zompist bboard

a congress of convoluted conworldery
It is currently Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:39 pm

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: China Construction Kit
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:23 pm 
Smeric
Smeric
User avatar

Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2003 3:42 pm
Posts: 1731
Location: The Lost Land of Suburbia (a.k.a. Harrogate, UK)
I'm surprised this hasn't been posted about yet, perhaps it's not widely known, but Zompist's China construction kit is now out!

I've bought a copy, as its release is quite timely for my own work. The idea of the book is to introduce the reader to new models of language, culture and history, to get us thinking in new ways for our own conlanging and conworlding. I've only read the history section as yet, but so far, so good.

China has a lot of history, of course, which I guess is a problem for the writer of an introduction/overview - how much detail to put in? I'd say the level of detail in the book is about right. There's interesting stories about individual emperors and pauses now and again for an overview of the general direction of Chinese history.

From flicking through, I'm looking forward to the language section, with sketches of the modern and classic languages and the culture section. I was just wondering if anyone else has bought it yet and what your reactions are.

(Mods feel free to move if you think this belongs in another forum)

_________________
Mohai


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 8:58 am 
Sanno
Sanno
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:00 pm
Posts: 16318
Location: One of the dark places of the world
Ketumak wrote:
I'm surprised this hasn't been posted about yet, perhaps it's not widely known, but Zompist's China construction kit is now out!

I've bought a copy, as its release is quite timely for my own work. The idea of the book is to introduce the reader to new models of language, culture and history, to get us thinking in new ways for our own conlanging and conworlding. I've only read the history section as yet, but so far, so good.

China has a lot of history, of course, which I guess is a problem for the writer of an introduction/overview - how much detail to put in? I'd say the level of detail in the book is about right. There's interesting stories about individual emperors and pauses now and again for an overview of the general direction of Chinese history.

From flicking through, I'm looking forward to the language section, with sketches of the modern and classic languages and the culture section. I was just wondering if anyone else has bought it yet and what your reactions are.

(Mods feel free to move if you think this belongs in another forum)


Of course, if anyone is serious about this, there are professional alternatives available.

I would just like to point out the common myth here though, that China has for most of history been the world's leading civilisation. In reality, that was only the case for a "brief blip" in the middle ages, and even then it would probably have been a close context between China at the Islamic world. In the classical period, the power and wealth of Rome was on an order of magnitude greater than Han china. [Eg Rome produce 83,000 tons of iron a year, 80,000 of lead, 15,000 of copper, to China's 5,000 of iron and negligible quanties of all other metals; Rome had 250,000 miles of roads, to China's 20,000; Rome twice as many miles of fully paved road than China had of unpaved roads; 900 arch bridges to china's 3; Rome had a fully professional, well-armed, battle-hardened armoured army of 350,000 men (they served 20-25 years), while China had fewer than 5,000 professional soldiers, and potentially up to several hundred thousand partly-trained never-seen-battle conscripts (they each served only 1 year) and part-time volunteer militiamen, the majority of whom didn't even wear armour. Etc etc]
- I think this idea has come about through a sort of overenthusiastic mysteries-of-the-east convention, in which a necessary correction to one popular fallacy (that China has always been as subordinate as it is now) creates an equal and opposite popular fallacy (that China has always been dominant until now).

_________________
Blog: http://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/

But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:54 pm 
Smeric
Smeric
User avatar

Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2003 3:42 pm
Posts: 1731
Location: The Lost Land of Suburbia (a.k.a. Harrogate, UK)
It's interesting what you say about how we in the west currently tend to exagerate China's power. It's consistent with our over-valuing of China's contemporary power. China currently looks set for some difficult times economically. That said, I think the country is still significant enough and different enough for the CCK to be worth reading.

You're right that bigger and better guides to Chinese history are available from professional historians, but I suspect a reader would need to supplement them with a language guide from a professional linguist and a culture guide from someone familiar with that field. A serious sinologist would want to read and buy books in all three areas. With the CCK though you get an overview of all three fields in one volume, for those of us who just want that. So I think the book has a place in the market.

_________________
Mohai


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:22 pm 
Boardlord
Boardlord

Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2002 8:26 pm
Posts: 10421
Location: In the den
This is a rather apples-and-oranges comparison. Rome and China were rather different things, and it's hardly fair to look at the things characteristic of Rome and decide that it was better because it was more Roman.

Rome was highly militarized because it was a military empire, built on the legions, occupying a highly diverse set of foreign nations, and facing threats that were capable of dismembering the empire.

The empire looks good on a map, but the western half was barely urbanized, and was unable to support the military presence needed to keep it in the empire (and maintain all the pretty roads and cities)— especially once the military focus led to centuries of civil war. By Justinian's time, he could temporarily recapture the west with just 15,000 men. The power base of the empire was and remained the East, which was able to maintain itself for centuries longer, though with ever diminishing effectiveness.

Pre-Hàn China was also highly militarized, but this was no longer necessary at the height of the Hàn. In good times, the empire was peaceful and cohesive, and could be run by bureaucrats. China's problem was not really military... even when it was conquered, it persisted as a cultural unit and absorbed its conquerors. Its problem was that its taxation system depended on a mass of small farmers, and over a century or two land would get gobbled up by large landowners and taken off the tax rolls, leading to a vicious cycle of lower tax yields, increased taxes on the smallest farms, and then peasant revolts. This wasn't a problem that a larger army would solve.

Neither empire thus had a system to maintain itself indefinitely... but China had a cultural cohesion that allowed it to reconstitute itself periodically. It was also far more able to maintain higher density agriculture and urbanization than Western Europe was till just the last couple centuries.

As for the Islamic world, of course it was #2 for a long period of time. But despite its extent, it had about half the population, and at the time, under the Sòng, the Chinese were arguably at their height.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:56 pm 
Boardlord
Boardlord

Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2002 8:26 pm
Posts: 10421
Location: In the den
I don't have good information about iron production, so that's interesting. I'll have to look for more data. I'm not sure why you say other metals were negligible, when Wikipedia says that the Hàn produced 220 million copper coins a year.

As for bridges, surely much of this is climatic? The ancient Chinese built mostly in wood— which is why we have no ancient Chinese architecture to look at. There's an obvious reason Mediterranean cultures preferred stone: the climate didn't support as many trees. Once China had gotten rid of most of its forests, by Míng times, it made much more use of stone.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:22 pm 
Avisaru
Avisaru
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:01 pm
Posts: 415
The last time I saw Salmoneus quote those exact same statistics about metal production I followed them to the source, and they were from one book by one guy. It was behind a paywall and my university didn't have a copy, so I never bothered to see where the author was getting the data from, but from his bio he seemed to be a fairly well respected (white) specialist in east Asian history. I would be interested to see where all this information is ultimately coming from.

_________________
"I'm sorry, when you have all As in every class in every semester, it's not easy to treat the idea that your views are fundamentally incoherent as a serious proposition."


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2016 10:43 am 
Lebom
Lebom

Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2009 7:28 pm
Posts: 162
Quote:
a fairly well respected (white) specialist in east Asian history.


What is the relevance of him being white


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:36 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:01 pm
Posts: 415
Is it really so irrelevant whether a scholar of Chinese history is or is not from China? It doesn't preclude you from being an expert, but it's hardly race baiting to point out the fact. I also said that he seemed pretty legit, so I don't know what the beef is.

_________________
"I'm sorry, when you have all As in every class in every semester, it's not easy to treat the idea that your views are fundamentally incoherent as a serious proposition."


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:39 am 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:45 pm
Posts: 11760
Location: Santiago de Chile
if you had a reason to mention it, then just say the reason: if you don't, just say you said it out of habit or observance of mores or whatever. of course it could be thought of as relevant: one might expect different affectations of western and chinese scholars, for example, or, I don't know, chinese scholars might be more prone to be all chauvinistic, or less, or something: no need to get all prickly.

_________________
Articles on Suenu - Amphitrite


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2016 9:36 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:01 pm
Posts: 415
You guys are reading way too much into this! I didn't have his name, or you would have known from that what his background was. Sheesh. :)

_________________
"I'm sorry, when you have all As in every class in every semester, it's not easy to treat the idea that your views are fundamentally incoherent as a serious proposition."


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 4:19 am 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:50 am
Posts: 2507
Wouldn't non-Chinese or non-Asian fit better?

_________________
The conlanger formerly known as “the conlanger formerly known as Pole, the”.

If we don't study the mistakes of the future we're doomed to repeat them for the first time.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 11:38 am 
Smeric
Smeric
User avatar

Joined: Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:45 pm
Posts: 1264
Aldwinkle wrote:
Quote:
a fairly well respected (white) specialist in east Asian history.


What is the relevance of him being white


Seems like a suspicion of bias on part of the specialist?
People can perceive outsiders to be biased against the thing they study while insiders are biased for it.

_________________
ʾAšol ḵavad pulqam ʾifbižen lav ʾifšimeḻ lit maseḡrad lav lit n͛ubad. ʾUpulasim ṗal sa-panžun lav sa-ḥadṇ lav ṗal šarmaḵeš lit ʾaẏṭ waẏyadanun wižqanam.
- Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:43 pm 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:45 pm
Posts: 11760
Location: Santiago de Chile
Pole, the wrote:
Wouldn't non-Chinese or non-Asian fit better?

who knows, depend on what the speaker meant, doesn't it ?

unless you're asking what is the orthodox way to speak, upon which the Gods of Racism smile or something. in which case... beats me!

_________________
Articles on Suenu - Amphitrite


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 3:16 pm 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:50 am
Posts: 2507
That's why I am not asking you.

_________________
The conlanger formerly known as “the conlanger formerly known as Pole, the”.

If we don't study the mistakes of the future we're doomed to repeat them for the first time.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group