Cover: China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia, from Harvard University PressCover: China Marches West in PAPERBACK

China Marches West

The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

Product Details


$27.00 • £23.95 • €24.95

ISBN 9780674057432

Publication Date: 09/30/2010


752 pages

53 halftones, 10 maps, 3 line illustrations, 16 tables

Belknap Press


Add to Cart

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

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, Foreign Affairs

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, Times Higher Education Supplement

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, American Historical Review

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

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 Review International

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, Chinese Historical Review

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.—Diana Lary, Pacific Affairs

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, Sino-Platonic Papers

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.—Timothy Brook, author of Collaboration: Japanese Agents and Local Elites in Wartime China

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.—Nicola Di Cosmo, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Building on meticulous research in several languages, Perdue argues 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.—Joanna Waley-Cohen, author of The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Photograph of the book Fearless Women against red/white striped background

A Conversation with Elizabeth Cobbs about Fearless Women

For Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the work of Elizabeth Cobbs, whose new book Fearless Women shows how the movement for women’s rights has been deeply entwined with the history of the United States since its founding. Cobbs traces the lives of pathbreaking women who, inspired by American ideals, fought for the cause in their own ways