The best books on the Boxer Rebellion

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the Boxer Rebellion and why they recommend each book.

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Sam Langford

By Clay Moyle,

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

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.


Sam Langford

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

By Mark Allen Baker,

Book cover of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937

What is my book about?

For six decades, the World Colored Heavyweight Championship was a useful tool of racial oppression--the existence of the title far more important to the white public than its succession of champions. It took some extraordinary individuals, most notably Jack Johnson, to challenge "the color line" in the ring, although the title and the black fighters who contended for it continued until the reign of Joe Louis a generation later. This history traces the advent and demise of the Championship, the stories of the 28 professional athletes who won it, and the demarcation of the color line both in and out of the ring.

My Several Worlds

By Pearl S. Bucks,

Book cover of My Several Worlds

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…

My Several Worlds

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


Who am I?

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, whatsonweibo.com, etc.


I wrote...

Inconvenient Memories: A Personal Account of the Tiananmen Square Incident and the China Before and After

By Anna Wang,

Book cover of Inconvenient Memories: A Personal Account of the Tiananmen Square Incident and the China Before and After

What is my book about?

Oh, no, another book about the Tiananmen Incident? Inconvenient Memories is a rare and truthful memoir of a young woman's coming of age amid the Tiananmen Square Protests. In 1989, Anna Wang was one of the lucky few who worked for a Japanese company, Canon. She traveled each day between her grandmother's dilapidated commune-style apartment and an extravagant office just steps from Tiananmen Square. Her daily commute on Beijing's impossibly crowded buses brought into view the full spectrum of China's inequalities during the economic transition. When Tiananmen Protests broke out, her Japanese boss was concerned whether the protests would obstruct Canon's assembly plant in China, and she was sent to Tiananmen Square on a daily basis to take photos for her boss to analyze for evidence of turning tides. From her perspective as a member of the emerging middle class, she observed firsthand that Tiananmen Protests stemmed from Chinese people's longing for political freedom and their fear for the nascent market economy, an observation that readers have never come across from the various accounts of the historical events so far.

Book cover of The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

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.

The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present

By David G. Atwill, Yurong Y. Atwill,

Book cover of Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present

What is my book about?

Sources in Chinese History serves as an introduction to a sweeping array of key events, personages, and policies from the founding of China’s last dynasty in 1644 to the present. Now in its second edition, each chapter opens with an annotated visual source followed by a historical snapshot of a key event from that period. By highlighting social and cultural dimensions of China’s past, the sourcebook challenges the reader to consider the shifting perspectives, economic challenges, and political ideologies of each era. Special attention has been made to incorporate non-traditional documents, such as film scripts, private correspondence, and political cartoons.

From the founding of China’s last dynasty to Xi Jinping’s leadership today, this book suits those seeking more information about a specific person or era, as well as those looking for a more thorough introduction to China’s recent or more distant past.

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

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.

History in Three Keys

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885-1924

By Peter Zarrow,

Book cover of After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885-1924

What is my book about?

By the turn of the twentieth century, China was undergoing acute political, social, and cultural change. So, question: how did the Chinese people stop believing in an emperor who claimed the Mandate of Heaven and decide to replace the empire with a republic? After years of looking at individual thinkers, activists, writers, and political movements, I tried to put the story together, with all its ups and downs, from the first glimpses of a political community that would function without a sacred leader to the final ignominious expulsion of the emperor from the Forbidden City a full twelve years after the founding of the Republic. Also important to me: the story of the rejection of kings is not limited to China. 

Boxers & Saints

By Gene Luen Yang,

Book cover of Boxers & Saints

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.

Boxers & Saints

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.

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.…


Who am I?

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! 


I wrote...

City in the Desert

By Moro Rogers,

Book cover of City in the Desert

What is my book about?

In the isolated desert kingdom of Kevala, Irro, a carefree monster hunter, and Hari, his not-quite-human assistant, are doing a roaring business. Then a mysterious cult leader arrives, promising to rid Kevala of monsters once and for all. What does a monster hunter do when all the monsters are gone? And can we live without monsters? 

Boxers

By Gene Luen Yang,

Book cover of Boxers

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!

Boxers

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.

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Second Dad Summer

By Benjamin Klas, Fian Arroyo (illustrator),

Book cover of Second Dad Summer

What is my book about?

Jeremiah just wants to have a normal summer with his dad. Unfortunately, his dad just moved to downtown Minneapolis to live with his wacky new boyfriend, Michael. Michael serves weird organic foods, wears shorts that are always too short, and rides around on The Uni-Cycle: a bike decorated to look like a unicorn. Things are shaping up to be a looooong summer. Thankfully Jeremiah finds Sage, the girl next door whose favorite hobbies include naming clouds and taking epic bike pilgrimages through the city. As the summer goes on and Jeremiah starts finding community in surprising places, he starts to wonder who truly belongs in his family.

Foreward Reviews say it’s, “Welcoming and inclusive.” Kirkus Reviewssay it’s, “Touching and unforgettable.” Naturally, I have to agree.

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

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.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War

By Bob Davis, Lingling Wei,

Book cover of Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War

What is my book about?

This is the inside account of the U.S.-China economic struggle starting in the 1990s.  I wrote it with my Wall Street Journal colleague, Lingling Wei, who was the best-sourced American reporter in China until she was expelled in 2020 along with other American journalists. Our book features deep reporting in Beijing as well as Washington D.C., which distinguishes it from many works by U.S. journalists who rely too much on American sources. We focus on the trade war fought by President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.  Expect lots of scoops and details not available anywhere else.     

Diamond Head

By Cecily Wong,

Book cover of Diamond Head

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.

Diamond Head

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…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

The Aloha Spirit

By Linda Ulleseit,

Book cover of The Aloha Spirit

What is my book about?

The spirit of aloha is found in Hawaii’s fresh ocean air, the flowers, the trade winds…the natural beauty that smoothes the struggles of daily life. In 1922 Honolulu, unhappy in the adoptive family that raised her, Dolores searches for that spirit early on. At sixteen, she marries Manolo. His large Portuguese family embraces her, but when his drinking leads to physical abuse, only his relative Alberto comes to her rescue—and sparks a new passion within Dolores. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Dolores flees to California. Both men follow—Manolo’s drinking problems continue and Alberto’s begin. Outraged, Dolores doubts her feelings for Alberto. Is he only going to disappoint her, as Manolo has? Or is Alberto the embodiment of the aloha spirit she’s been seeking? 

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