Books about China
Page 8 (books 141 to 160)
The Walled Kingdom, Witold Rodzinski, Fontana, 1984450 pages. ISBN 0-00-686148-2 Details/purchase ➚
This is a very competent survey of Chinese history from earliest days to 1960. It reads rather like an undergraduate course, fairly heavy and turgid in places. There are no source references and the use of Wade-Giles makes it all hard work. The earlier, but more readable, book by Fitzgerald is to be preferred.
The Water Kingdom, Philip Ball, Vintage, 2017341 pages. ISBN 978-1847923547 Details/purchase ➚
Although titled 'Water Kingdom' the book covers a great deal of material and that is its weakness. If the author had concentrated on water management over the centuries that would have made a better read. For example I think the Opium Wars and Zheng He are two extraneous topics that only deserve passing reference (not really about water in China!). He fails to explain why water is so great an issue for China compared to other countries - it's pretty much essential everywhere! There are numerous small errors that suggest some aspects were not carefully checked out. There are no proper references just sources of quotations. His take on the PRC's water management initiatives is pretty much negative which is contrary to the opinion of most Chinese people. It's an interesting perspective on Chinese history and I commend him for tackling it from a different viewpoint.
The World of Ancient China, J-B Grosier, Minerva;, 1972144 pages. ASIN: B0007AEUPY Details/purchase ➚
A detailed account of China written by a Jesuit missionary first published back in 1788. This is a modern English translation with poor quality illustrations. The observations of dynastic China are on the whole fairly accurate and it is an interesting early account by a western visitor. However he got a lot of things wrong so it is not a guide to be relied on. It was a very popular and influential book when first published. It lacks an index, references and information on the many illustrations.
The Writing on the Wall: China, Will Hutton, Abacus, 2007436 pages. ISBN 978-0316730181 Details/purchase ➚
Many Americans still believe that the Chinese must surely want to be more like Americans and that the strange Communist government is doomed to fail and democracy prevail. To understand this mindset it is necessary to read American writers such as Will Hutton. This book says very little about China - particularly Chinese history and culture, it is mainly about the International Economic situation and why China does not fit into it.
The Xenophobe's Guide to the Chinese, Zhu Song, Xenophobes Guides, 201098 pages. ASIN B00796E6T4 Details/purchase ➚
A guide to the modern Chinese people. Good insights into the everyday lives of the Chinese. A light hearted guide that would be very useful for a Westerner going to live in China. Many topics are treated pretty superficially and there is no index or list of references.
Three Essays on Party Building, Liu Shaoqi, Foreign Languages Press, 1982300 pages. ASIN B008YMDWGU Details/purchase ➚
It is often overlooked that Liu Shaoqi was Communist party leader for the whole of the tumultuous time from 1959-1968. He espoused a more 'mixed' economy than Mao Zedong. After he was charged and jailed, his achievements were not mentioned until he was rehabilitated by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. This rare book includes his core beliefs on how the Chinese Communist Party should be organized on Marxist-Leninist lines. An essential read for people studying the way that the PRC developed in its early years.
Through the Chinese Revolution, Ralph and Nancy Lapwood, Spalding and Levy, 1954216 pages. ISBN 978-0883550793 Details/purchase ➚
This is one of very few eye witness accounts of a Westerner in China in the period 1932-1952. It documents the appalling conditions during the Japanese occupation. Ralph Lapwood was a British missionary and scientist who saw the transformation of China at first hand. The fervor of revolution after the foundation of the P.R.C. in 1949 is described in detail. It can be suggested that the author became too wrapped up in the revolution, seeing only the benefits but personal accounts of people living closely with the Chinese at this time are rare and the account can not be easily dismissed. This is a very personal record so there are no notes or references.
To Change China, Jonathan Spence, Penguin, 1980335 pages. ISBN 978-0140055283 Details/purchase ➚
Another Jonathan Spence masterpiece. Each of his books looks at China in a different way. In this case he takes a couple of Westerners from each significant time period in China-Western affairs and looks at the Westerner's attitude to China. It reveals much about differing perspectives on foreign cultures and how best to proceed as good intentions are never quite good enough.
Treason by the book, Jonathan Spence, Penguin,2001300 pages. ISBN 0-713-99449-5 Details/purchase ➚
Jonathan Spence has written many interesting books that give a keen insight into life in dynastic China. In this case he follows in meticulous detail the tortuous legal system in use during the Qing dynasty. The system of scholars, generals and local fiefs that ruled China was an imperfect but effective means of control. The book follows the twists and turns of a case of treason, where an attempted insurrection is severely dealt with. The book gives direct quotes from the voluminous records that have survived to this day. It is a scholarly work.
Twilight in the Forbidden City, Reginald Johnston, Oxford Paperbacks, 1934486 pages. ISBN 978-1843560203 Details/purchase ➚
Reginald Johnston was the last Emperor's favorite tutor and trusted friend (1919-24). As the Westerner with the most knowledge of the Qing dynasty's fall his perspective is enlightening. However this is certainly not a detailed biography of Puyi (as in The Last Emperor by Edward Behr) most of the content is about the internal power politics of the time. The author sets the record straight as far as the misconceptions of this time of transition. He was very loyal and attached to the Emperor and believed that the restoration of the Qing dynasty as a constitutional monarchy (like Britain) would have been the best outcome for China; as this did not happen this account gives a valuable perspective on events. His account trails off after the Emperor fled the Imperial Palace and skates over events leading to Puyi's move to Manchuria. Johnston writes well and was certainly a great scholar of Chinese culture and traditions.
Western Chamber Romance, Master Tung, Li-li Ch'en, Columbia University Press, 1994239 pages. ISBN 0-231-10119-8 Details/purchase ➚
This 12th century masterpiece is a real challenge for a translator. It is a mixture of prose and poetry in complicated patterns. It is, inevitably, a story of a scholar's love for a young lady aristocrat who he rescues. It says a lot about ancient Chinese cultural attitudes.
What does China think?, Mark Leonard, Fourth Estate, 2008134 pages. ISBN 1586484842 Details/purchase ➚
There are a lot of books trying to place China in the modern World, this does better than most. Mark Leonard bases his insights on personal interviews rather than other books. He manages to demolish many myths and succinctly gets to the crux of the issues facing China. An absorbing read.
When America first met China, Eric Jay Dolin, Liveright, 2013394 pages. ISBN 978-0871406897 Details/purchase ➚
A disappointing read as it is not true to its title - there is virtually nothing about meetings of Chinese and American people. It is mainly about the American sea trade in general so there is a lot about such things as fur trading and tea clippers. Somehow the Opium Wars gets a lengthy treatment even this did not really affect the American trade in the drug. It does however cover the often neglected and shameful coolie trade. In general the book is all about the US sea trade where it effected China but you will learn very little about the Chinese point of view.
When China rules the World, Martin Jacques, 2009, Allen Lane549 pages. ISBN 978-0140276046 Details/purchase ➚
This is a tiresome book. A vitally important subject and a contentious title lead you to think this will be a rewarding experience. The author has a pompous and extremely wordy style that makes reading needlessly hard work. Buried in the random witterings about China's past, present and future are useful facts and perspectives but they are so hard to uncover that frustration rather than enlightenment is the outcome. It reads like a brain dump rather than a carefully prepared argument. Repetitions are numerous. It has 100 pages of notes and bibliography. Because learning about China's new place in the world is so important it must be concluded that with severe misgivings this book deserves to be read.
Key to symbols used in the book descriptions
Note: More up-to-date editions of these books may well exist.
Our overall star rating for the book up to five stars.
Has black and white illustrations, none in color.
Has color illustrations, often has black and white illustrations too.
Does not have Chinese text in it.
Uses the modern Pinyin system for romanizing Chinese text.
Uses the old Wade Giles system for romanizing Chinese text.
Includes Chinese characters.
Many books cover more than one topic, these icons reflect all topics it may touch on.
Covers Chinese art.
Covers Chinese dynastic history up to 1912.
Covers Chinese modern history from 1912 into PRC.
Covers Chinese traditions.
A work of Chinese literature (translated into English).
An introduction to learning the Chinese language.
Covers Chinese philosophy / religion.
Useful travel guide to China.