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

Updated 28 August 2018

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: Let the People Rule by John G. Matsusaka

Updated 19 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Let the People Rule by John G. Matsusaka

Propelled by the belief that government has slipped out of the hands of ordinary citizens, a surging wave of populism is destabilizing democracies around the world. 

As John Matsusaka reveals in Let the People Rule, this belief is based in fact, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Over the past century, while democratic governments have become more efficient, they have also become more disconnected from the people they purport to represent. 

The solution Matsusaka advances is familiar but surprisingly underused: Direct democracy, in the form of referendums. 

While this might seem like a dangerous idea post-Brexit, there is a great deal of evidence that, with careful design and thoughtful implementation, referendums can help bridge the growing gulf between the government and the people.

Drawing on examples from around the world, Matsusaka shows how direct democracy can bring policies back in line with the will of the people (and provide other benefits, like curbing corruption).