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.