cover image Chinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture

Chinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture

Jonathan D. Spence / Author W. W. Norton & Company $24.95 (400

Spence's intellectually adventurous essays help us understand the dynamics of China's past and the dormant promise of its future. He reviews the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 with reference to the symbolism of public spaces. He boldly interprets the life of Qing emperor K'anghsi (1654-1722) in terms of Shakespeare's seven ages of man. The tragic odyssey of Arcadio Huang, a Chinese scholar in Paris who briefly befriended Montesquieu, serves as a parable of missed opportunities in contact between China and the West. Spence ( The Search for Modern China ) shows how opium smoking radically affected all levels of society and contrasts the diet of China's poor with that of gourmets. This miscellany of previously published essays and reviews includes profiles of John Fairbank and Arthur Waley as well as lively explorations of Chinese films and medicine, the fall of the Ming dynasty and the longevity of Confucianism. Photos not seen by PW. (June)