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East Asian
ancient history
The Imperial Capitals of China: A Dynastic History of the Celestial Empire
 
 
Author
Arthur Cotterell.
Publisher Overlook  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 1.1 inches
ISBN 9781590200070
Pages/Publication Date 303/2007
Daedalus Item Code 22294
This item is not available.
Description
From the Shang Emperor's obsessive attempts to engage the Immortals with cosmologically pleasing urban planning in the 3rd century BC, Chinese emperors have designed their various imperial capitals in ways that reveal the cultural influences of the period. The Tang capital at Chang'an betrays the creativity and cultural receptiveness that earmark the era as a literary and artistic golden age, for example, while the Forbidden City of 15th-century Beijing still stands as testament to Ming dynasty architectural virtuosity. Arthur Cotterell provides an inside view of the personalities, political and ideological tensions, and technological genius that defined the imperial cities of China.

"China's cities, notes Cotterell, played an important role in symbolizing the legitimacy of a new regime; upstart emperors spent untold treasure and lives on building magnificent capitals, carefully laid out on principles of cosmology and feng shui, to demonstrate their assumption of the Mandate of Heaven. These cities furnish the author with splendid panoramas of 2,300 years of Chinese civilization. Working with maps, photos, reproductions of Chinese art and literary accounts, he recreates the cosmopolitanism of medieval Chang'an, the commercial bustle of Song dynasty Hangzhou and the sublime architecture of Beijing's Forbidden City. These set pieces frame a sprightly history of China up to the founding of the republic. Cotterell elucidates large-scale themes—the long seesaw battle between China and its nomadic neighbors, the Confucian scholar-bureaucracy's struggle to control the state, and the cycle of imperial despotism and peasant revolt—while sketching a picaresque chronicle of dynastic succession and court intrigue, complete with overmighty eunuchs and scheming concubines. The result is a fine evocation of China as both a place and a story."—Publishers Weekly

 
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