The Chinese Mod v1.13 by AK Frost is a collection of data and text files that you can replace in your game to experience a more realistic feeling of ruling a Chinese empire. While there is room for improvement, the Mod will already serve its purpose for historical reality freaks :)
Usefulness - 3:
This can be a very fun Mod for those who want to increase historical realism in their gameplay and those who prefer dominating over facing challenges, especially if the advantages that this Mod brings to the Chinese fit with your prefered strategy. Having said this, the Mod is not as overpowered as the comments of some fellow forumers might suggest. The most dramatic advantages are also very expensive and the lack of skirmishers and knights will challenge those who are used to massively integrate them in their armies. Inspite of these goodies I am reluctant to give more than a 3 here. The Mod is not particularly useful in isolation. I envision it to be more useful in combination with other Mods who bring comparably complex changes to the other civilizations. Together such projects could make a high-quality historical-realism patch. As it is now, the project brings some quick fun, but is not something you would play again and again or with friends.
Novelty - 4:
The idea of altering tech-trees to achieve more realism or power is not entirely new to the community. However, there is always some creativity in deciding how to mimic a historical event or concept in a technology-effect. Questions like "what gameplay-advantage will most suitably correspond to a concept like the Mandat of Heaven?" had to be answered in the making of this Mod and I think the author did some great job there.
Quality - 3.5
As mentioned above, creativity and quality is good regarding the translation of historical facts into gameplay features. However, I see alot of room for making this changes even more fun, with adding some new icon-graphics or even changing the appearance of the Chu-Ko Nu, who in my opinion does not look distinctively Chinese, yet. While it might have been the authors' intention to restrict himself to data-changes, it would have served the Mod's concept of making the Chinese (even) more fun to play. Just a few graphics, even two new icons, would give the Mod some atmosphere to make the player feel even more close to the Chinese reality.
Instructions - 5
The Instructions are detailled and provide information on every important aspect of the Mod: installation, deinstallation, changes, historical background... the full range of required information is adequately taken care off and therefore this category deserves the full 5.
Given a particular target-audience this Mod is rather good and I have to disagree with the overpowering-accusation. "Safety-measures" have been undertaken to prevent a total Chinese World Domination, but indeed the changes appear extreme and a first glance will scare off those who love the challenge. My recommendation here is a second glance ;).
My biggest problem is the lack of custom graphics and installation-easing programms. Especially the later has caused no detraction from the rating, because one-click-installations are still rather the exception than the rule. The community, however, has the necessary information available and especially when only data and text-changes are involved the writing of an installations script is much easier...
Biggest drawback of the Mod is that it feels like an isolated piece of a bigger project and it is like your playing the demo version of a game that has not yet come out. It is not the author's fault, but I strongly recommend to those working on similar projects for other civilzations to join forces. The End-Product could become a 'bestseller' :)