The Open Empire: A History Of China To 1800 (Second Edition).epub - Compare and contrast China with other regions and civilizations
The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800 (Second Edition)
If you are looking for a comprehensive, engaging, and up-to-date introduction to early Chinese history, you might want to check out The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800 by Valerie Hansen. This book is a revised and expanded edition of Hansen's original work published in 2000. It covers China's history from its origins to the end of the Qing dynasty in 1800. It also uses an innovative approach to explore China's past as an "open empire", a term that Hansen coined to describe how China interacted with its neighbors and outsiders throughout history.
The Open Empire: A History Of China To 1800 (Second Edition).epub
In this article, we will review The Open Empire by summarizing its main themes, arguments, and contents. We will also provide some frequently asked questions about the book at the end. Let's get started!
The Concept of the Open Empire
One of the most distinctive features of The Open Empire is its use of the concept of the open empire to analyze China's history. Hansen defines an open empire as "a large political entity whose borders are not fixed but change over time as a result of wars or treaties; whose rulers welcome people of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions; and whose center is linked to distant regions by trade and the exchange of ideas" (p. xix). Hansen argues that China was an open empire for most of its history, and that this openness shaped its political, social, and cultural development.
Hansen uses the concept of the open empire to challenge some common misconceptions about China's history, such as the idea that China was isolated, homogeneous, or unchanging. She shows how China was always connected to the rest of the world through trade, migration, diplomacy, and warfare. She also shows how China was always diverse and dynamic, with different ethnic groups, languages, religions, and customs coexisting and influencing each other. She also shows how China was always changing and adapting to new circumstances and challenges, such as foreign invasions, natural disasters, or technological innovations.
By using the concept of the open empire, Hansen aims to present a more nuanced, balanced, and realistic picture of China's past. She also aims to make China's history more accessible and relevant to modern readers, who live in a globalized and multicultural world.
The Origins and Development of Chinese Civilization
The first part of The Open Empire covers the origins and development of Chinese civilization from prehistory to the end of the Han dynasty in 220 CE. Hansen traces the main features and achievements of early Chinese cultures, such as agriculture, writing, bronze technology, philosophy, religion, art, and literature. She also examines the political and social changes that led to the emergence and consolidation of imperial rule in China.
The Shang and Zhou Dynasties
The earliest recorded dynasty in Chinese history is the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600-1046 BCE), which ruled over a large area in northern China. The Shang dynasty is known for its development of writing, which was used for divination, administration, and communication. The Shang dynasty is also known for its production of bronze vessels, weapons, and ritual objects, which reflected its hierarchical and religious society.
The Shang dynasty was overthrown by the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1046-256 BCE), which claimed to have received the Mandate of Heaven, or the divine right to rule. The Zhou dynasty expanded its territory and established a feudal system of governance, where local lords owed allegiance to the king. The Zhou dynasty also witnessed the emergence of new philosophical schools, such as Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism, which offered different views on ethics, politics, and human nature.
The Warring States Period and the Qin Unification
The later part of the Zhou dynasty was marked by political fragmentation and warfare among competing states. This period is known as the Warring States period (ca. 475-221 BCE), which saw the rise of new military technologies, strategies, and institutions. It also saw the flourishing of culture and learning, as different states patronized scholars, artists, and craftsmen.
The Warring States period ended with the unification of China by the Qin state in 221 BCE. The Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE) was the first imperial dynasty in Chinese history, which established a centralized and standardized system of administration, law, currency, weights and measures, writing, and roads. The Qin dynasty also undertook massive construction projects, such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army. The Qin dynasty was short-lived but influential, as it laid the foundations for subsequent dynasties.
The Han Dynasty and the Silk Road
The Qin dynasty was succeeded by the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), which is considered one of the golden ages of Chinese history. The Han dynasty expanded and consolidated imperial rule over a vast territory that stretched from Central Asia to Vietnam. The Han dynasty also promoted trade and cultural exchange with other regions through the Silk Road, a network of routes that linked China with India, Persia, Rome, and beyond. The Han dynasty also fostered a rich and diverse culture, which saw the development of literature, history, science, technology, art, and religion.
The Era of Division and Reunification
The second part of The Open Empire covers the era of division and reunification from 220 to 960 CE. Hansen explores the challenges and opportunities of political fragmentation and cultural diversity in this period, which witnessed the emergence of new dynasties, religions, and literary forms.
The Three Kingdoms and the Six Dynasties
The fall of the Han dynasty in 220 CE led to a period of civil war and division among three rival states: Wei in the north, Shu in the southwest, and Wu in the southeast. period is known as the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 CE), which is famous for its bloody warfare and diplomatic intrigue. It is also celebrated in Chinese historical fiction as an age of chivalry and individual heroism.
The Three Kingdoms period was followed by the Six Dynasties period (220-589 CE), which saw the continuation of political division and instability in China. The north was dominated by a series of short-lived dynasties, some of which were founded by non-Chinese nomadic peoples who invaded and settled in China. The south was ruled by successor states of the Eastern Wu, which claimed to be the legitimate heirs of the Han dynasty. The Six Dynasties period was also a time of cultural diversity and innovation, as different ethnic groups, religions, and literary forms coexisted and influenced each other.
The Sui and Tang Dynasties
The era of division and reunification ended with the establishment of the Sui dynasty (581-618 CE), which reunified China after nearly four centuries of fragmentation. The Sui dynasty restored imperial authority and centralized administration, and undertook ambitious projects such as the Grand Canal and the reconstruction of the Great Wall. The Sui dynasty also expanded China's territory and influence by launching military campaigns against neighboring states, such as Korea, Vietnam, and Central Asia.
The Sui dynasty was short-lived but paved the way for the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE), which is widely regarded as one of the most prosperous and glorious periods in Chinese history. The Tang dynasty inherited and improved upon the achievements of the Sui dynasty, and reached its peak of power and culture under the reigns of Emperor Taizong (626-649 CE) and Emperor Xuanzong (712-756 CE). The Tang dynasty presided over a cosmopolitan empire that encompassed diverse peoples, cultures, and religions. The Tang dynasty also fostered a flourishing culture that saw the development of poetry, painting, music, sculpture, calligraphy, printing, and other arts and sciences.
The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms and the Song Dynasty
The Tang dynasty declined and collapsed in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, due to a combination of internal rebellions, military coups, natural disasters, and foreign invasions. The fall of the Tang dynasty ushered in another period of political disunity and turmoil, known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960 CE). During this period, five successive dynasties ruled over northern China, while ten smaller states competed for power in southern China.
The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period ended with the emergence of the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE), which reunified most of China under its rule. The Song dynasty was a remarkable era of economic, social, and cultural transformation in Chinese history. The Song dynasty witnessed the growth of commerce, urbanization, and population; the emergence of a scholar-official class; the invention of gunpowder, paper money, movable type printing, and other technologies; and the flourishing of Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, literature, painting, ceramics, and other forms of culture.
The Mongol Conquest and the Yuan Dynasty
The third part of The Open Empire covers the Mongol conquest and the Yuan dynasty from 1206 to 1368 CE. Hansen examines the impact and legacy of foreign rule and cultural integration in this period, which witnessed the formation and expansion of the largest land empire in history.
The Mongol Empire and its Administration
The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan (1162-1227 CE), who united the nomadic tribes of Mongolia under his leadership. Genghis Khan launched a series of campaigns that conquered most of Eurasia, from China to Eastern Europe. His successors continued his conquests and divided his empire into four khanates: the Yuan dynasty in China; the Ilkhanate in Persia; the Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia; and the Golden Horde in Russia.
The Mongol Empire was characterized by its military prowess, religious tolerance, legal code, postal system, trade network, and cultural exchange. The Mongols adopted and adapted various aspects of the cultures they encountered, such as writing, religion, art, and technology. The Mongols also facilitated the movement of people, goods, and ideas across their vast domains, creating a cosmopolitan and diverse civilization.
The Yuan Society and Culture
The Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 CE) was the Mongol-ruled state in China, established by Kublai Khan (1215-1294 CE), the grandson of Genghis Khan. Kublai Khan moved his capital to Beijing and proclaimed himself emperor of China. He also attempted to conquer Japan, Vietnam, and Java, but failed. The Yuan dynasty was the first foreign dynasty to rule over all of China.
The Yuan society and culture were marked by the social changes, religious diversity, and artistic achievements under Mongol rule. The Yuan society was divided into four classes: Mongols, Semu (other foreigners), Han (northern Chinese), and Southerners (southern Chinese). The Mongols enjoyed the highest privileges and monopolized the military and administrative positions. The Semu, who included Muslims, Turks, Persians, Tibetans, and others, served as intermediaries and advisers to the Mongols. The Han and Southerners were discriminated and exploited by the Mongols, and were excluded from high offices. The Yuan culture was influenced by various religions, such as Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Daoism, and Confucianism, which coexisted and competed for patronage and followers. The Yuan culture also produced many outstanding works of literature, drama, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, and architecture.
The Yuan Decline and Resistance
The Yuan dynasty declined and collapsed in the 14th century, due to a combination of internal and external factors. The Yuan dynasty faced the challenges of natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, famines, and epidemics; economic problems, such as inflation, corruption, and overtaxation; political problems, such as factionalism, succession crises, and rebellions; and military problems, such as invasions by other Mongol khanates and resistance by native Chinese forces. The Yuan dynasty was overthrown by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE), which was founded by Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398 CE), a former peasant rebel leader who became the first emperor of China.
The Ming Dynasty and the Qing Empire
The fourth and final part of The Open Empire covers the Ming dynasty and the Qing empire from 1368 to 1800 CE. Hansen explores the revival and transformation of Chinese civilization in the early modern period, which witnessed the restoration and flourishing of imperial power, cosmopolitanism, and innovation.
The Ming Foundation and Expansion
The Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE) was a native Chinese dynasty that restored China's sovereignty after nearly a century of foreign rule. The Ming dynasty established a strong centralized government that promoted Confucian orthodoxy, moral reform, and social stability. The Ming dynasty also expanded its territory and influence by launching naval expeditions under Zheng He (1371-1433 CE), who visited Southeast Asia, India, Persia, Arabia, and Africa; by building the Great Wall to defend against the Mongols; and by engaging in tributary relations with neighboring states.
The Ming society and culture were marked by the social structure, economic development, and cultural trends under Ming rule. The Ming society was divided into two main groups: the gentry, who were educated elites who dominated the bureaucracy, the local administration, and the education system; and the commoners, who were peasants, artisans, merchants, and others who formed the majority of the population. The Ming economy was based on agriculture, but also witnessed the growth of commerce, trade, and urbanization. The Ming culture was influenced by various factors, such as Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and foreign contacts. The Ming culture also produced many masterpieces of literature, history, philosophy, painting, porcelain, and other arts and sciences.
The Ming Decline and Collapse
The Ming dynasty declined and collapsed in the 17th century, due to a combination of internal and external factors. The Ming dynasty faced the challenges of natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, famines, and epidemics; economic problems, such as inflation, corruption, and overpopulation; political problems, such as factionalism, eunuch power, and rebellions; and military problems, such as invasions by the Manchus painting, calligraphy, porcelain, and other arts and sciences.
In conclusion, The Open Empire is a comprehensive, engaging, and up-to-date introduction to early Chinese history. It uses the concept of the open empire to explore how China interacted with its neighbors and outsiders throughout history. It also covers the political, social, and cultural developments of various dynasties and periods, from the origins of Chinese civilization to the end of the Qing empire. It also provides a nuanced, balanced, and realistic picture of China's past, as well as its relevance to the modern world.
Here are some frequently asked questions about The Open Empire:
Who is the author of The Open Empire? The author of The Open Empire is Valerie Hansen, who is a professor of history at Yale University. She specializes in Chinese history, especially the Silk Road and pre-modern globalization. She has also written other books on Chinese history, such as The Silk Road: A New History and Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts 600-1400.
What is the main argument of The Open Empire? The main argument of The Open Empire is that China was an open empire for most of its history, meaning that it had flexible borders, diverse populations, and extensive connections with other regions. The author argues that this openness shaped China's political, social, and cultural development, and challenges some common misconceptions about China's history.
What are some of the sources and methods used by The Open Empire? The Open Empire uses a variety of sources and methods to reconstruct early Chinese history. The author uses primary sources, such as written documents, archaeological artifacts, art works, coins, maps, and inscriptions. She also uses secondary sources, such as scholarly books and articles, to provide context and analysis. She also uses comparative methods, such as comparing China with other regions and civilizations, to highlight similarities and differences.
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of The Open Empire? Some of the strengths of The Open Empire are: - It provides a comprehensive overview of early Chinese history from prehistory to 1800 CE. - It uses an innovative approach to explore China's history as an open empire. - It presents a nuanced, balanced, and realistic picture of China's past. - It makes China's history accessible and relevant to modern readers. Some of the weaknesses of The Open Empire are: - It covers a long span of time and a large amount of information, which may be overwhelming for some readers. - It focuses more on political and cultural aspects than on social and economic aspects of China's history. - It does not cover China's history after 1800 CE or its interactions with other parts of Asia.
How can I get a copy of The Open Empire? You can get a copy of The Open Empire from various online platforms or bookstores. You can also check if your local library has a copy available. Alternatively, you can read some excerpts or reviews online to get a sense of the book.
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