Creators of Modern China 100 Lives from Empire to Republic, 1796-1912

Jessica Harrison-Hall, Julia Lovell

Brings together brief biographies of 100 women and men whose activities in the 19th century laid the foundations of modern China and the country’s transition from dynastic empire to republic.

This insightful book, written by a large team of international scholars and specialists, sprang from a simple but original ambition: to provide the reader with an understanding—told through the lives of 100 significant individuals—of how China transformed from dynastic empire to a 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 illuminate the birth of modern China. Featured figures include the Dowager Empress Cixi, the power behind the throne of the Qing Dynasty for fifty years; Yu Rongling, who is regarded as the founder of modern dance in China and who trained in Paris with Isadora Duncan; Duanfang, China’s first serious collectorof international art before being murdered by his own troops in the 1911 Revolution; Shi Yang, the greatest woman pirate in the world who is now celebrated in popular culture as a powerful feminine icon; Luo Zhenyu,the “father” of Chinese archaeology whose discoveries confirmed the antiquity of Chinese civilization; and many others. Each biography has been written by a specialist curator or scholar from China, Japan, Australia, the United States, Canada, Europe, or the United Kingdom, making this an authoritative resource for students, academics, and anyone interested in the history of China and the country’s place in the modern world.

This book breathes life into China’s history, filling the gap in the market for an accessible book that meets the widespread and growing desire to understand China and its role on the world stage.


An ambitious collection of biographical essays profiling 100 people who helped shape China's political, economic, and cultural landscape in the waning years of the Qing Dynasty… Providing a broad and inclusive survey of the era, this robust scholarly effort opens an informative window onto the history of a multiethnic, multilingual China.

— Publishers Weekly


Jessica Harrison-Hall

Edited By

Jessica Harrison-Hall is Head of the China Section, Curator of the Sir Percival David Collections, and Chinese Decorative Arts at the British Museum.

Julia Lovell

Edited By

Julia Lovell is Professor of Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of London.