The Mandate of Heaven

Strategy, Revolution, and the First European Translation of Sunzi’s Art of War (1772)


Author: Adam Parr
The Mandate of Heaven examines the first European version of Sunzi’s Art of War, which was translated from Chinese by Joseph Amiot, a French missionary in Beijing, and published in Paris in 1772. His work is presented in English for the first time. Amiot undertook this project following the suppression of the Society of Jesus in France with the aim of demonstrating the value of the China mission to the French government. He addressed his work to Henri Bertin, minister of state, beginning a thirty-year correspondence between the two men. Amiot framed his translation in order to promote a radical agenda using the Chinese doctrine of the “mandate of heaven.” This was picked up within the sinophile and radical circle of the physiocrats, who promoted China as a model for revolution in Europe. The work also arrived just as the concept of strategy was emerging in France. Thus Amiot’s Sunzi can be placed among seminal developments in European political and strategic thought on the eve of the revolutionary era.

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Adam Parr is a professor at the University of Western Australia. He read English at the University of Cambridge and received his PhD at University College London. His doctoral thesis was on the translation of classical military theory following the Seven Years’ War (1756–63).
The Mandate of Heaven is a welcome addition to studies on French Jesuits and their impact on the Enlightenment. Parr and the other contributors to the volume are to be applauded for their contributions to understanding eighteenth-century Jesuit missionary culture and the global connections that facilitated and inspired the Enlightenment.” - Daniel J. Watkins, Baylor University, in: Journal of Jesuit Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4 (2020), pp. 687-689
 1The Context of the Translation
 1.1The Military Enlightenment
 1.2War and Peace
 1.3The Suppression of the Jesuits
 1.4The China mission
 1.5The Standing of China at the Outbreak of the Seven Years’ War
 1.6The Physiocrats
 1.7The Correspondance littéraire
1Translating the Sunzi
 1The Texts
 3Approaching Translation
 4Language Barrier s
2Joseph Amiot’s Sunzi
 1Notes on the English Translation
 2Preface by the Publisher, Joseph de Guignes
 3Translator’s Preface
 4The Emperor’s Preface to the Ten Precepts Addressed to Men at Arms
3The Thirteen Chapters on Military Art, a Work Composed in Chinese by Sunzi
 1The Fundamentals of Military Art
 2On the Beginning of the Campaign
 3On What One Needs to have Thought of Before a Battle
 4On the Positioning of Troops
 5On Skill in the Leading of Troops
 6On Fullness and Emptiness
 7On the Advantages to Be Secured
 8On the Nine Changes
 9On the Conduct of Troops
 10On Knowledge of the Landscape
 11On the Nine Types of Terrain
 12Guide to How to Fight with Fire
 13On How to Make Use of Dissension and Sow Discord
4Interpreting Amiot’s Sunzi
 2Science, Art, and Perspective
 3Grande science and Grand Art
 4La Doctrine: The Way
 6A Second Reading
5Postscript: Strategy and Revolution
 1Responses to the Art Militaire
 2Henri Bertin’s Correspondance Militaire
Appendix 1: Joseph Amiot’s Letter to Henri Bertin, Beijing, September 23, 1766
Appendix 2: Amiot’s Life
 Family Background
 A Jesuit in the Kingdom of France
 Journey to and Arrival in Beijing
 The French Mission
 Early Years (1751–64)
 The Appeal of Chinese Music
Amiot’s Scientific Research
Amiot’s Contact with European Academies
 Amiot’s Major Period of Writing
The Abolition of the Society of Jesus
Writer, Translator, and Correspondent
 Further Research into Chinese Music
Later Years
Final Works: Chinese Dances and Scientific Research
 A Major Shock: The Impact of the Revolutionary Upheaval in France
 Amiot the Missionary
 His Network of Contacts
 Other Works
 Portraits of Amiot
All interested in the history of the Jesuits, China and Europe, the Enlightenment and French Revolution, the history of strategy and military theory, Sunzi, and translation studies.