The Zhan Guo Ce, also known in English as the Strategies of the Warring States, is an ancient Chinese text that contains anecdotes of political manipulation and warfare during the Warring States period (5th to 3rd centuries BC). It is an important text of the Warring States Period as it describes the strategies and political views of the School of Diplomacy and reveals the historical and social characteristics of the period.
The author of Zhan Guo Ce has not yet been verified: it is generally deemed, after Zhang Xincheng, that the book was not written by a single author at one time. It is thought to have been composed by Su Qin and his peers before being obtained by Liu Xiang. Unlike most of the pre-Qin classics, the authenticity of Zhan Guo Ce, along with the Shijing, Mozi, Yulingzi and Gongsun Longzi had never been questioned since the Western Han period. The earliest to assert the texts were apocryphal scriptures was perhaps the compiler of the Annotated Catalogue of the Siku Quanshu, but he provided no warrant for it. In 1931, Luo Genze put forward an argument that the book was composed by Kuai Tong (Chinese: 蒯通) in his two papers based on six conclusions which he drew, a contemporary of Han Xin. Although this argument had been seconded by Jin Dejian (1932) and Zu Zhugeng (1937), but by 1939 it was refuted by Zhang Xincheng.
The six versions of written works from the School of Diplomacy were discovered by Liu Xiang during his editing and proofreading of the imperial literary collection. Those works of political views and diplomatic strategies from the School of Diplomacy were in poor condition, with confusing contents and missing words. Liu Xiang proofread and edited them into the new book under the title Zhan Guo Ce; it was therefore not written by a single author at one time.
Significant contents of Zhan Guo Ce were lost in subsequent centuries. Zeng Gong of the Northern Song Dynasty reclaimed some lost chapters, proofread and edited the modern version. Some writings on cloth were excavated from the Han Dynasty tomb at Mawangdui near the city of Changsha in 1973 and edited and published in Beijing in 1976 as Zhanguo Zonghengjia Shu (Chinese: 戰國縱橫家書, "Works from the School of Diplomacy During the Warring States Period)". The book contained 27 chapters, 11 of which were found to be similar to the contents in Zhan Guo Ce and the Records of the Grand Historian. That publication appeared in Taiwan in 1977 as the Boshu Zhanguoce (Chinese: 帛書戰國策). The texts were written in between the style of Seal script and Clerical script. The transcript was probably composed around 195 BC before its burial, as the text tend to avoid using the word bang (邦), the personal name of Emperor Gao of Han, to circumvent naming taboo.
The chapters take the form of anecdotes meant to illustrate various strategies and tricks employed by the Warring States. With the focus thus being more on providing general political insights than on presenting the whole history of the period, there is no stringent year-by-year dating such as that found in the preceding Spring and Autumn Annals. Stories are sorted chronologically by under which ruler they take place, but within the reign of a single king there is no way to tell if the time elapsed between two anecdotes is a day or a year.
The book comprises approximately 120,000 words, and is divided into 33 chapters and 497 sections. The twelve dynasties the strategies pertain to are:
with Manwangdui Chapters
|01||东周策||Strategies of Eastern Zhou||Nil|
|02||西周策||Strategies of Western Zhou|
|03||秦策||Strategies of Qin||Chapter 19/Qin 3:2|
|08||齐策||Strategies of Qi||Nil|
|14||楚策||Strategies of Chu||Chapter 23/Chu 4:13|
|18||赵策||Strategies of Zhao||Chapter 21/Zhao 1:9
Chapter 18/Zhao 4:18
|22||魏策||Strategies of Wei||Chapter 15/Wei 3:3
Chapter 16/Wei 3:8
|26||韩策||Strategies of Han||Chapter 23/Han 1:16|
|29||燕策||Strategies of Yan||Chapter 05/Yan 1:5 and Yan 1:12
Chapter 20/Yan 1:11
Chapter 04/Yan 2:4
|32||宋、卫策||Strategies of Song and Wei||Nil|
|33||中山策||Strategies of Zhongshan|
ZGC displays the social aspects and scholastic habitat of the Warring States Period. Not just a brilliant historical work, it is an excellent historical literature and novel. Major events and historical information of the period are represented in objective and vivid descriptions. Detailed records of speeches and deeds by followers of the School of Diplomacy reveal the mental makeup and intellectual expertise of the characters. Acts of righteousness, bravery and determination by numerous characters are also recorded.
Sophisticated intellectual contents of ZGC mainly reveal the intellectual inclination of the followers of the School of Diplomacy and illustrate the intellectual wealth and multicultural aspects of the period.
The literary achievement of the ZGC is also outstanding - it signifies a new era in the development of ancient Chinese literature. Among other aspects, character description, language usage and metaphorical stories demonstrate rich and clear literary quality. ZGC greatly exerts influence on the format of the later Record of the Grand Historian. And many Chinese idioms come from this book, such as "南辕北辙","狡兔三窟" and so on.
Nevertheless, its intellectual aspects have also been disputed, mainly due to its stress on fame and profit and its conflicts with Confucian ideology. The book appears to overemphasize the historical contributions from the School of Diplomacy, devaluing the book's historical importance.
The book does not emphasize the historical facts or fiction, but appears to be an extensive collection of anecdotes with little bearing to the chronological order of chapter and narration. Since the 12th century, it has been widely debated whether the book should be considered a historical documentation from writer Chao Gongwu and Gao Sisun, and there have been attempts to categorize the book into a different genus. This lasted until 1936 where scholars like Zhong Fengnian demonstrated that the book was written as a handbook of diction from the School of Diplomacy, and not intended to be a compilation of historical facts.
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