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  Created in China>The Development of Chinese Military Affairs>Military Thoughts
Sima Fa


In ancient times, aSimawas the highest official in charge of military times. TheSima Fa(literally means the "Methods of the Minister of War") book is a collection of Simas' opinions on the contemporary wars. Since Tian Rangju, Sima of the Qi State in the lateSpring and Autumn Period(770-476BC), is said to have contributed greatly, the book is also known as theMethods of Rangju Minister of War. The earliest edition is from the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The book generally classifies wars into two categories of just and unjust based on the purpose. The wars that put down chaos, root out evil and violence, and help the weak are considered righteous. Therefore, killing to stop killing, attacking another nation for its people's sake, and fighting that stops more fighting are acceptable. In short, the principle of starting a war is whether it is humane, and the book raises nine conditions under which one should not start a war. The precondition of launching a war is to protect the interest of the people.

On the issue of dealing with the enemy, the book also comes up with some innovative ideas. Common soldiers should be treated differently from war criminals, while prisoners of war deserve preferential treatment. The wounded in the war should be treated with proper medical care. The troops should not violate the interest of the people of the enemy country. Upon entering the enemy's domain, the soldiers are to strictly follow rules and regulations to get the support of the people in the enemy country. This is the earliest discussion on the policies to the enemy in China.

Preparedness and cautiousness to war are two important thoughts in the book. To be alert to danger in times of peace requires mental preparedness, which in turn ensures security. Via two large-scale surrounding hunts each year, the troops are trained and inspected, so as to remind the country about possible war any time. While emphasizing war preparedness, the book also stresses, "though the country is big and powerful, it is doomed to demise if it is too belligerent."

The book holds that administering an army is very different from managing the state affairs, as the former upholds rituals and the latter values laws. The paramount problem of regulating discipline in the army is handled through the reward and punishment system. The book lists the differences and similarities of the reward and punishment systems in the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties (about 21st century-256BC), and discusses the essentials for establishing various rules in the army. Besides, there are also a lot of specific customs and rules, as well as the standards for an army general at that time in the book.

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