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

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Overview

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, ...

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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Victor H. Mair

The Dao of the Military makes a welcome addition to the growing literature on early Chinese strategy. The translation is exacting and felicitous. It should serve well for those interested in the history of Chinese thought and Chinese military thought.

Journal of Military History - David A. Graff

With its highly competent translation and penetrating analysis, this volume will be a valuable antidote to the widespread misapprehension that Sunzi's Art of War and Chinese military thought are essentially coterminous.

Monumenta Serica - Kai Filipiak

A valuable contribution to the field of Chinese military history.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Andrew Seth Meyer is associate professor of history at Brooklyn College. With John S. Major, Sarah A. Queen, and Harold D. Roth, he is the cotranslator and coeditor of The Huainanzi and The Essential Huainanzi.

John S. Major taught East Asian history at Dartmouth College from 1971 to 1984. Since then, as an independent scholar, writer, editor, and lecturer, he has published many scholarly and general-interest books on Asia.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by John S. MajorA Note on the TranslationIntroductionAn Overview of the MilitaryBibliographyIndex

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Besides being a great professor, Meyer's is a superb writer. Hi

    Besides being a great professor, Meyer's is a superb writer. His book is easy to understand and a great read, especially if you're interested but don't especially have a handle on the subject. After reading the book you will walk away grasping the topic in a way no other writer could do.

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