The Mandate of Heaven: Strategy, Revolution, and the First European Translation of Sunzi’s Art of War (1772)

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Abstract

The Mandate of Heaven examines the first European version of Sunzi’s Art of War, which was translated from Chinese by Joseph Amiot, a French missionary in Beijing, and sent to Paris, where it was published in 1772. Amiot’s work is presented in English for the first time. Amiot undertook this project following the suppression of the Society of Jesus in France. His plan was to demonstrate the value of the China mission to the French government. He addressed his work to Henri Bertin, Minister of State, beginning a thirty-year correspondence between the two men. There were other consequences as it was received into the sinophile and radical circle of the Physiocrats, political economists who promoted China as a model for reform in Europe. Adam Parr’s analysis shows that Amiot framed his translation in order to promote a radical agenda using the Chinese doctrine of the “mandate of heaven.” It also arrived just as the concept of strategy was emerging. Thus Amiot’s Sunzi can be placed among seminal developments in European political and strategic thought on the eve of the revolutionary era.

Michel Hermans’s essay on the life of Joseph Amiot, translated by Alison Oliver, is presented as an appendix to this work.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherKoninklijke Brill NV
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

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Revolution
China
Art
Heaven
Society of Jesus
France
Suppression
Doctrine
French Government
Agenda
Economists
Thought
Beijing
Missionaries

Cite this

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abstract = "The Mandate of Heaven examines the first European version of Sunzi’s Art of War, which was translated from Chinese by Joseph Amiot, a French missionary in Beijing, and sent to Paris, where it was published in 1772. Amiot’s work is presented in English for the first time. Amiot undertook this project following the suppression of the Society of Jesus in France. His plan was to demonstrate the value of the China mission to the French government. He addressed his work to Henri Bertin, Minister of State, beginning a thirty-year correspondence between the two men. There were other consequences as it was received into the sinophile and radical circle of the Physiocrats, political economists who promoted China as a model for reform in Europe. Adam Parr’s analysis shows that Amiot framed his translation in order to promote a radical agenda using the Chinese doctrine of the “mandate of heaven.” It also arrived just as the concept of strategy was emerging. Thus Amiot’s Sunzi can be placed among seminal developments in European political and strategic thought on the eve of the revolutionary era.Michel Hermans’s essay on the life of Joseph Amiot, translated by Alison Oliver, is presented as an appendix to this work.",
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