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China - Readings  

General History
John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman,China , A New History
Recognized for decades as the West's doyen onChina , John King Fairbank here offers the full and final expression of his lifelong engagement with this vast ancient civilization. Fairbank's masterwork is without parallel as a concise, comprehensive, and authoritative account ofChina and its people.

Patricia Buckley Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China
A lavishly illustrated single-volume history traces life inChina from prehistoric times to the present, encompassing Chinese arts, culture, economics, society, religion, philosophy and politics, including the 1989 uprising in Tiananmen Square.

Other History Books
Joanna Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History
This powerful work puts to rest the long-held myth that Chinese civilization is monolithic, unchanging, and perennially cut off from the rest of the world. An inviting history ofChina from the days of the ancient Silk Road to the present, this book describes a civilization more open and engaged with the rest of the world than we think. Whether in trade, religious belief, ideology, or technology,China has long taken part in fruitful exchange with other cultures. With implications for our understanding of and our policies towardChina , this is a must read.

Jonathan Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci (1552-1616), an Italian Jesuit, enteredChina in 1583 to spread Catholicism in the largely Confucian country. In order to make a persuasive argument for the educated Chinese to abandon their traditional faith for the new one he was carrying, Ricci realized that he would have to prove the general superiority of Western culture. He did so by teaching young Confucian scholars tricks to increase their memory skills--an important advantage in a nation with countless laws and rituals that had to be learned by heart. Ricci attracted numerous students with this method; more important, Ricci came to have a sympathetic understanding forChina that he communicated to Rome, and thence to the European nations at large. Spence's portrait of Ricci is a gem of historical writing.

Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty
An inside account of the Soong family, whose wealth and power have dominatedChina and U.S.-Asia policy in the 20th century. 

Orville Schell, Mandate of Heaven
America 's foremost chronicler of contemporaryChina brilliantly illuminates the new power structure, economic initiatives, and cultural changes that have transformedChina since the Tianamen Square massacre of 1989. Mandate of Heaven is the authoritative and definitive account of this generation as it moves into a capitalist economic future while still clinging to the structures of its communist past.

Harrison Salisbury, The New Emperors:China in the Era of Mao and Deng
This definitive work, based on 20 years of first-hand research and first-person interviews conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winner Salisbury, follows the lives of Mao and Deng from their rural childhood to their triumphant establishment of the People's Republic ofChina . It reads as much like popular fiction as a work of history.

Sterling Seagrave, Dragon Lady: the Life and Legend of the Last Empress ofChina
The author of The Soong Dynasty gives us our most vivid and reliable biography yet of the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, remembered through the exaggeration and falsehood of legend as the ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the Chinese throne in 1861.

Biography and Autobiography

Zhisui Li, The Private Life of Chairman Mao
From 1954 until Mao Zedong's death 22 years later. Dr. Li Zhisui was the Chinese ruler's personal physician. For most of these years, Mao was in excellent health; thus he and the doctor had time to discuss political and personal matters. Dr. Li recorded many of these conversations in his diaries, as well as in his memory. In this book, Dr. Li vividly reconstructs his extraordinary time with Chairman Mao..

Wu Ningkun,  A Single Tear
Offers a firsthand account of life inChina , from the beginning of communism through the Cultural Revolution, by an American-educated professor who was subjected to manifold hardships by the brutal Mao regime.(Professor Wu was a colleague of my father in the 1950s. He tells the story how he and my father were purged during the anti-rightist campaign in 1957.)

Jung Chang, Wild Swans
Wild Swans is an intimate memoir and a panoramic vision of a monumental human saga, which tells of the lives of Jung Chang, her mother, her grandmother, and of 20th-centuryChina .

Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro, Son of the Revolution
This is Liang Heng's own story of growing up in the turmoil of the Great Cultural Revolution. His story is unique, but at the same time it is in many ways typical of those millions of young Chinese who have been tested almost beyond endurance in recent years.


Ha Jin, Waiting
A kind of Chinese Dr. Zhivago about a married army doctor who was torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family's village.

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
A powerful, moving story tells the lives of four Chinese women in pre1949China and the lives of their American-born daughters in California.

Pearl Buck, The Good Earth
A classic novel by a Nobel Prize-winning author offers a graphic view of China during the reign of the last Emperor, and tells the story of an honest farmer and his wife as they struggle with the sweeping changes of the twentieth century.

Mo Yan, Red Sorghum: A Novel on China
A legend in China, where it won the major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film, this is a novel of family, myth, and memory, set during the fratricidal barbarity of the 1930s, when the Chinese battled both Japanese invaders and each other.

Su Tong, Raise the Red Lantern: Three Novella
From a member ofChina 's New Wave, three novellas of a disturbing intensity make their US debut--including ``Raise the Red Lantern,'' the basis of an acclaimed 1991 film. Set in provincial China of the 1930's, all three stories evoke a place where a concubine might have attended college and a landlord's son might have learned to play tennis at his boarding school--but where the harsh old ways still prevail. Women, even the most spirited, are broken by men's brutality and by other women's spite.


These movies can be found in most movie stores.

Some are in Chinese with English subtitle.

  • The Good Earth
  • The Last Emperor
  • Farewell My Concubine
  • To Live
  • The Story of Qiu Ju
  • Shanghai Triad
  • The Joy Luck Club
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • Red Sorghum
  • Iron and Silk
  • Not One Less