July 17, 2021
21 color illus., 45 b&w illus., 3 maps, 1 chart
10.00 Inches (US)
7.00 Inches (US)
1.85 Pounds (US)
$50.00 USD, £41.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Ancient Egypt and Early China

State, Society, and Culture

Although they existed more than a millennium apart, the great civilizations of New Kingdom Egypt (ca. 1548–1086 BCE) and Han dynasty China (206 BCE–220 CE) shared intriguing similarities. Both were centered around major, flood-prone rivers—the Nile and the Yellow River—and established complex hydraulic systems to manage their power. Both spread their territories across vast empires that were controlled through warfare and diplomacy and underwent periods of radical reform led by charismatic rulers—the "heretic king" Akhenaten and the vilified reformer Wang Mang. Universal justice was dispensed through courts, and each empire was administered by bureaucracies staffed by highly trained scribes who held special status. Egypt and China each developed elaborate conceptions of an afterlife world and created games of fate that facilitated access to these realms.

This groundbreaking volume offers an innovative comparison of these two civilizations. Through a combination of textual, art historical, and archaeological analyses, Ancient Egypt and Early China reveals shared structural traits of each civilization as well as distinctive features.

About the Authors

Anthony J. Barbieri-Low is professor of history at the University of California Santa Barbara. His book Artisans in Early Imperial China won top prizes from the Association for Asian Studies, American Historical Association, College Art Association, and International Convention of Asia Scholars. Marissa Stevens is assistant director of the Pourdavoud Center for the Study of the Iranian World at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"[A} trail-blazing work that will inspire more comparative studies, whether or not between Egypt and China, for the author has demonstrated the exciting result and the rich potential of comparative history."—Journal of Chinese History

"[T]hought-provoking and challenging, and it certainly will encourage further research. Indeed, Barbieri-Low's work is an important step in Sino-Egyptian studies."—American Journal of Archaeology

"This is a book of great integrity. Solidly grounded in primary sources and informed by voluminous secondary scholarship in all relevant European languages, it is innovative in its approach, strong on analysis, and very engagingly written: a true masterpiece. It must be read by anyone interested in either China or Egypt or in comparative ancient historiography."—Journal of Anthropological Research

"Far too much history is written with an ideographic lens, looking at one state or people in isolation from others. It is only the nomothetic lens that allows us to discern difference and novelty. Barbieri-Low has risen to the challenge, producing a first-rate comparison of two great ancient states that hopefully will inspire similar approaches."—Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs


"A wonderful book: the materials are rich, the scope ambitious, the comparisons illuminating, and the presentation lucid."—Wang Haicheng, University of Washington

"A major and invaluable contribution to the growing body of comparative work on ancient societies."—Walter Scheidel, Stanford University

University of Washington Press

9780295748894 : ancient-egypt-and-early-china-barbieri-low-stevens
352 Pages
$50.00 USD

Other Titles by Anthony J. Barbieri-Low

The Many Lives of the First Emperor of China

Anthony J. Barbieri-Low
Aug 2022 - University of Washington Press
$65.00 USD - Hardback

Artisans in Early Imperial China

Anthony J. Barbieri-Low
Oct 2021 - University of Washington Press
$40.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in HISTORY / Asia / China

Eternal Offerings

edited by Liu Yang, with Robert Bagley, Li Xueqin, Jenny F. So, Zhu Fenghan
Sep 2024 - Minneapolis Institute of Arts
$89.95 USD - Hardback

An Ecological History of Modern China

Stevan Harrell
Jul 2023 - University of Washington Press
$105.00 USD - Hardback
$35.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Good Formulas

Ruth Yun-Ju Chen
Jul 2023 - University of Washington Press
$105.00 USD - Hardback
$32.00 USD - Paperback / softback