Stratagems of the Warring States 2
The terms for such books were guoshi"affairs of the state(s)", duanchang "disadvantages and advantes" or "weaknesses and strengths", shiyu "story of events", changshu "book of advantages", guoce "stratagems of the state(s)". The title Zhanguoce for the final distillate has thus been selected because a lot of the stories from different states focus on strategies to overcome their enemy, often by spontaneaous coalitions. The term ce is occasionally translated as "intrigues", which has too much a moral implication.The twelve acting states are the small Eastern (Dongzhou) and Western Zhou (Xizhou ) domains 芒鈧€?the traditional royal dynasty whose house has been divided in 440 BC 芒鈧€? Qin 芒鈧€?the coming imperial house -, Qi , Chu , Zhao , Wei , Han , Yan , Song , Wei (Wey), and the short-lived semibarbarian state of Zhongshan in the north, all in all 33 chapters. The stories cover the time fro 490 to 221 BC.
During the Warring States period it had become very common for members of the lower nobility to travel from court to court where they could advise the rulers how their state and armies could become stronger and crush their enemies.
The literary quality of the Zhanguoce is very high. The stories are written in a vivid manner describing background, actions and outcome in a complete style. The particular stories are therefore much more than pure records of historical events but the Zhanguoce earns to be called a collection of short stories. The acting persons, like Jing Ke who tried to assassinatethe king of Qin and later First Emperor (31 Yan taizi Dan zhi yu Qin "Crown prince Dan from Yan as a hostage in Qin"), or Feng Xuan , client of Lord Mengchang who burned the peasants" certificates of debt instead of fleecing them (11 Qi ren you Feng Xuan zhe "There was a certain Feng Xuan from Qi"). The detailed stories give a much better insight in the life and political habits of the late Zhou period than an annalistic history would have done. It is no wonder that Sima Qian , author of the Shiji , the first dynastic history of China, relied on the same primary sources than seen in the Zhanguoce. Even today a lot of stories reported in the Zhanguoce are very popular. The very high amount of direct speech in the stories makes it also possible to study the art of rhetoric in ancient China. Chinese scholars found out that some of the stories, mostly the shorter ones, are more reliable because they were written down in a time not too far away from the events. The longer stories, it seems, are full of later inventions that go beyond historical reality. There are also many occasions that statements in different stories about the same fact contradict each other.
During the Sui period(581-618) already two thirds of the Zhanguoce were lost. Eleven chapters were preserved, which are today arranged in 33 chapters and 460 (other editions 497) paragraphs or stories. In 1900 a chapter of the state of Yan was discovered in the ruins of Loulan in Xinjiang, dating from the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo, 220-280) or Jin period (265-420). Surprisingly enough the differences to the transmitted version are marginally. This is also true for the texts from the Zhanguoce, written on silk, discovered in 1973 in a Han period(206 BC-220 AD) tomb in Mawangdui with the title of Zhanguo zonghengjia 芒鈧揫Stories of] coalition advisors from the Warring States芒鈧? Of the 27 stories discovered 16 are not transmitted in the Liu Xiang version, but 11 stories are almost totally identical to the stories known.
The oldest commentary was written by Gao You during the Later Han period (25-220 CE) which is partially lost. The two transmitted versions are that of the Song period (960-1279) scholar Yao Hong with comments, finished in 1146 and printed shortly afterwards. It contains the remainings of Gao"s commentary and Yao"s new commentary and is included in the collectaneum Shiliju congshu . The other version has been rearranged by the Song scholar Bao Biao. Bao"s commentary is complemented by that of Wu Shidao , a scholar from the Yuan period (1279-1368). The Bao-Wu version is the base for the reprinting in the collectaneum Sibu congkan. Modern commentaries were written by Jin Zhengwei (Zhanguoce bush ), Zhu Zugeng (Zhanguoce jizhu ), and Miao Wenyuan (Zhanguoce xin jiaozhu).