An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Meiqin shilun 美芹十論

Mar 20, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Meiqin shilun 美芹十論 "Ten discussions from the Beautiful Celery [Study] (?)" is a collection of military treatises attributed to the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) scholar and politician Xin Qiji 辛棄疾 (1140-1207). The compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 found out that according to the local gazetteer Jiangxi tongzhi江西通志, it was rather probable that Huang Dui 黃兌, courtesy name Yuedao 悅道, was the author of the book. Huang had also submitted to the throne the collected discussions Jinqu silun 進取四論. Yet the biography of Xin Qiji in the official dynastic history Songshi 宋史 indeed says that Xin authored the "Ten Discussions".

During the reign of Emperor Xiaozong 宋孝宗 (1162-1189), the Song court tried to initiate a restoration to strengthen the political and military power of the Song empire to overcome the domination by the Jurchen empire of Jin 金 (1115-1234) in northern China. Xin Qiji, at that time controller-general (tongpan 通判) in the prefecture of Jiankang 建康 (modern Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu), discussed the strengths of competent ministers under the Three Empires 三國 (220-280), the Jin 晉 (265-420) and the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) dynasties, and presented three writings to the throne, namely Jiuyi 九議 "Nine Discussions", Yingwen 應問 "Answers to questions", and the Meixi shilun.

In these writings he discussed the pattern of obedience and disobedience, the power of eliminating the stronger, the shortcomings and advantages of skills, questions of territory, and many more aspects of military strategy and tactics. At that time, unfortunately, the court decided not to adopt his suggestions because the empire was at peace with the Jurchens.

In the first three discussions of his book, the author explains the conditions of the northern and southern regions of China, the situation among the enemies of the Song and the Jin empires, and explains how the Jurchens might be beaten. The rest of the book includes concrete measures to achieve victory over the enemy in the north. The author believed that the army of the Song had to be recruited from among the peasantry. The recruits had to be trained in the right way in order to defend their homeland without neglecting their business as peasants.

The transmitted version of the book has several appendixes that include a memorial to the throne (Shang Guangzong shu 上光宗疏), a discussion about the defence of central China (Lun Jing-Xiang shangliu wei dongnan zhongdi shu 論荊襄上流為東南重地疏) and of eastern China (Lun Jiang-Huai shu 論江淮疏), and a discussion about local militia (Yi lian min bing shou Huai shu 議練民兵守淮疏).

The transmitted version was reconstructed by Faššan 法式善 (1752-1813) based on fragments quoted in the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典. It is included in the collection Jiaxuan ji chaocun 稼軒集抄存, as a supplement to Xin Qiji's collected works. The Meiqin shilun is also included in the modern collection Zhongguo bingshu jicheng 中國兵書集成.

Table 1. Contents of the Meiqin shilun 美芹十論
1. 審勢 Shenshi Investigation of situations
2. 察情 Chaqing Inquire about the conditions
3. 觀釁 Guanxin Observation of disputes
4. 自治 Zizhi Self-administration
5. 守淮 Shou Huai Guarding the River Huai region
6. 屯田 Tuntian Military agro-colonies
7. 致勇 Zhiyong Effectual bravery
8. 防徵 Fangzheng Levy for defence
9. 久任 Jiuren Long-term appointment
10. 詳戰 Xiangzhan Details of warfare
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Xin Gengru 辛更儒 (1997). "Meiqin shilun de queqie zuonian zaikao 《美芹十論》的確切作年再考", Zhejiang xuekan 浙江學刊, 1997 (3): 97-102.