Philosophical Topics in Early China: Military Thought

During the academic year 2014-15, the IHUM reading group Philosophical Topics in Early China will focus on one of the most important topics in Early Chinese texts, namely ‘Military Thought,’ or 'Philosophy of War.'

In the Fall term, we will read the most widely studied military classic in the world history: the Sunzi bingfa 孫子兵法, Master Sun's Art of War. We will focus on the text of the bamboo manuscript found in 1972 at Yinqueshan, a Han dynasty tomb dated to the 2nd century BC. We will use Roger Ames's translation in Sun Tzu: The Art of Warfare. The first English translation incorporating the recently discovered Yin-Ch'üeh-Shan texts. The excavated text contains 13 chapters similar in content and structure to the received classic plus 5 new chapters that were lost in the process of transmission.

Our approach will be by philosophical topics. Each session will revolve around one of the main philosophical topics within Early Chinese military thought, including Foreknowledge and Anticipation, Strategic Advantage, Adaptation, Positioning, and the figures of the Ideal Commander and Army. We will preselect passages from the Art of War that deal with these topics to read and discuss during our meetings.

As usual...
Our reading and understanding of the selected texts will be based not only on the original classical Chinese texts, but also on some of the more noteworthy commentaries, annotated editions, as well as English translations. Hence knowledge of classical or modern Chinese is not a prerequisite for this reading group. We specifically invite enthusiasts from different departments and with divergent backgrounds in order to enrich the reading group, and to aim at an interdisciplinary, multifarious, and comparative approach.