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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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Asia
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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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 book 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

What listeners say about The Story of China

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    3 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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  • George
  • 20-12-2020

Ruined by the narrator

It’s a shame that a well researched book as this is , should be completely ruined by the narrator , we are treated to a succession of lip smacking and glottal swallowing that is nauseating , along with massive intake of breathe after every six or seven words . It’s difficult to find a competent narrator these days but it’s a mistake for an author unqualified in the art of narration to think that they are capable of doing the job. It’s a false economy to massage the ego in this way .

40 people found this helpful

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  • Fernanda Valerio
  • 09-10-2020

Hard to follow

Maybe it’s his pace, maybe the excessive dramatisation he puts, or perhaps the great number of details and lack of a map to follow history of China and its details. I just couldn’t keep my attention and remember the details to move on with the history. Sometimes I felt there were gaps I just had missed and could not pick it up after. Maybe it’s just me, but I just couldn’t finish it.

35 people found this helpful

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  • Dr D Bissett
  • 04-10-2020

Glorious account of the complex and fascinating history of this great people

Beautifully narrated, this gives a clear account of China's history, with tales of its leadership, its culture, and its extraordinary population of people, the character of whom can only spark admiration among Western readers. Highly recommended.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-11-2020

Brilliant.

I watched Michael Wood in a documentary years ago and found it to be excellent and this book is an amazing history of China, narrated very well and not any different to the professionalism I saw on the TV. Also, being a Kung Fu practitioner, I wanted to learn more about the history of the country that it came from. A great listen!

9 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-02-2021

5/5 overall

A slightly over enthusiastic narrator (great for TV, and no doubt for lectures, but somewhat tiring in an audiobook - it got better after the first too chapters). Contentswise excellent. Maybe we could have lived without some anachronisms about feminism and other thoroughly modern concepts being applied to premodern thinkers/poets, and focused on their views as they were in themselves rather than as baby steps towards liberal humanism. Then again this is popular history, and as quite good such. Extremely up to date and informative, it's a great summary of China's history, as well as a gateway drug for more specialized study. 5/5

8 people found this helpful

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  • Guy
  • 03-02-2021

Excellent

Telling the story partly through personal lived experiences works well. Remains absorbing despite its length.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Gareth Smith
  • 26-11-2020

excellent history of China

I came into this with some trepidation but it was worth it!. Excellent allround work!

5 people found this helpful

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  • RDB
  • 04-12-2020

Michael Wood - reminds me why I love history

Michael Wood tells the history of China so you feel you are travelling alongside the people’s stories he weaves into a seminal analysis of the power and politics which have shaped China - bravo

4 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph
  • 28-11-2020

Very academic

The book is not intended for a general audience. It is intensely detailed which I’m sure is interesting for experts in ancient history and archaeology, but I am not and it was hard to listen to. It didn’t really have takeaway insights for ordinary people to broaden their minds

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-02-2021

Superb

I can't recommend this highly enough! For a book covering China from pre-history to summer 2020, there is a surprising amount of detail. Each chapter covers either a major dynasty or interregum and contains an overview narrative history accompanied by contemporary accounts of families caught up in the events or sketches of daily life.

I came to this with almost no knowledge of China's history or geography (although the basic layout of china is described, I would recommend having a map nearby) and learned a huge amount, but never felt overloaded with detail. In particular, I found the parallels to (or contrasts with) contemporaneous events in European history helped keep track of events.


The narration is delivered with enthusiasm and understanding of the material, although at times it seemed a little too fast.

3 people found this helpful

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