The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History

The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History

Joanna Waley-Cohen

Language: English

Pages: 331


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This powerful work puts to rest the long-held myth that Chinese civilization is monolithic, unchanging, and perennially cut off from the rest of the world.

An inviting history of China from the days of the ancient Silk Road to the present, this book describes a civilization more open and engaged with the rest of the world than we think. Whether in trade, religious belief, ideology, or technology, China has long taken part in fruitful exchange with other cultures. With implications for our understanding of and our policies toward China, this is a must read.




















never amount to much nationally, was less important than what suited Soviet purposes. It preferred to remain allied with Sun’s Guomindang, which it thought had a better chance of achieving national power in China or certainly of doing so before the still-fledgling Communists did. Soviet and Comintern insistence on an alliance between the Chinese Communists and the Nationalists also had to do with the growing rift in the Soviet Union between Stalin and Trotsky. Trotsky had denounced the CCP’s

also an hundred club-bearers and thirty hawk-bearers. Furthermore a thousand horsemen surround and guard him, and three hundred body-slaves bear bucklers [sic] and swords. Two men carry the king’s arms before him, and a hundred kettle-drummers follow him on horseback. The whole pageant is very grand! The people live on cakes, and flesh; they eat no rice. Dry weather usually prevails. The government extends over sixteen provinces with a circumference of over sixty stages. When rain falls the

its tenacity. In this realm of intellectual transmission too, much more than religion crossed the world with the caravans and carracks of international trade. Many travelers carried with them news of the latest breakthroughs in astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and technology. Nor was China simply the passive recipient of imported goods and ideas. Over time countless elements of Chinese culture, both material and spiritual, and including such originally foreign aspects as Buddhism, found their

of technology, conceivably of use to would-be rebels. No less important, it was wholly out of the question for the emperor to suggest a need for outside help. To the contrary, Qianlong realized there was considerable propaganda value, domestic and international, to be gained from declaring China’s self-sufficiency to a foreign state of whose potential menace against Chinese national security China was quite conscious. This emperor, with his pretensions to universal monarchy, was hardly likely

the imperialists’ patronizing derogation of their country and their effective denial of China’s right to an independent voice. The powers, having bullied China for more than half a century, now took it for granted that they could continue to impose their will without too much trouble. For Chinese, the sense of possibilities had rarely been stronger. The prospect of one of those possibilities—extinction of the nation—was so excruciating that the search for a feasible alternative absorbed enormous

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