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Chinese Literature
Toubi futan 投筆膚談 "Surfacial Talks of Throwing Away the Brush"


The Toubi futan 投筆膚談 "Surfacial talks of throwing away the brush" is a military treatise written by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar called "Retired scholar from the West Lake", Xihu yishi 西湖逸士. A commentary has been written by He Shoufa 何守法. The book comprises 2 juan "scrolls" 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 means, to give up civilian life and become a soldier.
In the first part, the author explains that war is a means to put down rebellions and to punish bandit groups. The art of war makes it necessary that a thorough planning is made first, before engaging in battle. The right encampment is equally important to the battlefield, and defense is to be regarded as highly as a war of attack. The control of the own troops is necessary before challenging that of the enemy, and the better one knows the enemy through espionage, the easier the game will be. All chances for victory have to be used, and the troops have to engage their own heart, to save their spirits, and to concentrate their minds on the momentanous 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 has to be adapted to the particular requirements. Weather and topography, but also astrology, play an important part in planning warfare.
There is a print from the Hongxi Studio 弘錫堂 from 1604.


Source: Li Shuozhi 李碩之 (1989). "Toubi futan 投筆膚談", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Junshi 軍事, vol. 2, p. 1026. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

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January 15, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail