BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “The Chinese empire was established in 221 BCE, when the state of Qin unified the Chinese world after centuries of intensive interstate warfare. The nascent empire was then roughly contemporary with the Maurya Empire in India and with the Hellenistic and Roman empires in the Mediterranean area. The Chinese empire ended with the proclamation of the Republic in 1912 CE, almost simultaneously with the final collapse of three major empires in the West: the Ottoman, the Habsburg, and the Romanov.”

The Everlasting Empire: The Political Culture of Ancient China and Its Imperial Legacy
by Yuri Pines

Established in 221 BCE, the Chinese empire lasted for 2,132 years before being replaced by the Republic of China in 1912. During its two millennia, the empire endured internal wars, foreign incursions, alien occupations, and devastating rebellions—yet fundamental institutional, sociopolitical, and cultural features of the empire remained intact. The Everlasting Empire traces the roots of the Chinese empire’s exceptional longevity and unparalleled political durability, and shows how lessons from the imperial past are relevant for China today.

Yuri Pines demonstrates that the empire survived and adjusted to a variety of domestic and external challenges through a peculiar combination of rigid ideological premises and their flexible implementation. The empire’s major political actors and neighbors shared its fundamental ideological principles, such as unity under a single monarch—hence, even the empire’s strongest domestic and foreign foes adopted the system of imperial rule. Yet details of this rule were constantly negotiated and adjusted. Pines shows how deep tensions between political actors including the emperor, the literati, local elites, and rebellious commoners actually enabled the empire’s basic institutional framework to remain critically vital and adaptable to ever-changing sociopolitical circumstances. As contemporary China moves toward a new period of prosperity and power in the twenty-first century, Pines argues that the legacy of the empire may become an increasingly important force in shaping the nation’s future trajectory.

“Deeply researched, packed with detail, and bold in scope and analysis, The Everlasting Empire offers a compact yet profound interpretation of the ideological foundations of Chinese political culture. Reflecting on imperial China through its cycles of unity and disintegration from antiquity to the present, this magisterial contribution to empire studies and global history comes at a pivotal moment in time.”—Martin Kern, Princeton University

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9723.pdf