With so much happening in China in the past month it seems that there are a number of very specific topics that any essay on China should focus. I worry, however, that we get so caught up staring at strange clumps of trees that we risk losing sight of the forest. What happened in July this year, and again in August, or in June 2013, or a number of other times, were not unexpected shocks and game changers. China is a dynamic and unbalanced economic system entering into something that we might grandly call a “phase shift”, or less grandly the rebalancing process, and that it is doing so with a great deal of debt structured in a highly inverted way. Anyone who sees China this way would have been able to predict not so much the specific shocks, panics, and credit crunches that we have experienced, but rather that we would of necessity experience a series of very similar shocks.
I have called this a reference work and so it is. Yet the essays are not the typical brief bloodless entries written by beginning students of many reference works. Each is a fully developed article, with bibliography, often with excellent illustrations (no notes, however). Any of them could have been an article in a learned journal or a conference volume. All are well-written and surprisingly readable, considering the wide-variety of societies and writers and the technical nature of the subject. It is impossible for me to judge the scholarship of each author, but when I can, they are always first-rate scholars doing first-rate work. Sun Xiaochun’s essay on China, for example, “Crossing the Boundaries Between Heaven and Man: Astronomy in Ancient China,” is probably the best brief introduction to Chinese astronomy, Chinese cosmology, even Chinese fortune-telling, available. Daniel Varisco, author of “Islamic Folk Astronomy” is a well-known anthropologist who did fieldwork in Yemen.
To summarize, this is a first-rate work on world astronomy, quite readable, and I recommend it to every library, as well as to readers interested in astronomy.
Category: essays research papers; Title: Essay on China