In This Review

Imperial China: 900-1800
Imperial China: 900-1800
By Frederick W. Mote
Harvard University Press, 2000, 1107 pp

This is history on a grand scale but with intimate details. In the crowning achievement of a lifetime of research and teaching at Princeton, Mote has produced what is destined to become the definitive work on traditional China. Rather than basing his history on one particular grand theory, he provides a chronology interspersed with stimulating and informative essays. These include insightful commentaries about the institution of the emperor, the nature of the bureaucracy, the informal practices of local governments, the political importance of artistic excellence, the economics of the Yellow River basin, the organizational practices of the nomadic tribes, and much more. More than an account of the activities of the political decision-makers, Mote provides a vivid picture of the hierarchical structure of Chinese society. The sum effect is an informative work that makes vivid the full dimensions of China's greatest centuries.