The New Chinese Classics
Arts of War:
The Classical Chinese Military Tradition
E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks


Cover Not AvailableThe Sundz Art of War is one of the most popular of classical Chinese texts, studied by general staffs and scrutinized by war buffs around the world. But there is more to classical Chinese warfare than the procedures described in the Shundz. The wars that broke the power of all but one of the Warring States were fought be generals versed in more sophisticated organizational techniques, and more brutal devices of combat. This book takes that classical tradition whole. It includes complete translations of the Sundz and its immediate successor, the Wudz; these are the text which already by the year 0250 were regarded as classical. Later developments are covered by extracts from the Szma Fa and from both strata of the Wei Lyaudz. Together, this material gives a perspective on what was actually happening militarily, and where and how fast it happened, in pre-Imperial times.

The Sundz is not a simple text, written by one person at one time. It represents the accumulated wisdom of Chi military tradition, at that time the most advanced in China, over at least half a century. It is merely confusing to read the early and elementary chapters as though they were saying the same thing as the late and sophisticated ones. To do so misses the way Chinese military thought evolved during its critical formation process, growing out of the long military experience of Spring and Autumn, and slowly re-evaluating that experience in the light of the possibilities of the new infantry army, which could go where chariots could not, and could accomplish, on the same terrain, things that the old chariot force could not attempt. This book takes the chapters of the Sundz in their true chronological order, showing how practical tips ripened into conceptual understanding, from the middle to the end of the 04th century.

Next comes the Wudz (or Wu Chi, from the general with which it is dubiously associated). This treatise was written in the state of Ngwei, Chi's great enemy, and is something like a Ngwei rejoinder to the Chi theories embodied in the Sundz. It goes beyond the Sundz at several points. It gives more space to the training of an army, and it also asks the question: What do you do after you have won the war? From the middle 03c onwards, it is regularly bracketed with the Sundz, as the accepted military classics.

The Sundz people did not allow this Ngwei challenge to go by default. They added to their 12-chapter text a 13th, on espionage. The Wudz, meeting the challenge, also reconfigured itself; it added sections claiming an earlier date for Wu Chi, and giving contemporary estimates of the fighting power of the various states. To see this competitive interplay of the two texts is necessary to understanding either one of them.

The picture of Warring States military art is further filled out by extracts from three later works: the Szma Fa (written in Chi in c0250, a last Chi contribution to the theory war with Ngwei) and the two layers of the Wei Lyaudz: the first begun in Ngwei in c240 (the last salvo in that battle), and the second an addition on military organization, written when the text proprietors had taken their work to the new and warlike state of Chin. These texts are made further intelligible by extracts from the contemporary antiwar literature, including select paragraphs from the Mician guidelines for defensive war.

The Chinese unified Empire was shaped and created by war, and no one hoping to understand the classical period, and the process by which it transformed itself into the Imperial period, can do without an accurate understanding of the warmaking process as it developed during those years. This book provides that understanding, free of the confusion that results when Han military developments are mixed in with pre-Han ones, and illuminated by an awareness of intellectual and material developments which accompanied the maturation of Chinese warmaking..

Contents of Arts of War:

Arts of War can serve as an introduction to the Sundz and other classical Chinese military texts, and also as an elementary introduction to the art of war itself, for the citizens who make, or accept, the decisions about war and peace that guide modern nations. Chinese characters are included for the main selections, so that students of Chinese history and literature will have full access to this relatively little read, though culturally central, material.

An abridged version of Arts of War for the general reader, omitting technical detail and containing only the Sundz, with brief notes on the other classical military texts, is available in the Ancient China in Context series. For an overview of the classical period itself, which puts military and other developments in the larger context of state modernization, see the survey volume in that series: The Emergence of China.

The counterpart to war is peace, and we wish accordingly to call attention to the next volume in the New Chinese Classics series, Waging Peace, which gives a consecutive look at the antiwar tradition in classical China: by far the most organized and thoroughgoing opposition to war which is known in all of antiquity, complete with an alternate plan on which the non-war society might be constructed, and what its core values might be - a problem noticed, but not solved, by Immanuel Kant and William James in more recent times.

E Bruce Brooks

E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese, and A TAEKO BROOKS is Research Associate, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Arts of War: The Classical Chinese Military Tradition

Approximately 224 pages
Tentative $46.95 cloth. ISBN 978-1-936166-28-2
Tentative $23.95 paper. ISBN 978-1-936166-68-8
Tentative release date: February 2015

When announced, this book may be ordered from a link to be provided here.


To New Chinese Classics Index Pagege

19 June 2013 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page