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China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty (2002)

by Charles Benn

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One of the text books used in my Mediaeval Chinese History course. I loved the way it described little things like the way the women wore their make up (and the canges in the styles) along with adding little anecdotes about the customs. I learned a lot and kept the book after the class was over. ( )
  hemlockclock | Mar 13, 2009 |
This is a really good idea for a book, but it doesn't make for a very good read. Benn has assembled much that is known about the cultural life in the Tang dynasty and then sorted it together by topics such as music, food and clothing. Then he summarizes the data, often quoting from original sources. So there is a tremendous amount of helpful information on any particular topic, but it just reads like lists and lists of things. This would be extremely useful for anyone wanting to set historical fiction in Tang China. ( )
  aulsmith | Mar 29, 2008 |
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Originally published 2002 as Daily Life in Traditional China.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195176650, Paperback)

The Tang Dynasty (618-907), traditionally regarded as the golden age of China, was a time of patricians and intellectuals, Buddhist monks and Taoist priests, poetry and music, song and dance. In China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty, Charles Benn paints a vivid picture of the lifestyle behind the grandeur of the Tang culture.
All aspects of day-to-day life are presented, including crime,entertainment, fashion, marriage, food, hygiene, dwellings, and transportation. Attend an ancient feast to celebrate an imperial birthday, where ale was served in elaborate pitchers before a meal of fourteen hors d'oeuvres and twenty-three courses. Learn which colors concubines used for their eye makeup and beauty marks, and what jealous wives did to discourage such enhancement. See the similarities between today's pubs and the Tang alehouses, where women were hired to dance and sing to encourage patrons to stay longer and spend more money. Decide for yourself why Yangzhou, a city on the Grand Canal close to the Yangtze River, was considered one of the greatest cities in the Tang Dynasty.
Benn translates and paraphrases his classical Chinese sources from the Tang era with fresh and polished prose. He also includes his own illustrations of everything from tools and hairstyles to musical instruments and courtyard dwellings. A history of the rise and fall of the dynasty is presented, as is a look at the societal structure of the aristocracy, bureaucracy, eunuchs, clergy, peasants, artisans, merchants, and slaves. This thorough explanation provides fascinating insight into a culture and time that is often misunderstood by Westerners and brings alive both the everyday routine and the timeless splendor of this intellectually and artistically powerful epoch. Enjoy your journey in China's Golden Age, and come back to the present with a greater understanding of this amazing time.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:40 -0400)

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