Review of China's Geographic Foundations by G.B. Cressey and The Chinese by K.S. Latourrette
These two works will be received with enthusiasm by everyone interested in the Orient, and will be welcomed by the rapidly increasing group of sociologists who seek a world frame of reference for their study of culture. By the aid of tables, graphs, statistics, maps, and photographs, Dr. Cressey, an expert in geology and geography, gives a vivid picture of land and people, resources and climate, communications and commerce. One puts down the book feeling that he has been an a journey, so vivid and clear is the writing.
The six opening chapters deal with the background furnished by history, topography, climate, agriculture, and foreign trade, after which come fifteen chapters on the fifteen geographic regions, the delimitation of which the author regards as his chief contribution to the subject. In opposition to P. M. Roxby and others who distinguish only five, Dr. Cressey includes in China Manchuria, Mongolia, Chinese Turkestan, and the high-lands of Tibet.
But even with this inclusion, the area south of the Great Wall has about double the conventional number. A curious outcome is the inclusion into one region of three non-contiguous areas which are made to form the region called the mountains of Shantung, Shantung, and Jehol. Whatever the geographers may say of this, it seems a bit indefensible to the reviewer, almost as if one should include in a geographic region Florida, Cuba, and Yucatan.
The book is splendidly done, the style is attractive and lucid, and the treatment reflects the most careful and accurate methods of geographic scholarship.
Dr. Latourette's two volumes are outstanding. Since the publication of The Middle Kingdom fifty years ago, nothing in the English language has appeared that is comparable to this clear and dispassionate account of the history and culture of China. It is addressed to the general reader, not to Sinologists, and is therefore an indispensable volume for sociologists who wish to know something of the people, the government, art, language, education, religion, and economics-all of which are given separate chapters in the second volume. The first volume is a chronological record, and
( 380) though this makes some repetition necessary, it is repetition that is in no sense unwelcome to the reader.
Sociologists will find much valuable material in this book. This is particularly true of the second volume, where the cultural aspects are treated topically, but the same remark applies also to the historical account of the political events in the life of our oldest contemporary civilization.
China remained a cultural and political entity longer than any other nation, great or small. This cannot be due to her isolation, for she has been invaded over and over, through the centuries. It is not due to homogeneity of population, for she has assimilated many stocks. She is to be credited with the most important political invention in the history of man. The fact that the written language is independent of phonetics may be important. In an area comparable to Europe, she is not cursed with the notion of a balance of power. But there are many aspects of the question to be solved, and much work is needed. Therefore sociologists will welcome this book.
There is a forty-page Bibliography, helpfully annotated.
We are told that as late as 1800 it is possible that in sheer bulk there were more pages, written and printed, in the Chinese language than in all other languages put together. In the discussion of ceremonies it would appear that the Chinese have been more successful than others in erecting ceremony into an instrument of control and order.
Sociologists realize that there is much that we can learn from China. Here is a good book with which to start,
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO