The origins of the Chan-kuo Ts’e (Intrigues of the warring states) can be traced to a palace librarian at the Han Court, Liu Hsiang (76–6 BCE), who compiled and edited a set of pre-Han texts (c. 300–221 BCE) into a single volume and gave the collection a name. Thereafter, during the Later Han Dynasty, manuscripts of the Chan-kuo Ts’e continued to circulate. Sometime during the decline and fall of the Han Dynasty, the Chan-kuo Ts’e began to acquire the aura of a wicked book, somewhat analogous to Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. From time to time, it was seen as one of a number of books that could unlock immense power in an era characterized both by widespread illiteracy and common belief in literacy and scholarship as the best if not the only vehicle to any goal. After 400 CE, there is no record of the text until it was reconstructed by an 11th-century scholar, Tseng Kung, who formed a model for critical circulation for the next nine centuries.
The characters of the Chan-kuo Ts’e, their words, and their acts have had a deep and timeless appeal for Chinese culture, placing it among the great books of Chinese literature. Once the work became part of the classical heritage, it was turned to for inspiration and reinterpretation time and again, becoming a major vehicle for Chinese values, self-images, and icons.
This newly revised translation includes an updated edition of Sharon J. Fidler’s indispensible index.