Military and Intelligence History in China
The history of China is a history of warfare. Rarely in its vaunted three thousand year existence was the realm not beset by war, wracked by millenarian rebellions, troubled by cataclysmic upheavals, or plagued by nearby nomadic peoples who swept in from the steppe to raid, plunder, and massacre. The state periodically embarked on external forays, occasionally so extensive and massive that the central government collapsed and dynasties were overturned. Regional conflicts frequently fractured the tenuous facade of geopolitical unity and the heartland endured several centuries of alien domination and sometime occupation. Yet the persistent image, one consciously manifest even today, has been almost solely that of a pacifically oriented, great civilization unified by enlightened imperial rule and administered by a benign, if overarching, bureaucracy. However, even Ssu-ma Kuang’s great synthetic history, the Tzu-chih T’ung-chien, which encompasses some fifteen hundred years from the Warring States through the T’ang, devotes at least thirty percent of its nearly ten thousand pages to describing clashes and depicting conflict.
Warfare in China was generally massive, prolonged, and guided by rather different tactical principles and concepts than enunciated in Europe. Moreover, contrary to the Western predilection to assume theoretical pronouncements reflect actual practice, a wide dichotomy normally existed between abstract contemplation and real events. (For example, despite hundreds of sieges having destroyed major cities and entire local populations -- not to mention enemy armies, including many that had surrendered -- having been annihilated, Western writers inexplicably continue to proclaim that sieges and urban assaults were proscribed; commanders always fought with a view to preserving the enemy; tactics were based solely on deception; and most egregious of all, that China lacks a martial culture, the civil being esteemed and all aspects of the military disparaged.)
The reality of Chinese warfare -- its history, theory, values, practices, wars, battles, commanders, successes and failures -- forms the focus of our works. Intended for a broad range of readers rather than just Sinologists, including military historians, contemporary strategists, analysts, and all those engaged in the equally hostile, albeit normally less lethal commercial realm, they are based on extensive textual and archaeological scholarship while being strongly oriented to technological and command developments.
Except as noted, all translations include lengthy introductions that not only discuss the book and its contents, but set them within the historical context, emphasizing martial concepts and practices while identifying the era’s main figures and influences. Expansive chapter commentaries and widely ranging footnotes on diverse matters of interest to military historians, strategists, and Sinologists are normally provided. All works are a collaborative effort with Mei-chün Lee Sawyer whose efforts are directed to identifying materials of interest, reading in secondary sources, and reviewing the overall contents.