Book Launch & Panel Discussion — What is Chinese history good for?

Some people turn to Chinese history for clues to China’s present. Others look to it as the missing piece in the puzzle of world history as it’s typically taught in the west. And still others find joy simply in exploring topics ranging from the intellectual and cultural life of Chinese cities in dynastic times to the stories of China’s first feminists, the origins of Daoism, or even the history of history in China itself.

Benjamin Penny will moderate a panel including Esther Sunkyung Klein, Yayun Zhu and Linda Jaivin that will launch Linda’s newest book, The Shortest History of China (Black Inc, May 2021).

Linda Jaivin is a novelist, translator, essayist and specialist writer on Chinese politics, language and culture. She has been a foreign correspondent in China, and is co-editor of the China Story Yearbook and associate of the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University. The author of twelve books, she writes regularly for a range of publications including The Saturday Paper and Australian Foreign Affairs.

Esther Sunkyung Klein is Senior Lecturer in pre-modern Chinese historiography, philosophy, and literature at the ANU School of Culture, History and Languages.Her current project focuses on approaches to truth and evidence in pre-modern China, including both the philosophical and historiographical traditions. She is the author of Reading Sima Qian from Han to Song: the Father of History in Pre-modern China (2019).

Benjamin Penny is Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Centre on Chine in the World. His work mainly focusses on Chinese religions, but he is also interested in the Chinese Treaty Ports in the mid-nineteenth century and the development of Sinology. His two current projects are a study of a Taiwanese new religion, Weixin shengjiao 唯心聖教, and a book based on the teenage diaries of Chaloner Alabaster, an English Student Interpreter in Hong Kong in 1855-56.

Yayun Zhu is a PhD student at the Australian Centre on China in the World. He is writing a dissertation on a cultural and literary history of the city of Nanjing in the seventeenth century. His research interest includes Chinese literature and history of books. He has also translated for various exhibitions and theatres. Yayun previously studied economics and Japanese literature.

**The Shortest History of China (RRP$24.99) is available for purchase at the book launch. Buy a copy and have it signed by Linda Jaivin! **

The Shortest History of China

A pacy history of China that can be read in an afternoon, but will transform your perspective for a lifetime.

From kung-fu to tofu, tea to trade routes, sages to silk, China has influenced cuisine, commerce, military strategy, aesthetics and philosophy across the world for thousands of years.

Chinese history is sprawling and gloriously messy. It is full of heroes who are also villains, prosperous ages and violent rebellions, cultural vibrancy and censorious impulses, rebels, loyalists, dissidents and wits. The story of women in China, from the earliest warriors to twentieth-century suffragettes, is rarely told. And historical spectres of corruption and disunity, which have brought down many a glorious ruling house, continue to haunt the People’s Republic of China today.

Modern China is seen variously as an economic powerhouse, an icon of urbanisation, a propaganda state or an aggressive superpower seeking world domination. Linda Jaivin distils a vast history into a short, readable account that tells you what you need to know about China, from its philosophical origins to its political system, to the COVID-19 pandemic and where China is likely to lead the world.

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Linda Jaivin, Esther Klein, Benjamin Penny, Yayun Zhu

Dates & times

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

5.30pm - 7.00pm


Auditorium, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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