Grapes - Xu Wei


Liao River Tributaries


Hong Kong At Night


You Will Receive A Complement


Bronze Head From Sanxingdui


18-10-14 Weekly Links




Detail From Sheep And Goat - Zhao Mengfu


...By Emperor Huizong Of Song


Cambridge History Of Ancient China

The Cambridge histories set a pretty high standard, and the volume on the Han Dynasty (also co-edited by Michael Loewe) has been one of my favourite books for many years. Aside from that, pre-Imperial China is an extremely interesting topic, so my expectations for this were high and I was extremely disappointed.

Many of the writers are competent. Some have an axe to grind or a personal pet theory to promote, which is poison to a book like this. The absolute low point is the chapter by David Nivison, and I have no idea why the editors didn't reject it. It's full of polemical claims about dating and composition for which he almost never provides evidence (aside from phrases like "most scholars consider", which doesn't even fly on Wikipedia). When he does hint at what evidence he's using, his reasoning is generally circular (we know text A was written in century B because it has idea C. We know idea C comes from century B because it is recorded in text A). He's also sassy and arrogant, which wouldn't have annoyed me if he had actually done the work.

The two best chapters are the are those on the Spring and Autumn period by Cho-yun Hsu and early imperial China's relationship to pre-imperial China by Michael Loewe. Aside from that, there are better ways of familiarizing yourself with most of these topics.