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Rules of War During China’s Spring and Autumn Period

The Spring and Autumn Period led to many changes in China. Wars were prevalent between competing kingdoms. A unique set of rules developed for battle during this time. Do you think the rules of war below are fair? Should today’s society have something similar?

 (Image: Philg88 via wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Wars were prevalent between competing kingdoms in China. (Image: Philg88 via wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Spring and Autumn Period rules of war

  • Declare war before raising arms.
  • Never slay envoys.
  • Don’t make use of obstructions to hide from your enemy; don’t fight in unsafe environments or ambush opponents; the battlefield should be on level ground.
  • No battle should start without drumming; you can’t attack your opponent when they are unaware.
  • Do not maim your enemy. Once you injure them, you cannot continue to attack.
  • Do not capture gray-haired combatants — allow them to return home and retire.
  • Do not chase after an enemy that turns around and retreats, for he has admitted his defeat. If you insist on chasing him, you can only follow him for 50 steps, and not one step further.

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