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WU QI (simplified Chinese : 吴起; traditional Chinese : 吳起; pinyin : Wú Qǐ; Wade–Giles : WU CH\'I, 440-381 BC) was a Chinese military leader, Legalist philosopher , and politician in the Warring States period.
* 1 Biography * 2 Wei Liaozi * 3 Depictions in Popular Culture * 4 See also * 5 Footnotes * 6 References
Born in the
State of Wey
Wu's reforms, which started around 389 BC, were generally aimed at changing the corrupt and inefficient government. The nobility and officialdom were terribly corrupt and the government was burdened with the costs of paying them and a horde of other minor officials. Wu first lowered the annual salary of Chu officials, then dismissed officials who were useless or incompetent. He also eliminated hereditary privileges after three generations. The money saved by cutting costs was used to create and train a more professional army.
Another of Wu's actions was to move all the nobles to the borders on the frontier, away from the capital, in order to reduce their power and at the same time populate those areas, making them more useful to the state government. He is also credited with devising a set of building codes in Ying, in order to make the city look less "barbaric", and more in line with 'civilized' Chinese architectural aesthetics.
Although his reforms soon started to make Chu a powerful country, the
In the wake of Wu Qi's reforms, Chu's prowess was quickly manifest: Chu defeated the Yue state in the south and the Wei in the north, dealing with each in quick succession. However, King Dao died that same year. The old nobles plotted to assassinate Wu Qi at King Dao's funeral, where he would be separated from the army. Wu Qi spotted the assassins armed with bows, and rushed to the side of King Dao's body. He was killed, but many arrows struck the dead King. The new King Su (楚肃王), furious at his father's body being mutilated, ordered all nobles involved to be executed, along with their families.
According to the
Wei Liaozi , a treatise on military matters dating
from the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, the general
Wu Qi was once
offered a sword by his subordinates on the eve of battle. However Wu
Qi refused to accept the weapon on the basis that banners and drums,
the tools to lead and command, were the only instruments a general
required. In his words, "to command the troops and direct their
blades, this is the role of a commander. To wield a single sword is
not his role." The point here is to highlight the idea that the
general was the brain of the army, whereas the soldiers were to behave
as the limbs. Heroic individual actions were disincentivized in
preference to complete obedience and perfect coordination as a unit, a
concept which the
Wei Liaozi elucidates upon in another parable
concerning Wu Qi: Prior to the beginning of a battle, one of Wu's
soldiers broke from his ranks in his enthusiasm and charged the enemy
line, slaying two men, and trotted back to his former position along
with their heads as trophies. Wu immediately ordered the man to be put
to death. When his officers protested that he was a fine warrior, Wu
Qi answered, "He is indeed a fine warrior, but he disobeyed my
orders." As with
Sun Zi and his
Art of War
DEPICTIONS IN POPULAR CULTURE
He and Sun Zi are often mentioned in the same sentence (Sun-Wu, 孙武) as great military strategists of similar if not equal importance.
His military treatise, the Wuzi , is included as one of the Seven Military Classics . It is said there were two books on the art of war by Wu Qi, but one was lost, hence leaving the Wuzi as the only existing book carrying Wu Qi's military thoughts.