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Publisher's Summary

For most of its 5,000-year existence, China has been the largest, most populous, wealthiest, and mightiest nation on Earth. And for us as Westerners, it is essential to understand where China has been in order to anticipate its future. These 36 eye-opening lectures deliver a comprehensive political and historical overview of one of the most fascinating and complex countries in world history.

You'll learn about the powerful dynasties that ruled China for centuries; the philosophical and religious foundations-particularly Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism-that have influenced every iteration of Chinese thought, and the larger-than-life personalities, from both inside and outside its borders, of those who have shaped China's history. As you listen to these lectures, you'll see how China's politics, economics, and art reflect the forces of its past.

From the "Mandate of Heaven," a theory of social contract in place by 1500 B.C.E., 3,000 years before Western philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, to the development of agriculture and writing independent of outside influence to the technologically - advanced Han Dynasty during the time of the Roman Empire, this course takes you on a journey across ground that has been largely unexplored in the history courses most of us in the West have taken.

In guiding you through the five millennia of China's history, Professor Hammond tells a fascinating story with an immense scope, a welcome reminder that China is no stranger to that stage and, indeed, has more often than not been the most extraordinary player on it.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Good broad brush information

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The professors speach candence was too slow for me. I had to play the entire thing on 2x speed for it to be tolerable.

Any additional comments?

Great information overall with some solid broad brush coverage of the subject. I would have liked to have gotten more details in a number of places, but that would have made it too long.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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"Only powerful people have liberty." Sun Yat-sen

History of China
1. Geography and Archaeology
2. The First Dynasties
3. The Zhou Conquest
4. Fragmentation and Social Change
5. Confucianism and Daoism
6. The Hundred Schools
7. The Early Han Dynasty
8. Later Han and the Three Kingdoms
9. Buddhism
10. Northern and Southern Dynasties
11. Sui Reunification and the Rise of the Tang
12. The Early Tang Dynasty
13. Han Yu and the Late Tang
14. Five Dynasties and the Song Founding
15. Intellectual Ferment in the 11th Century
16. Art and the Way
17. Conquest States in the North
18. Economy and Society in Southern Song
19. Zhu Xi and Neo-Confucianism
20. The Rise of the Mongols
21. The Yuan Dynasty
22. The Rise of the Ming
23. The Ming Golden Age
24. Gridlock and Crisis
25. The Rise of the Manchus
26. Kangxi to Qianlong
27. The Coming of the West
28. Threats from Within and Without
29. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
30. Efforts at Reform
31. The Fall of the Empire
32. The New Culture Movement and May 4th
33. The Chinese Communists, 1921-1937
34. War and Revolution
35. China Under Mao
36. China and the World in a New Century

“In the construction of a country, it is not the practical workers but the idealists and planners that are difficult to find.” Sun Yat-sen

I really enjoyed this Great Course. Professor Kenneth J. Hammond from New Mexico State makes this 5,000 year history of China come alive.

It helped me to begin to understand the difference in cultures between the western world and the east. It also helped me to see that because I was brought up in a democracy/republic that all nations may not want that kind of government.

I was surprised to learn that under Communism women had more rights than they had previously and as capitalism grabs hold of China, women’s rights are disappearing. I also found it interesting to learn why the students were protesting in Tiananmen Square and the eventual outcome of that protest.

I also found intriguing the family dynasties that ruled China over the years and the Mongols taking control under the Khans when Marco Polo visited. I was disgusted to find Great Britain as the biggest drug cartel in history and how they pushed opium on the Chinese people in order to have an advantage in trading in silver with them.

In America we learn little of Chinese history and these classes are about thirty minutes in length which is perfect for a little at a time. This took me a long time to finish but I feel I have a better understanding of the Chinese people and history thanks to Prof. Hammond.


17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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A good listen

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes because it is a great crash course to Chinese history and seems to cover all of the main events.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Professor Kenneth J. Hammond?

That depends on the subject. He wasn't a particularly great story teller and didn't really make the subject come to life. I was interested in most of the lectures so I could pay attention, but occasionally he would dwell on some less interesting topics and I would lose interest.

Any additional comments?

I certainly enjoyed the audiobook but it was not one I could listen to for hours at a time because the Professor was not very energized. I was also disappointed that he did not talk about the building of the Great Wall at all. However, it was a great introduction/overview of Chinese History.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Rich in Content and Substance

China is one of the most interesting and long-running civilizations in the world. This course covers the history of the Kingdoms before the Chinese unification, and move us through a rich history with colorful characters all the way to the twentieth century. I strongly recommend it for interesting presentation and thoroughness.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A great overview of Chinese History

Any additional comments?

This was a very thorough and enjoyable overview of Chinese history. The professor does a great job touching on many important subjects and nuances in Chinese history, including even an overview of Chinese geography, which I think is essential for understanding the history of any country. Like all history it can become a little dry or hard to remember or distinguish all the different peoples and dynasties at some points. I would highly recommend these lectures to anyone looking for a good, thorough overview of Chinese history from the earliest times to the near present.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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It's ok

This included a lot of information and introduced me to Chinese history, but it was very short on details and in many cases provided summaries that were too vague. It was more detailed once it reached Communist China. I feel like this book is an introductory introduction and there is a better option available on Audible from the Great Courses.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Broad Overview of China's history

For someone living and working in China, this course was interesting and informative. It gives only a broad overview of China's history and is really a starting point for those interested in China's history. The professor presented the lectures well, and held my attention.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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An Insightful History

Where does From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the "enjoyed very very much" category.

What did you like best about this story?

It provides insight into why the current Chinese government acts as it does – and why its efforts to only slowly open its society to outside influences, and to put the brakes on at least some personal liberties that it believes could result in uncontrollable political disruptions, make sense from a Chinese historical perspective.

Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth J. Hammond’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not.

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

The tragic, opium-driven destruction of Chinese government and culture by the 19th Century British narco-state.

Any additional comments?

The lectures give lie to the commonly-held Western myth of China being a relatively continuous political state for several thousand years. There probably have been greater cultural continuities than can be found elsewhere, but politically the region has been, like most parts of the world, subject to repeated fracturing, re-assembling, foreign conquest, assimilation, and dis-assimilation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very informative course about China

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, definitely, China being important on world stage, it is important to know where they come from and this book does a very good job explaining it. For instance why Chinese dislike foreigners because they were abused many times by them particularly the neighbors and the western powers. At least according to the book.

What did you like best about this story?

The chronological length: 5000 years of history in 18h. It is genial to capture the most important events. It was good for me to know that chairman Mao had a lot of challenges to get thing under control. We have been told that he could do what he wished that sound not to be the case.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There was not much to laugh about but a lot to cry about.

Any additional comments?

The Professor is a great story teller but did not like the long pause he did sometime. At the beginning I thought something was wrong with my system. I then realized that they are just part of the audio. I would love to listen to any other audio book he has. Great job.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A long and deep culture

Where does From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It is in the upper part of my list. I have been a teaching company listener for years with over 50 series of lectures. I knew very little of China and now have scratched the surface

What was one of the most memorable moments of From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History?

The Opium Wars compared Britain to a current drug cartel using violence to control the movement of drugs. It is such an interesting and awful mark on the west.

Which character – as performed by Professor Kenneth J. Hammond – was your favorite?

I learned a lot about Buddhism and the other religions of China, which I knew next to nothing about

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it is so good and rich I tried to listen to no more than two lectures at a sitting.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • A Customer
  • 09-29-13

Wonderful set of lectures

Where does From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This set of lectures was definitely one of the best I have listened to. Really engaging, the lecturer covers an incredible range of eras in these lectures. One of the best things about it for me was that it give you an in depth outline of how each of the Chinese dynasties fits in with the other, which then enables you to read into which ever one interests you the most without feeling totally lost (the Harvard UP set on Chinese Imperialism is particularly good for this).

What was one of the most memorable moments of From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History?

All of the lectures were really well put together, though perhaps a couple of the most memorable were the ones on the ancient civilisations and the evolution of the writing system, simply because it speaks to the origin of language itself, which is always fascinating. The other is probably when Wu Sangui opened the gates of the Great Wall at Shanhai Pass letting the Qing forces through, then allying his forces to help them take the capital at Beijing. Wu did all this mainly so that he could ensure that the recent usurper of the Ming throne, Li Zicheng, didn't take the woman he loved into his harem. Dramatic events!

What does Professor Kenneth J. Hammond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The lecturer was really good, in all honesty I listened to the lectures at 1.5x speed, mainly because the speed people naturally give lectures tends to be a tad on the slow side.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 12-16-14

Interesting but slow delivery grated in the middle

Chinese subject is perhaps too vast a subject to tackle in even a long set of courses such as this and certainly Professor Hammond seemed to struggle to make it manageable in the middle sections of this course. I confess I zoned out a little and got a bit lost in the series of dynasties in the Middle Ages. That being said the rest of the course was fascinating and it really picked up in the later periods when it is, perhaps, easier for a westerner to relate to the individuals involved.

My only serious gripe with the course was Professor Hammond's delivery. He is clearly knowledgable and highly qualified but at times it sounded like his heart wasn't in it with a lot of sighs and very flat delivery. That combined with a habit of finishing a sentence with "OK?" grated a little but not enough to spoil the overall product.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Frederick Hickey
  • 09-18-17

A damn good overview of the history of China.

This is a very good overview of the history of China. It's quite accessible for anyone with no prior knowledge of China's vast history and makes a quite daunting task very enjoyable.

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  • muovikassi88
  • 05-11-17

well worth listening.

A good look at the overall picture of the last 3500 years of chinese history, unfortunately the course moves through dynasties really quickly so we miss many of the juicy details, that being said it is very well done and a facinating journey.

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  • S. van Dijk
  • 07-30-15

A pleasure to listen to

I learned a great deal and could easily have listened to an additional 36 lectures on this subject

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  • Marcus
  • 04-02-14

Fabulously interesting series of lectures

Would you consider the audio edition of From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History to be better than the print version?

No idea but it was excellent in it's own right.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Prof Hammond delivered the lectures with an infectious enthusiasm for his subject

Which scene did you most enjoy?

I was riveted to Prof Hammond's narrative throughout and wasn't bored once

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

The realisation that China has a 3000 year competitive advantage over Western economies, bureaucracies and political systems

Any additional comments?

I'm guessing it won't be long before our children are learning Chinese history as part of the mainstream curriculum unless we find a way to compete against the soft power and relentless expansion China has been exercising over the last 30 years backed up with the best part of 6000 organising themselves better than we do.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Vivien
  • 02-19-16

From Yao to Mao by Professor Hammond

This is a tremendous series and a tour de force from Professor Hammond. It is dense and for me often required a couple of replays -and I could listen to it all again. He explained the entire history of China with such eloquence and understanding. I am so pleased to have heard this - it has further increased my curiosity to know more about China. Many thanks!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 10-22-16

Great overview on the politcal history of China

Wish there was more in the way of what China was like for the peasantry. Also there's very little on the role of the military under the Chinese Empire and how it was maintained in times of peace.