Chinese history texts can, for the general reader, collapse into a confusing morass of difficult names, which look very similar, or at least are difficult to remember and get a fix on. Cultural histories can give you a disjointed dip into beuatiful and interesting things, but the historical moorings tend to part too easily. "A magnificent Shang bronze funeral vessel" - but what was the Shang? And so on. What is truly remarkable about this book is its balance.A moderately careful, unrushed read of it will unfold chronologies, political and military developments, geography, the history of ideas, and cultural artefacts side by side, with a most helpful clarity. The writing is relaxed and direct, makes modern sense, without straining to be "contemporary" or "relevant." There is also a good deal of common sense. For example,if patriotic Chinese historians want to stress the uniqueness of their country's ancient cultures,they may run the risk of suggesting that it is superior to ignore cultural and technological influences from neighbouring civilizations, whereas surely the more impressive characteristic is to adopt what works, and make it your own - which is what, the author demonstrates, early Chinese states did. So there is a kind of civilised calm about this book which is most attractive. I look forward to seeing how the author will deal with the Maoist years.
In short, this book is an excellent exemplar of a one-volume introductory history, and it is copiously and well-illustrated. Or as you might say, its yin and yang are in perfect harmony.