A Brief History of the Dynasties of China, Paperback

A Brief History of the Dynasties of China Paperback

Part of the Brief Histories series

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Although China's great empire lasted for longer than any other, no country has suffered so great an imbalance between the fame of its art and obscurity of its history.

The names of the great dynasties are familiar, yet who can actually locate a T'ang horse or a Ming vase in its social or cultural context?

By focusing on the key colourful characters of the eight major dynasties, Bamber Gascoigne brings to life 3500 years of Chinese civilization.

His bird's-eye view starts on the borders of myth. It moves swiftly on to the greatest achievements of language and thought, the cultural treasures and imperial palaces, wars won and lands lost to the Mongols, finally to arrive at the 1912 Revolution, which contained within it the seeds of Communism that ensured the overthrow of the last emperor.

Via this portrait of an empire and its peoples he has opened the door to a world for too long inaccessible to the West.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages, 2 x 8pp of Colour plates
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9781841197913



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I have been coming back and forth to China for 20 years, and for the last 3 years have been living permenantly in Beijing. In that time my husband and I have amassed a large number of books on China, its history and culture. This book by Bamber Gascoigne is the best introduction to Chinese history I have found. He originally wrote it in 1973 but this edition was been revised in 2003, with Chinese names changed from the Wade-Giles romanization used in the past, to the standard Pinyin used today. He has also ;iadded a very thought provoking postscript to the book covering the period after 1912 and the Mao years, and putting them in perspective. The book does not overwhelm the reader with a mass of historical information, something easily done when covering the 3000+ years of Chinese history. It provides a logical and coheasive narrative, making sense of the complexities of the Chinese dynasties. Gascoigne writes in a clear and approachable style, leading the reader through the ages with the lightest of touches, and keeping the massive amount of detail to a manageable level. For anyone interested in China and its history this book is the perfect introduction, and I have recommended it to many people.