Tag Archives: art of peace

Appreciating the Art of Peace

The best way to win a war is not to have one in the first place. This precept runs through the famous Chinese text, the Art of War. Except that, as the comment suggests, we might also learn from the book as the Art of Peace.

Scholars attribute the book to military strategist Sunzi (or Sun Tzu). Sunzi advised generals and led armies in the sixth century BCE. He lived during the Spring and Autumn period, when central authority steadily declined into persistent, costly feudal warfare. His teachings enriched the wider Taoist canon of writings and teachings that also underlie Taiji and Qigong.

Art of Peace Workshop

Independent scholar Eva Wong—who also carries forward a rich Qigong tradition—teaches workshops in Sunzi’s Art of Peace.

The class makes use of a practical teaching tool, a set of cards illustrating strategic scenarios from Sunzi. Chapters 10 and 11 of the text focus on terrain–Contested Terrain, Protected Terrain, and so on. Eva Wong created conceptual contour maps and brief commentaries on the cards to inspire wider awareness of and reflection of the physical– and other –terrains of daily life. As a group, we experienced reacting to terrain in exercises inside and on the grounds of the lovely Atlanta Shambhala Center grounds.

In this way, it becomes material to appreciate that awareness and reflection precede strategy. In discussion, we also explored how values or virtue, such as cooperation and negotiation,  also feed strategy.

Terrain influences Strategy

Paying attention to terrain, one might gain a better sense in advance when going to battle would just waste lives and resources, when one might use terrain defensively to avoid conflict, and which arrangements in space could provide conducive to negotiation and peacefulness. Or, worst case, when a terrain might make for the least costly victory.

The one day format did not do justice to participants’ interest in extending lessons about spatial terrain to other realms of culture and timeliness.  Given the state of the country just now, it seems a great moment to explore strategic studies focused on an “art of peace.”

Taking the class makes me want to go back and reread the book. And I might carry the cards with me for a while, as an encouragement to recognize and explore the impact of terrain, in all its meanings, as part of planning and decision-making.