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Soldiers of the Dragon: Chinese Armies 1500 BC-AD 1840 Review by Donna Campos

C.J. Peers
Osprey Publishing
443 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

This attractive hardback book "tells the colourful story of China's armies from the first documented civilization, through the establishment of a unified empire and the Mongol domination of the 13th and 14th centuries, to the outbreak of the first Opium War with Britain in the middle of the 19th century" (from the dust jacket). It has 248 pages and includes beautiful diagrams, pictures, maps, and timelines. The vivid pictures of weaponry and armor are wonderfully detailed. The book is of very high quality. The pages are thick and sturdy, ready for repeated readings and reference use.

The author, C.J. Peers, is an acknowledged expert on ancient Chinese armies. He also authored Warlords of China 770 BC to AD 1662. The material is divided by time frames in such a way that one can easily look up a specific war or dynasty. (Nine major dynasties are covered in detail.) The many timelines or the four-page Chronology at the beginning of the book are also very useful for finding a specific battle or detail. The information is easy to follow and offers more detail than an all-encompassing history course can usually allow. For instance, there are details regarding battle locations on the many included maps as well as numerous artist renderings of armor worn by Chinese soldiers over the centuries. This book is best suited for older students (middle school to high school age), but even younger students may find the artwork and drawings entertaining. Though the book is not specifically designed for homeschool use, it can be easily utilized by any inquisitive homeschooler. And it will also work for any homeschooling style (traditional, "unschooling," eclectic, etc.).

Our homeschool used this as a reference book, and it fit easily within our history program, The Mystery of History by Linda Lacour Hobar. We found it easy to track the information we were already studying. Our history work is currently a 9th grade level, and this book offered extended learning beyond what was required in our course. Our college-aged daughter has an interest in military information, and she truly enjoyed perusing this book and learning more specifics about China and its armies. There are also many details regarding China's contributions to worldwide military education, such as the creation of gunpowder, the development of the cannon, and, of course, the Great Wall.

This is an extremely informative book that deals specifically with China's military history. However, it does not delve into other areas (e.g., domestic life, specifics of industrialization, business growth). You would need to consult other resources for information on those topics.

We found Soldiers of the Dragon to be a tremendous resource. It has already been referenced repeatedly within our usual history course, and it will undoubtedly be referenced more in the future. We recommend this for any homeschool library or for any student who has specific interest in China's military history.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2007