Regional tiger loses bite abroad

Dragons and Tigers
February 7, 2003

Given the unpopularity of area studies among UK geographers, it is encouraging to see a geography of Asia that could help stem the tide.

Sadly, Dragons and Tigers is not up to this goal.

Designed for US undergraduate courses on Asian geography, the book makes only a limited concession to the rest of the English-speaking world. The volume also contains too many technical and factual errors - Champa is referred to in one place as being in Cambodia, in another as in eastern Vietnam; the Jurched Jin are called Mongols; and Chinese romanisation is not standard. In addition, some generalisations need clarification: the author states, for example, that Chiang Kai-shek's battles with the communists allowed the Japanese to set up the puppet-state Manchukuo in Manchuria in 1932.

That said, regional coverage is in the right proportions, and most aspects of geography are covered - though there is much more human geography than physical geography. Four chapters dealing with general matters are followed by four chapters on South Asia, three on East Asia, and three on South East Asia.

The textual balance reflects numbers of people rather than the power of states, and there is a good mix of the historical and the contemporary. The illustrations show that the author has travelled widely throughout the region. On balance, however, Dragons and Tigers is a volume that will not stand the test of time and is too elementary for British universities.

Richard Louis Edmonds is senior lecturer in geography, King's College, London, and editor, The China Quarterly .

Dragons and Tigers: A Geography of South, East, and Southeast Asia

Author - Barbara A. Weightman
ISBN - 0 471 25358 8
Publisher - None
Price - £23.50
Pages - 445

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