The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth (Canto original series)

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9780521427074: The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth (Canto original series)

The Great Wall of China is renowned as one of the most impressive and intriguing man-made structures on earth. It is also the subject of an awesome mythology, embedded in both learned and popular imaginations, which has grown up and now obscured the historical record. Even the maps which chart the Wall's position offer erroneous accounts of a phenomenon which has never been accurately surveyed. Arthur Waldron reveals that the notion of an ancient and continuously existing Great Wall, one of modern China's national symbols and a legend in the eyes of the West, is in fact a myth. His fascinating account reveals the strategic and political context for the decision to build walls as fortified defences, and explores its profound implications for nomadic and agricultural life under the Ming dynasty. Taking up the insights offered into more recent Chinese politics, the book concludes with a searching investigation of the Wall's new meanings in the myths - departing from that history - fostered in our own century.

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Book Description:

The notion of an ancient and continuously existing Great Wall is proven a myth in this fascinating account of the strategic and political context behind the Chinese decision to build walls as fortified defences during the Ming Dynasty.

Review:

"In this absorbing, tour de force account of the cult of the Wall, Waldron propels the reader along a fascinating journey of the frontier of China and into the factionalized inner circles of dynastic politics to capture the tension between the syncretic and conservative approaches to foreign policy....an exquisitely crafted chronicle of China's ironic approach of using 'walls' as a way of embracing the larger world." Asian Thought and Society

"Waldron makes a valuable contribution to our historical understanding of China." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

"China's modern rulers have nurtured the popular myth that the Great Wall of China is a single, continuous barrier built in the third century B.C. and surviving to the present. Actually, as Princeton historian Waldron demonstrates in a landmark study, most of what we today call the Great Wall was built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644)...one of the few books that change our basic assumptions about China." Publishers Weekly

"This book has a wisdom, a patience, and a confidence about it that enrich Waldron's wonderful knack for writing history." History Book Club

"Historical writing at its best, a brilliant and very readable account." The Asia Society

"This should be the standard work for some time to come, and may be assigned to graduate students and senior history majors as a model of historical scholarship. Having also pubished interpretive essays on 'warlORD taking fresh looks at concepts Chinese history specialists have taken for granted." Roger B. Jeans, The China Quarterly

"In this absorbing, tour de force account of the cult of the Wall, Waldron propels the reader along a fascinating journey of the frontier of China anad into the factionalized inner circles of dynastic politics to capture the tension between the syncretic and conservative approaches to foreign policy....an exquisitely crafted chronicle of China's ironic approach of using 'walls' as a way of embracing the larger world." Asian Thought and Society

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