Warfare in Chinese History

By Hans J. Van Der Ven | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION*

In a collection of papers in Chinese warfare published already more than twenty-five years ago, John Fairbank noted that 'among China's contribution to today's world is a distinctive military record that has been too little studied'.1 Despite some noticeable exceptions, the study of the Chinese military has remained a stepchild in a field in which the history of thought, culture, economic and social developments, and rebellion and revolution has dominated.2 One aim of this collection of articles, resulting from a conference on China's military history held at Cambridge University in December 1997, is simple, namely to add to our knowledge of Chinese warfare.

____________________
1
John Fairbank, 'Introduction', in Frank Kierman and John Fairbank, eds., China's ways in warfare (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), 1.
2
To mention only a few, Mark Lewis, Sanctioned violence in early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990); Hsiao Ch'i-ch'ing, The military establishment of the Yuan dynasty (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978); Philip Kuhn, Rebellion and its enemies in late imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970); Joseph Needham and Robin Yates, 'Military technology' in Needham, eds, Science and civilization in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), vol. 5:6. Other volumes in this series, including the sections on geography in vol. 3 and engineering in vol. 4:3 also contain important information on military affairs; Ray Huang, A year of no significance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981); Iain Johnston, Cultural realism: strategic culture and grand strategy in Chinese history (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); John Langlois, China under Mongol rule (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); Jonathan Lipman and Stevan Harrell, eds., Violence in China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990); Morris Rossabi, Khubilai Khan: his life and times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Frederic Wakeman, The Great Enterprise: the Manchu reconstruction of imperial order in seventeenth century China (California: University of California Press, 1985); Arthur Waldron, The Great Wall of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) and From war to nationalism: China's turning point, 1924–5 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and Karl Wittfogel: History of Chinese society: the Liao (907–1125) (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1949). Many translations of military writings exist, especially the Sunzi's The art of war. Convenient is The seven military classics of China, translated by Ralph Sawyer (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993). Modern Asian Studies vol. 30:4 (1996) is a special issue of this journal dedicated to war in modern China.
*
I am grateful for comments by Christopher Bayly and Mark Lewis, both of Cambridge University, as well as Denis Twitchett, emeritus professor of Chinese history of Princeton University, and Robin Yates of McGill University.

-1-

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