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Kublai Khan [Hardcover]

John Man
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 April 2006
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree Kublai Khan lives on in the popular imagination thanks to these two lines of poetry by Coleridge. But the true story behind this legend is even more fantastic than the poem would have us believe. He inherited the second largest land empire in history from his grandfather, Genghis Khan. He promptly set about extending this into the biggest empire the world has ever seen, extending his rule from China to Iraq, from Siberia to Afghanistan. His personal domain covered sixty-percent of all Asia, and one-fifth of the world’s land area. The West first learnt of this great Khan through the reports of Marco Polo. Kublai had not been born to rule, but had clawed his way to leadership, achieving power only in his 40s. He had inherited Genghis Khan’s great dream of world domination. But unlike his grandfather he saw China and not Mongolia as the key to controlling power and turned Genghis’ unwieldy empire into a federation. Using China’s great wealth, coupled with his shrewd and subtle government, he created an empire that was the greatest since the fall of Rome, and shaped the modern world as we know it today. He gave China its modern-day borders and his legacy is that country’s resurgence, and the superpower China of tomorrow.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; First Edition edition (3 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593054482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593054482
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 489,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOHN MAN

"The Lion's Share", just published on Kindle, is a new edition of a thriller written years ago about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Since writing the original, I have focused mainly on non-fiction, exploring interests in Central Asia and turning-points in written communication. I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's also probably to do with escaping a secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).

After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, "Alpha Beta" (on the alphabet) and "The Gutenberg Revolution" (on printing), both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on access to Iraq. (There's a fourth revolution, the Internet, about which many others can write far better than me).

My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 with a trip to the Gobi. "Gobi: Tracking the Desert" was the first book on the region since those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrew in the 1920's. As anyone quickly discovers in Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. The result was "Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection," now in 20 languages, and (from 2011) in a new, revised edition. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. "Attila the Hun" and "Kublai Khan" followed.

Another main theme in Mongol history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. "The Terracotta Army" was followed by "The Great Wall". "The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan" (combining history and modern leadership theory) and "Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East" pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.

So recently I have become interested in Japan. For "Samurai: The Last Warrior", I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real Last Samurai, published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.

I live in north London, inspired by a multi-talented, strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.

Product Description

Review

"The gorgeousness of Kublai’s court is splendidly evoked…" -- The Times

Book Description

The authoritative biography of the great Mongol warlord, by the author of Genghis Khan and Attila.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and Fun History 25 May 2011
By Kuma
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kublai Khan is perhaps one of the most influential men in history, but to many in the West, he is perhaps little more than a name. This is perhaps largely because of the complexity of understanding his story, given that it spans so many places and languages and perhaps because unlike Genghis, Kublai had limited direct interaction with the West. This is what makes John Man's book such a pleasure, he really opens up the history of Kublai Khan to lay readers and historians alike, and provides a very compelling read too.
The works appeal is found in the way that Man is able to avoid the pitfalls of writing a narrative history (namely that done badly it can be very dull) with a discussion of the geography and landscapes that the history covers (something many historians fail to engage with). The work takes us all the way through Kublai's life, with good digressions to provide background detail, with more thematic chapters thrown in toward the end. The book is fairly uncontroversial, though students of Japanese history may dislike the characterisation of Japan in the chapter covering the first Mongol Invasion, though this is balanced out by the view taken in the chapter covering the second invasion.
An interesting feature of Man's work is that he cross references his history with his own travels in China and his discussions with people he has met or are involved in certain sites, this may irritate some history purists; however what Man succeeds in doing is perhaps highlighting the efforts of current archaeologists to uncover more history. Certainly you would hope that someone reading the work may help archaeologists with funding for the marine archaeology in Imari Bay.
All in all, this was a really enjoyable read and certainly a good starting point for anyone with a general interest in Kublai Khan.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good popular history. 3 April 2006
Format:Hardcover
Man's style is chatty rather than scholarly, digressive rather than discursive, and the book is all the better for it. I hadn't read any of this history before, so I can't comment on accuracy or balance, but it was a very enjoyable and engaging read. You don't ever really feel that you make a connection with the personal Kublai, but that's probably not really possible over these distances of time and culture. What you do get is a sense of the scale and drive of the Mongol empire, and how it shaped subsequent history - Chinese history in particular. Into the historicial narrative, Man also weaves his personal travels to the key sites. It's a nice way of connecting past and present, even if it doesn't illuminate the subject very much.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and easy to read 19 Oct 2008
By T. R. Alexander TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Following on from his best selling book on Genghis Khan, John Man now turns his hand towards the man who consolidated the Mongol Empire and was one of the most powerful people on Earth, Genghis' grandson Kublai Khan. Kublai completed the conquest of China and ruled the largest land empire the world has ever seen. The book follows the life of Kublai from his birth soon after Beijing fell to Genghis, through his rise to power, his reign, his victories, defeats and finally the influence that his life had on the history of China

This book is written in a similar manner to John Man's previous book on Genghis Khan, with a relaxed and sometimes meandering style that makes the book both easy and enjoyable to read. The book seems very well researched with Man often attempting to give as many sides to the story of Kublai's life as he can from a variety of sources. This is definitely a must read for anyone interested in Mongol or Chinese history but it is also good enough to interest any student of history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The life of Kublai Khan 17 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback
I've finished reading the life of Kublai Khan, who was the grandson of Genghis Khan and the biography was produced by John Man.

Mr Man travelled extensively through China and Mongolia and did the meticulous research of the charismatic Mongolian king and his family and relatives who had influenced him. He was the man who remade and shaped the third largest country. Mr Man's superb analysis and absorbing descriptions convey readers insight of the medieval period of East to West of Asia in line with Marco Polo's journey and his achievements.

The book contains vivid coloured photos of the remaining of the former palace and places where Kublai Khan's family were associated with and where he fought.

I remember the history lessons of Japan that Kublai Khan tried to invade Japan. Mr Man clarifies that Kublai's warriors were not defeated by the wind of heaven, the myth of which inspired the Japanese authority to produce Kamikaze pilots. Kublai's warriors were assailed by a series of unprecedented disasters and the failure was caused by their incompetence to fight through the forested coast.

John Man produced an excellent and thrilling account of one of the most influential kings which sprit still lives on in China and Mongolia. It's a very readable and scholarly history and travel writing.
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