Author(s): Philip Ball
Selected as a Book of the Year by The Times and The Economist. A secret history of China - a fresh new way of thinking about a people, a civilisation, an epic story. The Water Kingdom takes us on a grand journey through China's past and present, offering a unique window through which we can begin to grasp the overwhelming complexity and teeming energy of the country and its people. Water is a key that unlocks much of Chinese history and thought. The ubiquitous relationship that the Chinese people have had with water has made it an enduring metaphor for philosophical thought and artistic expression. From the Han emperors to Mao, the ability to manage the waters - to provide irrigation and defend against floods - became a barometer of political legitimacy, and attempts to do so have involved engineering works on a gigantic scale. Yet the strain that economic growth is putting on its water resources today may be the greatest threat to China's future. The Water Kingdom is an epic, spell-binding story. Our guides are travellers and explorers, poets and painters, bureaucrats and activists, who have themselves struggled to come to terms with living in a world so shaped and permeated by water.
"What a splendid idea: to write a history of China through its relationship with water. Far-fetched you might think: not in the least, as you will find immediately you start to read this fascinating book ... You will never think of China in quite the same way again." -- Martin Jacques, author of WHEN CHINA RULES THE WORLD "In his excellent, smartly written new book, British science writer Philip Ball identifies water as "one of the most constant, significant and illuminating themes" in China's history and culture." -- Jonathan Fenby Financial Times "Extraordinary." The Times (Book of the Week) "Ball's journey along the history, politics and culture of China's waterways encompasses many heroes of Chinese hydrology, men who grappled with elemental forces and imperial censure and sometimes came out on top." -- Isabel Hilton Guardian "The Water Kingdom presents us with an epic portrait of China's water management history and its deep interlacing with culture currents. It's essential reading for any serious understanding of the dynamic relations between humans and nature, not only in China, but in the world at large." -- Xiaolu Guo, author of I AM CHINA
Philip Ball writes regularly in the scientific and popular media and worked for many years as an editor for physical sciences at Nature. His books cover a wide range of scientific and cultural phenomena, and include Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads To Another (winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books), The Music Instinct, Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, Serving The Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Science Under Hitler and Invisible: The history of the Unseen from Plato to Particle Physics.