For today’s school children, China is often presented as a nation whose honors students exceed our entire birthrate at a good clip. Karl Fisch’s viral "Did You Know?" slideshow primes American students to learn more about intellectual and technological competition in the developing world, and the curriculum is responding to a new global scope. Though Encyclopedia of Modern China was conceived as a specialized scholarly resource, it is accessible for secondary students, and few libraries have enough up-to-date resources on China. This exceptional four-volume resource collocates much of what is known by the West about China, including in some areas what the editors represent as new research.
While China’s political agenda invests many articles with foreign policy analysis and economic reform and development, even unrehabilitated projects involving the Boxer Uprising, Pearl S. Buck, "Chinese Overseas: Chinatowns" and "Coolie Trade," the Long March or the Opium Wars will benefit from the up-to-date interpretations to be found in this resource. Each article is definitive about its relevant time span: post-1800 for cultural articles and post-1978 for economic and political ones. One article provides an elegant exploration of Chinese data sources with regard to both quality and compilation methods. There are many strong entries about art history, architecture and archaeology. Information about daily life includes clothing, food, family, even hairstyles, and more than 40 pages are devoted to education. Entries on China’s censorship of the Internet, the role of public archives and newspapers may appear dystopian when contrasted with democratic systems. The illustrations, particularly those taken from commercial art, are interesting, though there seem to be fewer pictures of individual cultural and political leaders than would appear in most Western encyclopedias of this variety. A discussion of the fledgling space program includes an image from a 2008 Chinese space walk.
Articles of particular interest to high school students would include an historical examination of China’s widening sex ratio and a look at international adoption. Other entries profile Chinese natives who have received renown in the west, including I. M. Pei, Ang Lee and Yao Ming. Possible connections to the curriculum include articles devoted to journalist Edgar Snow, the Missouri native who was the first Western reporter to infiltrate the Communist capital in the 1930s, and one on the Dalai Lama, in exile since the Chinese occupation of Tibet. For "Tiananmaen Square Protests, 1989" the reader is redirected to "Prodemocracy Movement (1989)."
The body of Encyclopedia of Modern China is almost 2,000 pages long, not including the more than 300 pages of appendices in the fourth volume. Each volume includes a list of maps, and the last volume is supplemented with an exceptional collection of more than 120 pages of collected primary source documents, beginning with a letter of advice to Queen Victoria and ending with a letter indicting the government approach to modernization that was signed by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals in 2008. Supplementary materials include tabular data reflecting Chinese treaties and diplomatic recognition since 1800, a glossary translating the Romanized names contained within Chinese characters, an extensive annotated bibliography and a 112-page index. Recommended for both school and public libraries.