Saturday, July 30, 2016

Friday Feature Book Review: "Lords of the Rim" by Sterling Seagrave スターリングシーグレーブ "宋家王朝" 中国の富と権力を支配した一族の物語

This is about "how to be a billionaire". It is a hybrid of Chinese history, business entrepreneurship, and financial market evolutions.  The focus is about how many Chinese adventurers left China, for lands far away, and built the most successful international business network that Asia has ever seen, if not the world. All three are things that I love, and this was reflected by the author as well. This is a densely packed book, full of deep drill down research covering thousands of years. There are no shortcuts here, just quality writing, professionally researched and well explained.

I have heard of only a few of these key Chinese figures like Sun Tzu, who created the Art of War. He is often considered the inspiration for Machiavelli's "The Prince". His famous 13 chapters are now basic reading for many Japanese executives within major Keiretsu groups like Mitsubishi. The discipline needed for business has come from war. In Japan, business is today's modern war. 

Also described is San Bao, the Chinese sailor who discovered Africa, Europe and even America in 1421, well before Christopher Columbus. He is considered the actual figure from which "Sinbad the Sailor" was modeled after. The world's seven seas have been sailed by the Chinese sailors for a long time. He took huge ships as long as modern football fields in massive groups. His flotilla of Vast Red Ships sailed to Africa, Australia, Europe and even North & South America! His trips were documented in stone tablets left in all of these locations that were later authenticated. 

There are limited gold deposits within India, but there is plenty of gold within India today. This is mainly because of a long history involving Chinese trade. This gold story is well explained, one of many that makes your head shake in amazement from the author's clear description of events. When many visitors see theater they notice the make of the actors and can see the direct influence that originally came from Chinese opera in classical Indian live performances today. Trades brings people and cultures together is many amazing ways.

Sterling Seagraves, knows his subject well, perhaps too well. Some of the pages almost seem like text books crammed full of information you feel almost guilty about not fully absorbing right away. His ability to bring a complex observation and explain it so simply is a real skill. I did not know how Chinese dialects came about as so different to the ear, yet similar in a written form. His ability to explain this and connect it to the creation of the "Great Wall" was fascinating. 

I did not understand the kind of hometown connections that connect certain kinds of Overseas Chinese dominated businesses had. I did not know how politics compliment them, in one market after another, no matter what the country or region. So much, from this master storyteller was well explained. The most recent 60+ years since Mao, had less of an impact, as it was subject matter that was more modern and familiar. 

The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:

1) There is a very long history in China and the rest of Asia that has no comparison in Europe.

2) Business in Asia has been at the core of shipping and trade for much of the region that is connected by water.

3) Just like Europe, food and culture across Asia has widely spread all over and continued in the business attitudes used today.

No matter what level of Chinese history you may know or understand, this book will upgrade you. The traditions of Overseas Chinese and the businesses that they built are complex and very successful. It is not a smooth history, one full of challenges, and this book explains them well. You wish the book continued despite its more than 400+ pages. Very much worth a read, a nice pleasurable long one. Highly Recommended!

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