Book Review: Military Culture in Imperial China


by Nicolo di Cosmo, editor

Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2009. Pp. x, 444. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $22.95 paper. ISBN: 978-0-674-06072-2

China specialist Prof. di Cosmo (Institute for Advanced Study), author, among others, of Ancient China and its Enemies, opens this work with an essay noting that China’s military history has been rather neglected, due in part to the misconception that it was essentially a “military” culture. 

He then gives us fourteen essays by various noted scholars which throw light on different aspects of the subject from the earliest times to the recent past.  The essays do not constitute a survey of the Chinese military experience, but rather examine various facets or aspects of military institutions as they developed in China.  So, among others, we have essays on the law of war in early China, an account of the Western Han Army (206 BC-AD 220), a short history of the “War of the Eight Princes” (AD 291-306), literary conventions in accounts of battle, eighteenth century military culture, and more.    

A valuable work for serious students of China’s past, and certainly likely to be rewarding reading for anyone with an interest in military history.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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