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Summary

The internationally best-selling author portrays the great clash of East and West in his new epic: China

China in the 19th century: a proud and ancient empire forbidden to foreigners. The West desires Chinese tea above all other things but lacks the silver to buy it. Instead, Western adventurers resort to smuggling opium in exchange. 

The Qing Emperor will not allow his people to sink into addiction. Viceroy Lin is sent to the epicentre of the opium trade, Canton, to stop it. The Opium Wars begin - heralding a period of bloody military defeats, reparations, and one-sided treaties which will become known as the Century of Humiliation.  

From Hong Kong to Beijing to the Great Wall, from the exotic wonders of the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, to squalid village huts, the dramatic struggle rages across the Celestial Kingdom. This is the story of the Chinese people, high and low, and the Westerners who came to exploit the riches of their ancient land and culture. 

We meet a young village wife struggling with the rigid traditions of her people, Manchu empresses and warriors, powerful eunuchs, fanatical Taiping and Boxer Rebels, savvy Chinese pirates, artists, concubines, scoundrels and heroes, well-intentioned missionaries and the rapacious merchants, diplomats and soldiers of the West. Fortunes will rise and fall, loves will be gained and lost.

This is an unforgettable tale told from both sides of the divide. The clash of worldviews, of culture and heritage, is shown in a kaleidoscope of jaw-dropping set pieces. China is a feat of the imagination that will enthral, instruct and excite, and show us how things once were, and how the turmoil of the 19th century led to modern China's revolution and rebirth.

©2020 Edward Rutherfurd (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

Critic reviews

"The unparallelled master of the historical saga returns, this time, with an eye on China. Beginning with the First Opium War in 1839 and continuing through the present day, Rutherfurd tells a sweeping tale that brings to life a nation's history, traditions and the people who lived through it as if by magic." (Newsweek)

What listeners say about China

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Truly Magnificent

Oh my goodness!
Mr Rutherfurd has long been my favourite author. I’m a history buff and he places us in past events in a way that encapsulates and envelopes us, by presenting the narrative through mostly fictional characters in real life situations.
Even with no prior knowledge or love of the subject matter you are drawn in on a journey you won’t forget.
Being a bibliophile this is in my opinion an outstanding tome. The ending was perfection.
The narrators were exceptional.
Much preferred to the previous narrator.

Just as an aside, I wondered why New York has not yet become available in the collection?
It’s a wonderful book and the audible version is much anticipated. Please!!!

6 people found this helpful

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great insight into Chinese history

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about a period of history that I new nothing about. The insight into the British Empires involvement in the opium wars has funnily enough never been part of history classes we are taught in school ! I thought all the characters were really interesting but felt a little frustrated how well things turn out for one of the main characters who epitomises the whole upper class elitism .

4 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

Interesting and so sad, the foot binding had me in tears. Brilliant writing by Edward Rutherfurd one of my favourite authors!

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Excellent historical novel

Very enjoyable, and extremely informative, absorbing novel Rutherfurd has the talent to draw beguiling and interesting characters that surprise us. Great book. Long read but I didn't want it to end.

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Disappointing

I thought this would be a real saga through china and all of its eras but it was not and the characters were rather thin. There were some interesting bits but they were few and far between. One of the narrators was awful. For a change this one might be better to read.

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I would give it extra stars if I could.

Edward Rutherfurd does it again. If you like long, very detailed historical novels this one is for you. Using three narrators is inspired and they worked together seamlessly.

Rutherfurd doesn't rely on constant explosive action to hold your attention but often builds tension slowly to climatic situations.

I feel I learned much about Chinese history and the Opium trade (and even more about British misrule and arrogance. And that's speaking as a Brit).

If I had any criticisms, they are not worth mentioning.

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not his best work

I have read all his books and this one sadly was not his best.
hopefully the next will be more interesting.

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Great listen

loved it. There are many stories loosely bound together. We'll read I have enjoyed the journey

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Fascinating and informative

Being a great fan of Rutherfurd, I must admit, I think this story have given me special pleasure. It has helped me synchronize well-known events through the fascinating lives of interesting people.

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Fact or fiction it doesn’t matter.

Edward Rutherford is a master story teller and China exceeds all expectations, Rutherfords style is beautifully brought to life with excellent narration from all parties. A most enjoyable story that helps to explain the recent history of China .

1 person found this helpful

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  • Fursey
  • 04-05-22

Fascinating

As an expat currently living in China, I was instantly drawn to this novel, particularly after reading some of Rutherford's other works.

It's a pity this novel only covered a relatively short period in China's history and unfortunately doesn't cover the revolution or the formation of the CCP but certainly goes someway to show the events which shaped the future centurary.

If your a fan of historic fiction Rutherford never let's you down with his character development and intertwining story lines and this novel is no different.

A thoroughly enjoyable listen.

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  • Candice
  • 01-11-21

Totally Epic... was worth the long wait

It didn't cover the numerous generations as other Edward Rutherford historical novels, but enjoyed the view of the different angles of the same timespan over the century it did cover. The chapters having different narrators, with what seemed to me real Chinese pronunciation made it feel like we were there!

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  • Sharon
  • 25-05-21

Not as good as the rest but still great

China is typical Edward Rutherford. It is well researched and richly portrayed. The characters are excellent.

The only reason I didn't give 5 stars for story was that I wanted to know more Chinese and less Anglo. I felt that the Anglo folk were largely irrelevant, to the story that is, not to the history of course.

The narrator was truly wonderful. The only thing that bothered me is that during the narration of the eunuch part of the story the narrator makes an annoying and intrusive little "click" at the end of sentences. To begin with I thought it was an issue with my equipment but quickly realised it is teeth clacking or something. It really is annoying but, the rest is so good. So four stars, they lose one for the clicks. ;)