An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xu wujing zongyao 續武經總要

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Xu wujing zongyao 續武經總要 "Supplement to the Compendium of important matters from the military classics" is a military treatise written during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Zhao Benxue 趙本學 xxx and Yu Dayou 俞大猷 xxx. The book has a length of 8 juan, of which the first seven were written by Zhao and have the separate title Taoqian neiwai pian 韜鈐內外篇 "Inner and outer chapters of the military secrets and the general's seal". The last chapter was written by Yu Daqiu and has the title Taoqian xupian 韜鈐續篇 "Supplementary chapter to the military secrets and the general's seal". The whole book was first printed in 1557 and again in the early 17th century. In structure and content it cannot be compared to the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) encyclopaedia Wujing zongyao 武經總要, and the title is therefore not justifiable.

The main theme of the Xu wujing zongyao are battle arrays and tactics on the battlefield. They are treated in detail though history and are divided into two parts. The first 22 types of battle tactics, as described in the "inner chapters" (neipian 內篇, 4 juan), are those from the wars in antiquity (until the 3rd cent. BCE). In character the tactics of this age were targeted at gaining quick advantages in both attack and defence (gong shou bian li 攻守便利). 17 other tactics from the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) to the Tang 唐 (618-907) periods are described in the "outer chapters" (waipian 外篇, 3 juan). The author stresses that the tactics of these ages were void and useless, often flowery and complex, but without real effects.

In the so-called supplementary chapter, Yu Dayou - who is, by the way, also the author of a book on swords, the Jianjing 劍經 - explains the practice of battle arrays. Independent of the shape, it was important that the formations supported each other and were mutually connected. All four sides of an army on the battle field acted as one, their touching points being their heads. Fixed and moveable formations esteemed each other, they divided and unified, so that all of them could profit from each other and enabled the army to attack and defend in the right way. A formation was by no means necessarily fixed and inelastic, but had to be adapted to the prevailing conditions of the battlefield and the numbers and movements of the enemy and the own army. Movement and flexibility were of very high importance.

Li Fuzheng 李正夫 (1993). "Xu wuijng zongyao 續武經總要", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan 中華百科要覽 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 283.
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, 1624.
Liu Qing 劉慶 (1996). "Xu wujing zongyao 續武經總要", 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), 419.
Wang Xianchen 王顯臣 (1989). "Xu wujing zongyao 續武經總要", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Junshi 軍事 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1131.