A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century, Edition 2

Cambridge University Press
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Charles Holcombe begins by asking the question 'what is East Asia?' In the modern age, many of the features that made the region - now defined as including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam - distinct have been submerged by the effects of revolution, politics or globalization. Yet, as an ancient civilization, the region had both an historical and cultural coherence. This shared past is at the heart of this ambitious book, which traces the story of East Asia from the dawn of history to the twenty-first century. The second edition has been imaginatively revised and expanded to place emphasis on cross-cultural interactions and connections, both within East Asia and beyond, with new material on Vietnam and modern pop culture. The second edition also features a Chinese character list, additional maps and new illustrations.
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About the author

Charles Holcombe is Professor of History at the University of Northern Iowa. His publications include The Genesis of East Asia, 221 BCD 907 (2001) and In the Shadow of the Han: Literati Thought and Society at the Start of the Southern Dynasties (1994).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Jan 11, 2017
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Pages
495
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ISBN
9781108107778
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / General
History / General
History / World
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Falling between the great unified empires of the Han and T'ang, the Period of Division (A.D. 220-589) is one of the most overlooked and least understood eras in Chinese history. At the start of the fourth century much of China's traditional heartland fell under the control of ethnic non-Chinese. The remnants of the Chinese court fled to the still somewhat exotic region south of the Yangtze River, where an Eastern Chin dynasty (318-420) was established in virtual exile. The state's ability to command population and other resources had declined sharply from the heights of Han imperial splendor, but it retained considerable influence over most aspects of society, including the economy. This residual state power made possible the rise, through the monopolization of government office, of a new elite class - the literati, or shih-ta-fu. In this groundbreaking history, Charles Holcombe examines the conditions that produced the literati and shaped their activities during the first of the Southern dynasties, with particular attention to the life and thought of the fourth-century monk Chih Tun (314-366).
The security of the literati's positions in the state, as well as the cooptation process through which they rose to office, encouraged them to neglect the details of actual administrative service and concentrate instead upon peer recognition through the refinement of social graces and through literary, artistic, and philosophical achievements. While the empire hung poised on the brink of ruin, fourth-century literati engaged in round after round of abstruse discussion concerning the ultimate meaning of existence. Their seemingly impractical dalliances blossomed, however, into an age of intellectual and cultural creativity second only to the Warring States period of the late classical era. The Southern dynasties even witnessed significant commercialization and economic growth. Far from the dark ages that their political disunity might imply, China's Southern dynasties reveal themselves to have been great eras of an unexpected kind. In the Shadow of the Han explores some of the implications of this distinctive Southern dynasty culture.
The name Genghis Khan often conjures the image of a relentless, bloodthirsty barbarian on horseback leading a ruthless band of nomadic warriors in the looting of the civilized world. But the surprising truth is that Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas. In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford, the only Western scholar ever to be allowed into the Mongols’ “Great Taboo”—Genghis Khan’s homeland and forbidden burial site—tracks the astonishing story of Genghis Khan and his descendants, and their conquest and transformation of the world.

Fighting his way to power on the remote steppes of Mongolia, Genghis Khan developed revolutionary military strategies and weaponry that emphasized rapid attack and siege warfare, which he then brilliantly used to overwhelm opposing armies in Asia, break the back of the Islamic world, and render the armored knights of Europe obsolete. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol army never numbered more than 100,000 warriors, yet it subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans conquered in four hundred. With an empire that stretched from Siberia to India, from Vietnam to Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans, the Mongols dramatically redrew the map of the globe, connecting disparate kingdoms into a new world order.

But contrary to popular wisdom, Weatherford reveals that the Mongols were not just masters of conquest, but possessed a genius for progressive and benevolent rule. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope
of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination. Genghis Khan was an innovative leader, the first ruler in many conquered countries to put the power of law above his own power, encourage religious freedom, create public schools, grant diplomatic immunity, abolish torture, and institute free trade. The trade routes he created became lucrative pathways for commerce, but also for ideas, technologies, and expertise that transformed the way people lived. The Mongols introduced the first international paper currency and postal system and developed and spread revolutionary technologies like printing, the cannon, compass, and abacus. They took local foods and products like lemons, carrots, noodles, tea, rugs, playing cards, and pants and turned them into staples of life around the world. The Mongols were the architects of a new way of life at a pivotal time in history.

In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford resurrects the true history of Genghis Khan, from the story of his relentless rise through Mongol tribal culture to the waging of his devastatingly successful wars and the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed. This dazzling work of revisionist history doesn’t just paint an unprecedented portrait of a great leader and his legacy, but challenges us to reconsider how the modern world was made.


From the Hardcover edition.
Andrei Lankov has gone where few outsiders have ever been. A native of the former Soviet Union, he lived as an exchange student in North Korea in the 1980s. He has studied it for his entire career, using his fluency in Korean and personal contacts to build a rich, nuanced understanding. In The Real North Korea, Lankov substitutes cold, clear analysis for the overheated rhetoric surrounding this opaque police state. After providing an accessible history of the nation, he turns his focus to what North Korea is, what its leadership thinks, and how its people cope with living in such an oppressive and poor place. He argues that North Korea is not irrational, and nothing shows this better than its continuing survival against all odds. A living political fossil, it clings to existence in the face of limited resources and a zombie economy, manipulating great powers despite its weakness. Its leaders are not ideological zealots or madmen, but perhaps the best practitioners of Machiavellian politics that can be found in the modern world. Even though they preside over a failed state, they have successfully used diplomacy-including nuclear threats-to extract support from other nations. But while the people in charge have been ruthless and successful in holding on to power, Lankov goes on to argue that this cannot continue forever, since the old system is slowly falling apart. In the long run, with or without reform, the regime is unsustainable. Lankov contends that reforms, if attempted, will trigger a dramatic implosion of the regime. They will not prolong its existence. Based on vast expertise, this book reveals how average North Koreans live, how their leaders rule, and how both survive.
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