An Analysis of Jonathan D Spence's 'The Gate of Heavenly Peace'

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Jonathan D. Spence's The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution is a work of narrative history first published in 1981. The date of Spence's publication is important for understanding the work: it was published only five years after the death of Mao Zedong. In a sense, then, the book intends to be a history of revolution in China through the twentieth century, culminating of course with Mao's revolution. But Spence's intention is to give the reader a more intimate feeling for this time period, by concentrating specifically on the lives and writings of various figures who may not have been central to the revolutionary movements per se, but who may be understood by the reader as being in some way representative. Spence's examinations of the lives of various Chinese writers from the turn of the twentieth century until the death of Mao Zedong gives an impression of how life was actually lived during the time period when major historical changes were taking place in China. But overall Spence also gives an accurate picture of the difficulty of uniting China during the revolutions of the twentieth century in particular, it is fascinating to see how the regional differences which have, at so many points, threatened to collapse China into separate independent provinces, or to degenerate into regional competition that destroys any concept of a united national entity, are played out within Spence's overall account. The basic organizational principle of Spence's

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