An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Huangshigong sanlüe 黃石公三略

Feb 10, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Huangshigong sanlüe 黃石公三略 "Three Strategies of Master Yellow Stone" is an ancient book on military strategy. It belongs to the corpus of the Seven Military Classics (Wujing qishu 武經七書) and is also known under the title of Huangshigong ji 黄石公記, or shortly, Sanlüe 三略. It is traditionally attributed to Taigong 太公 Jiang Shang 姜尚, a military adviser of King Wu 周武王, the founder of the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). The book is said to have been transmitted by a Master Yellow Stone (Huangshigong) to Zhang Liang 張良, who was a follower of Liu Bang 劉邦, founder of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). According to the imperial bibliography Jingjizhi 經籍志 in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書 it was written by a certain "Immortal from Xiapi" 下邳神人.
The Sanlüe tries to explain how to achieve victory from the relation of politics and military. In the first chapter it is described how ritual matters, rewards, and the distinction between bad and good generals leads to victory. In the middle chapter it is explained how virtuous government and the wielding of power can be employed in warfare. The last chapter stresses the establishing of virtue, the investigation of chances and dangers, and how to discern between worthies and ruthless officials. The first two chapters mainly consist of quotations from ancient sources and explanation to these, and the third chapter is an originary composition of the author(s). The objective in government is thus to display benevolence. The strategic goal has always to be to protect the common people from harm. Generals and common soldiers have to work together. Like the ruler, the general has to transmit his virtual spirit as a representative of the state, into the hearts of his troops, to create a unified army. The brave have to be rewarded, and commands have to be non-ambiguous. Everybody has a fixed position in this system and contributes to victory. If a weeker army prevails, this is due to the commitment of the people, respectively the common troops.
The Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Liu Yin 劉寅 has written a commentary to the Sanlüe, the Sanlüe zhijie 三略直解.
The Sanlüe is, among others, to be found in the reprint series Xu guyi congshu 續古逸叢書, which reproduced a Song period 宋 (960-1279) print, and the collection Wujing qishu.

上略 Shanglüe Superior strategy
中略 Zhonglüe Middle strategy
下略 Xialüe Inferior strategy
Zhang Lie 張烈 (1989). "Sanlüe 三略", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Junshi 軍事, vol. 1, p. 893. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.