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The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom - Simon Winchester hmmm amazon has brought back their Big Deal, 500 ebooks at 85% off, and one can't go very wrong getting a big-6 published (Harper Collins, in this case) non-fiction history work at 1.99. well, it's 316 pages, less the 20% of the book that is the "searchable index" so popular to include with ebooks (obvious marketing trick, since most ebook readers permit searches in any case). I forgive. 250 pages at 1.99 is still less than .01c a page. the penny dreadful returns!

there's already a pretty professional review here so I don't need to digress too much. good adventure yarn as Dr. Joseph Needham, late of Cambridge, makes two expeditions into the deep of China, and then some political controversy, and finally, a slight slackening of speed/drama at the end of the work/life, but overall the text is New Yorker-level quality, Harper Collins quality, and if Winchester plays around a little narratologically (playing up China, like a violin, and then playing down, cue the sad music), well it's forgivable all things considered. Winchester has succeeded in causing me to question some of my preconceptions, and I've learned a bit about Sino-British relations. I was also impressed by the characterization of Cambridge, which has enriched my sort of mood-feel about the high academics there, although Cantabrigians, fully aware of their own mystique, do little to deflate the repute in which they are held.

the larger question of whether "china invented everything," viz., gunpowder, printing press, compass, paper


of course in the end a geopolitical question. if the Chinese invented these four foundational inventions that resulted in civilization and sparked the Renaissance in Europe, that still does not add up to the Sino-nationalist claim that all of us have to kow-tow endlessly to the average chinaman. (I participate from time to time on sino-defense politics and military chat forums, so pardon the french, but the sino-nationalist crowd is like a clanging cymbal, and sometimes it's really freakin' tiresome to hear about the Chinese century. it's not going to happen before 2030, and I'm going to be knocking on the door of senior citizenship by then, so what do I care?