A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Access to the flood of important discoveries made in China during the past 50 years has been limited for those unable to read Chinese. But a new generation of catalogs, some in English, is emerging, the most comprehensive being A Journey Into China's Antiquity. Its four volumes present a sweeping overview of the prehistory and history of China. Drawing upon the enormous collections of the National Museum of Chinese History, they are a faithful translation into English of the Chinese version, Huaxia zhi Lu, edited by the eminent archaeologist Yu Weichao, curator of the museum. The texts accompanying lavish illustrations furnish detailed information about individual objects, which is a welcome departure from earlier presentations of this museum's collections, which contained minimal descriptive text.
Readers should understand, however, that this work adheres very closely to the traditional "party line" in its approach to the development of Chinese civilization. The National Museum's exhibits follow the Marxist scheme of social evolution and are divided into four main developmental stages: Primitive Society, Slave Society, Feudal Society, and Semi-Colonial/Semi-Feudal Society. Aware of the paradigm within which this volume presents Chinese history, readers will find A Journey Into China's Antiquity to be an excellent publication with a broad appeal. Given that it covers the full sweep of Chinese prehistory and history, in full color, the price ($250 per set), though not cheap, is reasonable. Ideally, these beautifully illustrated volumes will be used in conjunction with some of the excellent recent Western surveys of China's prehistory and early history to provide the reader with a more balanced interpretation of the archaeological data. These include the just-released Cambridge History of Ancient China (edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy) and the various volumes (most of them still forthcoming) of Yale University Press' monumental series, The Culture and Civilization of China.
A Journey into China's Past
Robert E. Murowchick is director of the International Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural History at Boston University and editor of China: Ancient Culture, Modern Land (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1994).