Political and Military Thought of Xin Qiji (1140-1207) with a Translation of his Ten Discussions (mei Qin Shi Lun)

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This is a complete translation and annotation of the “Ten Discussions” (Mei Qin Shi Lun) of Xin Qiji. An imperial memorandum written in the first year of the Qiandao period (1164), the work reflects the political and military thought of Xin Qiji, who was one of the most remarkable and successful generals and politicians of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). The “Ten Discussions” was written at a time when the Song troops had been defeated by the Jin in the battle of Fuli, and when the peace faction had control of the Song court and was implementing a policy of peaceful co-existence with the invaders. The aim in writing this Imperial memorandum was to inspire the fighting spirit of the Song court and to encourage the members of the war faction to take military action. In the “Ten Discussions”, Xin Qiji analyses the political and military relationship between the Song and the Jin, using historical examples to support his argument and, at the same time providing a detailed long-term strategy for war against the Jin. Although this imperial memorandum was not accepted by the Song Emperor, and elicited no reaction from the court officials, his political and military thought had a great impact on later generations, and he has been highly regarded by scholars ever since.


“Xin Qiji is a well known figure of the Southern Song, as a poet but not as a political pamphleteer. His lyric output of 600 poems was edited by a number of scholars during his lifetime and has received much scholarly attention since. But his political writings have been neglected. Dr. Bai Yan has gone some way towards remedying the neglect of this aspect of his career with her study of his most important political work, the Ten Discussions.

Xin was born in the north under the Jin (Jurchen) Dynasty, where he might have made a successful career at court had he not fallen out with the Jin and in his early twenties moved to the south where for the rest of his adult life he lived under the Jin rulers’ enemies, the Southern Song.

In response to the harassment and territorial incursions of the Jin, Xin produced a number of political writings intended as personal advice to the Song government on what he saw as a strategic policy for repelling the Jin and ensuring the loyalty of Song subjects. These included the Ten Discussions and the Nine Opinions. His advice was ignored by the emperor and the government (and by succeeding generations), in large part it would seem because of their elaborate language and esoteric historical references and often obscure intent.

Dr. Bai Yan has taken up the task of dispersing that obscurity in her English translation of the Ten Discussions, explaining the historical references and placing the document in political context. The Ten Discussions sheds valuable light on the political and military circumstances of the time, as well on geographic and social considerations in mounting a defence against the Jin. It includes an examination of strengths and weaknesses of the Jurchen regime and the course of its war with the Southern Song, and the political and geographical advantages of the Southern Song side, and disquisitions on encouraging Song settlement South of the Huai River, keeping moral high among the Southern Song troops, maintaining national security, retaining officials in their posts, and the relationship between geography and military strategy.

These discussions present an individual scholar’s contemporary view of the age and important information for understanding both the Jin and the Southern Song. Dr. Bai Yan has done scholarship a great favour in making this material readily available to Western scholars – and to Chinese scholars who have been puzzling over some of Xin Qiji’s more obscure passages.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor Stephen FitzGerald, The University of Sydney and Australia’s First Ambassador to China

“Dr. Bai Yan has produced an excellent translation of Xin Qiji’s important treatise on the political and military situation of the Song Empire, the Ten Discussions … Dr. Bai Yan has presented her work in an extremely reader-friendly manner … [and] there is also a fine scholarly introduction which provides a detailed description of the historical text of the Song and Jin relationship in 12th and 13th century China. This historical context is further developed throughout this work and is supported by numerous tables and maps including a “Hundred Years’ Chronicle of the Song and Jin” (from 1113 to 1234). Dr. Bai Yan also provides a thorough and complete overview of the literature on Xin Qiji. There is a comprehensive bibliography divided into three sections: primary and secondary sources in Chinese, and secondary sources in other language … I commend Dr. Bai Yan’s thoroughly researched and well written work and recommend it without hesitation to scholars and general readers with an interest in Chinese History.” – Dr. Grant Jones, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University of Sydney

“Dr. Bai Yan has painstakingly translated Xin Qiji’s Ten Discussions, a perculiarly Chinese term to describe his written arguments, which were presented to the Song Emperor in order to convince him of the case for going to war … This book offers a fascinating insight into China during the Liao, Song and Jin dynasties.” – Dr. Jennifer Grant, Lecturer, University of New South Wales

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Xin Qiji and Previous Studies of his Writing
2. The Historical Context: Relationship between the Song and Jin
3. Xin Qiji’s Biography (1140-1207)
4. The Ten Discussions and Xin Qiji’s Place in History

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