The Art of War, by Lionel Giles, , at sacred-texts.com
Accustomed as we are to think of China as the greatest peace-loving nation on earth, we are in some danger of
forgetting that her experience of war in all its phases has also been such as no modern State can parallel. Her long military annals stretch back to a point at which they are lost in the mists of time. She had built the Great Wall and was maintaining a huge standing army along her frontier centuries before the first Roman legionary was seen on the Danube. What with the perpetual collisions of the ancient feudal States, the grim conflicts with Huns, Turks and other invaders after the centralisation of government, the terrific upheavals which accompanied the overthrow of so many dynasties, besides the countless rebellions and minor disturbances that have flamed up and flickered out again one by one, it is hardly too much to say that the clash of arms has never ceased to resound in one portion or another of the Empire.
No less remarkable is the succession of illustrious captains to whom China can point with pride. As in all countries, the greatest are found emerging at the most fateful crises of her history. Thus, Po Ch‘i stands out conspicuous in the period when Ch‘in was entering upon her final struggle with the remaining independent states. The stormy years which followed the break-up of the Ch‘in dynasty are illumined by the transcendent genius of Han Hsin. When the House of Han in turn is tottering to its fall, the great and baleful figure of Ts‘ao Ts‘ao dominates the scene. And in the establishment of the T‘ang dynasty, one of the mightiest tasks achieved by man, the superhuman energy of Li Shih-min (afterwards the Emperor T‘ai Tsung) was seconded by the brilliant strategy of Li Ching. None of these generals need fear comparison with the greatest names in the military history of Europe.
In spite of all this, the great body of Chinese sentiment, from Lao Tzŭ downwards, and especially as reflected in the standard literature of Confucianism, has been consistently pacific, and intensely opposed to militarism in any form. It is such an uncommon thing to find any of the literati
defending warfare on principle, that I have thought it worth while to collect and translate a few passages in which the unorthodox view is upheld. The following, by Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien, shows that for all his ardent admiration of Confucius, he was yet no advocate of peace at any price:—
The next piece is taken from Tu Mu's preface to his commentary on Sun Tzŭ:—
Chi-sun asked Jan Yu, saying: "Have you, Sir, acquired your military aptitude by study, or is it innate?" Jan Yu replied: "It has been acquired by study." 3 "How can that be so," said Chi-sun, "seeing that you are a disciple of Confucius?" "It is a fact," replied Jan Yu; "I was taught by Confucius. It is fitting that the great Sage should exercise both civil and military functions, though to be sure my instruction in the art of fighting has not yet gone very far."
Now, who the author was of this rigid distinction between the "civil" and the "military," and the limitation of each to a separate sphere of action, or in what year of which dynasty it was first introduced, is more than I can say. But, at any rate, it has come about that the members of the governing class are quite afraid of enlarging on military topics, or do so only in a shamefaced manner. If any are bold enough to discuss the subject, they are at once set down as eccentric individuals of coarse and brutal propensities. This is an extraordinary instance of the way in
When the Duke of Chou was minister under Ch‘êng Wang, he regulated ceremonies and made music, and venerated the arts of scholarship and learning; yet when the barbarians of the River Huai revolted, 2 he sallied forth and chastised them. When Confucius held office under the Duke of Lu, and a meeting was convened at Chia-ku, 3 he said: "If pacific negotiations are in progress, warlike preparations should have been made beforehand." He rebuked and shamed the Marquis of Ch‘i, who cowered under him and dared not proceed to violence. How can it be said that these two great Sages had no knowledge of military matters? 4
We have seen that the great Chu Hsi held Sun Tzŭ in high esteem. He also appeals to the authority of the Classics:—
Sun Hsing-yen, the editor of Sun Tzŭ, writes in similar strain:—
The men of the present day, however, wilfully interpret these words of Confucius in their narrowest sense, as though he meant that books on the art of war were not worth reading. With blind persistency, they adduce the example of Chao Kua, who pored over his father's books to no purpose, 7 as a proof that all military theory is useless. Again, seeing
Hsiang Liang used to instruct his nephew Chi 5 in the art of war. Chi got a rough idea of the art in its general bearings, but would not pursue his studies to their proper outcome, the consequence being that he was finally defeated and overthrown. He did not realise that the tricks and artifices of war are beyond verbal computation. Duke Hsiang of Sung 6 and King Yen of Hsü 7 were brought to destruction by their misplaced humanity. The treacherous and underhand nature of war necessitates the use of guile and stratagem suited to the occasion. There is a case on record of Confucius himself having violated an extorted oath, 8 and also of his having left the Sung State in disguise. 9 Can we then recklessly arraign Sun Tzŭ for disregarding truth and honesty? 10
xlv:1 Shih Chi, ch. 25, fol. 1: #.
xlvi:1 The first Instance of # in the P‘ei Wên Yün Fu is from Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien's letter to # Jên An (see #, ch. 41, f. 9 r°), where M. Chavannes translates it "la cangue et la chaîne." But in the present passage it seems rather to indicate some single instrument of torture.
xlvi:3 Cf. Shih Chi, cf. 47, f. 11 v°.
xlvii:2 See Shu Ching, preface § 55.
xlvii:3 See Tso Chuan, # X. 2; Shih Chi, ch. 47, t. 4 r°.
xlvii:5 Lun Yü, XV, 1.
xlvii:6 Tso Chuan, #, XI.
xlvii:7 See supra.
xlvii:8 Tso Chuan, #, X. 2.
xlvii:9 Ibid. XII. 5; Chia Yü, ch. 1 ad fin.
xlviii:1 I have failed to trace this utterance. See note 2 on p. xliii.
xlviii:2 See supra.
xlviii:3 #, loc. cit.: #.
xlviii:4 See supra.
xlviii:5 Viz., #. the other four being #, #, # and # "worship, mourning, entertainment of guests and festive rites." See Shu Ching, II, 1, iii. 8, and Chou Li, IX, fol. 49.
xlviii:6 Preface to Sun Tzŭ: #.
xlviii:7 See p. 166.
xlix:1 This is a rather obscure allusion to Tso Chuan, #, XXXI. 4, where Tzŭ-ch‘an says: # "If you have a piece of beautiful brocade, you will nor employ a mere learner to make it up."
xlix:2 Cf. Tao Tê Ching, ch. 31: #.
xlix:3 Sun Hsing-yen might have quoted Confucius again. See Lun Yü, XIII. 29, 30.
xlix:5 Better known as Hsiang # Yü [B.C. 233–202].
xlix:6 The third among the # (or #) enumerated on p. 141. For the incident referred to, see Tso Chuan, #, XXII. 4.
xlix:7 See supra, p. xvi, note 4.
xlix:8 Shih Chi, ch. 47, f. 7 r°.
xlix:9 Ibid., ch. 38, f. 8 v°.
xlix:10 # p. l #.