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Qi Jiguang’s “Oral Instructions from the Podium”

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image of Journal of Chinese Military History

Until the later half of the twentieth century, Western studies of Chinese military thought have used as their source texts mainly the translations of the “Seven Military Classics,” six of which were written before the Tang dynasty. Military scholarship in the later periods was deemed to lack the strategic weight of these venerated classics. However, the Ming dynasty witnessed several key developments in military affairs that have been documented in Chinese military texts. According to surveys of important Chinese military treatises written before the twentieth century, several Ming military texts are highlighted for their significant value to Chinese military history and tactics. Unfortunately, only a few such texts have full or partial translations in European languages to facilitate in-depth study by Western scholars. This paper provides an English translation of a key Ming military text that had hitherto been unavailable in the public domain to facilitate a more holistic understanding of China’s military past. The source text is Qi Jiguang’s Record of Military Training (Lianbing shiji 練兵實紀) Part Two, Chapter 4, entitled “Oral Instructions from the Podium” (Dengtan koushou 登壇口授). This chapter has been chosen for translation based on its significant documentary value and conceptual contributions in describing four themes of Qi’s thoughts on military strategy: deliberate calculations, active defence, concentration of force, and combined warfare.

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