by Jasper Becker
Mao the dreamer hitting on a plan to rapidly increase
China's agricultural output - The Great Leap Forward. Using the countryside
as a testing ground for new ideological policies, an estimated 30 million
Chinese starved to death. Author uses academic studies and personal
interviews to paint the picture, but many of the anecdotes he uses seem
to masquerade as fact.
John Murray (0719554403)
by Arnold C. Brackman
Couldn't ask for a more riveting tale of a slice of China's
history. This book, on which Bertolucci's film was based, is a fascinating,
sometimes sordid tale of palace intrigue and manipulation. The story begins
with the enthronement of a 3-year old Pu Yi who, in his lifetime would be
emperor of China, puppet emperor of Manchuria, and eventually a 're-educated'
by the Cambridge University Press
The Bible - if it's not here, it probably didn't happen! However,
with 15 volumes, each weighing in at almost a pound, it's a heavy read in
all senses of the word - approach with caution.
This author obviously took great joy in rifling through history's dusty
closet to bring to life one of its more obscure historical figures, Frederick
Townsend Ward - an inept mercenary to some, a soldier adventurer extraordinaire
to others. Whichever the case, he led a unique life during a crucial period
of China's history (the almost successful Taiping Rebellion). Get the book
and read all about it - a great account, highly detailed, and one of a kind.
Random House (0679761284)
the most well known of the multitude of personal chronicles of the cultural
revolution, it's the story of 3 generations (the author, her mother, and
her grandmother). Stands out for its dealing with the all out attack
by Mao Tse-dong on the CCP during the late 60's and 70's.
Dr. J Macqueen Cowan, editor
During his first of 7 trips to China, he was the only member
of his expedition not to be killed by Tibetan monks. Eventually bringing
back over over 10,000 varieties of plant specimens, it is remarkable how
unsung he is compared to other plant collectors of the day.
OUP for Royal Horticultural Society
Buckley Ebrey and Kwang-Ching Liu
Voiding the need to cart around a mini-library, this one puts
8,000 years of a civilisation's life into a mere one volume, and does it
very well. Receives high marks for being an engaging and detailed
account, and for giving play to the Chinese take on history as well.
Cambridge Univ. Press (0521435196)
by John King Fairbank and Merle
Still hailed as a masterpiece, covering 4000 years in under
500 pages, it is a rather concise account written by renowned China scholar
Mr. Fairbanks. Brought up to date by Goldman who covers the post-Mao era.
Harvard University Press (067411673)
by Andrew Forbes
One of the better ones covering modern history in Xinjiang.
Introduces reader to the Uighurs, and also gives heavy mention to other
Cambridge Univ. Press (0521255147)
by Melvyn Goldstein
This most debated and misunderstood period of Tibet's recent history
is handled with expertise, care, and a fine bit of storytelling. Relies
on primary evidence to give a thorough analysis of the politics operating
in Tibet. Highly recommended.
of Calif. Press (0520075900)
by Goldstein, Kapstein, Schell
Drawing on case studies and interviews in the TAR, Sichuan and Qinghai,
depicts Tibetan revivalism amidst the new environment of religious openness,
and the balance it must maintain between a wary Chinese government and the
desire of some for greater autonomy.
Univ. of Calif.
by Jim Goodman
Dozens of glossy photos to draw the reader's eye, contains chapters
covering history, village life, religion, ceremonial rites, etc. of both
the Naxi people (based in the Lijiang area) and the Yi people (centred around
Lugu Lake). The author, based out of northern Thailand, is one of the more
knowledgeable individuals on Yunnan's minorities.
Teak House (1876437014)
by Peter Goullart
Mr. Goullart lived and worked in Lijiang for nine years in
the 1940's. This is a singular account of some of the minorities of
Yunnan, including the Naxi, Tibetans, Bai, Yi and Lisu. And his conclusions,
arrived at more than fifty years ago, are extremely valid today.
by Tom Grunfeld
A refreshingly sceptical account that bypasses the well travelled route
of castigating the Chinese while overlooking conditions in pre-1950 Tibet.
While hardly praising China, neither does it spare the DLs and their
regimes from a fair dose of criticism.
Sharpe Inc. (1563247143)
by Peter Hessler
Peter Hessler is a journalist residing in Beijing who contributes to
the New York Times and Atlantic Monthly, amongst others. This engaging book
is a well-written and perceptive account of his first 2 years in outback
industrial China as a Peace Corps volunteer.
by Isabel Hilton
Most know the basics - both the DL and Beijing each announced
they had 'found' the reincarnated 11th Panchen Lama. The DL's choice
then soon vanished. Here's an excellent narrative of the machinations behind
WW Norton &
by James Hilton
Shangri-La... claiming one's hometown to be the Shangri-La has become
a regional pastime. This is the novel that started it all.
Pocket Books (0671664271)
by Alexander Hosie
The author eloquently describes his travels in SW China, when he was
a British consular agent serving in Chongqing at the end of the 19th century.
A curious and observant individual, his book is an excellent record of perilous
travel conditions, the landscape, conditions of the people, manufacturing
and agricultural methods, etc.
White Lotus Press - repr. (9747534525)
by Toni Huber
A highly desirable book for those at all interested in Tibetan pilgrimages
- motivations behind it, its place within Tibetan society, etc.
Oxford Univ. Press
by Stephen Jones
"The more you browse this unusual handbook... the more riveting
it becomes." Explores the richness and complexity of Chinese indigenous
folk music using Western musicology techniques.
Clarendon Press (0198167180)
by Francis Kingdon-Ward
A botanist/explorer extraordinaire in the 19c - many of the places he went
are even today still considered incredibly remote. Specialised in medicinal
plants surveys. Excellent book first published 1930. Includes many black
and white maps.
Cadogan Books - repr. (0913728217)
by Frank Kingdon-Ward
Selection of Ward's best articles on plant hunting in the remote lands where
Burma, Tibet and China meet, taken from his books: The Land of the Blue
Poppy, The Mystery Rivers of Tibet, In Farthest Burma, The Riddle of the
Tsangpo Gorges, Plant Hunting on the Edge of the World, Plant Hunter in
Tibet and Return to Irrawaddy.
Serinda Publications (0906026229)
Lattimore was a renowned Johns Hopkins University professor specializing
in China and Asia, who became even more 'known' when he was accused by Senator
McCarthy of being the "top Soviet spy" in the US (Lattimore was
persona non grata in the Soviet Union at the time). An explorer as much
as a scholar, he led a fascinating life, some of which can be read about
in his books - unique accounts of China in the 1920's (High Tartary, Mongol
Journey, etc.), putting 'the bus rider in you to shame'. For more on the
man ("I believe in my right to be wrong, and still more in my right
to be right."), see Robert Newman's Owen Lattimore
and the "Loss" of China, below.
by Owen Lattimore
University of Tokyo Press (086008468X)
/ Columbia Univ. Press (086008468X)
Leeds UP (085316066X)
by Owen Lattimore and Alastair Lamb
Oxford Univ. Press (0195827813)
by Lillian Lee and Nancy Kwan
Made into a highly acclaimed movie, this
is a tale set against the background of the fortunes of the Beijing Opera
since the start of the century. Serves as an entertaining
introduction to this initially quite impenetrable art form.
Carlton Books (1857220188)
attributed to Luo Guanzhong
"The empire, long divided, must
unite; long united, must divide." This epic tale is to China
what the Homeric epics have been to the West, with the difference that it
is still viewed as required reading for present-day rulers. Takes place
at the time when the Han Dynasty is tearing apart at the seams, a tale of
war, honour, loyalty and betrayal.
Foreign Languages Press (7119005901)
Roger E. McCarthy
Biased but highly informative and unique account of the CIA's Tibet
program, a little known historical chapter where Khampa Tibetans from Western
Sichuan were flown to Colorado to receive guerilla training from the US
McFarland & Co (0786403314)
Toby Musgrave, Chris Gardner and Will Musgrave
Well researched chapters on the exotic 18c travels of such plant hunters as E. H. Wilson,
George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward, among others. Has
both maps and illustrations to bring their travels to the reader.
Ward Lock (0706377532)
by Robert P. Newman
Owen Lattimore, a scholar-adventurer, called the expert's expert
by Roosevelt, branded a spy and much worse, indicted twice, never convicted...
An enthralling, chilling account of the McCarthyite witch-hunt that effectively
eradicated the US's entire body of recognised China specialists, thus founding
the ignorance that has characterised US foreign policy towards China up
to the present. Can read the entire book on-line here.
University California Press (0520073886)
Marilyn Rhie & Robert Thurman
A book using the extensive Ruben collection of thangkas in New York
as its fodder, with essays and explanations by Thurman and David Jackson,
alongside a huge number of colour prints of thangkas. This is a great introduction
for anybody interested in either the iconography or theory of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibet House New York in association with
The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation (0967011515)
by Harrison E. Salisbury
of the two major Communist Party leaders (Mao and Deng), based around the
interesting theory that they were carrying on China's dynastic tradition.
Superbly researched by one of the giants of China journalism.
Harper Collins (0586218645)
by Geoffrey Samuel
A readable, intensely well researched account of the development of
Tibetan Buddhism. Geography, anthropology, politics, theology & cosmology
- it will increase your understanding of the specific aspects of Tibetan
Buddhism, and its place in Tibetan society, a thousand-fold.
Smithsonian Institution Press (1560986204)
by Orville Schell
The strange bedfellows of Hollywood and Tibet.
Henry Holt & CO, Inc. (0805043829)
by Sterling Seagrave
Of the 3 daughters of T.V. Soong, one married Chiang Kai-shek,
one married his finance minister, and one married Dr. Sun Yat-sen. This
book is a readable debunking of the myth around CKS as the heroic leader
of Free China. Very worthwhile, considering that the Song family heavily
influenced American policy towards China for most of this century, and thoroughly
entertaining as well.
by Tsering Shakya
Tsering Shakya is an academic-in-exile, who's produced a remarkably
balanced and detailed account of the last half century of Tibetan history.
One of the best books about this much debated, little understood, period.
years into the US/KMT-imposed news blackout, American journalist Edgar Snow
gained access to the inner
circle of the communist
party, and gives us an unparalleled account of those times, including the
legendary "Long March" - the 6,000 mile journey of China's nascent
Red Army, some 100,000 strong.
The 20,000 survivors who eventually reached Yan'an marked the start of the
ascendancy of the Chinese Communist Party. The insight he gives us of Mao
is at least as informative as anything else ever written.
Grove Press (0802150934)
Harvard University Press
by Jonathan D. Spence
An approachable, readable and involving account. Dense in details
without being plodding, gives the reader a real sense of what was happening
in China from the time of the Manchus up to the present. Certainly
one of the "must reads" for those interested in
W.W. Norton (0393973514)
by Jonathan Spence
There's a mountain of reading material available describing Westerners'
perceptions of China over the years. To find out how travellers over
the course of the last 700 years perceived it, this is the book. Or
just to read an interesting, lively account of the history of this period.
WW Norton (0393027473)
by Jonathan D. Spence and Annping
Filled with fascinating pictures and fascinating text, this is history
at its most approachable without sacrificing depth.
by Han Suyin
Zhou Enlai, overshadowed by Mao Tse-dong and Deng Xiao-ping in Western eyes,
was arguably the singularly most influential figure in the Chinese revolution
from the early days to the time of his death in the mid 70's. Of the three,
he was also undeniably the most loved and universally respected by
the Chinese. This biography traces his life in the context of the changes
taking place from the early 20's onwards. An excellent, highly readable,
very detailed account of his life and that of the PRC.
Kodansha Int'l Ltd (1568360843)
by Barbara Tuchman
Given the difficult task during WW2 of persuading the KMT and
the Communists into an alliance, General Stilwell was in an unenviable position.
His outspoken criticism of Chiang Kai-shek was to lead to his removal from
Prentice Hall & IBD (0026202905)
by Arthur Waley
A sinologist with a knack for weaving a tale, with this book Waley provided
for the first time an account, long overdue, of the opium wars which comes
from the perspective of Chinese participants and witnesses.
by Ernest H. Wilson
Originally published 1929, this book is said to be "the most comprehensive
authority and readable book on China horticulture, botany and physical characteristics..."
The author, E. H. Wilson, was another member of that very small and rarified
club of explorers/plant hunters in China in the early 19c. This book tells
of his travels in China from the years 1899-1911.
Stratford Co. (0405090811)
by Ernest H. Wilson
First published 1913, written by one of the greats in China plant hunting,
EH Wilson. This is an absolutely unique account not only of plants of this
region, but about travel conditions as well as the people who inhabited
the remote areas of western China through which the author travelled.
Timber Press, Inc (0946313490)
by Wu Cheng'en
Ultimately the story of how Buddhism was brought from
India into China. Follows the exploits and travails of the Tang Dynasty
priest Sanzang who, setting out with his disciples the Monkey, the Pig,
and the Friar, went in search of the Buddhist Sutra.
Foreign Languages Press (711901014X)
by Israel Epstein
A biography of Sun Yat-sen's widow written
by a colleague who didn't try to hide his own personal admiration
towards her, you can't call this book impartial. Nevertheless, Madame
Sun is well deserving of admiration, and the story of her life is fascinating, starting during the final years of the Qing Dynasty, and continuing
beyond the revolution.
Stephen Mansfield, has been coming to China for many years, and his seasoned
eye is evident in the descriptions, background
knowledge and travelling tips given in the book.
Favours sound practical detail over anecdotes.
Bradt Travel Guides
Currently one of the best of the Tibet guides covering not just the TAR
but all regions of Greater Tibet including Amdo & Kham. Although not
always 100% accurate with regards to the viability of roads, etc., it's
a well researched guide concentrating on information, not opinion. Ideal
for true "gompa stompers".
Handbooks Ltd (1900949334) [Also publ. in USA by Passport Books 0844221902]
Comprehensive coverage of the major Tibetan areas, with sections covering
the TAR and Western China (including Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan), as well
as Northern India, Bhutan and Nepal. Regional maps especially useful, denoting
location of monasteries, passes, peaks, rivers, etc. Schedules of public
transportation also quite detailed.
Kotan Publishing, Inc
Initial delight that the book's scope was limited to Southwest China (an
area quite sizeable all on its own) gave way to disappointment upon realising
it seemed to have simply reprinted relevant bits from the China guidebook,
without bothering to cover more places, or to cover old places more in depth.
Although it does provide an introduction to the logistics of travelling
in China, the area and its minorities; overall a rather dismal spin-off
of its vastly overrated parent guide. For more current information, roam
Lonely Planet Publications
Overall the book does a rather poor job of covering the country.
It's the one big problem common to most China guide books, trying to cover
such a large area without the necessary numbers in personnel - it's out-of-date
before it hits the shelves. China's changing fast - what can you do?
Rough Guides (185828225X)
Rough Guide Special
Planning on an Asian trip? It's always nice to have a book pointing
you in the right direction for hotels, museums,
etc. As with most Rough Guides, the book includes some interesting commentaries.
Rough Guides (1858283329)