The most recommended books on the Boxer Rebellion

Who picked these books? Meet our 10 experts.

10 authors created a book list connected to the Boxer Rebellion, and here are their favorite Boxer Rebellion books.
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What type of Boxer Rebellion book?


Book cover of Boxers & Saints

Moro Rogers Author Of City in the Desert

From my list on ideological adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a household with a fantasy author dad and a philosophy professor mom, I learned to appreciate stories that expressed big ideas. I realized the books and movies I liked weren’t just vehicles for ideology, but that ideas are the hooks that draw me into a story. I’ve also always loved animals and monsters. Like Miyazaki and C.S. Lewis, I was attempting to create a narrative that brought my beliefs and interests together. Now I live in Southern California with my husband, son, and cat, surrounded by rattlesnakes, tarantulas, hawks, and coyotes. It’s an imperfect, beautiful world! 

Moro's book list on ideological adventure

Moro Rogers Why did Moro love this book?

I’ve always loved Hong Kong New Wave movies, but they often emphasize action and flashy melodrama over historical context. For someone wanting to dig a little deeper, the graphic novel Boxers & Saints is a look into the parallel lives of two Chinese teenagers during the Boxer Rebellion—One is a red-blooded patriot eager to fight Western invaders. The other is a troubled girl who finds liberation in Christianity. Both characters are carried along, motivated, and then betrayed by fanaticism. When their paths cross, they are forced to learn the difference between religious faith and religious mania. The simple artwork isn’t meant to be lingered over…I read all 512 pages at breakneck speed.

By Gene Luen Yang,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Boxers & Saints as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The Boxers & Saints Boxed Set from Gene Luen Yang, one of the greatest comics storytellers alive, brings all his formidable talents to bear in this astonishing work.

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict.…

Book cover of Boxers

Benjamin Klas Author Of Second Dad Summer

From my list on finding your magnificent family of choice.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I came out of the closet in college, I lost friends and family who wouldn’t love me for who I was. As time went on, however, new family started appearing in surprising places: people that wanted to journey with me and stick by my side even though we weren’t related by blood or birth. New, chosen family found me. Reading stories about others searching for–and finding–family in the midst of the wackiness of life has always been a comfort. I hope that you find yourself immersed in the abundance of love that family (by blood or by choice) can bring.

Benjamin's book list on finding your magnificent family of choice

Benjamin Klas Why did Benjamin love this book?

Travel back in time to the Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s. This graphic novel follows Little Bao as he gathers a brotherhood (and later is joined by a sisterhood) called the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists. People from many different backgrounds gather together to support each other to fight for the freedom of their homeland, China. I love the way that the clean illustrations in this graphic novel make the story explode in my mind as I follow this band of ragtag revolutionaries coming together as a family on a mission!

Bonus: There’s a companion graphic novel, Saints, that tells a parallel story from a very different perspective!

By Gene Luen Yang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boxers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

From American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang: an innovative look at China's Boxer Rebellion told from two points of view, in two companion volumes. China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers - commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from "foreign devils." But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of Chinese citizens who…

Book cover of Sam Langford: Boxing's Greatest Uncrowned Champion

Mark Allen Baker Author Of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

From my list on any fan of boxing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having written over twenty-five books, including ten books on boxing, I have been involved with the sport through my work as a historian for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I also sit on the Board of Directors Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and have penned biographies on five members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. My name is Mark Allen Baker, and I am a historian and award-winning author.

Mark's book list on any fan of boxing

Mark Allen Baker Why did Mark love this book?

Standing no more than five feet, seven inches; tall, Sam Langford was one of the 20th century's greatest fighters. In this biography, his life story is told in great and entertaining detail. Sam was a great black prizefighter in an era when the color line was easily cited by white opponents wanting to avoid meeting him in the ring. The Ring magazine editor Nat Fleischer ranked Langford among his favorites, stating, "Sam possessed strength, agility, cleverness, hitting power, a good thinking cap, and an abundance of courage. He feared no one." This comprehensive biography brings to light Sam Langford's remarkable talents and life thanks to author Clay Moyle. Having known Moyle for years, I can speak to his passion for the sport and his commitment to quality.

By Clay Moyle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A compelling and thorough biography of the great Sam Langford.
Standing no more than 5’ 7” tall, Sam Langford was one of the 20th century’s greatest fighters. In 1951, the great featherweight champion Abe Attell was asked if Sugar Ray Robinson was the best of all time, either as a welterweight or middleweight. He named Stanley Ketchel as the greatest welterweight he’d ever seen and said that, as for the middleweights, he’d take Sam Langford, “the greatest of them all at that poundage.”
Remarkably, the man Attell felt was the greatest middleweight fighter in history fought and defeated many of…

Book cover of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present

Bob Davis Author Of Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War

From my list on China by Western journalists.

Why am I passionate about this?

For nearly 40 years I have worked at the Wall Street Journal, largely focusing on international economics. I was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Asian and Russian financial crisis. China has been a particular passion. In 1999, I covered the U.S. negotiations with China over its entry to the World Trade Organization, which included side trips to New Zealand and elsewhere for some of the talks. From 2011 to 2014, I was posted in Beijing where I wrote about the Chinese economy and loved getting out to the countryside. Back in Washington, I reported on the deteriorating U.S.-China relationship, especially during the Trump years.

Bob's book list on China by Western journalists

Bob Davis Why did Bob love this book?

We are used to thinking about how much China has changed in the past 50 years, thanks to the actions of the United States. But we rarely think about China’s historic impact on the U.S. This magisterial book by a former Washington Post reporter with long experience in China corrects that imbalance. There is a reason the author uses 1776 in his subhead. The tea tossed into Boston Harbor was shipped from Xiamen, and America’s founders were inspired by Chinese society which they viewed as a meritocracy. China’s democratic reformers looked to the U.S. for inspiration too.

By John Pompfret,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Remarkable History of the Two-Centuries-Old Relationship Between the United States and China, from the Revolutionary War to the Present Day

From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea, and the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China, to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. While we tend to think of America’s ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns---rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment---were set in…

Book cover of German Colonial Wars and the Context of Military Violence

Peter H. Wilson Author Of Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500

From my list on German military history saying something different.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been drawn to the history of the German lands ever since I opened a historical atlas as a child and wondered why the middle of Europe was a colorful patchwork compared to the solid blocks depicting other countries. I then wondered how the people living under this multitude of authorities could manage their affairs, resolve differences, and defend themselves against each other and outsiders. Digging deeper into these questions has unearthed fascinating stories, not all of them pleasant, but which also shed light on the complexities of our shared existence. 

Peter's book list on German military history saying something different

Peter H. Wilson Why did Peter love this book?

Addressing his troops prior to their departure for China in 1900, Kaiser Wilhelm urged them to behave like the Huns and give no quarter to the Chinese accused of murdering the German ambassador during the Boxer Rebellion.

Four years later, German troops mercilessly drove the Herero and Nama people of what is now Namibia into the desert to die, while their comrades in what is now Tanzania fought a vicious war to suppress another colonial revolt. These events have recently returned to broader consciousness as the victims’ descendants demand reparations.

Without minimizing the violence, Kuss shows how it was rooted in specific situations and that there was no simple, inevitable line ‘from Windhoek to Auschwitz’. 

By Susanne Kuss, Andrew Smith (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked German Colonial Wars and the Context of Military Violence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Germany fought three major colonial wars from 1900 to 1908: the Boxer War in China, the Herero and Nama War in Southwest Africa, and the Maji Maji War in East Africa. Recently, historians have emphasized the role of German military culture in shaping the horrific violence of these conflicts, tracing a line from German atrocities in the colonial sphere to those committed by the Nazis during World War II. Susanne Kuss dismantles such claims in a close examination of Germany's early twentieth-century colonial experience. Despite acts of unquestionable brutality committed by the Kaiser's soldiers, she finds no direct path from…

Book cover of Diamond Head

Linda Ulleseit Author Of The Aloha Spirit

From my list on historical fiction about Hawaii.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in California and write novels based on my grandmother’s stories of our female ancestors. I love tales of everyday women who lived normal lives (according to them) but were quite remarkable to my 21st-century eyes. I wrote The Aloha Spirit about my husband’s grandmother, who was an amazing woman. His family is from Hawaii, and we visit there frequently. Anyone who spends time in the islands experiences the warm welcome of the people, which we know as the aloha spirit. I know Grandma had a difficult life, and I wrote the novel to explore how she might have overcome those difficulties to find her aloha spirit.

Linda's book list on historical fiction about Hawaii

Linda Ulleseit Why did Linda love this book?

Frank Leong is a wealthy shipping industrialist who moves his family from China to Oahu at the turn of the nineteenth century. Frank is murdered, which completely destroys his family. Whispers of an ancient parable haunt the Leongs, of a red string that connects someone to their perfect match but can also punish for mistakes in love. Frank’s pregnant teenage granddaughter, Theresa, is the next target to suffer from her family’s curse. The story is told from multiple points of view in this tragic multigenerational story of secrets and betrayal. My own interest in family history made this novel resonate deeply within me as several generations of women fail in their relationships.

By Cecily Wong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Diamond Head is an intricate meditation on what is in our control and what is fate—and on whether children must bear the costs of their parents’ mistakes.” —Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Frank Leong, a fabulously wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of Oahu. But something ancient follows the Leongs to Hawaii, haunting them. The parable of the red string of fate, the cord that binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, also punishes…

Book cover of The Origins of the Boxer War: A Multinational Study

Danny Orbach Author Of Fugitives: A History of Nazi Mercenaries During the Cold War

From Danny's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor Historian Detective of bygone riddles Curious Passionate

Danny's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Danny Orbach Why did Danny love this book?

Long before the emergence of groups like ISIS and Hamas, there existed the Boxers, a faction of religious fanatics in China who sought to eliminate all foreigners in the country at the turn of the twentieth century.

Lanxin Xiang, a masterful historian, expertly narrates the story of this uprising from various perspectives, delving into the motivations and actions of all the key players: the Boxers, the Chinese court, and the foreign powers involved.

As a skilled detective of historical events, Xiang unveils the hidden truths behind this tragic episode, revealing the hubris and short-sightedness of arrogant diplomats and courtiers, the fervor of desperate peasants, and the underlying factors that drove them into a collision course resulting in a conflagration that irrevocably transformed the Far East.

This captivating narrative not only challenged my preconceived notions about China and the world in the year 1900 but also proved to be an engrossing…

By Lanxin Xiang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fresh look at the Boxer War that challenges received views

Offers a panoramic view of the origins of the war

Book cover of History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth

Peter Zarrow Author Of After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885-1924

From my list on how imperial China became modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many Americans of my generation (boomer) who became China scholars, I witnessed the civil rights and anti-war struggles and concluded that we in the West could learn from the insights of Eastern thought and even Chinese Communism. I ended up specializing in modern political thought—I think of this field as the land of “isms”—nationalism, socialism, liberalism, and the like. I have lived in China and Japan, and spent twelve years as a historical researcher in Taiwan before returning to America to teach at the University of Connecticut. Today, I would not say China has the answers, but I still believe that the two most important world powers have a lot to learn from each other.

Peter's book list on how imperial China became modern China

Peter Zarrow Why did Peter love this book?

This book is by a man who has done as much as anyone to shape how historians approach the study of modern China. Here he not only looks at the rise and fall of the infamous Boxers (1898-1900) but also what the Boxer movement felt like to its various participants at the time, and finally the many strikingly different ways (myths) later generations have understood the Boxers. I learned how to better think about history from this book.

By Paul Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History in Three Keys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A comprehensive look at the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900, a bloody uprising in north China against native Christians and foreign missionaries.

Book cover of My Several Worlds

Anna Wang Author Of Inconvenient Memories: A Personal Account of the Tiananmen Square Incident and the China Before and After

From my list on Westerners’ experience in China.

Why am I passionate about this?

Anna Wang was born and raised in Beijing, China, and immigrated to Canada in her 40s. She received her BA from Beijing University and is a full-time bilingual writer. She has published ten books in Chinese. These include two short story collections, two essay collections, four novels, and two translations. Her first book in English, a 2019 memoir, Inconvenient Memories, recounts her experience and observation of the Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989 from the perspective of a member of the emerging middle-class. The book won an Independent Press Award in the "Cultural and Social Issues" category in 2020. She writes extensively about China. Her articles appeared in Newsweek, Vancouver Sun, Ms. Magazine, LA Review of Books China Channel, Ricepaper Magazine,, etc.

Anna's book list on Westerners’ experience in China

Anna Wang Why did Anna love this book?

Pearl S. Bucks was the first American woman who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was brought to China by her missionary parents when she was an infant. She continued to spend much of the first half of her life in China from 1892 to 1934. This autobiography covers her growing up in China and returning to the U.S. Good-hearted and open-minded, she was the very few foreigners who had intimate access to ordinary Chinese people's lives and souls, which remain mysterious to most outsiders to this day. As a sharp-eyed observer and skillful writer, she gave an extraordinary account of the major events such as the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the Boxer Rebellion, and the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists. The missionary work brought her to China in the first place, but in the end, she admitted failure in bringing God to China. Pearl…

By Pearl S. Bucks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Several Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drama Historical

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.