The Art of War Historical Context

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The Warring States Period

In "The Seeker and the Sage," Ralph Peters notes. that, during the Warring States period, "[s]ocial order was maintained by savagery." It was a time of "famine, disease, dislocation, and slaughter," producing much innovation in weaponry and fortification. In introducing The Complete Art of War, Ralph Sawyer writes that the period, one of "interminable strife," was dominated by seven major states, which fought to consolidate their rule. The process would eventually result in the foundation of the Ch'in dynasty in 221 B.C., which reunified the empire, itself overthrown by the Han in 206 B.C. Sawyer argues that before the chaotic Warring States period, rulers were "still sufficiently entrenched to feel unthreatened," but with the reality of constant and total warfare, "creative thinkers (such as Confucius) could no longer be ignored." This produced an opening for new thinking on many matters, including war.

Chinese Philosophy

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