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  • The Story of China

  • A Portrait of a Civilisation and Its People
  • By: Michael Wood
  • Narrated by: Michael Wood
  • Length: 23 hrs and 7 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (33 ratings)

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The Story of China

By: Michael Wood
Narrated by: Michael Wood
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Publisher's Summary

China’s story is extraordinarily rich and dramatic. Now Michael Wood, one of the UK's pre-eminent historians, brings it all together in a major new one-volume history of China that is essential listening for anyone who wants to understand its burgeoning role in our world today.

China is the oldest living civilisation on earth, but its history is still surprisingly little known in the wider world. Michael Wood's sparkling narrative, which mingles the grand sweep with local and personal stories, woven together with the author’s own travel journals, is an enthralling account of China’s 4000-year-old tradition, taking in life stationed on the Great Wall or inside the Forbidden City. The story is enriched with the latest archaeological and documentary discoveries, correspondence and court cases going back to the Qin and Han dynasties, family letters from soldiers in the real-life Terracotta Army, stories from Silk Road merchants and Buddhist travellers, along with memoirs and diaries of emperors, poets and peasants.

In the modern era, the book is full of new insights, with the electrifying manifestos of the feminist revolutionaries Qiu Jin and He Zhen, extraordinary eye-witness accounts of the Japanese invasion, the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao, and fascinating newly published sources for the great turning points in China’s modern history, including the Tiananmen Square crisis of 1989, and the new order of President Xi Jinping.

A compelling portrait of a single civilisation over an immense period of time, the audiobook is full of intimate detail and colourful voices, taking us from the desolate Mongolian steppes to the ultra-modern world of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It also asks what were the forces that have kept China together for so long? Why was China overtaken by the west after the 18th century? What lies behind China’s extraordinary rise today? The Story of China tells a thrilling story of intense drama, fabulous creativity and deep humanity; a portrait of a country that will be of the greatest importance to the world in the 21st century.

©2020 Michael Wood (P)2020 Simon & Schuster UK
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"A learned, wise, wonderfully written single volume history of a civilisation that I knew I should know more about." (Tom Holland)

"Masterful and engrossing...well-paced, eminently readable and well-timed. A must for those who want – and need – to know about the China of yesterday, today and tomorrow." (Peter Frankopan)   

What listeners say about The Story of China

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    1 out of 5 stars

Pretentious Drivel

I was just unhappy with how poorly researched this was.
I did not enjoy it, as I felt that a lot of words were expended on making China sound exotic and other, without actually delving into the actual history. I think I listened to about half an hour of purple prose about scenery before we even got to the emperor's role in a ceremony.
As a Chinese person myself, I would have preferred a drier, more factual book.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

brilliant

the best history book that I have read. takes you away from the list of dates and kings and gives you an understanding of what it was like to live at that time.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A great story

One reviewer complained that this book is basically not an academic history book even though the title is “The Story of” and published by a non-academic publisher. The nonsense critics can pull from those dark smelly places.
Another reviewer complained about length as if they didn’t know how long it was before they bought it. As if there aren’t shorter alternatives.
If you don’t want history told in a narrative fashion that takes on a variety of viewpoints instead of the fictional “objective historian” and told with enough depth to take some time to go through then this ain’t for you.
Everyone else, have fun.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Chapters much too long,I couldn't go the distane

I have enjoyed very much other audio books from Michael Wood, in particular the Story of India. As such I had high hopes for the Story of China but as much as I wanted to enjoy it, it is just overwhelming in the share volume of information the author attempts to provide. It is like battling a raging tsunami.

I gave up about three chapters in. Such a shame.

I wish it had been delivered in much smaller chunks.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A great story hurt by a bewildering postscript end

I have watched Michael Wood in his documentary on China. I found him to be very knowledgeable about the history on the whole, but mostly in particular the point at which the opium wars commenced and the right nation alliance chose to invade a sovereign nation because they felt it was their duty.
When I saw the book version I knew this had to have more in it and it did not leave me disappointed. Well, that is to say that the information was much more detailed and if you are a person who is genuinely open to history, then M Wood delivers it in abundance in the Chinese sector of the world throughout the ages. you could feel yourself looking over these time-honoured people and the hardships and glories they faced. There was much that was not said also, but then...how long do you want to read, or listen to the reading of a book is also a consideration. History is like that, a facts timeline or factual story of events. I feel this is the latter.
Well, it was until we reach the last piece, the closing comment about Covid-19. Michael has obviously completed this book in 2020 and in doing so made the worst possible mistake! That of passing judgement on the origin and data timeline for passage of information about the virus. He has instead, chosen to follow the sheep and please the one country who has now been identified as the worst in the world to deal with the virus. He has chosen to malign the current leader of the CPC as being the same as Mao during the cultural revolution, yet this same man has brought back over 6000 officials who fled with government money to other countries, regained ¥440,000,000,000,000.00 in monies they have taken to other countries and tried to live like king's and Lords. He focuses on the needs of the people, which can be seen in the massive infrastructure that occurs in cities and between them. He did not quote how high speed rail has been laid since Xi took power or the Subways that connect the airports to the cities now., just a ref to being like Mao...why?
I believe China political system is going through changes, as does Mr Wood, to a single part democratic style of system. The truth is that the West has proven beyond a doubt that the multiple party system does not work, it only promotes self-effacing people to a position of power where they become greedy and the people suffer on two fronts. 1) Decide who you want 50% can't of winning, and 2) and, Then you are stuck with whoever wins for the next four years, until you vote again.
My honest opinion of this book, is without the ill-informed end piece, it was a great piece of history, but then all the excellent work was wasted with those frivolous and poorly written and researched statements.
Sorry Mr Wood, I'm a fan of your work but you messed up.

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