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on 25 May 2011
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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on 3 April 2006
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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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2008
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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The perfect companion for all history enthusiasts is the ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKER Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

In 1797, British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge did a little reading on Kublai Khan, smoked some opium, passed out and had a vivid dream the Great Khan’s majestic palaces. He awoke with a 300 line poem already in his head, but was interrupted by his opium dealer, who’d arrived in the middle of the night and took an hour to complete their transaction. Thus, Coleridge forgot most of his poem, and was able to scrounge together a mere 54 lines with which to write one of the most infamous poems in the English language.

John Man not only knows his history, but he also has a way of writing. It’s his prose. He knows exactly where to go with his narrative to convey the most amount of information and keep you interested. In “Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection”, he spent a good deal of time describing modern day Mongolia, the tribulations Mongols faced under Stalin and the emerging risk of Chinese cultural and economic domination, all by relating it to his travels through Mongolia and the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. A sort of steppe travelogue that’s very heavy on the history. It’s not the sort of writing style that’s for everyone, but it really worked for me. Here, in Kublai Khan: The Mongol King Who Remade China” he does the same, recounting his travels through China, modern day Beijing and the ruins of Xanadu, but it’s less so. The bulk of Genghis’ life is, after all, a small collection of details painted over a wide canvas which he have only one limited source for, whereas Kublai’s life we have much more.

The book is divided into four parts – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – which is divided into 17 chapters. Collectively, they cover Kublai’s beginnings; Hulegu’s atrocities in the Middle East; the conquest of Yunnan; the civil war with Ariq-Boke; Kublai’s bureaucratic and religious administration; the key to the Song conquest; both attempts at Japan; Kaidu’s challenge, the attempts at Burma, Vietnam and Java; and the end of his life and his secret burial (amongst other subjects). Oh, and the genesis of Coleridge’s poem.

While I applaud Man for his thoroughness, there is perhaps one area where the book could have used a more detailed history: Nayan’s Rebellion. He does cover it, briefly in the end, but it’s a by-the-way sort of mention. Also, he references the current China-Mongolia relationship in his epilogue, building upon what he’s written in “Genghis Khan”, but largely glossing over that as well. In that regard, it helps to have read the other book, which I highly recommend.
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on 17 August 2012
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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on 28 August 2009
John Man has a thoroughly engaging style that moves effortlessly between past and present in a way that brings history alive. The book is well researched and erudite but never ever boring.
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on 6 December 2014
Very happy with this book, and the seller (laywood3). Will take a while to get through it, but it is well written, clear and concise - John Man being a very good author, in my humble opinion. Facts are laid out in front of you and you are there in the midst of it all. I love these sort of historical books....brilliant!

Highly recommended.

I do hope this review is sufficient for you....I did write a more in-depth review, but it was not accepted by Amazon - absolutely no idea why not! Anyway, Good Luck with your purchase...
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on 30 June 2014
Very interesting and detailed, thorough understanding of the Khan and many detailed accounts of events that provide scarily horrible but factual knowledge on the man.
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on 19 April 2015
Enjoyed this book, after Genghis had to read this.
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on 16 February 2015
Absolutely great, could not put the book down.
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