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Chinese Literature
Huqianjing 虎鈐經 "The Classic of the Tiger Seal"


The Huqianjing 虎鈐經 "The Classic of the tiger seal" is a military treatise written by the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) scholar Xu Dong 許洞. The book was finished in 1004. It is 20 juan "scrolls" long and includes 210 chapters, each of which deals with a distinct topic.
The Huqianjing has the concept that in war three realms play an important part, firstly, the realm of man who plans war and battle, secondly, the earth, which provides formidable territory to wage war on, and thirdly, the realm of Heaven, which is involved into war in the shape of the weather, as well as by the influence of stars and deities. Divination thus plays an certain part in warfare, according to the Huqianjing.
A general must be able to observe the enemy and to use the own troops in a way that the enemy is not able to find out what the own troops are planning to do. In a metaphysical way Xu Dong explains that a general must always be able to identify chances (ji 吉 "luck") in dangers (xiong 凶 "inauspicious situations") and to see when danger is hidden in apparently advantageous situations. The movements of the troops have to be adapted to such changes in luck. A very important foundation for victory is the supply of sufficient food and excellent weapons, in other words, a functioning logistics system. Xu Dong lists the most important points in a series of conditions: The precondition of a establishing an army is a content people, the precondition of all tactics is caring for sufficient food, the precondition of deploying an army is to make us of advantageous territory, the precondition for victory is to harmonize the troops, the precondition of successful defense is a sufficient stock of supplies, the precondition of a strong army is the justified application of reward and punishment. A wise general seizes all opportunities (duoshi 奪恃), like weather, geographical obstacles, or the army's mood of fighting. He has to establish feigned heart of the army to lure the enemy into attack (xi xu 襲虛). And he has to use the own strengths after a victorious battle to pursue the enemy, to trap him and to annihilate him. It is, warns Xu Dong, not always good to apply traditional methods, but a general has to be flexible and must adapt his tactics to the actual conditions.
The oldest surviving print dates from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). It was the source for the edition in the collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書.


Source: Feng Dongli 馮東禮 (1989). "Huqianjing 虎鈐經", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Junshi 軍事, vol. 1, p. 386. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

November 19, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail