Before this book, there was not much available in English on the military history of China in Shang times and earlier: a few articles on specialized topics such as the chariot , some outdated books on weapons as works of art or artifacts,  summaries in more general studies,  a few relevant oracle bone inscriptions,  and a mediocre translation of Yang Hong's important book on ancient Chinese arms and armor. Organized along both chronological and thematic lines, Ancient Chinese Warfare opens by recounting the "legendary conflict" between the Yellow Emperor, progenitor of Chinese civilization, and his violent rival, Chi You.
Next, two archaeologically oriented chapters trace the development of fortifications in Neolithic times, and another two examine the material remains and political and military organization of the Xia or Hsia dynasty ca.
Chapters 6—13 deal with the Shang dynasty, its capital and settlement sites, its political history and armed conflicts with rival polities especially during the reign of the aggressive King Wu Ding, ca. Then come chapters 14—19 on ancient weaponry: one devoted entirely to metallurgy, another to spears and armor, and another to archery. Chapters 20—23 offer careful treatments of Shang chariots and horses. Chapter 24 attempts to address the elusive, often neglected subject of logistics. The book concludes with a chapter bearing the quintessentially Sawyer-esque title, "Musings and Imponderables.
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I will not attempt to touch even cursorily on all the topics in this very wide-ranging book. Instead, I will identify a few issues that deserve special attention: the pervasive problem of evidence, the role of violence in Chinese history, and the place of the chariot in ancient warfare.
Any study of China's very early history must rely on three major sources: archaeological finds, oracle-bone inscriptions on cattle scapulae and turtle shells mostly from the late Shang capital at Anyang , and accounts written much later in Chinese history such as the first few chapters of the Shi ji or "Historical Records" of Sima Qian, ca. Sawyer also sometimes for example, in his discussion of archery extrapolates backward from the better known practices and techniques of later periods.
Where these bodies of evidence corroborate one another or at least point in roughly the same direction, assertions can be made with considerable confidence. This is true in particular of the period from ca. For earlier eras, the level of uncertainty is much higher, and scholars have drawn radically opposing conclusions from the same evidence. Western Sinologists, for instance, have generally taken a skeptical view of the Xia dynasty, while Chinese authorities assume its existence as a given, but disagree sharply over specifics.
Against this background of sometimes "acrimonious" debate, Sawyer's exposition often evinces a tentative, double-edged quality: readers must alertly differentiate among the author's own propositions, those he is challenging, and those he is merely repeating for the record.
Seven Military Classics of Ancient China
Here, for example, is his bottom line on the Xia:. Sawyer's assessment of a Shang stronghold unearthed by archaeologists also conveys the uncertainty involved in evaluating this sort of evidence:. Now, the ambiguity of the evidence and the difficulty of interpreting it allow scholars studying the Shang and earlier periods to draw only tentative conclusions, but Sawyer's peculiar approach to problematic evidence causes further difficulties.
More than once, he scrupulously points out that some ancient text—for example, the "Oath of Tang" in the Book of Documents —is now recognized as a later forgery rather than an authentic Xia or Shang document, yet then detects some kernel of truth, a "vestigial" or "remnant" memory, that somehow redeems it as valuable evidence for the study of early China. As if questionable source materials could ever yield more than questionable interpretive structures or conclusions. Sawyer does, nevertheless, present some cogent arguments, for example, concerning the centrality of violence in the early Chinese world, a leitmotif of this volume.
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He contends that signs of intercommunal violence may be found as far back as the early Neolithic in China, that such conflicts led to the gradual emergence of powerful chiefdoms and states, and that the Shang regime glorified the martial prowess that gave it an advantage over its neighbors and rivals. He has no patience for claims that the Shang, the Xia, or even the Yellow Emperor based their authority on superior virtue or moral influence as opposed to raw coercive power. The textual, archaeological, and inscriptional evidence he deploys is overwhelming and his conclusions are consistent with those of Western specialists in Chinese military history who have been influenced by, among other studies, Mark Edward Lewis's influential work on the Zhou dynasty.
More interesting is Sawyer's extensive treatment of chariot use in ancient Chinese warfare, which draws on not only familiar evidence but also comparative data from ancient Europe and the Near East and modern experiments using "martial artists well trained in … traditional weapons" He endorses the view that the chariot was developed outside China and appeared quite suddenly, rather late in the Shang period, as a fully developed weapon system; the archaeological record, he notes, offers no clear evidence of real chariots before the reign of King Wu Ding.
Sawyer has worked extensively with major intelligence and defence agencies, as well as lecturing and consulting internationally on China. He lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Du kanske gillar. Inbunden Engelska, Spara som favorit.
Ancient Chinese Warfare
Skickas inom vardagar. The history of China is a history of warfare. Rarely in its 3,year existence has the country not been beset by war, rebellion, or raids. Warfare was a primary source of innovation, social evolution, and material progress in the Legendary Era, Hsia dynasty, and Shang dynasty- indeed, war was the force that formed the first cohesive Chinese empire, setting China on a trajectory of state building and aggressive activity that continues to this day.
In Ancient Chinese Warfare , a preeminent expert on Chinese military history uses recently recovered documents and archaeological findings to construct a comprehensive guide to the developing technologies, strategies, and logistics of ancient Chinese militarism. The result is a definitive look at the tools and methods that won wars and shaped culture in ancient China.
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