and joint ventures), Democratic Parties, Domestic Trade, Economic Development, Family, Housing, Income, International Relations, Marriage Laws, and Urban China.

This very contemporary encyclopedia incorporates information that covers topics into the 2000s. Such entries include Food since 1800, Foreign Currency Reserves (including a chart of US$-RMB exchange rate, 1985–2007), Geographical Regions: Natural and Human, Financial Markets, Financial Regulation, Harmonious [End Page 560] Society (which is a goal that was first presented by the Chinese Communist government in 2004), Heavy Industry, Heritage Protection, High Technology, Household Responsibility System, International Development Programs in China (from the 1970s to the present), Internet, Medical Care since 1949, Microfinancing, New Left, Pro-Democracy Movement, Social Classes since 1978, Social Policy Programs, Social Welfare, Space Program, and Township and Village Enterprises.

The encyclopedia provides a depth of coverage as well as an expansive range of topics. In terms of geography, it covers not only each Chinese province and major Chinese cities, but also Taiwan and its major political figures, such as Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shuibian. It has an extensive coverage of dozens of foreigners who worked in China from around 1800 to the twentieth century, including Robert Hart, Ernest Major, Thomas Wade, George Morrison, and Joe Stillwell. It further includes Protestantism in China today and religious policy, and has some unexpected entries, such as the influence of Chinese art on India's nationalist movement. It also covers famous overseas Chinese such as Ma Yoyo and...