Banner: Condensed China

[ Introduction | The Origins of Chinese Civilization | The Early Empire | The Second Empire
The Birth of Modern China | Bibliography ]

Further Reading

The titles that are presented here only represent a vey small fraction of the books that are available on China -- Books in Print lists more than 4,000 titles about China. While some of these books are more specialized than others, all of them are accessible to the layman -- some, in fact, are written specifically with a general audience in mind.

General History

There are a number of excellent books about Chinese history in general; two of the best are Jacques Gernet's A History of Chinese Civilization (Cambridge UP, 1982) and China: A New History (Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1992) by John King Fairbank. China's Imperial Past (Stanford UP, 1975) by Charles O. Hucker is a wide-ranging history of the Imperial period, while Mark Elvin's The Pattern of the Chinese Past (Stanford UP, 1973) goes into detail about socioeconomic trends.

Even though Lucian Pye's China: An Introduction (Little Brown, 1972) is not a history book, it does lay out China's historial and cultural contexts with remarkable clarity and insight.

Chinese Civilization

The Archaeology of Ancient China (Yale UP, 1963; 4th ed., 1986) by Kwang-chih Chang is a standard text on early China that delves into the details of the archeology of early China. While not a history book per se, it does lay out the pre-history of China in a clear, methodical manner.

The source book for Daoism, the Dao De Jing, is available in a recent translation by Victor Mair: Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way (Bantam, 1990). The books The Tao of Pooh (Penguin, 1983) and The Te of Piglet (Dutton, 1992), by Benjamin Hoff, do a surprisingly good job of explaining the basic concepts of Daoism through the characters of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Sourcebooks for Chinese primary sources translated into English include Patricia Ebrey's Chinese Civilization and Society: A Sourcebook (Free Press, 1981) and Souces of Chinese Tradition (Columbia UP, 1964) by Wm. Theodore de Bary et. al.

Of the classic novels of Chinese literature, three stand above the rest: Journey to the West, The Story of the Stone, and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Journey to the West is obstensibly about the real-life pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk Xuan Zang to India; however, the real star is Monkey, a sly, supernatural simian and the king of the monkeys who is ordered to be Xuan Zang's bodyguard as penance for nearly having laid Heaven to waste. The Story of the Stone (Penguin, 1979 trans. David Hawkes), by one 'Cao Xueqin,' is a massively long, densely plotted epic about life in and around the household of a minor Qing dynasty official; 30 major characters and 400 minor ones are involved in a story about a young man coming of age. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a historical novel about the early Three Kingdoms era; focussing on the leaders and generals of the different states, it draws a sweeping picture of the political and military events of the day.

Modern China

The most clear and cogent text on modern China is Jonathan Spence's Search for Modern China (Norton, 1990), which covers from the late Ming through the Beijing Spring of 1989. Fredric Wakeman, Jr.'s The Fall of Imperial China (Free Press, 1975) closely examines the causes of the imperial collapse, and Red Star Over China (Random House, 1938; Bantam, 1978), by Edgar Snow is the classic text on the early Communist party and Mao's rise to power.

Red Sorghum (Viking, 1993), by Mo Yan, is a powerful, searing novel about farm life during the Japanese Occupation, while Wild Swans (Simon and Schuster, 1995) by Jung Chang traces the changes and events of the 20th century in China through the lives of her grandmother, her mother, and herself.

The Cultural Revolution has spawned a literature all its own; three of the most insightful are Life and Death in Shanghai (Grafton, 1986) by Nien Cheng, Red Azalea by Anchee Min, and The Garlic Ballads (Viking, 1995) by Mo Yan.

Governing China (Norton, 1995), by Kenneth Lieberthal, traces the roots of power in China and looks at the problems inherent in running a country of 1.2 billion people. And finally, China's Unresolved Issues (Prentice Hall, 1995), by Suzanne Odgen, carefully examines and analyzes issues that the Chinese government will have to deal with in the future.

[ Introduction | The Origins of Chinese Civilization | The Early Empire | The Second Empire
The Birth of Modern China | Bibliography ]

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