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Best Chinese History Books

Uncover the past with the most enlightening Chinese history books, each one a favorite among history buffs as collated from distinguished history blogs and book reviewers.

Recommendations from 21 articles, Hillary Clinton, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Branson and 24 others.
Best Chinese History Books
38 books on the list
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The Art of War book cover
The Art of War
Sun Tzu - 2005-01-11 NaN
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A timeless masterpiece on military strategy based on ancient Chinese warfare and thought, The Art of War has been adapted for use in politics, business, and everyday life. Widely read and respected for centuries, this book provides tactics and insights that help gain advantage over opponents, whether in the boardroom or on the battlefield.
Oracle Bones book cover
Oracle Bones
A Journey Between China's Past and Present
Peter Hessler - 2006-04-25
Goodreads Rating
Explore modern-day China and its links to the Western world through the lives of ordinary people in Oracle Bones. Peter Hessler illuminates the contrast between past and present and the evolving rhythms of a country in transformation. Follow a diverse cast, including an American writer living in Beijing, a forgotten ethnic minority member seeking freedom in the United States, and a scholar of oracle-bone inscriptions, all struggling to understand the historical forces that have shaped their lives. Hessler excavates the past, putting a human face on the history of China and capturing its soul as it undergoes a momentous change.
China in Ten Words book cover
China in Ten Words
Yu Hua - 2011-11-08
Goodreads Rating
Explore the complexities and nuances of modern Chinese society through the eyes of one of China's most acclaimed writers. Framed by ten common words in Chinese culture, China in Ten Words is a candid and intimate portrait of the world's most populous nation. Through personal stories and astute analysis, Yu Hua delves into issues such as wealth inequality, piracy, and fraud, offering a unique perspective on the Chinese experience over the last several decades. Provocative and insightful, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to gain a deeper understanding of modern China.
Wild Swans book cover
Wild Swans
Three Daughters of China
Jung Chang - 2003-08-12 (first published in 1991)
Goodreads Rating
Experience the resilience of three generations of Chinese women as they navigate the tumultuous 20th century. In this thrilling, real-life saga, witness their struggle for survival in a world of violence, revolution, and upheaval. Brimming with adventure, Wild Swans offers a rich historical account and a breathtaking tribute to the human spirit. Don't miss the 16 pages of powerful photographs accompanying this moving masterpiece.
Factory Girls book cover
Factory Girls
From Village to City in a Changing China
Leslie T. Chang - 2008-10-07
Goodreads Rating
Explore the fascinating and previously untold lives of the migrant factory population in China, the largest migration in human history. Follow the stories of two young women, who over the course of three years attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta. Discover a world where nearly everyone is under thirty, where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class, and where poverty and idleness of rural life drive young girls to leave home. With personal and historical frames of reference, author Leslie T. Chang provides new insight into China and demonstrates how this mass movement is changing individual lives and transforming Chinese society.
Life and Death in Shanghai book cover
Life and Death in Shanghai
Cheng Nien - 1988-05-03 (first published in 1986)
Goodreads Rating
A chilling personal account of one woman's imprisonment during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, Life and Death in Shanghai is a story of heroic resistance and courageous perseverance. Educated in London, and a widow of an official of Chiang Kaishek's regime and an employee of Shell Oil, Nien Cheng refused to confess to being an enemy of the state, leading to six years of solitary confinement. The book highlights the fight for power and party factions of Mao's China and portrays an astounding portrait of one woman's courage.
Red Star over China book cover
Red Star over China
The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism
Edgar Snow - 1994-02-16 (first published in 1937)
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Discover the birth of the Communist movement in China through the eyes of the first Westerner to meet Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Communist leaders in 1936. In Red Star Over China, Edgar Snow gives us the first authorized account of Mao's life and a history of the famous Long March. This classic work includes extensive notes on military and political developments in China, further interviews with Mao Tse-tung, and a chronology covering 125 years of Chinese revolution. Learn about the men and women who were instrumental in making China what it is today in nearly a hundred detailed biographies.
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Nelson Mandela
The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China book cover
The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China
The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun (Penguin Classics)
Lu Xun - 2010-01-26 (first published in 2009)
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Discover the unsettling reality of late-imperial China and the revolutionary Republic that followed in this collection of short stories by one of the founding figures of modern Chinese literature. Lu Xun's celebrated works, including 'The Real Story of Ah-Q' and 'Diary of a Madman,' paint a vivid picture of superstition, poverty, and complacence. With a new translation by Julia Lovell and additional features such as an introduction to Lu Xun's life and suggested reading, this edition is a must-read for anyone interested in Chinese literature and history.
China book cover
A History
John Keay - 2008-01-01
Goodreads Rating
Explore five millennia of Chinese history in this authoritative account. Author John Keay's illuminating overview highlights China's unique identity rooted in its rich history. Examining everything from the Three Dynasties to Chairman Mao and beyond, this crisp and engaging read is a must for understanding the present and future of this powerhouse nation.
Country Driving book cover
Country Driving
A Chinese Road Trip (P.S.)
Peter Hessler - 2010-02-09 (first published in 2009)
Goodreads Rating
This award-winning book follows author Peter Hessler's travels across China in the early 2000s, exploring how the rise of cars and improved roads impacted the country's economy and society. Through his travels, Hessler shares moving stories of the average people who have reshaped China during this critical period in its history. He investigates the abandonment of rural regions, the transformation of small farming villages, and the hope for industrial growth in previously agricultural areas. This compelling and insightful narrative provides a unique perspective on modern China.
The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu
Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz
The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber, Vol. 1 by Cao Xueqin
Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai'An and Luo Guanzhong
Wealth and Power by Orville Schell
The Party by Richard McGregor
The Shortest History of China by Linda Jaivin
The Souls of China by Ian Johnson
China by Harold M. Tanner
A Hero Born by Jin Yong
The Age of Confucian Rule by Dieter Kuhn
China from Empire to Nation-State by Wang Hui
The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History by Rian Thum
Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard
The Penguin History of Modern China by Jonathan Fenby
Foundations of Chinese Civilization by Jing Liu
China between Empires by Mark Edward Lewis
The Cambridge Illustrated History of China by Patricia Buckley Ebrey
Red Sorghum by Mo Yan
The Trouble with Taiwan by Kerry Brown, Kalley Wu Tzu Hui, Paul French
A Bitter Revolution by Rana Mitter
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Modern China by Rana Mitter
China in the 21st Century by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Mao by Jung Chang
Imperial Twilight by Stephen R. Platt