Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography
Kerry Brown, Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography 宝库山 中华传记字典, Great Barrington, Massachusetts : Berkshire Publishing Group, 2014. ISBN: 9781933782669.
The Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography, the first publication of its kind since 1898, is the work of more than one hundred internationally recognized experts from nearly a dozen countries. It has been designed to satisfy the growing thirst of students, researchers, professionals, and general readers for knowledge about China. It makes the entire span of Chinese history manageable by introducing the reader to emperors, politicians, poets, writers, artists, scientists, explorers, and philosophers who have shaped and transformed China over the course of five thousand years. In 135 entries, ranging from 1,000 to 8,000 words and written by some of the world’s leading China scholars, the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography takes the reader from the important (even if possibly mythological) figures of ancient China to Communist leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The in-depth essays provide rich historical context, and create a compelling narrative that weaves abstract concepts and disparate events into a coherent story. Cross-references between the articles show the connections between times, places, movements, events, and individuals.
The three-volume set includes a range of appendices, including a timeline of key events, a pronunciation guide, a bibliography, lists of rulers and other prominent people, and other supplemental materials for students of Chinese history and culture. Volume Four (which is published separately) focuses on key individuals from the People s Republic of China s post-opening era, starting in 1979.
Presentation by Hutchins Library Highlights
The set features three volumes. Entries in the dictionary cover emperors, politicians, poets, writers, artists, scientists, explorers, philosophers, and others. The dictionary features 135 long biographies that range from 1,000 to 8,000 words in length. Entries are written by scholars fro China as well as from Europe, America, and Australia. The three volumes cover from the beginnings of Chinese history to 1979, the year when China resumed diplomatic relations with the United States. A forthcoming fourth volume will bring coverage to the present day. The publisher states that this work is inspired by the Dictionary of National Biography to provide access to information similar to that set about Chinese persons. The publisher speaks further on the set’s coverage:
“. . . we have tried to strike a balance between the obvious figures who cannot be left out of any overview of Chinese history, and lesser known individuals, whose life and achievements can nonetheless provide insight into China’s development” (xxviii).
Each entry features the following components:
- The person’s name. (Right now, the volumes do not feature any living persons. In the forthcoming fourth volume, some living individuals will be featured. This is another way in which this set is different than the Dictionary of National Biography).
- The time and dates the person lived and a brief statement of what they did.
- Alternate name(s), if the person had any.
- A summary paragraph.
- The full entry essay.
- The set overall contains various illustrations. When available, there is at least a portrait of the person. Images come from various sources.
- A list of items for further reading.
How can you make use of this resource?
- The volumes are organized chronologically by dynasty or historical period. Within each period, articles are mostly alphabetical (there are some exceptions).
- Each volume has a complete list of entries for the specific volume and the set.
- The first volume contains an introduction, the publisher’s note, and a reader’s guide that gives further guidance on how to best use this set for research and learning.
- The third volume has a names index to help you find all the figures mentioned in the volume. If a person has a full entry in the dictionary, his or her name would be listed in bold letters.
- The set features helpful indices, a timeline, and a glossary. (…)