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The First Emperor

T.H. Barrett, 10 November 1988

Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times 
by Morris Rossabi.
California, 322 pp., £12.50, May 1988, 0 520 05913 1
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Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: The Legend of the Kingdom of Prester John 
by L.N. Gumilev, translated by R.E.F. Smith.
Cambridge, 403 pp., £37.50, February 1988, 0 521 32214 6
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... Emperors of China are in the West much more like fairy-tale figures than denizens of anything recognisable as the real world. Even when we see the terracotta parade of a Chinese imperial army before our very eyes, how can we begin to fathom the absolute, autocratic will that brought such an array into being? No wonder mat Morris Rossabi, in the opening sentence of his biography of Khubilai Khan, hastens to assure us that this is a book about a real person ...

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