10 books like The Sui Dynasty

By Arthur F. Wright,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Sui Dynasty. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand

By Edward H. Schafer,

Book cover of The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of t'Ang Exotics

This book examines the exotics imported into China during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) and depicts their influence on Chinese life. During the three centuries of Tang came into the land the natives of almost every nation of Asia, all bringing exotic wares either as gifts or as goods to be sold. Ivory, rare woods, drugs, diamonds, magicians, dancing girls—the author covers all classes of unusual imports, their places of origin, their lore, their effect on fashion, dwellings, diet, painting, sculpture, music, and poetry.

This book is for students of Tang culture and laymen interested in the same topic. Its author Edward Schafer was an eminent American sinologist.

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand

By Edward H. Schafer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Golden Peaches of Samarkand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the seventh century the kingdom of Samarkand sent formal gifts of fancy yellow peaches, large as goose eggs and with a color like gold, to the Chinese court at Ch'ang-an. What kind of fruit these golden peaches really were cannot now be guessed, but they have the glamour of mystery, and they symbolize all the exotic things longed for, and unknown things hoped for, by the people of the T'ang empire. This book examines the exotics imported into China during the T'ang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907), and depicts their influence on Chinese life. Into the land during the three centuries…


China's Cosmopolitan Empire

By Mark Edward Lewis,

Book cover of China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty

The Tang dynasty is often called China’s “golden age,” a period of commercial, religious, and cultural connections from Korea and Japan to the Persian Gulf. It was a time of unsurpassed literary creativity. Lewis captures a dynamic era in which the empire reached its greatest geographical extent. And, he shows that under Chinese rule, painting, and ceramic arts flourished, women played a major role both as rulers and in the economy, and China produced its finest lyric poets (Wang Wei, Li Bo (Li Bai), and Du Fu). 

This book is a useful companion volume to my book, which is about the founding and the rise of the Tang dynasty.

China's Cosmopolitan Empire

By Mark Edward Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked China's Cosmopolitan Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Tang dynasty is often called China's "golden age," a period of commercial, religious, and cultural connections from Korea and Japan to the Persian Gulf, and a time of unsurpassed literary creativity. Mark Lewis captures a dynamic era in which the empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Chinese rule, painting and ceramic arts flourished, women played a major role both as rulers and in the economy, and China produced its finest lyric poets in Wang Wei, Li Bo, and Du Fu.

The Chinese engaged in extensive trade on sea and land. Merchants from Inner Asia settled in the capital,…


The Court of the Lion

By Eleanor Cooney, Daniel Altieri,

Book cover of The Court of the Lion: A Novel of the T'Ang Dynasty

Based on a true story from the eighth century, it is a fictionalized telling of one of the most powerful, tragic chronicles in Chinese history: the events leading up to the Rebellion of An Lushan and the fall of the Emperor Minghuang (Xuanzong) and his Precious Consort Yang Guifei and the dazzling Yang family. All of the major characters are real people, immortalized in the works of renowned Tang poets Li Po (Li Bai) and Du Fu.

This novel deals with the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, grandson of the Empress Wu and Tang Gaozong, and great-grandson of Tang Taizong (Li Shimin). Thanks to their meticulous research into the customs, language, and records of the period in question, the authors of The Court of the Lion give us a convincing, fascinating tale of eighth-century China grounded in historical facts.

The Court of the Lion

By Eleanor Cooney, Daniel Altieri,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Court of the Lion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in eighth-century China amidst the splendour and decadence of the court of the T'ang emperor, this tale aims to transport the reader to a mysterious and fascinating era. Cooney is a writer and painter and Altieri is a scholar of Chinese history.


Journey to the West

By Cheng-En Wu, William John Francis Jenner (translator),

Book cover of Journey to the West

One of the most popular books in the history of East Asia, this classic sixteenth century novel is a combination of adventure fiction and folk epic that mixes satire, allegory, and history into a rollicking tale. The epic journey is the one undertaken by the monk Xuanzang under the escort of the roguish Monkey, who has many encounters along the way with major and minor spirits, gods, demigods, demons, ogres, monsters, and fairies.

The monk Xuanzang was active during the reign of Tang Taizong, the protagonist of my book. Monk and emperor have many interactions in that novel.

Journey to the West

By Cheng-En Wu, William John Francis Jenner (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Journey to the West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The novel is an extended account of the legendary pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang who traveled to the "Western Regions", that is, India, to obtain sacred texts (sūtras) and returned after many trials and much suffering. It retains the broad outline of Xuanzang's own account, Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, but the Ming dynasty novel adds elements from folk tales and the author's invention, that is, that the Buddha gave this task to the monk and provided him with three protectors who agree to help him as an atonement for their sins. These disciples are…


The Lacquer Screen

By Robert Van Gulik,

Book cover of The Lacquer Screen: A Chinese Detective Story

Van Gulik is a giant in the field of historical mysteries, having penned the better part of 20 novels about his favorite protagonist “Judge Dee.” Set in ancient China, the stories typically involve political intrigue, moral quandaries, and settings so evocative it is easy to just close your eyes and see yourself in a pavilion overlooking a swan-filled lake or in a lady’s bed-chamber, a scholar’s library, or an artist’s studio. These novels are mood pieces as well as whodunnits, and the immersive experiences the author offers lead me to recommend not only this title but any and all in the series. Heaven for someone like me who loves what China used to be.

The Lacquer Screen

By Robert Van Gulik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lacquer Screen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Early in his career, Judge Dee visits a senior magistrate who shows him a beautiful lacquer screen on which a scene of lovers has been mysteriously altered to show the man stabbing his lover. The magistrate fears he is losing his mind and will murder his own wife. Meanwhile, a banker has inexplicably killed himself, and a lovely lady has allowed Dee's lieutenant, Chiao Tai, to believe she is a courtesan. Dee and Chiao Tai go incognito among a gang of robbers to solve this mystery, and find the leader of the robbers is more honorable than the magistrate.

"One…


Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee

By Robert Van Gulik,

Book cover of Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee

As the West had its long history of Rome and her influence in Europe, so Asia has an even longer story of the Chinese people and their state. For an introduction and appreciation of this brilliant and complex civilization, I recommend Celebrated Cases Of Judge Dee: Dee Goong-An, by Robert van Gulik, and the same author's series of Chinese detective novels featuring Judge Dee.

The real Judge Di Renjie was a member of the Tang Dynasty civil service in the 7th century, who rose to be a chancellor to the Empress Wu. A legendary figure in Chinese history, he became a popular literary detective - a sort of Sherlock Holmes. Van Gulik, himself a civil servant, was a Dutch scholar who served as an advisor to the Chinese government during WWII. He made this translation of an 18th century Chinese detective novel about Dee, and followed it with about…

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee

By Robert Van Gulik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Long before Western writers had even conceived the idea of writing detective stories, the Chinese had developed a long tradition of literary works that chronicled the cases of important district magistrates. These judges held a unique position. As "fathers to the people" they were at once judge and detective, responsible for all aspects of keeping the peace and for discovering, capturing, and punishing criminals.
One of the most celebrated historical magistrates was Judge Dee, who lived in the seventh century A.D. This book, written in the eighteenth century by a person well versed in the Chinese legal code, chronicles three…


The Moon In The Palace

By Weina Dai Randel,

Book cover of The Moon In The Palace

People in history are remembered as being larger than life. Likewise, people are either characterized as villains or heroes but to the extreme. There are many stories about Empress Wu, but Weina Dai Randel was able to demystify her and make her a relatable human whose story can still inspire us.

The Moon In The Palace

By Weina Dai Randel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moon In The Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Randel's gorgeous debut novel seductively pulls back the curtain to reveal the heartbreaking world of...China."-Stephanie Dray, NYT bestselling Author of America's First Daughter
A thrilling work of historical fiction, bringing romance, intrigue, and the unexpected rise of an Empress to intoxicating life under the inscrutable moon.
In Tang Dynasty China, a concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor's attention. Many hope to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of…


The Sword Dancer

By Jeannie Lin,

Book cover of The Sword Dancer

The Sword Dancer takes place during the Tang Dynasty. Although I knew little about that part of history, I loved how quickly this story immersed me into the world of 8th century China. Li Feng, a young woman who was orphaned under mysterious circumstances, leaves her childhood protector and journeys to the city to uncover her past. She’s strong, smart, and brave but doesn’t always make the best choices when it comes to choosing allies. Using her wits and skill with swords, Li Feng battles human foes as well as a society that doesn’t expect her to amount to much—that is, until she discovers an ally worthy of her trust.

The Sword Dancer

By Jeannie Lin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sword Dancer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE THIEF WHO STOLE HIS HEART Sword dancer Li Feng is used to living life on the edge of the law - a woman alone in the dangerous world of the Tang Dynasty has only her whirlwind reflexes to trust. She will discover the truth about her past, even if that means outwitting the most feared thief-catcher of them all...

Relentless, handsome and determined, Han sees life - and love - as black and white. Until he finally captures the spirited, courageous Li Feng, who makes him question everything he thought he knew about right and wrong. Soon he's faced…


The Lotus Palace

By Jeannie Lin,

Book cover of The Lotus Palace

Lin is well-known among romance aficionados for her groundbreaking Tang Dynasty historical romances. With The Lotus Palace, the first novel in her Pingkang Li Mysteries series, she expands into crime and political intrigue. This is the only non-fantasy or science fiction title on this list, and it’s here because Lin not only crafts an engaging story of murder and romance, she also handles the historical setting like an absolute master. The world of the 9th century Tang capital Changan—from the seedy gambling dens and bars of the Pingkang Li red-light district to the luxurious family compounds of the exclusive northeast quarter—feels familiar and lived-in, rich and complete, fully detailed without reading like a history textbook.

The Lotus Palace

By Jeannie Lin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lotus Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unlikely pair of heroes find themselves caught in a star-crossed relationship in this rich tale of history, mystery and forbidden love!

At the Lotus Palace, the best of society comes to drink and enjoy the company of beautiful and talented courtesans. Street-smart and practical Yue-ying is not part of this elite class but is content to live in the shadow of her mistress, Mingyu, only serving as her silent attendant at the lavish and exquisite palace.

Running into notorious flirt Bai Huang changes everything.

Bai Huang, an eternal student at the palace, is different from Yue-ying in every way.…


The Deer and The Cauldron

By Louis Cha, John Minford (translator),

Book cover of The Deer and The Cauldron: The First Book

There is an argument to be made that Jin Yong (aka Louis Cha) is modern China’s version of William Shakespeare. From Cha’s unimaginably rich and bottomless imagination come unforgettable stories and characters that have had a huge impact on not only contemporary China but the rest of the world. Writing in the category of wuxia (martial arts fiction) he sold 100 million copies of his books, making him China’s most famous author. Countless films and TV shows have been based on his stories, that typically portray the under classes struggling against overlords. One of my favorite memories of travels in China was sitting at the tea house inside Hong Kong’s Peninsula hotel and spending the day reading this book and munching on dim sum. If I’d stepped out and been hit by a bus, I would have died a happy monk.

The Deer and The Cauldron

By Louis Cha, John Minford (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Deer and The Cauldron as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first of a three-volume picaresque historical romance by China's best-loved author. It tells the story of Trinket, an irreverent and comic anti-hero, and his adventures through China and Chinese history, spanning more than twenty years at the beginning of the Qing dynasty.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in China, the Tang dynasty, and Shanghai?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about China, the Tang dynasty, and Shanghai.

China Explore 434 books about China
The Tang Dynasty Explore 12 books about the Tang dynasty
Shanghai Explore 46 books about Shanghai