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

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terrible

terrible narration, glaring omissions. I struggled to stay awake. no mention at all of mao purges or victims of cultural revolution, or that mao was history's most successful mass murderer

2 people found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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  • raz
  • 12-06-2019

A must course in Chinese History

Would start by saying that’s easy to jump to conclusions about China without the valuable background presented in this book. Also it’s worth noting that this great people and culture have been “hard done” in part by the Western colonial power and in part by their own internal divisions. This course will enlighten and elucidate all this.

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Amazing

Highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn about China. A brilliant broad overview. For me it will serve as a timeline to pin more in-depth glances to.

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Not the greatest

Chinese history fascinates me but this was incredibly uninteresting and shallow as far as information goes. Did not bother finishing

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Fantastic review across the entire Chinese history

If you could sum up From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History in three words, what would they be?

I've learnt lots!

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

I knew very little about Chinese history prior and this series was a real eye opener.

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

Tells the story in quite an interesting way. A bit too many "mmms" and "ahhhhs" between words and quite a few sighs along the way, but overall he does a great job at delivering this complex narrative of Chines history.

Any additional comments?

Could use a bit more colour when describing armed conflicts and could definitely benefit from more images and maps in the course PDF. Still - a very enjoyable and important course. Thank you!

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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.

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  • Kristi R.
  • 25-07-2015

"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.


61 people found this helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 23-11-2019

Great in Some Areas but Lacking in Others

This was an odd course to say the least. The poor reviews left me hesitant to purchase this course for years but when I did I found the beginning half of the course to be very interesting and engaging. Sure the professor focused mostly on high political life and the ruling class but for that component I thought it was a well executed discussion. I couldn't tell from where all these negative reviews originated. But as the course dragged on it was getting more and more difficult to ignore his tendency to overuse filler words (uhhh, ummm) in his struggles to find the right words which became very distracting and when he got to modern day history of China I thought his treatment of the Communist party was mind boggling. He glossed over the atrocities that the Communists (especially Mao Zedong) carried out on their own citizens. Regardless of your perspective (some professors will justify them while others will harp on them ad nauseum) these events form a huge part of the history of 20th century China so for them to not even be discussed in any context is bizarre. I have to say more on his presentation style tendency to use filler words. This came out most often when he was struggling to find the right word or two to wrap up a thought when in reality any additional words added no value to the message anyway so the delayed completion was painful many times (“We already know what you mean so just stop killing us with the “uhhhh” as you search for the final words!”). I can see this presentation being a million times better if he just read off of a script! Another warning: there is very little information on Chinese culture or social life. Other than lectures on Confucianism, Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, and art in the 11th and 12th centuries there was very little attention outside the political history of China. How was everyday life was for everyday citizens? The major imperil dynasties listed below are covered in-depth: o Xia o Shang o Zhou o Qin o Han o Jin o Sui o Tang o Song o Yuan o Ming o Qing My personal highlights included lectures 2 (the first dynasties of China: the Xia and Shang) and 33-34 (conflict between the Nationalist and Communist parties in the 20th century). If you're interested in political high life involving the rise and fall of dynasties and court life then this course delivers. If you're looking for a full account of Chinese history (social life and culture) that is balanced in how it handles controversial decisions then stay away and instead pick up "The Foundations of Eastern Civilization".

18 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 03-10-2013

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.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Discerning buyer
  • 30-12-2017

Informative but dry and incomplete

The teacher belongs to the "one damn thing after another" school of history--lots of facts, very little effort to hold them together with theories or draw any interesting lessons out of them. Few comparisons with other cultures, little discussion of competing interpretations of events, etc. If I hadn't done outside reading, for instance, I'd have no idea that the existence of the Xia dynasty is still controversial--the teacher presents it as established fact. Once Communism enters the scene, the story gets deceptively rosy. The Cultural Revolution is presented as mostly an internal party fight--the millions of casualties aren't mentioned. Casualties from the collectivization famine are mentioned, but they're presented as, "Collectivization led to increased food production, but they thought they had even more food than they really had, so they stopped rationing and--it was the darndest thing!--ten million people starved to death. Totally by accident. Nobody responsible here." He presents China's accomplishments since Tiananmen in glowing terms, then says, "But they've come at a cost." My ears perk up, hoping for honest analysis. He continues, "Teachers' salaries haven't kept up with the rising standard of living, and health care is kind of expensive." Everything else, I guess, is peachy. He mentions government population control efforts, but he can't even bring himself to say the words "one-child policy," to say nothing of "forced abortions and sterilizations." I get there are things it's dangerous to say if you're a scholar who wants to keep working in China. But if you can't talk about post-1960s China without becoming a party shill, it's best to say nothing at all.

37 people found this helpful

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  • Jason Cherniak
  • 25-12-2015

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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Travis Greene
  • 10-10-2013

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.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 15-10-2013

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Ted Baehr
  • 13-06-2020

Good overview, missing important elements

Of three courses on China, this is the best overview, but it has no perspective. In other words, it does not provide insights into the motivations and the consequences, which the other courses did very well. Killing of 20 million people or so is passed over, as well as matricide, patricide and other acts of cruelty. It focuses on the leaders, with some good references to cultural leaders. BUT -Why did the leaders do what they did? What about the others? Dr. Ted Baehr

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 13-03-2015

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 03-12-2013

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 16-12-2014

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • S L
  • 29-09-2013

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.

8 people found this helpful

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  • C. D. Hough
  • 11-06-2019

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-10-2020

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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  • dean strachan
  • 13-06-2020

Exceptional

I think the way in which Chinese history was described here was fantastic, it was broken down nicely and it was easy to understand. Not to mention the PDF attached alongsode it.

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  • steven dowson
  • 01-02-2020

urbane & pithy sweep through 5000 years

I've been very impressed by Professor Hammond's lectures; they are concise and well-paced, offering the listener plenty to research independently while maintaining interest and focus on the sweeping panorama of Chinese history. I'm currently living & working in China and wanted to know more about the history of this fascinating country, Professor Hammond's lectures have been the perfect introduction to a vast subject.

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  • APS
  • 20-10-2019

The best history of China that I’m aware off

A couple of books on Chinese history which are very good at providing a picture of your facts and chronology. They also come with their own particular bias. This history of China was different, it seems very fair, what I particularly liked was that there was a very good explanation of why each phase of history follow ed the previous and what peoples motivations might of been. So it was a very good summary of why China has developed in the way it has.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Osian Lewis
  • 26-08-2019

a huge, sprawling history in a manageable book.

An excellent book of China's vast history. Well-researched and in-depth. The lecturer does betray a bit of frustration with long pauses, sighs and deep breaths. It's understandable: the lectures are long and it's a long course., but at times it feels like he doesn't really want to be there. Doesn't ruin the experience though, still worth a listen for sure.

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  • Iain G.
  • 21-02-2019

Good but a little broad

Gives a great overview but due to the scale it does lack detail in areas that needed fleshing out especially the early history

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  • Mrs. Mary Foulkes
  • 28-07-2018

Chinese History Made Easy

This audible book was exceptional, stimulating and enhanced my knowledge of Chinese history. This book put into perspective the richness of Chinese culture and tradition. The narrator Kenneth Hammond was excellent. I would recommend this book.

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