Convince the World: Chinese art of communication in Guiguzi (《鬼谷子》)
Vindicating worthy ancients and clarifying wrong views for later scholars, this book clears away the miasma inundating two thousand years of history and presents the essence of ancient Chinese Diplomatic Strategists’ (纵横家) art of persuasion based on their internal sanctification and serving kingly (non-hegemonic) statecraft.
While ancient Greece had the art of dialectics, ancient China had that of persuasion developed by the Diplomatic Strategists. In social interactions between people, they must communicate with and try to convince each other. In this sense, the Diplomatic Strategists’ art of persuasion skills, which “helps superior-subordinate communication of thoughts” is of more universal significance than that of ancient Greeks.
During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, when a hundred schools of thought contended, persuasion is of paramount importance; so, persuasion skills were in vogue and all contenders were as eloquent as the Diplomatic Strategists.
Later, with the establishment of the Qin and Han dynasties (over two thousand years ago), persuasion skills represented by the Diplomatic Strategists gradually withdrew from the stage of history and Guiguzi, the core canon for Diplomatic Strategists was subjected to many misunderstandings and attacks. Before the Tang Dynasty, evaluations of Diplomatic Strategists and Guiguzi received from scholars were more or less objective, whether positive or negative ones. But since Liuzong Yuan, of Tang dynasty, they have been disparaged and castigated, and there are still people today who call their learning “conspiracy theory”.
This book has not only restored the reputation for the Diplomatic Strategists, but also restored the true meaning of the "language skills" branch of Confucius’s learning as sages’ wisdom. It has also, going back across two thousand years’ space-time, systematically summed up the Diplomatic Strategists’ persuasion techniques - from inner sanctification to its externalization into kingly (non-hegemonic) statecraft, from cultivation of mental power to specific theory on persuasion skills and further to concrete cases of persuasion, thus finally making the Diplomatic Strategists’ learning, which was lost in memory for a thousand years, a complete whole.
For the present generation in this 21st century, an era of "global warring states" and an information age, communication and persuasion have become more and more important in areas ranging from business to military affairs to daily life. Training in persuasion skills, whether conscious or not, becomes indispensable. In this sense, the Diplomatic Strategists’ art of persuasion is an important cornerstone for modern people’s spiritual and career life and this book a must-read for human life’s fulfilment!
The main body of the book is divided into three parts.
Part One is like a “dragon’s head”, which presents the soul of the art of persuasion — how to cultivate inner mental power. The Chinese Daoist thought tradition is characterized by the consistent Way of “internal sanctification being externalized into kingly (non-hegemonic) statecraft”. The various schools of thought of the Warring States did never in their teaching talk about the external techniques of kingly statecraft without stressing the Way of inner sanctification. It is because inner sanctification is the basis while external accomplishments are developments from it, and the two are mutually complementary within an integrated whole, neither of which is dispensable. Only when the two incorporates into one, can a status of perfect harmony be reached, embodying both a thing itself and its functioning at the same time.
Part Two is like a "pig’s torso", which demonstrates a long list of basic methods for convincing the world. The Diplomatic Strategists’ learning, competent enough to convince the world to help those in urgent and critical conditions and turn swords into plowshares, is a benevolent art for committing oneself to the rescue of the world! Just as the Military Strategists (兵家) are known for their infinitely flexible tactics between regular and unexpected moves, so are the Diplomatic Strategists in pushing for alliance formation and re-formation between states. They both could achieve their purpose of "prevailing over everything". Scholars should be able to learn from this part how to put the ancients’ wisdom into their own practice.
The last part is like a "leopard’s tail", smaller in size but not the least colorful, which points out the way for Dao followers to survive in an era of big power rivalry. It lays stress on one’s social responsibility, which lies in how to sway people instead of being manipulated by others.
In order to help the reader better understand the classics written by ancient sages, the author has not only translated the texts into vernacular Chinese with annotations for each section, but also explained in the "In-Depth Analysis" section the hidden meanings of each chapter, and provided further explanations and exemplary cases from other historical periods in the "All-Time Relevance" section. The purpose is to help the reader appreciate the essence of the Chinese art of persuasion and the wisdom hidden there, so as to be able to use it creatively in real life applications.
Foreword: Rectify the Diplomatic Strategists’ reputation
The classics of the Diplomatic Strategists are books written by the sages, not by the petty-minded. They think highly of the moral values of benevolence and righteousness, just as Su Qin (苏秦) said: "Whoever is not honest cannot be thorough in thinking; Whichever state is short of righteousness betrays lack of kingliness in the ruler." In the view of the Diplomatic Strategists, the moral principle of benevolence and righteousness should be implemented on a macro-scale and belong to the Daoist academic wisdom for bringing order to the world. Therefore, the Diplomatic Strategists’ scholarship is highly developed Dao-abiding wisdom, not “villains’ petty tricks”. It’s a pity that the common people view their core classic Guiguzi as petty tricks while viewing Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean as great wisdom.
The technique of the Diplomatic Strategists stemmed from their practice of kingly (non-hegemonic) statecraft, not “nonsensical talk of troubled times”. This 21st century, an era of "new Warring States" on a global scale, is witnessing fierce rivalry between big powers, which also involves smaller nation-states struggling for survival and other vital interests, in fields ranging from commercial business to military affairs. Living in such an era, we should not ignore the Diplomatic Strategists and their core classic Guiguzi any longer.
Part I: Cultivation of Inner Driving Power for the Art of Persuasion: “Seven tactics for tallying with the fundamental” (《本经阴符七术》)
The Chinese Daoist thought tradition is characterized by the consistent Way of “internal sanctification being externalized into kingly (non-hegemonic) statecraft”. The various schools of thought of the Warring States did never in their teaching talk about the external techniques of kingly statecraft without stressing the Way of inner sanctification. It is because inner sanctification is the basis while external accomplishments are developments from it, and the two are mutually complementary within an integrated whole, neither of which is dispensable. Only when the two incorporate into one, can the status of perfect harmony be reached, embodying both a thing itself and its functioning at the same time.
In Guiguzi, discussion of how to achieve inner sanctification is concentrated in the part “Seven tactics for tallying with the fundamental”.
Powerfulness of the mind is the basis of the undertaking.
All-time relevance: Clearing, purifying and strengthening the mind.
2. Nourishing the will so as to be as discerning as the tortoise (shell) used in divination
Without a strong will one cannot convince others.
All-time relevance: Establishing, nourishing and fortifying the will.
3. Keeping good faith by staying flexible like the mythical dragon-like snake used in divination
Sincerity is also indispensable in diplomatic persuasion.
All-time relevance: Morality, wisdom, and accomplishments.
4. Launching one’s power from a serene inner state of mind to overwhelm a target the way a crouched bear does
Success of persuasion depends on forceful exertion of one’s own spiritual power.
All-time relevance: Su Qin building up his spiritual power from inner serenity, and Confucius’s way of persuasion.
5. Smashing opponent’s spiritual power like an eagle attacking its prey as swiftly as lightening
One must shatter the other party’s spiritual power first to finally convince him.
All-time relevance: Accumulating one’s own spiritual power, driving a wedge into the other party’s weak point, and then shattering his power.
6. Staying tactically adaptable for infinitely possible situations, just as a beast of prey appears to be infinitely powerful
Wisdom in strategy formulation is shown in limitless tactical adaptability.
All-time relevance: Su Qin-style super wisdom in his tactical accommodability.
7. Feeling from a serene heart beyond all senses like the yarrow used in divination
Peace of mind is basic guarantee for making successful decisions.
All-time relevance: Transcending the senses, avoiding improper sensory stimuli, and guarding against excessive desires.
Part II: Twelve Basic methods for Convincing the World
The Diplomatic Strategists’ scholarship, competent enough to convince the world to help those in urgent and critical needs and to turn swords into plowshares, is a benevolent art for committing oneself to the rescue of the world!
From 475 BC to 221 BC was China’s Warring States period after innumerable wars of annexation in the Spring and Autumn Period. The Western Zhou royal power became increasingly weak, and the unified feudal vassal system was collapsing, leaving only the seven big powers Qin, Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao and Wei. As it was an age of big power rivalry, diplomacy among states became an important factor in the political affairs at that time. Against this historical background, Diplomatic Strategists were busy going to and fro between different states and the art of persuasion for diplomatic strategists in vogue.
The Diplomatic Strategists’ art of persuasion is also called the art of “breaking-or-making alliance” (捭阖) , because this concept, just like “Yin-Yang” in Chinese medicine and "regular-vs.-surprise” (troop movements) in the Military Strategists’ tactics, reflects the “transcendental reality” (大象) of mutual reinforcement and mutual restriction between things and uses it as the foundation for theoretical illustration.
1. Making or breaking alliances between different states (捭阖): An application of the Yin-Yang principle
All-time relevance: The Yin-Yang principle and the tactic of making or breaking alliances.
2. Sounding out through repeated talks what is on the other party’s mind
All-time relevance: Without clear knowledge of the true state of affairs, deliberation for strategy-making would not be thorough enough.
3. Achieving inner accord with ruler as inducement for success of persuasion
All-time relevance: The knack for deciding when to push or stop as art of persuasion with the Diplomatic Strategists.
4. Different ways to mend different rifts
All-time relevance: “Interests of the state as top priority” in Chinese political tradition.
5. Inflating the other party’s ego by praising him so as to spot and exploit his weaknesses
All-time relevance: A typical instance of this tactic applauded by late comers.
6. Carefully judging and deciding which ruler to serve and which not to
All-time relevance: How Su Qin chose the ruler to serve for fulfilment of his ability as a diplomatic strategist.
7. Figuring out the conditions of the other party’s country and of his mentality through verbal communications so as the better to convince him
All-time relevance: Knowledge about the other party is key to a successful strategy.
8. Techniques in conducting verbal communications for gaining information about the other party’s true conditions
All-time relevance: An example of how to stir up and then cater to the other party’s different moods so as to induce him to leak out needed information while hiding one’s own intention and conditions.
9. Choosing the type of rhetoric according to the characteristics of the other party
All-time relevance: A summary of nine types of rhetoric meant for nine type of persons and an example showing the proper type of rhetoric matching the person being talked to.
10. Good strategy depending more, among other things, on unexpected rather than regular moves without revealing one’s own intention
All-time relevance: An example of a surprise move applied to a person with specific individuality.
11. Making resolute decisions on unsettled issues
All-time relevance: An example of making a prompt decision in response to an unexpected situation.
12. Invaluable advices by ancient sages
All-time relevance: Hanfeizi (echoing the above said advices) on “regarding everything with a serene mind” and “checking the actual against its name”.
Part III: The Way to Survive in the Age of Big Power Rivalry: “Grasping the Key to All Things” (《持枢》) and “Governing the Outer World from the Inner Center” (《中经》)
The Three parts “Seven tactics for tallying with the fundamental”, “Grasping the Key to All Things” and “Governing the Outer World from the Inner Center” are an interconnected whole. The first part is focused on inner sanctification in compliance with the Dao, while the latter two on its externalization into the art of persuasion serving kingly (non-hegemonic) statecraft, as summarized in the last part: “‘Tallying with the fundamental’ is focused on mental power cultivation while its functioning is discussed in ‘Grasping the Key’ and in this part”.
Consciousness and practice of the Dao as a consistent whole has been fragmented for long by the corrupted world. It is worthy of note that texts that show a high degree of consistency between the consciousness and practice of the Dao can still be seen in the classics of diplomatic strategists.
1. Grasping the key to all things
All-time relevance: View the art of grasping the key to all things in the Daoist-Legalist perspective.
2. Governing the outer world from the inner center: The wise man’s survival in troubled times
All-time relevance: Getting to know the inner world from its unfolding outside in the mind-matter unity perspective.
I: Rectify the Reputation of the Diplomatic Strategists
II: Zigong (子贡), the unequalled business sage of his generation, was also the originator of the Diplomatic Strategists’ school of thought
III: Warring States’ Strategies, a collection of exemplary stories of the Diplomatic Strategists’ practice, and the book’s significance to the present era
Zhai Yuzhong (翟玉忠), fellow researcher at Research Center for China and World Affairs, Beijing University; researcher at Industrial Originality Research Institute of Overseas Education College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Chinese Learning specialist; financial business commentator. Former director of international section of China Industrial Economy News; former director of news department of Legal News headquarters, Hong Kong China News Publishing House; and current general editor of Xinfajia (The New Legalist) website, Chinese and English sections.
Daolist-Legalist China: Revival of Chinese civilization in 21st century (2008)
The Way to Enrich the Nation: Classical Chinese economic thoughts and the thirty-six stratagems (2010; Also, a Korean translation published the same year.)
China can save the World: Chinese culture as solution to current human crises (2010)
Rectification of Names: The traditional Chinese way of thinking (2013)
New on the Wealth of Nations: The art of balancing in Chinese economics (2013)
The Dao of Propriety: Rehabilitation of traditional Chinese ethics (2014)
The Learning of Human Nature and Destiny: A detailed elucidation of the new four books on Confucian approach to character cultivation (2014)
There it was: Origin and development of Chinese culture (2014)
《孔门理财学》(2009), A translation from English to Chinese: The Economic Principles of Confucius and His School (Columbia University Press,USA,1911)
A compilation: The Traditional Chinese Way of Doing Business for Sustainable Prosperity (2012)
《人类文明的基因 —— 人类二元观念与世界文化的分野》
The Gene of Human Civilization: Dualism in human perception and divergence in world culture (in words and pictures)