What We Are Reading Today: Art and Archaeology of the Erligang Civilization

Updated 28 August 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Art and Archaeology of the Erligang Civilization

  • This richly illustrated book is the first in a western language devoted to the Erligang culture

Named after an archaeological site discovered in 1951 in Zhengzhou, China, the Erligang civilization arose in the Yellow River Valley around the middle of the second millennium BCE.

Shortly thereafter, its distinctive elite material culture spread to a large part of China's Central Plain, in the south reaching as far as the banks of the Yangzi River. The Erligang culture is best known for the remains of an immense walled city at Zhengzhou, a smaller site at Panlongcheng in Hubei, and a large-scale bronze industry of remarkable artistic and technological sophistication.

This richly illustrated book is the first in a western language devoted to the Erligang culture. It brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines, including art history and archaeology, to explore what is known about the culture and its spectacular bronze industry. 

The opening chapters introduce the history of the discovery of the culture and its most important archaeological sites. Subsequent essays address a variety of important methodological issues related to the study of Erligang, including how to define the culture, the usefulness of cross-cultural comparative study, and the difficulty of reconciling traditional Chinese historiography with archaeological discoveries. 

The book closes by examining the role the Erligang civilization played in the emergence of the first bronze-using societies in south China and the importance of bronze studies in the training of Chinese art historians.

The contributors are Robert Bagley, John Baines, Maggie Bickford, Rod Campbell, Li Yung-ti, Robin McNeal, Kyle Steinke, Wang Haicheng, and Zhang Changping.


What We Are Reading Today: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Updated 18 November 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Becoming by Michelle Obama

  • As Michelle Obama writes in “Becoming,” she long ago learned to recognize the “universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go.”

Michelle Obama emerges in her memoir — “Becoming” — as a first lady who steadfastly believed in her husband’s abilities but had no illusions that the sludge of partisanship and racism would melt away under the sunny slogans of hope and change, according to a review published in the New York Times.

She is the wife of the 44th president of the US, Barack Obama, and is the first African-American first lady of the US.

According to NYT critic Jennifer Szalai: “The book is divided into three sections — ‘Becoming Me,’ ‘Becoming Us’ and ‘Becoming More’ — that sound like the bland stuff of inspirational self-help.” 

Obama’s friend and former NPR host Michele Norris, who will soon interview the former first lady at her book tour stop in Boston, says the memoir is about much more than politics; it contains “real-life lessons.”

“She is honest about how difficult it is to make a transition. She’s honest about dealing with people who doubted her or underestimated her,” Norris says.

As Michelle Obama writes in “Becoming,” she long ago learned to recognize the “universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go.”