Research Paper: Sun Tzu -- Art

Pages: 7 (2318 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Topic: Military  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] [footnoteRef:10] In China, the Grand Historian wrote a very depressing and repetitive chronicle of coups, conspiracies, plots, civil wars and assassinations in which barbarians often figure as allies. For example, after breaking with King Yu, the Marquis Shen allied with the Chuan barbarians who helped him dispose of his rival then "invaded and plundered the central region of China"[footnoteRef:11] Later in the chronicle, King Hsiang married a barbarian princess and allied with her people to attack Cheng, but after his victory "cast aside his barbarian queen, much to her resentment." Her people then drove him into exile although he was subsequently restored to his throne by Duke Wen of Chen. Mencius also noted that Wen was a "western barbarian" while Shun was an "eastern barbarian." [footnoteRef:12] In short the barbarians reported in these sources do not sound simply like mindless savages bent on plunder and rapine, but key players in the intricate dynastic and political conflicts that seemed to go on endlessly in ancient China. [10: Lowther, p. 25.] [11: Grand Historian, p. 156.] [12: Grand Historian, pp. 157-58.]

In the Han Dynasty Debate on Salt and Iron from 81 BC, the Confucian scholars argued with the ministers of Emperor Wu about the expediency of continuing the war against the Xiangnu barbarians. To fund this prolonged war, the Emperor had nationalized the salt, iron, liquor and grain trades, debased the coinage, sold titles and offices, raised taxes and confiscated the land of the nobles. For the Confucians the war was placing an excessive strain on the country as well as encouraging more activities in trade and commerce as opposed to agriculture, with they regarded as both unethical and destabilizing. After the Emperor's death, they called for a prompt end to the war, but the ministers replied that "the late emperor had sympathy for the frontier settlers who live in fear of capture by the barbarians" and had to take all these regrettable measures in order to pay and supply the troops. The scholars countered that they should end the war at once and concentrate on domestic matters for "benevolent government has no enemies anywhere." Reason, kindness and benevolence would have no effect on the Xiangnu, the ministers retorted, who were "savage and cruel" and had "long deserved punishment for their lawless rebellion." Nevertheless, the Confucians reiterated that government should always attract people by "refinement and virtue" but "at present, morality is discarded and reliance is placed on military force." Moreover, the war was proving too great a burden for the common people, especially the peasants.[footnoteRef:13] [13: The Debate on Salt and Iron in De Bray, Thedore (Ed) Sources of East Asian Traditions: Pre-modern Asia. Columbia University Press, 2008, pp. 199-201.]

The idea that the Chinese considered all outsiders as savages and barbarians in ancient history is overdrawn, since Sun Tzu and the Confucian scholars often avoided such characterizations. Nor were they in favor of constant warfare around the periphery of the Empire, not least because of the costs and burdens such wars placed on the people and the state. Even the ancient Chinese leaders who held all nomadic barbarians in disdain often made alliances with them if it suited their purposes, and sometimes broke their agreements with them as well if they were no longer useful or expedient. These patterns would also be familiar to any student of ancient Greek and Roman history as well, where matters were never as simple as brutal, aggressive savages constantly attacking civilization. Often civilization was the aggressor, and used the barbarians for its own purposes, as the U.S. did with Saddam Hussein or the Islamic fundamentalists in the 1980s. Sun Tzu would have regarded these actions as imprudent and shortsighted, and would also have disliked the long, drawn out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would have much preferred the type of war that could be won quickly and decisively, and without all the complications of anger, revenge and ideological factors that were the norm in these wars. In addition, he would have been genuinely alarmed at the economic and political condition of the United States and questioned whether the country was capable of waging any long wars. So Sun Tzu's advice for Iraq and Afghanistan most likely would have been not to fight there at all, or if war was necessary, to find some way to win decisively in the least amount of time and the lowest possible cost -- preferably by using unconventional methods of stealth, deceit, ambush and evasion.


The Debate on Salt and Iron in De Bray, Thedore (Ed) Sources of East Asian Traditions: Pre-modern Asia. Columbia University Press, 2008, pp. 199-201.

Lowther, Adam. America and Asymmetric Conflict: Lebanon, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Praeger Security International, 2007.

Records of the Grand Historian of China. Translated from the Shih Chi of Sso-Man Chien by Burton Watson, Volume II: The Age of Emperor Wu,… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 7-page paper:  $28.88


2.  Buy + remove from all search engines
(Google, Yahoo, Bing) for 30 days:  $38.88


3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)


4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Sun Tzu and Machiavelli Business Is War Term Paper

Contemporary Relevance of Sun Tzu's Art of War Term Paper

Sun Tzu's the Art of War Term Paper

Art of War by Sun Tzu Research Paper

Art of War Term Paper

View 46 other related papers  >>

Cite This Research Paper:

APA Format

Sun Tzu -- Art.  (2011, March 22).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Sun Tzu -- Art."  22 March 2011.  Web.  19 June 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Sun Tzu -- Art."  March 22, 2011.  Accessed June 19, 2019.