The first hundred pages of “A Modern History of Hong Kong”

***Special guest post by nichan***

book coverThis weekend I sat down and read the first hundred pages of “A Modern History of Hong Kong” by Steve Tsang, which is – wait for it! – a history on Hong Kong!

It is, so far, not the easiest, comfiest, cushiest history I’ve ever read. This dude wants you to comprehend the very basic foundations of Hong Kong, and he presents his facts in a pretty methodical way. There has been, so far, no storytelling with tales of specific people doing specific things, weaved in and out of the narrative, holding your hand in-between the data. This is, instead, the old school sort of history, where he gives you the information – it’s up to you to pay attention, not up to him to keep your attention. …It frequently feels like you’re reading a textbook more than something you’ve voluntarily plucked from the shelf.

Yet while it’s been difficult enough in some places so as to force me to read and reread whole sections, it’s also been surprisingly interesting. He’s presenting so very many aspects of Hong Kong’s history that I would’ve never really expected to have so bluntly handed to me: the succession of early rule, creation of government, foundations of economic development, political disputes… I’m used to modern histories, where these things are slid in subtly, and you don’t realize you’re reading about them until they’ve already gone by. Luckily, though, he presents these topics in small sections, interspersed with each other, so that you don’t get numbingly overwhelmed.

I don’t think this would make a good introduction to Chinese history. I’m finding my reading of it being supplemented and buoyed by recollections of the many books I’ve gone through previously, non-fiction and fiction alike. (…Oddly enough, the stories I’m thinking of the most have been those of Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth” trilogy.)

So! If you’re new to Chinese history, this probably isn’t the book for you. But! If you’ve read enough that you can casually navigate mentions of events around the late 1800s and early 1900s, and you don’t mind a challenge in the form of a dry and difficult read, then this might just be up your alley!

Oh… And you might want some maps on hand. This book has one that I can find, and it’s out-of-date and only minimally useful. No pictures, either!


More about nichan:
i like cantonese music, japanese music, a dash of korean music, and our site owner has recently exposed me to mandarin music. — joey yung was my introduction to asian music.

i like manga and anime. — “sailor moon” was my introduction to anime, and my first manga obsession was “gravitation”.

i really like ancient chinese literature. — i believe “the tale of genji” was my introduction to asian literature, but i very quickly converted from japanese to chinese. i’m pretty sure my first chinese literature experience was “a dream of red mansions”.

i was a history major in college. i did my senior thesis on the comparison of yaoi and slash fan histories. when i got out of college, i still had a year left on my parents’ insurance, so i went back to the local college and did an independent study on learning world war i through “gundam wing”.

i like the occasional asian movie, but i don’t really have the attention span for movies…

i loves me some loligoth/gothloli.

the problem, you see, is that i’m way, way, way too cheap and lazy to bother getting new stuff, so i predict that all of my reviews will be on things i’ve already watched/read/heard, rather than new and up-to-date releases. don’t be expecting to see new titles and whatnot listed under my name… i buy from the bargain bin!

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