A History of China

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10 Ladies of the Court: Clay models which accompanied the dead person to the grave. T'ang period. _In the collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde. Berlin_.

11 Distinguished founder: a temple banner found at Khotcho, Turkestan. _Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin. No. 1B 4524, illustration B 408_.

12 Ancient tiled pagoda at Chengting (Hopei). _Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.

13 Horse-training. Painting by Li Lung-mien. Late Sung period. _Manchu Royal House Collection_.

14 Aborigines of South China, of the "Black Miao" tribe, at a festival. China-ink drawing of the eighteenth century. _Collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin. No. 1D 8756, 68_.

15 Pavilion on the "Coal Hill" at Peking, in which the last Ming emperor committed suicide. _Photo Eberhard_.

16 The imperial summer palace of the Manchu rulers, at Jehol. _Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.

17 Tower on the city wall of Peking. _Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson_.


1 Regions of the principal local cultures in prehistoric times

2 The principal feudal States in the feudal epoch (roughly 722-481 B.C.)

3 China in the struggle with the Huns or Hsiung-nu (roughly 128-100 B.C.)

4 The Toba empire (about A.D. 500)

5 The T'ang realm (about A.D. 750)

6 The State of the Later T'ang dynasty (923-935)


There are indeed enough Histories of China already: why yet another one? Because the time has come for new departures; because we need to clear away the false notions with which the general public is constantly being fed by one author after another; because from time to time syntheses become necessary for the presentation of the stage reached by research.

Histories of China fall, with few exceptions, into one or the other of two groups, pro-Chinese and anti-Chinese: the latter used to predominate, but today the former type is much more frequently found. We have no desire to show that China's history is the most glorious or her civilization the oldest in the world. A claim to the longest history does not establish the greatness of a civilization; the importance of a civilization becomes apparent in its achievements. A thousand years ago China's civilization towered over those of the peoples of Europe. Today the West is leading; tomorrow China may lead again. We need to realize how China became what she is, and to note the paths pursued by the Chinese in human thought and action. The lives of emperors, the great battles, this or the other famous deed, matter less to us than the discovery of the great forces that underlie these features and govern the human element. Only when we have knowledge of those forces and counter-forces can we realize the significance of the great personalities who have emerged in China; and only then will the history of China become intelligible even to those who have little knowledge of the Far East and can make nothing of a mere enumeration of dynasties and campaigns.

Views on China's history have radically changed in recent years. Until about thirty years ago our knowledge of the earliest times in China depended entirely on Chinese documents of much later date; now we are able to rely on many excavations which enable us to check the written sources. Ethnological, anthropological, and sociological research has begun for China and her neighbours; thus we are in a position to write with some confidence about the making of China, and about her ethnical development, where formerly we could only grope in the dark. The claim that "the Chinese race" produced the high Chinese civilization entirely by its own efforts, thanks to its special gifts, has become just as untenable as the other theory that immigrants from the West, some conceivably from Europe, carried civilization to the Far East. We know now that in early times there was no "Chinese race", there were not even "Chinese", just as there were no "French" and no "Swiss" two thousand years ago. The "Chinese" resulted from the amalgamation of many separate peoples of different races in an enormously complicated and long-drawn-out process, as with all the other high civilizations of the world.

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