on 20 January 2001
The rulers of a period of 2100 years are described in 224 richly illustrated pages with additional time lines, quotes and special features, so the books can not dig very deep into the characters of the Emperors. Eleven rulers of five dynasties in the period 907-960 are described in 1 paragraph only, but famous Emperors like Qin Shihuangdi, Xuanzong, Kublai Khan and Qianlong are described in more than 3 pages each. Nevertheless, the story of the Chinese Emperors and dynasties is a very interesting one. Not only the decline of a dynasty was marked by murders and suicides. The only reigning Empress of China ever, Wu Zetian, remained in power by murdering other members of the imperial family. Ming Jiajing narrowly escaped being strangled by his concubines and Prince Wuzong was chosen as Emperor by the eunuchs, who slew two rival candidates and their mothers. Still, some Emperors were mainly interested in artistic, intellectual or spiritual pursuits. The special features give additional background information with topics like the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army and the Forbidden City.
For all Chinese Emperors the book shows the Chinese signs, the temple name and the deaths of their accession and their death. From 400 AD onwards gradually the birth date, name of the parents and wives, the number of children and the place of the tomb are added. The book really gives a clear overview. What I especially liked were the tables with information about each Emperor and the many portraits.
on 9 June 2002
As with almost all the books in this series Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors is intriguing, but suffers from the problem of being too brief to cover it's ancient subjects.
Despite this I found that this book gave a tantilising taste of the live of the "Sons of Heaven". This book is a brilliant starting point for anyone intersted in Imperial Chinese history, and encourages further reading. I did particulary like the fact box on every emperor, listing their name, their tomb location and other facts when available.
One thing that greatly dissapointed me was the pages on the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. The author simply reeled off the age old injustices that have been attributed to this woman by sensationalist British men, encompassing the traditional notion that all women in power are evil hoars. The author would have done well to take into account the more modern and balanced portrait of this shy and chaste woman painted from actual historic evidence, rather than the completely unbelievable stories of her thousands of lovers, particulary "Dragon Lady" by Sterling Seagrave. I realise I have focused on a few short pages, but when you are faced with such blatently prejudiced and unresearched information, it casts a shadow over the rest of the manuscript. Despite this I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone.
on 16 May 2010
If one asked, it is unlikely that most people could name more than one or two of the Chinese emperors. One of the reasons for this is that, with the exception of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (literally the first Qin Emperor) and his short-lived son Er Shi, the Chinese emperors did not adopt the convention of numerically differentiating rulers as in Europe and elsewhere(e.g. Henry VII, Louis XIII). Another reason is that each emperor had a personal name, dynasty name and temple name. This can be something of a frustration for someone studying Chinese history. As has been pointed out, this is something of a short book (although any book on Chinese history inevitably too short!). Its shortness is not a downfall however. On its own, it provides a neat and brief narrative history of China from the establishment of the Empire in the 3rd century BC to the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Its great use, however, is as a co-reference when reading or studying Chinese history. It is easy to get lost in the maze of imperial naming traditions. Afterall, individual reigns make a convenient way of dividing up historical study. This book is of great help in this respect.
The book is very well produced, with a large number of photographs and other illustrations that enhance the excellent text. I have no hesitation in recommending this book for both the casual reader and the more serious student of Chinese history.
This richly illustrated volume looks at the lives of all 157 emperors, from Qin Shihuangdi, builder of the Great Wall in 220 BC up to Puyi the 'last emperor' deposed in 1911. Incorporates informative little articles on topics like the Mongols, Buddhist art and the Civil Service. Although little known to western readers, one soon sees that the Chinese royal family was just like those of Europe with its scheming, intrigues and murders. Wonderful and very readable introduction to this period of history