Dennis Bloodworth, for twelve years Far Eastern correspondent for The Observer of London, resident of Singapore with a Chinese wife and three adopted Chinese children, presents The Chinese Looking Glass as an amusegueule for the common readeruninitiated in Chinese history. His purpose: to try to explain what makes the Chinese tick, to trace across 3,000 years of history, philosophy, literature and day-to-day living those often invisible puppet strings of atavistic instinct and prejudice that may influence today the words and actions of one-quarter of the people in this world--and their leaders."" He refuses to apologize for the ""frivolities"" which make this a reading experience rather than a learning exercise; indeed, engaging as they are, they are in themselves revealing of a people long accustomed to duress, to oppressive imperial rule, to demanding codes of honor and loyalty and a high sense of China's destiny. Mao Tse-tung is pictured as aware of his countrymen's sense of history, moving with it and ""manipulating them through its flow."" Mr. Bloodworth is especially good at bringing alive the classic periods; his way with the post Boxer Rebellion and the modern era is somewhat less engage. An historical come-on, spirited, intriguing, interiorly informative--the Italians had Barzini, the Chinese have Bloodworth.