The literature of warfare records the insights of past generations into one of the most harrowing and trying elements of the human experience. The classical works from the Warring States period created the base of military thought in China that also influenced much of East Asia. According to Mao Zedong, these ancient texts bore special importance as literature, sources of study, and inspiration for the people of China. This hard-purchased expertise reflected the experiences of the past that present scholars must carefully study, especially as new works of military thought within the Chinese literary base appeared in the twentieth century, penned and spoken by Mao himself. These new texts demonstrated a steady continuity from the earliest Chinese military-philosophical literature. Most notably, these common concepts included a consistent conceptualization about the role of warfare in society, the importance of complementary opposites, capitalizing on strengths and exploiting weaknesses, and adaptability to changing dynamics. The influence of Mao’s writings ensured these precepts continued to exercise an important influence upon the People’s Republic of China, creating the base of military-philosophical literature in the prc.
GilesLionelSun Tzu on the Art of War; The Oldest Military Treatise in the World1910LondonLuzac & Co.[An online version can be found at mit Internet Classics Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Tzu/artwar.html.]
MaoZedong“Speech at the Group Leaders’ Forum of the Enlarged Meeting of the Military Affairs Committee”Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung1958accessed 17 June 2013Vol.VIII(28 June 1958)Marxist Internet Archive http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-8/mswv8_12.htm
MaoZedongSchramStuart R.Basic Tactics1966New YorkFrederick A. Praeger[An online version can be found at Marxist Internet Archive http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-6/mswv6_28.htm.]
MaoZedong“Talk at the Enlarged Meeting of the Political Bureau”Long Live Mao Tse-tung Thought1966baccessed 17 June 2013Red Guard Publication(20 March 1966)http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_55.htm
GawlikowskiKrzysztof“Traditional Chinese Concepts of Warfare and cpc Theory of People’s War (1928-1949)”1979Paper presented at the Institutio Italiano per l’Africa e l’oriente XXVIth conference of Chinese Studies Proceedings143169
McGregorRichard“Zhou’s Cryptic Caution Lost in Translation,”Financial Times2011accessed 14 March 2014(online edition) 10 June 2011 http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/74916db6-938d-11e0-922e-00144feab49a.html#axzz2vzZEVIJL
Ivanhoe and Van Norden200198. A similar (but not identical) text appears in the Classic of History (Shu jing) where it is called the “Declaration at Gan.” Confucians typically extolled the primacy of wen (culture or the civil) over wu (the martial) in achieving objectives be they political or military ends. The events depicted in this narrative predated Mozi so his work was in its time a secondary account. This inconsistency in the timing however increases the significance of this tale because it demonstrates that Confucians understood the use of the Mandate of Heaven as a justification for war. Though in its original context this passage explored the possibility of the existence of ghosts it provides important detail.
Interview with Roger T. Ames 22 July2013Beijing Foreign Studies University Beijing prc.
Mao quoted in Tien1992213.
Ames200380. The Ivanhoe and Van Norden translation reads: To have and to lack generate each other. Difficult and easy give form to each other. Long and short off-set each other. High and low incline into each other. . . . Before and after follow each other. Ivanhoe and Van Norden 2001 159.
Mao quoted in Schram1989187.
Sawyer1993157(Sawyer’s “Tao” is here modified to Dao). Ames: “War is a vital matter of state. It is the field on which life or death is determined and the road that leads to either survival or ruin and must be examined with the greatest care.” (Ames 2003 103) Wu Wu and Lin: “War is a question of vital importance to the state a matter of life and death the road to survival or ruin. Hence it is a subject which calls for careful study.” (Wu Wu and Lin 2005 3). Griffith: “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.” (Griffith 1963 63) Giles: “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” (Giles 1910 1)
Sawyer199363. Sawyer’s “Tao” is here modified to Dao.
Lin Biao quoted in Mao1958.
Tien1992221. Ames: “These are the military strategist’s calculations for victory—they cannot be settled in advance.” (Ames 2003 105) Sawyer: “These are the ways military strategists are victorious. They cannot be spoken of in advance.” (Sawyer 1993 158) Griffith: “These are the strategist’s keys to victory. It is not possible to discuss them beforehand.” (Griffith 1963 70) Giles: “These military devices leading to victory must not be divulged beforehand.” (Giles 1910 7)
Mei Yaochen quoted in Griffith196370.
Mao quoted in Tien1992221.
Li Quan quoted in Griffith196391.
Sawyer1993164-65. (Here Sawyer’s “ch’i” and “cheng” have been modified to qi and zheng.) A similar line appears in the Weiliaozi: “Those who excel at repulsing the enemy first join battle with orthodox troops then [use unorthodox ones] to control them. This is the technique for certain victory.” (Sawyer 1993 274)
Wu Wu and Lin200531.
Ames1993119. Ames’s “ch’i” and “cheng” have been modified to qi and zheng.
Ames2003122: “If someone wants to rule the world and goes about trying to do so I foresee that they simply will not succeed.” Ivanhoe and Van Norden: “Those who would gain the world and do something with it I see that they will fail.” (Ivanhoe and Van Norden 2001 173.)
Wu Wu and Lin200525. Ames: “Of old the expert in battle would first make himself invincible and then wait for the enemy to expose his vulnerability.” (Ames 1993 115.) Sawyer: “Thus one who excels in warfare is able to make himself unconquerable but cannot necessarily cause the enemy to be conquerable.” (Sawyer 1993 163.) Griffith: “Anciently the skilful warriors first made themselves invincible and awaited the enemy’s moment of vulnerability.” (Griffith 1963 85.) Giles: “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.” (Giles 1910 26.)
Wu Wu and Lin200537. Ames: “Thus being able to wear down a well-rested enemy to starve one that is well-provisioned and to move one that is settled lies in going by way of places where the enemy must hasten in defense.” (Ames 1993 123.) Sawyer: “Thus if the enemy is rested you can tire him; if he is well fed you can make him hungry; if he is at rest you can move him. Go forth to position to which he must race. Race forth where he does not expect it.” (Sawyer 1993 166.) Griffith: “When the enemy is at ease be able to weary him; when well fed to starve him; when at rest to make him move.” (Griffith 1963 96.) Giles: “If the enemy is taking his ease he can harass him; if well supplied with food he can starve him out; if quietly encamped he can force him to move” (Giles 1910 43.)