China: a macro history by Ray Huang

By Ray Huang

This brief historical past of China incorporates a new preface, extra illustrations and a extra reader-friendly layout.

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Chinese metallurgy, even with its primitively developed specimens, shows a unique technological approach that does not suggest imitation. The major food plants in ancient China and the prehistorical Near East point to separate agricultural origins as well. Anthropologists and archaeologists nowadays can even elaborate on the several regional origins stretching from Manchuria to the Pearl River that contributed to China's ancient civilization. But while the pendulum swings in favor of the theory of the independent origin of Chinese civilization, it does not empower anyone to say for sure that the case is closed.

Turning back to Mao, the Chronology points out that his tomb was constructed against his expressed wish, thus arguing that his memorial in front of the Tiananmen Square should never have been built. In my memory, no Chinese regime, imperial or republican, ancient or modern, has ever spoken of its leader with such candor and shown so much willingness to rectify itself. Incidentally, because the Chronology was prepared by the Party's history section, it should exert some influence on Chinese politics in the foreseeable future.

Few of us, even the most undaunted, could have come out of it unperturbed, if still unscathed. Yet 1987 is not another year of disillusionment. All indications are that the longest revolution in the world has come to a fruitful conclusion. China is now experiencing a genuine reign of peace, for the first time in her modern history. Time has assuaged the agony that came with war and upheaval. Foes of the past can now regard one another with not only sympathy but also admiration because they begin to see the long-term rationality of history, which has superseded revolutionary rhetoric of all kinds, and is by itself larger than the worlds of Mao and Chiang combined.

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