China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

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Overview

"In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Qing empire of China expanded to unprecedented size. With a series of ambitious military campaigns into the heart of Central Eurasia, astute diplomacy, and economic investment, the Manchu rulers of the Qing defeated their major rivals, the Zunghar Mongols, and brought all of modern Xinjiang and Mongolia under their control, while gaining dominant influence in Tibet. The Chinas we know today is a product of these vast frontier conquests." Peter Perdue chronicles for the first time in English this little-known story of the Qing conquest, discussing the military strategies, diplomatic maneuvers, logistical preparations, and ideological proclamations of all the contending parties. Han Chinese, Manchus, Mongols, Uighurs, Russians, and Tibetans all played their part in this early version of the Central Asian Great Game. Perdue explains why the Qing, unlike all previous Chinese dynasties, were able to achieve enduring domination in the region, and examines how the Qing rulers ensured that their control would last. They did not shrink from forcible repression, but they also aimed to win over subject populations by peaceful means. They invested heavily in economic and administrative development, promoted peasant migration and merchant trade networks, and conducted ceremonies adapted to the distinct peoples they rules. Their cultural vision stressed the valuable role of the frontier regions in the all-powerful imperial state. They rewrote the history of the conquest to make the victories look like inevitable results of Heavenly grace.
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Editorial Reviews

China Historical Review - David A. Bello
The book has been arranged as meticulously as the military logistics the author finds so critical to Chinese imperial consolidation in Central Eurasia. It is, as Perdue is well aware from his command of a vast range of material, the most comprehensive narrative account in English, as well as many other languages. Certainly no other work in any language engages so extensively with so many issues current in both Chinese and world history.
Foreign Affairs
In this major work, Perdue challenges historians' focus on China's struggles with European powers and argues that the more important historical event was the Manchu Qing empire's fight with the Zunghar Mongolian state and the Muscovite Russian empire for domination of Central Asia. He traces the rise of the Qing and how they — with military conquest and repression, but also through trade policies, economic development, and administrative effectiveness — established a claim on Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia that holds to this day. Perdue has had to write a massive book to make a convincing case against the conventional wisdom, and his analysis goes from the role of the environment in affecting communications to descriptions of the living conditions of various armies to vividly detailed accounts of the judgments of various leaders as recorded in the archives. Although he does pull open the curtain on this "great game" for control of central Eurasia (preceding the later "great game" between the British and the Russians), no single book can demolish the deeply held views of the "Western impact" interpretation of modern Chinese history. Still, Perdue succeeds in giving new life to matters that have succumbed to stale conventional thinking.
Pacific Affairs - Diana Lary
This is a sumptuous book, beautifully written, beautifully illustrated and beautifully produced. It is a joy to hold and to read. The subject is dramatic, the conquest of Central Eurasia by the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. It tells a story, in alternating sections of narrative and analysis, that is both historical and modern. The extension of Qing power continues to have huge implications for China and for the geopolitics of North and Central Asia. The book is based on impeccable scholarship; the author has used such a rich range of sources, in seven languages, that the work must be described as definitive.
Times Higher Education Supplement - L.J. Newby
In this acclaimed book, Peter Perdue presents a study of more than 100 years of the frontier relations, military campaigns, logistics, and diplomatic maneuvers that resulted in the Qing conquest of Central Eurasia. Taking his cue from the Qianlong emperor, he positions the Qing at the centre of his narrative, yet he is at pains to show that this is the story of not one, but three great empires: Wing, Russian, and Mongol, which contended for power in the heart of Eurasia in the 17th to 18th century. And herein lies his thesis. While never losing sight of the unpredictability of conquest, Perdue uses the model of competitive state-building to explain why it was not until the 18th century that a dynasty ruling from Beijing conclusively eradicated the nomadic enemy to its north. Picking his way deftly through national historiographies and an impressive array of primary sources, Perdue recounts the familiar story of how, by the late 16th century, the Russian state was gradually expanding, not only westwards but deep into Siberia...This is a weighty book in every sense, and along the way Perdue pointedly engages with many of the major theoretical perspectives and trends in recent scholarship on modern Chinese history: ethnic and national identities, frontier management, China's place in world history, and the interaction of nomad and steppe empires. They are all here--the issues and debated that have been quietly transforming the face of Qing studies over the past ten to 15 years but which, for the most part, have still to filter into mainstream writings and comparative studies. For this reason, if none other, this book should be read not only by China specialists, but all those with an interest in bringing Chinese history in from the cold.
Sino-Platonic Papers - Kim Hodong
China Marches West is a masterful study of the dissolution of the last nomadic empire, Zunghar, and the partition of Central Eurasia in the 17th and 18th centuries by he two superpowers, China and Russia...We have been badly in need of studies that can provide us with an appropriate understanding of the importance of Central Eurasia, especially in relation to the emergence of the two continental empires of Russia and China in the context of world history. Perdue's book not only fills this gap but also drastically raises the level of our understanding of the subject. A specialist in Chinese history, concentrating on the Ming-Qing period, Perdue boldly turns his eye to the Mongolian steppe and beyond...This book is full of details, but the descriptions are not monotonous: vivid narration, keen remarks, and interpretive discussions render this thick volume fascinating and readable. The details are firmly based on primary sources in the many different languages of Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, and Russian. Perdue's scope of interest is amazingly broad, covering virtually the whole Eurasian continent, and his command of literatures in European history and social sciences is also astounding. It is no wonder that readers feel no awkwardness in his comparative historical discourse and are convinced of his conclusion that the formation of the Qing state was not much different from that of European states. Perdue's book should be recommended to all the students sitting in the classes of Asian as well as European history, and to all scholars of these regions besides. A large number of maps, pictures, and diagrams help readers in following the arguments without much difficulty. In sum, there is no doubt that this book is a brilliant achievement of modern American historical scholarship and will remain a serious challenge to future scholars in the discipline of historical analysis.
Asian Affairs - Michael Dillon
The text is elegantly constructed, the argument is thoughtful and the illustrations are well chosen and beautifully presented.
Chinese Historical Review - David A. Bellow
The book has been arranged as meticulously as the military logistics the author finds so critical to Chinese imperial consolidation in Central Eurasia. It is, as Perdue is well aware from his command of a vast range of material, the most comprehensive narrative account in English, as well as many other languages. Certainly no other work in any language engages so extensively with so many issues current in both Chinese and world history...Perdue has opened a new frontier that may never be entirely settled, but that certainly provides ample space for years of exploration.
Foreign Affairs

In this major work, Perdue challenges historians' focus on China's struggles with European powers and argues that the more important historical event was the Manchu Qing empire's fight with the Zunghar Mongolian state and the Muscovite Russian empire for domination of Central Asia. He traces the rise of the Qing and how they—with military conquest and repression, but also through trade policies, economic development, and administrative effectiveness—established a claim on Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia that holds to this day...Perdue succeeds in giving new life to matters that have succumbed to stale conventional thinking.
— Lucian Pye

American Historical Review

In this massive and beautifully illustrated volume, Peter C. Perdue has produced the first broad survey in a Western language in virtually a century of the Qing dynasty's protracted wars against the Zunghars...Numerous maps and lavish illustrations, many in color, from new and historic photographs, paintings, and woodcuts contribute to the immediate appeal of this weighty tome. As an account of how China defeated the Zunghars and how the Qing dynasty secured its conquest of the eastern part of Central Eurasia, this ground-breaking book will be read by both specialists evaluating the arguments and by students needing an introduction to this important topic.
— Christopher P. Atwood

China Review International

A masterful work on Central Eurasian political and cultural dynamics, Perdue's book is also a virtual education in critical thinking and a model of good corrective historical writing. China Marches West competently unravels the complexity of the dynamics of Central Eurasia up to the latter part of the eighteenth century with the successful formation of the Qing empire.
— Franklin J. Woo

China Historical Review

The book has been arranged as meticulously as the military logistics the author finds so critical to Chinese imperial consolidation in Central Eurasia. It is, as Perdue is well aware from his command of a vast range of material, the most comprehensive narrative account in English, as well as many other languages. Certainly no other work in any language engages so extensively with so many issues current in both Chinese and world history.
— David A. Bello

Pacific Affairs

This is a sumptuous book, beautifully written, beautifully illustrated and beautifully produced. It is ajoy to hold and to read. The subject is dramatic, the conquest of Central Eurasia by the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. It tells a story, in alternating sections of narrative and analysis, that is both historical and modem. The extension of Qng power continues to have huge implications for China and for the geopolitics of North and Central Asia. The book is based on impeccable scholarship; the author has used such a rich range of sources, in seven languages, that the work must be described as definitive.
— Diana Lary

Times Higher Education Supplement

In this acclaimed book, Peter Perdue presents a study of more than 100 years of the frontier relations, military campaigns, logistics, and diplomatic maneuvers that resulted in the Qing conquest of Central Eurasia. Taking his cue from the Qianlong emperor, he positions the Qing at the centre of his narrative, yet he is at pains to show that this is the story of not one, but three great empires: Wing, Russian, and Mongol, which contended for power in the heart of Eurasia in the 17th to 18th century. And herein lies his thesis. While never losing sight of the unpredictability of conquest, Perdue uses the model of competitive state-building to explain why it was not until the 18th century that a dynasty ruling from Beijing conclusively eradicated the nomadic enemy to its north. Picking his way deftly through national historiographies and an impressive array of primary sources, Perdue recounts the familiar story of how, by the late 16th century, the Russian state was gradually expanding, not only westwards but deep into Siberia...This is a weighty book in every sense, and along the way Perdue pointedly engages with many of the major theoretical perspectives and trends in recent scholarship on modern Chinese history: ethnic and national identities, frontier management, China's place in world history, and the interaction of nomad and steppe empires. They are all here—the issues and debated that have been quietly transforming the face of Qing studies over the past ten to 15 years but which, for the most part, have still to filter into mainstream writings and comparative studies. For this reason, if none other, this book should be read not only by China specialists, but all those with an interest in bringing Chinese history in from the cold.
— L.J. Newby

Sino-Platonic Papers

China Marches West is a masterful study of the dissolution of the last nomadic empire, Zunghar, and the partition of Central Eurasia in the 17th and 18th centuries by he two superpowers, China and Russia...We have been badly in need of studies that can provide us with an appropriate understanding of the importance of Central Eurasia, especially in relation to the emergence of the two continental empires of Russia and China in the context of world history. Perdue's book not only fills this gap but also drastically raises the level of our understanding of the subject. A specialist in Chinese history, concentrating on the Ming-Qing period, Perdue boldly turns his eye to the Mongolian steppe and beyond...This book is full of details, but the descriptions are not monotonous: vivid narration, keen remarks, and interpretive discussions render this thick volume fascinating and readable. The details are firmly based on primary sources in the many different languages of Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, and Russian. Perdue's scope of interest is amazingly broad, covering virtually the whole Eurasian continent, and his command of literatures in European history and social sciences is also astounding. It is no wonder that readers feel no awkwardness in his comparative historical discourse and are convinced of his conclusion that the formation of the Qing state was not much different from that of European states. Perdue's book should be recommended to all the students sitting in the classes of Asian as well as European history, and to all scholars of these regions besides. A large number of maps, pictures, and diagrams help readers in following the arguments without much difficulty. In sum, there is no doubt that this book is a brilliant achievement of modern American historical scholarship and will remain a serious challenge to future scholars in the discipline of historical analysis.
— Kim Hodong

Asian Affairs

The text is elegantly constructed, the argument is thoughtful and the illustrations are well chosen and beautifully presented.
— Michael Dillon

Chinese Historical Review

The book has been arranged as meticulously as the military logistics the author finds so critical to Chinese imperial consolidation in Central Eurasia. It is, as Perdue is well aware from his command of a vast range of material, the most comprehensive narrative account in English, as well as many other languages. Certainly no other work in any language engages so extensively with so many issues current in both Chinese and world history...Perdue has opened a new frontier that may never be entirely settled, but that certainly provides ample space for years of exploration.
— David A. Bellow

Timothy Brook
This is a masterpiece of contemporary scholarship. Nothing like it has been published in the field of Asian studies for several decades. And no one has written about Inner Asia during the formative eighteenth century with such comprehensive vision. It covers a huge swath of place and time, has impressive intellectual reach, and speaks with a calm certainty that sustains the reader's attention for the length of the book.
Nicola Di Cosmo
A masterful examination of imperial expansion and frontier history, this work goes to the roots of what it meant, for China, to be an 'empire' in the eighteenth century. Perdue's massive and detailed research into the expansion of the Qing empire contributes a crucial dimension to the comparative study of the Chinese, Russian, and Ottoman empires in the early modern period. This is a first-rate accomplishment and a truly outstanding piece of scholarship.
Joanna Waley-Cohen
Building on meticulous research in several languages, Perdueargues convincingly that the Qing conquests were of enormous importance both locally and globally. Drawing us deep into interconnected issues of frontier environments, state formation, and control of the historical record before the age of mass communication, his nuanced account sets a new standard for the study of both comparative empires and identity formation in the early modern world.
Foreign Affairs - Lucian Pye
In this major work, Perdue challenges historians' focus on China's struggles with European powers and argues that the more important historical event was the Manchu Qing empire's fight with the Zunghar Mongolian state and the Muscovite Russian empire for domination of Central Asia. He traces the rise of the Qing and how they--with military conquest and repression, but also through trade policies, economic development, and administrative effectiveness--established a claim on Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia that holds to this day...Perdue succeeds in giving new life to matters that have succumbed to stale conventional thinking.
American Historical Review - Christopher P. Atwood
In this massive and beautifully illustrated volume, Peter C. Perdue has produced the first broad survey in a Western language in virtually a century of the Qing dynasty's protracted wars against the Zunghars...Numerous maps and lavish illustrations, many in color, from new and historic photographs, paintings, and woodcuts contribute to the immediate appeal of this weighty tome. As an account of how China defeated the Zunghars and how the Qing dynasty secured its conquest of the eastern part of Central Eurasia, this ground-breaking book will be read by both specialists evaluating the arguments and by students needing an introduction to this important topic.
China Review International - Franklin J. Woo
A masterful work on Central Eurasian political and cultural dynamics, Perdue's book is also a virtual education in critical thinking and a model of good corrective historical writing. China Marches West competently unravels the complexity of the dynamics of Central Eurasia up to the latter part of the eighteenth century with the successful formation of the Qing empire.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674057432
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 752
  • Sales rank: 444,731
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter C. Perdue is Professor of History at Yale University.
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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 The formation of the central Eurasian states
1 Environments, state building, and national identity 15
2 The Ming, Muscovy, and Siberia, 1400-1600 51
3 Central Eurasian interactions and the rise of the Manchus, 1600-1670 94
Pt. 2 Contending for power
4 Manchus, Mongols, and Russians in conflict, 1670-1690 133
5 Eating snow : the end of Galdan, 1690-1697 174
6 Imperial overreach and Zunghar survival, 1700-1731 209
7 The final blows, 1734-1771 256
Pt. 3 The economic basis of empire
8 Cannons and camelback : ecological structures and economic conjunctures 303
9 Land settlement and military colonies 324
10 Harvests and relief 358
11 Currency and commerce 378
Pt. 4 Fixing frontiers
12 Moving through the land 409
13 Marking time : writing imperial history 462
Pt. 5 Legacies and implications
14 Writing the national history of conquest 497
15 State building in Europe and Asia 518
16 Frontier expansion in the rise and fall of the Qing 547
App. A Rulers and reigns 569
App. B The Yongzheng emperor reels from the news of the disaster, 1731 571
App. C Haggling at the border 575
App. D Gansu harvests and yields 583
App. E Climate and harvests in the Northwest 589
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