Military Thought in Early China

By Christopher C. Rand

Subjects: Chinese Studies, Asian Studies, Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Asian Literature, History
Paperback : 9781438465166, 242 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438465173, 242 pages, June 2017

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Table of contents


1. The Emergence of the Wen/Wu Problem

The Achievement of Balance
The Western Zhou Solution
Evolution in Chunqiu Times
New Solutions in the Zhanguo Era

2. The Metaphysics of Generalship

The General as Sage
Psychical Power
Metaphysical Dynamics
The Ultimate Battle

3. The Practical and Meta-Practical

Organizational Models
Training and Administration
Military Law
War Preparedness
Intelligence Measures
            Collection and Analysis
            Deception and Covert Action
            Views of Military Thinkers

4. The Moral Dimension of War

Military Thinkers

5. The Permutations of Western Han

Realignment of Solutions
Wen/wu and Foreign Policy
A Double Paradox
Effects of Social and Institutional Changes


Provides a systematic and comprehensive survey of writings on military philosophy in early China.


This study of the philosophy of war in early China examines the recurring debate, from antiquity through the Western Han period (202 BCE–8 CE), about how to achieve a proper balance between martial (wu) force and civil (wen) governance in the pursuit of a peaceful state. Rather than focusing solely on Sunzi's Art of War and other military treatises from the Warring States era (ca. 475–221 BCE), Christopher C. Rand analyzes the evolution of this debate by examining a broad corpus of early Han and pre-Han texts, including works uncovered in archeological excavations during recent decades. What emerges is a framework for understanding early China's military philosophy as an ongoing negotiation between three major alternatives: militarism, compartmentalism, and syncretism. Military Thought in Early China offers a look into China's historical experience with a perennial issue that is not only of continuing relevance to modern-day China but also pertinent to other world states seeking to sustain strong and harmonious societies.

Christopher C. Rand is an independent scholar who received his PhD in Chinese history from Harvard University. He is the cotranslator (with Joseph S. M. Lau) of Ts'ao Yü's The Wilderness.


"Rand's study is wide-ranging, deeply researched, systematic, and clear. It will no doubt encourage further work on military texts as contributions to intellectual history. " — Journal of Chinese Military History

"Initially written as a PhD dissertation in 1977, after a 40-year career in government Christopher Rand revised his original work to incorporate new insights from research and discoveries during the intervening years. The result is impressive … This book is a very welcome addition to the study of early Chinese military thought and Rand's perspective will provide even established scholars with a fresh perspective on the topic. " — China Review International

"With its close engagement with and nuanced interpretation of a truly impressive range of sources, this book illuminates a field that gets too little serious attention. " — Charles Sanft, author of Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China: Publicizing the Qin Dynasty