Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History


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Wills recounts and questions the wonderfully shocking stories about the seventh-century Empress Wu, an astute ruler and shaper of an increasingly centralized monarchy, who has since assumed a prominent position in the Chinese tradition's rich gallery of bad examples--because she was a woman meddling in politics. The portrayal of Mao Zedong, which touches upon this leader's earthy personality and his reckless political visions, demonstrates the tendency of the Chinese not to divorce ideology from its human context: Maoism for them is a form of "objective" Marxism, inseparable from one man's life and leadership.

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Each of the twenty chapters provides a many-sided exploration of a "slice" of Chinese history, engaging the general reader in a deep and personal encounter with China over the centuries and today. The biographies repeatedly mirror the moral earnestness of the Chinese, the great value they place on the ruler-minister relationship, and their struggles with tensions among practicality, moral idealism, and personal authenticity.

Culminating in a reflection on China's historical direction in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, the biographies show the modern Chinese still inspired and frustrated by a complex heritage of moral fervor and political habits and preconceptions. As absorbing as it is wide ranging, this history is written for the general public curious about China and for the student beginning to study its rich cultural heritage. This new edition highlights important figures that have emerged in China since the book's initial publication and provides updated suggestions for further reading.

Mountain of Fame : Portraits in Chinese History.

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Like Sima Qian's great history, Wills' book tells the story of China through selected biographies of its political, intellectual and religious leaders. The subjects include the famous and the lesser known - from the great philosopher Confucius and historian Sima Qian to the first president of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-Sen; and the Marxist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. He profiles scholars such as Su Dongpo C. Of all the Chinese leaders, Wills said, he would like to have met Su Dongpo the most.

The book culminates with a reflection on China's historical direction in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, profiling political leaders such as Deng Xiaoping and intellectual dissidents like astrophysicist Fang Lizhi and journalist Liu Binyan.

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Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History

Mountain of Fame also seeks to emphasize some of Chinese history's major themes. Wills's [book] its originality and its effectiveness is the artful span of examples he has chosen, examples that not only range across time Among the important themes are Buddhism and Taoism - the major religious threads that bind China's culture - and, beginning with the account of Confucius, the idea of "the Way of the ruler and the minister.

Mountain of Fame is rooted in an undergraduate Chinese history course that Wills has taught at USC during the last 15 years. An architect of the current General Education program, he was asked to teach an introduction to Chinese history in the late s to satisfy a GE requirement in non-Western cultures.

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Faced with the impossible task of covering 5, years of a culture that remains elusive to Westerners, Wills came up with the course "Chinese Lives," based on the concept of teaching Chinese history through biographies placed in historical context. Finding a dearth of appropriate source material, Wills began composing his own biographies as assigned readings.

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The approach proved popular, as the course has drawn up to students in some semesters. At some point as he was writing up material for the class, Wills realized he had the makings of a book.

He met with a representative of Princeton Press, who then asked to see a draft. The publisher, it turned out, was looking for scholarly books that would be accessible to the general reader. Mountain of Fame works as an introduction to Chinese history, Wills said, because it deals in stories - a natural, appealing format.

Because China is so mystifying to people in the West, Wills suggests readers skim the book, then go back to study more closely certain sections of interest. The book is worth rereading, he said, "not because I'm so terribly smart, but because I'm quoting and writing about some very deep stuff" - such as Confucius and Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch and founder of the Southern School of Chan Zen Buddhism. In the chapter on Confucius, Wills departed from other studies by trying to provide a sense of the First Teacher's life.


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Most books discuss his teachings at length but don't attempt to produce a coherent biography. Wills suggests that Confucius' collected sayings give clues to the events of his life.

Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Read Online Book

He pieces together a story of Confucius' activities and political involvements starting from one of the philosopher's most famous passages of self-revelation:. At fifteen I set my heart on learning; at thirty I had a place to stand; at forty I came to be free from doubts; at fifty I understood the decree of Heaven; at sixty I could hear [that decree] and submit; at seventy I followed my heart's desire without overstepping the bounds.

Analects , II, 4. Wills said his portrayal of Confucius as "a living, breathing, struggling and frustrated human being," as a minister who sought political success and tried to teach "the Way" of the ancient kings, shows how his book tries to short-circuit the Western perception of China as impenetrably weird and mystical.

Manfred Elfstrom's research looks at the growing wave of labor unrest in China, the state's response, and the the long-term implications for both activists and the government. Please join the USC U.

Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History
Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History

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