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The introductory chapter on "the land and people" includes a fine brief account of the language and writing system. This serves to overcome some quaint western prejudices on China, and is very helpful in understanding how the Chinese have seen their past. Classical Chinese was much closer to modern Mandarin than ancient Egyptian or even Latin are to English -- but especially in its written form is it decisively not the modern language. Social patterns that have been relatively stable for thousands of years are described along with the many changes to them.
The history describes migrations and political and military campaigns along with philosophic ideas inseparable from politics. It describes trends in art -- and their practical role in spreading culture and industry. And this is from roughly 2000 BC to 1850 CE.
The key, of course, is that this book is short. Very short. If you just need a quick survey this will do it. And if you want more, this quick survey is an invaluable outline.China to 1850: A Short History Overview
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