One of the things I had mentioned, was that Lewis repeats himself a lot, while on the other hand presuming a prior knowledge about many things which I lack. Having just made my way through Chapter 4, I have a good example of that. He writes (on p.91):
The Records of the Historian/Astrologer portrays the [Han] founder, Emperor Gaozu (as Liu Bang became known), as a man who lacked loyalty to family and home, and it attributes his triumph to this very characteristic.
Having said that, I have no real complaints. Had I been able to get the book I wanted on the Chou, I might be better prepared for the ascent of the Qin (which has, by the way, gone up another $25 from the cheapest vendor since the last time I mentioned it).
If organizationally I find Lewis to be lacking, nothing he writes seems extraneous. Despite my deficiencies, I am—little by little—conjuring up a picture of his subject(s). Following on the Chang, this too relies on archeology (as you might expect); yet a description of what was found is helpful to imagining an alien political and social landscape. The emperor “ruling by absence” lies outside of Western tradition; though, if you read my Peony Pavilion (which is to be considered a retelling or a new version) you may note I retained the emperor’s designation by only an offstage voice.
“The costumes of the urban elite,” writes Lewis, “as in so many societies, became the standard for others to emulate.” I am not sure of his original source for the following quotation, but I like it:
In the city, if they love to have their hair dressed up high,
Then everywhere else they dress their hair an inch higher.
In the city, if they love to enlarge their eyebrows,
Then everywhere else they will make their eyebrows cover half their foreheads.
In the city, if they love large sleeves,
Then everywhere else they will use up whole bolts of silk.