The best books on the Boxer Rebellion 📚

Browse the best books on the Boxer Rebellion as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of My Several Worlds

My Several Worlds

By Pearl S. Bucks

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books of the Westerners’ experience in China

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Book cover of The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

By Joseph W. Esherick

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books to make sense of 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars

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

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

By John Pompfret

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on China by Western journalists

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Book cover of Boxers

Boxers

By Gene Luen Yang

Why 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,…

From the list:

The best books about finding your magnificent family of choice

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

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

By Paul Cohen

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on how imperial China became modern China

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Book cover of Diamond Head

Diamond Head

By Cecily Wong

Why 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…

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The best historical fiction about Hawaii

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