Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
Military Culture in Imperial China

Military Culture in Imperial China

Edited by Nicola Di Cosmo

ISBN 9780674060722

Publication date: 03/04/2011

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.

Praise

  • 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

Author

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

Book Details

  • 456 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

Recommendations