Talk:Military history of China before 1911

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Suggestions for Building on a Strong Start[edit]

Friends --

I wanted to consult this article for various reasons, and found much useful material. But it strikes me that while it has been built up through hard work with much weighty material, much of the article was done by piece by piece additions and very much needs to be pruned and reworked. Here are some thoughts from an outsider with experience both in Wikipedia and in the scholarship of Chinese history:

  • The lede implies misleadingly that there has always been a "China," even though the article refers to the Warring States period, when there was no such political entity, only Warring States. So the statements in the first section about armies being tasked with defending and expanding "China" are not consistent. I propose to cut this section, which does not add information in any case.
  • Inconsistencies strike my eye in many places. For instance, a young reader could not know that An Lushan and An Shi refer to the same rebellion.
  • Many of the sources are way out of date when there are recent works which are much more reliable. Putnam Weale is a notoriously unreliable book. See my comments at Talk:Boxer Rebellion#Notes on Sources and Proposed Edits in Notes
  • Wikipolicy surely calls for giving precedence to English language sources. References to Li and Zheng Yin. (Chinese) (2001). 5000 years of Chinese history. Inner Mongolian People's publishing corp. ISBN 7-204-04420-7. should be replaced.
  • Harper's Magazine of 1894, Atlantic Monthly, Overland Monthly: not serious references.
  • Arthur Smith was a great observer, but should be used for color and detail, not basic factual coverage.
  • Le Coq of 1928 is not up to date.
  • Charles Bell is listed as 1992, but it is a 1992 reprint of an earlier and, here, not appropriate work.
  • Hugh Baker is an estimable scholar, but his work is on Hong Kong.
  • Carter was a brave piece of work in 1955, but has been superseded by the Needham volume.
  • The Royal Asiatic Society article is old, likewise Formosa Under the Dutch.

Here are strong recent works which should be used. I will add them to the list of further readings:

  • Nicola Di Cosmo, Military Culture in Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).
  • Edward L. Dreyer,Frank Algerton Kierman,John King Fairbank, et al., Chinese Ways in Warfare (Cambridge, Mass.,: Harvard University Press, 1974).
  • William Hardy McNeill, The Pursuit of Power : Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).
  • Andrew Scobell, China's Use of Military Force: Beyond the Great Wall and the Long March (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  • Yuan-Kang Wang, Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

And how can an article on this topic be taken seriously without even listing the volumes in Needham's Science and Civilisation in China?

  • Joseph Needham, Ping-Yü Ho, Wang Ling and Gwei-Djen Lu. Military Technology : The Gunpowder Epic. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986. ISBN 0521303583 9780521303583.
  • Joseph Needham and Krzysztof Gawlikowski. Military Technology : Missiles and Sieges. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002. ISBN 052132727X 9780521327275.

I sympathize with the comments in earlier discussions on this page that some references are only available in university libraries, but after an article is established, it is not a good idea to maintain it with unreliable and (sometimes) unacceptable sources whose attraction is that they are available online. Sometimes we might better serve our readers to delete an article rather than maintain a misleading one. There is too much solid and useful material in this article to have its credibility weakened by the problems I am pointing to.

Again, despite my critical comments, I very much appreciate the work which a group has put into this page! ch (talk) 03:45, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

There is very little mention of the Opium wars. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:39, 8 December 2015 (UTC)

whats wrong with the old magazines like Harper's Magazine of 1894, Atlantic Monthly, Overland Monthly and royal asiatic society? if TIME magazine, now in 2011 reports on the state of the military of Russia right now, and 100 years later in 2111 someone uses that article as a reference for the history of the Russian military, the information would still be largely valid, its not compromised by its age.DÜNGÁNÈ (talk) 02:04, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Good to hear from you after seeing all your good work on a number of pages. We have a lot of interests in common, so I am happy to explain myself. I apologize for seeming picky but there is actually an important principle at stake.
The problem is that these sources, especially the magazines. are untested. As a veteran editor, you know that Wikipolicy calls for Verifiability, not Truth, and discourages Original Research. This is the very good reason why Wikipedia:No_Original_Research#primary source discourages such sources as you mention. It is difficult to tell when a report from the time of the event is actually based on whether the authors "viewed things" which no modern author could see, whether they made it up, whether they misunderstood what they saw, or whether there is an article in the next week's issue which says the opposite. Using a single such report would be like using the testimony of only one witness in a trial without cross examination and without further documentary or circumstantial evidence. We don't know who the authors are except for their names or whether they have good qualifications. Scholars who come later have several advantages which compensate for the fact that they were not there. They can read the testimony of conflicting witnesses, use sources (such as documents and archives) which the eyewitnesses did not have access to, and must submit their findings to the judgments of other scholars who have experience in the field. It is true that later scholars have their own points of view, but they have to convince readers who do not share it.
Your example of TIME magazine is a good one, but it shows why we cannot rely on such reports. In fact, TIME magazine reports on the state of the Russian military from the 1950s on down to the 1980s have been shown to be unreliable. I agree that a report is not, as you well put it, "compromised by its age," but it is compromised by the fact that it did not have access to archives which show the better information which was classified at the time.
An excellent example is Putnam Weal's Discreet Letters from Peking, which claims to be an eyewitness account but is probably not.
I completely agree with Wikipolicy that primary sources can be used to supply color or quotes which give a flavor of the times, but not for basic reporting which may or may not have withstood the test of time.
I hope this clarifies things. ch (talk) 02:35, 22 July 2011 (UTC)


It is stated that the Boxer Rebellion "shattered the western claim that a foreign army could occupy China without opposition from the Chinese". This is biased and inaccurate. There was no claim that foreign armies could occupy China, with or without opposition. The Boxer Rebellion was an attack on foreigners and foreign embassies, and from the foreigners perspective was purely a defensive operation. (talk) 21:16, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

@ I've replaced the offending sentence with some background and a quote showing what Smith actually wrote.  Philg88 talk 09:23, 19 April 2014 (UTC)

Not only the Boxer incident is biased. No mention is made of the 1st Opium War (because the chinese navy lost it?). Chinese military prowess is absurdly exaggerated, to the point of rendering historical facts (Unequal Treaties, European expeditions,...) incomprehensible.

Electric torpeoes[edit]

There was a discussion of these infernal devices at Torpedo Talk Page] which suggested that the usage of "torpedo" has changed and that in this period it most likely means what we would call a "mine," that is, a static device. I'm not opposed to cutting this reference, but it is in fact a good reading of two sources, not a misreading. I did correct the misreading of the author from "Bret Harte" (!). ch (talk) 06:45, 19 April 2014 (UTC)