By Thomas Christensen
Thomas Christensen’s earlier identify 1616: the realm in Motion checked out a unmarried 12 months within the age of early maritime globalism—Publishers Weekly gave it a starred overview, calling it “a wonderful evaluation of the nascent smooth world.” in contrast his new gorgeously illustrated River of Ink levels extensively throughout time and cultures and gives what quantities to a magisterial historical past of literacy.
The book’s identify refers back to the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 while the Tigris ran black with the ink of books flung into the water by way of Mongol invaders. different essays variety from the writings of prehistoric chinese language cultures recognized purely via archaeology to the nation of ebook reviewing within the US this present day to the heroic efforts of latest Afghanis to maintain the legacy in their old tradition alive below the barrage of unending war.
Christensen’s encyclopedic wisdom of either global paintings and an unlimited knowing of literature permits him to maneuver simply from a dialogue of the discovery of portable variety in Korea to Johannes Kepler’s look for the concord of the spheres to the unusual trip of an iron sculpture from Benin to the Louvre. different essays disguise the Popul Vuh of the Maya as exemplum of translation, the pioneering explorations of the early American naturalist John Bartram, the balletic works of Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
It is Christensen’s unheard of present to doubtless see the area entire and to supply a wealth of completely important connections sufficient to our place as voters of an ever extra swiftly globalizing international.
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Extra resources for River of Ink: Literature, History, Art
After eighteen thousand years, the sky had separated from the earth — the yang, which used to be mild and natural, rose to develop into the sky, and the yin, which was once heavy and murky, sank to shape the earth. among them used to be Pangu, who went via 9 alterations each day. His knowledge used to be more than that of the sky and his skill used to be more than that of the earth. on a daily basis the sky rose ten ft larger, the earth turned ten ft thicker, and Pangu grew ten toes taller. through the top of one other eighteen thousand years there has been an exceptionally excessive sky, an exceptionally thick earth, and a really tall Pangu. Then got here the 3 Emperors. . . . — from the Yi Wen Lei Ju (Collection of literature prepared by means of categories), via Ouyang Xun, ca. 604 CE Literary debts resembling the Tang-dynasty encyclopedia the Yi Wen Lei Ju and ancient classics reminiscent of Sima Qian’s Han dynasty Shi ji look historic from our viewpoint, but they're approximately as shut in time to our twenty-first century CE as to the twenty-first century bcE whilst the Xia dynasty — until eventually lately thought of mythical through many students and nonetheless a topic of controversy — used to be China’s An cien t prior ninety nine said to were based. “The conventional and orthodox histories of China current a relatively transparent and constant account of the foundation and early improvement of the chinese language civilisation,” saw British sinologist C. P. Fitzgerald thirty years in the past. yet, he persisted, “this is not any longer authorized through sleek scholarship as background. Any research of the early chinese language tradition to-day is predicated relatively at the proof of archaeological learn than on those conventional literary assets. ” Pangu, the chinese language debts let us know, used to be by way of the Twelve Emperors of Heaven, every one of whom reigned for eighteen thousand years, then by way of the Twelve Emperors of Earth, who reigned for an equivalent time period. They have been by way of the 9 Emperors of Mankind, then the 16 Sovereigns, etc, all the way down to the Yellow Emperor who based chinese language civilization, and directly to the good Yu, the Regulator of Floods, who based the Xia dynasty, the 1st of the ancient dynasties in line with chinese language culture (the first 3 dynasties, the Xia, Shang, and Zhou, are usually grouped jointly less than the rubric “The 3 Dynasties”). Xia Dynasty (ca. 2100–ca. 1600 b ce) whereas Western historians have regularly puzzled the reliability of the traditional chinese language texts, chinese language students have well-known that the normal debts have usually proved unusually actual. these money owed let us know that the capital of the Xia dynasty was once in what's now western Henan province, within the Yellow River basin, and that it used to be based round the starting of the second one millennium BCE. Armed with this data, chinese language archaeologists because the Nineteen Fifties have performed fieldwork at websites close to Yanchi in Henan. those excavations have produced proof of a pre–Shang dynasty tradition known as the Erlitou tradition. as the time and position coincide with the old money owed, and in response to the presence of “palaces” choked with notable artifacts, so much chinese language experts have concluded that the excavations have certainly exposed the continues to be of the Xia, the traditional tradition that started the chinese language dynastic historical past that endured until eventually smooth occasions — in line with chinese language pupil Zou Heng, “Erlitou” and “Xia” may perhaps now be used interchangeably.