The best single-volume general history of China is Jacques Gernet, A History of Chinese Civilization, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Also useful, though less detailed and informative, is John K. Fairbank and Edwin O. Reischauer, China: Tradition and Transformation, rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989). The volumes of The Cambridge History of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, various years) are tremendous assets for examining specific dynasties or periods of twentieth-century Chinese history in more detail. F W. Mote’s recent Imperial China, 900–1800 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), a magisterial work of over 1,100 pages, will remain for decades the authoritative treatment of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
F. W. Mote, Intellectual Foundations of China, 2d ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1989), is a concise and informative introduction to China’s intellectual history. More detailed and comparative is Benjamin Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985). Yu-lan Fung’s classic two-volume A History of Chinese Philosophy, 2d ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), is now somewhat dated but is still an essential standard work. Translated excerpts from Chinese philosophers and other influential thinkers are included in William Theodore de Bary et al., Sources of Chinese Tradition,