THE TIGER OF CH'IN by Leonard Cottrell


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Cottrell's unique gift in popularizing ancient history was evidenced in his books on Egypt and Greece. This time he has undertaken a less rewarding field- the ancient history of China. Perhaps it is the names that make it difficult for the average reader. Perhaps the remoteness from personal contact. Probably almost no writer could more nearly achieve the goal (with the possible exception of Sitwell and Fleming) -- but Cottrell has reached only partial and limited success. He has chosen for his central figures Shih Huang Ti, known in legend as The Tiger of Ch'in -- and his chief councillor, Li Ssu, who together founded a system of government that- despite breaks in succession- lasted down to AD 1912. In laying his foundations, Cottrell has traced China's ancient history through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, the feudal Chou Dynasty, the years of warring states, to the Caesar of ancient China, Shi Huang Ti. One glimpses throughout this survey something of the splendor of some of the most ancient kings, the priestly techniques and superstitions, the findings of the records which establish the cultural achievements. One whole section is given to the glory of the battle poems, preserved today in The Book of Songs (Waley). He traces the changing frontier- and Shih Huang Ti's great achievement, the building of the Great Wall on the north. Throughout Cottrell places his passing scenes against the history of the outside world of Egypt, of the Aegean, of Greece; and we see the changing face of China, warfare transformed from a sport to a deadly, purposeful horror with ruthless efficiency. The book is full of colorful incidents and drama, but in final analysis history and legend still blend, and China's story seems still shrouded and uncertain of outline. He ends on the control of the Empire falling to the basely born Liu Pang, and the founding of the Han dynasty that lasted 400 years.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1962
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston