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Popular Chinese Military History books


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Hey all,

I'm looking to do a little recreational reading and was wondering if anyone had recommendations for any popular military histories of China. Whether it is a general survey work or focused on a specific time period doesn't really matter.

Preferably, I'd like a book that isn't quite as dense and scholarly as Dreyer's "China at War", but at the same time is historically grounded. What are your opinion's on Graff's "Military History of China"--is that pretty dense too?

I've been looking for something similar in style to Harries' "Soldiers of the Sun" (exceptt of course about CHINESE military history) but haven't had too much luck. C.J. Peers recently published a popular history entitled "SOldiers of the Dragon." If anyone has any opinions on this booksor about the author, I'd be very interested to hear them.

Thanks in advance.


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Heh, for military books on China, I would start out reading books from pre-modern China, preferably the Wujing Zongyao written in 1044 during the Song Dynasty, or the 14th century Huolongjing compiled during the early Ming Dynasty. Graff's books are good and essential to understanding the basics if you want my opinion of them, yet so are works by Joseph Needham, C.J. Peers, and Peter Lorge.


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Prof Graff's book is excellent but because he tries to cover too large a time period in what is essentially a fairly condensed volume, many parts are rushed and only touched on briefly.

Soldiers of the Dragon by Peers is pretty much a simple compilation from the various Osprey books on Chinese armies. Osprey isn't exactly known for their accuracy where non-European arms and armour are concerned.

I wouldn't recommend jumping straight into the Wujingzongyao or Huolongjing. Firstly, you'd probably be hard pressed to find copies in your local library, and even then, they are voluminous compendiums of various stuff, not something you could digest easily.

If you are serious about reading about Chinese military, especially from a technological POV, try and read some of Prof. Needham's volumes on "Science and Civilisation in China". Another author I would recommend would be Ralph Sawyer. His "Fire and Water" is excellent although a little confusing if you do not know your dynastic history well.

There are unfortunately not that many books written specifically on Chinese warfare and those that are usually do not go into sufficient detail as they try to cover too wide a time frame.

You're better off reading academic papers.



"Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History", Nicola Di Cosmo, Cambridge University Press, 2005

"Chinese Ways in Warfare", Edited by Frank Kierman and John Fairbank, Harvard University Press, (1974)

"Chinese Siege Warfare: Mechanical Artillery & Siege Weapons of Antiquity, An Illustrated History", Liang Jieming, Da Pao Publishing (Leong Kit Meng), 2006

"Fire and Water: The Art of Incendiary and Aquatic Warfare in China", Ralph D. Sawyer, Mei-Chun Lee Sawyer, Westview Press, 2004

"Science and Civilisation in China", Volume 5, Part 6, Joseph Needham & Robin D.S. Yates, Cambridge University Press, 1994

"Science and Civilisation in China", Volume 5, Part 7, Joseph Needham, Cambridge University Press, 1987

"War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China, 900-1795", Peter Lorge, Routledge, 2005

"中国古代兵器图册 (Zhongguo Gudai Bingqi Tuce)", 刘旭 (Liu Xu), 1986

"中国古代军戎服饰 (Zhongguo Gudai Junrong Fushi)", 刘永华 (Liu Yonghua), Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House, 1995



"A Bandit-Woman in the Cockpit of Empire: The Life of Fourth Sister Yang", Peter Lorge, (2007)

"A Study of Early Chinese Armor", Albert E. Dien, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 43, No. 1/2, (1981), pp. 5-66

"An Illustrated Battle-account in the History of the Former Han Dynasty", J.J.L. Duyvendak, T'oung Pao, Vol. 34, (1939), pp. 249-264

"Armor In China Before The Tang Dynasty", Albert E. Dien, Stanford University, (2000)

"Army Life in Seventh-Century China", David A. Graff, Kansas State University, (2007)

"Barbarians at the Gate? The Tang Frontier Military and the An Lushan Rebellion," Jonathan Karam Skaff, War and Society, Bol. 18, (2000), pp. 23-35

"Beyond Turtleboats: Siege Accounts From Hideyoshi’s Second Invasion of Korea, 1597-1598", Kenneth M. Swope, Ball State University

"Chinese Military Technology And Dai Viet: c. 1390-1497", Sun Laichen, ARI Working Paper, No. 11, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, (Sep., 2003)

"Chinese Warfare: The Paradox of the Unlearned Lesson", Ralph D. Sawyer

"Civil-Military Coordination in the Bozhou Campaign of the Wanli Era", Kenneth M. Swope, War and Society, Vol. 18, (2000), pp. 49-70

"Crouching Tigers, Secret Weapons: Military Technology Employed During the Sino-Japanese-Korean War, 1592-1598", Kenneth M. Swope, The Journal of Military History, Vol. 69, No. 1, (Jan., 2005), pp. 11-41

"Generals of the South: the foundation and early history of the Three Kingdoms state of Wu", Rafe de Crespigny, Asian Studies Monographs, New Series No. 16, The Australian National University, (1990)

"Later Han Military Organisation; being the Chronicle of Later Han for the years 189 to 220 AD", Rafe de Crespigny, Asian Studies Monographs, New Series No. 21, The Australian National University, (1996)

"Man from the Margin: Cao Cao and the Three Kingdoms", Rafe de Crespigny, The Fifty-first George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology, (1990)

"Meritorious Cannibal: Chang Hsun's Defense of Sui-yang and the Exaltation of Loyalty in an Age of Rebellion", David A. Graff, Asia Major, 3rd Ser., Vol. 8, (1995), pp. 1-16

"Military Campaigns against Yunnan: A Global Analysis", Bin Yang, ARI Working Paper, No. 30, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (Sep., 2004)

"Military Writings", Ralph D. Sawyer, A Military History of China, (2002), pp. 97-114

"Ming China and Southeast Asia in the 15th Century: A Reappraisal", Geoff Wade, ARI Working Paper, No. 28, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, (Jul., 2004)

"Ming Chinese colonial armies in Southeast Asia", Geoff Wade, Colonial Armies in Southeast Asia, Routledge, ( 2006) pp. 73-104

"Mountain Fortress Defence: The Experience of the Southern Song and Korea in Resisting the Mongol Invasions", Huang K'uan-chung, David Wright (Translator), Warfare in Chinese History, (2000) pp. 222-251

"Shuihu zhuan and the Military Subculture of the Northern Song 960-1127", Paul Jakov Smith, Haverford College, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 66.2, (Dec., 2006), pp. 363-422

"Studies in Medieval Chinese Siegecraft: The Siege of Fengtian A.D. 783", Benjamin E. Wallacker, Journal of Asian History, Vol. 33, (1999), pp. 185-193

"Studies in Medieval Chinese Siegecraft: The Siege of Ying-ch'uan A.D. 548-549", Benjamin E. Wallacker, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3, (May, 1971)

"Studies in Medieval Chinese Siegecraft: The Siege of Yu-pi A.D. 546", Benjamin E. Wallacker, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 28, No. 4, (Aug., 1969)

"The An Lu-shan Rebellion and Origins of Chronic Militarism in Late T'ang China", Essays on T'ang Society: The Interplay of Social and Political and Economic Forces, ed. J.C.Perry and B.L.Smith, Leiden, (1976)

"The Battle of Huo-i", David A. Graff, Asia Major, 3rd Ser., Vol. 5, (1992), pp. 33-55

"The City Under Siege: Technology and Organization as Seen in the Reconstructed Text of the Military Chapters of Mo-tzu", Robin D.S. Yates, Harvard University, (1980)

"The Division and Destruction of the Xiongnu Confederacy in the first and second centuries AD, [Turkish: "Hun Konfederasyonu'nun Blnmesi ve Yikilmasi"], Rafe de Crespigny, The Turks [Yeni TrkiyeMedya Hismetleri-Murat Ocak], Ankara (2002)

"The Early Development of Firearms in China", L. Carrington Goodrich and Feng Chia-Sheng, ISIS, Vol. 36, No. 2, (1946), pp. 114-123

"The Emergence of China as a Sea Power During the Late Sung and Early Yuan Periods", Jung-Pang Lo, The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 4 Special Number on Chinese History and Society, (Aug., 1955), pp 489-503

"Turning the Tide: The Strategic and Psychological Significance of the Liberation of Pyongyang in 1593", Kenneth M. Swope, War and Society, Vol. 21, (2003), pp. 1-22

"Water Forces and Naval Operations", Peter Lorge, A Military History of China, (2002), pp. 81-96

"Yi Said, Li Said: Perspectives on the End of the First Greater East Asian War", Kenneth M. Swope, Ball State University (2005)

Hope that helps.


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