A “Total War”? Rethinking Military Ideology in the Book of Lord Shang

in Journal of Chinese Military History
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The Book of Lord Shang, commonly identified as a major work of the so-called Legalist school, is also an important, albeit much neglected treatise in the history of Chinese military thought. Beyond specific recommendations concerning both defensive and offensive warfare, the book presents a coherent view that the state should restructure its socioeconomic and cultural policies in order to turn every man into a valiant soldier. The book epitomizes the ideology of “total war” in which the differences between civilian and military affairs are blurred. The society is profoundly militarized and the army, in turn, is profoundly bureaucratized.

This article explores military thought in the Book of Lord Shang and focuses on its views of mobilization, indoctrination of soldiers, military discipline, rules of military engagement, and military command. I further deal with the question of why the book’s military ideology has been all but neglected after the end of the Han dynasty.

A “Total War”? Rethinking Military Ideology in the Book of Lord Shang

in Journal of Chinese Military History

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References

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7

For detailed discussion see Pines 201729-54 and Pines 2016.

8

See details in Zheng 1989; cf. Yoshinami 1992.

10

See Pines 2012.

15

See Pines 2000.

26

See Pines 201296-102.

29

See Lewis 199054-67 and Yang Kuan 1998 303-17. The size of the armies and their composition (i.e. the preponderance of infantry) is reflected in a series of speeches in the Stratagems of the Warring States (Zhanguo ce 戰國策) which survey the military forces of major Warring States-period states. For a convenient summary see Yang Kuan 1998 310.

38

Following Gao 1974139 n. 25 I read zhuo 拙 as jue 趉 (to flee).

42

For different opinions see Zheng 198975-82; Yoshinami 1992 256-58; and Tong 2013 151-54.

76

Li Ling (1991) suggests that judging from the original meaning of the rank titles the soldiers of ranks 2 to 4 were not pure infantrymen but the auxiliaries of chariot-fighters.

89

Following Gao 1974152 n. 49 I read chu 除 as referring to appointment.

92

Expression borrowed from Lewis 200730.

98

Gao 1974239 reads ji 幾 as qi 祈 meaning “to request” or “to volunteer.” Zhang 2012 237 n. 20 suggests substituting ji 冀 (to aspire) which preserves the same meaning.

100

Yang Kuan 1998412-19.

114

Pines 2000.

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