A challenging but valuable companion for the traveler to China.



From British scholar Cotterell (Chariot: The Astounding Rise and Fall of the World’s First War Machine, 2005, etc), a thoroughgoing history of China’s ruling dynasties and their extraordinary achievements in architecture.

The author’s knowledge of Chinese dynasties is nearly encyclopedic, and readers are assumed to have a basic grounding in the chronology. Imperial capitals were laid out according to cosmic principles, and Cotterell jumps right in to explain the cosmology of northern China’s ancient Shang kings, who established the capital in Anyang across the Yellow River on the advice of divination. The first emperor, in 256 BCE, was the energetic Qin Shi Huang Di, who was much influenced by Daoism and the Five Elements; he commissioned extensive building, from the Great Wall and the national road system to a grand palace called Er Fang and his famous terracotta army at Mount Li. The Qin dynasty, under the sway of Confucianism, moved between Xianyang and Chang’an. The subsequent Han dynasty moved to Luoyang, the second largest city in the world after Rome. After the invasion of the steppe people, the Jin abandoned Luoyang in favor of Nanjing, though it never attained the glory of the previous imperial capitals. During the Sui and Tang dynasties, Chang’an flourished without rival in the world. The war of succession among the Five Dynasties gave rise to Zhang Zeduan’s legendary painting of the thriving city of Kaifeng, Spring Festival on the River, reproduced in part here. Hangzhou, capital of the seagoing Southern Song, in the 13th century fell to Mongol invaders; their capital at Dadu (later called Beijing) was admiringly portrayed by Marco Polo. The Ming dynasty that followed ruled at first from Nanjing, but in the early 15th century returned the capital to Beijing, enriched by the construction of the emperor Yongle’s Purple Forbidden City. Cotterell’s work takes the traveler deep into the fascinating recesses of each dynasty.

A challenging but valuable companion for the traveler to China.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59020-007-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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