Book Review: Strategies for the Human Realm: Crux of the T'ai-pai Yin-ching


by Ralph D. Sawyer

Privately published, 2012. Pp. xxii,190. Biblio., index. $13.95 paper. ISBN: 1479132381

A Chinese military classic in translation.

Sawyer, author of a number of notable works on ancient Chinese military theory and practice, such as The Seven Military Classics Of Ancient China and The Tao of Deception, gives us his translation and commentary on the T’ai-pai Yin-ching.  In his introduction, Sawyer provides us some background on Chinese military thought.  He then discusses the origins of the book, written around AD 750 by T’ang Dynasty general Li Ch’uan, which was the first new work on the warfare in many centuries.  Sawyer then gives us an brief outline of the book’s main principles. This is followed by a translation of each of the 25 chapters.  Each of the chapters covers a specific aspect of warfare, with titles such as “Men Have Neither Courage Nor Fear,” “Generals of Wisdom and Strategy,” “Excelling in Command,” “Inciting Warriors,” “Roving Agents,” and so forth.  As the original text is quite terse and often filled with historical or philosophical references with which Western readers will most likely not be familiar, Sawyer appends to each chapter his analysis of the text, which helps clarify the meaning, noting how the text reflects earlier works and providing a look at the historical context. 

Strategies for the Human Realm is worth reading for anyone interested in the theory and practice of war.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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