24 Hours in Ancient China by Yijie Zhuang – A Book Review

24 Hours in China


Spend 24 hours with the ancient Chinese.

Travel back to AD 17, during the fourth year of the reign of Wang Mang of the Han dynasty, a vibrant and innovative era full of conflicts and contradictions. But as different as the Han culture might have been to other great ancient civilizations, the inhabitants of ancient China faced the same problems as people have for time immemorial: earning enough money, coping with workplace dramas and keeping your home in order . although the equivalent in this era was more about bribing inspectors, avoiding bullying from abusive watchmen and trying to keep your house from being looted by Huns.

In each chapter we meet one of 24 citizens of this ancient culture, from the midwife to the soldier, the priest to the performer and the blacksmith to the tomb looter, and see what an average day in ancient China was really like.

Author: Yijie Zhuang

Publisher: Michael O’Mara

Pages: 232

Genre: Historical Non-Fiction

Release Date: 25/06/2020

My Chosen Format: Kindle

My Rating of ’24 Hours in Ancient China’: 3 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon, Audible


This was a book I was really keen to start due to my not knowing a great deal about ancient China and absolutely loving to learn about new aspects of ancient history. It was enjoyable, but felt like somewhat of a chore throughout.

Compared to the previous book in the series (24 Hours in Ancient Athens) it is an improvement on the fact that it focuses on average people, which is the selling point, rather than famous people from the era (which Athens swore it wouldn’t do then did anyway, because who needs to stick to their word when selling a product?)

My main issue with this is that, for a two-hundred and thirty-two paged book, it felt VERY long. That should not be a thing. a book that is not even at the two-fifty mark should never feel long, but this one did. The chapters felt as though they had been padded out to add to the page count and it often felt like the people in the chapters were frequently explaining the same thing in two or three different ways or rambling about something not entirely connected. If a chapter was fifteen pages long, it probably never needed to be. 

I also felt that some of the characters were expanding upon certain bits of knowledge that, given their station in life, they might not have had a working knowledge of, but that’s forgivable as without them we may not have been treated to a good overview of the certain topics being discussed.

Buried beneath the padding is some very interesting information as far as the daily life of citizens in ancient China goes and I thoroughly enjoyed the meat of it. Whether its the innovation of farming techniques, how land was doled out, the methods of a stone mason or metal worker, it all hits that sweet spot as far as my interest is concerned. I just couldn’t read it for long periods at a time as the author would seem to notice my enjoyment, then come along with the padding just to make sure I wasn’t having too much fun. ‘Ah, you enjoyed the explanation about how a fabric worker uses dyes? Excellent, I’ll give you eight paragraphs on why that worker doesn’t enjoy getting out of bed in the morning to impede that enjoyment’.


So far, my overall opinion of this series is that it’s very interesting, but seems to have some little speed bumps designed to annoy the reader. The ancient Roman book was perhaps my favourite as that didn’t seem to suffer in the ways of the other books. I will certainly carry on buying any entry in this series as, the nuggets of historical gold are well worth sifting through the minor annoyances.

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