"Weapons are nothing but ominous instruments": The Daodejing's view on war and peace

Ellen Ying Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter shows that while the Daodejing (DDJ) is firmly committed to peace and harmony, it also recognizes the need to employ force of arms when there is no other choice. The DDJ contrasts 'military weapons' as 'ominous instruments' to the human world as a 'sacred instrument'. DDJ also known as the Laozi, is an ancient Chinese text about 5,000 characters long, traditionally taken as a representative Daoist classic expressing a distinctive philosophy from the Warring States Period. Wang Fuzhi, a Confucian scholar of the Qing Dynasty, also views the author of the DDJ as the 'forefather of the military treatise' who is 'the teaching guide for all who write on war. Although the DDJ does discuss how to wage war, including various tactics and strategies, it also uses warfare. Since Daoism is quite skeptical about any kind of offensive acts, the warfare the DDJ talks about is defensive war; that is, war for the purpose of self-defense.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChinese Just War Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationOrigin, Development, and Dissent
EditorsPing Cheung Lo, Sumner B. Twiss
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781317580966, 9781315740706
ISBN (Print)9781138824355, 9781138729216
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2015

Publication series

NameWar, conflict and ethics

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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