The Culture of War in China

The Culture of War in China

By (author) Joanna Waley-Cohen

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What particularly distinguished the Qing from other ruling houses in China's imperial period? In this pathbreaking book, Joanna Waley-Cohen overturns conventional wisdom to identify military power and an accompanying martial ethos as defining characteristics of the high Qing empire. From 1636 to 1800, Emperors reinforced massive military expansion with a wideranging cultural campaign intended to bring military success, and the martial values associated with it, into the mainstream of cultural life. Military prowess and imperial power were linked in the popular imagination though endless repetition in literature, art and architecture a startlingly modern use of words and images that demonstrates the imperial grasp of culture's potency as a political tool. Overturning the presumption that reads back China's late-nineteenth-century military weakness into the past, Waley-Cohen shows that the Qing strongly emphasized military affairs, which they understood as complementary rather than subordinate to civil matters. Arguing that the militarization of culture that took place under the high-Qing emperors provided fertile ground from which the modern militarized nation-state could develop, Waley-Cohen contends that the past two centuries of Chinese weakness on the international scene may turn out to have been a protracted aberration, rather than the normal state of affairs. "The Culture of War in China" is a striking revisionist history that brings new insight into the nature of the Qing dynasty and the roots of the militarized modern state.

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  • Hardback | 160 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 26mm | 480.82g
  • 27 Jun 2006
  • I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd
  • I.B.Tauris
  • London
  • English
  • Illustrations, map
  • 1845111591
  • 9781845111595
  • 1,525,945

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Author Information

Joanna Waley-Cohen is Professor of History at New York University.

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Review quote

'Joanna Waley-Cohen is one of the foremost military and cultural historians of China. In this collection, she demonstrates convincingly the predominance of military culture under the Manchu Qing dynasty and gives a powerful and vivid description of the implacable will of the great Qing emperors and their supporters. Her rich account should appeal to anyone who wants a new look at imperial Chinese culture.' Peter C. Perdue T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations Massachusetts Institute of Technology 'These carefully researched and broad-ranging studies represent the best research available in a Western language into the religious, social, political, and cultural aspects of war and military culture in eighteenth and nineteenth-century China. Waley Cohen's detailed and insightful narrative offers an original and highly persuasive account of the ways in which military culture shaped many aspects of court and public life. This is a pioneering work of far-reaching implications, and an invaluable addition to our knowledge of Chinese military history.' Nicola Di Cosmo Henry Luce Foundation Professor of East Asian Studies Institute for Advanced StudyBULLETIN OF THE SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES'...the writing is fluid and engaging...Waley-Cohen's contribution has been to turn our attention to the unstudied subject of military culture, and to argue persuasively that the imperial court was pervaded by a "martial ethos" and deeply committed to its values.'-Susan Naquin

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