The Greatest "China" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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China

The "China" category for books encompasses a wide range of literature that explores the history, culture, politics, and society of China. This includes works of fiction and non-fiction, spanning from ancient times to the present day. Books in this category may delve into topics such as Chinese philosophy, art, cuisine, and language, as well as contemporary issues such as economic development, human rights, and environmental concerns. Overall, the "China" category offers readers a diverse and rich collection of books that provide insight into one of the world's oldest and most complex civilizations.

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  1. 1. Man's Fate by Andre Malraux

    Set in 1920s Shanghai during a time of political upheaval, the novel explores the existential themes of life, death, and the human condition through the experiences of a group of revolutionaries. The narrative follows their struggles and sacrifices for their cause, the Communist revolution, and their inevitable confrontation with their own mortality and the harsh realities of life. The book delves into the complexities of political ideologies, human relationships and the constant struggle between hope and despair.

  2. 2. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    This novel tells the story of a poor farmer in rural China, who struggles to survive and prosper. Over time, he manages to build a life for himself and his family, eventually becoming a wealthy landowner. However, his newfound wealth and status lead to a moral decline, as he becomes disconnected from the land that gave him everything. The narrative explores themes of wealth, poverty, and the human connection to the earth.

  3. 3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

    This novel explores the complex relationships between four Chinese-American mothers and their American-born daughters. The narrative switches between the perspectives of the eight women, revealing their pasts, their struggles with cultural identity, and the misunderstandings that have grown between the generations. The mothers, who all experienced hardship in their native China, want their daughters to have better lives and thus push them to excel in America. The daughters, in turn, struggle to reconcile their American surroundings with their Chinese heritage.

  4. 4. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en

    "Journey to the West" is a classic Chinese novel that follows the adventures of a Buddhist monk and his three disciples, a monkey, a pig, and a river monster, as they travel from China to India in search of sacred Buddhist scriptures. Along the way, they face a series of challenges and obstacles, including battling demons and overcoming their own personal weaknesses. This epic tale is a blend of mythology, folklore, and fantasy, and is also a commentary on the practice and principles of Buddhism.

  5. 5. Analects by Confucius

    The Analects is a collection of sayings and teachings attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his disciples. The book emphasizes the importance of personal and societal morality, filial piety, and the cultivation of knowledge and virtue. Confucius stresses the importance of leading by example and treating others with respect and kindness. The Analects has had a profound impact on Chinese culture and philosophy, and its teachings continue to be studied and applied today.

  6. 6. The Second World War by Winston Churchill

    This book provides a comprehensive overview of the Second World War from the perspective of one of its most influential leaders. It covers the entire span of the war, from its origins in the political and economic turmoil of the 1930s, to the major battles and strategic decisions that shaped its course, to its aftermath and impact on the world. The author's unique perspective and firsthand experience, combined with his eloquent and insightful writing, make this a definitive account of one of the most important events in modern history.

  7. 7. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

    "Dream of the Red Chamber" is a classic Chinese novel that provides a detailed, episodic record of life in the aristocratic Jia family. The story revolves around the love triangle between the family's heir, his sickly cousin, and his other cousin who is raised to be his wife. It is also a critique of the family's decline and a reflection on the societal norms of the time. The novel is famous for its vivid characterization and psychological depth, and its unique portrayal of Chinese society during the Qing dynasty.

  8. 8. The Art of War by Sun Zi

    This ancient Chinese military treatise, written by a renowned general and military strategist, is a comprehensive guide on military strategy and tactics. It covers various aspects of warfare, from planning and preparation to execution and aftermath. The work emphasizes the importance of understanding one's enemy, using deception, and adapting to changing circumstances. It also stresses the importance of terrain, morale, and leadership. Despite its military focus, its principles have been applied to business, politics, and other fields, making it a timeless classic on strategy.

  9. 9. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

    This ancient text is a fundamental guide to the philosophy of Taoism, offering wisdom on how to live a balanced, virtuous life in harmony with the natural world and the Tao, the source of all existence. The book explores themes such as simplicity, humility, and non-aggression, emphasizing the importance of understanding and aligning oneself with the Tao. It provides guidance on leadership, personal growth, and spiritual enlightenment, advocating for a life of peace, contemplation, and connection with the universe.

  10. 10. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

    This memoir explores the life of a first-generation Chinese-American woman, navigating the complexities of her dual heritage. Through five interconnected stories, the book delves into the author's childhood experiences, her mother's tales of old China, and the struggles of reconciling these two worlds. The memoir is a blend of reality and mythology, illustrating the author's struggle with her identity, the expectations of her traditional Chinese family, and the challenges of growing up in a predominantly white American society.

  11. 11. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao

    This book is a collection of speeches and writings by the former leader of the People's Republic of China. It covers a wide range of topics including communism, revolution, class struggle, and the correct handling of contradictions among the people. The book was published with the intention of promoting the leader's ideology and was widely distributed during the Cultural Revolution. It was considered an essential guide to life and politics in China during this period.

  12. 12. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

    The novel follows the journey of a wealthy Englishman who makes a high-stakes wager that he can travel around the world in eighty days. Accompanied by his loyal French valet, they encounter numerous obstacles and adventures across different cultures and landscapes, including rescuing a beautiful Indian woman from a ritual sacrifice. The book is a celebration of the technological advancements of the 19th century, with the main characters utilizing various modes of transportation such as steamships, railways, and even an elephant.

  13. 13. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

    Set during the Salem Witch Trials in the late 17th century, this play explores the hysteria, deceit, and religious extremism that plague a small Puritan village in Massachusetts. The protagonist, a flawed but essentially good man, is caught in a web of accusations when young girls in the town start displaying strange behavior and accusing others of witchcraft. The ensuing trials reveal not only the dangers of mass hysteria and false accusations, but also the destructive power of societal pressures and the human capacity for both cruelty and heroism.

  14. 14. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

    This book is a biographical account of three generations of women in China, spanning the years 1909 to 1991. The narrative follows the lives of the author's grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother, a high-ranking official in the Communist Party; and the author herself, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution before moving to the West. The book presents a vivid portrayal of the political and social changes in China during the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of these three women.

  15. 15. Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Guanzhong Luo

    "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" is a historical novel set in the turbulent years towards the end of the Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history, starting in 169 AD and ending with the reunification of the land in 280. The story, part historical, part legend, and part mythical, romanticizes and dramatizes the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who tried to replace the dwindling Han dynasty or restore it. The novel deals with the plots, personal and military battles, intrigues, and struggles of these states to achieve dominance for almost 100 years.

  16. 16. The Water Margin: Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Naian

    "The Water Margin: Outlaws of the Marsh" is a classic Chinese novel set during the Song dynasty, revolving around 108 outlaws who gather at Mount Liang to form a sizable army. The narrative explores themes of rebellion, loyalty, and justice, as these bandits challenge the corrupt and oppressive government. Despite their status as outlaws, they follow a strict code of honor and righteousness, often assisting the poor and the weak. The book is a blend of history, folklore, and mythology, offering a vivid portrayal of the political and social dynamics of the era.

  17. 17. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories by Xun Lu

    "Diary of a Madman and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that explore the social issues and struggles of early 20th century China. The stories revolve around themes of poverty, mental illness, and societal pressures. The title story, written in the first-person perspective, is a harrowing tale of a man descending into madness, believing that everyone around him is part of a cannibalistic conspiracy. These stories provide a vivid depiction of the human condition and the harsh realities of life during this period in Chinese history.

  18. 18. Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard

    "Empire of the Sun" is a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of a young British boy's experiences in Shanghai during World War II. After being separated from his parents during the Japanese invasion, he is forced to fend for himself in a world turned upside down by war. The novel vividly portrays the harsh realities of life in a Japanese internment camp, where the protagonist learns to adapt and survive amid the chaos and brutality.

  19. 19. Selected Stories of Lu Hsun by Xun Lu

    "Selected Stories of Lu Hsun" is a collection of short stories that provides a critical look at traditional Chinese society and culture. The author uses satire and irony to highlight the struggles and injustices faced by the common people, often focusing on themes such as education, poverty, and the oppressive nature of the ruling class. The stories are also notable for their exploration of the human condition and the complexities of individual morality.

  20. 20. Rickshaw Boy by Lao She

    "Rickshaw Boy" is a novel about a young man living in Beijing in the 1920s who struggles to escape poverty and achieve personal independence. Despite his hard work and determination, he is continuously set back by societal and personal misfortunes, including failed business ventures, a disastrous marriage, and the loss of his rickshaw. The book serves as a critique of traditional Chinese society, illustrating the harsh realities of life for the working class during this time period.

  21. 21. Waiting by Ha Jin

    "Waiting" is a story set in China during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath, revolving around the life of Lin Kong, a military doctor who is torn between his love for two women. He is stuck in an arranged marriage with his traditional wife in the countryside, while he falls in love with a modern, city nurse. The novel explores his 18-year struggle to divorce his wife and marry his lover, depicting the clash between traditional and modern Chinese culture, personal desires, and societal expectations.

  22. 22. Mencius by Mencius

    "Mencius" is a philosophical text that presents the teachings and thoughts of Mencius, a follower of Confucius. The book is a compilation of dialogues, anecdotes, and allegories that illustrate Mencius's views on human nature, morality, and political theory. Central to his philosophy is the belief in the inherent goodness of human nature and the importance of cultivating one's moral character. The book also discusses his ideas on proper governance, advocating for a benevolent and virtuous ruler who prioritizes the welfare of the people.

  23. 23. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

    This novel tells the story of two teenage boys sent to a remote mountain village for re-education during China's Cultural Revolution. There, they meet a local tailor's daughter, who becomes their friend and the object of their shared affection. The boys discover a hidden suitcase filled with forbidden Western classics in Chinese translation, and their lives are forever changed. The books not only awaken their passion for literature, but also allow them to educate the Seamstress, ultimately leading to a heartbreaking love triangle and a tale of personal freedom against the odds.

  24. 24. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

    The book is a science fiction novel that intertwines the cultural revolution of China with a complex narrative involving astrophysics, virtual reality, and alien contact. It follows a disillusioned scientist who, after suffering personal tragedy during the Cultural Revolution, sends a message into space, only to receive a response from an alien civilization on the brink of destruction. As the aliens plan their migration to Earth, a secret organization works to facilitate the invasion, while a disparate group of scientists and military personnel attempt to understand and prevent the impending extraterrestrial crisis. The novel grapples with themes of human nature, technological advancement, and the vast, often incomprehensible universe.

  25. 25. Platform Sutra by Huineng

    The "Platform Sutra" is an essential text in Zen Buddhism, presenting the teachings and philosophy of a renowned sixth patriarch. The book offers deep insights into the nature of enlightenment and the practice of dhyana (meditation). It emphasizes the concept of 'sudden enlightenment', asserting that it can be achieved by realizing one's own 'Buddha nature'. The text is also known for its promotion of direct, personal experience and the potential for enlightenment in all beings, irrespective of their social or educational status.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download