The Guiguzi 鬼谷子 "Master of the Ghost Valley", also called Xuanweizi 玄微子 "Master of the Mysterious Small" is a philosophical treatise attributed to a master of the same name. The identity of the author is not clear. He is said to have lived in the Ghost Valley 鬼谷 in the region of Yinchuan 潁川 during the Spring and Autumn period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). The Tang period 唐 (618-907) Daoist writer Du Guangting 杜光庭 (Luyiji 錄異記) alleges that his name was Wang Xu 王詡 and that he had lived as an immortal since the times of the Yellow Emperor 黃帝. Some philosophers and thinkers of the state of Qi 齊 visited him and are said to have studied under his tutelage, for example, the coalition advisors Su Qin 蘇秦 or Zhang Yi 張儀. As a historical person, he seems to have lived during the reign of Duke Ping of Jin 晉平公 (r. 557-532 BCE, according to the book Xianzhuan shiyi 仙傳拾遺 quoted in the encyclopedia Taiping yulan 太平御覽. His personal name was Wang Li 王利, and the Ghost Valley was located in the region of Mt. Qingxi 清溪山. Master Guigu was able to solidify the spirit and to preserve the cosmic unity so that he was able to live a life of extreme austerity for hundreds of years. It is not known what later became of him.|
The book Guiguzi is not listed in the imperial bibliography Yiwen zhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書, which means that, if such a book really existed in the pre-Han era, it was already lost. In the imperial bibliography Jingji zhi 經濟志 of the Suishu, a book Guiguzi with a length of 3 juan "scrolls" is listed in the section of coalition advisors (zonghengjia 縱橫家). The Song period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟, author of the encyclopedia Yuhai 玉海, states that the name of Master Guigu is not known. He lived a life in retirement in the Ghost valley and was visited by disciples. Yet there were also two separate books called Su Qin, in 31 chapters, and Zhang Yi, in 10 chapters.
Recent findings of original writings of the coalition advisors have demonstrated that the book Guiguzi is indeed a forgery of later date, presumably the Southern and Northern Dynasties period 南北朝 (300~600). Sometimes the Guiguzi is listed among the military treatises.
Guiguzi emphasized that it was, in a time of permanent change, extremely important to constantly survey the actual conditions. In the field of military strategy, he explained the art of conjecture, the art of political advice, that of secret planning, and that of and occasional easening and restraining (feiqian 飛箝 "flying and pinching"). Gathering information about the enemy, while keeping secret the own plans, is the best method for successful campaigning.
The chapter Baihe 捭闔 (also written 捭合) "Opening and closing the gate" speaks of the art of political coalitions. It is a kind of summary of the political teachings of Master Guigu. Political activities were seen as a natural process of opening (summer) and closing (winter). According to the actual circumstances, a ruler or a commander has to apply an appropriate strategy. The chapter Fanying 反應 "Reciprocal reaction" explains that between humans, conversation and mutual understanding is important for the advancement of each part. If the counterpart is speaking, onself is mute and listens in order to profit. The result of what one has heard, is to be locked inside the heart by the "inner door bolt" (neijian 內犍), and has to be preserved and profitably used. A coalition advisor traveling from state to state has therefore first to look what the person he wants to convince prizes as profitable for himself before adjusting his convincing speech to these wishes. Concerning the enemies, an advisor has to "hit the rifts" (dixi 抵巇). He has to block what is complete, to fend off what comes from outside, to rest what is gone down, to cover what is in emergence, and to occupy what can otherwise not be dealt with. "Letting fly and restrict" (feiqian) is a method of a ruler to gain competent advisors: promote the good and inhibit them from leaving. The control of the own inner feelings is important to gain an objective picture. Plans have to be carefully considered before "refusing or adopting" them (wuhe 忤合). Pros and cons have to be "assessed" (chuai 揣) according to the outer circumstances and following the inner situation. Circumstances have to be "fathomed" (mo 摩) and feelings to be "weighed" (quan 權) before plans can be "conceptualised" (mou 謀) and "decisions" be reached (jue 決). The chapter Fuyan 符言 "Adjusted speech" can be seen as a conclusion to the earlier chapters. The parts Zhuanwan 轉丸 and Quluan 胠亂 (or Quqie 胠篋) are lost. The last chapters, Benjing yinfu qishu 本經陰符七術, Chishu 持樞 and Zhongjing 中經 contain Daoist thought, for example, on longevity, the cultivation of spirit, essence and mind, and the completion of the self as a perfect man, and seem to have been compiled at a later date.
The teachings assembled in the book Guiguzi are rated as of far minor quality than that of other masters of the Warring States period. At least the language has a certain level that makes the books worth studying.
There were commentaries by the Jin period 晉 (265-420) scholars Huangfu Mi 皇甫謐 and Yue Yi 樂壹, Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 from the Liang period 梁 (502-557), and Yin Zhizhang 尹知章 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907). Only the commentary of the Daoist master Tao Hongjing has survived. Tao was responsible for the Daoist reinterpretation of the Guiguzi, the incorporation of the three last chapters, and the inclusion of the Guiguzi into the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏.
The most important editions of the Guiguzi are the collectanea Zihui 子彙, Shierzi 十二子, Mianmiaoge congshu 綿眇閣叢書, Shoushange congshu 守山閣叢書,
Zishu baizhong 子書百種, Sibu congkan 四部叢刊, Gushu congkan 古書叢刊 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書. Other important versions are that of the Chongde Academy 崇德書院 and the manuscript version of Qian Zunwang 錢遵王, as well as the version in the Daoist Canon Daozang (section Taixuanbu 太玄部), that of Master Gao 高氏 from Lin'an 臨安, the revised edition of Bao Yiwen 鮑以文 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). Important Qing period 清 (1644-1911) editions are that of Master Qin 秦氏 from Jiangdu 江都 (original 1789, reprint 1805, with a commentary by Tao Hongjing 陶弘景). There is a collectaneum including modern commentaries to the Guiguzi, namely the Guiguzi congshu 鬼谷子叢書, edited by Fang Zhongli 房中立 in 1993 (Shumu wenxian press 書目文獻出版社).
Lai Hehong 來可泓 (1997). "Guiguzi 鬼谷子", in: Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Zongjiao 宗教, p. 692. Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe.
Li Jianping 李劍平 (ed. 1998). Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典, p. 543. Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe.
Li Yaming 李亞明, Liu Qing 劉慶, Li Binghai 李炳海 (1996). "Guiguzi 鬼谷子", in: Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典, ed. by Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, p. 29. Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1877. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
1. 捭闔 Baihe Opening and closing the gate
2. 反應 Fanying Reciprocal reaction
3. 內揵 Neijian The inner door bolt
4. 抵巇 Dixi Hitting the rifts
5. 飛箝 Feiqian Letting fly and restrict
6. 忤合 Wuhe Refusing and adopting
7. 揣篇 Chuai Assessing
8. 摩篇 Mo Fathoming
9. 權篇 Quan Weighing
10. 謀篇 Mou Conceptualizing
11. 決篇 Jue Deciding
12. 符言 Fuxin Adjusted speech
轉丸 Zhuanwan Turning the pill (lost)
胠亂 Quluan (Quaqie 胠篋, lost)
本經陰符七術 Benjing yinfu qishu The seven arts of the secret adjustments of this book
持樞 Chishu On holding the pivot
中經 Zhongjing The writing on the centre