Тематический раздел

Традиция стратегического мышления как существенный компонент китайской культуры

Krzysztof Gawlikowski
Institute of Political Studies Polish Academy of Sciences[1]
It is well known and commonly accepted that Confucianism constitutes a fundamental part of Chinese tradition. The essential role of Taoism and Legalism is also recognised, but the significance of the School of Strategists (bingjia 兵 家)[2] also accepted this solution.]] is usually underestimated. In many standard textbooks of Chinese philosophy and thought it is usually not mentioned at all (see [2; 56; 48; 78]). The second edition of the Sources of Chinese Tradition by Theodore de Bary (and others) constitutes a rare exception [42]. In contemporary China the Strategists are usually studied by historians or presented as professional military heritage. Moreover, in the Chinese communities their works attract public attention mostly for practical applications: in economy and management, politics, sport, medicine or in general as an art of “achieving successes” (chenggong 成 功), as a “science of interpersonal relations” (renjianxue 人 間 學),an “art of astute planning in one’s own life” (rensheng moulue 人 生 謀 略). It should be pointed out, that in the West and in China the treatise attributed to Sun Wu 孫 武 (6th – 5th century BC) attracts most attention, while other texts of the school are usually ignored[3]. In general the Strategists rarely are included into studies of Chinese civilisation, although their texts and their role in Chinese thought and culture deserves deeper research.
1. Some particular characteristics of Chinese way of thinking
In order to understand properly the place of the School of Strategists in Chinese intellectual heritage, it is worthy to analyse the peculiar nature of classical Chinese thought. Numerous scholars pointed out that philosophical thought often served in China for practical needs and its concepts had been applied to everyday life in contrast to more theory-oriented and abstract Western philosophy. As Charles A. Moore stated: “There is the profound and all-pervading inseparability of philosophy and life and even of theory andpractice. This, as he adds, constitutes “a major attitude of the Chinesephilosophical mind, old and new”[70, p. 5]. Many other scholars agree with him (see: [61, p. 300]). The second fundamental characteristic of the Chinese thought indicated by Moore is its “humanism, which is unquestionably more pervasive and more significant in China than in any other philosophical tradition”. It means that there is the great emphasis upon man as social being and on the art of social living or on a way of civil life, as he indicates.He also points out that attitude predominates in China, which he calls “both-and” contrasted with the Western tendency to think in the terms of “either/or” [70, p. 5].
The last characteristic requires some explanations. Such a synthetic or syncretic Chinese attitude allows combination of various, apparently different or even contradictory, elements, whereas the Western exclusiveness requires a choice. In Europe one had to choose A or B, whereas in China people preferred to combine them. This tendency is manifested in the most unequivocal way in Chinese complementary dualism, embodied by Yin 陰 and Yang 陽 , a feminine and a masculine components, heavy and dark, and light and bright, manifested in night and day, water and fire constituted their essence, and Earth and Heaven embodied them. As Derk Bode indicates, they have been considered rather the two principles than entities, involved in an eternal interplay and interaction. “Each is complementary to the other, and neither is necessarily superior orinferior from a moral point of view”[44, p. 134-5]. In the West, antagonistic dualism predominated, embodied by the forces of Light and of Good opposed to the forces of Darkness and Evil. They remained in constant struggle, and figures of God and Satan personify them. Diffused expectations existed that the Good should defeat the Evil and eventually triumph. It not only constitutes the central paradigm of Christianity, but had been used in politics as well. For instance, for several decades supporters of Communism treated it as an embodiment of the Good, and capitalism as the aggressive Evil, whereas American president Ronald Reagan announced that the Soviet Empire embodies the Evil, and he himself defends the Good carrying out the sacred mission of the States. One could notice that in the West the parts of this opposition are clearly separated and treated as the two beings or as certain fixed entities. The Chinese approach implies rather changing relations then an opposition, Yin could be transformed in Yang and vice versa, and their distinction itself was merely relative. The space at one’s front is Yang, and at the back – Yin. Hence the same space could be for one person Yang and for another Yin. There was a strong tendency to consider everything in relative terms. Moreover, each of these civilisations had also a different vision of the “natural” or “ideal” state: the Chinese considered unity and harmony of different elements such an ideal state, whereas the Westerners treated divisions, struggle and contradictions “natural”, and their free manifestation as “proper”. For the Chinese such a state was identified with chaos and destruction [44, p. 135].
According to Derk Bodde, the Chinese world-view can be described in the following way: “The universe, according to prevailing Chinese philosophical thinking is a harmoniously functioning organism consisting of an orderly hierarchy of interrelated parts and forces, which, though unequal in their status, are all equally essential for the total process. Change is a marked feature of this process, yet in it there is nothing haphazard or casual, for it follows a fixed pattern of cyclical return (...) This cosmic pattern is self-contained and self-operating. It unfolds itself because of its own inner necessity and not because it is ordained by any external volitional powers” [45, p. 285-6]
In such a world there is no room for God or creation, and no transcendence, since there is only one universe, in which there are nature, man, spirits and gods as parts of this all-embracing unity.
Frederick W. Mote indicates that this absence of God who created the world in the vision of Mediterranean cultures constitutes a fundamental difference. The Westerners presume that we live in a temporary world, whereas there also exists a transcendent and eternal dimension, where God and other spiritual beings are located. For the Chinese, on the other hand, there exists only one world ruled by Dao 道, which could be comprehend as the impersonal order of changes [71, p. 3-22]. Joseph Needham explained in detail the Chinese concept of the universe treated as one gigantic organism, which evolves owing to the dictates of its own nature and its internal forces [73, p. 281, 291-3]. From this point of view only changes are permanent and eternal. In this Chinese world everything is relative and nothing is absolute: there is no absolute Good, Evil, Truth, Beauty, time proceeding from the Creation to the Last Judgement, etc., which fascinated Western minds and shaped their worldview. For the Chinese and East Asian thought in general the idea of order, universal and social, was essential. Hence li 禮 - rituals and etiquette – was so essential for them as the basis of a proper social order, an order of interactions and relations. Until today, as David I. Hitchcock has demonstrated, “orderly society” constitutes the most important ideal in East Asia [62, p. 73].  Autonomous individuals defending their freedoms could merely disrupt such a social order, hence Taoist or Buddhist hermits had to escape from the society to liberate themselves from its bonds, duties and norms.
This general picture requires some explanations as for how the human being is treated. As Bodde states: “The world of man and the world of nature constitute one indivisible unity. Man is not the supremely important creature he seems to us in the western world; he is but a part, though a vital part, of the universe as a whole” [44, p.133]
Karl-Heintz Pohl indicates that both the Western and Confucian philosophical traditions put an emphasis on an individual, but they differ significantly in its understanding. For the Western thought since Kant it was the autonomous individual that follows the rules of reason in deriving principles for making moral judgements. The individual in the Confucian tradition does not realise its destiny in terms of independence and freedom from other people’s interests, but through responsibility and care for his fellow men and the social environment by “taking everything under Heaven as one’s responsibility”  [76, p. 282]. Of course, one has to take into consideration the Confucian emphasis on family, which for millennia served as a model for all social relations. It resulted in a particular psychological formation. There were various descriptions and concepts of the individual in the Confucian tradition. One of the most interesting is formulated by Hazel R. Markus and Shinobu Kitayama. As they indicate, the Western tradition is dominated by an “independent self”, autonomous in his opinions and judgements, whereas numerous non-Western cultures, including East Asian tradition put an emphasis on the “fundamental connectedness” of individuals. Therefore the particular type of “interdependent self” predominated there, which perceives the individual as a part of the group. Instead of the Western insistence on individual independence and distinctiveness, in East Asia there was strong preference for blending harmoniously with the group and adapting to its requirements [68]. Richard E. Nisbett adds that the West gives preference to egalitarianism and achieved status, while East Asian cultures accept hierarchy and ascribed status. The Westerners also insist that the rules governing proper behaviour should be universal, whereas East Asians prefer particularistic approach that take into account context and nature of relationship involved [75, p. 55-66].
Such drives resulted in the diffusion of a particular “group mentality” and identity in the Confucian cultures that highlighted the “we-group” and the strict separation of “outsiders”, in contrast to the Western emphasis on the individual and the society. The original teaching of the great philosopher was rather universalistic, but its imperial and syncretic Confucianism differs in this respect. Only the members of “our group” were to be treated with moral consideration, while all outsiders were considered as “aliens” to whom one has no moral obligations. Hence there was no Christian concept of “neighbour” or “fellow creature”. From “outsiders” one could only expect harm, and their very humanness was put into doubt, as various creatures were assumed to be able to adopt human forms. Humans were divided into numerous categories of different ontological qualities. Moreover, due to the belief in reincarnation, humans were separated neither from animals and other lower beings nor from tutelary spirits and gods. The cult of ancestors and animistic beliefs attributed various powers to the deceased or even living persons who could raise them up to the category of gods.
Hence there was no idea of an essential equality of all human beings that was so fundamental for Christianity and for Western thought in general. On the contrary, the social order was strictly hierarchical, and one always perceived oneself as “higher” or “lower” comparing to others rather than as their equal in social and ontological sense. As Chie Nakane indicated, in East Asia one faces “vertical societies” instead of “horizontal societies”, which predominate in the West [72, p. 40-63].
In general, in pre-modern Chinese thought there were two main currents: one moralistic (represented mainly by the official Confucian ideology and Mohism), and another one, pragmatic and non-moralistic (represented by Taoism, the School of Law, and the School of Strategists). These two currents could be compared to the Yang and Yin sides of Chinese civilisation, coexisting and complementing each other in various respects to constitute parts of an organic whole[4]. One could notice that the moralistic teachings put emphasis on social bounds and duties, whereas the non-moralistic ideologies focused on individuals and their various needs. Being the main moralistic teaching, Confucianism was, of course, essential to Chinese tradition, but other schools of thought complemented it in various respects. These were not only Taoism and Buddhism, but also other, no less important teachings. In state administration, the pragmatic school of Law complemented moralistic Confucian teaching[5], whereas the School of Strategists offered various practical recommendations concerning the government, war operations, and even everyday life[6].
2. The two social principles: Wen and Wu
The complex nature of the imperial ideology is illustrated in the most eloquent way by the concept of the two social principles, wen  文 (civil – related to literature, morality, education, respect for manners and learning), and wu 武 (martial-punitive, based on the use of force, manipulations and stratagems)[7]. This division not only concerned political life, but it was also assumed to have been rooted in the structure of the universe. The state apparatus, central and local, had been divided into two echelons corresponding to these universal principles. During the state ceremonies, officials accompanying a ruler or a local magistrate were arrayed in two rows: civil on the left and military on the right. It became a fixed, imperial practice at least since the Western Han period (206 BC – AD 4; see Yin Wenggui’s 尹翁歸 biography [20, juan 76, p. 3206]). However, such a division of administrative spheres and offices is also attested for much earlier times and probably originated at the very beginning of the 5th century BC[8].
The civil principle wen had been identified with Small (i.e. growing) Yang, whereas the martial principle wu with Small (i.e. growing) Yin. Hence they had also been identified with spring, and Eastern Quarter, and with autumn, and Western Quarter respectively. There were corresponding stars and celestial beings as well as divine powers ruling these spheres. In a symbolic and even magical way, Azure Dragon and Wood ruled the East, while White Tiger and Metal were in charge for the West. However, the wu sphere could also have been identified with the Great Yin, hence with winter and Water, to be related to executions or use of stratagems and manipulations. In this case its divine power was the North and its mystical representative, the Xuanwu 玄 武 – the Dark Warrior. He was presented as a black god with a snake and a tortoise at his feet, or with a sword, as the God-Protector guarding the city against invasions and wars. As a symbol of the North, Xuanwu was presented merely as a Black Tortoise fighting a Snake.
It should be mentioned, that in the empire “martial officials” included not only army commanders, but also officials engaged in judiciary and punitive functions, organisation of various guards, imperial post service, numerous public works and corvée labor, military and public training of the youth, etc.  Moreover, in the Confucian, or Sinocentric view, with the concept of only one Son of Heaven in the world, war was considered “a great punishment (of the rebels)” [20, juan 23, p. 1079, Xing fa zhi 刑 法 志]), not a kind of “noble duelling” of equal partners as in the West. The most preferred way of achieving victory was also different then in Europe as illustrated by the ancient proverb: shang bing fa mou 上兵伐謀 – “the best kind of war is scheming” or “attacking by astute plans and stratagems” [32, p. 268-9][9].
During the Tang epoch, in 619, the system of the state Confucian Temples of Wen was established, and in the year 731 it was complemented by a parallel system of Temples of Wu, established from the capital to prefectures. In the temples of literature and learning, Zhou Gong 周公 (11th ? BC) and Confucius with his disciples and other famous scholars had been venerated, whereas in the martial temples Taigong Wang 太公望 (11th ? BC), who had significant contribution to the enthroning of the Zhou dynasty, had been venerated as the founder of martial arts and virtues[10]. He was accompanied by famous military commanders and Strategists, among them Sun Wu 孫武  (6th-5th century BC), Sun Bin 孫臏 (fl. 380-320 BC), Wu Qi 吳起 (d. 381 BC) and other famous  commanders. At the very beginning of the Ming dynasty Guan Yu 關羽 , known also as Duke Guan (Guan Gong 關公 , d. AD 219), a hero of the famous Romance of the Three Kingdoms and one of the most popular folk divinities (for the detailed description see 24), substituted for Taigong Wang as the principal hero and deity at the martial temples.
The imperial Civil Temple, known also as the Temple of Literature (Wen Miao 文廟) was officially called the Royal Temple of the Diffusion of Wen (Wenxuan Wang Miao 文宣王廟 ). The Martial Temple (Wu Miao 武廟) originally was called the Royal Temple of the Successes by Martial Way (Wucheng Wang Miao 武成王廟), but in the Northern Song period (960-1127) it was renamed into the Royal Temple Granting Peace by the Martial Means (Wu’an Wang Miao 武安王廟 see [33, p. 135-143]). These names reflect the essential concepts of the imperial syncretic Confucianism. Since the 11th century military state examinations based on the knowledge of Seven Books of Martial Classics (Wujing qishu 武經七書), fixed at that time, complemented the system of the civil examinations based on the Confucian classics. These decisions confirmed the position of the School of Strategists as the basis of Wu and completed the process of integration of wu and the heritage of strategist thinkers into the official imperial ideology. In practice civil and martial bureaucratic functions were integrated in the hierarchy of state apparatus, and a civil official could be appointed to a martial office and vice versa, although the civil offices were always considered “higher” than the martial of the same rank.
Wen and wu should be considered in relative terms, not as two separated entities as the Westerners usually tend to understand them. Sima Qian (145-86?) in his biography of Confucius and quotes a statement attributed to the great sage: “When one deals with the wen affairs, this requires wu preparations, when one deals with wu affairs, they require wen preparations” [30, juan 47, p. 1915, Kongzi shijia  孔子世家]. This principle obviously refers to state affairs. In the most famous Strategic treatise Master Sun’s Rules of War one reads: “If soldiers are punished before personal attachment [to the commander] and spontaneous submission to him has been established, they will not obey, and disobedient [troops] are difficult to employ. [On the other hand], if soldiers are already attached [to the commander] and submit spontaneously, but punishment is not applied, it will be impossible to use them. Therefore [troops] have to be led by means of Wen (i.e. withrewards, benevolence, and care for subordinates) and made uniform by means of Wu (i.e. punishment, measures of discipline, severity, etc.) (Sunzi  孫子, chapter 9)[11].
Hence the use of both wen and wu as necessary for an efficient management was recommended to a commander of an army. Such principles had been repeated later on as kinds of proverbs. There were, of course, numerous other proverbs on wen and wu that illustrate their various aspects and interrelations:
yan wu xiu wen 偃武修文 – “to cease military engagements and to cultivate ‘culture’” (originating from the canonical Book of History, see [32, p. 365]);
shan wen neng wu 善文能武 – “excel in ‘cultural’ affairs and be able to use ‘martial measures’ as well” [32, p. 268];
yi zhang yi chi, wen wu zhi dao 一張一弛 , 文武之道 – “to bend and to relax [as a bow] constitutes the way of wen and of wu” (attributed to Confucius,  quoted in The Records on the Rites [15, p. 900];
wen zhi wu gong 文治武功  – “to establish good order [in the country] by the ‘civil’measures, and make accomplishments with the ‘martial means’. It is usually cited in a general sense, but it originally refers to the historical pattern of the establishment of Zhou Dynasty in 11th? century BC, and to the rule of its founders Wen Wang 文王 and Wu Wang 武王 (?11th century BC [32, p. 328]);
wen wu shuang quan  文武雙全 – “to have both civil/literarytalents and martial abilities” [32, p. 328].
Therefore Confucian thought as an imperial ideology could not be reduced merely to the cultivation of wen, nor the School of Strategy to the promotion of wu or merely to the use of force.Both schools encompassed various trends and concepts, and Strategic canonical texts often contain various Confucian elements. They are obviously present, for instance, in the Master Wu’s Rules of War (Wuzi bingfa 吳子兵法 , attributed to Wu Qi 吳起) or in Marshall’s Rules (Sima fa  司馬法司 , attributed to the famous commander Sima Rangju 馬穰苴 (the 4th century BC)[12].
3. Confucian and Strategic teachings in Chinese culture and in The Dream of the Red Mansion
Complexity of both schools notwithstanding, it is still possible to characterize Confucianism in general as the school which promotes the ‘Right Way’ (zheng dao 正道) contrary to the “Way of Deception and Manipulation” (gui dao 詭道) recommended by the Strategists, in particular by the Sunzi. The former teaching had been considered “noble” and served to individuals and groups for creating and protecting their “face”, and the later had been considered “ignoble”, used for practical needs, to gain profits or to defend one’s interests[13]. In spite of the prevalence of the moralistic Confucian approach, the ability to use stratagems and crafty plans acquired a high social prestige. Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181-234)[14], owing his popularity to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, was the most famous embodiment of this art. In contemporary China, this crafty art is often presented as the particular ability of the Chinese and significant characteristic of Chinese culture in general (see, for instance, [21, pp. 1-3]).
The teaching of the School of Strategy may be considered the “Chinese praxiology” – a theory of the efficient action[15]. Originating as the theory of war, already in ancient times it was considered the theory of money-making or business (see [30, juan 129, p. 3259]). It had also been used in politics, diplomacy, and in social relations in general, in particular towards “outsiders” who were not entitled to treatment according to the Confucian moral principles. Even today, in Chinese and Japanese bookstores the books on strategy, by native and Western authors alike, can usually be found at the shelves on economy and management.
During the Cultural Revolution, owing to Mao’s personal fascination with the Strategists, Sun Wu  孫武 (6-5th century BC) and Wu Qi 吳起 (d. 381 BC) were considered as “progressive thinkers” in contrast to the “reactionary” Confucians. The exceptional archaeological discovery of the ancient Strategist texts, including the most famous Sunzi, in 1972 (published several years later), increased enormously the interest in the works of this school. Hence in late 1970-s and early 1980-s various editions of the strategist books were very popular.
Moreover, by the end of 1970-s a previously unknown anonymous work The Thirty-Six Stratagems: the Secret Rules of Struggle (Sanshiliu ji  三十六計, 秘本兵法)[16] was published and had been available everywhere. In China, with her high literary culture, a discovery of an unknown old work was truly sensational. For millennia various arts related to struggle and war were considered truly secret and often were prohibited to the state authority. Thus the Strategic works became the most popular part of ancient Chinese heritage. Only later on the Confucian tradition and Taoism became also fashionable. The Cultural Revolution period and the early period of Deng Xiaoping reform was perhaps the first epoch in Chinese history, when the Strategic thought was so highly appreciated in public and so glorified as a part of the national heritage. The innumerable translations of Sun Wu’s treatise abroad and the popularity of the Chinese martial arts (wushu 武術) undoubtedly contributed to this prestige. It should be noted, that it happened in the period of the new discovery of individualism and a new capitalist mentality in China, with its insistence on material interests.
In traditional China (and to a large extent also today) one is not supposed to be boastful of his cunning use of stratagems and manipulations against others. Strategist principles had been accepted first of all in relations to “strangers” (foreigners in particular), and in situations of conflict. Use of stratagems within family contradicted Confucian morals. In practice, however, they had also been used within family circles and also in apparently friendly social interrelations. For instance, when Mao described his childhood and relations within the family to Edgar Snow, he obviously used strategic concepts. He stated: “There were two ‘parties’ in the family. One was my father, the Ruling Power. The Opposition was made up by myself, my mother, my brother, and sometimes even by the labourer. In the ‘United Front’ of the Opposition, however, there was a difference of opinion. My mother advocated a policy of indirect attack. She criticised any overt display of emotion and attempts at open rebellion against the Ruling Power. She said it was not the Chinese way” [79, p. 120]
It is well known that such martial epics like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi  三國演義) and Water Margins (Shui hu zhuan  水滸傳) contain plenty of strategic concepts. Both of them, in particular the former, diffused the strategic concepts among ordinary people. Both of these epics, however, feature strategic thought in the military context.
One could, however, also discover them in another best-seller of old China, The Dream of Red Mansions (Hong lou meng  紅樓夢) by Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹 (1715-1764), which presents a peaceful, luxury life of an aristocratic family. When one reads carefully this popular romance it becomes obvious that Strategic principles are often quoted and practised in the household environment. We may find, for instance, several Sunzi concepts borrowed directly from the ancient treatise. At one place, we read: „[At first] guard yourself as a shy maiden, [then] advance as a swift hare” (shou ru chu nü, chu ru tuo tu  守如處女出如脫兔). It is an abbreviated quotation from Chapter 11 of Sunzi: „At first be as a shy maiden, and the enemy will give you an opening, then be as a swift hare, so that the enemy would be unable to catch you” - shi ru chu nü, di ren kai hu, hou ru tuo tu, diren bu ji ju  始如處女, 敵人開戶 , 後如脫兔 , 敵人不及拒). Then another principle coined into a proverb is quoted: „attack when [the enemy] is not prepared” (chu qi bu bei  出其不備) that constitutes an abbreviated and slightly modified passage from the Chapter 1: „attack where he is unprepared, advance when he does not expect you” -  gong qi wu bei, chu qi bu yi  攻其無備 , 出其不意)[17]. As Tong Yubin points out, various modified forms of the last principle appeared in various earlier sources [32, p. 52].
Cao Xueqin does not suggest that heroines of the romance know Sunzi and most probably he himself borrowed such concepts as proverbs from later works, not from the ancient treatise itself. It is, however, significant that the romance indicates as a source of these principles „the art of employing troops”, suggesting that the girls who discuss their plans know about existence of such an art and its applicability to social relations.
At one occasion the heroine Ping’er 平兒 declares: „it is like an egg dashing itself against a rock” (jidan wang shitou shang peng 雞蛋往石頭上碰) [14, p. 631 (ch. 55); 87, vol. II, p. 241; 6, vol. 1, p. 782], that alludes to a metaphor that illustrates Sunzi’s principle of striking with „fullness” (shi 實) against „emptiness” (xu 虛) in Chapter 5 of the Sunzi [36, p. 70]. Here we deal not with a proverb, but with some knowledge of Sunzi’s principles. One may also find in the romance the famous Wu Qi’s principle coined in a proverb: „ten thousand men are no match for one person ready to risk his life” (yi ren pin ming, wan fu mo dang  一人拼命, 萬夫莫當)[18]. In the original Wuzi treatise (ch. 6), it is formulated as: „one person ready to sacrifice his life is enough to terrorise a thousand men” (yi ren tou ming, zu ju qian fu  一人投命, 足懼千夫) (see: [35,vol. 10, p. 470; cf. 77, p. 224]).The former proverbial form obviously derives from the later, however, as Tong Yubin indicates, this proverbial form appeared already in Xu Wenchang’s  徐文長 work Biographies of Heroes (Ying lie zhuan 英烈傳) of the Ming period [32, p. 377]. In Chapter 6 of the romance, the following idea is expressed: “When you pick up a hair of your respected body, it is thicker than our waist” (ni lao cha yi gen hanmao bi women  yao  hai zhuang 你老扠一根寒毛比我們的腰還壯)[19]. It reminds of an important principle formulated in the ancient Book of Master Han Fei (Hanfeizi  韓非子, attributed to the philosopher who died in 233 BC.), that concern struggle among superiors and inferiors: “When the ruler loses an inch, his subordinates gain a yard” (shang shi fu cun, xia de xun chang 上失扶寸, 下得尋常) [16, p. 124 (section 8); 86, p. 40]. It means that a small loss of a stronger party could constitute a great gain for a much weaker one. Already the ancient Chinese discovered that struggle is not a zero-sum game, and that loses of one party and gains of the other not necessarily are proportional, and that sometimes both parties could loose or both parties could gain.
The Strategic concepts contained in the romance and applied there to everyday social relations are predominantly based on proverbs or sayings (chengyu 成 語) in which ancient Chinese wisdom had been coined. We may find in this text innumerable “strategic proverbs” used as an explanation of the pattern of action already followed or intended to be adopted. For instance, several such proverbs are quoted in Chapter 16: “point at the mulberry to curse the locust” (zhi sang ma huai  指桑罵槐); “kill with a borrowed knife” (jie dao sha ren  借刀殺人); “sitting on a hill to watch tigers fight” (zuo shan guan hu dou  坐山觀虎鬥); “borrow wind to fan the fire” (yin feng chui huo  引風吹火); “watch people drawn from a dry bank” (zhan gan an er 站干岸兒); “don’t rescue the oil bottle that has been knocked over” (tui daole you ping er bu fu 推倒了油瓶兒不扶) [14, p. 158 (chapt. 16); 87, vol. I, p. 214]. The first and the second belong to the famous thirty-six stratagems (respectively as 26th and 3rd) (see: [23, pp. 9, 78], also [80, pp. 24, 230]). In Chapter 16 in which they are enumerated, these sayings are disdained with some contempt, but many of them appear in the romance without any moral disapproval. See, for instance Chapter 69 where the proverb about the “borrowed knife” and “sitting on a hill” are quoted [14, p. 811], or Chapter 59 on “pointing the mulberry” [14, p. 682]. One can find two other proverbs of the thirty-six stratagems in Chapter 55: “conceal a dagger in a smile” (xiao li cang dao  笑裡藏刀) and “to catch bandits, one must nab their leader first” (qin zei bi xian qin wang  擒賊必先擒王, see [14, p. 635]). They are enumerated respectively as no. 10 and 18in the book of Thirty Six Stratagems, although the second appears there in a slightly abbreviated form (the word “one must” – bi  必 is omitted (see [23, pp. 88, 158])). We know, however, that this proverb was used in various forms: extended, abbreviated, and intermediate [32, p. 244].
Proverbs and sayings (chengyu) constitute an exceptionally important part of Chinese culture and transmit enormous amount of intellectual heritage. An analysis of the strategic contents of the romance confirms this opinion: chengyu appear to be a main vehicle for the dissemination of „strategic wisdom” among its heroes. Perhaps this concerns Chinese culture in general. As Cheng Xi points out, the proverbs originating from Confucian and Buddhist canonical books, that teach noble moral principles, were, even in the past, much less popular than those originating from historical works and anecdotes, as well as from other sources [17, pp. 16-9, 35-7]. One may suppose that the bookish nature of edifying proverbs discouraged their use, whereas those from less noble sources, often related to strategic art and requirements of everyday life, became much more popular. Tong Yubing estimates that there are 5.055 „military sayings” (junshi chengyu) in Chinese, among them ca 4.500 are still used today [32, Introduction].
Although the proverbs are important means for conveying “strategic” wisdom, the strategic content of the romance is not restricted to them. We also find there innumerable descriptions of actual actions of various heroes and heroines in line with strategic principles. For instance, when Jia Rui 賈瑞 initiated undesirable advances towards Feng Jie 鳳姐, she did not simply reject them, as a Western girl would have done, but apparently gladly accepted them in order to arrange a severe punishment for the boy. When he arrived to the appointed room, he was closed in by the servants, spent there an entire frizzing night, then was punished by his grandfather, and in the result of these sufferings eventually died (Chapter 12). One may notice, that according to Sun Wu’s principles of „arranging situations to provoke a desired enemy’s action” and „subduing the enemy without fighting”, she moved no finger, but the boy received the horrifying punishment. She organised even a much more complicated intrigue to punish her husband and put an end to his love affairs, with an involvement of numerous persons, of the court procedures, and by indirect means succeeded in eliminating his concubine by provoking her suicide (Chapters 68-9). Jin Gui 金桂 for a similar purpose initiated another complicated intrigue for which she had prepared a detailed plan in advance (Chapter 80).
Not only women, as “weaker party”, but also men applied this type of action involving deception and intrigues. For instance Jia Rong 賈蓉 helped his brother Jia Lian 賈璉 to take Er Jie 二姐 as his concubine hoping to obtain a possibility of establishing his own secret love affairs with her (Chapter 65). The social relations within the household are often described in quasi-military terms, as Bao Chan 寶蟾 states openly: „You know how it is in our family – everybody appears to agree when speaking, but hides inward disagreement” (zanmen jiali dou shi yan he yi bu he 咱們家里都是言合意不合) [14, p. 1069 (ch. 90); 87, vol. III, p. 149]. Thus apparent observation of Confucian norms and maintenance of „family harmony” covered hidden conflicts and struggle with recourse to deception, tricks and complicated stratagems, that sometimes resulted even in deaths of the „enemy”. These means could be used to members of one’s own family and to the friends.
The official Confucian ideology accepted the use of „immoral principles” of the strategic art towards the enemies of the state, as the imperial approval of the Martial Classics of Seven Books (Wujing qi shu 武經七書) confirms. Of course, the noble means based on Confucian virtues were certainly preferred, at least in verbal declarations. In everyday life recourse to such principles towards the „strangers” was commonly tolerated. Within the family and towards the friends it was condemned from the moral point of view, but widely applied, as innumerable Chinese romances and short stories illustrate.
Thus The Dream of the Red Mansions illustrates in the most unequivocal way the complex nature of social relations in traditional China: the widespread use of the strategic art of struggle that allowed achieving one’s own aims without apparent breaking the Confucian norms of maintaining harmony. Hence the teaching of strategy constitutes another side of the “Confucian coin”, being in fact a part of one cultural entity. Whereas the Confucian classics have been studied and propagated, the art of strategy had usually been learned by other means: by proverbs, historical anecdotes, stories, theatre and romances, not by reading military treatises themselves. Such books very often were prohibited to the commoners. Therefore we deal in the romance, as well as in Chinese culture in general, with an indirect influence of Sunzi’s concepts already incorporated into the traditional mentality and in “cultural norms”.
The Dream of Red Mansions reflects the complexity of Chinese traditions in various respects. In addition to Confucianism and the Strategic art as “social praxiology”, we can discover there some elements of Buddhism and of religious-and-poetic Taoism. However, they are much less “operative”, therefore their impact on human relations and actions is much less significant. There are, of course, several personages deeply influenced by them, as well as numerous descriptions of various religious rituals or artistic activity that may be inspired by Taoist ideals, but their impact on social interrelations and heroes’ actions can rarely be detected. It seems that Buddhism and Taoism predominantly shaped the image of “self” and the inner spiritual world of more sensitive persons (as Bao Yu 寶玉 and his grandmother). Hence these two secondary currents appear to be important but in a different way than Confucianism and the teaching of Strategy. It deserves to be mentioned that the “operational” stratum of Taoism as a theory of action had been absorbed almost entirely by the School of Strategists and in this respect it is difficult to separate the two.
4. Some considerations on Chinese and Western civilisations
It appears that Cao Xueqin, as many other Chinese, considered social life as a combination of co-operation and struggle to which principles of war/struggle and stratagems can and should be applied. One should not, however, underestimate the favourable impact of the Confucian ideology and tradition. It appears that they have been more efficient in imposing the norms of maintaining harmony in social relations in China and in East Asia than Christianity in the West. They taught social obligations, obedience to elders and superiors, social discipline, co-operation, self-control, and self-cultivation. These virtues determined entirely different course of development than the Western evolution of individualism, rule of law, and democracy. One of the fundamental differences was the Confucian appreciation of harmony and concord (he he  和合), whereas struggle, protest and rebellion have been condemned and punished[20]. On the contrary, the West based its social and political systems on struggle and competition, appreciated rebels and fighters as heroes. Owing to the Confucian teaching, a “group-mentality”, and the art of “living together” the East Asian nations enjoyed much warmer atmosphere of human relations. On the other hand there was a high price to pay: predomination of conservative attitude and weak drives to development and changes. As numerous scholars indicate the Confucian heritage undoubtedly contributed to the bewildering economic successes of the East Asian nations [84] and it seems to inspire a distinct way of modernisation [43; 53]. We should not, however, overestimate the Confucian aspect of Chinese civilisation, and should pay due attention to its another side: the hidden or even open conflicts usually resolved with the recourse to the art of Strategy, which constituted the practical solution within the framework of the predominant Confucian-Mencian ideology.
Alastair I. Johnston rightly indicates that Chinese strategic culture contains, in fact, two paradigms. According to the Confucian-Mencian concepts, war is aberrant and preventable, highly violent actions are generally the least efficacious, and should be last resorts. According to this approach Sunzi’s principle of “subduing the enemy without fighting” appears the best solution. An alternative paradigm, more realistic, assumes that war and struggle are inevitable, constitute a permanent phenomenon, and such a threat can best be handled through the application of superior force. After a detailed analysis of the strategic decisions and actions of the Ming period (1368-1644) Johnston concludes that the Ming strategists and decision-makers used different means for different strategic contingencies. They most often rejected the Confucian-Mencian approach and applied the use of force or its threat to achieve political aims [64, pp. 106, 153]. Hence, as he concludes, the Confucian-Mencian concepts were much less significant for the state policy than it is presumed, and that the tendency to use stratagems rather than force did not predominate in real Chinese politics. In his opinion the Chinese Empire conducted in practice a belligerent policy, not different much from that of the Western nations.
Chinese thought is certainly very complex and contains various concepts and options, which not necessarily should be considered “alternatives”, but rather “complementary”. These two indicated by Johnston certainly functioned in such a way. Moreover, there was even the third, an entirely different Legalist paradigm, that war is necessary to strengthen the state, hence the government should carry out a militaristic and aggressive policy (for an analysis of all the three, see [58]). The last had been condemned by the predominating Confucian ideology, but sometimes it could also influence real policy. For instance, one could notice that the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) policy was rather belligerent and tried to promote military virtues deeply rooted in the traditional Manchu culture. In the 18th century such tendencies could be strengthened by some European influences and challenges, but these tendencies were undoubtedly native [85].
Taking into consideration the complexity of Chinese culture and the obvious difference of the official ideology of the state and its political practice, Johnston’s conclusions appear to be too radical. Official ideology does count, even if various decisions of the leaders and of the statesmen contradict the ideology. Notwithstanding the US democratic and human rights ideology the White House for a hundred years tolerated racial discrimination within the US, supported Pinochet’s dictatorship, Red Khmers fighting the Vietnamese forces, Mubarak’s regime and constantly supports the Saudi Arabian regime that breaks almost all essential human rights. Nevertheless, one would be wrong concluding that the state ideology does not matter at all, and there is no difference whether the government adopts democratic, Communist, fascist or fundamental Islamist ideology. The Confucian appreciation of harmony influenced political and social life, although it does not mean that all the Chinese and all statesmen there practised its principles every day and in every case.
The strategic principles were highly useful since they permitted to fight and defend a state, a group or one’s own interest without an open breaking of harmony and apparent peace. As late as 1920-s, Soviet military advisors testified to the broad knowledge of stratagems among the Chinese commanders and their fascination with the figure of Zhuge Liang, the most admired master of stratagems. These advisors also describe innumerable attempts to use them in war by so called National Armies and Guomindang forces. Their descriptions are of great value, since they did not know Chinese strategic traditions at all and arrived to China to teach the revolutionary armies the “modern art of war”. Vitaliy Markovich Primakov (1897-1937) published a most detailed report on his work and adventures in the foreign country, written immediately after his service and obviously based on his notes made in China. The most significant is his description of one of their discourses with Chinese commanders, who explained to the Soviet advisors the concepts of stratagems and outstanding role of Zhuge Liang as an insuperable master of strategy. Primakov writes:
Everytime, when Zhuge Liang confronted the enemy, he could apply so many stratagems that he always achieved a victory, [explained the Chinese commander]. The Chinese general concluded that the essence of strategy is constituted by the art of stratagems and misleading the enemy. We started to protest against such an understanding of strategy. There was a heated debate, and at the end we all concluded that the strategy of a strong strike is almost unknown to our [Chinese] friends and it contradicts their entire military education [10, p. 156].
This description and the complicated military and political manoeuvres of the Chinese commanders referred by Primakov, as well as by other Soviet advisors, contradict Johnston’s opinion that in practice traditional Chinese strategic principles were rarely utilized. It is difficult to imagine that Chinese officers in 1920-s were much more traditional-minded than in the Ming period. The author of this paper had an opportunity to look through numerous manuals and textbooks of the Chinese military schools dated from the 1920-s. One can conclude that side by side with the Western military techniques, the traditional Chinese strategic concepts were taught there. The entire system of Chinese armies and of their military operating still differed much from the Western standards (as confirms another Soviet advisor, see [13]).
The Chinese idea that “achieving victory is easy, preserving its fruits is difficult”, that the greatest art consists in “subduing the enemy without fighting”, and that the state that wages innumerable victorious wars is destined to perish[21], were unknown to the West. Karl von Clausewitz, the most famous Western theoretician of war, in line with the Western tradition, had written that merely idealistic and naive persons could imagine that there are some ingenious means to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed. Hence he recommended the maximum use of force [46, p. 75]. In China contrary concepts predominated that recommended exactly the way rejected by Clausewitz. Only recently the West started to appreciate peace, peaceful co-existence, avoidance of bloodshed, and recognised aggression, conquests and mass killing as crimes. It is also one of the reasons why today the West initiated the study of the Sunzi.
Therefore when one analyses everyday culture of late imperial China and realistic descriptions of life in romances or short stories, one finds realities much more complex than the descriptions of intellectual currents in the textbooks of Chinese philosophy. Of course, one could easily detect some elements of Confucian, Taoist, Legalist, and Strategic heritage, and very strong Buddhist components (considering, of course, the yin-yang theory as a part of official, syncretic Confucianism). An anthropological analysis indicates that each of these principal currents of Chinese thought predominates, or manifests itself, in different spheres and social contexts. Confucian norms, for instance, determined mainly interrelations between elder and younger generations, in particular parents (or grandparents) and children, as well as civic life. On the other hand, the Strategic principles were applied mostly to the interrelations between “equals”, belonging more or less to the same “age class” (although elders could also be involved or became an object of an “indirect attack” through use of various stratagems). Buddhist and Taoist ideas concern predominantly individuals and their spiritual life, their internal harmony and relations to the mysterious forces of Nature or spirits (in the religious sense), and so on.
Some remarks concerning the two principal currents of Chinese culture could be added. One should acknowledge, as indicated above, an organic link between Confucianism and Strategic thought. Tricks and stratagems were required because the Confucian ideals of social harmony predominated and did not allow an open outbreak of conflicts and struggle. Thus conflicts of interests or intentions required particular means that were not harmful to maintenance of harmony, and the Strategists provided them. Hence their concepts could evolve, be elaborated and popularised under the shadow of Confucianism and within an official imperial ideology. On the other hand, without such means of resolving inevitable conflicts, Confucianism itself could not survive and predominate on such a scale for millennia. In other societies, in particular in the West, the elements of strategic concepts could, of course, evolve, but social and cultural conditions necessary for their development were missing, since there was no social need for indirect ways of attack and covered struggle in a comparable scale.
The Indo-European and the Mediterranean cultures in general glorified and appreciated conflicts and open struggle, while Confucian China condemned them. Moreover, in the West an open aggressiveness (or at least the drive to aggressive competition), together with sexual virility became essential characteristics of a „true man”, an ideal macho, whereas a co-operative orientation in social relations, avoidance of conflicts and recourse to intrigues and manoeuvres were considered “feminine” (see [69]). Therefore the Confucian and Strategic currents of Chinese thought are not merely interrelated but interdependent and complementary as yang and yin. This is also illustrated by a complementary nature of Wen and Wu embodying these two intellectual and social traditions.
It appears that one of the fundamental differences of the Chinese and Western civilisations constitute the alternative approaches to struggle. Since the most remote times the people speaking Indo-European languages and Mediterranean societies even projected wars into the world of gods, and considered wars one of their principal and glorious activity, by which they achieved their domination, eliminated their enemies and established order. The world-order was imagined as resulting from such a heavenly war and as based on the principle of war. Georges Dumézil in his classical study indicates that the Indo-European gods are divided essentially into the three great classes: maintaining order and protecting laws, warriors, and divinities granting fertility and prosperity. This celestial division – according to him – corresponded to the social division into the three main strata: priests at the top, warriors, who ruled the society, and the working people, merchant, artisans and peasants (51). This division granted the aristocratic warriors the privileged position owing to their noble duty: waging wars, which enjoyed high prestige, could even be considered “semi-sacred activity”. Mircea Eliade, a famous French expert in comparative studies of religions, gives innumerable examples of “heavenly wars” from the Ancient India, Near East, and Europe [55]. On the one hand one could notice in the Mediterranean the tradition of “holy warriors” and, on the other hand, an evolution of chivalrous knight’s moral and ritual norms related to the “noble contest” and the value of honour. It also stimulated the evolution of individualism. It is worthy to be mentioned that in Ancient China a similar chivalrous code for the noble aristocratic warriors also evolved, including the concept of honour and glory, considered the essence of manhood [66, p. 243]. However, this militaristic, aristocratic culture started to decline in the 5th century BC with the evolution of the Confucian school and of the mass armies, which adopted the new Strategic concepts elaborated by Sun Wu (for more details see: 60). Since this period a distinct Chinese cultural tradition started to evolve with its particular military culture and social structure, which granted the highest position to the literati instead of the warriors, and which put an emphasis on the unity, harmony and accord[22]. These ideas are presented in the most unequivocal way in the Confucian classic The Doctrine of the Middle (Zhong yong 中庸).
EQUILIBRIUM (zhong  中) constitutes the great root of the world (tianxia zhi da ben ye  天下之大本也), and HARMONY (he  和) is the universal path of the world (tianxia zhi da dao ye  天下之達道也). Let the states of Equilibrium and Harmony exist in perfection, and an order will prevail across Heaven and Earth, and all beings and things will be nourished and flourish[23].
In the West, on the other hand, the division and struggle of the parties had been exalted, and warriors acquired the status of heroes, whereas war and struggle had been considered the essence of and indispensable element of the proper “order”. Such concepts appeared already in the Ancient Greece. For instance, Heraclitus (ca. 540-480 BC), a contemporary of Confucius, taught: „War (Polemos) is a father of all things and beings, is their supreme ruler, some of them makes gods, others men, some makes slaves, others free citizens” [71a,  p. 92, the fragment no. 62]. In the Christian thought the universe is often presented as the scene of almost eternal struggle of the forces of Good and Light against the forces of Evil and Darkness. This determines the fate of human kind and of individuals: struggle constitutes the very basis of the universe, the nature of social relations and of spiritual life of every person. The tradition of noble duelling excluded the stratagems, cheating and tricks as “ignoble”. Only in modern times, this aristocratic code started to fail, at least at the battlefields.
Nevertheless, since ancient times until the 20th century struggle and conflicts were presented in the West as necessary for development, improvement and progress, even as the source of moral perfection and virtues, whereas peace was considered as the source of decline, of social and moral degradation and stagnation. Even modern western philosophical, scientific and political theories assume struggle and competition as the principal force or means of progress. Such were concepts of Hegel, Darwin and Marx, of advocates of nationalism, fascism and Communism. Theoreticians of liberal democracy also assume that it is based on a free competition of several parties, the permanent struggle between the ruling forces and opposition, open expression of critical opinions on the government by the press, i.e. by  “institutionalisation of conflict” that grants progress and relative political stability (see [47; 50]). It seems that the Westerners can hardly imagine the world without struggle and open conflicts, presuming that such a state could only be granted by a dictatorship and an enslavement of the society. The philosophers that considered harmony as the principle of world-order were a rare case, and even they usually accepted inevitability of conflicts. In China this orientation obviously predominated, and thinkers representing a belligerent orientation, such as Legalists, constituted an exception. Only in the 20th century belligerent Social-Darvinist and Bolshevik ideologies were adopted from the West. Thus there was a sharp contrast between the traditional Chinese world-view and the one that dominating the Western thought for centuries, where a true “cult of war” emerged, along with the “militaristic civilisation” (see, for instance historical analysis by Toynbee [82] and Horowitz’s opinion [63]).
Of course, the vision of Chinese culture must not be oversimplified. It condemned violence, played down the glory of military exploits, awarded highest prestige to literary rather than military figures, and glorified harmony and concord, but at the same time displayed great variety and frequency of violent behaviour that constituted a specific popular counterculture. One could also mention the great popularity of military epics and the stories on you xia 游俠 “righteous errant fighters” (see [67]), various religious cult of „military commanders” (as Taigong Wang 太公望, 11th ? century BC), or “military deities” (as Xuan Wu 玄武) who protected against evil forces, magic rituals with swords, the evolution of “military arts” (wushu 武術), and so on. Until today significant regional differences in folk culture and mentality are observed in this respect. As Wolfram Eberhard indicates, the common people, in particular of city-dwellers, were fascinated with struggle, fighting and heroism, whereas the ruling gentry class condemned them [52, p. 82]. There were also significant historical transformations. In ancient China, as mentioned above, until the Spring and Autumn period there were some tendencies similar to the Western aristocratic warrior culture, although they never reached the level of their Western counterparts, and afterwards perished together with the old aristocracy. As Mark E. Lewis indicates, an evolution of numerous peasant armies, as well as the deepening spiral of civil wars and mutual annihilation ended in the destruction of much of the nobility, although the process of these revolutionary transformations was much more complex [66, pp. 59-60, 243-7]. Later invasions and conquests of much more bellicose northern peoples did not reverse this process, although they could temporary strengthen military values and spirit.
In general, there predominated a particular tradition of a “non-military culture” as Lei Haizong 雷海宗 coined this phenomenon in 1930-s [22]. It evolved together with the bureaucratic state in which civil officials and scholars constituted the ruling class. When this state degenerated and collapsed, its culture also inevitably faded away giving room to the new, much more bellicose tendencies, which reached their apex at the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969). Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) had stated that the Chinese are the greatest lovers of peace in the world, hence they avoid bloodshed. This he considered an outstanding quality of the Chinese character [31,part 1, lecture 4; p. 635; 81, p.25]. Today one could often read and hear similar opinions in China, that the Chinese are a peace-loving nation, and that this orientation constitutes the “spirit of the Chinese people” (for instance [40, p. 89]), but these opinions appear to be overly simplistic. The traditional Chinese culture appears to be much more complex. However, as Tu Wei-ming indicates, in general Western cultures remain struggle-oriented, hence their social and political systems can be described as “adversary”, since they are based on adversary relations among corresponding bodies or subjects (such as labour and capital, legislature and government, society and government, etc.). Such systems, first of all, protect right of the individual and ensure free competition in various fields. Since the Confucian cultures of East Asia are harmony-oriented, they are based on group solidarity and confidence in the group or community leaders. One should notice that these leaders, as family fathers, are treated as members of a collective body, not as “outsiders” as it often happens in the West. Tu Wei-ming describes such integrated Chinese groups on which political systems are founded as “fiduciary communities” [83, p. 82-3]. These specific traditions result in various particular forms and dynamics of Chinese social and political organisations, and in particular ways of conflict solving even today.
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37. Wu Rusong, 吳如嵩, Sunzi bingfa cidian 孫子兵法辭典[The Lexicon of the Sunzi Art. of War], Shenyang: Baishan Chubanshe 白山出版社, 1993.
38. Yu Rubo 于汝波, Sunzi bingfa yanjiu 孫子兵法研究 [Studies of the Sunzi’s Art. of War], Beijing: Junshi Kexue Chubanshe 軍事科學出版社, 2001.
39. Yu Yingshi 余英時, Gudai zhishi jiecengde yu xingqi yu fazhan 古代知識階層的興起與發展  [The Evolution and Development of the Intelligentsia Stratum in Ancient China], in his book Shi yu Zhongguo wenhua 士與中國文化 [Shi and Chinese Culture], Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe 上海人民出版社, 1988, pp. 1-83.
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Ст. опубл.: Синологи мира к юбилею Станислава Кучеры. Собрание трудов / Колл. авторов. – М.: Федеральное государственное бюджетное учреждение науки Институт востоковедения Российской академии наук (ИВ РАН),  2013. – 576 стр. – (Ученые записки Отдела Китая ИВ РАН. Вып. 11. / Редколл.: А. Кобзев и др.). С. 427-455.

  1. Институт политических исследований Польской Академии наук.
  2. The term “Strategists” as the best English equivalent for bingjia had been suggested to me by the eminent German sinologist Hans Steininger (1920-1990) in 1983 and [[Нидэм|Joseph Needham
  3. In China it is known as Sunzi 孫子 (The Book of Master Sun) or as Sunzi bingfa 孫子 兵法 usually translated as Sunzi’s Art of War (see, for instance [77, p.145]), since it is the traditional Western name for such military knowledge. However, treating more precisely the Chinese significance it rather should be translated as Master Sun’s Rules/Methods of War. The term bingfa 兵法 in the light of Sunzi treatise should be interpreted as “rules of war” (although “method” sometimes could also be applied), since in the treatise there is used a linguistic construction: fa yue 法 曰 , that is “rules say”, which confirms the definition of fa given therein the first chapter. It should also be mentioned that bing could also mean struggle or to fight.
  4. I presented the concept of two currents in China in 1990, at the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Tzu’s Art. of War in the paper: Sun Wu as a Pioneer of Chinese Praxiology, Philosophy of Struggle and of Science. In 1992 it had been published in Chinese [18]. This concept attracted attention of several Chinese scholars. For instance, it had been adopted as a starting point by the editors of the collective work, which presents the Chinese Strategic works. See: [25, p.1].
  5. Essential Chinese classics are translated in Russian in an excellent way, unfortunately these translations are almost unknown in the West. One could enumerate brilliant translations of Taoist texts by L. D. Pozdniejeva [9], Legalist and Confucian texts by Lieonard S. Pierelomov [7; 8]. Stanislav Kuchera translated in a superb way the Confucian Canonical Book on Filial Piety, unfortunately the work remains not finished yet [5]. One should also mention the monumental translation of Shi ji by R. V. Vyatkin [12]. There are also other valuable Russian translations.
  6. The fundamental strategist classics The Book of Master Sun and the book of Master Wu had been translated in Russian in an insuperable way by N. I. Konrad [3; 4].
  7. For an analysis of the concept of Wen and of Wu see the study: 59, although it is already partially obsolete.
  8. According to the Chinese historians originally Shi 士 (“educated officials”) meant a “martial shi. Probably the “civil shi” have been prepared for the first time at the school of Confucius (551-479 BC). see: [39, p. 6-8; 19]).
  9. This proverb originates from the Book of Master Sun (Sunzi), chapter 3.
  10. The two military treatises of the Martial Canon are attributed to him: Six Quivers (Liu tao 六韜 ) and The Three Strategies (San lüe 三略), actually they are much later.
  11. The text evolved during several centuries, approximately in the 5th-3th centuries BC, although later on it had been enlarged, “cleaned off”, edited and reedited several times, the last time by Cao Cao 曹操 (AD 155-220). Several chapters of the first part could reflect original Sun Wu’s concepts, to whom the treatise is attributed. According to the Chinese tradition he lived in the 6th-5th century BC, but there is no much reliable biographical data about him. His teaching and traditions could initially be preserved and transmitted in his family. For the essential information on the text see: [57; 26, p. 215].
  12. There circulate various translations of their titles. For instance, Ralph D. Sawyer translates them as Wu-tzu and The Methods of the Ssu-ma respectively [77].
  13. Several Chinese scholars had accepted my concept that The Way of Deception could be considered the essence of the School of Strategists and Sunzi in particular. See, for instance, [38, p. 264-266]. Li Ling also presented a similar opinion [27].
  14. Zhuge Liang served as chancellor and strategist in the Shu state during the epoch of the Three Kingdoms. The principal figures of this epoch become so famous owing to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi 三國演義), a medieval romance that fascinated the Chinese until the 20th century. Borys Riftin analyzed in detail the complex history of this romance and its evolution from tales [11]. The most famous Zhuge Liang’s principle is gong xin wei shang 攻心為上 “An attack on [enemy’s] minds is the best”.
  15. I presented the concept of the “Chinese praxiology” for the first time in 1990 at the mentioned above 2nd International Symposium on Sunzi. To author’s satisfaction numerous Chinese scholars adopted it [see, for instance, 37, p. 87-88]. In this way there had been born interest in praxiology in general and in its development in the West, including the fundamental works by the eminent Polish philosopher Tadeusz Kotarbiński (1886-1981). The essence of this concept, and of the diffused use of strategist principles in business, politics and in social life, I outlined in the volume of Joseph Needham’s work Science and Civilisation in China [74, p. 88-92]. The term “praxiology” had been translated into Chinese in the two ways as: xingweixue  行為學 (in the mainland) or xingdongxue  行動學 (in Taiwan). It appears that the second form is proper (see [29, p. 269-272]).
  16. The history of this book is very complex. It had originally been discovered in an old books bookstore in Binzhou, Shaanxi province, and in 1941 reprinted in Chunqing, but in the chaotic war situation it was lost again. In 1962 somebody discovered its war-time copy and submitted it to the Political Institute of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (中國 人民 解放軍政治學院), which in 1962 duplicated it for a restricted circle of readers. Hence it started to circulate in Peking (See a collection of Deng Tuo essays of the early 1960’s: [28, p. 509-12]; see the Russian translation [2a, p. 125-9]). An army general, an old Mao’s friend, intended to publish it as a booklet and asked the Chairman for a precious calligraphic inscription, as it is practiced in Chinese books. It would also grant a political approval in these highly turbulent years, but Mao, who was a great master of stratagems himself, prohibited its publication as an “immoral” art (personal information). Hence it had eventually been published for the first time in 1979, after the death of Mao, by an anonymous author (see [34]). Later on innumerable editions of this work appeared in the mainland and in other Chinese communities and it become one of the greatest bestsellers of the modern epoch (merely Li Bingyan’s edition reached ca. one million copies, see [23]). Later on it had been translated to numerous Western languages (see, for instance, Sun Haichen’s translation in English [80]). Most probably this work had been written in the middle of the 17th century in the circle of secret societies, as a “secret text”. For its analysis and dating see: [17, p. 175-6]).
  17. See: [14, p. 860 (ch. 73); 87, vol. II, p. 569; 6, vol. 2, p. 194]. The Chinese original and the English and Russian translations are quoted here for references, although their translation is usually modified here. For the text of Sunzi treatise see: [36, pp. 15, 216; 41, pp. 105, 162].
  18. See [14, p. 1207 (ch. 73); 87, vol. III, p. 328; 6, vol. II, p. 613]; see also [32, p. 377, 372]. There are two dozens of proverbs with a similar sense.
  19. It is stated two times in slightly different forms. See [14, pp. 71 and 63; 87, vol. I, pp. 90, 100].
  20. See the classical study by Derk Bodde [44]. V. M. Aleksiejev also formulated similar conclusions [1].
  21. See: Wu Zi, (ch. 1): [35, pp. 383-4; 77, p. 208]; Sunzi, (ch. 3): [41, p. 111].
  22. Shmuel N. Eisenstadt elaborated the concept of the Axial Age, dated on the first millennium BC. Until this age all the societies developed in a more or less similar way. Then various civilizations took different shapes and started to follow distinct paths. In this age of the great division, according to him, the great intellectual revolution happened and evolved a particular institutional basis for the new ideology. Moreover, there evolved a new ruling class that cultivated this ideology and served its institutions [54, p. 197]. This concept describes well, as it appears, the evolution of the numerous ancient civilizations, Chinese included. For the detailed analysis of these changes in Ancient China (see [66]).
  23. This text is traditionally attributed to Zi Si 子 思 (483-402 BC), Confucius’ grandson and an eminent philosopher himself. Here Legge’s translation [65, pp. 384-5] is quoted, modified by the author.


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