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Book Report

1273 words - 6 pages

The fiction, Emperor of China: Self-portrait of K’ang-Hsi, is written by Jonathan D. Spence in 1974. Based on various historical records and the letters written by K’ang Hsi Emperor, Spence creates a fictional memoir to describe K’ang Hsi’s later years. This book is divided into six chapters plus two appendixes. The first chapter, “In Motion”, illustrates his talents in hunting skills and his extensive knowledge on how to survive by taking the natural advantages during wars. The second chapter, “Ruling”, expresses K’ang Hsi’s opinions on how to rule the country. The third chapter, “Thinking”, compares the cultures and ideologies between the Western countries and China. The fourth chapter, ...view middle of the document...

Following by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Han Chinese fought back the country and became the emperors again. Corruption and civil wars were the main reasons for the Ming Dynasty’s decline. Manchu (former name: Mongols) was the ruler during the Ming Dynasty.
Due the cultural differences between the Han and Manchu, Spence tries to develop a fair assumption that K’ang Hsi was trying his best to balance the Han and Manchu cultural conflicts, and compares the benefits and disadvantage between two ethnics . On the other hand, in reality, the one who rule the country may have a superior sense of pride. Spence is also included that pride of being a Manchu Emperor from K’ang Hsi’s mind. For instance, when the Western missionaries saw K’ang Hsi in the meetings, they must bow in front of him as the sign of respect. If the missionary refused to do so, he would put himself in trouble or even death . In chapter 3,”Thinking”, there are examples to demonstrate on how K’ang Hsi was interested in the Western ideologies and had conversations with the missionaries but in the same time, he set rules in order to control their actions and the spread of Christianity . As a reader, I personally appreciate Spence’s presentation on K’ang Hsi’s solutions of how to solve the cultural conflicts, such as the domestic problems between Manchu and Han Chinese and the cultural shocks between Western and Chinese cultures. The solutions also prove how remarkable that K’ang Hsi was as an Emperor for China.
The Book of Change and The Analects are the historical sources that Spence uses the most throughout the book and he explains that K’ang Hsi always made reference to these two sources. The Book of Change and The Analects are the classical reading for Confucian scholars to study. Throughout the entire book, the reader can sense that K’ang Hsi was an impressive learner. He learnt his managing skills through books, experiences and advises from his government; his hunting and martial arts skills were natural from his Manchu blood; he also recorded his conversations with different people in order for himself as a reminder and for future records. Spence use all three types of sources to present K’ang Hsi’s talents and virtues.
Being a virtuous emperor requires a lot of knowledge to do fair judgments, yet K’ang Hsi did not like the people who only depended on books. Through all the historical records, he criticized the governors who were being bias on either Manchu or Han . He also hated the people who only talked about Confucianism without considering...

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