Ancient Chinese Warfare

Ancient Chinese Warfare

by Ralph D. Sawyer

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One of the leading scholars of Chinese military history offers a definitive guide to the ways in which military strategy and technology shaped the face of ancient Chinese civilization.See more details below


One of the leading scholars of Chinese military history offers a definitive guide to the ways in which military strategy and technology shaped the face of ancient Chinese civilization.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sawyer, a leading scholar of Chinese warfare and fellow at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, is best known for his comprehensively edited translations of classical military writings. His latest analytical work is no less significant. It begins in the prehistoric period and continues through the fifth century B.C.E., an era traditionally described as one of stability, almost idyllic compared to the two-century warring states period that followed. Sawyer instead demonstrates through archeological evidence, traditional accounts, and convincing interpretations of inscriptions that conflict in China became increasingly complex, lethal, and decisive during the Hsia and Shang dynasties. Armies became structured forces with bureaucratized logistics. Warrior values were integrated into mainstream cultures. Sawyer's analysis ranges from the evolution of fortification, through the metallurgical innovations behind improved weapons, to the technologies and animal husbandry that enabled the chariots that became ancient China's signature. Warfare, says Sawyer, stimulated innovation, social change, and material progress. It also destroyed the peace and security of communities, then peoples, absorbed into ever-larger political systems sustained by force. Ancient China, shaped by its wars, was firmly set on "a trajectory of state building and aggressive activity." Illus. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This in-depth book by an independent scholar of Chinese history is assembled from archaeological and historical materials covering the early years in China's history up to the Spring and Autumn periods (i.e., fifth century B.C.E.). Sawyer presents his subject chronologically at first, then thematically (e.g., "The Horse in China"). While the book is densely descriptive, readers will notice the lack of maps, time lines, sufficient images, fully detailed endnotes, and a full bibliography. In his introduction, Sawyer refers explicitly to these circumstances, attributing them partly to cost savings and partly to his opinion that the Internet would provide sufficient maps, etc. VERDICT The absence of sufficient editorial and graphic apparatus is all the more frustrating in this complex, fascinating book. Still, readers with a serious interest in early Chinese history and/or warfare will appreciate Sawyer's work. Recommended for scholars of Chinese and Chinese history.—Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
From the Publisher

P. H. Liotta, author of The Real Population Bomb: Megacities and Global Security
“After decades of intense and dedicated scholarship, Ralph Sawyer has produced an astonishing volume. His linguistic and strategic skills—his fierce genius—are everywhere in evidence. Sawyer is a master, and Ancient Chinese Warfare is his masterpiece.”

Ralph Peters, retired Military Intelligence officer and author of The War After Armageddon
Ancient Chinese Warfare is, paradoxically, a crucial book for the 21st century. As the ‘new’ China aspires to global power, understanding the foundations of this civilization’s way of war helps us grasp Beijing’s present psychology and behavior. The Chinese take a very long view of history, and we need to learn to do so. To that end, the brilliant work of Ralph D. Sawyer has long proven unrivalled...and this book is his masterpiece. No work better illustrates the deep (and gnarled) roots of China’s contemporary ambitions.”

Nicola Di Cosmo, Henry Luce Foundation Professor of East Asian History at the Institute for Advanced Study
Ancient Chinese Warfare is an important, informative, and exciting book. Written with panache, brimming with new ideas, and based on a level of knowledge that would challenge any expert, Sawyer’s work has transformed single-handedly our understanding of ancient Chinese military history. Readers will find in this book a solidly informed and vivid account of China’s ways of warfare from the Shang dynasty to the mid-first millennium BC. Only few of them will appreciate the massive effort of synthesis and analysis that this book represents, and it is to Sawyer’s credit that he has succeeded in bringing an extremely difficult topic to a level that everyone can understand, learn from, and enjoy.”

Edward N. Luttwak, author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire
“Not unexpectedly, this book enhances Ralph D. Sawyer’s reputation as the premier interpreter of Chinese strategy and warfare. The surprise is that with the aid of a flowing style he has written a highly readable, indeed very enjoyable book on a seemingly abstruse subject. In a manner fascinating in itself, Sawyer brilliantly reconstructs the fragmentary archaeological evidence.”

Library Journal
“[A] complex, fascinating book.... [R]eaders with a serious interest in Chinese history and/or warfare will appreciate Sawyer’s work.”

Michigan War Studies Review “[Ancient Chinese Warfare] marks a major advance in the state of our knowledge, a rich repository to be mined not only by historians of China but also world historians, scholars of comparative military history, and students of the origins of war and the state. Its impact will be substantial, far-reaching, and unsuperseded for many years to come.”

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Product Details

Basic Books
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Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.64(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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