100 books like The White Lotus War

By Yingcong Dai,

Here are 100 books that The White Lotus War fans have personally recommended if you like The White Lotus War. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Sanctioned Violence in Early China

Peter A. Lorge Author Of The Reunification of China: Peace through War under the Song Dynasty

From my list on Chinese military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in Chinese military history stems from an early interest in books on strategy like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and in East Asian martial arts. I have pursued both since high school, translating Sun Tzu as a senior thesis in college (and now returning to it professionally), and practicing a number of martial arts over the last forty years (and writing a book on the history of Chinese martial arts). Although there are plentiful historical records for all aspects of Chinese military history, the field remains relatively neglected, leaving it wide open for new studies. I continue to pursue my teenage interests, writing the books I wanted to read in high school.

Peter's book list on Chinese military history

Peter A. Lorge Why did Peter love this book?

This is the classic study of the changes in violence and war in Chinese society from the Spring and Autumn Period to the Warring States Period. Lewis demonstrates that war, hunting, and the sacrifices of the Spring and Autumn chariot-riding aristocracy were key to demonstrating membership in that class. Political power moved from the feudal rulers to their ministers, who were lower-ranking members of the aristocratic class, and the struggle for power among those men transformed warfare and society. Violence was transformed from a class-defining activity into a state-building tool that had to be controlled by the feudal ruler.

By Mark Edward Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sanctioned Violence in Early China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides new insight into the creation of the Chinese empire by examining the changing forms of permitted violence--warfare, hunting, sacrifice, punishments, and vengeance. It analyzes the interlinked evolution of these violent practices to reveal changes in the nature of political authority, in the basic units of social organization, and in the fundamental commitments of the ruling elite. The work offers a new interpretation of the changes that underlay the transformation of the Chinese polity from a league of city states dominated by aristocratic lineages to a unified, territorial state controlled by a supreme autocrat and his agents. In…


Book cover of Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900

Peter A. Lorge Author Of The Reunification of China: Peace through War under the Song Dynasty

From my list on Chinese military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in Chinese military history stems from an early interest in books on strategy like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and in East Asian martial arts. I have pursued both since high school, translating Sun Tzu as a senior thesis in college (and now returning to it professionally), and practicing a number of martial arts over the last forty years (and writing a book on the history of Chinese martial arts). Although there are plentiful historical records for all aspects of Chinese military history, the field remains relatively neglected, leaving it wide open for new studies. I continue to pursue my teenage interests, writing the books I wanted to read in high school.

Peter's book list on Chinese military history

Peter A. Lorge Why did Peter love this book?

This is the best Chinese military history in any language. Scholarly, yet readable, it lays out the military, political, and social history of a complicated period in great detail. Despite challenging source material, Graff manages to create a coherent and comprehensible narrative.

By David Graff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortly after 300 AD, barbarian invaders from Inner Asia toppled China's Western Jin dynasty, leaving the country divided and at war for several centuries. Despite this, the empire gradually formed a unified imperial order. Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300-900 explores the military strategies, institutions and wars that reconstructed the Chinese empire that has survived into modern times.
Drawing on classical Chinese sources and the best modern scholarship from China and Japan, David A. Graff connects military affairs with political and social developments to show how China's history was shaped by war.


Book cover of The Culture of War in China: Empire and the Military under the Qing Dynasty

Peter A. Lorge Author Of The Reunification of China: Peace through War under the Song Dynasty

From my list on Chinese military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in Chinese military history stems from an early interest in books on strategy like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and in East Asian martial arts. I have pursued both since high school, translating Sun Tzu as a senior thesis in college (and now returning to it professionally), and practicing a number of martial arts over the last forty years (and writing a book on the history of Chinese martial arts). Although there are plentiful historical records for all aspects of Chinese military history, the field remains relatively neglected, leaving it wide open for new studies. I continue to pursue my teenage interests, writing the books I wanted to read in high school.

Peter's book list on Chinese military history

Peter A. Lorge Why did Peter love this book?

This is a series of six essays that present a “new Qing history” approach to 17th and 18th century Chinese military history, specifically the culture involved in the military campaigns from 1636 to 1799.  Waley-Cohen not only presents a more positive view of the Qing’s Manchu rulers, but also the centrality of military activities and culture to Chinese culture.  The Qing government enthusiastically promoted its martial accomplishments, and martial culture was in turn reflected in visual culture, religion, and popular culture.

By Joanna Waley-Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Culture of War in China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Was the primary focus of the Qing dynasty really civil rather than military matters? In this ground-breaking book, Joanna Waley-Cohen overturns conventional wisdom to put warfare at the heart of seventeenth and eighteenth century China. She argues that the civil and the military were understood as mutually complementary forces. Emperors underpinned military expansion with a wide-ranging cultural campaign intended to bring military success, and the martial values associated with it, into the mainstream of cultural life. The Culture of War in China is a striking revisionist history that brings new insight into the roots of Chinese nationalism and the modern…


Book cover of The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China

Bill Hayton Author Of The Invention of China

From my list on the emergence of modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent more than a decade exploring the historic roots of Asia’s modern political problems – and discovering the accidents and mistakes that got us where we are today. I spent 22 years with BBC News, including a year in Vietnam and another in Myanmar. I’ve written four books on East and Southeast Asia and I’m an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at the London-based thinktank, Chatham House. I love breaking down old stereotypes and showing readers that the past is much more interesting than a series of clichés about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Perhaps through that, we can recognise that our future depends on collaboration and cooperation.

Bill's book list on the emergence of modern China

Bill Hayton Why did Bill love this book?

A brilliant account of the two Opium Wars showing how they have been remembered in particular ways in order to make modern political points. Lovell shows us how political operators on both sides used the question of the opium trade to further their own interests. It exposes the nasty business of imperialism but also takes down a lot of myths about the wars. The book allows us to see the conflicts both in terms of what happened at the time, and how views over those events changed over the following century and a half. She explores the international history of opium and how it became linked with racist representations of Chinese overseas and how this continues to affect relations between peoples and governments today.

By Julia Lovell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Opium War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A gripping read as well as an important one.' Rana Mitter, Guardian

In October 1839, Britain entered the first Opium War with China. Its brutality notwithstanding, the conflict was also threaded with tragicomedy: with Victorian hypocrisy, bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding episode of modern Chinese nationalism.

Starting from this first conflict, The Opium War explores how China's national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how…


Book cover of Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War

David G. Atwill Author Of Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present

From my list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

Just after graduating from college in 1989, I spent the year teaching in the city of Kunming – a “small” city of several million in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. In some ways, I have never left. My year there set me on a life-long trajectory of exploring some of China’s most remote corners from Tibet to Beijing. Intrigued by the way China’s borderlands reflected China’s diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions, I eventually wrote my first book The Chinese Sultanate on the Panthay Rebellion (1856-1872). Today I teach at Penn State University seeking to share my experiences in China (and the world) with my students in the university classroom.

David's book list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars

David G. Atwill Why did David love this book?

If the Opium War represents the greatest threat to China’s global stature, the Taiping Rebellion certainly posed the greatest domestic challenge to the ruling dynasty. On the surface, the bare facts of the rebellion defy belief. Its leader, Hong Xiuquan, after failing the imperial civil service examination, came to believe that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ and embarks on establishing a kingdom that upends thousands of years of beliefs by instituting a wide array of socially progressive ideas. Using both Chinese and Western sources, Chinese historian Stephen Platt breathes new life into both the extraordinary rise of Hong’s Taiping Kingdom and the imperial state’s ultimately successful response. Beautifully written, Platt’s account offers a captivating account of both the revolutionary ideology of the Taipings and the Chinese Confucian response.

By Stephen R. Platt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the early 1850s, during the twilight of the Qing dynasty, word spread of a major revolution brewing in the provinces. The leader of this movement - who called themselves the Taiping - was Hong Xiuquan, a failed civil servant who claimed to be the son of God and the brother of Jesus Christ. As the revolt grew and battles raged across the empire, all signs pointed to a Taiping victory and to the inauguration of a modern, industrialized and pro-Western China.

Soon, however, Britain and the United States threw their support behind the Qing, rapidly quashing the Taiping and…


Book cover of What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China

David G. Atwill Author Of Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present

From my list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

Just after graduating from college in 1989, I spent the year teaching in the city of Kunming – a “small” city of several million in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. In some ways, I have never left. My year there set me on a life-long trajectory of exploring some of China’s most remote corners from Tibet to Beijing. Intrigued by the way China’s borderlands reflected China’s diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions, I eventually wrote my first book The Chinese Sultanate on the Panthay Rebellion (1856-1872). Today I teach at Penn State University seeking to share my experiences in China (and the world) with my students in the university classroom.

David's book list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars

David G. Atwill Why did David love this book?

While Stephen Platt offers a brilliant starting point for those interested in the Taiping Rebellion, Professor of Chinese history Tobie Meyer-Fong reveals the terrible realities of the war from the perspective of the survivors. Shifting her focus to the individual trauma caused by the rebellion, the author details the harrowing personal losses of the Taiping Rebellion. Meyer-Fong’s explicit and straightforward account of the hacking, slicing, and burning of both the Taiping and imperial soldiers accentuates the long-lasting psychological scars caused by the uprising that lingered on into the early twentieth century. What Remains pushes the reader to move beyond military campaigns and the lofty (but often impractical) ideology in order to better contemplate the long-term consequences of the violence it wrought on an empire already reeling from debilitating demographic pressures.

By Tobie Meyer-Fong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Remains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Taiping Rebellion was one of the costliest civil wars in human history. Many millions of people lost their lives. Yet while the Rebellion has been intensely studied by scholars in China and elsewhere, we still know little of how individuals coped with these cataclysmic events.

Drawing upon a rich array of primary sources, What Remains explores the issues that preoccupied Chinese and Western survivors. Individuals, families, and communities grappled with fundamental questions of loyalty and loss as they struggled to rebuild shattered cities, bury the dead, and make sense of the horrors that they had witnessed.

Driven by compelling…


Book cover of The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

David G. Atwill Author Of Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present

From my list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

Just after graduating from college in 1989, I spent the year teaching in the city of Kunming – a “small” city of several million in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. In some ways, I have never left. My year there set me on a life-long trajectory of exploring some of China’s most remote corners from Tibet to Beijing. Intrigued by the way China’s borderlands reflected China’s diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions, I eventually wrote my first book The Chinese Sultanate on the Panthay Rebellion (1856-1872). Today I teach at Penn State University seeking to share my experiences in China (and the world) with my students in the university classroom.

David's book list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars

David G. Atwill Why did David love this book?

If the White Lotus marks the beginning of China’s rebellious nineteenth century, the Boxer Uprising (1900-1) emphatically brought it to its end. This account of the Boxers, written by scholar Joseph Esherick, although the oldest of the books recommended here, almost certainly served as their intellectual forerunner. Esherick’s iconoclastic approach upended traditional descriptions of the event and indeed transformed the way that scholars of China viewed rebellions as a whole. Moving away from the well-worn western perspective of the very missionaries and diplomats who were the targets of the anti-foreign, anti-Christian, and anti-modern movement, Esherick offers a richly textured description of the Boxer’s fantastical religious impulses and harsh social context. In this way, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising rich and vivid telling of the Boxer’s “Society of Harmony and Justice” is as exciting today as the day it was published.

By Joseph W. Esherick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1900, bands of peasant youths from the villages of north China streamed into Beijing to besiege the foreign legations, attracting the attention of the entire world. Joseph Esherick reconstructs the early history of the Boxers, challenging the traditional view that they grew from earlier anti-dynastic sects, and stressing instead the impact of social ecology and popular culture.


Book cover of Dragon's Head and A Serpent's Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592-1598

Peter A. Lorge Author Of The Reunification of China: Peace through War under the Song Dynasty

From my list on Chinese military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in Chinese military history stems from an early interest in books on strategy like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and in East Asian martial arts. I have pursued both since high school, translating Sun Tzu as a senior thesis in college (and now returning to it professionally), and practicing a number of martial arts over the last forty years (and writing a book on the history of Chinese martial arts). Although there are plentiful historical records for all aspects of Chinese military history, the field remains relatively neglected, leaving it wide open for new studies. I continue to pursue my teenage interests, writing the books I wanted to read in high school.

Peter's book list on Chinese military history

Peter A. Lorge Why did Peter love this book?

Contrary to previous scholarship, Ming China was not in military decline at the end of the 16th century, and the Wanli Emperor was not an ineffectual ruler during the conflict in Korea with the Japanese. Swope also demonstrates the importance of guns in the conflict, with the Japanese army strong in harquebuses and the Chinese army strong in cannon.

By Kenneth M. Swope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dragon's Head and A Serpent's Tail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The invasion of Korea by Japanese troops in May of 1592 was no ordinary military expedition: it was one of the decisive events in Asian history and the most tragic for the Korean peninsula until the mid-twentieth century. Japanese overlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi envisioned conquering Korea, Ming China, and eventually all of Asia; but Korea's appeal to China's Emperor Wanli for assistance triggered a six-year war involving hundreds of thousands of soldiers and encompassing the whole region. For Japan, the war was ""a dragon's head followed by a serpent's tail"": an impressive beginning with no real ending.

Kenneth M. Swope has…


Book cover of The Cambridge History of China: Volume 10, Late Ch'ing 1800–1911, Part 1

S.C.M. Paine Author Of The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy

From my list on the origin of the Asian balance of power.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up during the Cold War, I wondered how the United States and the Soviet Union became locked into an existential struggle that threatened to vaporize the planet. So, I studied Russian, Chinese, and Japanese (along with French, Spanish, and German) to learn more. At issue was the global order and the outcome of this struggle depended on the balance of power—not only military power that consumed Soviet attention but also economic power and standards of living that Western voters emphasized. Yet it was Japan that had the workable development model as proven by the Four Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) during the 1960s to 1990s.

S.C.M.'s book list on the origin of the Asian balance of power

S.C.M. Paine Why did S.C.M. love this book?

The Qing dynasty is covered in both volumes 10 and 11 of this wonderful series. Volume 10 contains essays that earlier in my career I would always go back to—not for the riveting prose but for the solid information. John K. Fairbank (1907-1991), the father of U.S. Sinology and longtime professor at Harvard University, invited the finest Sinologists to contribute to these volumes. Pick and choose from among the excellent chapters including: Joseph Fletcher (Inner Asia and Sino-Russian relations), John K. Fairbank (the treaty port system), Philip A. Kuhn (the Taiping Rebellion) in volume 10; and Immanuel C. Y. Hsu (foreign relations), Marius Jansen (Japan and the 1911 Revolution) in volume 11. Beware that the two volumes are very much scholarly works—in both the positive and negative meanings of the word, scholarly.

By John K. Fairbank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first of two volumes in this major Cambridge history dealing with the decline of the Ch'ing empire. It opens with a survey of the Ch'ing empire in China and Inner Asia at its height, in about 1800. Contributors study the complex interplay of foreign invasion, domestic rebellion and Ch'ing decline and restoration. Special reference is made to the Peking administration, the Canton trade and the early treaty system, the Taiping, Nien and other rebellions, and the dynasty's survival in uneasy cooperation with the British, Russian, French, American and other invaders. Each chapter is written by a specialist…


Book cover of China's Last Empire: The Great Qing

Henrietta Harrison Author Of The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire

From my list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern China in the department of Chinese at the University of Oxford. I started off working on the twentieth century but have been drawn back into the Qing dynasty. It’s such an interesting and important period and one that British students often don’t know much about! 

Henrietta's book list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian

Henrietta Harrison Why did Henrietta love this book?

I think this is the best up-to-date history of the Qing dynasty. I use it for teaching because it’s completely reliable, covers everything you might need to know, and lays it all out clearly.

It also has a really good balance between the history of major events like the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion and the social history and context. And I like the fact that it explains the big debates that scholars are having in clear and simple terms.

By William T. Rowe, Timothy Brook (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a brisk revisionist history, William Rowe challenges the standard narrative of Qing China as a decadent, inward-looking state that failed to keep pace with the modern West. The Great Qing was the second major Chinese empire ruled by foreigners. Three strong Manchu emperors worked diligently to secure an alliance with the conquered Ming gentry, though many of their social edicts - especially the requirement that ethnic Han men wear queues - were fiercely resisted. As advocates of a 'universal' empire, Qing rulers also achieved an enormous expansion of the Chinese realm over the course of three centuries, including the…


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Interested in China, the Qing dynasty, and the Taiping Rebellion?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about China, the Qing dynasty, and the Taiping Rebellion.

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