China

A History
By: John Keay
Narrated by: Anne Flosnik
Length: 25 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, Asia
4.0 out of 5 stars (153 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Many nations define themselves in terms of territory or people; China defines itself in terms of history. Taking into account the country's unrivaled, voluminous tradition of history writing, John Keay has composed a vital and illuminating overview of the nation's complex and vivid past. Keay's authoritative history examines 5,000 years in China, from the time of the Three Dynasties through Chairman Mao and the current economic transformation of the country.

Crisp, judicious, and engaging, China is the classic single-volume history for anyone seeking to understand the present and future of this immensely powerful nation.

©2009 John Keay (P)2016 Tantor

What listeners say about China

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Needs new narrator

While the book itself seems great, a well researched and compact history with lively prose, the narrator clearly knows no Chinese and her frequent mispronunciation of names and places makes for difficult listening. E.g. 中国 as jong gwa, 夏 as "shee-yah", 秋 as "chew" These and many more become rather grating and make it hard to take the content itself seriously. Would gladly buy the book again with a new narration

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Exactly what I was looking for in a Chinese history book

This is an excellent narration of a marathon in book format. It is difficult to speed up the narration due to the complexity of its content and I listened at 1.5 speed. China has thousands of years and millions of pages and scrolls of history compiled here in a short but furious 600 pages. With sweeping narratives, cheeky sarcasm and timely repetition of key ideas, I highly recommend this book and narration both, since the book contains graphs and important spelling of names and the narration provides pronunciation of said names. Give yourself one month to work your way through this behemoth at the pace of about one chapter per day prior to visiting China or for a better personal understanding of China's trajectory.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Beautiful story, butchering of Chinese names

Would you try another book from John Keay and/or Anne Flosnik?

I could not finish this book not because the book is poor. Keay wrote a masterful book. But the narration was just simply horrible. Flosnik has a beautiful and engaging voice, but her pronunciation of Chinese names are just wrong, at least for the Chinese audience who are fluent in Chinese. But I could envision even for non-English speakers, the pronunciation is important as they want to correctly convey the right proper nouns in their discussions.

I am quite familiar with Chinese history, but even when I know the exact person, city, or situation (proper nouns) that Keay is referring to, I still have trouble connecting the dots - name dictated in the audio to the most common Mandarin pronunciation.

Of course, I realize it's perhaps unfair to blame Flosnick. But I do blame the publisher or the recording studio. In books like this, it's far more important to find someone who can speak the local languages. Even if the rest of the English has a Chinese accent, it's still far better to pronounce the local names correctly.

What was one of the most memorable moments of China?

Difficult to tell since most of the memorable moments have Chinese names and I can barely get through them.

How could the performance have been better?

See above. Find someone who actually speaks Chinese.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. To me, this is just another whitewash.

Any additional comments?

Avoid the audio version of this book.

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

China's Long History Revealed

For most of us in the west the history of the far east is shrouded in mystery. John Keay has attempted to unveil this mysterious land, its people, and its remarkable story. I found many of the names of people and places a little difficult to follow, but the stories of the huge civil engineering projects undertaken in pre-modern times were fascinating. This may be a difficult read, but the Audible recording is excellent.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

well written—mediocre performance

Keay is a good author and tells an interesting story that is worth knowing. However, I don’t think an audible book is the best venue for demonstrating his genius. The major problem is that it is almost impossible to keep track of the foreign names and words without seeing them. This made it extremely frustrating for me to learn more about the topics I’d been hearing about, because, in order to learn more, I spent inordinate amounts of time googling various spellings of Chinese words I had no idea how to spell.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Siri, tell me about Chinese history

Would you listen to China again? Why?

No, the performance was distinctly robotic. Which is weird given the writing style of the author.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I guess Qin Shi Huang, the Chinese first emperor. Given the pace set by the author you learn not to get too attached to any one figure.

What aspect of Anne Flosnik’s performance would you have changed?

Her cadence and intonation are a dead ringer for Siri, it gets tiresome after a while.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

no

5 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Book is good, don’t like the narrator

Book is good, very informative. Voice of narrator is not nice to listen too. Pity.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Long-Winded but Necessary

This book's thorough history provides an incredibly useful context for understanding the present state of China. The individual stories of influential men, women, and movements deliver consistent entertainment, like reading a book of short stories. The author avoids getting bogged down in opinions and theories, giving space for the reader to generalize and draw their own takeaways. For someone not accustomed to history audio books spanning millennia, I sometimes did find it tiring to listen and exceedingly difficult to recall individual names, dates, and statistics. Most books on China focus on specific time periods, or span multiple volumes to make everything more digestible. However, this is precisely the type of objective knowledge I've been starved of with my eurocentric education. I'm very thankful to the author, and I look forward to exploring further.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting content but...

The narrator will put you to sleep. Even history books should have energetic and interpretive narrators.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good, but a little out of order

The narrative kept moving forward and back in time. The information was good, but it was tough to know when events described were occurring.

1 person found this helpful