Ancient Chinese Warfare
Although not generally recognized, the history of China is essentially a history of warfare. Contrary to widely accepted myths about peace, tranquility, and the irresistible attraction of Virtue, twenty-five dynastic changes and numerous millenarian revolts decimated the populace, shattered the infrastructure, and brought chaos to the state. Clashes with aggressive external peoples were frequent and brutal; lengthy periods of fragmentation witnessed intense, often unremitting internecine fighting; two decades rarely passed without large scale conflict. Even the mythical Sage Emperors presided over centuries of gradually intensifying warfare, however limited in scope and initially “primitive” in technique.
Proceeding in two streams, the text and a collateral expansion of general points of military history and matters of purely Sinological import in the end notes, Ancient Chinese Warfare provides the first comprehensive examination in any language of the initiation, early evolution, and eventual maturation of conflict in China, as well as its role in the rise of the first great dynasties. An original analysis and synthesis of materials usually confined to the mutually exclusive realms of textual history, mythology, and archaeology, it is equally founded upon the systematic examination of thousands of Shang dynasty oracular inscriptions that record queries about military activities and indirectly provide basic data on force composition, organization, battlefield results, tactics, and other essential aspects.
Narrative and reconstructions describe the pivotal battles that underpinned the rise and fall of powerful cultural groups; extensive analysis is provided of the growth and technology of the Neolithic defensive systems that culminated in China’s walled cities and eventually its vaunted Great Wall millennia later; and the archaeological basis of legendary battles is scrutinized. A separate section examines the nature, evolution, and composition of the key traditional weapons; their mode of employment and proliferation; and the development of metallurgy and its impact. Four chapters are devoted to analyzing the chariot’s introduction, characteristics, and tactical exploitation. Topographic and geostrategic limitations and implications are fully explored and additional insights provided within the context of China’s indigenous, though subsequent, military writings, including Sun-tzu’s infamous Art of War.