Incentives for war in Ancient China?

Feb 2017
221
Canada
With a brief bit of reading in Li Feng's 'Early China' and the Cambridge History of Ancient China I've come to understand that conflict was common during certain periods in Ancient China.

What I wasn't able to pick up from these books is what the material incentives for war for the various warring factions were? Did it come down to control and acquisition of land?
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,553
With a brief bit of reading in Li Feng's 'Early China' and the Cambridge History of Ancient China I've come to understand that conflict was common during certain periods in Ancient China.

What I wasn't able to pick up from these books is what the material incentives for war for the various warring factions were? Did it come down to control and acquisition of land?
Yes, but it's not just about attaining land but people as well (along with non-material things such as reputation). In Mozi's Condemnation of War, there is a list of excuses for going to war that Mozi attacks one by one. Ergo, although the chapter is about condemning war, you do get an idea of why they went to war:

Why then does the government deprive the people of their opportunities and benefits to such a great extent? It has been answered: "I covet the fame of the victor and the possessions obtainable through the conquest. So I do it." ..................
Those who endeavor to gloss over offensive wars would say: "In the south there are the lords of Jing and Yue, and in the north there are the lords of Qi and Jin. When their states were first assigned to them, they were but a hundred li square in area, and but a few tens of thousands in number of people. By means of wars and attacks, their areas have increased to several thousand li square and the people to several million. So, then, offensive wars are not to be condemned." .......................
Those who endeavor to gloss over offensive wars would say: "These states perished because they could not gather and employ their multitudes. I can gather and employ my multitudes and wage war with them; who, then, dares to be unsubmissive?" ....................
The warring lords would gloss over (their conduct) with arguments to confute Mozi, saying: "Do you condemn attack and assault as unrighteous and not beneficial? But, anciently, Yu made war on the Prince of Miao, Tang on Jie, and King Wu on Zhou. Yet these are regarded as sages. What is your explanation for this?" ...........................
The warring lords would again gloss over (their conduct) with arguments, saying: "(I wage war) not because I am still discontented with my gold and jade, my children and my land. I want to have my name as a righteous ruler established in the world and draw the other feudal lords to me with my virtue."..........................
 
May 2009
1,345
The usual factors I think--ego, ambition, lust for power and notereity. For much of China's history it had many feudal aspects. There was an emperor and central government on paper, but in reality it was too easy for individual ministers, nobles and generals to build their own power-bases. In an environment like that wars and power grabs become inevitable. I think the An Lushan rebellion was a major turning point. After that the trend was toward a stronger central government.
 
Jul 2019
71
hongkong
Controlling more people and conquering more land is only a means of war, not an end.

The purpose of the war is to stop the war.

This is an important part of Sun Tzu's Art of War. I think he represents the Chinese people's view of war.

According to this view, the Chinese emperor has a motive to eliminate all competitors and unify China.

For example, after Emperor Qin Shihuang destroyed six countries, the Warring States era was over.