Liu An's Art of War
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 BCE, 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.
"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." — Victor H. Mair, University of Pennsylvania
"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." — David A. Graff, Journal of Military History
"A valuable contribution to the field of Chinese military history." — Kai Filipiak, Monumenta Serica
"The Dao of the Military summarizes and reflects on many aspects of the theory and practice of warfare developed in the Warring States period. It incorporates much of the theorizing of several traditions of military thought not well represented in the Seven Military Classics, and it is an important and valuable treatise that enriches our understanding of the history of Chinese military theory, the military tradition, Chinese intellectual history, and early China studies." — Robin D. S. Yates, McGill University
"The Dao of the Military is a valuable addition to the body of early China's military texts available in English. Meyer's learned introduction and admirably readable translation provide new and fascinating insights into the intellectual world and the military thinking of ancient Chinese philosophers. It is an essential read for everyone interested in how the Chinese tradition has understood warfare." — Nicola Di Cosmo, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Foreword, by John S. Major
A Note on the Translation
An Overview of the Military