In 221 BCE, the Qin state conquered its neighbours and created the first unified Chinese empire in history. So began the imperial era, where dynasties claiming divine assent ruled for more than 2,000 years.
Borders shifted and emperors struggled to exert control over every region of their diverse territories. Elites held that they were inheritors of a rich, pre-imperial culture, while their society produced world-changing inventions such as the compass, printing, gunpowder and the gun. And imperial China itself was altered as it came into contact with others through trade, exploration and war.
For anyone curious about this fascinating period, Peter Lorge introduces imperial China’s major ruling dynasties, religions, arts, thinkers, inventions, military advancements, economic developments and historians.
‘In short, fast-paced chapters, Peter Lorge provides a fresh look at key elements of China’s imperial past. He invites the reader to ponder what we mean by “China”, how to understand “dynasty”, and whether sources written in literary Chinese overstate unity and continuity and underplay law, the military, and openness to new ideas.’
– Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Washington, and author of The Cambridge Illustrated History of China
‘A compact but engaging exposition of imperial China over the course of its 2,000-year history. Both accessible and informative, this book challenges a series of commonly held assumptions and reveals the complexity and incredible diversity of the Chinese world.’
– Imre Galambos, Reader in Chinese Studies, University of Cambridge