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New interpretation of the warfare between the states of Wu and Yue

Authors Chen, Zhang (陳章)
Issue Date 2009
Summary The most distinctive mark of the war between the states of Wu and Yue was its brutality, which was significantly different from other inter-states wars during the Spring and Autumn Era. The main cause of this discrepancy may be because the fact that there was no aristocracy existed in the Wu and Yue. This historical factor led to the distinctiveness of these two states’ political, military and bureaucratic systems. It was also because of this factor the Wu and Yue never had a need to break the resistance of aristocrats through the process of 'social mobility' as other Eastern Zhou states did. The statement that 'there were no aristocrats in the Wu and Yue' is based on solid studies of both historical documents as well as archaeological discoveries. This phenomenon had a close relationship with the way these two states developed. Comparing with Chu and Qin, the other two non-central land states, Wu and Yue were relatively isolated and did not have much cultural exchanges with the central land. Because of this isolation, the Wu and Yue had the opportunities to develop from chiefdoms into states, which made their power structures very centralized. In Xie Weiyang 謝維揚`s theory, he thought that the state of Yue was a chiefdom before rising up, and Zhang Guangzhi 張光直 and Duan Yu 段渝 pointed out that Liangzhu Culture was the chiefdom. Although I do not totally agree with the theory of Xie Weiyang, but I believe that the Wu and Yue are both chiefdoms before they finished their evolution and became states. The main reason I use the concept of “chiefdom” to explain the socio-political conditions of the Wu and Yue is because if a state was developed from chiefdom, its government would own centralized power, which was entirely different from the states which came from the “confederacy of tribes 部落聯盟” such as in the early history of Greece and Rome. This was the root cause that the power of the kings in these two states was far more powerful than in other Spring and Autumn states. Geostrategic environment is another factor which could affect the whole Wu-Yue War. The war between the Wu and Yue was inevitable, but during the early period of the Wu-Yue war, the participation of the Chu and Jin was obvious, and in the latter stages of the war, Wu and Yue had become very strong and powerful themselves so that the influence of Jin and Chu towards this war was weaker and nearly invisible. Thanks to several external and internal factors, the Yue could start and implement its Grand Strategy, and the final destruction of the Wu was the indication mark of the successful implementation of the Grand Strategy. The definition of the Grand Strategy is that: coordinating all resources and elements of national power (economic, political, and military) to accomplish a national goal - mainly against external threats. Anyone who knows a little of the Yue history will know the phrase - 'one Decade of preparations and accumulation 十年生養'. This phrase includes many subjects, such as the military strategies, political policies, economic measures, etc, and all these measures were around one strategic goal: Destroying Wu. I think this is precisely consistent with the definition of The Grand Strategy, which is the reason why I use The Grand Strategy to explain the history of Yue. The warfare between the Wu and Yue was the main driving force behind the formation of the “Wu-Yue Culture” and possibly one of the reasons for the development of the distinctive “Wu-Yue Culture Region”. There is some documental and archaeological evidence to prove this viewpoint. The formation of the Wu-Yue Culture was so solid that the Chu could not effectively control the area of the Wu and Yue even after its successful occupation of the Yue, as it did to other states which located in the Huai 淮 River and Si 泗 River. It seems that a strong feeling of group identity had gradually formed with the process of the formation of Wu-Yue Culture, although the Yue controlled the Wu area for not a very long time.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2009
Language Chinese
Format Thesis
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