Zhan Guo Ce

Zhan Guo Ce

The Zhan Guo Ce (simplified Chinese: 战国策; traditional Chinese: 戰國策; pinyin: Zhàn Guó Cè; Wade–Giles: Chan-kuo Ts'e; literally "Strategies of the Warring States") is a renowned ancient Chinese historical work and compilation of sporadic materials on the Warring States Period compiled between the 3rd to 1st centuries BCE.[1][2] It is an important text of the Warring States Period as it accounts the strategies and political views of the School of Diplomacy and reveals the historical and social characteristics of the period.



The author of Zhan Guo Ce has not yet been verified: it is generally deemed, after Zhang Xincheng, that the book was not written by a single author at one time. It is thought to have been composed by Su Qin (simplified Chinese: 苏秦; traditional Chinese: 蘇秦; pinyin: Sū Qín, d. 284 BCE) and his peers before being obtained by Liu Xiang. Unlike most of the pre-Qin classics, the authenticity of Zhan Guo Ce, along with the Shijing, Mozi, Yulingzi and Gongsun Longzi had never been questioned since the Western Han period. The earliest to assert the texts were apocryphal scriptures was perhaps the compiler of the Annotated Catalogue of the Siku Quanshu, but he provided no warrant for it.[1] In 1931, Luo Genze put forward an argument that the book was composed by Kuai Tong (Chinese: 蒯通) in his two papers based on six conclusions which he drawn, a contemporary of Han Xin. Although this argument had been seconded by Jin Dejian (1932) and Zu Zhugeng (1937), but by 1939 it was refuted by Zhang Xincheng.[3]

The six versions of written works from the School of Diplomacy were discovered by Liu Xiang during his editing and proofreading of the imperial literary collection. Those works of political views and diplomatic strategies from the School of Diplomacy were in poor condition, with confusing contents and missing words. Liu Xiang proofread and edited them into the new book under the title Zhan Guo Ce; it was therefore not written by a single author at one time.

Significant contents of Zhan Guo Ce were lost in subsequent centuries. Zeng Gong of the Northern Song Dynasty reclaimed some lost chapters, proofread and edited the modern version. Some writings on cloth were excavated from the Han Dynasty tomb at Mawangdui near the city of Changsha in 1973 and edited and published in Beijing in 1976 as Zhanguo Zonghengjia Shu (Chinese: 戰國縱橫家書, "Works from the School of Diplomacy During the Warring States Period)". The book contained 27 chapters, 11 of which were found to be similar to the contents in Zhan Guo Ce and the Records of the Grand Historian. That publication appeared in Taiwan in 1977 as the Boshu Zhanguoce (Chinese: 帛書戰國策). The texts were written in between the style of Seal script and Clerical script. The transcript was probably composed around 195 BCE before its burial, as the text tend to avoid using the word bang (邦), the personal name of Emperor Gao of Han.[4]


The Zhan Guo Ce recounts the history of the Warring States from the conquest of the Fan clan by the Zhi clan in 490 BC up to the failed assassination of Qin Shi Huang by Gao Jianli in 221 BC.

The book comprises approximately 120,000 words, and is divided into 33 chapters and 497 sections. The twelve strategies are:

## Chinese Translation Context Identical
with Manwangdui Chapters[5]
01 东周策 Strategies of Eastern Zhou Nil
02 西周策 Strategies of Western Zhou
03 秦策

Strategies of Qin

Chapter 19/Qin 3:2
08 齐策 Strategies of Qi Nil
14 楚策 Strategies of Chu Chapter 23/Chu 4:13
18 赵策 Strategies of Zhao Chapter 21/Zhao 1:9
Chapter 18/Zhao 4:18
22 魏策 Strategies of Wei Chapter 15/Wei 3:3
Chapter 16/Wei 3:8
26 韩策 Strategies of Han Chapter 23/Han 1:16
29 燕策 Strategies of Yan Chapter 05/Yan 1:5 and Yan 1:12
Chapter 20/Yan 1:11
Chapter 04/Yan 2:4
32 宋、卫策 Strategies of Song and Wei Nil
33 中山策 Strategies of Zhongshan

Comparison in original Chinese

Manwangdui texts, "Xujia spoke to the Marquis of Rang" (Chapter 15):[6]


Received texts, "Qin defeated Wei at Hua, put Mang Mao to flight, and besieged Daliang" (Wei 3:3):[6]a[›]


Manwangdui texts, "Spoke to the king of Yan" (Chapter 20):[7]


Received texts, "Qi attacked Song, Song was hard pressed" (Yan 1:11):[7]a[›]


Literary criticism

ZGC displays the social aspects and scholastic habitat of the Warring States Period. Not just a brilliant historical work, it is an excellent historical literature and novel. Major events and historical information of the period are represented in objective and vivid descriptions. Detailed records of speeches and deeds by followers of the School of Diplomacy reveal the mental makeup and intellectual expertise of the characters. Acts of righteousness, bravery and determination by numerous characters are also recorded.

Sophisticated intellectual contents of ZGC mainly reveal the intellectual inclination of the followers of the School of Diplomacy and illustrate the intellectual wealth and multicultural aspects of the period.

The literary achievement of the ZGC is also outstanding - it signifies a new era in the development of ancient Chinese literature. Among other aspects, character description, language usage and metaphorical stories demonstrate rich and clear literary quality. ZGC greatly exerts influence on the format of the later Record of the Grand Historian.

Nevertheless, its intellectual aspects have also been disputed, mainly due to its stress on fame and profit and its conflicts with Confucian ideology. The book appears to overemphasize the historical contributions from the School of Diplomacy, devaluing the book's historical importance.

The book does not emphasize the historical facts or fiction, but appears to be an extensive collection of anecdotes with little bearing to the chronological order of chapter and narration. Since the 12th century, it has been widely debated whether the book should be considered a historical documentation from writer Chao Gongwu and Gao Sisun, and there have been attempts to categorize the book into a different genus. This lasted until 1936 where scholars like Zhong Fengnian demonstrated that the book was written as a handbook of diction from the School of Diplomacy, and not intended to be a compilation of historical facts. [8]

Alternative English titles

Alternative English titles include:

  • Stratagems of the Warring States,
  • Intrigues of the Warring States,
  • Chronicles of the Warring States,
  • Records of the Warring States,
  • Record of the Warring States,
  • Annals of the Warring States,
  • The Strategies of the Warring States,
  • Strategies of the Warring States,
  • Strategics of the Warring States,
  • Collection of Strategies of the Warring States,
  • Book of Warring States,
  • Legends of the Warring States


^ a: See HKUL Digital Initiatives[1] for G. W. Bonsall translation.

  1. ^ a b Liu 2004, p. 297-301
  2. ^ He 2001, p. 59-82
  3. ^ He 2001, p. 64-67
  4. ^ He 2001, p. 24-25
  5. ^ He 2001, p. 36-37
  6. ^ a b He 2001, p. 29-30.
  7. ^ a b He 2001, p. 32-34.
  8. ^ He 2001, p. 132-135


  • Liu, Jianguo (2004). Distinguishing and Correcting the pre-Qin Forged Classics. Xi'an: Shaanxi People's Press. ISBN 7-224-05725-8.
  • He, Jin (2001). An Analysis of Zhan Guo Ce. Beijing: Peking University Press. ISBN 7-301-05101-8.
  • Miao, Wenyuan "Zhan Guo Ce" ("Strategies of the Warring States"). Encyclopedia of China, 1st ed.
  • Chan-kuo Ts'e [CKT]. (1996). Revised edition. Translated and annotated with an introduction by J. I. Crump. University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies. ISBN 978-0-89264-122-2.
  • Crump, J. I. (1964). Intrigues of the Warring States: Studies of the Chan-kuo Ts'e. University of Michigan Press. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 64-17440.
  • Crump, J. I. (James Irving) (1998). Legends of the Warring States: Persuasions, Romances, and Stories from Chan-Kuo Tse (Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies, 83). Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan. ISBN 0-89264-129-0 (paperback). ISBN 0-89264-127-4 (hardcover alkaline paper).
  • Hawkins, David. Review of Intrigues of the Warring States. JAOS. 86 (1966) : 1.
  • He, Jianzhang (1990). Zhan Guo Ce Zhu Yi (Annotated translation of ZGC). Zhonghua Shuju (Chinese Book Company). ISBN 978-7101006223 .
  • Lan, Kaixiang (1991). Zhan Guo Ce Ming Pian Shang Xi (Commendations and accounts of famous chapters in ZGC). Beijing Shiyue Wenyi Chubanshe (Beijing October Literary Press).
  • Meng, Qingxiang (1986). Zhan Guo Ce Yi Zhu (Connotations and translations of ZGC). Heilongjiang Renmin Chubanshe (Heilongjiang Peoples' Press). Tongyi Shuhao (Unified Book Number) 10093·701.
  • Qian, Guoqi (2000). Zhan Guo Ce Ping Jie (Comments and Introductions of ZGC). In Wei Liangtao (Ed.), Shi Zhu Ying Hua (Zhongguo Dianji Jinghua Congshu) Vol. 1, pp. 157-239. Zhongguo Qingnian Chubanshe (Chinese Youth Press). ISBN 7500637462.
  • Wang, Shouqian (1992). Zhan Guo Ce Quan Yi (Complete translations of ZGC). Guizhou Renmin Chubanshe (Guizhou Peoples' Press). ISBN 7221041326.
  • Xiong, Xianguang (1988). Zhan Guo Ce Yan Jiu Yu Xian Yi (ZGC research and selected translations). Zhongqing Chubanshe (Zhongqing Press). ISBN 7536600208.
  • Zhao, Pijie (1994). Zhan Guo Ce Xian Yi (Selected translations of ZGC). Renman Minxue Chubanshe (Peoples' Literary Press).
  • Zhu, Youhua (1994). Zhan Guo Ce Xian Yi (Selected translations of ZGC). Shanghai Guji Chubanshe (Shanghai antique books Press).

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