Books about China
Page 9 (books 161 to 180)
These pages contain my reviews of books about China that have all been read when researching the information on this web site.
Note: many of the links to the books will earn us a small commission from Amazon if you decide to buy the book as we operate as an Amazon Associate.
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 describe 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 affected 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.
Many books cover more than one topic, these icons reflect all topics it may touch on.