A decent introduction to a regional history, however, this is another testament to how difficult it is to write a comprehensive history for an entire region over a time span It very quickly becomes clear what Holcombe s background is medieval China , as particular periods and particular areas receive a lot attention With the steady increase of region focused programmes instead of country specific ones, I would argue that collaborative works would still be preferable Holcombe provides a clear narrative with many of the major events present in this book but his chapters on the Korean peninsula, Japan, and Vietnam are significantly less detailed and generally weaker in respective order than his chapters on China and Taiwan I would recommend this as your first book into the region and suggest that you look at his recommended readings lists for in depth works on specific periods and or areas. This is an extremely detailed book about the history of east asia It covers all emperors, kings, queens and relevant concubines It spans over such a large period of time, that I am unsure if I remember much if what I read but it certainly does cover enough to give you a general idea of the rise of East Asian countries I was most interested over the recent communist capitalist feud in East Asia, which Is why I picked up the book Looking back now, maybe a political book would have addressed my questions better than a historical book but this book definitely does what it is meant to it gives you the highlight of what happened in that part of the continent. A slim 380 pages history of all of East Asia China, Korea, and Japan , from its prehistory up until approx 2010 that doesn t fall flat on its face is quite an accomplishment Holcombe manages to pull it off I don t know enough about the region period to complain about inaccuracies and or over condensation but the condensation was perfectly readable for the ignorant layman lout I am never too much, never quite too little.A bit dry in parts, but otherwise highly recommended. The second edition of Charles Holcombe s A History of East Asia for Cambridge University Press is printed in a textbook format rather than one for general readers Hence it has tall, wide pages densely packed with text and is not at all convenient for reading on the go in the way of mass market paperback histories such as The Penguin History of Latin America or The Fortunes of Africa, which I also read recently.Nonetheless, also lashing out on the expensive ebook circumvented that problem and it is definitely comparable to those two works as large scale, broad scope histories go The working definition of East Asia for this book is a primarily cultural one which includes China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam This does of course entail a huge variety of political entities historically, and today there are still such complexities as Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong and the two Koreas to consider Even Singapore rates a brief sub chapter near the end.Vietnam is often excluded from such definitions, and although Holcombe argues persuasively for its inclusion, he also devotes by far the least word count to it and at times it feels like an afterthought Conversely, Mongolia often does appear in such definitions but here Holcombe has elected not to write its history per se, although inevitably it frequently arises in light of the Mongol impact on much of the world Tibet, similarly, is scarcely mentioned save for its relations with China.As such broad brush stroke histories go, this book makes a decent fist of balancing all the possible focus areas and of illustrating trends, commonalities and differences This includes discussion of major intellectual, cultural and theological ideas such as Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and later Marxism, which spread and changed through the lens of different languages, then in turn reflected back on and influenced the cultures and languages from which they had come This discussion extends to specific individuals, movements and artworks and especially to literature.Arguably the most prominent emphasis, and the one that ties the above together, is on the complex nature of group identity It is easy especially for Westerners to adopt a view of relatively homogenous people in any of these countries In all of them to some extent but particularly in China, this book demonstrates how misguided such views are.China has numerous indigenous peoples who were in important respects different from Han Chinese, for example More than that, the empire has been subject to rule by dynasties of Mongols and Manchus Where it gets particularly complex is that the subjects adopted customs of these rulers, and those rulers of their subjects, until in some cases they came to be regarded as representing legitimately Chinese culture in contrast to foreign adversaries There is also plenty of emphasis on economics, with some effort made to give a sense of its impact upon and contribution from all levels of society Military matters are dealt with cursorily, as the details are unimportant on this scale as compared to the outcomes Political history is frequently addressed and shown to be intimately tied to all these other aspects.One aspect which may surprise is how cities we now take for granted as among the largest and most important in the world, such as Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai, were unimportant or even non existent for large parts of history A book with such a high level perspective has the ability to illustrate the impermanence and fluidity of human institutions which may otherwise appear to us as bastions of stability since time immemorial Certainly it gives the lie to propagandist appeals to alleged traditions spanning milllenia.Holcombe subscribes to the view of World War II as having commenced in 1937 with the Japanese invasion of China proper Whilst I can see an argument for that, I am accustomed to thinking of it as a regional war which happened to be subsumed into the global conflict The reason for calling it a World War is, after all, due to the involvement of a substantial part of the world as a function of Europe s colonial empires and alliances Holcombe doesn t mention any scholarly disagreement over the date and learning about that debate could, in itself, be constructive.Matters take an amusing turn when he tries to talk seriously about globalisation and cross pollination of pop culture He manages to call Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a Japanese show, which is not quite the whole story And seeing Hello Kitty and Gangnam Style mentioned in an academic history book is good for a giggle.Helpful supplementary materials are provided, including a particularly useful pronunciation guide which I have as yet gone nowhere near to memorising, much less mastering.One could always raise quibbles, but in its totality this book is fit for its purpose as an introductory overview to a region of the world that at times has had a third of the world s population and to which the locus of global power is increasingly shifting thus far in the 21st century. A good but not perfect summary of East Asian History.Obviously, it is hard to go into details in 350 pages on such a bright topic East Asian civilization is one of the oldest and richest on this planet after all However this book will provide you an excellent introduction if you do not know much about this part of the world Nevetherless the choice of excluding Vietnam might be discutable, but this is an eternal debate to determine if the smaller dragon is indeed eastern or southeastern Asian I have personally always considered it as eastern asian Another critic I might pronounce is the strong dominance of chinese history in this book, for each era, the chapter about China is as long as the chapters about Japan and Korea together Of course, China is central in asian history and even in ancient times , but in the end, it seems sometimes that you are reading A history of China and its influences on the neighbouring countries than a history of East Asia Last point, by the end of the book, as the modern times are reached, the author seems to adopt a very american vision of the World measuring the progress of a country through its degree of americanization As I said, it is not a perfect book, but it is a very satisfying and relevant work for an introduction to eastern Asia. I endorse other reviews that it is a pretty decent introduction East Asian History.I picked up this book as someone without any understanding of any Asian culture with an intention to get a light grasp about the beginnings of East Asia and how the different culture have evolved to become what they are now This book fulfilled its promiseI was quite ignorant to the fact how big of an influence China has played in the entire region, I knew a bit about the Chinese civilization but could have never grasped the entire entanglements and influence of China on each country and its faint remains within each culture and even language to this day Due to the mightiness and especially long history China takes up a large part of the book which is not surprising since it has shaped the entire region But also China itself was in a constant flow and changed with each dynasty or e.g occupation through the Mongols What is interesting is that Chinese despite such inner diversity different ethnic groups formed such an empire and always adopted to the current circumstances Rather than fighting to the last drop of blood, some regions for instance, adopted and the Mongolian influences, wore their dresses etc China, remained open minded to different cultural influences and religions or less consistently until Mao Whereas, other nations did differ substantially which can be seen to this day.The book goes through all development sections until now, so it can be quite interesting to see the rise and fall of certain nations and the probable cause of such ingrained within the capacity of certain region but also determined by the culture The book doesn t bear any strong political character but it s quite helpful to the understanding of the political development since culture forestalls the politics and both influence each other. Holcombe provides a comprehensive description of the region, focusing mostly on China, Japan, and Korea As a textbook that is meant mostly for today s undergraduate, I think it lacks in a few areas The graphics and visual accompaniment in general are disappointing, missing the opportunity to enhance the history with widely available images I also found that there were not enough supportive primary source references Instead, in many of the sections within each chapter, Holcombe often drew conclusions from a Western perspective after summarizing the big events of the different historical periods Despite its flaws, the book does offer a glimpse into this frequently misunderstood region. Charles Holcombe Begins His Extraordinarily Ambitious Book By Asking The Question What Is East Asia In The Modern Age, Many Of The Features That Made The Region Now Defined As Including China, Japan, And Korea Distinct Have Been Submerged By The Effects Of Revolution, Politics, Or Globalization Yet, As An Ancient Civilization, The Region Had Both An Historical And Cultural Coherence It Shared, For Example, A Confucian Heritage, Some Common Approaches To Buddhism, A Writing System That Is Deeply Imbued With Ideas And Meaning, And Many Political And Institutional Traditions This Shared Past And The Interconnections Among Three Distinct, Yet Related Societies Are At The Heart Of This Book, Which Traces The Story Of East Asia From The Dawn Of History To The Early Twenty First Century Charles Holcombe Is An Experienced And Sure Footed Guide Who Encapsulates, In A Fast Moving And Colorful Narrative, The Vicissitudes And Glories Of One Of The Greatest Civilizations On Earth Terrific introduction to the history of early China, Korea and Japan There is a wealth of information here and plenty to justify the inclusion of all countries though it does make for a sweeping history The closer you look at China the confusing it is and Holcombe has found an odd balance between detail to explain trends and dynastic development without getting lost in nitty gritty and providing a narrative nonetheless If you even have a cursory understanding of China, this is no mean feat At 400 pages covering basic, essential history they don t teach you in school Canada , you should go read this book now. Really solid narrative history of East Asia I m not sure if I fully agree with Charles Holcombe that East Asia is a unitary region that shares one civilization, but he certainly persuaded me that these countries must be studied in concert with each other He also reminds us that self evident historical concepts, like nation and superstition, evolve over time, and this phenomenon applies equally to Asia and the West I just wish he had occasionally given proper names in his narrative, instead of saying a general did this or a governor did that Give us the names
There is than one Charles Holcombe in the Goodreads catalog This entry is for Charles 2 Holcombe, East Asia author.
- 430 pages
- A History of East Asia
- Charles Holcombe
- 19 September 2017 Charles Holcombe