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China Land of Dragons and Emperors by Adeline Yen Mah

cover image Allen and Unwin, 2008
A timely production with the Beijing Olympic Games just around the corner, this book by Adeline Yen Mah will have classes enthralled. Not only is it a spirited history book, but it contains dozens of entertaining asides and anecdotes which will thrill and titillate the reader. I found myself wholly engrossed in this chatty history book, revealing the scope of China's history from the time of the first emperor to today.

Beginning with the first emperor, Quin Shi-huang, ascending the throne in 247 BC ready to amalgamate the seven states, the reader is given an overview of just how he maintained power, deciding to build the Great Wall, and using 700,000 men from all over China to build his tomb. His tyrannical rule saw canals, highways and bridges built, and he stipulated that every book before his rule be burned and that history should begin with him. Within this chapter is also a double page spread about the Terracotta Army and a scattering of astounding facts about the tomb.

Each of the 10 chapters goes on in this vein, giving a potted history, an amazement of facts and inserts which reveal more information about specific subjects. In chapter three concerning the Han dynasty, we read of the Silk Road, in chapter five, within the Tang dynasty appears a double page spreads about Printing. Each chapter has a specialist section within its pages, expanding on something for which China is famous.

For the specialist or for the interested reader, for the student, class and teacher, this book is a winner. Its profusion of photos, drawings, maps, and inserts makes it an entertaining and informative book to read. In a class room, a set of this book will be a most useful addition for students of China, history or the Olympics. It gives a tantalising insight into the country where this year's Olympic Games is to be held; a country which is gaining in prestige and influence in world politics and a country to which Australia is increasingly tied. Highly recommended.
Fran Knight


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