Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors: The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China

  • Binding: Hardcover

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Spanning more than two thousand years, from the first emperor, buried with his terra-cotta army in the third century B.C., to the last emperor, enthroned in the Forbidden City as a boy of four in 1911, Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors presents the entire history of this vast and still mysterious region through the stories of its all-powerful rulers. The Chinese imperial system combined a highly centralized administration with a Confucian philosophy of moral-political beliefs. The emperor was the Son of Heaven and enjoyed semi-divine powers, but he was not infallible: should he fail his subjects, rebellion was justified. The emperors therefore weathered centuries of violent change and, despite brutal revolts and civil wars, remained at the center of the largest political unit in the world, the Middle Kingdom. The emperors were an extraordinary group of men--and one woman, Wu Zetian--whose virtues and faults were magnified by their exalted position. Many were literary scholars and painters (the Song emperor, Huizong, founded an imperial academy of painting). Some were mentally retarded; and some left the control of the empire to their eunuchs, concubines, or dowager empresses. Under able rulers, China's frontiers expanded, dominating Central and Southeast Asia; under weak rulers the frontiers shrank, and for centuries the country was occupied by alien Mongols. It took the arrival of a civilization from the West with superior firepower finally to shake the Middle Kingdom's foundations. The detailed coverage includes: data files for every emperor, listing important information such as name at birth and details of wives and concubines; special features ranging from the Great Wall of China to the Ming Tombs; portraits of the major emperors and maps detailing, for example, the arrival of Buddhism and the Silk Road routes; time lines with at-a-glance visual guides to the length and key events of each emperor's reign.

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