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Military Culture in Imperial China

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Overview

This volume explores the relationship between culture and the military in Chinese society from early China to the Qing empire, with contributions by eminent scholars aiming to reexamine the relationship between military matters and law, government, historiography, art, philosophy, literature, and politics.

The book critically investigates the perception that, due to the influence of Confucianism, Chinese culture has systematically devalued military matters. There was nothing inherently pacifist about the Chinese governments’ views of war, and pragmatic approaches—even aggressive and expansionist projects—often prevailed.

Though it has changed in form, a military elite has existed in China from the beginning of its history, and military service included a large proportion of the population at any given time. Popular literature praised the martial ethos of fighting men. Civil officials attended constantly to military matters on the administrative and financial ends. The seven military classics produced in antiquity continued to be read even into the modern period.

These original essays explore the ways in which intellectual, civilian, and literary elements helped shape the nature of military institutions, theory, and the culture of war. This important contribution bridges two literatures, military and cultural, that seldom appear together in the study of China, and deepens our understanding of war and society in Chinese history.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

This excellent book will be the starting place for many future scholars of Chinese military history.
— K. E. Stapleton

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

This is an extremely valuable study of Chinese military culture.
— Peter Lorge

Journal of Military History

Future students of the role of the military in Chinese history will want to have the present volume close at hand.
— Paul Jakov Smith

Asia Times

Throughout Military Culture in Imperial China, it is clear China did not have the dramatic split between military and literary culture that many have perceived...As China grows economically, politically and militarily, it will become increasingly important to understand China's present military culture, which is rooted in the imperial tradition explored in this book.
— Francesco Sisci

Diana Lary
This is a very valuable contribution to Chinese history and to the growing field of comparative military history. It corrects the common view that China was a society of civil culture, to the exclusion of the military. The authors address the Chinese treatment of the culture of war in the Chinese context, not as a subset of European military culture; they move beyond works that tend to disparage China for not waging war in a European way. As contemporary China emerges as a major military power, this book is important and timely.
Hans Van De Ven
Military Culture in Imperial China asks basic questions and answers them brilliantly. It is not about battles, but about how Chinese culture represented and in turn shaped the military and warfare. In case studies from the span of Chinese history, we finally learn how organized violence formed and reflected religious ideas and practices, traditions of historical writing, politics, literature, and economics. This book is a must for anyone interested in China's imperial history and in military history more generally.
Choice - K. E. Stapleton
This excellent book will be the starting place for many future scholars of Chinese military history.
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies - Peter Lorge
This is an extremely valuable study of Chinese military culture.
Journal of Military History - Paul Jakov Smith
Future students of the role of the military in Chinese history will want to have the present volume close at hand.
Asia Times - Francesco Sisci
Throughout Military Culture in Imperial China, it is clear China did not have the dramatic split between military and literary culture that many have perceived...As China grows economically, politically and militarily, it will become increasingly important to understand China's present military culture, which is rooted in the imperial tradition explored in this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674060722
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2011
  • Pages: 456
  • Sales rank: 1,038,988
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicola Di Cosmo is Luce Foundation Professor of East Asian Studies, Institute for Advanced Studies.

Robin D. S. Yates is Assistant Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University.

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

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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction Nicola Di Cosmo

  1. Law and the Military in Early China Robin D. S. Yates
  2. Martial Prognostication Ralph D. Sawyer
  3. The Western Han Army: Organization, Leadership, and Operation Michael Loewe
  4. The Military Culture of Later Han Rafe de Crespigny
  5. Military Aspects of the War of the Eight Princes, 300–307 Edward L. Dreyer
  6. Narrative Maneuvers: The Representation of Battle in Tang Historical Writing David A. Graff
  7. Tang Military Culture and Its Inner Asian Influences Jonathan Karam Skaff
  8. Unsung Men of War: Acculturated Embodiments of the Martial Ethos in the Song Dynasty Don J. Wyatt
  9. Wen and Wu in Elite Cultural Practices during the Late Ming Kathleen Ryor
  10. Mengzi’s Art of War: The Kangxi Emperor Reforms the Qing Military Examinations Sam Gilbert
  11. Writing from Experience: Personal Records of War and Disorder in Jiangnan during the Ming-Qing Transition Grace S. Fong
  12. Militarization of Culture in Eighteenth-Century China Joanna Waley-Cohen
  13. Military Finance of the High Qing Period: An Overview Yingcong Dai
  14. Coercion and Commerce on Two Chinese Frontiers Peter C. Perdue

  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index

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