- Audio CD
- Publisher: Tantor Audio; Unabridged edition (April 25, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1541453042
- ISBN-13: 978-1541453043
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 24 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,646,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China Audio CD – April 25, 2017
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About the Author
A native of the United Kingdom, Audie and AudioFile Earphones Award winner Derek Perkins's audiobook narration skills are augmented by a knowledge of three foreign languages and a facility with accents. He has narrated numerous titles in a wide range of fiction and nonfiction genres. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA.
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The main difference between Western and Chinese history is that the West suffered two total collapses in the last 3,000 years while China never had a total collapse. The two Western collapses were the 1200 BC Bronze Age collapse (which most people have never heard of) at the time of ancient Crete and the Fall of Rome in 476 AD. Instead China has had alternating cycles of stability and chaos during the same period.
While Western history falls into the sequential eras of Antiquity, Collapse, Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution, Chinese history is cyclical with dynasties rising and falling. It can be more easily understood by looking at its eight successful dynasties and ignoring the countless intervening states of chaos. Modern China as we know it basically started 2,000 years ago and has had five successful dynasties. Before that three small ancient dynasties take Chinese history back to 3,000 years ago.
The first ancient dynasty was the Xia Dynasty from about 2070 BC in the Bronze Age at the time of ancient Crete in the West. This was followed by the Shang Dynasty from about 1766 BC during which era the West suffered its first total collapse in the Bronze Age with the collapse of ancient Crete. That was when the first primitive Chinese characters on tortoise shells were developed.
These two ancient dynasties were followed by the Zhou Dynasty from about 1046 BC during which time China entered the Iron Age. The latter part of this dynasty saw China's longest period of instability beginning in 475 BC. This is well known as the Warring States period where seven states including the Kingdom of Zhou competed for dominance. Confucius lived during this period in the losing Kingdom of Lu.
Modern Chinese history began in 206 BC when the warring state of Han unified China and founded the Han Dynasty. This was actually a watershed moment in Chinese history as the Chinese then began calling themselves the Han people, as they do today, instead of the Xia people. This united Chinese state has survived in one form or another until today.
The Han Dynasty was followed by the modern dynasties we are more familiar with: Tang (618 AD), Song (960 AD), Ming (1368), and Ching (1644) when the Manchus conquered China. The Ming Dynasty was when great structures such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Grand Canal were built or completed. So Chinese history comprises eight major dynasties with these last five comprising modern Chinese history which is now over 2,000 years old. Of course the Chinese concept of modern is different from ours.
There are a couple of short dynasties also requiring mention because of their historical importance. The Chin Dynasty was actually the one that unified China in 221 BC but it lasted only 14 years before being defeated by the Han Dynasty which lasted four centuries. The Chin Dynasty is when the Great Wall was begun, even though the current structure was built mainly during the Ming Dynasty. The Chin Dynasty is when the Terracotta Army was sculpted. It is also when the Mandarin civil service meritocratic examination system was introduced.
The other dynasty is the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty of 1279 AD. This Mongol dynasty lasted only about a century but was the first dynasty run by foreign invaders and the time when Marco Polo visited China. This dynasty moved the capital from the South to Beijing (which is near Mongolia) where it remains today.
But the book is much more than history and covers various subjects such as philosophy, art, and technology, and especially China's current environmental problems. For example, China has most of the world's polluted cities, the Yellow River (world's sixth longest) ran dry at its end in 1997 and never made it to the sea that year, and the once famous Yangtze Dolphins are now extinct after completion of the Three Gorges Dam in 2003.
What may be more relevant for today is that all the modern dynasties (post-Warring States) lasted about three centuries, except for the Han Dynasty which lasted four centuries. This should kept in mind as the United States approach its 250th Anniversary.
Top international reviews
I read this book with pleasure but after I finished it was stunned to observed how thoroughly it had covered the main streams of Chinese culture, how much learning I had gained from it. I am an interested and critical student of Chinese issues as I live in China (4 years so far) and this is the best and most enjoyable book on the subject, from prehistory to Xi Jinping.
Certainly the best book to start understanding Zhongguo, China.