Based on groundbreaking research, this book is the first of its kind to provide a close examination in English of the extensive imagery of the soldier figure in the war culture of early twentieth-century China. This study moves away from the traditional military history perspectives and focuses on the neglected cultural aspect of the intersection of war and society in China during a crucial period that led to the eventual victory of the Chinese Communist Party over the Nationalist Party. Integrating history, literature, and arts, this appealing narrative reveals multiple meanings of the soldier figure created by different political, social, and cultural forces in modern China. Drawing from a wide range of sources including government documents, speeches, newspaper articles, memoirs, military textbooks, and yangge drama, Yan Xu recounts stories of unforgettable Chinese political leaders, including Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. She also examines the wartime experiences of previously marginalized social groups, including women soldiers, wounded soldiers, student soldiers, military writers, and vocational education professionals, giving voice to those largely forgotten by military historians. This book opens up a new area in modern Chinese history and Chinese military history by revealing that the cultural discourse on the soldier image is essential to understanding Chinese nationalism, state-building, and civil-military relations in the early twentieth century.
"This important study of the images of soldiers in modern China takes us away from the traditional view of common soldiers as "grey rats" and in to the various modern ways in which soldiers have been seen. In the warfare that engulfed China in the first three decades of the Republic, soldiers won a new respect for their courage and sympathy for their hard lives. The study is on Chinese soldiers but is just as valuable for understanding soldiers in other societies." -- Diana Lary, University of British Columbia
"Xu fills a major gap in our understanding of wartime China by offering a new perspective of Chinese nationalism. It was no longer a traditional ethnic idea, but a modern conception that emphasizes the country's national independence, self-government, and modernization. Through a careful examination of the new vigor of nationalism, the book reveals profound changes taking place in both the Nationalist and Communist armies. A welcome addition to the study of modern Chinese military history. It is highly recommended." -- Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma
"A remarkably wide-ranging study of the image of soldiers in Nationalist China. The study looks at government efforts to define and mold solders from the Whampoa Military Academy to Yan'an, but goes beyond official discourse to look at literary works, rehabilitation efforts for wounded soldiers and the educated youth who began joining the Chinese army late in the war. This is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Chinese military and Chinese ideas about citizenship." -- Alan Baumler, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
"Yan Xu is among a select group of young scholars who are moving modern China's military history in refreshing new directions. Using a range of official and popular sources, Xu establishes herself as the leading authority on perceptions of the Chinese soldier in the early twentieth century. Her contribution is to go beyond the merely descriptive to show how efforts to construct the image of the soldier served specific social and political agendas." -- Edward A. McCord, George Washington University
"Yan Xu is one of the foremost representatives of a new generation of Chinese historians who understand twentieth-century China from the inside, but at the same time, through their training, have a firm grounding in the theories and methodologies of Western academia. This makes her a first-rate scholar, and in this book she tackles a first-rate subject, throwing new light on the soldiers and junior officers who formed the backbone of China's military revival in the early twentieth century." -- Peter Harmsen, author of Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze
"Yan Xu's book The Soldier Image and State-Building in Modern China, 1924-1945 is a welcome study of the different perceptions of soldiering in post-Warlord China.... [Xu] contributes numerous interesting and relevant stories to further our understanding of military culture during the Republican era." -- China Review International