Encyclopedia of Classical Civilizations

Arthur Cotterell

I bought this book Penguin Encyclopedia of Classical Civilisations edited by Arthur Cotterell, published 1993, in KL for Christmas reading 2002.

I was introduced to the Classical world when I was in Standard 4 by my aunt, fondly called Yee Yee.

She was a fantastic storyteller. She brings the Classical world vividly to my imagination. She was instrumental in getting me to read beyond and ahead of my school history syllabus. Sadly, I lost touch with her.

I recall buying and reading my Std 6 school history book when I began Std 5 in 1975.

Rereading it this morning in the quiet hour of 7am it brings back fond memories of my childhood.

A happy childhood that was spent reading and rereading the books in my maternal grandpa’ library.

This book is useful to draw a child into history as it covers the 5 Classical civilizations, namely, Chinese, Indians, Persians, Greek and Romans. Missing are the Egyptians!

It is in-depth enough for the more learned. For example, one reads that due to geographical isolation the Chinese were not aware of other Civilisations till 126 BC when the Han envoy Zhang Qian returned to report to Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty of the magnificent cities he visited in Afghanistan.

He also reported of the large horses he saw that can be used to fight the Xiongnu, the Han’s perennial enemy, who ride on the smaller Mongolian ponies.

The only foreign influence on Changan then was to come from India, in the form of Buddhism. (p 239].

An excellent book on this influence is Buddhism in China a Historical Survey by Kenneth Chen, an old book but still the best.

Kenneth Ch’en, Kenneth Kuan Sheng Ch’en

18 Jan 2024

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