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SIGNS, CLUES AND TRACES: ANTICIPATION IN ANCIENT CHINESE POLITICAL AND MILITARY TEXTS

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2015

Albert Galvany*
Affiliation:
Albert Galvany, 高梵寧, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; email: albertgalvany@hotmail.com.

Abstract

In a considerable number of the military texts of ancient China the success of any manoeuvre demands adaptation to constantly changing circumstances and anticipation of the enemy's moves. Hence, idealized descriptions of the figures of the commander and the sage frequently overlap. In both cases, these are individuals who are able to move forward in time and predict the nature of events before they take definitive form. However, these skills of prognostication are the result of attentive scrutiny of the most inconspicuous aspects of reality. By analyzing military episodes and biographical material referring to some of the strategists of the time, this article attempts to demonstrate that the military commander can be seen as a master of signs and that, accordingly, the art of warfare can also be represented as requiring semiotic aptitudes and techniques which enable accurate interpretation of hints that will determine the outcome of the battle.

提要

在相當數量的中國古代兵書當中,任何計謀的成功都要求能夠適應不斷變化的情境,預見敵人的行動。因此,對軍事領袖和聖人的理想化描述往往相互重疊。二者都是一些能夠在事件定型之前便能預測其性質,及時採取行動的人。而這些預言的能力乃是對現實最細微、表層的面向仔細觀察透析的結果。通過分析當時一些軍事謀略家的傳記材料和相關戰事案例,本文試圖證明軍事領袖其實可以被視作為符號大師,而相應地,兵法則需要一定的符號學心態與技術,才能取得對徵兆的正確詮釋,進而決定戰鬥的勝負。

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Society for the Study of Early China and Cambridge University Press 2015 

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References

1. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li 十一家注孫子校理, ed. Bing'an, Yang 楊丙安 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1999)Google Scholar, 1.1.

2. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 12.283–84.

3. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 1.2–8.

4. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 1.20. Furthermore, chapter XV of the Huainanzi, which is also devoted to military strategy, has a similar passage regarding the anticipation in the temple of the results of a battle in which, after a series of questions by means of which it is possible to compare the circumstances of each of the adversaries, one finds the statement: Hence, one moves the counting rods in the hall of the temple (miao tang 廟堂) and ascertains victory a thousand miles away from the battlefield”: Huainanzi jiaoyi 淮南子校譯, ed. Shuangdi, Zhang 張雙棣 (Beijing: Beijing daxue, 1997)Google Scholar, 15.1569. The expression miao suan also appears in a chapter titled “Methods of Warfare” (“Zhan fa” 戰法) of the Shangjunshu 商君書: see Shang jun shu zhuizhi 商君書錐指, ed. Lihong, Jiang 蔣禮鴻 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1986), 10.70.Google Scholar

5. See, for instance, Yan, Li 李儼, Zhongguo gudai shuxue shiliao 中國古代數學史料 (Shanghai: Zhongguo liaoxue tushu yiqi, 1955)Google Scholar, 1 sq. and Ling, Li 李零, Bing yi zha li. Wo du Sunzi 兵以詐立. 我讀孫子 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2006), 5759 Google Scholar. The manuscript version of the Sunzi which was found in Yinqueshan 銀雀山 in 1972 would seem to support this reading since it presents the homophonous variant 筭. Besides having the range of meanings that are usually accepted for the term (“calculation,” “reckoning,” “computation,” and “evaluation”), this variation adds the notion of “calculating rods or counters.” See Yinqueshan Hanmu zhujian zhengli xiaozu 銀雀山漢墓竹簡整理小組, Yinqueshan Hanmu zhu jian 銀雀山漢墓竹簡 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1985)Google Scholar, 3.

6. McNeal, R., Conquer and Govern. Early Chinese Military Texts from the Yizhou shu (Honolulu: Hawai'i University Press, 2012)Google Scholar, 118. For a similar interpretation, see also Lewis, Mark E., Sanctioned Violence in Early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990)Google Scholar, 115.

7. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu 春秋左傳注, ed. Bojun, Yang 楊伯峻 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1990)Google Scholar, 1.271 (“Min gong” 閔公 2.7).

8. See Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi 太公六韜今註今譯, ed. Peigen, Xu 徐培根 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu, 1984)Google Scholar, 21.114; and also Zhouli zhengyi 周禮正義, ed. Yirang, Sun 孫詒讓 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2008)Google Scholar, 45.1852.

9. It is not improbable that the use of the term suan in the Sunzi is also an expression of this disputatious stand vis-à-vis the earlier customs associated with warfare, which were determined by the values of the aristocratic ruling elite, since in a passage from the Yuejue shu dating from before 56 b.c.e. the term would not seem to refer to arithmetical calculation but rather to numerological divinatory rituals performed in the ancestral temple: Yuejue shu jiaoshi 越絕書校釋, ed. Bujia, Li 李步嘉 (Wuhan: Wuhan daxue, 1992)Google Scholar, 15.290; for the dating of this section of the Yuejue shu, see Milburn, Olivia, The Glory of Yue (Leiden: Brill, 2010)Google Scholar, 314. Although this text was certainly written later, it could very well be describing the prevailing practice of earlier times. In this regard, one might point out that a passage in the military treatise titled Wuzi 吳子 alludes to the ruler who frequently turns to divinatory practices (using tortoise shells) which are performed in the ancestors' temple (zu miao 祖廟): Wuzi jinzhu jinyi 吳子今註今譯, ed. Shaojie, Fu 傅紹傑 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu, 1985)Google Scholar, 1.47. If it is true that later texts reflect earlier practices, the passage in the Sunzi might have been raising the question of replacing these divinatory practices (which were certainly linked with sacrifices and rites taking place in the ancestral temples) by more “rational” analytical methods.

10. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 2.861 (“Cheng gong” 成公 13.2).

11. For a more detailed analysis of the arguments in the Sunzi against the ideas and values of the aristocratic elites, see Andrew S. Meyer, “Reading Sunzi as a Master” in War of Ideas, Ideas of War. Military Writings and Early Chinese Intellectual History, ed. Albert Galvany and Paul van Els (forthcoming).

12. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 11.249. Nonetheless, it should also be noted that it is highly probable that these explicit proscriptions in the Sunzi, expressed in the words “prohibit the inauspicious and remove doubts” (jin xiang qu yi 禁祥去疑), aim not so much to exclude from the military sphere the use of divination as to preserve the categorical authority of the commanders by preventing the troops from turning to other voices that may contradict them or sow doubt about orders issued by their superiors. Indeed, one passage from the Mozi states that, when under siege, the military commanders of a city must ensure that the specialists in divination only convey good omens to the population while informing leaders of the real message of the auguries, adding that anyone who made dire predictions and sowed panic among the population should be condemned to death: Mozi jiangu 墨子間詁, ed. Yirang, Sun 孫詒讓 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2001)Google Scholar, 70.608.

13. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 13.290–91.

14. See, for example, Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi, 1.48, 18.108, and 21.114; Sima Fa jinzhu jinyi 司馬法今註今譯, ed. Zhongping, Liu 劉仲平 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu, 1991)Google Scholar, 3.58; Wei Liaozi jinzhu jinyi 尉繚子今註今譯, ed. Zhongping, Liu 劉仲平 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu, 1984)Google Scholar, 8.105. For a historical study on the relationship between divinatory practices and warfare in China, see Yates, Robin D. S., “The History of Military Divination in China,East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 24 (2005): 1543.Google Scholar

15. Gu, Ban 班固, Han shu 漢書 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1956), 1760–61Google Scholar. On this topic, see Yates, Robin D. S., “New Light on Ancient Chinese Military Texts: Notes on their Nature and Evolution, and the Development of Military Specialization in Warring States China,T'oung Pao 74 (1988), 211–48Google Scholar; and also Raphals, Lisa, “Divination in the Han shu bibliographic treatise,Early China 32 (2008–9), 45101 Google Scholar. However, a number of military yin-yang manuscripts have been unearthed recently. Among them we should note the “Di dian” 地典 and “Xiongpin cheng” 雄牝城 manuscripts excavated at Yinqueshan in 1972 as well as the manuscript titled “Gai Lu” 蓋廬, recovered at Zhangjiashan 張家山, in 1983. For a study of these documents, see, for instance, Shao Hong 邵鴻, “Bing yinyangjia yu Handai junshi,” 兵陰陽家與漢代軍事 Nankai xuebao 南開學報 (2002.6), 8190 Google Scholar; and also Milburn, Olivia, “Gai Lu: A Translation and Commentary on a Yin-Yang Military Text Excavated from Tomb M247, Zhangjiashan,Early China 33–34 (2010–11), 101–40.Google Scholar

16. For a general survey of this issue, see Sawyer, Ralph D., “Paradoxical Coexistence of Prognostication and Warfare,Sino-Platonic Papers 157 (2005), 113.Google Scholar

17. On this issue, see Michael Nylan, “Beliefs about Seeing: Optics and Moral Technologies in Early China,” Asia Major (3rd. ser.) 21.1 (2008), 89–132, especially 101–3.

18. Zhouyi zhengyi 周易正義, ed. Yujian, Liu 劉玉建 (Jinan: Qi Lu shushe, 2005)Google Scholar, 404. In the Western tradition, observation plays an essential role in some of the most prominent ancient divinatory techniques as can be seen, for instance, in the regular use of the verb “to observe” (amāru) in the Babylonian omens: Rochberg, Francesca, The Heavenly Writing. Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)Google Scholar. Also Cicero's work titled On Divination (De Divinatione), written in the first century b.c.e., emphasizes the predictive aims of observation. Divination is defined here as an art on the part of those who, having learned old things by observation (observationes), seek new things by conjecture. On this issue, see Park, Katharine, “Observation in the Margins,” in Histories of Scientific Observation, ed. Daston, Lorraine and Lunbeck, Elizabeth (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011), 1544.Google Scholar

19. Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注, ed. Duan Yucai 段玉裁 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1996), 408. Besides this general meaning of “observing,” guan 觀 also denotes the inspection of customs and rules through journeys or expeditions made by rulers or by ministers. In this sense, a passage from the so-called Huangdi sijing manuscripts from Mawangdui, unearthed in 1973 and entitled “Observations” (“Guan” 觀), is pertinent as it describes how the Yellow Emperor orders one of his ministers to go out secretly and travel around to observe those laws and rules which are not constantly good: Huangdi sijing jinzhu jinyi 黃帝四經今註今譯, ed. Guying, Chen 陳鼓應 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu, 1995)Google Scholar, 263. As this manuscript makes clear, these visual expeditions, which are described as “observations,” are often the prelude of certain kinds of administrative actions (punitive missions, wars, or political reforms). For a more complete study of the scope and meaning of the term guan in pre-imperial literature, see the article by Wu Zhongwei 吳忠偉, “Lun guan—dui xian Qin dianji yujing zhong ‘guan’ gainian de kaocha” 論觀 — 對先秦典籍語境中觀概念的考察, Kong Meng yuekan 孔孟月刊 38.1 (1999), 22–27.

20. See in this regard the contribution of Su Peng 蘇芃, “Zuozhuan ‘zhan’ shi ‘chakan’ yi yongli fafu” 左傳占釋察看義用例發覆, Hanyu shi xuebao 漢語史學報 (2009): 212–14, available online at: http://www.gwz.fudan.edu.cn/SrcShow.asp?Src_ID=1312. The paper by Su Peng is exclusively focused on the Zuo zhuan but, in my opinion, it is also possible to attest these overlapping meanings of the term zhan in the ancient military literature: see for instance Wuzi jinzhu jinyi, 4.123.

21. Liji jijie 禮記集解, ed. Xidan, Sun 孫希旦 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1996)Google Scholar, 607 (“Li yun” 禮運 9.2); and 662 (“Li qi” 禮器 10.2).

22. Shanghai Shifan daxue guji zhengli xiaozu 上海師範大學古籍整理小組, Guo yu 國語 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1990), 3.89–91Google Scholar (“Zhou yu xia” 周語下 1).

23. See Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu 春秋左傳注, 4.1600–1601 (“Ding gong” 定公 15.1). On this matter, see Duansui, Zhang 張端穗, Zuozhuan sixiang tan wei 左傳思想探微 (Taibei: Xuehai, 1987), 134–36.Google Scholar

24. On the relevance of this practice in ancient China see Kuriyama, Shigehisa, The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine (New York: Zone Books, 1999), 172–85.Google Scholar

25. Hanshi waizhuan jianshu 漢詩外傳箋疏, ed. Shouyuan, Qu 屈守元 (Chengdu: Ba Shu, 1996)Google Scholar, 5. 496–97.

26. Although I am giving particular emphasis to the confluence of visual perception and prognosis, it is evident in the pre-imperial literature that there is also an overlap with auditory skills. Hence, for example, the section devoted to pitch pipes in the Shi ji opens with a meaningfully formulated reference to the use of these instruments for military purposes: “By observing the enemy you can know what will be auspicious and inauspicious; by listening to sounds you will find the patterns of victory and defeat” (Shi ji, 1239). Then again, a section of the Tai gong Liu tao titled “The Five Musical Notes” (Wu yin 五音) asserts that, by means of analysing sounds, it is possible to anticipate enemy formations, and not only this but also the outcome of the battle (Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi, 28.134).

27. Liji jijie, 292 (“Tan Gong xia” 檀弓下 4.2).

28. Han Feizi xin jiao zhu 韓非子新校注, ed. Qiyou, Chen 陳奇猷 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2000)Google Scholar, 38.913.

29. Guo yu, 5.195 (“Lu yu xia” 魯語下 6). An anecdote from the Zuo zhuan also stresses the correspondence between clothing and accoutrements (fu 服) and the quality of the person: Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 2.638 (“Wen gong” 文公 18.7).

30. For an account of how these principles pertaining to physiognomy are adopted in the moral theory of the Mengzi and other related early written sources, see Csikszentmihalyi, Mark's contributions in Material Virtue. Ethics and the Body in Early China (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 127–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

31. For a study of physiognomy in ancient China, see, for example, Ai, Xiao 蕭艾, Zhongguo gudai xiangshu yanjiu yu pipan 中國古代相術研究與批判 (Changsha: Yuelu shushe, 1996)Google Scholar, and for a suggested classification of different physiognomic techniques prevailing in ancient China, see Ling, Li 李零, Zhongguo fangshu xu kao 中國方術續考 (Beijing: Dongfang, 2000), 56.Google Scholar

32. In this regard, the chapter “Against Physiognomy” (Fei xiang 非相) of the Xunzi and that titled “Mr. He” (He shi 和氏) of the Han Feizi unquestionably present two revealing examples of the authority and prestige enjoyed by these experts. The influence and popularity of physiognomy increased during the Han dynasty and several eminent authors of the time wrote about it, including Wang Chong 王充 and Wang Fu 王符. The interested reader may consult the book by Pingyi, Zhu 祝平一, Handai de xiangrenshu 漢代的相人術 (Taibei: Xuesheng, 1990).Google Scholar

33. Anecdotes featuring Bo Le 伯樂, a legendary practitioner of physiognomy who specialized in horses, appear in many written sources from early China (Xunzi, Zhuangzi, Han Feizi, Lüshi chunqiu, Huainanzi, etc.) and testify to the importance of these procedures. Apart from the evidence offered by texts found in the Mawangdui 馬王堆 archaeological site (discovered in 1973), a text written on silk titled “Classic of Horse Physiognomy” was also found (Xiang majing 相馬經). For a transcription of this manuscript, see the article “Mawangdui Hanmu boshu Xiang majing shiwen” 馬王堆漢慕帛書相馬經釋文, Wenwu 文物 1977.8, 17–22. Also with regard to this text, see Ling, Li 李零, Zhongguo fangshu gaiguan 中國方術概觀 (Beijing: Renmin, 1993), 110.Google Scholar

34. See the previously cited anecdote concerning Mr. He, in the Han Feizi: Han Feizi xin jiao zhu, 13.271.

35. A fragmentary manuscript consisting of twenty bamboo strips and devoted to canine physiognomy (xiang gou 相狗) was recovered from Tomb Number 1 at the Shuanggudui 雙古堆 archaeological site. For a report on, and description of this material, see Hu Pingsheng 胡平生, “Fuyang Shuanggudui Han jian shushu shu jian lun” 阜陽雙古堆漢簡數術書簡論, Chutu wenxian yanjiu 出土文獻研究 (1998.4), 12–30. In addition, fragments dealing with the same subject were found at the archaeological site at Yinqueshan, and titled by their editors “Prescriptions for Physiognomising Dogs” (Xiang gou fang 相狗方). It is highly likely that, among these writings on physiognomic techniques, there were also others dealing with domestic animals, although they have not been conserved. The Han shu, for example, includes a missing work in six scrolls titled “The Physiognomy of the Six Domestic Animals” (Xiang liu chu 相六畜), which is listed under the bibliographic section of “Morphoscopy” (xingfa 形法): Han shu, 3.1775.

36. Several manuscripts concerned with the physiognomy of swords were discovered in the archaeological site of Juyan 居延 and regrouped under the heading “Physiognomy of Swords and Precious Daggers” (Xiang baojian dao 相寶劍刀). For studies of these materials see, among others, the article by Ma Mingda 馬明達, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jiandao’ ce chutan” 居延漢簡相劍刀冊初探, Dunghuangxue jikan 敦煌學輯刊 (1982.3), 79–89, and that of Zhong Shaoyi 鍾少異, “Gu xiangjian shu chulun” 古相檢術初論, Kaogu 考古 1994.4, 358–62.

37. One of the anecdotes in the Zhuangzi concerns a master carpenter and one of his apprentices, and describes how good wood can be discerned through the art of recognizing the tree's external characteristics. See Zhuangzi jishi 莊子集釋, ed. Qingfan, Guo 郭慶藩 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1968), 170–71Google Scholar (“Ren jian shi” 人間世 4).

38. In this article I use a broad definition of what constitutes a sign: anything, whether object, sound, gesture, action, or event, capable of standing for something in some respect. However, in accordance with the seminal works by Charles Pierce, Winfried Nöth writes: “Every object, event, or behavior is thus a potential sign. Even silence can have the semiotic function of a zero sign […] Everything can thus be perceived as a natural sign of something else, and by prior agreement between the sender and a receiver, every object can also serve as a conventional sign. This does not mean that every phenomenon of the world is semiotic. It only means that under conditions of semiosis every object can become a sign to a given interpreter.” See Nöth, W., Handbook of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990)Google Scholar, 81.

39. From their very earliest manifestations, divinatory techniques in China have been associated with interpreting marks or signs made on a reading surface (see, in this regard, Vandermeersch, Léon: “De la tortue à l'achilée,” in Divination et Rationalité, ed. Vernant, J.-P. (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1974), 2951 Google Scholar). Giovanni Manetti's ideas concerning the “semiotic” foundation of divination in his comparative study of divination in Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome are therefore relevant here and, in particular, his statement that “[...] reading the future and gaining knowledge of hidden things were not achieved through direct divine inspiration but rather through the same process which operates in the interpretation of the written sign” ( Manetti, G., Theories of the Sign in Classical Antiquity, trans. Richardson, C. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993 Google Scholar), 2). With regard to the idea of a world saturated with signs or, better said, symptoms, see also Blumenberg, Hans's essay Die Lesbarkeit der Welt (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1981).Google Scholar

40. Ginzburg, C., “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm,” in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989), 96125.Google Scholar

41. Shang jun shu zhuizhi, 1.2. The adage is mentioned again, with some variations, in the Zhanguo ce ( Zhanguo ce jian zheng 戰國策戔證, ed. Xiangyong, Fan 范祥雍 [Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2008 Google Scholar], 19.1046), and also in the Xinxu ( Xiang, Liu 劉向, Xinxu jinzhu jinyi 新序今注今譯 [Tianjin: Tianjin guji, 1988 Google Scholar], 9.298).

42. The following discussion of far-sighted intelligence is indebted to, and aims to complement, the excellent work of Levi, Jean in his book Les fonctionnaires divins. Politique, despotisme et mystique en Chine ancienne (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1989), 3045.Google Scholar

43. Huainanzi jiaoyi, 18.1899–1900; Guanzi jiaozhu 管子校注, ed. Xiangfeng, Li 黎翔鳯 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2004)Google Scholar, 1.17; Shuo yuan jiaozheng 說苑校証, ed. Zonglu, Xiang 向宗魯 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1989), 16.397–98Google Scholar; Chunqiu fanlu yizheng 春秋繁露義證, ed. Zhedian, Zhong 鐘哲點 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1992)Google Scholar, 4.131; Kongcongzi 孔叢子, ed. Junlin, Wang 王鈞林 and Haisheng, Zhou 周海生 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2009)Google Scholar, 21.274; Yantie lun jiaozhu 鹽鐵論校注, ed. Liqi, Wang 王利器 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1992)Google Scholar, 59.604; Lun heng jiaoshi 論衡校釋, ed. Hui, Huang 黃暉 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1990)Google Scholar, 78.1072; Shi ji, 43.1807.

44. Huainanzi jiaoyi, 18.1891.

45. Hansan, Li 李漢三, Xian Qin liang Han yinyang wuxing xueshuo 先秦兩漢陰陽五行學說 (Taibei: Weixin, 1981), 5162.Google Scholar

46. Shi ji, 74.2344.

47. Boshu Laozi jiao zhu 帛書老子校注, ed. Ming, Gao 高明 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1996)Google Scholar, 133.

48. For a more detailed study of this deity called “Manager of Allotment” (si ming 司命), who was concerned with lifespan and was also the object of sacrifices in early China, see Csikszentmihalyi, Mark, “Allotment and Death in Early China,” in Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought, ed. Olberding, Amy and Ivanhoe, Philip J. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011), 177–90.Google Scholar

49. Han Feizi xin jiao zhu, 21.440–41.

50. See Queen, Sarah A., “ Han Feizi and the Old Master: A Comparative Analysis and Translation of Han Feizi Chapter 20 and Chapter 21,” in Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei, ed. Goldin, Paul R. (Berlin and New York: Springer, 2012)Google Scholar, 209. The Han Feizi once again situates in a clear political context this idea of acting on what is as yet tiny: Han Feizi xin jiao zhu, 38.914.

51. He Guanzi hui jiao jizhu 鶴冠子汇校集注, ed. Huaixin, Huang 黃怀信 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2004), 16.338–39Google Scholar. A passage from the Yantielun also mentions the clinical skills of Bian Que and states that the sage is characterized by his ability to respond to circumstances before they have become manifest (wei ran 未然) while the noble man is distinguished by the fact that he acts upon what still lacks an established form because he can visualize what has not yet germinated (治未形,睹未萌): Yantielun jiao zhu, 59.604. See also Shi ji, 45.2793.

52. In this regard, see for example chapter Ba zheng shen ming lun” 八正神明論 of the Huangdi neijing suwen 黃帝內經素問: Huangdi neijing zhangju suoyin 黃帝內經章句索引, ed. Yingqiu, Ren 任應秋 (Beijing: Renmin weisheng, 1986), 8183 Google Scholar. Punctilious observation of tenuous signs constitutes, therefore, the shared foundation of medical theories and of a considerable part of morphoscopic procedures in ancient China. Much the same occurred in classical Greek culture where medical literature also played a significant part in the development of physiognomy and other divination techniques associated with semiotic practice. For a more complete study of this question, see G. Manetti, Theories of the Sign in Classical Antiquity, 37–52, and Debru, Armelle, “Signes, indices, inférences en médecine antique,” in L'intérpretation des indices. Enquête sur le paradigme indiciaire avec Carlo Ginzburg, ed. Thouard, Denis (Villeneuve d'Asq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2007), 175–88.Google Scholar

53. I amend this passage by introducing the term guan 觀 following the reading of Chen Qiyou.

54. Lüshi chunqiu xin jiao shi 呂氏春秋新校釋, ed. Qiyou, Chen 陳奇猷 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2002)Google Scholar, 1422 (“Guan biao” 觀表, 20.8).

55. This anecdote concerning Wu Qi is mentioned in another two sections of the Lüshi chunqiu with the significant titles “Farsightedness” (“Chang jian” 長見) and “Scrutiny of the Subtle” (“Shen xiao” 慎小). They are also concerned to describe how wise men can predict events on the basis of scrutinizing subtle signs: Lüshi chunqiu xin jiao shi, 612 (“Chang jian” 長見, 11.5) and 1690 (“Shen xiao” 慎小, 25.6).

56. Lüshi chunqiu xin jiao shi, 1423 (“Guan biao” 觀表, 20.8).

57. In this regard, see for example: Guanzi jiao zhu, 23.468; Xunzi jijie 荀子集解, ed. Xianqian, Wang 王先謙 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1988)Google Scholar, 10.194; Han Feizi xin jiao zhu, 15.300.

58. See, for instance, Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi, 13.85.

59. Guanzi jiao zhu, 17.317. Among the military manuscripts exhumed in Yinqueshan in 1972, under the heading of “Wang bing” 王兵, there is a very similar sentence: 無將不蚤知. Yinqueshan Hanmu zhu jian, 136. See also Wei Liaozi jinzhu jinyi, 18.204.

60. Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi, 29.135. The expression yao xiang 祅祥, literally meaning “good and bad omens,” most probably refers here to optimistic or pessimistic rumours circulating among the soldiers, which make it possible to gauge their loyalty to their commanders and their mood. Another passage in the military literature, in this case from the Wuzi, uses the same expression to denote an idea of solidarity: Wuzi jinzhu jinyi, 2.80.

61. Wuzi jinzhu jinyi, 2.83.

62. Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi, 29.136.

63. One passage from the Mozi offers a succinct description of the technique, stating that it is a means of clearly ascertaining who will be the victor and who the vanquished in combat, and who will enjoy good fortune and who will suffer misfortune (Sun Yirang, Mozi jiangu, 58.606). Moreover, in the section of the Huainanzi devoted to military matters, this divinatory technique is mentioned together with other mantic methods (Huainanzi jiaoyi, 15.1558). This prognostication method is also the object of a chapter from the Yuejue shu, entitled precisely “Records of Military Vapours” (“Ji jun qi” 記軍氣). It is highly likely that these procedures were included in a lost text titled Bie Chengzi 別成子and mentioned in the Han shu (Han shu, 30.1760). For a more detailed study of this divinatory technique, see the contributions by Hulsewé, A. F. P., “Watching the Vapours: An Ancient Chinese Technique of Prognostication,Nachrichten 125 (1979), 4049 Google Scholar, and by Loewe, Michael, “The Oracles of the Clouds and the Winds,” in his Divination, Mythology and Monarchy in Han China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 191213.Google Scholar

64. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 3.1038 (“Xiang gong” 襄公 18.3). See also Li, Wai-yee, The Readability of the Past in Early Chinese Historiography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007)Google Scholar, 175.

65. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 3.1037 (“Xiang gong” 18.3).

66. On the political ideas and activities of Music Master Kuang, see Pines, Yuri, Foundations of Confucian Thought. Intellectual Life in the Chunqiu Period, 722–453 B.C.E. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2002), 139–46.Google Scholar

67. See, for instance, Guo yu, 10.460–61 (“Jin yu ba” 晉語八 7); Han Feizi xin jiao zhu, 10.205–7; Huainanzi jiaoyi, 11.1182. Then again, it should also be noted that the Han shu includes the title of a work related to Music Master Kuang in eight books, in addition to other works concerning divinatory techniques applied in the military sphere: Han shu, 30.1760.

68. As is repeatedly sustained in a considerable part of early China's political and philosophical literature, music and sounds can come to reveal, at least to somebody with a trained and sensitive ear, the inner qualities of individuals playing, of animals, and even of their inner state. On the capacity of sages for deciphering the inner state of someone wailing by contrasting it with the sounds of birds, see Kongzi jiayu shu zheng 孔子家語疏証, ed. Shike, Chen 陳士珂 (Shanghai: Shanghai shudian, 1980)Google Scholar, 5.125.

69. Zhouyi zhengyi, 135–37.

70. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 1.242 (“Zhuang gong” 莊公 28.3).

71. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 9.198.

72. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 3.1043 (“Xiang gong” 18.4).

73. One of the most celebrated cases apropos the revealing capacity of music and sounds is the anecdote from the Zuo zhuan concerning the ceremonial visit of Lord Zha 公子札 of Wu to the Lord Xiang 襄公 of Lu in 543 b.c.e. and the assessment by the former of the moral climate, and thus of the future in all of the states after carefully listening to their different musical styles and airs: Yang Bojun, Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 3.1161–66 (“Xiang gong” 29.13). Confined to the military domain, a passage from the Zhouli also records the resort to analysis of sounds from the battlefield in order to divine whether the denouement will be favorable or otherwise: Zhouli zhengyi, 45.1852. On this issue, see also footnote 26 above.

74. For a study of astronomical divinatory procedures in military contexts in the Zuo zhuan as well as in other ancient written sources, see Pankenier, David, Astrology and Cosmology in Early China. Conforming Earth to Heaven (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 279–94Google Scholar.

75. It should be recalled that scrutiny or observation of virtue (de 德) is also one of the eight factors or revelatory signs (zheng 徵) mentioned in the Liu tao as being used to discover the real situation of the enemy: Tai gong Liu Tao jinzhu jinyi, 20.112.

76. See, for instance, Da Dai Liji jiegu 大戴禮記解詁, ed. Pinzhen, Wang 王聘珍 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1983), 72.190Google Scholar; Huainanzi jiaoyi, 6.632; and also Yi Zhoushu hui jiao ji zhu 逸周書彙校集注, ed. Huaixin, Huang 黃懷信 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2007), 58.774–75.Google Scholar

77. Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 1.12. In the “Debating the Military” (“Yi bing” 議兵) chapter of the Xunzi the art of warfare is also characterized as a technique explicitly linked to the use of deception: Xunzi jijie, 15.266.

78. Shi ji, 65.2162–65.

79. See, in this regard, Hardy, Grant, Worlds of Bronze and Bamboo. Sima Qian's Conquest of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 5055 Google Scholar; Levi, Jean, La Chine romanesque. Fictions d'Orient et d'Occident (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1995), 155–57Google Scholar; and also Galvany, Albert, “Philosophy, Biography, and Anecdote: On the Portrait of Sun Wu,Philosophy East & West 61.4 (2011): 630–46.Google Scholar

80. Shi ji, 65.2162.

81. Shi ji, 70.2279–83. One finds elements of this story in the biographical note pertaining to Fan Sui 范睢 in the Shi ji, in which he is condemned to corporal punishment and other humiliations following a false accusation and, like Sun Bin, he manages to save his life only because he is able to conceal himself and flee to take refuge in a clandestine existence: Shi ji, 79.2401–2. Finally, Pang Juan's plot against Sun Bin is also similar to the famous manoeuvre, also described in Sima Qian's work (Shi ji, 58.2155), whereby Li Si 李斯 plots against his former classmate Han Fei 韓非 and causes his death. Sima Qian presents the theme of humiliation and destruction of bodily integrity in its different variants, including mutilation, as a key and recurrent topos. The story of the ridiculed hero whose bodily stigma ends up becoming a sign of choice is most probably a reference to the tragedy of Sima Qian himself. As I shall show below, Sun Bin's corporal punishment, which completely disqualifies him as a public figure, also distinguishes him as an exceptional individual. In the case of Sima Qian, at least, corporal punishment, far from forging a definitive, implacable tragic destiny, ends up by favoring other alternatives.

82. For a more exhaustive study of the consequences of this kind of corporal punishment in ancient China, see Turner, Karen, “The Criminal Body and the Body Politic: Punishments in Early Imperial China,Cultural Dynamics 11.2 (1999), 237–54Google Scholar; and also Galvany, Albert, “Debates on Mutilation: Bodily Preservation and Ideology in Early China,Asiatische Studien 63.1 (2009), 6791.Google Scholar

83. The importance of this marking of the body is reflected in the very identity of the person, the name by which he is known. The term bin 臏 refers to the knee bone and, by extension, to the cutting out of that bone. It was common practice at the time to refer to people by names, frequently posthumous ones, which may be understood as evocative epithets expressing a judgment on an individual's behaviour or features. On this matter, see the contributions by Fagao, Zhou 周法高, Zhou Qin mingzi jiegu huishi 周秦名字解詁彙 (Taibei: Zhonghua congshu, 1958)Google Scholar; Petersen, Jens O., “What's in a Name? On the Sources concerning Sun Wu,Asia Major, 3rd ser., 5.1 (1992), 131 Google Scholar; Goldin, Paul R., “Personal Names in Early China: A Research Note,Journal of the American Oriental Society 120.1 (2000), 7781 Google Scholar; and Behr, Wolfgang, “What's in a Name, Again? Über Schall und Rauch in der antikchinesischen Personennamengebung,” in Dem Text ein Freund. Erkundungen des chinesischen Altertums Robert H. Gassmann gewidmet, ed. Altenburger, R., Lehnert, M., and Riemenschnitter, A. (Bern: Peter Lang, 2009), 1538.Google Scholar

84. Shi ji, 65.2163.

85. Shi ji, 65.2162–63.

86. This would also seem to be the reading adopted in the English version edited by William H. Nienhauser, in which the passage is translated as [Sun Bin] noticed that the horses' speed was not much different”: The Grand Scribe's Records, ed. Nienhauser, W. H., Volume 7 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994)Google Scholar, 39.

87. See Dake, Zhang 張大可, Shi ji quanti xinzhu 史記全體新注 (Xi'an: Sanqin chubanshe, 1990)Google Scholar, 1337, footnote 3; and also Kametar, Takigawaō 瀧川龜太郎, Shiki kaichu kōshō 史記會注考證 (Tokyo: Tōyō bunka gakuin, 1932–34)Google Scholar, 3304.

88. In this case, Zhang Dake (Shi ji quanti xinzhu, 1336 footnote 14) reads the passage in the same way and also interprets the term zu as referring to the strength of the hoofs of the horses (馬的腳力).

89. Fengsu tongyi xiaozhu 風俗通義校注, ed. Liqi, Wang 王力器 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1981)Google Scholar, 2.128.

90. The Zhouli, for instance, mentions an “assessor of horses” (ma zhi 馬質): Zhouli zhengyi, 57.2374.

91. The fact that this part of the anecdote is situated in the context of a wager supports the hypothesis that Sun Bin's scrutiny of the horses was physiognomic or morphological since there are numerous examples in the ancient literature testifying to the fact that games and wagers were linked with a range of divinatory practices. On this issue see, for instance, Li Ling, Zhongguo fangshu xu kao, 20–27.

92. Shi ji, 65.2163. For a complete description of the battle, including an explanation of what led up to it, a tactical analysis, and the geopolitical consequences of the event, see Sawyer, Ralph D., Sun Pin. Military Methods of the Art of War (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1999), 3141 Google Scholar. The fame of this battle, won thanks to the strategic skills of Sun Bin, is reflected in the saying, “Besiege Wei to save Zhao” (wei Wei jiu Zhao 圍魏救趙), which appears and is often cited in subsequent works.

93. Although, with some variations and main characters whose names differ from those mentioned in the Shi ji, the Zhanguo ce has a passage that describes a debate which seems to have taken place in the court of Qi between those in favor of coming to the aid of Zhao and those opposing the plan, the latter of whom recommended leaving Zhao to its fate of being conquered by Wei. See Zhanguo ce jian zheng, 8.504–5.

94. See Sun Bin bingfa jiaoli 孫臏兵法校理, ed. Yunze, Zhang 張震澤 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1984), 115.Google Scholar

95. The manoeuvre consisting in neutralizing the offensive launched by one state against the capital of another by means of an attack on the territory of the former by a third state coming to the rescue of the latter has been described several times in the Zuo zhuan. According to this source, in the year 623 b.c.e., the troops of Chu laid siege to the capital of the state of Jiang. An army from Jin then invaded the capital of Chu and thus liberated Jiang (Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, 2.531 [“Wen gong” 3.6]). Thanks to Sun Bin's misleading signs, it is likely that Pang Juan would have believed that the armies of Qi planned to repeat this hoary old stratagem.

96. Zhang Yunze, Sun Bin bingfa jiaoli, 2.

97. This is, presumably, a quote from the military writings attributed to his ancestor Sun Wu, which contain a very similar passage: Shi yi jia zhu Sunzi jiao li, 7.137–38.

98. According to the passage from the Zhanguo ce, general Pang Juan was captured alive in the battle of Maling: Zhanguo ce jian zheng, 23.1337.

99. A passage in the Zhanguo ce once again gives an alternative version in which Prince Shen dies in the battle: Zhanguo ce jian zheng, 8.508.

100. Shi ji, 65.2164–65.

101. Zhanguo ce jian zheng, 8.508.

102. On this issue, see Jacques Gernet, “Petits écarts et grands écarts,” in Divination et Rationalité, 52–69, at 54; and also Kalinowski, Marc, “Diviners and Astrologers under the Eastern Zhou,” in Early Chinese Religion. Part One: Shang through Han (1250 BC–220 AD), ed. Lagerwey, John and Kalinowski, Marc (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 341–96Google Scholar, at 369.