Book Report

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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, “Growing Old”, shows his medical knowledge and how to apply in real life and medical clinic in the palace. The last chapter, “Son”, shows his father’s love toward his sons and the process and conflicts on the succession. The additional translated appendixes display K’ang Hsi’s seventeen letters and his final valedictory edict that hidden from the palace. Those original documents clearly the audience a clear idea of K’ang Hsi’s inner self. This book report will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of reading this book and how this book affects the reader.
Jonathan D. Spence creates a memoir to show K’ang Hsi from the first person narration. This technique immediately brings the reader into this remarkable emperor’s world. K’ang Hsi (1654-1722) was the third emperor in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and he ruled China for 61 years (start from 1661 and end at 1722), which was the longest period throughout Chinese history. Han Chinese was the majority ethnicity in China and they ruled over China since the start of Chinese history. However, until Yuan D...

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...r in the family, Spence should also include some information about his wives and female. The only one female story in the book is his sick grandmother and how to take care her as an act of filial piety. Spence does not add K’ang Hsi’s family point of view. I am interested in K’ang Hsi’s daily family stories, because K’ang Hsi was a successful emperor from the historian’s opinion, however, I personally would be more interested in his private family life. Those family stories may make K’ang Hsi as fully as a man and an emperor.
From the political figure to a father of 56 sons and daughters in the family, Spence organizes all the information into this fictional memoir in order for the reader to understand K’ang Hsi’s talents and personal point of views. It provides a significant platform for reader to explore the heart from a Qing Emperor who ruled China for 61 years.

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