Suggested Readings

  • Surveys and Introductory Works Open or Close

    China at war

    No comprehensive survey of Chinese military history is yet available in English, although more limited periods have been addressed. Two very useful works are Bruce A. Elleman, Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989 (London and New York: Routledge, 2001) and Edward L. Dreyer, China at War, 1901-1949 (London and New York: Longman, 1995).


  • Chinese Military Thought and Theory Open or Close

    Sunzi's Art of War is available in numerous English translations, and many other classical military treatises have also been translated. The largest contribution has been made by Ralph D. Sawyer, whose Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993) is the most comprehensive one-volume collection of early Chinese military texts. Another of Sawyer's translations, One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), provides encyclopedic coverage of the key concepts of traditional military theory. Of late Song (or possibly Yuan or Ming) date and uncertain authorship, this work contains commentary and historical examples arranged under one hundred headings, including "Spies," "The Unorthodox," and "Fighting to the Death." 


    Chen-Ya Tien, Chinese Military Theory: Ancient and Modern (Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1991) attempts a comprehensive survey, though the work is marred by poor editing. An extremely important recent study of the military classics and their connection with later Chinese strategic preferences is Alastair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).


  • Ancient China (to 221 BC) Open or Close

    sanctioned violenceMark Edward Lewis, Sanctioned Violence in Early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), examines the transition from the aristocratic chariot warfare of the "Spring and Autumn" period to the mass infantry armies of the "Warring States."

    Translations of early accounts of Spring and Autumn battles can be found in Burton Watson, trans., The Tso Chuan: Selections from China's Oldest Narrative History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).

    An article by Edward Shaughnessy touching on the role of the chariot in early Chinese warfare can be found in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 48.1 (June 1988), 189-237

  • Military Technology Open or Close

    Science-and-Civilisation-in-ChinaThe key works are Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, pt. 7, Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic (Cambridge: Cambidge University Press, 1986) and Joseph Needham and Robin D.S. Yates, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 5, pt. 6, Military Technology: Missiles and Sieges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). Professor Yates is currently working on another military volume for the Needham project, one that will deal with chariots and cavalry among many other topics.

  • Military Institutions Open or Close

    The military institutions of Imperial China have received much attention from Chinese and Japanese scholar but have largely been ignored in the West. For a quick overview, see the dynasty-by-dynasty introductory section in Charles O. Hucker, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985). The introductory chapter of Philip A. Kuhn, Rebellion and Its Enemies in Late Imperial China: Militarization and Social Structure, 1796-1864 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970) is also useful. One of the very few monographs in English is Ch'i-ch'ing Hsiao, The Military Establishment of the Yüan Dynasty (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978). For the Ming dynasty's military system, see Romeyn Taylor, "Yüan Origins of the Ming Wei-so System," in Charles O. Hucker, ed., Chinese Government in Ming Times: Seven Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969).

  • Civil-Military Relations Open or Close

    There is no comprehensive survey of this subject, but several articles should be consulted. These include Morton H. Fried, "Military Status in Chinese Society," American Journal of Sociology 57 (1951-1952), 347-357; Winston W. Lo, "The Self-Image of the Chinese Military in Historical Perspective," Journal of Asian History 31.1 (1997), 1-21; and Joanna Waley-Cohen, "Commemorating War in Eighteenth-Century China," Modern Asian Studies 30.4 (1996), 869-899. The October 2000 issue of War and Society (18.2) contains four articles on civil-military relations in Imperial China

  • Military Operations Open or Close

    The classic work is Chinese Ways in Warfare, edited by Frank A. Kierman Jr. and John K. Fairbank (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), which contains detailed case studies of a number of campaigns. There is also a more recent collection of essays devoted to various battles, wars, and campaigns: Hans van de Ven, ed., Warfare in Chinese History (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2000). Edward L. Dreyer, "Military Continuities: The PLA and Imperial China," in The Military and Political Power in China in the 1970's, edited by William W. Whitson (New York: Praeger, 1972), includes a superb overview of the patterns of warfare in Imperial China. Other articles include Benjamin E. Wallacker, "Studies in Medieval Chinese Siegecraft: The Siege of Yü-pi, A.D. 546," Journal of Asian Studies 28.4 (1969), 789-801, and David A. Graff, "The Bat

  • Twentieth-Century Warlords Open or Close

    A number of biographical studies of individual warlords have appeared since the 1960's. One example among many is James E. Sheridan, Chinese Warlord: The Career of Feng Yü-hsiang (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1966). For the view from below, see Diana Lary, Warlord Soldiers: Chinese Common Soldiers, 1911-1937 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). Hsi-sheng Ch'i, Warlord Politics in China, 1916-1928 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press) is an overview that includes several chapters on military capabilities. The only in-depth study of a warlord war (in this case the Second Zhili-Fengtian War of 1924) is Arthur Waldron, From War to Nationalism: China's Turnin

  • The People's Liberation Army Open or Close

    William W. Whitson, The Chinese High Command (New York: Praeger, 1973 ) provides substantial accounts of Chinese Communist military operations in the civil wars and the anti-Japanese war, together with analysis of factionalism in the Chinese military leadership. Two classic studies of the PLA under Mao are Harlan W. Jencks, From Muskets to Missiles: Politics and Professionalism in the Chinese Army, 1945-1981 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982), and Harvey W. Nelsen, The Chinese Military System (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1977). For the post-Mao reforms, see Ellis Joffe, The Chinese Army after Mao (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987). Books and articles on more recent developments in the Chinese military are legion. See, for example, China's Military in Transition, edited by David Shambaugh and Richard H. Yang (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). James Mulvenon, Soldiers of Fortune (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001) is an exhaustive study of the PLA's commercial activities.

    chinesehighcommand chinesemilitarysystem