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From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History cover art

From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History

By: Kenneth J. Hammond,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Kenneth J. Hammond
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Editor reviews

A sweeping panorama of the immense 5000 year history, influence and power of China is provided in one of the most complete studies available today on audiobook, From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History, by The Great Courses in their Civilization & Culture Series, narrated by a leading expert in Chinese Studies, Professor Kenneth J. Hammond. Covering all subjects in these essential 36 lectures, Hammond divulges a vast expanse of research, giving listeners a complete understanding of this fascinating nation. An absolutely essential listen for those interested in politics, business, religion, economy and history. Available now from Audible.

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 listeners say about From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History

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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.

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8 people found this helpful

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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.

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4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating but at times Disappointing

I was very interested with the subject matter, but the hesitant speech of the lecturer is far from compelling. He occasionally made references to books with the assumption that they were known, but without any context for the works. Moving into the 19th century errors come in, particularly regarding the treaty giving Britain control of Hong Kong.
In the 20th century he follows the party line in his apologist history of Mao's rule. His assertion that the CCP was seen as the main force of resistance to the Japanese carefully avoids saying how staggeringly untrue this perception was, with many hundreds of thousands of Nationalists dying, fighting the Japanese, but only a few thousand Communists, whose numbers grew rapidly due to their lack of involvement in fighting. The upper figure given for the deaths in the Great Leap Forward was the official upper figure accepted by the Communist party, and is far lower than most estimates. All in all it was worth listening to for the early empires but far too biased in the later history.

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3 people found this helpful

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Yao to Now

I’m 26 and have been listening to audiobooks for most of my life; this is easily one of the best that I’ve come across. He has a great voice, it’s gentle and confident, and the quality of the recording is more than adequate, so it’s a very easy listen - good to engage with but also to fall asleep to if needed. The material is fairly dense and if my mind is particularly foggy I’ll listen to music instead, but usually the pace, subject matter and strength of the writing make for such entertainment that you don’t notice how much information is filtering through you. Sometimes I’ll rewind a part that I’ve missed, but more often I’ll relisten to a chapter or section that I’ve particularly enjoyed. I’ve no doubt that it will become increasingly important to try to understand todays China as we progress through the rest of this century and this is a great place to start. I’ve never bothered to leave a review before, but I wanted to leave my praise here because this is so worthy of it and I’m grateful.

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1 person found this helpful

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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.

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A great introduction to Chinese history

I recommend this book deeply for anyone who wish to gain an understanding of the major threads of development in Chinese society over the previous 5000 years.

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A must buy for any history buff

Fantastic comprehensive history of China from 3000BC up until early 21st century, narrated by a lecturer whose passion shines through in every word.
I can’t recommend this highly enough

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Brilliant

Excellent, informative. The narration is good, but a few "uhs" and "aaahhs" could have been edited out in post. It's nothing extraordinary, totally normal for a live lecture, but sometimes enough to be annoying. All in all probably the best Great Courses lecture series; I've been through it three times.

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Incredibly interesting and clearly explained.

I found this to be a compelling story, very well explained. I will be listening to it again.

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Old-school class teaching technique

It is an oldschool class: very slow, no story telling at all, sometimes feeling throwing names after names without any effort to make it seducing to the student. But it has a lot of content.

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