Warfare in Chinese History

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

DEFENDING CHINA:
THE BATTLES OF THE XUZHOU CAMPAIGN
DIANA LARY

Tianxia dashi fen jiu bi he he jiu bi fen

In the great scheme of the universe What has long been divided must unite What has long been united must divide

This ancient statement of historical inevitability comes from the opening chapter of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (San Guo Yanyi),1 a saga of the internecine fighting of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 222–280) which followed the fall of the Han Dynasty. The saying is one of the most famous of Chinese sayings, one which is known to any Chinese with even a modicum of education. It carries a sense of doom; disunity and division in the universe (in the context of the time, China) is inevitable, dynasties will fall and chaos will reign. But doom is balanced by hope: disunity will inevitably give way to unity, the state the Chinese people yearn for. This struggle to keep China united, to repel invaders and to suppress internal turbulence is the leitmotif of China's political world.

The unity or disunity of ancient China was inextricably linked with the military world. The military was the force which delivered unity or disunity—and in the process determined the integrity of China. The military created the empire. Qin Shihuang's forces started the process with the foundation of the Empire, and later armies, such as that of Qianlong at the apex of the Qing Dynasty (mid-18th century) expanded it and pushed its frontiers outwards.2 The military also brought down dynasties; the New Army played a key role in the

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1
Lo Guanzhong, The romance of the three kingdoms (Tuttle: Rutland, 1959) translated by C.H. Brewitt Taylor.
2
See Peter Perdue, ' Culture, history and imperial Chinese strategy: legacies of Qing conquests ', in this volume.

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