Martial Qi in China: Courage and Spirit in Thought and Military Practice

Ralph D. Sawyer


Conscious study of the problems of motivating men for combat and ensuring their effective performance on the battlefield has a long history in China. The earliest writings, both philosophical and military, framed the issue in terms of courage and a psycho-physical entity known as qi, pondering the latter’s nature as well as the means for stimulating and controlling it. Contemporary PRC military science continues to regard “combat spirit” as a core determinant of battlefield performance and one of the means for overcoming technologically and materially superior enemies. Recent years have therefore seen numerous focal articles on the psychology of combat spirit which meld Marxist and modern behavioral insights with traditional Chinese theoretical perceptions, resulting in a new pseudo-science of combat motivation.

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JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.