Reading before writing

It has been more than a month since I posted the previous article:
Xia dynasty- Shang dynasty夏代-商

So much for my weekly publishing plan for December, that included a couple of articles on December 22nd and 29th, bringing up to the Han dynasty.

This post will be different- as it aims to share some “suggested readings” (or my feelings about them) and a re-routing of my writing plan.

按部就班: one step at a time…

Sometimes, you just need a small accident to actually obtain the time needed to do something different (I would dare to say “better”).

In my case, it was a… computer crash, just after I had saved the latest changes to my article on the transition between the Shang and the Zhou dynasties.

No, don’t worry, I am not going to post it now: luckily, in between there were Xmas and Year End holidays, and I had time to re-read the whole series of articles as I had drafted them, and saw that… seen from a distance, there was something more and different worth writing about.

As I wrote on Linkedin a couple of days ago:
“OK, my first R n SAP week is almost done.. then, I hope to merge both with my WCM update in early February incidentally: if you haven’t see any updates on … it is because, thanks to a computer crash in December right before I posted an article, my writing about an organizational development perspective up to the end of the Han Empire took control of my keyboard- and I went way beyond the 2-3×1000 words that I expected 🙂

so, it will be my first mini-book merging my organizational change experience and Chinese learning (I am refreshing my reading&writing of Mandarin Headstart2): I just felt that my “change initiative”, beside the “business” (done in 2013- BFM2013 and Business Social Networking) and “technical” (done in 2014- BYOD and the book in Italian on politics and new media) needed… something with a longer range: “history” (well, my re-interpretation but I will share more details on Monday- of course, on wodeshudian have a nice week-end!”

My current Chinese language skills are nowhere close to what is needed to read and understand e.g. a “Classical Chinese Reader” that I found in a bookstore sale right before Xmas, but buying that book was certainly the inspiration for what I wrote above.

Actually, the inspiration for “some” reading and mind-mapping of books about Chinese history that I did over the last month, and will keep doing for few weeks more, while starting to write the book that I hinted at.

Which books did I get through? Well, let’s share titles and ISBNs, along with my “short review”:

  • Lewis “The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han (History of Imperial China)”

    interesting and fairly priced book- criticized by some for its non-chronological layout, but frankly one of the more interesting books that I read: taking notes focusing just on what I consider organizational development (and no organization develops in a vacuum) took forever, as there were so many paragraphs that were worth mentioning; if you have time and budget to read just one book on that period, this is worth you time

  • AA VV “La Cina” (3 volumes, 4 tomes) Two volumes stand out, the one from the bronze age to the Han, and the one up the Qing

    by size (are you really willing to read few thousand pages) and content (essays by a variety of authors), to say nothing about the price, this series (unfortunately available only in Italian) is really targeted to libraries; personally, as my original focus was just up to the Han, I read the two tomes of the first volume (the first one goes from the Prehistory to the Bronze Age), while “scanned” and read only relevant sections from the other two; a little bit an uneven collection, and probably only specific chapters could be useful, but, from a learner perspective, the material listed within bibliographies and the clearly printed dictionary of names, places, words that comes along with each tome makes them worth browsing and spending some time with in a library, if you are interested; personally, I mind-mapped all four, and will eventually re-arrange my notes after getting back to read at least the third volume

  • Ebrey The Cambridge Illustrated History of China
    Probably a little bit “dense”/superficial, if it is the only book on the history of China that you will read, but it is certainly entertaining and a quick introduction
  • Cheek Living with Reform: China since 1989

    quixotic at times, it is anyway quite informative- but, as many other books on XX century China, it is really easier to understand if you went first through some of the books that I listed above: cultural and organizational change in a country that can legitimately boast of a kind of “organizational continuity” spanning thousands of years implies (even more than when reading about e.g. Byzantium) that whatever you do now is probably linked to something that resonates with your local audience; the book is focused on the “new” China post 1989, with details about reforms, laws, etc., and sometimes can be tedious, but anyway informative

I read other books over the last couple of years, but many are available just in Italian, and others are probably too “technical” (e.g. on manufacturing to sell in China, or on China’s Sovereign Fund investments abroad)- and would anyway go beyond the scope of the series.

If your Chinese language skills are good enough to be able to read contemporary material, I suggest to have a try with these two books:

If you survive both, then search you can find most of the key books that are repeatedly quoted within any book on the history of China.

OK, if you are lazy, or your skills are just marginally better than mine, you can still search: there are also bilingual editions (and you can also find bilingual material within various websites online, e.g. the Chinese text project version of Zhuangzi).

Personally, I did a small detour- and before Xmas I bought also a simplified Italian grammar… for Chinese- as a way to actually test my reading abilities, and understand differences: it was quite useful.

It might well be that you too can find, in your language and in your country, a grammar of your mother tongue for Chinese speakers- as a shortcut through Chinese syntax (admittedly, I read few grammars of the Chinese language over the last couple of years, and therefore I was focused mainly on “activating patterns” and associating them with something that more or less I know, being an Italian born in Italy).

One month late, from the next week I will write about specific topics, linking current affairs to relevant material online (or mindmaps/infographics, if I have to produce it myself- maybe with some number crunching with R to produce charts that are better looking than what I can do with Excel) from the past of China.

The reason? As usual… while I am learning, writing is a good way to “fix” what I read before I forget it, and anyway, considering what I wrote above, it is also useful to keep collecting “drafts” that, as in a jigsaw puzzle, will eventually be joined.

For the time being… have a nice week!

PS Please read the introduction to understand how to use this website 🙂


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