Chinese History

From The Ruins of Empire

October 11, 2012

If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I like books that look at familiar history from another point of view. (For example, here, and here, and here.) It should be no surprise that Pankaj Mishra’s latest book caught my eye. In From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who […]

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Industrial Espionage

September 4, 2012

The Chinese produced luxury silk fabrics for several thousand years before they began trading with the west. Scraps of dyed silk gauze found in a neolithic site in Zhejiang Province date from 3600 BCE. Silk fabrics woven in complex patterns were produced in the same region by 2600 BCE. By the time of the Zhou […]

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From Confucius to Air Traffic Control

August 28, 2012

In 130 BCE, the Chinese emperor Han Wudi came up with a new idea for how to choose government bureaucrats. He established a civil service of Confucian scholars, known in English as mandarins, who earned their positions by passing a standardized examination. The system still favored those from privileged families who could afford to give […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again: Drug Wars

January 17, 2012

A growing number of addicts.  A ruthless business cartel.  A country determined to close its borders to imported drugs.  Violence and corruption in major cities.  Sound familiar? Welcome to the Opium War of 1839. In the late eighteenth century, opium was a key element in the British East India Company’s business plan.  The company grew […]

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