Chinese Spring & Autumn
Period (Shang and Zhou Dynasties):
Significance of Sun Tzu & His Book “The
Art of War”
Today, the People’s Republic of China
has become one of the most successful and innovated countries in the world, however,
ancient China is much different from what
we know to be the modern day China. Before becoming one massive country, China
was divided into various kingdoms between two very significant rivers, the
Yangtze, and Yellow rivers. Today,
historians conclude that they have been able to discover proofs about the
Chinese dynasties to as early as 1700 B.C.
Artifacts, bronze weapons, and written records show the successes of an
era known as the Shang and Zhou dynasty.
The Shang Dynasty, known to be the
longest dynasty in the history of China, was ruled by 31 Emperors and Kings.
Every king was portrayed as more than just a ceremonial official, but rather a
religious icon, they served as a connection between their people and to the
spirit world. The people created the idea of the mandate of heaven which
would also be adopted by many following dynasties. The mandate of heaven
explains that the heavens give the power to the kings to keep successful rule
over the society if it is done in the way
of pleasing the gods and protecting the interests of the nation and its people.
This Dynasty was largely agricultural, most of the population had participated
in farming, people often were called upon to participate in wars or to construct
large-scale projects. This meant that landlords were very influential, however, to avoid any conflicts of interests
among the landlords with the government, the king himself appointed only
family or close relatives to govern such lands.
Dynasty had many contributions to Chinese innovation, but three, define this dynasty:
the introduction of bronze technology, the
development of a hierarchy government, and the development of writing,
begin, This Dynasty existed during China’s bronze age, throughout this time, bronze
signified authority and capital. Only individuals with any influence within the
kingdom had access to bronze. The Shang perfected the skill of designing,
forging, and mastered complicated practices
that involved creating specialized weaponry and vessels, the innovation of bronze technology and the manufacture
of bronze weapons provided the Shang forces a prestigious
advantage over their adversaries and entirely changed the methods of warfare.
They had also designed a newly-sophisticated
weapon, the horse-drawn chariots. Chariots enabled superiors to oversee their
troops across great distances and made them mobile.
Secondly, the Shang political system was prearranged into a
hierarchy system, meaning that it had many levels of jobs and social class. The
invention of writing had a profound effect on the Shang government and its capability
to rule. It amplified the government’s ability to organize on a substantial
level, whether it be organizing the mining of large quantities of bronze,
construct city walls, or to wage large military campaigns.
Historians have demonstrated that this Dynasty
has already developed the principles of
modern writing techniques. In fact, Chinese literature has undergone relatively
limited amounts of change since it was first developed. Documents were initially
noted on strips of silk and bamboo that have since been decomposed.
After numerous years of ruling, the Shang
dynasty was overthrown by an influential power known as the Zhou dynasty. The
Zhou Dynasty incorporated the same system of the previous dynasty, however, changes were made. It continued to
practice the Shang’s scheme of dividing the kingdom into sub-states. But
if the gods were dissatisfied with the king, the mandate would be taken away
from him, thus having him overthrown and replaced by a new ruler. The concept
of the mandate had definitively become the structure of Chinese tradition. The Zhou had
constructed numerous laws for its society
to keep a strong government. This enabled them to begin agricultural production
and to incorporate the use of iron. Over time,
the Zhou Dynasty became corrupt and avaricious. Governs and Landlords were appointed, and not elected, all of which were only relatives
or loyal friends of the state, to minimize any suggestion of a rebellion.
However, taxes had been drastically increased. During this time, large factions
began to speak up and exhibited rebellions.
of the Zhou dynasty had commenced, as the power of the central government began
to weaken, and conflicts between different principalities began to escalate due
to the influx of rising taxes and
corruption. Many principalities had believed
that the king was no longer competent, this created many rebellions. Due to the increase of wars, many military commanders had gained much influence, especially
the most renown, Sun Tzu. He is known as a philosopher, military tactician, and military commander in the 6th century, he is commonly recognized for his work
of the book “The
Art of War”, a 2,500-year-old
book on military strategy. To this day, most
of his teachings are still applicable. The 13-chapter book is regarded as one
of the finest documentation of ancient military
strategy. The book mainly deals with the
objective of winning battles with minimum conflict, effort, losses and maximum
operational efficiency. The book has become a handbook for military leadership.
The solid qualities of a leader determine the success achieved on the
battlefield, whereas his weaknesses will lead his army to defeat. This very statement is relevant in conferring the role
of military leaders in today’s modern-day conflicts. The book emphasizes
on three major traits/qualities of an effective leader: sternness, trust, and intelligence.
in order to succeed in the mission/objective,
superiors must be strict. They must be willing to do what others may hesitate to
do, it is vital for a superior to discipline those who do not obey an order. A
famous example was when Sun Tzu had ordered a group of women to perform a
simple drill, however, when he ordered them to perform the drill, the women
burst out into laughter, he then ordered that
those two individuals be beheaded as an
example for the rest of the army.
“If words of command are not clear and distinct, and
if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the General is to blame. But, if
orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of
their officers.” ? Sun Tzu
Trust, if a leader fails, to
be honest, he may lose the respect of
those who he leads and the overall mission integrity is put at great risk. A leader must develop mutual
trust among his troops, Tzu emphasized the importance of rewards and
punishments, to avoid discouraging troops of
“If troops are punished before their loyalty is secured they will be disobedient. If
not obedient, it is difficult to employ
them. If troops are loyal, but punishments are not enforced, you cannot employ
Intelligence, the ability
to collect and effectively use the information against the enemy to your
advantage, is a significant characteristic of
a General. A General must also be able to comprehend the information, the
spymaster is required to control the spy. The general must use spies, but should
never reveal their identity to each other, mainly to maintain the structural integrity of the intelligence network. Sun Tzu organizes his
intelligence sources into five categories:
Local Spies: Recruited
from the general population of the enemy state.
Internal Spies: Corrupt officials
from the government of the enemy state (the ambitious, miserable, suppressed, punished and the reckless).
Reverse Spies (Double Agents): They are
enemy agents who have been turned (with bribes and promises), and they now spy
against their former master or send back false information.
Dead Spies (Counter Intelligence): They are agents who spread
unactionable intelligence to enemy agents to manipulate
them (doing strategic planning openly for the purpose of deception and allowing
friendly spies to know of the identities of the enemy spies) and having them
Surviving Spies: Spies who
return with actionable intelligence from
the enemy’s camp, and operate effectively
in enemy territory and behind enemy lines.
Art of War is to subdue the enemy without fighting” – Sun Tzu
In conclusion, The Shang and Zhou Dynasties
created a time of warfare and corruption,
however, it was the longest and most successful of its time. The conflicts that had
led up to “The Art of War” has considerably influenced modern day warfare. Ever since The Art of War was
published, military leaders have been following its advice, executives and
lawyers use the teachings of “The Art of War” to get the advantage in
negotiations. The Art of War
presents the basic principles of warfare. Its 13 chapters offer specific battle
strategies, but they also offer more
general advice about conflicts and their solutions, this 2,500-year-old book still resonates with a
21st-century audience and still influences our actions to this day.