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The Dao of the Military

The Dao of the Military: Liu An's Art of War

Translated, with an Introduction, by Andrew Seth Meyer
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The Dao of the Military
    Book Description:

    Master Sun's The Art of War is by no means the only ancient Chinese treatise on military affairs. One chapter in the Huainanzi, an important compendium of philosophy and political theory written in the second century B.C.E., synthesizes the entire corpus of military literature inherited from the Chinese classical era. Drawing on all major, existing military writings, as well as other lost sources, it assesses tactics and strategy, logistics, organization, and political economy, as well as cosmology and the fundamental morality of warfare.

    This powerful work set out to become the last word on military matters, subsuming and replacing all preceding literature. Written under the sponsorship of Liu An, king of Huainan, the Huainanzi's "military methods" emphasize the preservation of peace as the ultimate value to be served by the military, insisting that the army can be effectively and rightly used only when defending the sacred hereditary position of the emperor and his vassals. This position stands in stark contrast to that of The Art of War, which prioritizes the enrichment and empowerment of the state. Liu An's philosophy also argues that military success depends on the personal cultivation of the commander and that deception is not enough to secure victory. Only a commander with the exceptional qualities of insight and cognition, developed through a program of meditative practice and yogic refinement, can effectively control and interpret the strategic situation. Andrew Seth Meyer offers both a full translation of this text and an extensive analysis of its historical context. His thorough treatment relates Liu An's teachings to issues in Chinese philosophy, culture, religion, and history, helping to interpret their uncommon message.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52688-3
    Subjects: Religion, History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    John S. Major

    When an ancient Chinese military theorist wrote the classic Military Methods of Master Sun (popularly known in English as The Art of War), he could have had no idea that his book would still be famous nearly twenty-five hundred years in the future, consulted as a guide to strategy not only on the battlefield but also in adversarial situations of all kinds. Master Sun’s famously cryptic aphorisms, such as “When you assemble your army and formulate strategy, you must be inscrutable,” have inspired thousands of participants in management seminars around the globe. Many people today who know nothing else about...

    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. 1-88)

    In 139 B.C.E., Liu An (179?–122 B.C.E.),¹ king of Huainan,² presented a text to Emperor Wu (r. 141–87 B.C.E.) of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.), his recently crowned cousin. It had been composed by a group of client scholars under Liu An’s direction and was known by the eponym of its patron as the Huainanzi (Master of Huainan). This Huainanzi was unlike any text ever seen before. Divided into twenty-one sections, it covered a vast array of topics, ranging from astronomy and geography to logic and rhetoric, state organization, ritual observance, and beyond. It was not...

    (pp. 89-140)

    In antiquity, those who used the military did not value expanding territory or covet the possession of gold and jade. They sought to sustain those who [were] perishing, revive those [lineages] that had been cut off,¹ pacify the chaos of the world, and eliminate harm to the myriad people.

    All beasts that have blood and qi

    are equipped with teeth and horns.

    They have claws in front and paws behind.

    Those with horns gore;

    those with teeth bite;

    those with poison sting;

    those with hooves kick.

    When they are happy, they play with one another;

    when they are angry they...

    (pp. 141-146)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 147-158)