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Zhou Period Military

Oct 3, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

Military organisation

Western Zhou period

Transmitted and archaeological sources prove the existence of six "western" royal divisions (liushi 六師, xi liushi 西六師; 師 also written 𠂤), yet there is also word of the "eight divisions of [the region of] Yin", i.e. Shang (Yin bashi 殷八師) and the eight divisions of Chengzhou (Chengzhou bashi 成周八師) in the east. One interpretation of these units is that one of them was garrisoned in the last residence of Yin, which was located on the territory of the regional state of Wei 衛, and the other eight divisions in the eastern capital Chengzhou (today's Luoyang 洛陽, Henan). Another interpretation sees the Yin and Chengzhou divisions as the same units. This means that the kings of Zhou either commanded 14 divisions, or 22 (He 1987: 20; Yang 1994: 77-78; Wang & Yang 1996: 362).

Even if the highest command over these troops was in the hands of the king, the military orders were executed by other leaders, for instance, the Duke of Shao 召公 in case of the western, and the Duke of Zhou 周公 in that of the eastern divisions. Estimations about the size of one shi 師 range between 3,000 ("regiment"; He 1987: 21) and 10,000 men ("division"; Yang 1994: 78). In contrast to the Shang, this seems to have been an army of considerably size, and was a measure to strengthen the power of the central government over the regional rulers (zhuhou 諸侯). This system is explained in the historiographical book Guoyu 國語 (ch. Luyu 魯語 B):
Quotation 1. Divisions of the king and the regional rulers according to Guoyu 國語
天子作師,公帥之以征不德。 The Son of Heaven raises regiments, and a Duke commands them in order to punish the immoral ones.
元侯作師,卿帥之以承天子。 The greater among the regional rulers raise regiments, and ministers command them in order to support the Son of Heaven.
諸侯有卿無軍,帥教衛以贊元侯。 The [average] regional rulers have ministers, but no armies; [instead] they command highly trained guard units in order to assist the greater regional rulers.
自伯、子、男有大夫無卿,帥賦以從諸侯。 As the lesser regional rulers have grand masters, but no ministers, they command conscripts in order to support the other regional rulers.
是以上能征下,下無姦慝。 For this reason, those in the higher ranks can charge those below, and those below may not do evil!

From this statement it can be learnt that "ministers" (qing 卿) were not just civilian, but also military commanders in the regional states. The ministers-commander of the greater regional rulers (what was later called the "hegemonial lords") were directly appointed by the king, as can be learnt from the ritual Classic Liji 禮記 (ch. Wangzhi 王制). Concerning the size of regional armies, the sources deviate from each other. The Luyu chapter of the Guoyu says that greater regional rulers had armies of three divisions (jun 軍), while the Classic Zhuozhuan 左傳 (Yingong 隱公 5) holds that the mightier among the regional rulers (fangbo 方伯) had two divisions (shi 師). In practice, it might have been that regional states had the right to deploy between one and three divisions. The problem with such statements from the Eastern Zhou period 東周 (770-221 BCE) is that the unit jun 軍 was unknown in the early Western Zhou 西周 (11th cent.-770 BCE) (Yang 1994: 80). The smallest units were squads of ten (shi 什) commanded by squad commanders (shizhang 什長). Companies (baifu 百夫) were commanded by company commanders (baifuzhang 百夫長), and regiments of 1,000 men (qianfu 千夫) by regimental commanders (qianfuzhang 千夫長).

It seems that the less powerful regional rulers did not have own armies, but just guard units (wei 衛) which were used to support the mightier regional rulers in case of need. The smaller regional states did perhaps not even dispose of guard units, but had to fall back on conscripts (fu 賦) drafted when a conflict arose. The smaller lords created auxiliary troops to support the mightier lords, and even the mightier among the regional rulers only had the right to assist the Son of Heaven, and not the right to wage war on their own behalf. Smaller contingents for local defence were apparently existing in the regional states, but they stood nominally under the command of the king (He 1987: 21).

The king was protected by between 800 (Wang & Yang 1996: 362) and 3,000 (Yang 1994: 94) guardsmen (hubenshi 虎賁氏, hushi 虎士 "brave as tigers"), both at home or during inspection tours. The guardsmen of the regional rulers were called lüben 旅賁.

The use of armies within the Zhou empire was mainly to "punish" disobedient lords or tribes. The army command was entrusted to a regional lord by handing him over bow and arrow (gong shi 弓矢) or a ceremonial axe (fu yue 斧鉞). This can be learnt from the Liji (ch. Wangzhi) and the inscription of the Guo Jizi Bai pan 虢季子白盤 plate.

Central command was nominally with the king, but he was supported by the Minister of War (da sima 大司馬), literally "grand commander of mounts". This office is first mentioned in the Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents" (ch. Mushi 牧誓). It might have been derived from the Shang petty office of maya 馬亞 or maxiaochen 馬小臣 (see Shang military), but represented a much more important position than those. The office is also mentioned in several bronze inscriptions, where the sima is described as practically the "right hand" of the king. This impression is confirmed by the respective paragraph in the ritual Classic Zhouli 周禮 (part Xiaguan 夏官, ch. Da sima 大司馬), where the manifold duties of the Minister of War are described:

The Minister of War established the nine methods to consolidate the state (jian bangguo zhi fa 建邦國之九法) in order to support the king in checking the local rulers. The nine methods were determining the royal domain and fixing the borders of the regional states (zhi ji fen guo 制畿封國), establishing rules of etiquette and making distinct the ranks of nobility (she yi bian wei 設儀辨位), promoting competent men and elevating such of merits (jin xian xing gong 進賢興功), creating pastures and appointing inspectors (jian mu li jian 建牧立監), organizing a military corps and checking military prescriptions (zhi jun jie jin 制軍詰禁), fixing the obligation to deliver tributes and charging the officials with their duties (shi gong fen zhi 施貢分職), listing and counting the population in each township (jian ji xiang min 簡稽鄉民), equalizing the defence and balancing the statutes (jun shou ping ze 均守平則), and approaching the small ones and serving the great (bi xiao shi da 比小事大). These duties show how much the Zhou kings were able to penetrate the sovereignty of the regional states. The regional rulers were no more than governors, and not rulers in their own right. The Minister of War was thus responsible for administering the armies and their equipment, recruitment, training and tactics, and dispensed military justice. In some instances, the Minister of War also commanded the armies of regional states (Yang 1994: 83).

Apart from the Minister of War, there were also commanders (sima 司馬) on lesser levels, like mounted commanders (jun sima 軍司馬), chariot commanders (yu sima 衘司馬), mounted commanders on campaign (xing sima 行司馬), military administrators of royal divisions (bangjun sima 邦君司馬, guo sima 國司馬), military administrators of regional states (jia sima 家司馬, sizheng 司正), or du sima 都司馬 as administrators on a low level (Yang 1994: 86).

During battles, the highest command might be carried out by the Grand Commander (taishi 太師, the Duke of Zhou) or the Grand Guardian (taibao 太保, the Duke of Shao; see Three Dukes), the highest members of the central government, or second-rank persons like the Minister of Education (situ 司徒), the Minister of War (sima), or the Minister of Works (sikong 司空) (Wang & Yang 1996: 360, see six ministries).

During the reign of King Li 周厲王 (r. 878-841 BCE), the dynasty was threatened by two enemies, namely the Xianyun 玁狁 tribes in the west, and the Huaiyi 淮夷 tribes in the southeast. King Li therefore carried out reform in the military system by increasing troop strength and altering the composition of units. The unit jun was introduced which corresponded to 12,500 troops. The king had at his disposal six of these new, larger units. The unit shi was made a subunit of jun and reduced to 1,500 troops.

Table 1. Military units of the late Western Zhou
unit size commander rank
division (jun 軍) 12,500 da sima 大司馬 ? minister-commander (qing 卿)
regiment (shi 師) 1,500 shishuai 師帥 ordinary grand master (zhong dafu 中大夫)
battalion ( 旅) 500 lüshuai 旅帥 junior grand master (xia dafu 下大夫)
company (zu 卒) 100 zuzhang 卒長 senior serviceman (shangshi 上士)
platoon (liang 兩) 25 liang sima 兩司馬 ordinary serviceman (zhongshi 中士)
squad (wu 伍) 5 wuzhang 伍長 junior serviceman (xiashi 下士)

The whole military system thus followed a pentadic system (steps and multiples of five) instead of the former decimal system. Regiments and battalions were arranged in left, mid, and right wings.

Western Zhou armies consisted of two branches of service, namely chariot units, and infantry. The number of chariots used in conflicts is unknown. The battle of Muye 牧野 before the foundation of the Zhou dynasty was allegedly fought with 300 chariots, while after King Li's reform, armies were encompassing 3,000 chariots (Yang 1994: 89).

Shang commanders had to operate with chariots and infantry separately, but the Zhou began to merge these two types of forces to a unit called sheng 乘 which included one chariot and 30 infantrymen. Ten of them were armoured (jiashi 甲士), namely three ready to use the chariot, and seven walking. Of the whole group, 5 men did not fight, but cared for the train and prepared food and fodder. The group was commanded by the chief charioteer (He 1987: 21). Five chariots made a squad (dui 隊), 10 a platoon (guan 官), 25 a company (zhengpian 正偏), 50 a battalion (zu 卒), 100 a regiment (shi), and 500 chariots a division (jun). In the late Western Zhou period, each chariot was accompanied by ten heavy infantrymen (jiashi) protected by cuirasses or corselets as well as twenty light infantrymen (tubing 徒兵).

Spring and Autumn period

With the flight of the royal house of Zhou to the east their military and political potential had diminished drastically. The number of troops protecting the eastern capital Chengzhou (Luoyang, Henan) shrank in comparison with the Western Zhou period. The name "six armies" (liujun) was still used, but an incident in 707 BCE, when King Huan of Zhou 周桓王 (r. 720-697) fought against Duke Zhuang 鄭莊公 (r. 743-701) of Zheng 鄭 shows that the house of Zhou was powerless. Even with the military support of the states of Cai 蔡, Wei 衛, and Chen 陳, the royal army lost the battle of Xuge 繻葛 (today's Changge 長葛, Henan).

While the forces of the royal house shrank, those of the regional states increased. The most powerful state of the early Spring and Autumn period was Jin 晉. In 661, Duke Xian of Jin 晉獻公 (r. 677-651) doubled his armed forces to build the upper and lower division (shangjun 上軍, xiajun 下軍). Duke Wen 晉文公 (r. 637-628), who took over the role of lord-protector or hegemonial lord (ba 霸), created in 633 a third division (zhongjun 中軍), and then enlarged his army to five divisions in 629, adding two "new" divisions (shang xinjun 上新軍, xia xinjun 下新軍). Command was taken over by grand masters (dafu), heads of noble houses in the state of Jin. Several of these high dignitaries died in the late 620s, so the Duke decided to dissolve two divisions and reorganized the three remaining. In 588, Jin created six armies, which were ten years later reorganized to four divisions. In 560, the command of the fourth division was unified with that of the "lower" division, but four divisions continued to exist.

In the state of Qi 齊, the reorganization of the military was combined with a restructuring of the local administration. The state was defended by three divisions. The state of Lu 魯, still a powerful polity in the early Spring and Autumn period, had 30,000 men under arms (Wang & Yang 1996: 438). They were distributed over three divisions, each of which commanded by one of the Three Huan houses 三桓. In 577, two divisions were merged, and the house of Jisun 季孫 commanded one, while the houses of Mengsun 孟孫 and Shusun 叔孫 shared one division.

Divisions were ranked. The "upper" was usually the superior one out of two, the "central" one that out of three or more divisions. The state of Chu 楚 knew left and right divisions, the left one being the superior unit.

Concerning the number of troops, Qi and Lu were 30,000 strong. During the interstate meeting of Huangchi 黃池 (Fengqiu 封丘, Henan) in 482, the representative of the state of Wu 吳 was accompanied by 30,000 troops protected by corselets (jia 甲). The army of Yue 越 consisted of 2,000 troops "accustomed to naval warfare" (xiliu 習流), 40,000 trained troops (jiaoshi 教士), 6,000 elite troops (? junzi 君子), and 1,000 officers (zhuyu 諸御).

The size of divisions was 10,000 in the states of Qi and Wu, and 12,500 in others.

Small military units in some states had the designation sheng 乘 "quadriga", which shows how important chariots were still during that time. The word for "division" (jun 軍) is a graph showing a chariot inside a fencing or circumvallation. The dukes of Lu commanded one thousand chariots and 30,000 troops (Shijing 詩經, hymn Bigong 閟宮), and the state of Ji between 900 and 5,000, depending on the source. The powerful state of Chu 楚 in the south had a force of even 10,000 chariots, with up to 1,000 chariots provided by each district (xian 縣) of the royal domain. The state of Qin 秦 in the west was able to deploy several hundred chariots in single campaigns, and commanded about 2,000 chariots in total. Smaller states like Zhu 邾 had 600, larger ones like Zheng or Song 宋 more than a thousand chariots (Wang & Yang 1996: 438-439).

The team of one chariot (sheng 乘) was divided into squads (wu 伍) of five men, commanded by a squad leader (wuzhang 伍長), platoons (liang 兩) of 25 men commanded by a platoon commander (liang sima 兩司馬), and made a single company (zu 卒) commanded by a company commander (zuzhang 卒長). Five chariot-infantry teams ("companies") built a battalion (dui 隊), ten a brigade (guan 官), fifty a division (zu 卒), and 100 a banner (shuai 帥). This was the largest organizational unit of chariot-infantry teams, but there were also groups of 125 and 81 teams. In some states, 700 chariots made three divisions, in others, 800 (He 1987: 42-43). In the state of Jin, the order was wu 伍, liang 兩, zu 卒, shuai 帥, jun 軍; in Qi, wu 伍, xiaorong 小戎, zu 卒, 旅, and jun 軍; and in Wu, wu 伍, shi 什, zu 卒, 旅, and jun 軍 (Chen 1994: 89-90).

Chariots were manned by three men, the left one fighting with bow and arrow, the right one with spear and halberd, and the central person steering the vehicle. Each chariot was usually accompanied by a certain number of infantrymen, but the numbers were not fix. They ranged between 10 and 100. Ten footmen was the usual number of troops accompanying a chariot during the early Spring and Autumn period, and 75 was a common size in the late Warring States period for light chariots. The army of Chu used 100 persons per chariot (He 1987: 41). Yet even in individual armies, the number was not fix, as can be seen in the terracotta army of the First Emperor 秦始皇帝 (r. 246-210 BCE), whose chariots were accompanied by 8, 28, or 32 infantrymen.

From these relations, the number of infantry troops in each state of the Spring and Autumn period can roughly be assessed. Jin had probably 150,000 troops, Chu 300,000, and Qin 60,000 (Wang & Yang 1996: 440). Average armies included 700 to 800 chariots, when counting the army of the sovereign and the private troops of his noblemen (He 1987: 43).

The troops riding the chariot (chebing 車兵) were protected by corselets and therefore called "armoured soldiers" (jiashi 甲士). Their mode of fighting required extensive training, not only to achieve mastery in hitting the enemy, but also to thrust into the heart of his formation and kill enemies and capture their officers. "Infantrymen" (tubing 徒兵, lujun 陸軍) were troops following the chariots and supporting them by fighting the enemy when the chariots had broken through his line. The earliest pure infantry units were used by the state of Zheng in 719. This state systematically expanded the number and use of infantry, and was very successful with this tactic in smaller battles. Infantry was more flexible than chariots when it came to small-scale manoeuvres, as is the case in rough terrain.

In the state of Jin, infantry was called hang 行. In 633, Duke Wen created three infantry divisions (zuohang 左行, zhonghang 中行, youhang 右行) to fight the Di tribes 狄 and the tribes of the northeast in Wuzhong 無終. The central division was commanded by Xun Linfu 荀林父, who adopted the term zhonghang as his family name. Yet three years later two divisions were transformed into traditional chariot-infantry divisions (shang xinjun, xia xinjun). The infantry units of the state of Chu were called lingshi 陵師 "hill banners". In the state of Qi, quite a number of units fought without chariot because they were not just trained to fight on average level ground, but also on water, in marshes, slopes, mountains, or in the forest. The chapter Bingfa 兵法 (17) of the book Guanzi 管子 describes these types. The chapter Ditu 地圖 (27) urges its readers to reconnoitre terrain before deciding over the type of forces going to fight. The state of Wu did perhaps not use chariots at all.

Information about infantry units is scarce, but one might suppose the following dimensions: ten men making a platoon (dui 隊), 100 a company (hang 行), 1,000 a regiment (jing 旌), and 10,000 a division (jun 軍) (He 1987: 43).

The combination of chariot and infantry units led to the development of battlefield tactics some of which are named in the chronicle Zuozhuan, like the battle arrays (zhen 陣) yuli 魚麗 "supper", zuo-you ju 左右矩 "left and right wings", jingshi 荊尸 (used in Chu), guan 鸛 "crane", e 鵝 "swan", yu 盂 "bowl", or jiao 角 "angle". The typical "supper array" consisted of three parts (san zhen 三陣), with the central (chariot) unit standing in the rear and the two (infantry) wings advancing in square formations. The jingshi array of Chu consisted of five parts (wu zhen 五陣) advancing in a cross-shaped formation, spears (infantry, qianmao 前茅) ahead, the commander in the middle (zhongquan 中權), elite troops in the rear (houjin 後勁), and chariot formations in the two wings (youyuan 右轅, zuozhuiru 左追蓐; Chen 1994: 94-95).

In 594, the five-part formation was also used by Duke Zhuang of Qi 齊莊公 (r. 553-548) against Wei 衛 and Jin, with an advance part (xianqu 先驅), a central party (zhongqu 中驅), a rear guard (dadian 大殿), and a left (qi 啓) and right (qu 胠) wing. The state of Jin used the terms liang 兩, wu 伍, zhuan 專, can 參, and pian 偏, but changed them to qian 前, hou 後, zuojiao 左角, youjiao 右角, and qianju 前拒 in 542 with the drastic reduction of chariot units in favour of infantry.

Naval units (zhoushi 舟師) played a great role in water-rich south China. Of the three southern states, Chu had the mightiest fleet. In 549, it invaded the state of Wu by a fleet down the Yangtze, and defeated Wu again in the battle of Chang'an 長岸 in 535. In 523, the fleet of Chu attacked the Pu tribes 濮 in what is today's Hunan. Yet in 506, Wu had become strong enough (with the support of Cai and Tang 唐) and defeated Chu in the battle of Baiju 柏舉, forcing King Zhao of Chu 楚昭王 (r. 515-489) to flee. In 504, Prince Zhonglei 終累 defeated the river navy of Chu under Pan Zichen 潘子臣. In order to attack the state of Qi on the Shandong Peninsula in 486, the state of Wu built the Hangou Canal 邗溝 (connecting the Yangtze with River Huai 淮河) leading its fleet northward. A year later, Wu sent Xu Cheng 徐承, who sailed long the ocean shore to cut off the supplies or retreat of the army of Qi, but he was defeated after landing. The navy remained Wu's strength, and it never really mastered chariot warfare. The strategist Wu Zixu 伍子胥 (d. 484) therefore urged the king of Wu to refrain from military campaigns against the states of the Central Plain which used chariot-infantry armies, a type of troops rarely used in the south. In 484 in the battle of Ailing 艾陵, Wu defeated the army of Qi by using River Wen 汶水 to transport troops and supplies.

The state of Yue several times defeated Chu by using the advantage of pursuit: The boats of Chu would have to return upriver and could thus not easily withdraw. The navy of Yue encompassed 300 "halberd boats" (gechuan 戈船) (Chen 1994: 109). When the arch-enemy of Wu, King Fucha 夫差 (r. 495-473), was at an interstate meeting in Huangchi the north, King Goujian 句踐 (r. 495- 465) ordered Fan Li 范蠡 and She Yong 舌庸 to attack Wu by cutting off the king from his own country. Ships brought troops along the sea shore to the River Huai region, and so annihilated Wu.

Command over the armies of regional states was taken over either by the regional ruler himself, but more often by his highest dignitaries, the ministers-commander (qing), or local administrators, the grand masters (dafu). They were occasionally called sima 司馬 "commander of cavalry" (jia sima 家司馬 on state level, mazheng 馬正 on the level of the nobility). Some states entrusted the command over the three divisions to certain noble families who retained this post over generations, like the houses Fan 范, Zhi 智, Zhonghang, Zhao 趙, Wei 魏, and Han 韓 in the state of Jin, or Guo 國 and Gao 高 in the state of Qi. Yet high commanders might also be appointed according to need, like the princes Wang Yin Qun 王尹麇 and Wang Yin Shou 王尹壽, actually administrators of the royal palace and workshops who were commanded the defence of Chu against Wu. It can be seen that there was still no clear separation between military and civilian administration during the Spring and Autumn period.

The main body of armies in the regional states consisted of troops and officers from the capital and the lord's domain. Yet it was also common that troops under the command of a nobleman carried out campaigns, like in 550, when Zhao Sheng 趙勝 (Lord Pingyuan 平原君) of Jin, governor (dafu) of Dongyang 東陽 (today's Handan 邯鄲, Hebei), defended Jin against an invasion army of Qi. In 520, Prince Chao 朝 of the royal house of Zhou used local troops to expel Liuzi 劉子 and King Dao 周悼王 (r. 521-520) from the domain of Zhou. The king fled to Jin and was supported by local troops in the state of Jin under the command of the noblemen Ji Tan 籍談 and Xun Li 荀躒. The strongest contingents of such local troops were standing in the border regions of each state, in the case of Jin in the southern region (Jiao 焦, Xia 瑕, Wen 溫, Yuan 原), and in the state of Chu in the north (Shen 申, Xi 息). In 660, Di tribes attacked the state of Wei. The state of Zheng thereupon sent out Gao Ke 高克 to establish a garrison to prevent the Di from crossing the Yellow River.

Noblemen of all states had their own bodyguards (zubing 族兵, zuben 族賁, in Chu called shengguang 乘廣), yet over time the number of such personal troops (sishu 私屬, sizu 私卒, zujia 族甲) increased. In 592, Xi Ke 郤克 took revenge for humiliation in the state of Qi by using his own troops, not that of the duke of Jin. The families Han and Yangshe 羊舌 (Yang 楊) in the state of Jin sustained as much as 900 chariots (Wang, Yang 1996: 449). In the state of Zheng, Zichan 子產 built up his own army of 17 chariots (plus infantry) to take revenge for his father Ziguo 子國 (Gongzi Fa 公子發), who had been killed by Wei Zhi 尉止 in 563. He was supported by Gongsun Chai 公孫蠆, who commanded government-owned troops. The nobility of Lu unifed a larger army of chariots than the state of Qi.

In the battle of Yanling 鄢陵 (today in Henan) in 575, the noblemen Luan Shu 欒書 and Shi Xie 士燮 (Fan Wenzi 范文子) commanded the ducal army, but were supported by their private troops as well. The possibility of sustaining armies of their own gave noblemen an instrument at hand to fight not just the lord of another state, but also each other or even the sovereign. As the stock of private armies were basically bodyguards, they were excellently trained.

Like the regional rulers gradually built up their own armies in disregards of the king's monopoly over military affairs, the nobility within the states ignored the right of their sovereigns over military matters and gradually transforme their own bodyguards into veritable armies.

Data from the chronicle Zuozhuan show that during the Spring and Autumn period, 36 lords were killed by their own nobility, 13 were forced into exile, and 3 kings of the house of Zhou were dethroned or pushed outside the royal domain (Wang & Yang 1996: 449). In the state of Jin, for instance, Luan Ying 欒盈 built up his house army and, with the support of the nobleman Wei Shu 魏舒 (Wei Xianzi 魏獻子), conquered in 550 the ducal capital of Jin. In 548, Cui Zhu 崔杼 with his private army was able to interfere into the succession of the dukes of Qi. The ducal line of the house of Jin was pushed away by the lineage of Quwo 曲沃. Yet some regional rulers were able to suppress their rebellious relatives, like Duke Zhuang of Zheng, who defeated Prince Gong Shu Duan 共叔段 in 722, or King Wu of Chu 楚武王 (r. 741-690), who withstood the assault of Prince Dou Min 鬬緍 in 676.

Warring States Period

The most important change in administrative matters took place in the early Warring States period, when professional leaders of armies, and professional institutions for the organization of campaigns emerged. The regional states created military sections (jiangmen 將門) and counselling sections (xiangmen 相門) in the central administration. In the state of Zhao, for instance, Lian Po 廉頗 was the high commander, while Lin Xiangru 藺相如 (c. 315-c. 260) was counsellor-in-chief. The designation jiang 將 or jiangjun 將軍 was new. Wei Ran 魏冉 was general in Qin, Bai Qi 白起 was supreme commander (shang jiangjun 上將軍), and Wang He 王齕 lieutenant commander (weibai jiang 尉裨將) in the state of Qin. Tian Dan 田單 was the supreme commander of Qi, Prince Shen 申 that of Wei 魏, later on the Lord of Xinling 信陵君 took over command of the army of Wei. The generals of Han were Han Ju 韓舉 and Sou Shencha 䱸申差, and the army of Yan was commanded by Yue Yi 樂毅. Chu was the only one of the states not making use of the position of supreme commander (shang jiangjun) or general-in-chief (da jiangjun 大將軍). The supreme commander ranged only second after the counsellor-in-chief.

The armies of the Warring States period were structured in decadic steps:

Table 2. Military units of the Warring States period
unit size commander
division (jun 軍) 10,000-12,500 wan ren zhi jiang 萬人之將
regiment (?) 1,000 qian ren zhi jiang 千人之將
company (bo 伯, bai 百) 100 bozhang 伯長
squad (shi 什) 10 shizhang 什長
team (wu 伍) 5 wuzhang 伍長

The supreme commanders, the general-in-chief (dajiang 大將), the generals to the left and right (zuo-you jiangjun 左右將軍), and also the individual unit leaders (zhang 長) were probably not fixed official posts, but temporary positions (Wang & Yang 1996: 565)

The command of the supreme general was absolute, and could not be abrogated by the sovereign of the regional state (jun zhong zhi shi, bu wen jun ming, jie you jiang chu 軍中之事,不聞君命,皆由將出). Communication during war followed strict hierarchical principles. Direct communication with the king by bypassing the general was not allowed, by death penalty. Kings of the regional states did usually not participate in battles. This was different from the Spring and Autumn period, when sovereigns had exposed themselves to the threat of being hurt or killed.

The royal power nevertheless extended to the army, by means of two methods. The king owned the prerogative to invest the three highest generals and entrust the command into their hands during a campaign. The investiture of a general was a religious ceremony which involved divination and reports to the royal ancestors (see Zhou religion). During the ceremony, the king handed over an axe (fuyue 斧鉞) into the hands of the general, as a symbol of the military power being confided to the supreme general. Likewise, the king had the right to dismiss a general. Another means of control were tallies (fujie 符節) handed over to the commander. Only the possession of such a tally allowed a commander to give military orders.

Another structural change in the Warring States period was the creation of huge standing armies. During the Spring and Autumn period, the size of armies had not surpassed several 10,000 troops. The battle of Chengpu 城濮 (Chenliu 陳留, Henan, or Juancheng 鄄城, Shandong) between Jin and Chu was fought with 700 chariots on the side of Jin, and a total number of troops from both sides of perhaps 70,000. In the battle of An 鞌 (close to Jinan 濟南, Shandong) between Jin and Qi, Jin fielded 800 chariots. Chu was able to raise 10,000 chariots in the late Spring and Autumn period, and as much as 30,000 troops in total. Yet in the battle of Maling 馬陵 (Shenxian 莘縣, Henan), Wei had an army of 100,000, and Qi attacked Chu with a force of 200,000. Zhao crushed Zhongshan 中山 with 200,000 men, and Yan defeated Zhao with no less than 600,000 troops. Wang Jian used the same number of troops to conquer Chu (data from Zhanguoce 戰國策; Wang & Yang 1996: 568-569).

Table 3. Sizes of Warring States period armies according to the book Zhanguoce 戰國策
state infantry (daijia 帶甲) chariots (che 車) cavalry (qi 騎)
Qin >1,000,000 1,000 10,000
Chu 1,000,000 1,000 10,000
Wei 750,000 (300,000) * 600 5,000
Qi several 100,000
Zhao several 100,000 1,000 10,000
Han several 100,000 (300,000)
Yan several 100,000 700 6,000
* incl. wuzu 武卒 (professional armoured infantry), cangtou 蒼頭 "blueheads" (a kind of home guard), fengong 奮攻 "assailers", and situ 廝徒 (corvée soldiers)

It is not known how reliable these figures are, and the one or other might have been exaggerated in order to impress the enemy or the public, but it is a fact that the armies of the Warring States period were extremely large.

At the same time, the dimension of brutality grew. Having defeated Han and Wei in the battle of Yique 伊闕 (close to Luoyang, Henan) in 293, the Qin general Bai Qi ordered to behead 240,000 enemies. In the battle of Changping 長平 (Gaoping 高平, Shanxi), Qin killed according to narrative 450,000 troops of Zhao.

Infantry was usually protected by armour consisting of three parts, as can be seen in the pottery figurines of the tomb of the First Emperor, the expression daijia 帶甲 "corselet carriers", and various statements in early literature like Xunzi 荀子 (ch. Yibing 議兵). The states therefore needed high numbers of corselets, which were produced in state-owned workshops. The state of Qin used the penal law to provide the army with corselets, as can be seen in the collection Qinlü zachao 秦律雜抄, were paragraphs allowed to buy oneself free from punishment by delivering a fixed number of corselets to the authorities.

There were basically two types of infantry, namely archers and crossbowmen (juezhang 蹶張, yinqiang 引強), and "normal" infantry (zhongzu 中卒) using clubs, maces, sabres or polearms (spears, halberds). The crossbow (nu 弩) was a novel invention allowing aiming at a target without bringing up much physical power. The army of Han was most famous for its crossbow units. The number of archers was relatively high, as can be seen during the war of Zhao against the Xiongnu 匈奴, for which general Li Mu 李牧 selected 100,000 archers.

The importance of cavalry increased during the Warring States period, perhaps under the influence of tribes in the northern sphere, like the Di or Xiongnu. King Wuling of Zhao 趙武靈王 (r. 326-299) imitated their war of warfare and systematically expanded the role of the cavalry, by even giving them "barbarian rider jackets" (hufu 胡服) to wear. Li Mei from Qin battled against the Xiongnu with a force of 13,000 cavalry and 150,000 infantry. Sun Bin 孫臏, advisor of Tian Ji 田忌, the dismissed counsellor of Qi, urged him to attack the army of Qi with chariots and cavalry. The military book Liutao 六韜 explains the composition of cavalry units. Five riders were commanded by a leader (zhang 長), ten by one captain (li 吏), hundred by one commander (shuai 率), and 200 by a general (jiang 將). For battle tactics, five riders built one line (lie 列), 30 one trunk (tun 屯), and 60 one class (bei 輩). The usual distance between horses in even terrain was 20 paces in length, and 4 to the sides (reduced to half of these values in rough terrain). The distance between lines was 50 paces.

Even if the use of chariots (qingche 輕車) gradually declined, it was a fighting force not completely out of date. In the battle of Lingqiu 廪丘 (Yuncheng 鄆城, Shandong) between Qi and Zhao, the former still used 2,000 chariots. In his war against the Xiongnu, Li Mu used 1,300 chariots. In 251, Yan went to war with 2,000 chariots against Zhao (Wang & Yang 1996: 571). The book Liutao explains that five chariots were commanded by a leader (zhang 長), fifteen by one captain (li 吏), fifty by a commander (shuai 率), and a hundred by a general (jiang 將). During battle, five chariots built one line (lie), fifteen one cluster (ju 聚), and thirty one trunk (tun 屯). How these formations were built and commanded in practice, remains unclear.

Table 4. Cavalry and chariot units and formations during the Warring States period
unit commander formation
5 platoon zhang leader 5 lie line
10 company li captain 30 tun trunk
100 battalion shuai commander 60 bei class
200 brigade jiang general
unit commander formation
5 platoon zhang leader 5 lie line
15 company li captain 15 ju cluster
50 battalion shuai commander 30 tun trunk
100 brigade jiang general

The importance of riverine fleet remained crucial during the Warring States period. After having conquered the state of Shu 蜀 in the Sichuan Basin, Qin used boats to attack the state of Chu in the middle Yangtze region. For this purpose, they used large grain boats to transport their troops river down. One boat was calculated at 50 troops and their supply. The state of Zhao also had a fleet which cruised the Yellow River. It was operating with the help of local fishermen.

Several states invented specialist units that were trained in a particular way, like jiji 技擊 in Qi and wuzu 武卒 in Wei. They had special armour, special equipment, and were used as special task forces moving quickly and living of the countryside (Xunzi, ch. Yibing 議兵).

The cross-shaped formation of the Spring and Autumn period transformed into a square field of eight parts and a centre, called the eight-parts array (bazhen 八陣). The general was in the centre. It is described in the military treatise Sun Bin bingfa 孫臏兵法. When meeting the enemy, only the the first units advanced and engaged in battle, while the rest of the army remained in the back and shielded the fighters. It might be that chronicles only mentioned the troops directly engaged in battle when mentioning figures, and not the reserve standing in the back (Chen 1994: 96).

Military theoreticians of the Warring States period use the binary concept of "orthodox or regular" and "unorthodox or irregular" (zheng-qi 正奇) deployment. This pair has a metaphysical background, but can be applied to tactics and detachment. The regular mode of fighting (zheng) pertains to an element that initially meets an enemy directly, yet does not frontally attack or penetrate, but is used for holding or fixing action for irregular forces (qi) (Rand 2017: 45). The "irregular mode" pertains to troops causing the opponent to defend on his flanks or the rear. Irregular troops might fight independently or as parts of regular units and executing main attacks, often in a mode of surprise, for which reason "irregular" may be equalled with "deceiving the enemy". In the course of battle, the circumstances may necessitate the switching of roles of regular and irregular forces and so surprise the enemy with unexpected movements (Chen 1993: 122).

The word "regular" may refer to the main body of the army, the word "irregular" to specialized troops, like cavalry (compare the homophony of /kǐe/ 奇 with /ɡǐe/ 騎), which required special preparation or particular skills. In this connotation, regular troops and their movements build the fundament for victory, while the tactical movements of irregular troops are the key for victory (Li et al. 2017). The terms zheng and qi are also linked to the realms of civilian rule, the regular part of rulership (wen 文=zheng 正), and of war, the irregular way of ruling (wu 武=qi 奇).

Horses and chariots were provided by the government of each state, as can be seen from the law on stables and pastures (Jiuyuanlü 厩苑律) as recorded on the bamboo slips in Yunmeng 雲夢, Hubei (Shuihudi 睡虎地). Crossbows and swords, formerly rare weapons, found increasing use during the Warring States period. During the battle of Maling in 342, the army of Qi laid an ambush of "ten thousand crossbowmen" (Wang & Yang 1996: 576). The number of iron arms also drastically increased, as can be seen in statements of the book Xunzi (ch. Yibing), as well as in archaeological finds like in the state of Yan, where a tombs included no less than 1,840 tools, more than half of them consisting of weapons or parts of weapons and armour, and 97 made of iron (Wang & Yang 1996: 576).

Figures 1-2. Iron helmet and dagger-axe with inscription
Iron helmet unearthed in a Warring-States tomb from the state of Yan. It is composed of 89 iron plates (zhaye 札葉) in seven rows and tied with silk threads or leather stripes. Height 26cm, diameter 24cm.
The bronze ge 戈 dagger axe has a length of 31.5cm and a height of 17.5cm. It bears an inscription indicating the names and functions of the producers, a date, and the location (youguanfu 右貫府). Click to enlarge. Both from Hebei Sheng/Liu 1975.

Weapons, when provided by the government to soldiers, were marked with incised characters or alternatively with characters written with black or red lacquer indicating the local government which had produced of procured the weapons. Weapons found by archaeologists were marked with the name of the commandery and the place where the weapons belonged to. This custom was seen in Qin, Wei, Qi, and Han. The law code of Qin foresaw that a local official not providing quality weapons to the troops was punished severely. Fragments of the book Shangjunshu 商君書 show that the state of Qin did not provide weapons to merchants liable for military service, but they had to purchase them from their own funds. During campaigns, daily rations were provided by the government. The grain earmarked for the army was strictly protected, and abuse of it by civilian officials was sanctioned. Clothes were a matter of each soldier himself, and were not provided for by the government.

Recruitment and training

During the Western Zhou period, members of noble families, i.e. the royal house and the houses of the regional rulers, with the ranks of "minister" (qing), grand master (dafu), and serviceman (shi), were entitled or obliged to do military service. Each noble family had to provide one male member ready for service (zhengfu 正夫, in service zhengzu 正卒 or zhengtu 正徒). Other sons (yuzi 餘子) were "reserve officers" (xianzu 羨卒) who did participate in training, but did not have to serve unless the state was in great distress (Yang 1994: 91).

The ritual Classic Zhouli (part Diguan 地官, ch. Xiang dafu 鄉大夫) explains that the prescribed height of soldiers was 7 feet (chi 尺, see weights and measures), and the age of 60 sui was the limit for participation in training. In Zhou-period law, the height of body was more important than a minimum age, as can still be seen in preserved laws from the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE), or transmitted sources like Lunyu 論語 (ch. Taibo 泰伯) or Xunzi (ch. Zhongni 仲尼).

Common troops were recruited from among the farming people of the royal domain according to need. According to regulations in the Zhouli, ten families had to provide one soldier, while the government cared for his food, horse and equipment. It is also quite probable that unfree persons, normally working the field of the royal domain, served in the infantry (He 1987: 24).

The members of the royal guard were sons of "ministers" and grand masters, also called "sons of the state" (guozi 國子) and were instructed not only in martial arts, but also in the way of right comportment according to social rules, and so combined military with civilian education (wen wu bu fen 文武不分 "civilian and military matters are not separated"), including writing and arithmetics (see liuyi 六藝, the "Six Arts").

The custom to train archery was an inherent part of ritual prescriptions as seen in the village archery contests described in the ritual Classics Yili 儀禮 (ch. Xiangshe li 鄉射禮, Dashe 大射) and Liji (ch. Sheyi 射義).

The typical period of military training (jiang wu 講武) was winter, when peasants did not work the fields (Guoyu, ch. Zhouyu 周語 A). The king took part in the training activities during the twelfth lunar month, quite probably in connection with hunting (compare Shijing, part Binfeng 豳風, air Qiyue 七月; Zuozhuan, Yingong 5).

Military training was carried out in the shape of hunts. There were particular terms for hunts during the four seasons of spring (sou 蒐), summer (miao 苗), autumn (xian 獮), and winter (shou 狩; Zuozhuan, Yingong 5). In several occasions, the state of Jin combined the spring hunt directly with an attack on enemies (Chen 1994: 85).

In the early Spring and Autumn period, the Western-Zhou system of the division between capital and environs (guo 國 - ye 野, or xiang 鄉 - sui 遂) was still valid. Inhabitants of the capital seat of each regional state (guoren 國人) were liable for regular military service (zhengzu), or had to keep ready to serve in the reserve (xianzu), while those living outside the royal seat or that of the regional rulers (yeren 野人), i.e. peasants, delivered tribute grain without serving in the army. The main body of troops was built by men from the townships. In case of need the army of the metropolitan city (zhiguo 制國) was supplemented by troops from the environs, and eventually such from the lands of the lower nobility (gongyi 公邑, cai 采) of the border regions, called yibing 邑兵 or xianbing 縣兵. The age of recruits was between 30 and 60 sui, while that of men for labour services (see corvée) was between 20 and 50 sui.

Yet this custom was no longer adhered to in the middle and late Spring and Autumn period, and regional rulers began to recruit troops by a conscription system encompassing the whole domain.

Conscription was based on the well-field system (jingtian zhi 井田制), according to which a farming community cultivated eight parts of a communal field, while the ninth part served either to deliver tax grain (shui 稅) or to support troops provided by the community (fu 賦). The latter was practically a "tax in kind", namely a chariot, troops, weapons and equipment. This situation is described in the military treatise Simafa 司馬法, and in a slightly different form in the historiographical book Hanshu 漢書 (23 Xingfa zhi 刑法志). A complete "well" consisted of 300 families which delivered a chariot and troops. Alternatively, four "farming communities" (dian 甸) of 64 jing or a group of 576 households provided one chariot, 3 charioteers (jiashi), 72 infantrymen, 4 horses, and 12 oxen - which was nothing else than one full chariot team. In the state of Lu, the basic unit was one "hill" (qiu 丘), i.e. 144 households (He 1987: 46). According to the Simafa, a "hill" consisted of four settlements (yi 邑) and provided a war horse and three oxen. In the state of Wei 衛, fu was the name of a military unit (Chen 1994: 87). The conscription method according to settlements was called "hill-community method" (qiudianfa 丘甸法), or "hill-chariot method" (qiushengfa 丘乘法), and their products were called "settlement weapons" (zuozhoubing 作州兵), "settlement shields" (zuoqiujia 作丘甲), and the system "settlement conscription" (zuoqiufu 作丘賦).

The administrative reforms of Guan Zhong 管仲 (725-645) in the state of Qi established parallel structures of local administration and military units, showing that the army was expected to be constituted of men drawn from each village. Five families constituted a "track" (gui 軌) commanded by a "track master" (guizhang 軌長), and five soldiers a squad (wu 伍). Ten "tracks" constituted one hamlet (li 里), fifty soldiers a small force (xiaorong 小戎), commanded by a captain (si 司). Four hamlets made one "alliance" (lian 連) commanded by an alliance head (lianzhang 連長), and two hundred soldiers a company (zu 卒). Ten alliances made a township (xiang 鄉) commanded by a township master (xiang liangren 鄉良人), and two thousand men made a regiment ( 旅). Five townships were a banner (shuai 帥), corresponding to a division (jun 軍) of 10,000 men, commanded by a commander (shuai 帥) (Guanzi, ch. Xiaokuang 小匡).

Table 5. Conscription system of in the state of Qi 齊 after Guan Zhong's 管仲 reforms
living unit military unit size commander
gui wu squad 5 guizhang 軌長
li xiaorong 小戎 small force 50 si
lian zu company 200 lianzhang 連長
xiang regiment 2,000 xiang liangren 鄉良人
shuai jun division 10,000 shuai

These relations mean that in Qi, each household was theoretically responsible for providing one man for military service. Yet it seems that in practice, the number of families providing two men or more was considerable when it came to the worst (Wang & Yang 1996: 442). The reforms of Guan Zhong made the inhabitants of the ducal domain virtually professional soldiers. Those liable for military service (junfu 軍賦) were even segregated from merchants and craftsmen and not allowed to move. On the other hand, they were not any more liable for corvée or other forms of tax payment. Duke Huan 齊桓公 (r. 685-643) selected the best of them to serve in his administrative apparatus, while the common folks (shuren 庶人) served in the army (He 1987: 44). The increasing frequency of wars destroyed the old distinction between persons serving in war (zhengzu) and the reserve (xianzu). In the late Spring and Autumn period, practically all reserve soldiers participated in battles (Chen 1994: 88).

Training was gradually opened to troops and officers, and not just the nobility. According to the law of some states, one school was built to instruct 80 households. In the state of Jin, certain dignitaries were responsible for training. Bian Jiu 弁糾 (Luan Jiu 欒糾) trained the charioteers as chief charioteer (rongyu 戎御, yurong 御戎), Xun Bin 荀賓 the elite infantry, Ji Yan 籍偃 the chariot-infantry teams, and Cheng Zheng 程鄭 the train responsible for the horses (He 1987: 47).

Also during the Warring States period, squads were recruited from peasant households, which had basically the duty to protect the "four neighbourhoods" (silin 四鄰), but served in the army in times of war. According to the military book Weiliaozi 尉繚子 (ch. Wuzhi ling 伍制令), fifty men constituted a home platoon (shu 屬), and hundred man a home company ( 閭).

The huge armies of the Warring States period were only feasible because the recruitment system had changed drastically. While in earlier ages, the king of Zhou and regional rulers used the inhabitants of the city and the royal/local domain to fill the ranks and files of their armies and only fell back on the villages outside in the second place, the rulers of the Warring States had a grip on the whole population of their states, regardless where and in which domains they lived. This choice was the result of administrative changes which laid all land in the hands of the central government and gave up domains for the nobility. The new recruitment was called "group the households of all the people" (bian hu qi min 編戶齊民). This method expressed the possibility that the state had access to the services of the whole population and could "group" them in labour or military teams.

The state of Wei 魏 was probably the first who transformed the traditional conscription system to an enlistment system (wuzu zhi 武卒制), with the expectation that this practice would yield highly trained professionals as a body from which, with increasing experience, also lower officers could be drawn. Moreover, professional soldiers would specialize on specific fighting tactics or particular types of weapons like the bow or crossbow. The reform was carried out under the supervision of the military expert Wu Qi 吳起, and when the latter fled to Chu, was applied successfully in this state, too.

The counsellor of Qin, Shang Yang 商鞅 (390-338), explained in his book Shangjunshu 商君書 that people served as farmers just as they served as soldiers. The armies of the Warring States period thus waged "peasant wars" (gengzhan 耕戰, nongzhang 農戰). For this purpose, Shang Yang wanted to train the farming population in a way that half of them worked the fields, while the other half learned how to fight. From each family, one male person of 23 sui and older was directly liable for military service (zhengzu 正卒), while the others constituted a rotating reserve (gengzu 更卒). Yet others lived in garrisons (shuzu 戍卒). In the state of Qin therefore, all male persons were usually called "men of the squads" (shiwu 士伍).

The advisor Su Qin 蘇秦 held that the capital city of Qi, Linzi 臨淄 (Shandong), was able to produce 210,000 troops. Perhaps this number did not only include males, but also females, because women—liable for corvée just as the men—would help to build defences. Even under-age persons and the elderly built an own "regiment" for the defence of a city, as the book Shangjunshu (ch. Bingshou 兵守) holds. Such statements are also found in chapters on defence in the book Mozi 墨子.

The age of persons serving in the army remained between 30 and 60 sui, as before, but the household registration system of the Warring States period allowed to mark younger persons for the reserve (fu 付). Instead of the age, the physical height was used as a precondition for service in the army—5 chi and more. It is quite probable that these regulations were not strictly adhered to when the state needed soldiers, for instance, after the disastrous battle of Changping, when Yan and Zhao were bereaved of their adult soldiers. Lord Xinling of Wei 魏 tried to ameliorate the situation and sent home fathers, when fathers and sons served in the army, and older brothers, when also the younger one served in the army. In the end, he retained the younger persons in the army—and defeated Qin (Wang & Yang 1996: 574).

Apart from conscription, Qin knew the mode of voluntary enlisting (mu 募) with defined periods of service (Wang & Yang 1996: 575). Other military contingents consisted of persons who served in the army as a kind of penalty (lichen 隸臣, see chongjun 充軍).


Pointed weapons

Figure 3. Dagger-axes, axes, and swords of the Western Zhou period
Western Zhou-period weapons unearthed in Zhuyuangou 竹園溝 and and Rujiazhuang 茹家莊 near Baoji 寶鷄, Shaanxi. The image shows ge 戈-type dagger-axes (1-8), fu 斧 axes (9-10), and shortswords (duanjian 短劍, 11-12). Source: Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan kaogu yanjiusuo 2004: 124.

The Zhou used mainly the same materials as the Shang for their weapons, namely wood, stone, bone, and shell, and of course bronze. Yet both technical advancement and the consolidation of the economic base made it possible to produce more weapons and chariots for larger armies with more horses. The use of the traditional weapons spear (mao 矛), bow and arrow (gong 弓, shi 矢, the arrow later called jian 箭), dagger (dao 刀), and ge 戈 dagger-axe tied to a long pole continued, while novel pointed weapons found entrance into the army, namely the cross-shaped spear-axe ji 戟, and the long sword (jian 劍).

Figures 4a-c. Ji 戟 spear-axes and ge 戈 dagger-axes
Left top: Drawings of two ji 戟 spear-axes, a combination of a lance and the ge 戈 dagger-axe. The upper type is the so-called picking halberd (ciji 刺戟), the lower one a hook-halberd (gouji 鈎戟). Archaeological finds date from the mid-Western Zhou, but the earliest written source using the word ji is Zuozhuan (Yingong 11, and Xuangong 宣公 2). From Shen 1992. Right top: Images of two dagger-axes (length 17.4cm, and 21cm), the upper one richly decorated with turquois stones. From Zhang 2017. Bottom: Eye-socket halberd (qiongji 銎戟), with a closed end instead of a lance or hook at the tip. The body is richly decorated with fierce masks. Length 14.3cm; unearthed in Zhuyuangou near Baoji, Shaanxi. From Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji bianji weiyuanhui (1996: 182).

The shape of spearheads changed in so far as the blade (ren 刃) became longer than the socket (qiong 銎). Simultaneously, the number of ridges was increased in order to stabilize the blade. Nailing became the most important mode of fastening the spearhead to the pole. The shaft of an infantry spear (qiumao 酋矛) was 2-zhang 丈 long (see weights and measures), that of mounted troops (yimao 夷矛) 2.4 zhang. The use of the spear decreased over time, as chariot-infantry teams became the most important tactical unit (Shen 1998: 457).

The ji halberd is practically a merger of a spear and the ge dagger-axe which is tied horizontally to a pole. In this combined shape, the weapon could be used for cutting and thrusting ("hooking" gou 勾, "picking" zhuo 啄, "staking" zhuang 樁, and "lancing" ci 刺, Yang 1994: 117). A Shang-period precursor of this combination was found in Gaochengtai 藁城臺, Hebei. The metal part of a ji was usually 1.6 chi-long, as the Kaogongji 考工記 says. In order to strengthen the stability of the pole during charges, the lower end was equipped by a spur (zun 鐏) or with a protective cover with a flat end (dun 鐓; Xu 2013).

Arrowheads (zu 鏃) made of bone, horn, or bronze were made flatter and sharper than during the Shang period.

The origin of the crossbow might have been in south China, perhaps in the late Spring and Autumn period, as metal relics found in earlier times bore dateable inscriptions pointing at the 6th century or so (Gao 1964: 41). The most important transmitted source on the early history of the crossbow is the book Wu-Yue chunqiu 吳越春秋, where the state of Chu is said to have been the place of origin, from which the use of the crossbow soon spread to the other regional states. Relics of a crossbow (metal and wooden parts) were unearthed from a Warring-States period tomb in Changsha 長沙, Hunan, in 1952; metal parts in a tomb in Luoyang 洛陽, Henan, in 1972; two mechanisms in Chengdu 成都, Sichuan, in 1955; and in 1982, a metal mechanism came to light in a tomb in Dayi 大邑, Sichuan; to date, about a dozen of crossbow mechanisms from the late Zhou and the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE) have been found (Xie 2004: 52). Tombs in Lintong 臨潼, Shaanxi, from the Qin period included many crossbows, discovered in 1975 and 1980. Some of them were used by the crews of chariots. The parts of the mechanism were cast, and not forged (Xie 2004: 53). Calculations show that the tractive force of a Qin crossbow corresponded to the weight of 492-738 jin 斤 (see weights and measures; would be 1221-1832 N), and the shooting range to 138 to 831m (idem).

Figure 5-6. Shu 殳 clubs and crossbow mechanism
Left: Metal remnants of shu 殳-type clubs or cudgels. It can be seen that they the sticks were heavily armed at the rear and the wood strengthened by rings between the metal and the handle. From Liu (2015). Right: Metal mechanism of a crossbow from the state of Chu. The lowest drawing shows the "lock" (jijian 機件) which consists of three parts, namely two teeth (one of which being the sight, wangshan 望山), a trigger (xuandao 懸刀), and a blocker (shuansai 拴塞). Overall length 51.8cm. From Gao (1964).

The oldest sword excavated to far was only 20-30cm-long and did not have a ridge in the middle of the blade, making it prone to distortions. Moreover, the oldest swords had only a very simple hilt. This basic shape was constantly improved during the Western Zhou period, and in later phases, hilts were richly decorated with incrustations of turquois stone. The length of a sword was then determined by the bearer's height, with a length of 2-3 chi (30-60cm) and a weight of 2.06-3.75 jin 斤 (1-1.7kg) (Yang 1994: 117).

The long sword only developed in the late Spring and Autumn period and was then rather designed for piercing and thrusting, not for slashing and cutting (Sawyer 1993: 371). Swords thereafter replaced various forms of halberds like the ge dagger-axes, but ji spear-axes remained an important infantry weapon in the Warring States period. The southern regional states developed a highly decorated type of ceremonial sword (labelled "swords of King XY of Yue", like Yue wang Gou Jian zhi jian 越王句踐劍, and other names like of rulers like Buguang 不光 (Yi翳), or Yushi 於睗 (Shiyu 鼫與).

Figures 7a-c. Swords
Development of one particular sword type (Ea) over the whole Zhou period. It can be seen how the dagger evolved to a short sword, and then to a long sword from the Spring and Autumn period on. Decorations of the centre of the blade (not the edges) were fashionable during that time, before swords became more practical. From Tian (2013).
Components of a traditional Chinese sword with pommel (shou 首), hilt (jing 莖; whole part called bing 柄), hilt ring (gu 箍), hilt ears (er 耳; in both cases, the tang is not covered by a hilt) guard (ge 格), blade base (ben 本), blade shoulder (jian 肩), edge (ren 刃), ridge (ji 脊, zhuji 柱脊), flat (cong 從), and tip (feng 鋒). From Tian (2013). The right image shows the decorations on the guard of a sword from the kingdom of Yue. The decoration consists of characters with turquois stones, inscribed Zhezhi Yuyi 者旨於睗 (Zhuji Shiyu 諸稽鼫與, i.e. King Luying 越王鹿郢, r. 465-459), at the bottom of the image one of two hilt rings. The blade itself is made of bronze and its main area richly decorated with rhomboid patterns consisting of portions of metal with a higher content of tin. The edges are of quality metal. From Cao (2018).


While the shape of helmets (zhou 冑) was not changed, the functionality of cuirasses (jia 甲) was ameliorated. A leather cuirass found in a horse-and-chariot pit in Xi'an 西庵 near Jiaoxian 膠縣, Shandong, consisted of a breast part and a back part, the breast cover made of three parts in the shape of a beast face (37×28cm), and the back cover of two round pieces of 11cm. Shields (dun 盾), either smaller ones for mounted troops, or larger ones for infantry troops, were made of leather and strengthened by bronze parts, or leather mounted on a wooden frame. A shield discovered in a tomb in Liulihe 琉璃河 near Beijing consisted of seven parts arranged in the shape of a fierce animal (zhengning 猙獰) mask.

Armour was made of tanned, lacquered, and finally coloured, leather pieces tied together to tunics (Sawyer 1993: 369). The length depended on the type of unit, the infantry wearing rather short-style tunics. Helmets were of bronze, and from the Warring States period on also of iron (Sawyer 1993: 370). The stirrup was not invented until the 3rd or 4th century CE, for which reason no heavy cavalry developed in earlier times, which does not mean that rider and horse did not wear any form of protection. A tomb from the state of Chu included a set of leather horse armour (Bai 1989).

Figures 8-9. Body armour and horse armour
Left: Reconstruction of a body armour (kaijia 鎧甲) from the very late Warring States period, tomb complex of the First Emperor. It is composed of many limestone (shihuiyan 石灰岩) scales (0.7-1.1mm thick) tied together by copper wire. There were different modes of tying the segments of the collar, the shoulder protectors, the upper part of the body protection, and that for the belly. According to the position, the mineral scales had different shapes. The whole armour has, when put on, to be tied on the side of the body. It had a weight of no less than 23.18kg. From Song (2004). Right: Reconstruction of a horse armour found in a tomb of the state of Chu in Baoshan 包山 near Jingmen 荊門, Hubei. It consists of lacquered leather pieces. From Bai (1989).


Chariot was introduced into China in c. 1200 BCE, but no major alterations of the vehicle occurred until the Spring and Autumn period, when several types of specialized chariots emerged, as such equipped with large shields for protection, towers for observation or command, such with battering rams, moveable ladders, or with multiple- bolt crossbows (Sawyer 1993: 363).

Shang inscriptions yield no evidence for the use of chariots as battle elements. Shang soldiers were apparently fighting on foot, but some of the Shang’s enemies used chariots, for instance, the Zhou (Sawyer 1993: 364). However it might have been, the importance of the chariot increased drastically in the Western Zhou and the Spring and Autumn periods, and massed chariot battles were usual during the time. Yet some authors doubt that the chariots might have had a decisive role in battles, as the construction of the vehicles with their long axles did not allow swift movements even in flat terrain. The advance of chariot formations cannot have been but at measured pace in order to coordinate the lines, so that it might have been easy for infantry to surround and obstruct chariot formations (Sawyer 1993: 365).

Chariots were pulled by two or four horses. Even if the general appearance of the chariot remained the same as under the Shang, the shape of the drawbar (yuan 轅) was bent stronger, which took off some pressure from the yokes (e 軛). The chest, where coacher and archer were sitting, became as large as 130-160cm (Yang 1994: 118). With the help of bronze linchpins (xia 轄), the axle-caps (wei 軎) were fastened tighter at the side of the naves (gu 轂) and above the axle (chou 軸), Bronze fittings on the inner side of the naves protected them and reduced vibrations transmitted from the axle. Bronze fittings, often with beautiful designs, protected and strengthened drawbar and yokes. "Phoenix bells" (luan 鑾, from luan 鸞) were a common accessory tied to the axle-caps.

Chariots thus equipped are in bronze inscriptions called "metal chariots" (jinche 金車), while traditional sources use the words rongche 戎車 "war chariot" or gongche 攻車 "chariot for charge". Chariots used for attack were also called "light" (qingche 輕車), such for attack during sieges "advance chariot" (linche 臨車) or "chariots for charge" (chongche 衝車), while vehicles used for defence were called "wide chariot" (guangche 廣車). "Manoeuvre chariot" (pengche 苹車) was a vehicle equipped with leather shields to ward off arrows.

The widespread custom to bury chariots along with a deceased lord helped to preserve quite a few vehicles or parts of them. Yet in most cases, the wood is rotten, and in such cases, only shadows of the vehicle remain.

Figure 10. Reconstruction of a chariot of the Western Zhou period
Reconstruction of a mid Western Zhou-period chariot as based on the relics found in the tomb of the Lord of Jing 井 (Xing 邢) in Zhangjiapo 張家坡 near Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi. Source: Zhang & Zhang 1994: 170.

The technique of the chariot improved during the Spring and Autumn period. Master Sun Wu 孫武 discerned light chariots (chiche 馳車, qingche 輕車, gongche 攻車, wuche 武車) and heavy chariots (geche 革車, zhongche 重車, shouche 守車, pingche 苹車). The former was used for attack, the latter for defence. War chariots had a long axis (therefore also known as changgu 長轂) and could barely overturn, even in rough terrain. They were also used for reconnaissance and inspections, then known as queche 闕車 or youque 遊闕.

Heavy chariots were an advancement of the Western Zhou zizhongche 錙重車 cart which had four wheels and was drawn by oxen. It was not used in war, but for transportation of equipment and supplies, and also to build corrals in open terrain. Some were protected against arrows with leather tarps, hence the name geche 革車. This tactic is mentioned in the book Sun Bin bingfa and the Classic Zhouli (part Chunguan 春官, ch. Zongbo 宗伯; part Xiaguan 夏官, ch. Sima 司馬). Transport carts were accompanied by 25 men, which took over cooking, feeding the horses, and mending the equipment of the troops.

Supreme commanders used a command chariot (zhihuiche 指揮車) of their own, and were accompanied by a rescue chariot (zuoche 佐車) in case the main chariot was damaged (He 1987: 41).


Cavalry emerged as a particular fighting unit between the early 5th century and 300 BCE. In earlier times, even the nomad tribes of the Hu 胡 the north had fought as infantry or with chariots. It might have been that cavalry was introduced by the Hu tribes and found entrance into the states of the Zhou empire when King Wuling of Zhao founded cavalry units to counter raids of the Hu tribes. Accordingly, he also changed the dresses and had mounted 'knights' wear rider jackets and trousers (Sawyer 1993: 367). Still, cavalry remained only an auxiliary force until the Han period.

Cavalry was employed mainly in the shape of "unorthodox" (qi) tactics by throwing them into battle by launching attacks from directions and in styles different from the "orthodox" (zheng) fighting style of infantry formations (Sawyer 1993: 370).


The king of Zhou usually handed over weapons to the troops before the beginning of a campaign. During the Spring and Autumn period, the regional rulers followed this custom. In each state, an arsenal was built which was administrated by a particular officer. The Zhouli lists the manager of arms (sibing 司兵), who kept and distributed "the five [types/groups of] weapons and shields" (wubing wudun 五兵五盾). The manager of halberds and shields (sigedun 司戈盾) supervised chariots and the arms of the guard, and the manager of bows and arrows (sigongshi 司弓矢) the six groups of bows, four groups of crossbows, and the eight groups of arrows. The commandant of the stud (jiaoren 校人) was responsible for the management of the five groups of horses. Banners and flags, and drums and bells were managed by individual officers. Similar functionaries are mentioned in the Zuozhuan (Xianggong 襄公 8) for the state of Song (Chen 1994: 83-84).


After the foundation of the Zhou dynasty and the initial wars against the last members of the Shang, the Duke of Zhou ordered the construction of a secondary capital in the east, namely Chengzhou in present-day Luoyang, Henan. This capital mainly served military purposes. A garrison of 8 eastern divisions would be ready to put down any further rebellion. At the same time, the military contingents around the western metropolitan region Feng-Hao 豐鎬 (west of today's Xi'an, Shaanxi) were increased. The larger regional states were not just civilian units, but likewise served to defend the sovereignty of the Zhou. These were Wei 衛 and Song in the Central Plain, Yan 燕 in the northeast (close to present-day Beijing), Qi and Lu on the Shandong peninsula, and some smaller states in the Central Plain. Even the semi-barbarian state of Wu in the southeast was ruled by a member of the house of Zhou. Many of the statelets between the Yellow River and the Yangtze were founded and ruled by members of the Zhou house.

The only weak point of this network of military garrisons of the Western Zhou was the northwest, where the tribes of the Di 狄, Rong 戎 and Xianyun remained strong and eventually ended the Western Zhou.

City walls and "long walls"

The ritual system of the Zhou fixed the theoretical length of city walls as 12 or 9 li 里 (6 or 4.5km) for the royal capital, 9 or 7 for a greater regional ruler, 7 or 5 for an average ruler, 5 or 3 for a small state. There was a construction unit for city walls of 1 du 堵 (1 zhang high and 1 zhang wide), and 1 zhi 雉 as 3 du (Yang 1994: 121). Outside the city wall a moat was dug out. Such work was supervised by special officials, keepers of security (zhanggu 掌固) and surveyors (liangren 量人; Zhouli, part Xiaguan, ch. Sima 司馬). Transmitted sources allege that the royal capital was constructed in a checkerboard pattern, with three gates at each side of the square city wall. Yet such a pattern might be an idealized picture created in much later times. While city walls were found in Luoyang, no fortifications were found in the "metropolitan" region of Feng-Hao.

With the growth of the economy (see Zhou economy), cities became centres of trade and wealth, and therefore also interesting objects in conquest wars. Accordingly, Warring Staters period strategists like Mozi or Sun Bin talk about siege and defence of cities. Cities were built in places that were easy to defend and difficult to assail. They were located at the banks of great rivers to secure water supply for drinking and to fill the city moats. Defence systems consisted of two types, namely inner city walls (cheng 城; the word yuan 垣 designates one side or stretch) with moat (chenghe 城河, chenghao 城壕, hao 濠) "for the protection of the sovereign", and outer walls or ramparts (guo 郭) "for the protection of the people".

The royal city of Luoyang, for instance, was in the west protected by River Jian 澗水, and from the south by River Luo 洛河. The city of Xintian 新田, capital of Jin, was protected by the rivers Fen 汾河 and Hui 澮河, and Xinzheng 新鄭, seat of the lords of Zheng and Han, by the rivers Ji 洎河 and Huang 黃水河. Handan, Hebei, served from 386 to 228 as seat of the kings of Zhao. It consisted of two parts, the Royal City (wangcheng 王城) with the palace, and the Great Northern City (dabeicheng 大北城) for the commoners. The Royal City was composed of three sections, each of which was surrounded by a wall. The base of the wall was 15-40m, and the ruins have height of 3-8m (Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan kaogu yanjiusuo 2014: 238). Handan had no city moat, but two rivers (Qin 沁河 and Zhu 渚河) crossed the two parts of the city and secured the supply of water. The northern "rampart" city had a length of 4,800m and a width of 3,200m. In the northwest corner of the city, a natural hill (Lingshan 靈山) was integrated into the city wall.

Traces of a moat are visible in the ruins of Linzi 臨淄 (Zibo 淄博, Shandong), the capital of Qi. The moat was filled by water from River Zi 淄河 located east of the city. Unlike in Handan, the royal city and the city of commoners were not separated by a rift, but the royal city with its rectangular form was in the southwest corner of the city complex. The total length of the city wall is 14km, and the moats had a width of 25-30m (Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan kaogu yanjiusuo 2014: 250). The wall around the royal city was 20-38m wide, and protected by a moat from all four sides (between 13 and 25m wide), even in the parts connected with the large city.

Figures 11a-b. Plans of the cities of Handan and Linzi
Archaeological plans of the cities of Handan (Hebei), capital of Zhao, and Linzi (Shandong), capital of Qi. From Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan kaogu yanjiusuo 2014.

With the increasing frequency of wars between territorial states, there was the need to establish permanent border defences, not just to ward off troops from other regional states, but also raiding parties of the northern tribes. The most famous of these Warring States-period walls were the "huge defences" (jufang 巨防) of Qi, the "square wall" (fangcheng 方城) of Chu, the "moat of River Luo" (qianluo 塹洛) of Qin, and the northern wall of the state of Yan.

Qi began to build walls in the mid-6th century and finalized it before 300 BCE. The southern wall was built to ward off armies of Chu and was built on the hills of the Taishan 泰山, Yishan 沂山, Lushan 魯山, and Lingshan 靈山 ranges, and the western wall, built on the eastern banks of River Ji 濟水, was to prohibit invasions from Han, Wei, or Zhao. Part of this wall can be seen at Mulingguan 穆陵關 (close to Linshui 沂水, Shandong). The walls were made of pounded earth or stones, had a width of 8-10m at the base, and a height of 4m (Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan kaogu yanjiusuo 2014: 272).

The walls of Chu were in the north, aimed at defence against Qin, Han, Wei, and Qi, and were built in a region that was the main target of territorial ambitions in the Central Plain, corresponding to the Nanyang Basin 南陽盆地 in southwest Henan and northern Hubei. It ran along the ridges of Mt. Funiu 伏牛山, Mt. Tongbo 桐柏山, and beyond Mt. Wudang 武當山. Parts of it can be seen in Daguankou 大關口 near Fangcheng 方城, Henan, where the vestiges of seven elevated terraces (tai 臺) are preserved, as well as signal towers (fenghuotai 烽火臺). The base is 12m at the widest point, and the height ranges between 1.5 and 3 m.

Qin began around 400 to build a defensive wall along the western banks of River Luo, in order to impede Wei from further westward expansion. Remains of the pounded-earth wall are found close to Pucheng 蒲城, Shaanxi. Another wall runs from the slopes of Mt. Huashan 華山 westwards to the banks of River Wei 渭水. This wall was perhaps used by both Qin and Wei.

The precursor of the famous northern "Great Wall" (changcheng 長城) date back to 271 BCE and served against the Yiqu tribes 義渠. It began in Lintao 臨洮 and ended far north as in Ordos Qota (E'erduosi 鄂爾多斯) in Inner Mongolia, with a total length of 2,000km. In some places, the wall is 3m-high, and some ruins of signal towers, gates (chengzhang 城障), watchtowers (chengdun 城墩), and garrisons (gucheng 古城) are preserved.

The opponent of Qin, Wei, also constructed walls in the west, with a length of about 200km. At Huayin 華陰, the ruins are in some places as high as 18m, and in Dali 大荔, up to 11.4m. This part of the wall was equipped with moats, fortifications (chengbao 城堡), and signal towers. A southern wall of Wei was erected close to the capital Daliang 大梁 (Kaifeng, Henan). Ruins are found close to Zhengzhou 鄭州 and Mixian 密縣, where the walls were built of limestone (qingshi 青石).

The state of Zhao, threatened by raids of the Linhu 林胡 and Loufan 樓煩 tribes, built a wall running from the northern bent of the Yellow River (area of Urat Front Banner 烏拉特前旗, Inner Mongolia) through the province of Shanxi and into the western parts of Hebei (area of Wanquan 萬全 and Zhangbei 張北). The exact course cannot be determined, but some parts are preserved.

During the early Warring States period, the state of Yan built a wall along River Yi 易水 between the Taihang Range 太行山 and Dacheng 大城, Hebei. About 9km of this pounded-earth wall are preserved in Xushui 徐水. The individual layers of the 7m-high wall are visible. After general Qin Kai 秦開 had vanquished the Eastern Hu tribes 東胡, a wall was built in the north and northeast. Its course was close to that of the famous Qin-period wall, running from Zhangjiakou 張家口, Hebei, to Fuxin 阜新, Liaoning, and quite probably farther east. Ruins were discovered between Xinbin 新賓 and Dandong 丹東 (at the border to North Korea), as well as fortified gates.

If the regional states were in fact military posts, they were joined by military roads supervised by special officials like the supervisor of frontier entries (siguan 司關) or the director of defence works (sixian 司險). Like almost everything, the Zhouli also regulated the track width of various types of roads, from jing 徑 (path) to zhen 畛 (between fields), tu 涂 (on ditches), dao 道 (on dykes), and lu 路 (along rivers). The latter corresponded to military roads. A standard track width for chariots was 8 chi.

Signal fire

Signal fire (fengsui 烽燧) was used as a means of quick communication between the king's residence and that of the regional rulers. The most famous story of Western Zhou signal fire is the abuse of this institution by King You's 周幽王 (r. 781-771) consort Bao Si 褒姒 which led to the loss of the western capital and the downfall of the Western Zhou.

Signals and insignia

Armies were guided in battle by the use of signal banners and drums and bells. There was a wide range of banners for different uses and with different decorations, as can be seen in the existence of a special radical for banners (㫃). Taichang 太常 (dapei 大旆, ornated with sun and moon) was an important banner signalling the presence of the king. The regional rulers used the qi 旂 banner ornated with chime-bells, ministers-commander zhan 旃 (also written 旜) banners, and grand masters wu 物 banners. Larger settlements were recognizable by a qi 旗 banner, "villages" (zhouli 州里) by yu 旟 banners, and "townships" (xianbi 縣鄙) by zhao 旐 banners. War chariots (daoche 道車) were carrying sui 旞 banners, hunting chariots (youche 斿車) jing 旌 signals, which consisted of an ox tail (mao 旄) or of a streamer (liu 旒).

The various ranks of nobility were accompanied by different drums, as the chapter Dasima in the Zhouli explains: the king had a large lugu 路鼓 drum with four faces, the regional rulers bengu 賁鼓 drums with two membranes, generals (jiangjun 將軍) jingu 晉鼓 drums with two membranes, but larger and shorter than a bengu drum, a regimental commander (shishuai) a hand drum (ti 提), and a battalion commander (lüshuai) a small pi 鼙 drum.

The beating of drums was directed by bells. Chun 錞 bells were used to "harmonize the drums" (he gu 和鼓), zhuo 鐲 bells to mark the rhythm (jie gu 節鼓), nao 鐃 bells to stop the drums (zhi gu 止鼓), and duo 鐸 bells to "pervade the drums" (tong gu 通鼓) (Zhouli, part Diguan, ch. Guren 鼓人).

A relatively detailed description of the interaction between bells, drums, and banners during the winter training is found in the Zhouli chapter Da sima. It was important to keep the battle line, and therefore training also pertained to marching (xing 行), running (zou 走), setting off (qi 啟), stopping (zhi 止), and retreating (tui 退) as reactions to the signals. Similar statements are found in the military classics Simafa and Weiliaozi.

Quotation 2. Military signals according to Zhouli 周禮
中軍以鼙令鼓,鼓人皆三鼓,司馬振鐸,群吏作旗,車徒皆作。 The general of the centre, with a small pi drum, orders to beat the great drums. The drummers beat thrice. The mounted commanders strike the attention cymbals (duo 鐸), the officers all raise their banners, and chariots and infantrymen move.
鼓行,鳴鐲,車徒皆行,及表乃止。 The drummers march, and the rhythm bells (zhuo 鐲) resonate. Chariots and infantrymen move, and when the signal is given they stop.
三鼓,摝鐸,群吏弊旗,車徒皆坐。 The drums are beaten thrice, and the rhythm bells are knelling. The officers all lower their banners, and chariots and infantrymen rest.
又三鼓,振鐸,作旗,車徒皆作。 The drums are once more beaten thrice, and the rhythm bells are knelling. The banners are elevated, and chariots and infantrymen move.
鼓進,鳴鐲,車驟徒趨,及表乃止,坐作如初。 The drummers advance, and the rhythm bells resonate. The charioteers press their horses, and the infantrymen rush forward. When the signal is given they stop and rest as in the beginning.
乃鼓,車馳徒走,及表乃止。鼓戒三闋,車三發,徒三刺。 Then the drums are beaten. The chariots advance swiftly and the infantrymen run forward, and when the signal is given they stop. The drums [thus] order [attack] by three suspensions, the chariots make three charges, and the infantry executes three attacks.
乃鼓退,鳴鐃且卻,及表乃止,坐作如初。 The drums then retreat, the ceasure bells (nao 鐃) are sounding to announce the end. When the signal is given [the troops] stop and rest as in the beginning.
Translation according to Biot 1851, Vol. 2, 177-178.

The book Weiliaozi (ch. Lezu ling 勒卒令) explains that drums ordered advancement, double drums attack, bells ordered to stop, double bells to withdraw, and chimes (ling) transmitted orders. Banners were used to indicate the direction of formations.

Reward and punishment

One of the core principles of legalist statehood was "reward and punishment" (shang fa 賞罰). A general had thus to make clear not only his commands, but to announce that the braves would be rewarded and the cowards be punished (Sunzi, ch. Shiji 始計). Such methods were not only applied in the state of Qin, but also in others. Daredevils of the state of Qi capturing the head of an enemy were rewarded with one zi 鍿 (8 ounces) of gold. The state of Zhao rewarded those having captured a general with 100 pieces of gold. After having crushed the army of Qi, general Yue Yi of Yan was welcomed by the king of Yan out in the field, was hosted and given the title of Lord of Chang 昌國君.

The most complete system of reward was drafted by Shang Yang in the state of Qin. The reward depended on the rank of a captured enemy. For presenting the head of an officer (jue shou yi ji 爵首一級), the hero was given one rank of honour (ci jue yi ji 賜爵一級, called gongshi 公士), according to a graded system. The deed was furthermore rewarded by a grant of 1 qing 頃 (see weights and measures) of arable land and 9 mu 畝 of land for buildings, and a servant who took over corvée duties. Finally, the hero was made an officer (Shangjunshu, ch. 19 Jingnei 境內). Apart from individual rewards, there were also collective rewards, mainly for troops storming a city. If a team of 18 troops killed 5 enemies, each of them was granted one rank of honour. There were in total 20 ranks of honour, the highest of which corresponded to a marquis (liehou 列侯).

Officers were rewarded in a different way. Officers who did not directly participate in a mêlée were rewarded according to the success of their company, with one rank of honour for 33 killed enemies. For higher ranks of officers, it became more difficult to attain such honours. After victory, the heads of enemies were laid down for three days and then distributed to the best soldiers, which in turn presented their "booty" to the local administration in their home district. Some officers were posthumously honoured by adding a further rank of honour, which was expressed by the number of trees planted around the grave. If a hero was killed on the battlefield, his son was granted the corresponding rank of honour. If one of the two had a criminal record, no reward was given.

The disciplinary law of the Qin was very harsh and foresaw the application of collective liability. In such a case, for instance, desertion of one person, or false report by one person, the whole squad or platoon was executed. Each soldier was constantly under strict observation by officers. If an officer did not press his men forward in due time, he was dismissed and expelled from the army. When, during a siege and storm, each man of a platoon had died except one, the remaining person was deemed a coward, and punished by mutilation. The spread of fear of the enemy was punished by execution. Wrong command was punished by exile.

Nothing is known about the martial law of other states, but it seems that the law of Qin was extremely harsh in comparison, and so contributed to the victory of Qin. As the philosopher Xunzi 荀子 (313-238) said, "Qin's decades-long victories were not due to good luck, but to the numbers [of paragraphs in their military law]."

Wars and generals

Western Zhou period

War was seen as a means to tame the unruly ones and "rectify the regional states" (zheng bangguo 正邦國). For this reason, the Minister of War applied the "nine methods of punitive campaign" (jiu fa zhi fa 九伐之法), as described in the chapter Da sima in the Classic Zhouli. The nine reasons for punitive attacks were if a regional ruler or nobleman had threatened the weak and dishonoured the faint (feng ruo fan gua 馮弱犯寡), oppressed the good ones and harmed the people (zei xian hai min 賊賢害民), was cruel in his jurisdiction and transgressed the borders of it (bao nei ling wai 暴內陵外), neglected agriculture and made the people flee (ye huang min san 野荒民散), relied on force and discarded obeisance (fu gu bu fu 負固不服), mistreated or killed parents (zei sha qi qin 賊殺其親), murdered a lord (fang shi qi jun 放弒其君), disobeyed orders and betrayed the government (fan ling ling zheng 犯令陵政), and created much disorder everywhere with the conduct of wild beasts (wai-nei luan niao-shou xing 外內亂,鳥獸行).

The victory over the Shang was achieved in the battle of Muye 牧野, which is located close to present-day Xinxiang 新鄉, Henan. The year of the war is unknown, even after many attempts to clarify it with the help of astronomical data mentioned in various sources (for instance, 1027 or 1046 BCE). The Zhou army consisted of a mixture of several allies, namely Yong 庸, Shu 蜀, Qiang 羌, Wu 髳, Wei 微, Lu 盧, Peng 彭, and Pu 濮, and surprised the allegedly 70,000-strong army of the Shang king Zhou 紂, who fled and burnt himself in his palace. The history book Shiji 史記 (ch. Zhou benji 周本紀) holds that King Wu's forces consisted of 300 rongche 戎車 chariots, 3,000 huben troops, and 45,000 jiashi, while his allies contributed 4,000 troops more. The defeat of a much stronger enemy might have been due to the larger number of chariots the Zhou used (Shaughnessy 1988: 228-229).

The most famous general participating in the battle was Lü Shang 呂尚 (Jiang Ziya 姜子牙), who was appointed regional ruler of Qi in the far east. The battle against the Shang is mentioned in the inscription of the Li gui 利簋 bronze vessel. The owner of the vessel apparently also took part in the battle.

Quotation 3. The victory of the Shang according to the Li gui 利簋 inscription
珷(=武王)征商隹(=唯)甲子朝。歲鼎(=貞or定)。克昏(=聞)夙(=巩)又(=有)商。辛未王才(=在)閒(?)師。易(=賜)又(=右)吏利金。用乍(=作)覃公寶尊彝。 When King Wu 周武王 rectified (i.e. defeated) Shang, it was on jiazi day (see calendar) at dawn. Jupiter was correctly in a favourable position. Accordingly, we were able to learn of the securing of Shang. On xinwei day, the King was at Jian 閒 (?) garrison; he bestowed on me, Li 利, Scribe of the Right (youli 右吏), bronze used to cast for my honoured forebear Tan 覃 this precious ritual vessel.
Translation: Cook & Goldin 2016: 11.

After King Wu's 周武王 victory of the Shang, he divided their territory in three parts and appointed the Shang prince Wu Geng 武庚 and his own brothers Guan Shu 管叔 and Cai Shu 蔡叔 as regional rulers. Yet after King Wu's death, Wu Geng rose in rebellion, along with the lords of some other states. The rebellion was motivated by Guan Shu's suspicion that the Duke of Zhou, regent for King Cheng 周成王, tried to usurp the throne. The Duke of Zhou initiated a military campaign that first wiped out Wu Geng, killed then his half-brother Guan Shu, and arrested Cai Shu. He then thrusted eastwards and pacified the Nine Yi tribes 九夷 in the Huai River 淮河 region which had supported the rebels. The surviving members of the Shang aristocracy were resettled to Chengzhou for better control.

Several decades later, King Cheng himself pacified the Nine Yi once more, along with the state of Yan 奄. King Kang's 周康王 campaign against the northern Guifang 鬼方 in the late 10th century is mentioned in the inscription of the Xiao Yu ding 小盂鼎.

During the reign of King Zhao 周昭王, the southern border was unstable. He therefore decided to pacify the region of Chu 楚 and Jing 荊 and the tribes of the Baipu 百濮 and Man 蠻. Yet the royal army was caught in a surprise attack close to River Han 漢水, and King Zhao died in the floods when trying to escape.

His son, King Mu 周穆王, appeased the Western Quanrong 犬戎 and forced them to move to what is today northern Shanxi, but was not able to suppress their martial spirit. Legend says that the King continued his march to the west and reached the Kunlun Range 崑崙 where he met the Queen Mother of the West 西王母 (see the story Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳). Even if this story is beyond credibility, it demonstrates that Chinese interest in the western territories slowly increased.

During the reign of King Yi 周懿王, the Quanrong became strong again and even invaded the metropolitan region. The king was forced to abandon his residence in Hao 鎬 and founded a new one in Quanqiu 犬丘 (Huaili 槐里, today's Xinping 興平, Shaanxi). The Duke of Shen 申 was more successful in his war against the Quanrong. His victory was crowned by the Duke of Guo's 虢 defeat of the Quanrong in the battle of Yuquan 俞泉 somewhere in northern Shanxi. During the reign of King Li, the Quanrong (then called Xianyun) plundered the royal residence once more, so that the king decided to increase his army. He was indeed able to defeat the wild tribes several times and also freed some captured Zhou people.

The southeastern tribes of the Huaiyi also remained a source of permanent troubles. Under the command of the Marquis of E 噩, King Yi's 周夷王 army conquered several statelets in the Huai River region. Yet peace did not prevail for long, and rebellious Yi advanced as far west as Luoyang. With supreme power, King Li was able to pacify the region.

Internal quarrels in the house of Zhou forced King Li to flee to Zhi 彘 (today's Huoxian 霍縣, Shanxi), where he died. His son, King Xuan 周宣王 (r. 828-782 BCE), relaxed the involvement of the Zhou into regional affairs. In 824, the Xianyun once more invaded the metropolitan region and killed Qin Zhong 秦仲, the lord of Qin. With strong contingents of chariots, Yin Ji 尹吉 repelled the invaders, and Nan Zhong 南仲 drove them farther away. King Xuan entrusted Qin Zhong's sons with the protection of the metropolitan region to the west, and thus created the regional state of Qin.

Jizi Bai 季子白, lord of Guo, heavily defeated the Xianyun in 823. When the danger from the northwest seemed to be settled, King Xuan ordered Fang Shu Gua 方叔掛 to command 3,000 chariots to crush the state of Chu in the middle Yangtze Region. The southeastern tribes under the leadership of the king of Xu 徐 were finally appeased by the royal army under the command of minister Nan Zhong and Grand Commander Huangfu 大師皇父.

Quotation 4. Victory over the Xianyun
隹(=唯)十又二年。正月初吉丁亥。虢季子白乍(=作)寶盤。不(=丕)顯子白。壯武于戎工(=功)。經維四方。摶伐玁狁。于洛之陽。折首五百。執訊五十。是厶(=以)先行。𧻚(=桓)𧻚子白。獻聝于王。王孔加(=嘉)子白義。王各(=格)周廟宣榭爰鄉(=饗)。 [...] It was in the twelfth year, first month, the week after the new moon, on dinghai day. Guo Jizi Bai 虢季子白 makes this precious basin. Greatly illustrious Zi Bai was mighty and martial in his fighting achievements. Reconnoitring and protecting the four directions, he attacked the Xianyun 玁狁 at the north bank of River Luo 洛. He severed five hundred heads and arrested fifty prisoners, and in this he was first. Valiant Zi Bai presented the severed ears to the King. The King greatly praised Zi Bai's uprightness The King went to the Grand Pavilion (Xuanxie 宣榭) of the Zhou temple and then held a banquet [...]
Translation: Cook & Goldin 2016: 189, slightly changed.

The campaign is also mentioned in the Shijing, Part Daya, ode Changwu 常武 "Everlasting Martiality".

These great victories led to a period of peace, even if King Xuan continued to wage wars against dispersed groups of Rong tribes in the north. In one of these campaigns, against the Jiangrong 姜戎 in 790, the army of the lord of Nan 南 was heavily defeated.

The downfall of the Western Zhou under King You was caused by a military alliance between the Xianyun, the Marquis of Shen, and the Marquis of Zeng 繒. The Marquis of Shen had been the father-in-law of King You, but felt insulted when King You discarded his Queen and took a new consort, Bao Si. Even if legend interprets the conquest of the metropolitan region by the Xianyun as the result of a childish game by Bao Si (spoofing the military commanders by having lit the signal fires), the treasonous alliance of part the inner circle of the Zhou court with an outer enemy played a substantial part in the event.

Spring and Autumn period

The number of military conflicts increased drastically during the Spring and Autumn period. Historians count no less than 376 military encounters during the 295 years of the period. (He 1987: 35). This was possible because of economic growth (see Zhou economy), different modes of recruitment, and better methods of exploiting revenues and resources.

Forced to resettle in the eastern capital Chengzhou (Luoyang, Henan) in 770, the house of Zhou had a royal domain (wangji) of no more than 600km2 (Chen 1994: 29). Nonetheless, the royal court was still respected and possessed considerable military superiority. Yet during the reign of King Ping 周平王 (r. 770-720 BCE), tensions with the regional state of Zheng to the east grew, and the crown princes of both houses were mutually exchanged as hostages. His successor King Huan 周桓王 (r. 720-697) attempted to replace the house of Zheng as royal ministers by the house of Guo 虢. In this situation, King Huan had to rely on the support of the state of Jin, but in 718, Earl Zhuang of Quwo 曲沃莊伯 (r. 732-717), by then master over Jin, rebelled against the King, who invested Marquis Ai 晉哀侯 (718-710). In 713, Zheng defeated the states of Song, Wei 衛, and Cai in the battle of Dai 戴 (Minquan 民權, Henan).

In 708, King Huan dismissed Duke Zhuang of Zheng, and ordered Chen, Cai, and Wei 衛 to attack Zheng, together with the royal army and that of Guo. The armies met in the battle of Xuge, but Zheng defeated the royal alliance. Xuge was the last time a king of Zhou personally commanded a military campaign, and the sign of the end of the military prowess of the Zhou. In the 7th century, the royal domain was cut down by presents of territories to Zheng, Guo, and Jin. Yet the legitimacy of the house of Zhou was not challenged. Many wars of the Spring and Autumn period were led to support the royal house or to act on its behalf.

The reason to take over the function of lord-protector ("hegemonial lord", ba 霸) over the regional rulers was the military strength of the Di and Rong tribes in west and north China, and later that of the southern state of Chu. The motto was "respect the King and suppress the wild tribes" (zun wang rang yi 尊王攘夷). In 663, the state of Yan in the north was attacked by the Mountain Rong (Shanrong 山戎). Duke Huan of Qi was asked for help, and sent an army to the far north. He defeated the Shanrong at Guzhu 孤竹 (north of Hebei). In 660, Duke Huan helped Duke Dai 衛戴公 (r. 660) to the throne after the state of Wei 衛 had been devastated by the Di tribes. In 659, he helped the statelet of Xing 邢 against the Di tribes and defeated them with an allied army of Qi, Song, and Wei 衛. In 657, Duke Huan convoked the states at Yanggu 陽谷 (Liucheng 聊城, Shandong) and it was decided to resist the northward advance of Chu. The states of Huang 黃 and Jiang 江 were rescued. In 646, Duke Huan led an alliance of states to help the statelet of Qi 杞 against the Huai tribes, and two years later supported the state of Zeng 鄫.

Yet in the end, Duke Huan of Qi was not able to prevent the northward expansion of Chu, and after Chu had conquered the state of Cai, both concluded in 656 the peace treaty of Shaoling 召陵 (Leihe 漯河, Henan).

The battle of Chengpu 城濮 (either today's Chenliu 陳留, Henan, or Juancheng 鄄城, Shandong) in 632 marked the beginning of a hundred-year long conflict between the powers Chu and Jin. Duke Cheng of Song 宋成公 (r. 636-620) decided to get rid of the domination by Chu. King Cheng of Chu 楚成王 (r. 672-626) thereupon ordered his allies Chen, Cai, Zheng, and Xu 許 to attack Song, which in turn asked Duke Wen of Jin 晉文公 (r. 636-628) for help. Jin, supported by Qi and Qin, overwhelmed the two wings of Chu and forced the invader to retreat. Duke Wen of Jin took over the position of lord-protector which was confirmed in the interstate meeting in Jiantu 踐土 (Yuanyang 原陽, Henan) in 631.

In 596, King Zhuang of Chu 楚莊王 (r. 613-591) attacked Zheng and forced the earl of Zheng into surrender. The relief forces of Jin hesitated before engaging Chu in the battle of Bi 邲 (Xingyang 滎陽, Henan), but this time Chu (commanded by the king and Shusun Ao 孫叔敖) routed the army of Jin (commanded by Xun Linfu 荀林父, Shi Hui 士會, and Zhao Shuo 趙朔).

A phase of détente was initiated by Hua Yuan 華元, a grand master in the state of Chu who had good relationships with dignitaries in Jin and Chu. A conference between the two competitors was held in the capital of Song (Shangqiu 商丘, Henan). Yet the third great battle between the two powers took place in 575 at Yanling 鄢陵 (Henan) in marsh terrain unfavourable for Chu, so Luan Shu 欒書, Han Jue 韓厥, and Xi Qi 郤錡 were able to defeat King Gong of Chu 楚共王 (r. 590-560).

During the reign of Duke Dao 晉悼公 (r. 573-558), the state of Jin was in permanent contest with Chu over the domination of the states of the Central Plain, mainly Zheng, Song, Chen, and Wei 衛. Duke Dao was able to cement his position as lord-protector during the interstate meetings of Jize 雞澤 (close to Handan 邯鄲, Hebei) in 570 and Xingqiu 邢丘 (today's Wenxian 溫縣, Henan) in 566. In 563, Duke Dao assembled the regional states at Zudi 祖地 (Pixian 邳縣, Jiangsu) and encouraged King Shoumeng 壽夢 (r. 585-561) of Wu to attack Chu from the east.

Xun Ying 荀罃 invented a strategy to defeat Chu by restructuring the four divisions of Jin into three (san fen si jun 三分四軍). Each year one of them—accompanied by auxiliary troops from allied states—invaded Chu. In this way, the two states did not engage in battles, but Chu was exhausted by the constant threat posed from the north. The army of Chu pursued the strategy of avoiding battles and therefore each time withdrew to the south, but had to march back to the north in order to assure control over Zheng. In three campaigns, Jin was able to defeat Chu (san jia sheng Chu 三駕勝楚) and forced its satellite Zheng into submission. The last great battle between Chu and Jin took place in 557 at Zhanban 湛阪 (Pingdingshan 平頂山, Henan). Chu's defeat brought a time of peace for the Central Plain, confirmed in the détente conference (mibing dahui 弭兵大會) held in 546 in the state of Song as initiated by Xiang Xu 向戌.

Jin also fought with its western rival Qin and the eastern state of Qi. The state of Zheng sought for support of Qin against the incursions of Jin. Duke Mu of Qin 秦穆公 (r. 659-621) thereupon broke his alliance with Duke Xiang of Jin 晉襄公 (r. 628-621), for fear that the latter might become too strong. Qin gradually expanded to the east, crossed the royal domain, and in 627 attacked Zheng, but did not conquer it. On its return, the army of Jin under Xian Zhen 先軫 attacked that of Qin in the area of Mt. Xiaoshan 崤山 (close to Sanmenxia 三門峽, Henan). In 580, Duke Li of Jin 晉厲公 (r. 581-573) and Duke Huan of Qin 秦桓公 (r. 604-577) concluded a new alliance which soon broke apart because Qin attacked Jin with the help of the White Di tribes 白狄 (白翟). Jin assembled the regional rulers in 578 and united them for a campaign against Qin. Wei Xiang 魏相 was sent to Qin to declare war. In spite of such a large body of enemies, Qin was ready to meet the enemy at Masui 麻隧 (Jinyang 涇陽, Shaanxi), but was totally defeated.

An attack of the state of Qi on Lu and Wei 衛 in 589 caused the two minor states to seek for support by Jin, which sent out a large contingent to punish the perpetrator. The battle took place in An 鞍 (also written 鞌, close to Jinan 濟南, Shandong) and ended with the defeat of Qi, which thereupon acknowledged the hegemony of Jin.

Wu did indeed become the major opponent of Chu in the second half of the 6th century. In 525, Wu defeated the fleet of Wu at Chang'an 長岸 (Dangtu 當涂, Anhui), and in 519, the battle of Jifu 雞父 (Gushi 固始, Henan) took place. The king of Wu sent out 3,000 penal conscripts to attack Chu's auxiliary troops from the statelets of Dun 頓, Hu 胡, Shen 沈, Cai 蔡, Chen 陳, and Xu 許, which therefore left the centre of Chu unprotected. The newcomer Wu defeated the powerful state of Chu, which thereupon fell into disorder. Wu used this situation and in 506 invaded Chu with a strong force. The Chu generals Nang Wa 囊瓦 and Shi Huang 史皇 were defeated, but Shen Yin Xu 沈尹戌 displayed the last resistance of Chu in the battle of Boju 柏舉 (Macheng 麻城, Hubei) before Prince Fu Gai 夫概 occupied the capital of Chu, Ying 郢 (Jiangling 江陵 or Shashi 沙市, Hubei). For some time, the state of Chu was neutralized in the power game of the south. Instead, the state of Wu (approx. Jiangsu) was challenged by another newcomer, namely the state of Yue (approx. Zhejiang).

The two states clashed for the first time in 496 in the battle of Zuili 檇李 (Jiaxing 嘉興, Zhejiang), when King Helü of Wu 闔閭 (r. 514-496 BCE) was mortally wounded and exhorted his son Fucha to take revenge. Yet King Goujian of Yue took the first step and invaded Yue in 494, but was utterly defeated by the army of Wu in the battle of Fujiao 夫椒 (Mt. Jiaoshan 椒山 close to Suzhou 蘇州, Jiangsu). Wu advanced to Guiji 會稽 (Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang), the capital of Yue, and forced King Goujian into a humiliating submission. For more than ten years, King Goujian of Yue worked at rebuilding his state and army, and in 482, when Fucha of Wu attended an interstate meeting at Huangchi, invaded the capital of Wu, Gusu 姑蘇 (Suzhou). In 475, Wu began to besiege the capital of Wu and took it in 473, and so made an end to the state of Wu.

Warring States

Marquis Wen of Wei 魏文侯 (r. 424-387) was the last ruler who attempted to gain the position of lord-protector. He achieved several great victories over Qin in the west, Qi in the east, and Chu in the south. His most important generals were Wu Qi 吳起—putative author of the book Wuzi 吳子—and Yue Yang 樂羊. In 411, Wei destroyed the state of Zhongshan. In 405, the armies of Wei, Han, and Zhao defeated Qi and captured 2,000 chariots and 30,000 troops. In 402, the allies defeated Chu at Shengqiu 乘丘 (Yanzhou 兖州, Shandong), and in 391 destroyed a Chu army at Daliang 大梁 (Kaifeng 開封, Henan), a place chosen by the Marquis to be his new place of residence. Yet in 380, the succession struggle in Wei allowed for the revival of the state of Zhongshan.

Reforms in Qin strengthened this state militarily, and in 366, Qin defeated Wei and Han in the battle of Luoyin 洛陰 (Dali 大荔, Shaanxi). In the battle of Shimen 石門 (Yuncheng 運城, Shanxi) two years later, Wei lost 60,000 troops to Qin. The allies Han and Zhao became enemies, and were badly defeated by the army of Wei under Gongshu Cuo 公叔痤 in the battle of River Kuai 澮水 (southern Shanxi). Yet in the same year, Shuzhang Guo 庶長國 of Qin captured the counsellor-general Gongshu Cuo in the battle of Daliang.

Wei laid in 354 siege to the capital of Zhao, Handan. Zhao thereupon asked Qi for relief, which was sent by an army commanded by Tian Ji and Sun Bin 孫臏, the great military strategist. The latter feigned weakness on the Handan theatre, while attacking Daliang, the capital of Wei, and so lured the commander of Wei, Pang Juan 龐涓, into an ambush at Guiling 桂陵 (Changyuan 長垣, Henan) and defeated him. A protracted campaign against Han ended in a similar way. Sun Bin attacked, then feigned a retreat of the army of Qi, and then applied the stratagem of leaving his enemy unclear about his own strength, so that Pang Juan, general of Wei, underestimated the strength of Qi, and in 342 again became victim of an ambush at Maling 馬陵 (Shenxian 莘縣, Henan), during which he died. This battle initiated the downfall of the state of Wei.

The reforms in Qin by Shang Yang were important for the military growth of this state. They encompassed household registers and taxation, the unification of weights and measures, administrative centralization, the promotion of agriculture, and the introduction of rewards for farming and success in military campaigns. Right after Wei's disastrous defeat at Maling, Shang Yang invited Prince Gongzi Ang 公子卬 of Wei for a meeting, in which he arrested him and defeated his army. In 339, Qin defeated Wei in the battle of Anmen 岸門 (Hejin 河津, Shanxi), and in 333, supreme commander (daliangzao 大良造) Gongsun Yan 公孫衍 (Xishou 犀首) achieved victory over the 40,000 troops of Wei in the battle of Diaoyin 彫陰 (Ganquan 甘泉, Shaanxi) and captured general Long Jia 龍賈. Qin so began to conquer and occupy more and more territory in the Central Plain, mainly by following the plans of the diplomatic advisor Zhang Yi 張儀. The counsellor of Wei, Gongsun Yan (who had meanwhile changed sides), thereupon decided to ask the eastern states for support against Qin.

In 318, King Huai of Chu 楚懷王 (r. 329-299) was chosen leader of an anti-Qin alliance, but Qin was able to defeat this alliance in the battle of Xiuyu 修魚 (Yuanyang 原陽, Henan). In 314, Qin forced Han into submission. In 308, Qin massacred 60,000 troops of Han after the battle of Yiyang 宜陽 (Henan). Only a new alliance of Qi, Wei, and Han initiated by Lord Mengchang 孟嘗君 was able to drive back the troops of Qin to the Hangu Pass 函谷關, the old natural eastern border of Qin.

Qin soon recovered under the counsellorship of Marquis Rang 穰侯 (Wei Ran 魏冉) and with high command in the hands of Sima Cuo 司馬錯, Xiang Shou 向壽, and then Bai Qi. The latter pressed back the forces of Han and Wei to a pass of Mt. Yique 伊闕山 (Longmen Pass 龍門關 near Luoyang), where he massacred 240,000 inimical troops. In 275, Marquis Rang defeated the last forces of Han under Bao Yuan 暴鳶 and massacred the 40,000 surrendering troops of Han. In the same year, Marquis Rang defeated an allied army of Wei (under the command of Mang Ang 芒卬) and Qi close to Daliang. Bai Qi defeated Mang Ang once more in the battle of Huayang 華陽 (close to Zhengzhou 鄭州, Henan) when Wei attacked Zhao. The initiative of Lord Xinling even yielded back some territories from Qin. From 265 on, under the counsellorship of Fan Ju 范雎, Qin began to launch a long-term campaign to conquer the three states of Han, Wei, and Zhao.

The intensified attacks of Qin on the states of the Central Plain were only possible because Qin got rid of the pressure by the wild tribes of the Yiqu 義渠 in the west. For long years, Qin had paid tributes to pacify them, but in 320 Qin decided to attack them. Yet only in 272, they were finally defeated after their king, dwelling as a host at the court of Qin, was killed. The northwest was transformed into the commanderies Longxi 隴西, Beidi 北地, and Shangjun 上郡.

Zhang Yi and Sima Cuo were convinced that the possession of the fertile and rich Sichuan Basin would be an important step for gaining domination over Chu, all the more as an attack from the west down the Han and Yangtze valleys proved more successful than direct attack. A quarrel between the state of Shu 蜀 (Chengdu, Sichuan) with Ba 巴 (Chongqing) and Ju 苴 provided the chance to invade the Sichuan Basin. Qin destroyed the local states and first set up an autonomous government, but in 285 created the commanderies of Shujun 蜀郡 and Bajun 巴郡.

The state of Chu in the south had suffered bad defeats in the battles of Daliang and Yuguan 榆關 (close to Kaifeng, Henan) in 391 against Han, Wei, and Zhao. Thereafter, Wu Qi proposed to King Dao of Chu 楚悼王 (r. 402-381) to carry out some reforms. The most important measure were curtailing the power of the nobility, abolishing superfluous offices, lowering salaries, reducing hereditary privileges, and "sinifying" Chu in a general way. At the same time, the military potential was raised. Yet after the King's death, the reforms were abolished. Qin first attempted by diplomatic ways to overcome Chu. Zhang Yi pursued King Huai to give up his alliance with Qi by presenting him with territory. In 312 then, Qin defeated the army of Chu at Huayang (Shaanxian 陝縣, Henan). General Qu Gai 屈匄 was captured and 80,000 troops massacred. Qin had gained access to the territory of Chu by the corridor of River Han. In Lantian 藍田 (Zhongxiang 鐘祥, Hubei), Chu was defeated once more, and in 300 again, with a loss of 30,000 troops. A year later, King Huai followed an invitation of Qin for a conference and was taken prisoner. He died in Qin.

In 280, the army of Qin advanced on three roads. Bai Qi annihilated several 10,000 troops of Chu in the battle of River Yan 鄢水 (a tributary of River Han). In 278, Qin began to attack the capital of Chu and King Qingxiang 楚頃襄王 (r. 299-263) fled to the north, where he set up a makeshift capital in Chen 陳 (Huaiyang 淮陽, Henan). The core land of Chu was transformed into the Qin commandery of Nanjun 南郡.

Zhao, the northernmost of the three successor states of Jin (Han, Wei, Zhao), had a similar problem on its outer borders like Qin. The permanent attacks of the tribes of the Donghu, Linhu, and Loufan incited King Wuling of Zhao to change his military tactics. By adopting moveable warfare with cavalry units, Zhao was able to get rid of the incursions of the nomad tribes and established the northern commanderies of Yunzhong 雲中 and Yanmen 雁門 (northwest Shanxi). With its new cavalry tactic, it also annihilated the state of Zhongshan in 306. King Huiwen continued with the strengthening of the army of Zhao and appointed competent persons like counsellor-in-chief Lian Xiangru and the commanders Lian Po and Zhao She 趙奢.

Zhao She defeated the army of Qin in the battle of Eyu 閼與 (modern Heshun 和順, Shanxi) in 270. Ten years later, the two states competed for the territory of Shangdang 上黨 (modern Qinyang 沁陽, Henan), which originally belonged to the territory of Han. The army of Zhao was trapped at Changping 長平 (near modern Gaoping 高平, Shanxi), a place for which Qin and Zhao contested for three years. Lian Po, supreme commander of Zhao, was replaced by Zhao Kuo 趙括, a less competent person, who immediately ordered to attack Qin, whose army stood under the command of Bai Qi and Wang He. Qin cut off Zhao's supplies and ways of retreat. The besieged army of Zhao finally surrendered, whereupon Bai Qi allegedly ordered to bury alive the 450,000 surrendering troops. Yet Zhao was not yet finally defeated - for two more years the army of Qin beleaguered the capital of Zhao, Handan. Lord Xinling of Wei organized a relief army (also supported by Chu) and rescued the state of Zhao, but Zhao was never able to recover from the terrible defeat at Changping.

In 314, a succession struggle in the state of Yan in the far northwest incited King Xuan of Qi 齊宣王 (r. 342-324) to invade Yan, but it was forced to withdraw two years later. King Wuling of Zhao supported the enthronement of King Zhao of Yan 燕昭王 (r. 311-279) who carried out administrative and military reforms and attracted competent diplomatic and military advisors like Yue Yi, Zou Yan 鄒衍, Ju Xin 劇辛 or Su Qin. In 284, Yan had achieved diplomatic success by forging an alliance with Qin, Zhao, Wei, and Han against Qi, and invaded the country. The capital Linzi was conquered, and King Min of Qi 齊湣王 (r. 323-284) forced to retreat to Ju 莒, apart from Jimo 即墨 the only place not eventually occupied by Yan and her allies. Three years later, King Hui of Yan replaced Yue Yi with Qi Jie 騎劫, a less experienced general, who fell victim to Tian Dan's 田單 tactic to drive cows with burning tails into the camp of Yan. The eventual victor, King Xiang of Qi 齊襄王 (r. 283-265), agreed with the king of Qin that both adopt the title of emperor, the king of Qin being Emperor of the West, and the king of Qi that of the East—a plan never realized.

The accession to the throne in Qin of Prince Zheng 政 (r. 246-210) marked the beginning of intensified reforms in administrative and military affairs. At the same time, advisors of King Zheng like the counsellors-in-chief Lü Buwei 呂不韋 (d. 253) or Li Si 李斯 (d. 208) played out one against the other among the six remaining regional states against the other.

In 236, Qin supported Yan in a war against Zhao. The Qin generals Wang Jian 王翦 and Huan Yi 桓齮 attacked the forces of Zhao under Li Mu and Hu Zhe 扈輒 from the rear, while Pang Nuan 龐煖 stood against Yan. In 234, Qin defeated Zhao at Pingyang 平陽 (Cixian 磁縣, Hebei), yet a year later, Li Mu won victory over Qin and forced Huan Yi to flee to Yan. A year of draught in 229 incited Qin to use the chance and launch a further attack on Zhao, but only by bringing up the generals Li Mu and Sima Shang 司馬尚 and minister Guo Kai 郭開 against their incompetent lord allowed Wang Jian to conquer the capital of Zhao, Handan. Prince Gongzi Jia 公子嘉 thereupon founded the state of Dai 代 that was destroyed by the Qin general Wang Ben 王賁 in 222. Terrified by the brutality of the military machine of Qin, Han in 230 submitted to Qin. A last rebellion of the Han nobility in 226 was suppressed, and the retired Han king An 韓王安 (r. 239-230) executed. In 225, Wang Ben captured King Jia of Wei 魏王假 (r. 228-225) and Qin swallowed the state.

General Huan Yi had fled to Yan. In order to appease Qin, Prince Dan of Yan 燕丹子 decided to send the head of Huan Yi to Qin and to present to the king of Qin some territory. At that occasion, the emissary Jing Ke 荊軻 was planned to kill King Zheng of Qin. Yet the attempted murder failed and proved the pretext for war. In 227, Wang Jian and Xin Sheng 辛勝 attacked and destroyed the joint armies of Yan and Dai. King Xi of Yan 燕王喜 (r. 255-222) appeased Qin by sacrificing Crown Prince Dan. Only in 222, after having defeated Chu, Wang Ben resumed the attack on Yan and destroyed it.

The Central Plain and the northeast being in the hands of Qin, the two remaining states Chu and Qi were rife for attack. Yet the war began with the strategic error to send only a force of only 200,000 men under the command of the young generals Li Xin 李信 and Meng Tian 蒙恬. The first victories over Chu in 225 made Qin overconfident and the army of Chu under Xiang Yan 項燕 used the chance, inflicted a serious defeat on Qin, and launched further attacks to repel Qin from the western borderlands of Chu. King Zheng of Qin thereupon gave command into the hands of the experienced general Wang Jian, who decided to attack Chu with a force of no less than 600,000 troops. For some time Qin and Chu entrenched themselves in the region of Chen (Huaiyang, Anhui), but King Fuchu of Chu 楚王負芻 (r. 228-223) urged Xiang Yan to attack. Xiang Yan failed and had to withdraw. His troops were annihilated, and Meng Wu 蒙武 conquered the Chu capital Shouchun 壽春 (Shouxian 壽縣, Anhui).

The last ruler of Qi, King Jian 齊王建 (r. 265-221), was so desperate that he did not prepare for defence against Qin. When Wang Ben invaded Qi in 221, King Jian submitted without fighting. In the same year King Zheng of Qin adopted the title of First Emperor.

Military thought

Even if the Classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" is usually seen as a divination book, the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296) attested quite a few statements on military matters in this text. The hexagram Dui 兌, for instance urges to solve conflicts by negotiation. If peaceful solution was not possible, war had to be sanctioned and proclaimed explicitly, as the hexagram Qian 謙 suggests. Wars were only allowed to secure the survival of the state and if one's safety was endangered (hexagram Meng 蒙). War was to be waged with the consent of the people (hexagrams Jin 晉, Guan 觀). The kingdom had nevertheless to be ready for war at any time, as hexagram Tai 泰 holds. Once on a campaign, an army had to keep to discipline in order to achieve victory (hexagram Shi 師). The importance of terrain for camping and fighting is stressed in hexagram Xu 需, and military spirit is evoked in hexagram Tongren 同人.

The historiographical Classic Zuozhuan and the military classic Sunzi 孫子 and commentaries on those two books quote from two lost texts, namely Junzheng 軍政 and Junzhi 軍志 which were probably in circulation during the late Western Zhou period. The fragments are terse and might have been worked over by later generations. One groups of statements in the Zuozhuan (Xigong 僖公 28) admonishes to be cautious, be content with victory (yun dang ze gui 允當則歸), and to wage war successfully with the spirit of virtue (you de bu ke di 有德不可敵). Another fragment (Xuangong 宣公 12; Zhaogong 昭公 21) explains that victory falls rather to the side that attacks first (xian ren you duo ren zhi zhi 先人有奪人之志). The control of territory was important (di li wei bao 地利為寶), no less than the ability to evaluate a situation: "Advance, if [victory] is possible, and retreat, if not" (jie ke er jin, zhi nan er tui 見可而進,知難而退).

The sovereigns of large and strong regional states took over the duty to bring peace and order into the state system of the early Eastern Zhou period. Their task was a military one, and thus resulted in the development of strategies and military concepts. Duke Huan of Qi, the first lord-protector, invented the motto "respect the King of Zhou and suppress the barbarians" (zun wang rang yi). His enemies were the Yi, Rong and Di tribes living around, but also settling between and inside the regional states. Duke Wen of Jin added a new enemy, namely the semi-barbarian state of Chu in the south, whose rulers had from the beginning used the title of king. His strategy was to lure the army of Chu to advance northwards, in order to force it into battle. Duke Huan and Duke Wen both combined the economic and administrative reorganization of their states to strengthen their military power. King Zhuang of Chu invented the alliance system with larger states as Qin in the west and Qi in the east, and replaced the old system by which larger states like Qi or Jin had assembled groups of smaller states to provide auxiliary contingents during military campaigns.

The state of Wu, whose ruler was advised by the military experts Sun Wu and Wu Zixu, invented new operative models to overcome its enemy Chu, namely dividing up the army into three divisions which advanced along different routes. In addition to that, the enemy was to be left unclear about which of the three divisions would execute the main charge. King Goujian of Yue nourished Wu’s alliance with states from the north, in order to use his enemy’s absence for a meeting from the capital to attack it.

Other tactics applied in the Spring and Autumn period can be observed, such as "avoid the strong and attack the weak" (bi qiang ji ruo 避強擊弱), "lure the enemy into an ambush" (you di she fu 誘敵設伏), "trap the enemy on his way" (she fu jie ji 設伏截擊), "the one attacking first has the impetus on his side, and the one patient enough to wait for attack will profit from his enemy's faintness" (xian ren you duo ren zhi xin, hou ren you dai qi shuai 先人有奪人之心, 後人有待其衰), modes of deception like feint attacks, making the enemy over-confident (jiaobing zhi ji 驕兵之計), or long-term rotating invasions of smaller contingents to demoralize the enemy.

Sunzi bingfa 孫子兵法, compiled by Sun Wu 孫武

Authorship of the most famous military classic Sunzi 孫子 or Sunzi bingfa 孫子兵法 is attributed to Sun Wu 孫武 (c. 535-480), a military advisor of King Helü of Wu, and probably hailing from the state of Qi, where military thinkers had a tradition beginning with Lü Shang. He allegedly submitted a 13-chapters long text to King Helü and discussed with him military reform according to the model of the state of Jin (as described in the rediscovered chapter Wu wen 吳問, found among the bamboo texts from Yinqueshan 銀雀山 close to Linyi 臨沂, Shandong), and organized, together with Wu Zixu, the victorious invasion of Chu in 506, as well as the conquest of Yue in 482 and the victory over Qi in the battle of Ailing in 482. Sun retired when King Fucha of Wu had Wu Zixu executed.

The book Sunzi bingfa has been seen as the most fundamental text on ancient military thought and covers a wide range of strategical and tactical issues. It was commented on many times. Sun Wu warned that warfare was a question of life and death for a state, and generals therefore had to plan carefully and analytically their chances and possibilities. The economical basis for warfare was a contended and healthy population. Yet before launching a campaign, the government had to utilize each feasible diplomatic solution, not the least by tricking the enemy. If no other solution was available, war could be waged if great victory was possible at minimum risk and as swift as possible.

Commanders would have to resort to rational self-control and avoid haste, fear, anger, hatred or other personal emotions. Orders would have to be made clear, so the troops would follow as one single man. The critical element in battle was the spirit (qi) of troops, their will and intention, for which nourishment, clothes and equipment were as important as training.

The enemy could be vanquished by using the terrain at one's advantage, manipulating and deceiving the opponent, exhausting him by constant movement, the use of "orthodox" and "unorthodox" forces and formations (zheng 正, qi 奇), and the application of strategic configurations of power (shi 勢) forcing the enemy (quan 權) into disadvantageous situations, suitable battle arrays (xing 形), and the concentration on focused targets.

Simafa 司馬法, compiled by Sima Rangju 司馬穰苴

Another ancient military classic was Simafa 司馬法 "Methods of the Minister of War", allegedly compiled by Sima Rangju 司馬穰苴, a commander in the state of Qi during the late 6th century. Like Sun Wu, Sima Rangju was a determined leader who held high duty and command, and did not shy away to demonstrate this to grand master Zhuang Jia 莊賈, whom he had executed for coming late to a meeting. In war, Sima Rangju displayed greatest concern for the well-being of his soldiers, and shared with them the hardships of military life.

The preserved five chapters of the text are somewhat enigmatic (Sawyer 1993: 111) and perhaps only a tiny part of an original long corpus including a wide range of aspects covering military activities, military administration, managing campaigns, and some strategies and tactics.

Even if the Simafa stresses the adherence to the moral principle of benevolence when dealing with a defeated enemy (restraint in pursuit), preparing for battle (formal announcement of campaigns, waiting until the battle arrays were completed before attacking), or when dealing with non-combatants (avoiding disruption of seasonal farming activities), the book has a realistic approach when justifying warfare and separating it from the civilian sphere: War was the source of authority, while the civilian realm was to be governed by other means, like those advocated by the Confucians. In both spheres, different modes of speech and progress were valid. Nonetheless, there were also military virtues, like benevolence (ren 仁), righteousness (yi 義), trust (xin 信), courage (yong 勇), and wisdom (zhi 智)—exactly the same as applicable for the civilian world.

Some aspects of the transmitted texts are contradictory (pursuit) and show the spirit of different ages; this might be the result of compilatory history.

Training was important to prepare the troops at best, yet a general had to know exactly what he could achieve with his human resources and their weapons, by exerting them to give their best, without exhausting them. Issues of motivation, manipulation of spirits, and fostering the troop's courage play an important part in the Simafa and go beyond the handles of reward and punishment. A general must attempt to incite a "new surge of spirit" (xin qi sheng 新氣勝), for instance, by speech and requiring a ritual oath of the whole corps, urging them to write farewell letters (shu qin jue 書親絕), or displaying a magnanimous countenance and explaining the motive of living when troops were terrified. A good general would share his achievements with his troops (yu zhong fen shan 與眾分善) and blame himself for failures (qu guo zai ji 取過在己). He would not reward great victories nor overly punish after great defeats.

Quite an interesting aspect of battle management suggested in the Simafa is to leave the enemy an escape path, so he would prefer to flee instead of fighting to the death.

Wuzi bingfa 吳子兵法, compiled by Wu Qi 吳起

In ancient times, a military treatise written by Wu Qi called Wuzi was just as famous as Sun Wu's Bingfa. Wu Qi had a Confucian background which he implemented into his view of the connection between state and military. Benevolent government was the precondition of successful defence and attack, but legalist thought is also visible in the text, for instance, in exactly defining the role of each actor. Yet Wu did not advocate strict punishment, but recommended to stimulate troops and officers by having them participate in banquets feasting the most heroic fighters. Rewards were also given in the shape of honours and subsidies for the families of killed soldiers (Sawyer 1993: 204).

Successful campaigning was not possible without the application of Confucian virtues, just as a Confucian state needed military power for defence. A successful general was characterized not just by courage, but likewise by wisdom and self-control. The troops had to be trained regularly and be instructed exactly in the meaning of commands and signals. Their equipment should be in proper repair, and even the feeding of and caring for horses were seen as a precondition for a strong army.

A substantial part of Wu Qi's book is dedicated to the composition of units, training, methods of control, formations, and the selection of men. He describes techniques to evaluate the strength of the enemy and situations on the battlefield as they often occurred. Wu Qi's text reflects the development of new types of arms (like cavalry) and the growing specialization of units within an army.

Such descriptions and recommendations are seen in many other early military treatises, but the book Wuzi provides also unique information on the 'character' of each of the regional states and proposes methods to vanquish them. Wu Qi's book is thus a comprehensive treatise on all aspects of warfare.

Sun Bin bingfa 孫臏兵法, a lost and recovered text

In 1972, a Han-period tomb excavation at Yinqueshan near Linyi, Shandong, brought to light fragments of several military texts written on bamboo slips, among them the book Sun Bin bingfa 孫臏兵法 which has long thought being lost. In many respects, Sun Bin bingfa is similar to the older Sunzi bingfa, both from the content of the treatise as well from the structure, part of which is compiled in the manner of a dialogue, the book ascribed to general Sun Bin differs from the well-known Sunzi.

Yet while Sunzi's "Art of War" is more basic, general, and theoretical, Sun Bin's book is practical, technical, concrete, and tactical, and can in some cases be used to clarify historical issues (Lau & Ames 2003: 20). It reflects not only the growing importance of philosophy (e.g. shi 勢 as "military wisdom concerning strategic advantages" rather than pure "force") for worldly discussions, but is a testimony for the change of warfare, for instance, by speaking on siege, crossbows, cavalry, and the combined tactical use of different detachments in battle, and also for the increasing brutality with which opponents fought against each other (Lau & Ames 2003: 35-36). The "esoteric" Sun Bin bingfa was perhaps written for experienced generals, and thus occupied a special position among the literary genre of "Art of Warfare".

The treatise Weiliaozi 尉繚子

Wei Liao 尉繚 was a mid-Warring States period general, yet early bibliographies list two texts of this name. Its authenticity was proved by a Han-period original in Linyi, Shandong, in 1972. It seems that Wei Liao war rather a theoretician than a practising officer (Sawyer 1993: 229). The first half of the transmitted text is therefore more philosophical than practical.

As in most others of the early military treatises, Wei Liao advocates to care for the welfare of the peasant population which was the fundament of each state. A ruler should reign with benevolence, live frugally, and lower taxes. Nonetheless, draconian measures would be necessary from time to time to curb the extravagance of the dignitaries and state officials. Such humanistic ideals should also pertain to military campaigns by impeding troops from harming the population – in this respect, Wei Liao contradicts Sunzi, who advocated foraging and plundering (Sawyer 1993: 234).

Military campaigns were only successful after proper preparation and careful planning. The observation of hierarchy structures was equally important as the cohesion of units. Group liability would ensure that each soldier paid attention to the martial conduct of his comrades. While lame ducks were to be punished severely, Wei Liao also suggested to rewards troops having displayed courage and bravery, and in this way urged to nurture motivation (qi 氣) by a combination of terror with expectation. In tactical measures, an enemy was prone to demotivation by causing fear, consternation, and confusion.

In some respect, the book Weiliaozi can be seen as an "enlightened" or "materialistic" text because the author renounces the influence of Yin and Yang, Heaven, and spirits. A disciplined army would be able to exert strategic advantages by applying a certain flexibility in the deployment of complex battle plans, for instance, by speed, deception, concentration of force to the assault of the enemy's weak points, furthermore the reliance on intelligence, maintaining the initiative, and keeping up activity for bringing the enemy into a situation in which he could be destroyed.

The pseudo-antique treatise Taigong liutao 太公六韜

The military classic Liutao 六韜 (Qi Taigong 齊太公) was believed to have been written by Lü Shang, one of the commanders supporting King Wu in the conquest of the Shang. Yet this is rather improbable, and linguistic and technical analysis results in a date of composition around 300 BCE. Like many other military treatises, this book explains that success in government was the prerequisite of success in war. "Love for the people" was not just an internal affair, but also the condition of diplomacy, a field played out in all facets (including bribery of the officialdom of the enemy) before resorting to war.

The Liutao also described the character and abilities of a successful general and is the only one of the ancient military classics that lists the officers in a kind of "general staff". The book also provides details on military units and their equipment, including that of what would be called "pioneer units". Apart from these novelties, the Liutao gives instructions on tactics and the evaluation of chances.

Confucians on War

During the Spring and Autumn period, warfare was still characterized as an enterprise governed by recognized forms of ritual and political behaviour, and by consensus, these norms included respect for covenants and state envoys, refraining from attacking states in mourning or treating badly the elderly or war captives (Twiss & Chan 2015: 109). Yet in the course of time, the ritual and formal frame of warfare faded away. Confucius and his disciples therefore repeatedly warned against the abuse of warfare for other reasons than punitive expeditions against perpetrators of rituals and etiquette or the motive of freeing oppressed people ("humanitarian intervention", Twiss & Chan 2015).

For this reason, armies had to treat civilians and combatants with care, as far as possible. The Confucian master Xun Qing 荀卿 (313-238; Xunzi, ch. Yibing) stands in the tradition of Confucius and refuses to talk about details of warfare. Instead, he discusses moral matters, and holds that most famous generals of the time, like Tian Dan, Zhuang Qiao 莊蹻, Wei Yang 衛鞅 (Shang Yang), and Miao Ji 繆蟣, were no more than leaders of bandit armies (daobing 盜兵, Knoblock II: 215, 224) because they did not achieve leadership by virtue, but by espionage, covert schemes, expediency and opportunism, plotted for power and fomented rebellion, while the sage kings of old had waged justified wars to chastise evil potentates like the Three Miao 三苗 or Gong Gong 共工.

As a true Confucian, Xunzi acknowledges that reward and punishment might have a certain impact on the obedience of subjects (and soldiers), but without benevolent government, producing a certain status of welfare for the people, and without the factors of loyalty and trust, no state (or army) would survive in the long run.

Master Mozi 墨子 on warfare

The philosopher Mo Di 墨翟 (Mozi, c. 470-c. 391) is known as an antagonist of the Confucians, mainly in respect to social hierarchies and personal relationships within this network. In his chapter Feigong 非攻 "Condemning offensive warfare", he equals attacks on other states with stealing and robbing, and requests to apply punishment for offensive warfare, just as theft and robbery are punished. Moreover, following his own concept of "universal love" (jian'ai 兼愛), Mozi argues that the conquest of one state will only benefit the conqueror, and not the others. Nonetheless, Mozi advocated "just war" in the shape of defence and of punishment of aggressors or support for such being attacked (Loy 2015).

Yet his school, the so-called Mohists (Mojia 墨家), were also interested in more practical matters and left in the corpus of the book Mozi treatises on language, logic, and science (Jing 經, Jingshuo 經說), as well as on city defence and other military matters, namely preparation of the city wall and gates (Bei chengmen 備城門), preparations against high approach (Bei gaolin 住高臨), against ladders (Bei ti 備梯), flooding (Bei shui 備水), tunnelling (Bei xue 備穴), "ant approach" (Bei yifu 備蟻傅, i.e. massed infantry assault), "sudden attack" (Bei tu 備突), miscellaneous defences (Zashou 雜守), and other themes (chapters lost). The canon also provides information on flags and pennants (Qizhi 旗幟), orders and commands (Haoling 號令), and sacrifices for meeting the enemy (Yingdi ci 迎敵祠).

Guanzi 管子 and Daoists on War

The chapter Bingfa 兵法 in the book Guanzi 管子 stands in a Daoist tradition. Just like the phenomena on earth are derived from the Way (dao 道), warfare is a derivate of a way of rulership.

The Way (dao 道) produces...
unity of nature (taiyi 太一) Sovereigns (huang 皇) understand the unity of nature (ming yi 明一)
duality of Yin and Yang (yinyang 陰陽) emperors (di 帝) discern the Way (cha dao 察道)
trinity of Heaven, Earth, and Man (tian-di-ren 天地人) kings (wang 王) comprehend power (tong de 通德)
all the myriad things (wanwu 萬物) lord-protectors (ba 霸) scheme to gain military victories (mou de bing sheng 謀得兵勝)

Guanzi explains that the use of arms provides aid to the kings and brings success to lord-protectors, but many leaders of the day do not know how to weight the proper use of arms, and therefore, their states are ruined by impoverishment. The author of the chapter then recommends careful planning, establishment of clear command structures and instructions, and the rising of the spirit of the troops, with one word—fighting in unison with the Way (Rickett 1985: I, 278).

The Daoist master Laozi 老子, even if denouncing war as an "ominous instrument" (bu xiang zhi qi 不祥之器; Zhang 2012), was not a pacifist. There might be instances where a ruler had no way than to resort to war, and if so, victory was a matter of mourning for the killed, rather than a matter of triumph (Lo 2015).

Shang Yang 商鞅 on War

The legalist master Shang Yang wrote in his book Shangjunshu also on war. He stresses the importance of a flourishing agriculture as the fundament for a prospering state (3 Nongzhan 農戰). Agriculture provided, in Shang Yang's eyes, material resources that enabled the state to wage war, while war expanded the territory under state control and allowed further agricultural enrichment. Moreover, ranks and offices should be allocated exclusively to diligent tillers and valiant soldiers, while intellectuals ("Confucians", wu xue Shi, Shu 務學《詩》、《書》), merchants (shanggu 商賈), and artisans (jiyi 技藝) should be prevented from access to official career, as should "travelling persuaders" (youshi 游士) (Pines 2017: 132).

Three fragmentary and therefore short chapters (10 Zhanfa 戰法, 11 Liben 立本, 12 Bingshou 兵守) deal explicitly with war, and present, through the lense of a legalist, facts proving that the proper way of warfare was based on adequate government. Most statements are similar to the book Sunzi bingfa, but Shang Yang relegated the commanding general to the second position, after the sovereign. The chapter on defence (12) might be the earliest military text of the Warring States period and a "testimony of the practice of total mobilization" (Pines 2017: 180).

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