The Water Kingdom by Philip Ball
A Secret History of China

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Along the way, the book punctures myths and draws illuminating connections. If it hardly charts a “secret” course as its subtitle claims, the amount of information is impressive...
-Financial Times

Synopsis

From the Yangtze to the Yellow River, China is traversed by great waterways, which have defined its politics and ways of life for centuries. Water has been so integral to China’s culture, economy, and growth and development that it provides a window on the whole sweep of Chinese history. In The Water Kingdom, renowned writer Philip Ball opens that window to offer an epic and powerful new way of thinking about Chinese civilization.

Water, Ball shows, is a key that unlocks much of Chinese culture. In The Water Kingdom, he takes us on a grand journey through China’s past and present, showing how the complexity and energy of the country and its history repeatedly come back to the challenges, opportunities and inspiration provided by the waterways. Drawing on stories from travelers and explorers, poets and painters, bureaucrats and activists, of whom all have been influenced by an environment shaped and permeated by water, Ball explores how the ubiquitous relationship of the Chinese people to water has made it an enduring metaphor for philosophical thought and artistic expression. From the Han emperors to Mao, the ability to manage the waters ? to provide irrigation and defend against floods ? was a barometer of political legitimacy, often resulting in engineering works on a gigantic scale. It’s a struggle that continues today, as the strain of economic growth on water resources may be the greatest threat to China’s future.

The Water Kingdom offers an unusual and fascinating history, uncovering just how much of China’s art, politics, and outlook has been defined by the links between humanity and nature.
 
 

About Philip Ball

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Published March 31, 2017 by University Of Chicago Press. 336 pages
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Financial Times

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Reviewed by Jonathan Fenby on Aug 05 2016

Along the way, the book punctures myths and draws illuminating connections. If it hardly charts a “secret” course as its subtitle claims, the amount of information is impressive...

Read Full Review of The Water Kingdom: A Secret H... | See more reviews from Financial Times

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