An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Toubi futan 投筆膚談

Jan 15, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Toubi futan 投筆膚談 "Superficial talks of throwing away the brush" is a military treatise written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by a scholar called "Retired scholar from the West Lake", Xihu yishi 西湖逸士. A commentary on the book written by He Shoufa 何守法 (fl. 1604). The book comprises 2 juan with 13 chapters and was written as an imitation of the old military classic Sunzi bingfa 孫子兵法. Therefore, the titles of the chapters are partially identical that of the Sunzi. The words "throwing the away the brush" in the title of the book mean "to give up civilian life and become a soldier".

In the first part, the author explains that war was a means of putting down rebellions and to punish bandit groups. The art of war made it necessary that thorough planning was carried out before going into in battle. The right encampment was equally important to the battlefield, and defence was to be regarded as highly as a war of attack. The control of the own troops was necessary before challenging that of the enemy, and the better one knew the enemy through espionage, the easier the game would be. All chances for victory had to be used, and the troops had to engage their own heart, to save their spirits, and to concentrate their minds on the concrete situations in battle to be ready for the right adaption to circumstances. In the second part, the selection of qualified generals and the arrangement of military units is explained. During battle, the formations and the type of troops employed had to be adapted to the particular requirements. Weather and topography, but also astrology, played an important part in planning warfare.

There is a print from the Hongxi Studio 弘錫堂 from 1604.

Li Shuozhi 李碩之 (1989). "Toubi futan 投筆膚談", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Junshi 軍事 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1026.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1628.
Lin Chongde 林崇德, Yang Zhiliang 楊治良, Huang Xiting 黃希庭, ed. (2003). Xinlixue da cidian 心理學大辭典 (Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1262.
Liu Qing 劉慶 (1996). "Toubi futan 投筆膚談, 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), 418.
Qiao Jian 喬健 (1993). "Toubi futan 投筆膚談", in Ru Xin 汝信, ed. Shijie baike zhuzuo cidian 世界百科著作辭典 (Beijing: Zhongguo gongren chubanshe), 203.
Yao Zhenwen 姚振文 (2015). "Lun Toubi futan dui Sunzi bingxue sixiang de jicheng yu fazhan 論《投筆膚談》對孫子兵學思想的繼承與發展", Guanzi xuekan 管子學刊, 2015 (2): 93-98.