Try to answer these questions without looking!
- The estimates come from this Wikipedia page.
- If Wikipedia provides a range then I use the mean.
- The Sino-Japanese War is considered part of World War Two.
Q1. What war killed the most people?
Answer: World War Two [100 million]
Q2. What war killed the 2nd most people?
The Taiping Rebellion [45 million]
Q3. What war killed the 3rd most people?
The Three Kingdoms War [38 million]
Q4. What war killed the 4th most people?
Answer: The Mongol conquests [35 million]
World War One [28 million] (including the Spanish flu but not including the Russian Revolution)
The collapse of the Qing Dynasty [25 million]
The An Lushan Rebellion [24.5 million]
Q8.9. 8th and 9th?
The Conquests of Timur [14 million]
The Dungan Revolt [14 million]
The (most recent) Chinese Civil War [10 million]
Of the 10 most deadly conflicts in human history, 6 of them were Chinese civil wars. China isn't merely an important thread within human history. Chinese history is human history.
Western histories of China often focus on the Opium Wars, the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the rise of Communism and then the transition to capitalism. Chinese history is thousands of years long. Beginning Chinese history at the Opium Wars is like starting a history of the United States with the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Western histories of China focus on recent Chinese history because the most significant direct interactions between China with the West happened in recent centuries. Western histories of China are often drawn from English-language sources, which produces an incestuous echo chamber. If you want to understand human history, the way to do it is by reading histories of China written from a Chinese perspective.
China: A History by John Keay
This is my favorite book on Chinese history. At 578 pages, it barely scratches the surface of Chinese history. But it's a quick read and it can give you a rough idea outline if you're brand new to the subject.
Imperial Twilight perfectly captures the smells and sounds of stepping off a ship into 19th century Fujian. Imperial Twilight feels like Treasure Island except it's all true. Imperial Twilight is relatively Eurocentric compared to the other two books. But the story is so cool I don't care.
The Man on Mao's Right: From Harvard Yard to Tiananmen Square, My Life Inside China's Foreign Ministry by Ji Chaozhu
The Man on Mao's Right is the story of a high communist official navigating the turbulent years following the Communist Revolution. It's basically Wei_Dai's tale from Communist China told from the perspective of a winner.