An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Wubeizhi 武備志

Nov 19, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Wubeizhi 武備志 "On military preparedness" is a military encyclopaedia compiled during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Mao Yuanyi 茅元儀 (1594-1640) xxx. It has a length of 240 juan long and is richly illustrated. The book was finished in 1594. The oldest printed edition dates from 1621, and there is a moveable-letter print from the late 19th century, as well as a Japanese print from the 1660s. During the Qianlong reign-period 乾隆 (1736-1795), the book was forbidden to circulate and was not included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

The Wubeizhi consists of five parts. In the first part, traditional military books are critically inspected, like the "Seven Military Classics", the Wujing zongyao 武經總要, Taibaiyin jing 太白陰經, and Huqianjing 虎鈐經. In general, Mao esteems the classical book Sunzi bingfa 孫子兵法 as the most genuine and important military book.

In the second part, Mao Yuanyi presents a lot of material though all ages to give examples of practical warfare, in strategy and tactics. In the third part, he deals with battle tactics and training. In 319 illustrations, the author shows the wide range of battle tactics through the ages. The selection of soldiers, their grouping, reward and punishment, battalion signals, and practical training are broadly explained. Numerous examples are taken from the books Jixiao xinshu 紀效新書 and Lianbing shiji 練兵實紀. An important point which Mao stressed is that soldiers had first to be checked as to their suitability, before assigning them to a battalion.

In the fourth part of the book, garrisons, campaigning, attack and defence, warfare with water and fire, the soldiers' pay, and the supply of horses and grain is dealt with. The author describes signals, firearms, riverine transport, military colonies, and even the medical service for horses. In the last part, divination in war is described, which is a very interesting aspect of military thought in ancient China. Another topic of the last chapter is the deployment of troops through different terrain, and how an army on the march and in temporary camps could be protected against hostile attacks.

The Wubeizhi contains countless material not provided in other sources. Of special value is the map of Zheng He's travels, called Zheng He hanghai tu 鄭和航海圖.

Table 1. Contents of the Wubeizhi 武備志
1 (18 juan) 兵訣評 Bingjie ping Critique of military theory
2 (33 juan) 戰略考 Zhanlüe kao Investigations of military strategy
3 (41 juan) 陣練制 Chenlian zhi Systems of battle arrays and training
4 (55 juan) 軍資乘 Junzi cheng Methods of organisation and supply
5 (93 juan) 占度載 Duzhan zai Records of prognostications and calculating
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