Mark Edward Lewis (1) (1954–)

Författare till The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han

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Om författaren

Mark Edward Lewis is Kwoh-Ting Li Professor in Chinese Culture, Stanford University. He is the author of The Early Chinese Empires and China's Cosmopolitan Empire (both from Harvard).


Verk av Mark Edward Lewis

Associerade verk

China (2000) — Bidragsgivare — 75 exemplar
Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States (2015) — Bidragsgivare — 8 exemplar


Allmänna fakta

Vedertaget namn
Lewis, Mark Edward
Namn enligt folkbokföringen
Lewis, Mark Edward
Andra namn
Lewis, Mark E.
Lewis, Mark
Land (för karta)
United States of America
University of Chicago
Stanford University



So, while it's true that this is kind of a dry monograph, that's almost a virtue, as the author gives you the schematics of how the Qin dynasty differed from the Zhou and the Warring States that preceded them, and how their successors, the Han, compared and contrasted with them. In the last case the answer is not as much as Han propaganda would suggest! The real problem with the Qin is that having created a social machine for total war, the first historic emperor really didn't know how to make peace. While much of this will probably not be news to serious scholars of Chinese history, there was a lot of clarification for me, and I expect to be reading further books in this series.… (mer)
Shrike58 | 8 andra recensioner | Apr 19, 2022 |
I have never felt so much the dirty, smelly Westerner that I am as while I was reading the opening chapters of this book. While my ancestors were eating chestnuts, probably raw, and fighting a rear-guard action against the unwanted, unnecessary innovation of 'fire', people in China were creating the totalitarian state. That sounds bad, but consider the intellectual leap necessary to organize hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people into a unified polity. Remarkable stuff.

Those opening chapters really are doozies: on the one hand, structured around themes (geography, military, politics), on the other, giving you just enough information that you'll have an elevator speech about the Qin and Han (Warring states period ends, Qin create something like the first empire; it falls apart after the death of the first emperor; the Han win out among the following chaos; they separate themselves from the more horrifying aspects of Qin methods, while taking over enough to keep the empire unified).

And then, like the Chinese empire after the death of the first Qin emperor, the book falls apart. The thematic chapters are no doubt very nice for students looking specifically for information about, e.g., the topography of Chinese market towns. They are not very useful for understanding why things happened when they happened. By intentionally avoiding narrative, Lewis makes it almost impossible to judge the importance of the facts he provides to the reader. Thank heavens for the chronology at the end of the book.

Lewis does a good job avoiding some fashionable nonsense ("Eastern Imperialism is just a projection of Western prejudice"), but swallows a lot of it whole. I can't be the only reader upset that e.g., the Yellow Turban movement, which *Lewis* says was a major cause of the Han dynasty's ultimate fall, gets about two paragraphs of text--whereas merchants get two pages, and a bunch of nonsense theory about how they were subverting the imperial center by selling gooseberries or whatever. Welcome to contemporary academia: actual revolutions or rebellions are ignored; the soi disant subversion of everyday life is always *this close* to instaurating utopia.

Anyway, given how little up to date writing there is on ancient China, you have no option but to read this book, or remain mostly ignorant. And so I'll probably keep reading the series. But this was a real missed opportunity to do the job well.
… (mer)
stillatim | 8 andra recensioner | Oct 23, 2020 |
This is smart but austere survey of the first two dynasties of China, dating from 221 BC to 220 AD. The Qin and Han Dynasties arose from the bedlam of the Warring States, a sort of perpetual civil war which most accounts portray as a military stalemate with mass peasant misery occurring underfoot over a couple hundred years. Nothing novel there, just more of it. This all changed with the Qin who rose from that region to unite the central portion of the mainland which was understood to be somewhat nominal China at the time. This enterprise despite being short-lived, it lasted 15 years, fomented some interesting ideas about political philosophy, an idea called legalsim after the fact. The notion is that humans are mean and lazy and the state should restrict their impulses and channel them towards positive outlets, outlets like agriculture and war. This notion caught on, which is really impressive, given that it is 200 BC. There were egalitarian measures along the way about land distribution but these are shot down by the GOP, I mean the wealthy families whose members in government always lean against these propositions. The author is in his spare accounts of these matters, appears to be Foucauldian. He ruminates on the use of space in urban areas and palaces, especially how the Han Emperors preferred to be "hidden or invisible".

Kinship is very saucy in this context. Land inheritance isn't as significant as government appointments in terms of advancement or ambition. One has to grease the wheels somehow. There is a reign of serial gifts which isn't exclusively corruption as it has metaphysical dividends with the ones' ancestors and related vague purgatorial bullshit. The role of women is likewise dorsal and volatile. Mothers, stepmothers and daughters murk about and skew the more conservative patriarchal dynamics. The anecdotes about such made me appreciate my knowledge of Asian action cinema, such has come in handy, finally.

This is an adequate point of departure, though lacking too juicy a bibliography for me personally. I am moving on.
… (mer)
jonfaith | 8 andra recensioner | Feb 22, 2019 |



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