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Seven Military Classics of Ancient China

   The Warring States period witnessed unmatched innovation in warfare, the emergence of new political and philosophical ideas, and rapid escalation in large scale, infantry based clashes. Confronted with the nearly insurmountable task of commanding vast forces, resolving logistical and deployment problems, and maintaining spirit (ch’i) among their troops, commanders were compelled to contemplate the nature of military activities, thereby creating China’s military science. Six Warring States texts supplemented by the Questions and Replies -- a late T’ang dynasty work that essentially constitutes a reflective overview -- preserving their concepts, tactical principles, operational guidelines, and world view comprise the Seven Military Classics: T’ai Kung Liu-t’ao (Six Secret Teachings), Ssu-ma Fa, Sun-tzu Ping-fa (Art of War), Wu-tzu, Wei Liao-tzu, and Huang Shih-kung San-lueh (Three Strategies).

   Widely ranging and remarkably heterogeneous, their combined contents span the range from simple tactical principles through complex methods of organization and encompass extensive materials on command and control, campaigning, psychological operations and disinformation, maneuver, strategic power, intelligence, manipulating the enemy, deception, regulation and constraint, evaluating the enemy, mustering martial ch’i, and the very nature of warfare itself. Compiled at imperial behest in the mid eleventh century to preserve and disseminate martial knowledge when the Sung was confronted by almost insurmountable threats from beyond the steppe-sedentary demarcation, the seven classic writings were designated as essential materials for the imperial military examinations and thus disproportionately affected subsequent military thought. (Although the Art of War remains the only book known in the West, the Wu-tzu and Six Secret Teachings proved to be highly important sources for military wisdom over the centuries, and the latter continues to be held in higher esteem among contemporary PRC military professionals.)

   "It should be read by anyone interested in Chinese military thought." Asian Thought and Society

   "Not only do these works have much to instruct us about Asian strategic thought, they remind readers of the importance of the cultural dimensions of strategy". Foreign Affairs