Military Culture in Imperial China

Military Culture in Imperial China

by Nicola Di Cosmo
     
 

"The notion of China as being endowed with a nonmilitary culture has long colored our understanding of Chinese history. The belief in the superiority of civility over bellicosity derives from the traditional contrast between the concepts of wen, understood as literary and civil culture, and wu, which pertains to martial virtues and military pursuits. From the dawn of… See more details below

Overview

"The notion of China as being endowed with a nonmilitary culture has long colored our understanding of Chinese history. The belief in the superiority of civility over bellicosity derives from the traditional contrast between the concepts of wen, understood as literary and civil culture, and wu, which pertains to martial virtues and military pursuits. From the dawn of Chinese history these two concepts, whether interpreted as mutually complementary or as irreconcilable opposites, have had the deepest significance upon thought, institutions, and social mores." "This volume of original essays explores the relationship between culture and the military in Chinese society from the Han to the Qing empires. Eminent scholars go beyond traditional interpretations of the wen-wu dichotomy and examine, from different angles, cultural aspects pertaining to military events, wars, and the presence of the military in society at large, paying special attention to the Han, Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties. They correct some stereotypical representations and open up Chinese history to investigations that deepen our knowledge of military affairs in imperial China. The essays cover military law, army leadership and organization, military education, personal as well as official narratives of war, and wartime economy and commerce." This important book brings together the cultural and social dimensions of war with military thought and institutions in imperial Chinese history, illuminating a relationship between war and society whose legacy continues to resonate in modern China.

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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:
9780674031098
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
02/15/2009
Pages:
456
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)

What People are saying about this

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.
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.

Diana Lary, University of British Columbia

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.

Hans van de Ven, University of Cambridge

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