The Art of War (Sun)/Bibliography

Bibliography.

The following are the oldest Chinese treatises on war, after Sun Tzŭ. The notes on each have been drawn principally from the 四庫全書簡明目錄 Ssŭ k‘u ch‘üan shu chien ming mu lu, ch. 9, fol. 22 sqq.

1. 吳子 Wu Tzŭ, in 1 chüan or 6 chapters. By 吳起 Wu Ch‘i (d. BC. 381). A genuine work. See Shih Chi, ch. 65.

2. 司馬法 Ssŭ-ma Fa, in 1 chüan or 5 chapters. Wrongly attributed to 司馬穰苴 Ssŭ-ma Jang-chü of the 6th century BC. Its date, however, must be early, as the customs of the three ancient dynasties are constantly to be met with in its pages.[1] See Shih Chi, ch. 64.

The Ssŭ K‘u Ch‘üan Shu (ch. 99, f. 1) remarks that the oldest three treatises on war, Sun Tzŭ, Wu Tzŭ and the Ssŭ-ma Fa, are, generally speaking, only concerned with things strictly military — the art of producing, collecting, training and drilling troops, and the correct theory with regard to measures of expediency, laying plans, transport of goods and the handling of soldiers[2] — in strong contrast to later works, in which the science of war is usually blended with metaphysics, divination and magical arts in general.

3. 六韜 Liu T‘ao, in 6 chüan or 60 chapters. Attributed to 呂望 Lü Wang (or Lü Shang, also known as 太公 T‘ai Kung) of the 12th century B.C.[3] But its style does not belong to the era of the Three Dynasties.[4] 陸德明 Lu Tê-ming (550-625 A.D.) mentions the work, and enumerates the headings of the six sections, , , , , and , so that the forgery cannot have been later than the Sui dynasty.

4. 尉繚子 Wei Liao Tzŭ, in 5 chüan. Attributed to Wei Liao (4th cent. B.C.), who studied under the famous 鬼谷子 Kuei-ku Tzŭ. The 漢志, under 兵家, mentions a book of Wei Liao in 31 chapters, whereas the text we possess contains only 24. Its matter is sound enough in the main, though the strategical devices differ considerably from those of the Warring States period.[5] It has been furnished with a commentary by the well-known Sung philosopher 張載 Chang Tsai.

5. 三略 San Lüeh, in 3 chüan. Attributed to 黃石公 Huang-shih Kung, a legendary personage who is said to have bestowed it on Chang Liang (d. B.C. 187) in an interview on a bridge.[6] But here again, the style is not that of works dating from the Ch‘in or Han period. The Han Emperor Kuang Wu [A.D. 25—57] apparently quotes from it in one of his proclamations; but the passage in question may have been inserted later on, in order to prove the genuineness of the work. We shall not be far out if we refer it to the Northern Sung period [420—478 A.D.], or somewhat earlier.[7]

6. 李衛公問對 Li Wei Kung Wên Tui, in 3 sections. Written in the form of a dialogue between T‘ai Tsung and his great general 李靖 Li Ching, it is usually ascribed to the latter. Competent authorities consider it a forgery, though the author was evidently well versed in the art of war.[8]

7. 李靖兵法 Li Ching Ping Fa (not to be confounded with the foregoing) is a short treatise in 8 chapters, preserved in the T‘ung Tien, but not published separately. This fact explains its omission from the Ssŭ K‘u Ch‘üan Shu.

8. 握奇經 Wu Ch‘i Ching,[9] in 1 chüan. Attributed to the legendary minister 風后 Fêng Hou, with exegetical notes by 公孫宏 Kung-sun Hung of the Han dynasty (d. B.C. 121), and said to have been eulogised by the celebrated general 馬隆 Ma Lung (d. A.D. 300). Yet the earliest mention of it is in the 宋志. Although a forgery, the work is well put together.[10]

Considering the high popular estimation in which 諸葛亮 Chu-ko Liang has always been held, it is not surprising to find more than one work on war ascribed to his pen. Such are (1) the 十六策 Shih Liu Ts‘ê (1 chüan), preserved in the 永樂大典 Yang Lo Ta Tien; (2) 將苑 Chiang Yüan (1 ch.); and (3) 心書 Hsin Shu (1 ch.), which steals wholesale from Sun Tzu. None of these has the slightest claim to be considered genuine.

Most of the large Chinese encyclopaedias contain extensive sections devoted to the literature of war. The following references may be found useful: —

通典 T‘ung Tien (circâ 800 A.D.), ch. 148-162.

太平御覽 T‘ai P‘ing Yü Lan (983), ch. 270-359.

文獻通考 Wên Hsien T‘ung K‘ao (13th cent.), ch. 221.

玉海 Yü Hai (13th cent.), ch. 140, 141.

三才圖會 San Ts‘ai T‘u Hui (16th cent.), 人事 ch. 7, 8.

廣博物志 Kuang Po Wu Chih (1607), ch. 31, 32.

潛確類書 Ch‘ien Ch‘io Lei Shu (1632), ch. 75.

淵鑑類函 Yüan Chien Lei Han (1710), ch. 206-229.

古今圖書集成 Ku Chin T‘u Shu Chi Ch‘êng (1726), section XXX, esp. ch. 81-90.

續文獻通考 Hsü Wên Hsien T‘ung K‘ao (1784), ch. 121-134.

皇朝經世文編 Huang Ch‘ao Ching Shih Wên Pien (1826), ch. 76, 77.

The bibliographical sections of certain historical works also deserve mention: —

前漢書 Ch‘ien Han Shu, ch. 30.

隋書 Sui Shu, ch. 32-35.

舊唐書 Chiu T‘ang Shu, ch. 46, 47.

新唐書 Hsin T‘ang Shu, ch. 57-60.

宋史 Sung Shih, ch. 202-209.

通志 T‘ung Chih (circâ 1150), ch. 68.

To these of course must be added the great Catalogue of the Imperial Library: —

四庫全書總目提要 Ssŭ K‘u Ch‘üan Shu Tsung Mu T‘i Yao (1790), ch. 99, 100.


  1. 其時去古未遠三代遺規往往於此書見之.
  2. 其最古者當以孫子吳子司馬法爲本大抵生聚訓練之術權謀運用之宜而已.
  3. See p. 174. Further details on T‘ai Kung will be found in the Shih Chi, ch. 32 ad init. Besides the tradition which makes him a former minister of Chou Hsin, two other accounts of him are there given, according to which he would appear to have been first raised from a humble private station by Wên Wang.
  4. 其文義不類三代.
  5. 其言多近於正與戰國權謀頗殊.
  6. See Han Shu, 張良傳, ch. 40. The work is there called 太公兵法. Hence it has been confused with the Liue T‘ao and the San Lüeh to T‘ai Kung.
  7. 其文不類秦漢間書漢光武帝詔雖嘗引之安知非反摭詔中所引二語以證實其書謂之北宋以前舊本則可矣. Another work said to have been written by Huang-shih Kung, and also included in the military section of the Imperial Catalogue, is the 素書 Su Shu in 1 chüan. A short ethical treatise of Taoist savour, having no reference whatever to war, it is pronounced a forgery from the hand of 張商英 Chang Shang-ying (d. 1121), who edited it with commentary. Correct Wylie’s “Notes,” new edition, p. 90, and Courant’s “Catalogue des Livres Chinois,” no. 5056.
  8. 其書雖僞亦出於有學識謀略者之手也. We are told in the 讀書志 that the above six works, together with Sun Tzu, were those prescribed for military training in the 元豐 period (1078—85). See Yü Hai, ch. 140, f. 4 ro
  9. Also written 握機經 and 幄機經 Wu Chi Ching.
  10. 其言具有條理.