Bringing to bear 60 years of research, travel, and teaching, Fairbank weaves a detailed history that reaches from China's neolithic days to its troubled present. He depicts a country ever-changing and yet constant in its effort to achieve a cohesive identity, an enormous and enormously complex nation perpetually balancing between the imperatives of force and the power of ideas. Here are the Chinese autocrats in their various times and guises, maintaining Confucian civility and order through - paradoxically - the perpetual threat of irrational imperial violence. Here is the intellectual class, revered for its wisdom and counsel and yet - as events from the Cultural Revolution to the massacre in Tiananmen Square demonstrate - eminently expendable. And here are China's farmers engaged in a never-ending attempt to tame their countryside only to face repeated famine as China's agrarian-based economy fails to develop. At the centre of all stands the Chinese family, until recently the model for both obedience and tyranny in society at large. Fairbank traces the growth of a civilization that could embrace so many contradictions and disruptions and yet retain a strong sense of its identity. Following China's ambivalent relations with the West and with the forces of modernization, he identifies, even in the great leap forward signaled by the Communist Revolution, the assumptions that have informed Chinese society for thousands of years. From the influences of Buddhism through the flowering of Song China to the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, this illustrated history unfolds.
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