Creators of Modern China

Designer: Thames and Hudson

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100 Lives from Empire to Republic 1796–1912

Discover the stories of 100 women and men whose activities in the 19th century laid the foundations of modern China.

Through telling the lives of one hundred significant individuals, this book explores how China transformed from dynastic empire to modern republican nation during the period 1796 to 1912.

Both famous and surprisingly little-known women and men are brought together in eight thematic sections that bring to life the complexities of China’s path to modernity. Featured figures include the Dowager Empress Cixi, the power behind the throne of the Qing dynasty for fifty years; Yu Rongling, the aristocratic daughter of a Qing diplomat who trained in Paris with Isadora Duncan and is now seen as one of the founders of modern dance in China; Shi Yang, the most powerful woman pirate in the world, celebrated in popular culture as a female icon; the Manchu-Chinese Duanfang, a lynchpin of late Qing government and an avid collector of international art, murdered by his own troops in the 1911 Revolution that ended dynastic rule; Luo Zhenyu, a pioneer of Chinese archaeology whose discoveries and research empirically confirmed the antiquity of Chinese civilization; and many others.

Written by an international team of specialists, this book populates the landscapes of modern Chinese history with extraordinary individuals, making sense of the drama and creativity of the country’s ‘long 19th century’.


  • Hardcover ? : ? 368 pages
  • Dimensions ? : ? 18.03 x 4.32 x 24.89 cm