Reliable popular accounts of medieval China


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
What is available to the general reader for medieval China? I'm mainly thinking post-Han and pre-Ming, and am thinking of readable but reliable works. I'm a little concerned about what one finds on the shelves in stores or top results of Amazon, as the equivalent in my own field of Byzantine history tends to be utter rubbish. Any recommendations? I'm especially interested in Tang and Song, urban history, naval history, and interaction between the Han heartland and the broader world.
Jul 2007
I have Jonathan Fenby's "The Dragon Throne: China's Emperors from the Qin to the Manchu".

Haven't read it yet so can't comment but I figured it would be a general introduction.
May 2009
For general information there's-

Daily Life in Traditional China: The Tang Dynasty
by Charles Benn

The Drunken Man's Talk: Tales of Medieval China
- a good collection of stories, folk tales, and anecdotes from that period.

A Social History of Medieval China - this is a huge and expensive book to buy, but it covers pretty much every aspect of life in the Sung/Liao/Jin/Xi Xia kingdoms

For maritime history there's

China as a Sea Power: 1127-1368 by Jung-pang Lo

Maritime Sector, Institutions and Sea Power of Pre-modern China
by Gang Deng

For urban history you could check out

Chinese Imperial City Planning
by Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt - about imperial Chinese city planning, with profiles of several cities

Sui-Tang Chang'an: A Study in the Urban History of Medieval China
by Victor Cunrui Xiong- this is about the Tang capital of Chang'an.

Speaking of urban history, there's a famous Sung dynasty painted scroll called Qingming festival by the River that depicts a Chinese city of that time (supposedly Kaifeng) in extreme detail. Here's an annotated version of the scroll. There are many other annotated versions and things written about the scroll and what it teaches us about medieval Chinese city life. Worth checking out.

Qingming Scroll

There's also a scroll called Street Scenes in a Time of Peace from the Yuan dynasty. It doesn't show a city (the background is blank) but it does show lots of little street scenes.

Street Scenes in a Time of Peace
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