For millennia, China was the largest and richest nation on earth. Two centuries ago, however, its economy sank into a depression from which it had not fully recovered-until now. China's modern resurgence as the world's largest nation in terms of population and its second-largest economy — where 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the space of a few decades-is the greatest untold story of the 21st century.
A Brief History of China tells of the development of a rich and complex civilisation where the use of paper, writing, money and gunpowder were widespread in ancient times and where silk, ceramics, tea, metal implements and other products were produced and exported around the globe. It examines the special conditions that allowed a single culture to unify an entire continent spanning 10 billion square kilometres under the rule of a single man-and the unbelievably rich artistic, literary and architectural heritage that Chinese culture has bequeathed to the world. Equally fascinating is the story of China's decline in the 19th and early 20th century — as Europeans and Americans took centre-stage — and its modern resurgence as an economic powerhouse in recent years.
Today China is a land of gleaming skyscrapers and expressways with the world's largest consumer economy, its biggest network of high-speed trains and a digital infrastructure second to none. But China is also beset by problems — a seemingly homogenous culture with 55 ethnic minorities and a top-down political system where checks and balances are largely absent.
Clements goes back 5000 years, and even brings readers through to the present day, outlining China's economic renaissance under Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping. Often seen in the West in black or white terms-as either a savage dystopia or a fantastical paradise — China is revealed in the book as an exceptional yet troubled nation that nevertheless warrants its self-description as the Middle Kingdom.
The principal pillars of Bushido--the Samurai warrior's code--are loyalty, filial piety, bravery and mercy. Tsunetomo Yamamoto, the author of the "Hagakure," lived his life based on these principles and was willing to sacrifice his own life for them when his liege and master died. However, Shogunate law forbade Samurai retainers from taking their lives in this way, so Yamamoto became a monk instead--spending the last years of his life in seclusion recording his wisdom and insights in the "Hagakure" for the teaching and training of future Samurai warriors in the essence of Bushido. Written nearly 300 years ago, the "Hagakure" is one of the most influential of all Japanese texts. Its power has been felt throughout the world, and yet its existence is barely known to Westerners. Alexander Bennett's completely new and highly readable translation of this essential work is the most complete version of the "Hagakure" published to date. This is the first translation to include the entire first two books of the "Hagakure," and the most authentic passages of the third book. It contains extensive footnotes that fill in many cultural and historical gaps found in previous translations. The combination of readability and scholarship gives Bennett's translation a distinct advantage over all earlier English editions of this work. Reading this compendium of tales by a faithful and devoted Samurai provides unique insights into the nature of Samurai service and the warrior's role in Japanese history and society.
'Lucid and lyrical...a vivid history of Japan's turbocharged (and painful) modernisation.' — The Daily Telegraph
In A History of Modern Japan, cultural historian Christopher Harding delves into the untold stories of Japan's recent history — from a pop star's nuclear power protest song in 2011, to Japanese feminists who fought for an equal political voice in the 1890s. Though highly successful, and typically portrayed as a unified effort, Japan's rebuilding throughout the 20th century faced a lot of domestic criticism. This story-led account gives a voice to those who felt they didn't fit in with what Japan was becoming. It's that push and pull that made the country what it is today.
This book will be a fascinating read for anyone interested in Japanese culture--whether film and literature, or pop culture and manga--as big shifts in Japanese ideology and society tend to come from culture and the arts, rather than being politically-driven. It will also be of interest to those traveling to Japan who want a better sense of the place, or anyone seeking to better understand Japan's role on the global stage. With over 100 photographs, maps and prints, A History of Modern Japan showcases the compelling story of Japan's amazing growth and its resulting struggles. For all the country's advancement, the Japanese people continue to wrestle with the notion of what it means to be Japanese in a changing world.
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