Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Eyewitness: Ancient China

Eyewitness: Ancient China

Arthur Cotterell
Nonfiction Picture Book  Series
For ages 10 and up
Dorling Kindersley, 2005   ISBN: 978-0756613822

When many of us think about China we think of it as being a large country with a large, mostly rural, population. With think of it as being a place where the people celebrate the New Year with kites, paper lanterns, and dragon dancers. What many of us don't know is that China "is the world's oldest continuous civilization." It is a country with an incredibly rich history, a history the people of modern day China have every reason to be proud of.

Thanks to the country's geographic isolation, the wisdom of it leaders, and the words of its philosophers, China managed to remain cut off from the rest of the world for many decades. After 221 B.C. it was a basically stable country and the centralized government set up by the early emperors lasted more than two thousand years, even though the capital city changed its location several times.

This stability made it possible for the people of China to make great technological and artistic advances many of which have had a profound effect on the history of the whole world. How Europeans would have managed without compasses, gunpowder, paper and printing using metal type. All of these inventions were first developed in China.

Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that China has always been a place where religious tolerance was observed. This made its civilization unique.

An engaging text is perfectly balanced by a plethora of beautifully reproduced annotated photographs. The photographs show paintings, weapons, musical instruments, foods, and much more. The overall result is that this book gives the reader a feeling similar to that which is experienced when one is walking through a museum, looking at artifacts and learning all about life in ancient times.

The author of this excellent title has placed a timeline at the bottom of the first few pages of the book to help the reader become familiar with the names of the various periods and dynasties in China's history. There is also a complete timeline at the back book along with a page of "Amazing Facts," a page of "Questions and Answers," two "Find out More" pages, and an extensive glossary