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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Literati Arguments Justifying the Policy,“Civil Officials Command Troops”(文臣統兵), in Northern Song China

Vol. 44 No. 4   12/2014  


Literati Arguments Justifying the Policy,“Civil Officials Command Troops”(文臣統兵), in Northern Song China


Wu, Ting-chih









Key words

Northern Song, “civil officials command troops,” Confucian generals, combining literary and military talents, literati


      Generals with a civil background (“Confucian generals”) came out in large numbers in Song China. This phenomenon correlated closely with the Song government’s policy,“civil officials command troops” (文臣統兵), which appointed civil officials as military regional commanders. In Song China, literati, who became civil officials after entering the political stratum, were considered to be more familiar with Confucianism than with military affairs. However, after the Qingli 慶曆Period (1041-1048), the Song government gradually began to appoint civil officials to military regional commanding posts, asking them to control armies and manage border defense. This article discusses several types of literati arguments justifying the “civil officials command troops” policy. First, supporters of the policy thought that military regional commanders should have the ability to combine literary and military talents. That is, they thought civil officials, not military officials, had the ability to administer both soldiers and common people and maintain social and political order in military
regions. Second, supporters of the “civil officials command troops” policy positioned civil officials as plan-makers during the war and military officials as “fighting generals” who could only be assistant generals and follow the martial plans laid out by civil officials. Finally, supporters of the policy doubted the loyalty of military officials, arguing that they might rebel against the government, causing it to collapse. In sum, for literati who supported the “civil officials command troops” policy, civil officials could and should be military regional commanders.



Author: Wu, Ting-chih
Genre: Article
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