An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sunzi shijia zhu 孫子十家注

Apr 8, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Sunzi shijia zhu 孫子十家注 is a collection of commentaries on the famous military classic Sunzi 孫子 (Sunzi bingfa 孫子兵法). The collection was during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) by Ji Tianbao 吉天保 (dates and courtesy name unknown) and expanded with comments by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) masters Sun Xingyan 孫星衍 (1753-1818) and Wu Renji 吳人驥 (juren degree 1765).

Old bibliographies like Suishu jingji zhi 隋書·經籍志 or Mashi jingji kao 馬氏經籍考) prove that there was originally a large number of commentaries on the Sunzi of which unfortunately a small number has survived, while of others only fragments have come down. The bibliographic chapter (202-209 Yiwen zhi 藝文志) in the official dynastic history Songshi 宋史 lists Ji Tianbao's collection with the title Shijia Sunzi huizhu 十家孫子會注, with a length of 15 juan. The Sunzi itself has 13 chapters.

The ten commentaries were written by:

曹操 Cao Cao (155-220)
孟氏 Master Meng (Liang period)
李筌 Li Quan (c. 750)
賈林 Jia Lin (Tang period)
[ 杜佑 ] [ Du You (735-812) ]
杜牧 Du Mu (803-852)
陳皞 Chen Gao (Tang)
梅堯臣 Mei Yaochen (1002-1060)
王晳 Wang Xi (c. 1050)
何氏 Master He (Song)
張預 Zhang Yu (Song)

The most extensive commentaries are that of Cao Cao, Du Mu, Mei Yaochen, and Zhang Yu.

Sun Xingyan demonstrated that quite a large part of the commentaries was in fact written by the historian Du You 杜佑 (735-812), who extensively quoted from the Sunzi in his statecraft encyclopaedia Tongdian 通典. Du You's words on the Sunzi can thus not be considered real commentaries. Yet some editors saw Du as an eleventh commentator, and therefore called the collection Shiyijia zhu Sunzi 十一家注孫子 (arranged in 3 juan, e.g. in Xuxiu siku quanshu 續修四庫全書).

The collection is very important for the study of the impact of the Sunzi on early Chinese military thought. The most widespread editions are that of the series Ershierzi 二十二子, Ershiwuzi huihan 二十五子匯函, Zhuzi jicheng 諸子集成, (Zhengtong) Daozang (正統)道藏 (with the name Sunzi zhujie 孫子註解), Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 and Sibu beiyao 四部備要. A stand-alone edition was published in 1961 by the Zhonghua Book Company 中華書局, with the title Songben shiyijia zhu Sunzi 宋本十一家注孫子, and another one in 1978 by the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1613.
Pi Mingyong 皮明勇 (1996). "Shijia Sunzi huizhu 十家孫子會注", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, ed. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe, 421.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 7.