China Simplified: History Flashback

China Simplified
History Flashback

By Stewart Lee Beck & Sun Zhumin

Gain valuable insights into today’s China with this fast-read exploration of Chinese history—the revolutionary ideas of its most celebrated philosophers, the bold visions of its dauntless leaders, and the pivotal events which shaped the modern nation.





Praise for China Simplified: History Flashback

"A clean, clear line to the main developments in China's history... entertaining and enlightening."
"This is the history book for people that didn't know they love history!"
"A delightful romp through 5,000 years of Chinese history."
"Those who want to understand China can now do it with ease."


1 – Dawn of the Middle Kingdom
What really happened 5,000 years ago?

2 – China Catches the Smart Virus
Philosophers who blew everyone’s mind.

3 – You Can Take It With You
The First Emperor, his Great Wall, and his afterlife army.

4 – Anyone Here Order a Caravan of Silk?
Han Dynasty intrigues and game-changing inventions.

5 – Naked in the Woods
Seven Bamboo Sages redefine the meaning of life.

6 – Poets, Prophets, and Pulchritude
Living large in the Tang Dynasty.

7 – Why Rule When You Can Be an Artiste?
The Song Dynasty cultural explosion.

8 – What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
The Mongol conquest of the Chinese heartland.

9 – This Chapter For Mature Audiences Only
Autonomous desires in the Ming Dynasty.

10 – Mind Your Ps and Queues
The Qing Dynasty’s potent peaks and quarrelsome quagmires.

11 – Enter the Fashion Icons
Revolutionaries who ignited a nation.

12 – Dragon in the Spotlight
Thanks for coming; we’ve got it from here.


China Simplified: Stewart Lee Beck

Stewart Lee Beck


Stew has conducted business in China since the early 1990s and finds its people and culture endlessly fascinating. He founded Grassroots Productions in 2008, specializing in documentary and corporate video production. Stew refers to his Malaysian-Chinese wife as “the crazy woman who keeps me sane.”

China Simplified: Sun Zhumin

Sun Zhumin


Zhumin left school with a big dream of producing one really good film during her lifetime, a dream still in progress. Meanwhile her storytelling passion has found a new outlet, through sharing intriguing tales of Chinese history, encouraged by her Chinese history-obsessed husband. When not dreaming, Zhumin is a tiny mother of two who eats for four.


100 Chinese History Keywords to widen your vocabulary
  • A delightful romp through 5,000 years of Chinese history.... there's something for everybody in this snapshot—vividly illustrated and lucidly explained—of the world's oldest living civilization. Novices to the field will be enlightened; expert Sinologists will be entertained by the witty and often irreverent treatment of a rich history too often obscured by dull prose and pompous exegesis.

    Andrew Browne

    China columnist, The Wall Street Journal
  • Precisely because China is so immense, complex, and contradictory, China Simplified is valuable in giving a clean, clear line to the main developments in China's history. I found their approach entertaining and enlightening.

    James Fallows

    The Atlantic
  • This is the history book for people that didn't know they love history! The authors both entertain and inform with each turn of the page, to leave us with a lighthearted appreciation for the supreme depth of Chinese civilization.

    Yue-Sai Kan

    Chinese American television host and producer
  • With a splendid combination of wide research and good humour, this book gives readers an excellent introduction to Chinese history from Sima Qian to Chairman Mao.  You'll enjoy yourself so much you might not realize how much you're learning.  Highly recommended.

    Rana Mitter

    Director of the University China Centre, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, University of Oxford
  • A concise yet comprehensive book on Chinese history. It connects Chinese and Western timelines and makes it easy for readers to explore the historic Chinese eras in which they are interested. Those who want to understand China can now do it with ease.

    Jesse Wu

    International Vice President, Johnson & Johnson
  • This book gives an exciting tour through a long, varied and fascinating history. Engagingly written and beautifully illustrated, History Flashback is a wonderful introduction to Chinese culture.

    James Uden

    Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Boston University
  • As an artist seeking inspiration and further information about my roots in China, China Simplified comes at the perfect time. You cannot improve the future without learning from the past. Stewart & Zhumin have done much of the work pinpointing and distilling details in to an easy read!

    Dana Leong

    Grammy Winning Artist, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader
  • Stewart and Zhumin both entertain and inform as storytellers, drawing upon the essential works of Chinese and Western scholars to leave us with an understanding of modern China’s many contradictions and challenges. I enjoy being able to recommend their work to both China veterans and new arrivals.

    Brantley Turner

    American Principal, Shanghai Qibao Dwight High School
  • As a China consultant for over 40 years, I found this book to be a fun and insightful journey into China's past. I highly recommend it for those who seek to better understand today's China and how it emerged as a global player.

    Greg Whitehorn

    Directions Management Consulting
  • All multinationals should give China Simplified's books to their executives coming to China for a fun cultural introduction.

    Didi Dai

    Tournament Director, IMG Golf, Asia Pacific
  • A wonderfully entertaining and engaging way explore the stories that fundamentally shape China today and thus, to an extent, every Chinese person that you meet. I highly recommend you dive in!

    Tim Nash

    Founding Director, Access China Limited
  • This history book is my favorite in the CS series. The illustrations drew me in immediately and I learned many things I didn't know before. Thanks again Stewart!

    Al Rocco

    China hip-hop performing artist, CEO Red 8 Records
  • Both informative and fun; a masterstroke!

    Bruno Lannes

    Partner at a well-known consulting company in China
  • An engaging and insightful expedition through China’s complex history. I recommended it to anyone interested in a better understanding of modern China through its foundations and the key events of its fascinating past.

    John Cappo

    former President and CEO, AEG Asia
  • Although highly readable and light-heartedly illustrated, this is a serious book. Whether as an introduction, a refresher, or a deeper dive into the complexities of China, it is highly recommended.

    Harry Harding

    University Professor, University of Virginia; Visiting Professor and Senior Advisor to the Institute of Public Policy, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • I admire the authors’ passion for Chinese history. This is a delightful adventure in storytelling, and succeeds in making five millenniums of Chinese civilization accessible to readers of all levels

    James B. Heimowitz

    President, China Institute
  • The authors lead us through several thousand years of China’s history and conclude (as I did) that the Chinese entrepreneurs of today are an intriguing mixture of modern and ancient: free to innovate, yet held captive to tradition. I hope more people have an opportunity to read this charming and informative book.

    Edward Tse

    Founder & CEO, Gao Feng Advisory Company; author of China's Disruptors: How Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent, and Other Companies are Changing the Rules of Business
  • I’ve worked in China for 20 years and never seen an author deliver such a fun, fast and deep introduction that could totally enlighten any visitor here by just reading it on the plane trip over. I wish every high school student in America would read this too. Bravo Stew Beck & Sun Zhumin. This is so well done.

    Eric Houser

    Learning Facilitator,
  • The book’s luminous and witty prose takes the reader on a jaunt through the beguiling history of China. Her protagonists rise to the forefront: the emperors, empresses, missionaries, revolutionaries and martyrs who both galvanized and anguished each epoch. This is a gateway to understanding modern China, succinct and vividly expressed.

    George Bobyk

    Zhejiang University, MA Chinese History