Books: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

EMPEROR OF CHINA

by JONATHAN D. SPENCE

217 pages. Knopf. $8.95.

Near the end of his reign in 1722, the Chinese Emperor K'ang-hsi again turned to his copy of the I Ching. Nothing he found under the entry for "Retreat" seemed to apply to rulers. "There is no place for rulers to rest," he told his followers in a valedictory address. "Bowing down in service and wearing oneself out," he concluded, "indeed applies to this situation."

But what a way to go. For 61 years K'ang-hsi ruled China, an area larger than Peter the Great's Russia. To 150 million Chinese, this Manchu monarch...

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