Wei Liao Ziwas written by Wei Liao, a military theorist from the lateWarring States Period(475-221BC). In the book there is one sentence mentioning that Emperor Liang Huiwang (whose reign was between 370-319BC) asked Wei Liao questions; thus it is generally believed that Wei Liao, whose whereabouts are largely known, basically lived in that period. Although Wei Liao's battle and official achievements are hardly found in historical records, he was still a talented military strategist.
The military thought expressed in the book represents an important genre of Chinese military thoughts in the Warring States Period, and also is a result and reflection of the political thoughts behind feudalism in East China'sShandong Provinceat the time.
The book's earliest edition is a bamboo slip used for writing found in a Western Han (206BC-24AD) tomb, which unfortunately is incomplete. The earliest block-printed edition of the book hails from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), which is the origin of many other editions in the later ages.
Wei Liao Ziinherits and develops the military thoughts ofSun Zi Art of WarandWu Zi, and boasts the features of the late Warring States Period. The book opposes any idealistic view, instead highly valuing the importance of human. Wars are sorted out into righteous and unjust, and the righteous wars based on benevolence and virtue. The book also says that one should be cautious about war, but should never be afraid of wars.
There are a lot penetrating views about the strategies in the relationships between military affairs and politics and economy. The book vividly analogizes military affairs and politics with exterior and interior, meaning that politics are fundamental and military affairs are subordinate. Economy is essential for managing state affairs and is the material foundation for wars. The book holds the view that agriculture and sericulture (silk cultivation) should be well developed.
Wei Liao Zistresses mental, material, and organizational preparations before war, saying that in war, armies should centralize their strength, give surprise attacks, and combine assault and defense at the same time.