The Art of War
|Author||Sun Tzu (traditional)|
|Fifth century B.C.E.|
The Art of War (Chinese: 孫子兵法 (Sun Tzu's Military Method) is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period (roughly fifth century B.C.E.). The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu ("Master Sun"), is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to a different set of skills or art related to warfare and how it applies to military strategy and tactics. For almost 1,500 years it was the lead text in an anthology that was formalized as the Seven Military Classics by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1080.
The book contains a detailed explanation and analysis of the fifth-century B.C.E. Chinese military, from weapons, environmental conditions, and strategy to rank and discipline. Sun also stressed the importance of intelligence operatives and espionage to the war effort. Considered one of history's finest military tacticians and analysts, his teachings and strategies formed the basis of advanced military training for a millennia and beyond.
|The Art of War|
|Literal meaning:||"Master Sun's Military Methods"|
Text and commentaries
The Art of War is traditionally attributed to an ancient Chinese military general known as Sun Tzu (now Romanized "Sunzi") meaning "Master Sun". Sun Tzu was traditionally said to have lived in the sixth century B.C.E., but The Art of War's earliest parts probably date to at least 100 years later.
Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, the first of China's 24 dynastic histories, records an early Chinese tradition that a text on military matters was written by one "Sun Wu" (孫武) from the State of Qi, and that this text had been read and studied by King Helü of Wu (r. 514 B.C.E. – 495 B.C.E.). This text was traditionally identified with the received Master Sun's Art of War. The conventional view was that Sun Wu was a military theorist from the end of the Spring and Autumn period (776–471 BC) who fled his home state of Qi to the southeastern kingdom of Wu, where he is said to have impressed the king with his ability to quickly train even court women in military discipline and to have made Wu's armies powerful enough to challenge their western rivals in the state of Chu. This view is still widely held in China.
The strategist, poet, and warlord Cao Cao in the early third century C.E. authored the earliest known commentary to the Art of War. Cao's preface makes clear that he edited the text and removed certain passages, but the extent of his changes were unclear historically. The Art of War appears throughout the bibliographical catalogs of the Chinese dynastic histories, but listings of its divisions and size varied widely.
Beginning around the twelfth century, some Chinese scholars began to doubt the historical existence of Sun Tzu, primarily on the grounds that he is not mentioned in the historical classic The Commentary of Zuo (Zuo Zhuan), which mentions most of the notable figures from the Spring and Autumn period. The name "Sun Wu" (孫武) does not appear in any text prior to the Records of the Grand Historian. It was suspected to be a made-up descriptive cognomen, meaning "the fugitive warrior," which glossed the surname "Sun" as the related term "fugitive" (xùn 遜), with "Wu," the ancient Chinese virtue of "martial, valiant" (wǔ 武). The name corresponds to Sunzi's role as the hero's doppelgänger in the story of Wu Zixu. In the early twentieth century, the Chinese writer and reformer Liang Qichao theorized that the text was actually written in the 4th century B.C.E. by Sun Tzu's purported descendant Sun Bin, as a number of historical sources mention a military treatise he wrote. Unlike Sun Wu, Sun Bin appears to have been an actual person who was a genuine authority on military matters, and may have been the inspiration for the creation of the historical figure "Sun Tzu" through a form of euhemerism.
In 1972, the Yinqueshan Han slips were discovered in two Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. – 220 C.E.) tombs near the city of Linyi in Shandong Province. Among the many bamboo slip writings contained in the tombs, sealed between 134 and 118 BCE respectively, were two separate texts. One was attributed to "Sun Tzu", corresponding to the received text, and another attributed to Sun Bin, which explains and expands upon the earlier The Art of War by Sunzi. The Sun Bin text's material overlaps with much of the "Sun Tzu" text, and the two may be "a single, continuously developing intellectual tradition united under the Sun name." This discovery showed that much of the historical confusion could be due to the fact that there were two texts that could have been referred to as "Master Sun's Art of War", not one. The content of the earlier text is about one-third of the chapters of the modern The Art of War, and their text matches very closely. It is now generally accepted that the earlier The Art of War was completed sometime between 500 and 430 B.C.E.
The 13 chapters
The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters (or piān). The collection is referred to as one zhuàn ("whole" or alternatively "chronicle").
|Chapter||Lionel Giles (1910)||R. L. Wing (1988)||Ralph D. Sawyer (1996)||Chow-Hou Wee (2003)||Michael Nylan (2020)||Contents|
|I||Laying Plans||The Calculations||Initial Estimations||Detail Assessment and Planning
|First Calculations||Explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. By thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration.|
|II||Waging War||The Challenge||Waging War||Waging War
|Initiating Battle||Explains how to understand the economy of warfare and how success requires winning decisive engagements quickly. This section advises that successful military campaigns require limiting the cost of competition and conflict.|
|III||Attack by Stratagem||The Plan of Attack||Planning Offensives||Strategic Attack
|Planning an Attack||Defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and discusses the five factors that are needed to succeed in any war. In order of importance, these critical factors are: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army and Cities.|
|IV||Tactical Dispositions||Positioning||Military Disposition||Disposition of the Army
|Forms to Perceive||Explains the importance of defending existing positions until a commander is capable of advancing from those positions in safety. It teaches commanders the importance of recognizing strategic opportunities, and teaches not to create opportunities for the enemy.|
|V||Use of Energy||Directing||Strategic Military Power||Forces
|The Disposition of Power||Explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army's momentum.|
|VI||Weak Points and Strong||Illusion and Reality||Vacuity and Substance||Weaknesses and Strengths
|Weak and Strong||Explains how an army's opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy and how to respond to changes in the fluid battlefield over a given area.|
|VII||Maneuvering an Army||Engaging The Force||Military Combat||Military Maneuvers
|Contending Armies||Explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.|
|VIII||Variation of Tactics||The Nine Variations||Nine Changes||Variations and Adaptability
|Nine Contingencies||Focuses on the need for flexibility in an army's responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.|
|IX||The Army on the March||Moving The Force||Maneuvering the Army||Movement and Development of Troops
|Fielding the Army||Describes the different situations in which an army finds itself as it moves through new enemy territories, and how to respond to these situations. Much of this section focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.|
|X||Classification of Terrain||Situational Positioning||Configurations of Terrain||Terrain
|Conformations of the Lands||Looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offers certain advantages and disadvantages.|
|XI||The Nine Situations||The Nine Situations||Nine Terrains||The Nine Battlegrounds
|Nine Kinds of Ground||Describes the nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus that a commander will need in order to successfully navigate them.|
|XII||Attack by Fire||The Fiery Attack||Incendiary Attacks||Attacking with Fire
|Attacks with Fire||Explains the general use of weapons and the specific use of the environment as a weapon. This section examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack and the appropriate responses to such attacks.|
|XIII||Use of Spies||The Use of Intelligence||Employing Spies||Intelligence and Espionage
|Using Spies||Focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them.|
Military and intelligence applications
Across East Asia, The Art of War was part of the syllabus for potential candidates of military service examinations.
During the Sengoku period (1467–1568c. 1467–1568), the Japanese daimyō Takeda Shingen (1521–1573) is said to have become almost invincible in all battles without relying on guns, because he studied The Art of War. The book even gave him the inspiration for his famous battle standard "Fūrinkazan" (Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain), meaning fast as the wind, silent as a forest, ferocious as fire and immovable as a mountain.
The translator Samuel B. Griffith offers a chapter on "Sun Tzu and Mao Tse-Tung" where The Art of War is cited as influencing Mao's On Guerrilla Warfare, On the Protracted War and Strategic Problems of China's Revolutionary War, and includes Mao's quote: "We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, 'Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster.'"
During the Vietnam War, some Vietcong officers extensively studied The Art of War and reportedly could recite entire passages from memory. General Võ Nguyên Giáp successfully implemented tactics described in The Art of War during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, ending major French involvement in Indochina and leading to the accords which partitioned Vietnam into North and South. General Võ, later the main PVA military commander in the Vietnam War, was an avid student and practitioner of Sun Tzu's ideas. America's defeat there, more than any other event, brought Sun Tzu to the attention of leaders of U.S. military theory.
The Department of the Army in the United States, through its Command and General Staff College, lists The Art of War as one example of a book that may be kept at a military unit's library.
The Art of War is listed on the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program (formerly known as the Commandant's Reading List). It is recommended reading for all United States Military Intelligence personnel.
The Art of War is used as instructional material at the US Military Academy at West Point, in the course Military Strategy (470), and it is also recommended reading for Officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
Application outside the military
The Art of War has been applied to many fields outside of the military. Much of the text is about how to outsmart one's opponent without actually having to engage in physical battle. As such, it has found application as a training guide for many competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.
The Art of War is mentioned as an influence in the earliest known Chinese collection of stories about fraud (mostly in the realm of commerce), Zhang Yingyu's The Book of Swindles (Du pian xin shu, 杜騙新書, 1617c. 1617), which dates to the late Ming dynasty.
Many business books have applied the lessons taken from the book to office politics and corporate business strategy. Many Japanese companies make the book required reading for their key executives. The book is also popular among Western business circles citing its utilitarian values regarding management practices. Many entrepreneurs and corporate executives have turned to it for inspiration and advice on how to succeed in competitive business situations. The book has also been applied to the field of education.
The book The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene employs philosophies covered in The Art of War.
The Art of War has also been applied in sports. National Football League coach Bill Belichick, record holder of the most Super Bowl wins in history, has stated on multiple occasions his admiration for The Art of War. Brazilian association football coach Luiz Felipe Scolari actively used The Art of War for Brazil's successful 2002 World Cup campaign. During the tournament Scolari put passages of The Art of War underneath his players' doors at night.
The Art of War is often quoted while developing tactics and/or strategy in esports. "Play To Win" by David Sirlin analyses applications of the ideas from The Art of War in modern esports. The Art of War was released in 2014 as an e-book companion alongside the Art of War DLC for Europa Universalis IV, a PC strategy game by Paradox Development Studios, with a foreword by Thomas Johansson.
The Art of War has also been featured in the 2019 video game Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition from Microsoft.
The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Far Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, politics, sports, lifestyles, and beyond.
The book was translated into French and published in 1772 (re-published in 1782) by the French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot. A partial translation into English was attempted by British officer Everard Ferguson Calthrop in 1905 under the title The Book of War. The first annotated English translation was completed and published by Lionel Giles in 1910. Military and political leaders such as the Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, Japanese daimyō Takeda Shingen, Vietnamese general Võ Nguyên Giáp, and American military generals Douglas MacArthur and Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. are all cited as having drawn inspiration from the book.
Prominent military leaders have testified to the influence of Sun Tzu and The Art of War:
"I have read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. He continues to influence both soldiers and politicians." – General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State.
According to some authors, the strategy of deception from The Art of War was studied and widely used by the KGB: "I will force the enemy to take our strength for weakness, and our weakness for strength, and thus will turn his strength into weakness." The book is widely cited by KGB officers in charge of disinformation operations in Vladimir Volkoff's novel Le Montage.
Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim and general Aksel Airo were avid readers of Art of War; Airo kept the book on his bedside table in his quarters.
Film and television
The Art of War and Sun Tzu have been referenced and quoted in many movies and television shows, including In the 1987 movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) frequently references it. The twentieth James Bond film, Die Another Day (2002) also references The Art of War as the spiritual guide shared by Colonel Moon and his father. and in The Sopranos. In season 3, episode 8 ("He Is Risen"), Dr. Melfi suggests to Tony Soprano that he read the book. and the Star Trek: The Next Generation first-season episode "The Last Outpost", William Riker quotes The Art of War to Captain Picard, who expressed pleasure that Sun Tzu was still taught at Starfleet Academy. Later in the episode, a survivor from a long-dead nonhuman empire noted common aspects between his own people's wisdom and The Art of War with regard to knowing when and when not to fight.
The Art of War is a 2000 action spy film directed by Christian Duguay and starring Wesley Snipes, Michael Biehn, Anne Archer and Donald Sutherland.
- Sun Tzu on the Art of War trans. Lionel Giles (London, UK: Luzac and Company, 1910).
- The Art of War trans. Samuel B. Griffith (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1963, ISBN 978-0195014761). Part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War trans. Thomas Cleary (Boston, MA: Shambhala Dragon Editions, 1988, ISBN 978-0877734529).
- The Art of Warfare trans. Roger Ames (New York, NY: Random House, 1993, ISBN 978-0345362391).
- The Art of War trans. John Minford (New York, NY: Viking, 2002, ISBN 978-0670031566).
- The Art of War: Sunzi's Military Methods trans. Victor H. Mair (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0231133821).
- The Art of War trans. Peter Harris (New York, NY: Everyman's Library, 2018, ISBN 978-1101908006).
- The Science of War: Sun Tzu's Art of War re-translated and re-considered, trans. Christopher MacDonald (Hong Kong, CN: Earnshaw Books, 2018, ISBN 978-9888422692).
- The Art of War trans. Michael Nylan (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2020, ISBN 978-1324004899).
- The Art of War trans. Thomas Huynh (Nashville, TN: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-1594732447).
- Mark Edward Lewis, "Warring States Political History," in The Cambridge History of Ancient China eds., Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0521470308), 604.
- Krzysztof Gawlikowski and Michael Loewe, "Sun tzu ping fa," (孫子兵法) in Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley, CA: Society for the Study of Early China; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1993, ISBN 978-1557290434), 447.
- Victor H. Mair, The Art of War: Sun Zi's Military Methods (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0231133821), 12–13.
- Mair, 9.
- Mair, 10.
- Mark Edward Lewis (2005), quoted in Mair, 18.
- Gawlikowski and Loewe, 448-449.
- Sunzi, The art of war (Sun-tzu ping fa) trans. Lionel Giles, ed. Shawn Conners (El Paso, TX: El Paso Norte Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1934255155).
- Samuel B. Griffith, The Illustrated Art of War (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2005, ISBN 978-0195189995), 17, 141–143.
- Douglas McCready, "Learning from Sun Tzu," Military Review (May–June 2003).
- "Interview with Dr. William Duiker," Sonshi. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
- Andrew Forbes and David Henley, The Illustrated Art of War: Sun Tzu (Chiang Mai, Thailand: Cognoscenti Books, 2013, ISBN 978-1310513138).
- U. S. Army, Military History and Professional Development (U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1985).
- "Messages." United States Marine Corps. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
- Yingyu Zhang and Christopher G. Rea, The Book of Swindles:Selections from a Late Ming Collection trans. Bruce Rusk (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0231178631).
- Gerald Michaelson, Sun Tzu: The Art of War for Managers; 50 Strategic Rules (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2001).
- Mark McNeilly, Sun Tzu and the Art of Business : Six Strategic Principles for Managers (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0195099966).
- Donald G. Krause, The Art of War for Executives: Ancient Knowledge for Today's Business Professional (New York, NY: Berkley Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 978-1857881318).
- Peter Kammerer, "The Art of Negotiation," South China Morning Post, April 21, 2006. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
- D. Jeffrey, "A Teacher Diary Study to Apply Ancient Art of War Strategies to Professional Development," The International Journal of Learning 7(3) (2010): 21–36.
- David Barnhizer, The Warrior Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Winning Legal Battles (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Bridge Street Books, 1997, ISBN 978-1571050502).
- Christopher D. Balch, "The Art of War and the Art of Trial Advocacy: Is There Common Ground?" Mercer L. Rev. 42 (1991): 861–873.
- Antonin I. Pribetic, "The Trial Warrior: Applying Sun Tzu's The Art of War to Trial Advocacy," Alberta Law Review 45(4) (2007): 1017-1035. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
- Samuel H. Solomon, "The Art of War: Pursuing Electronic Evidence as Your Corporate Opportunity," January 2002. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
- Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2000, ISBN 978-0140280197).
- Tyler Lauletta, "Bill Belichick explains how advice from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War' helped build the Patriots dynasty," Business Insider, December 5, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
- Celso de Campos, Jr., "Luiz Felipe Scolari: One-on-One," FourFourTwo, July 1, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- Henry Winter, "Mind games reach new high as Scolari studies art of war," Irish Independent, June 29, 2006. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- Kidder Smith, "The Military Texts: The 'Sunzi'," in Sources of Chinese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Volume 1, 2nd edition, edited by William Theodore de Bary (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0231109383), 216.
- Lionel Giles, The Art of War by Sun Tzu – Special Edition (Hawthorne, CA: BN Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-9568351953), 62.
- Jozef Hlavatý and Ján Ližbetin, "The Use of the Art of War Ideas in the Strategic Decision-making of the Company," "Transportation Research Procedia" (14th International scientific conference on sustainable, modern and safe transport) (55) (January 2021): 1273–1280. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- "United States Military Posture for FY1989" (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989), 5–6, 93–94.
- Roshan Thiran, "Chinese Military Strategist Sun Tzu Reveals Secrets to Success," Leaderonomics, February 2, 2018. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
- Yevgenia Albats, "Who was behind perestroika?" in The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia – Past, Present, and Future, trans. Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, (New York, NY: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1994, ISBN 0374527385).
- "Bud Fox: Sun-tzu: If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split and reevaluate." www.quotes.net. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- "Die Another Day (2002)," IMDb. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- Boston Globe, "Hey, if Tony's reading it, it's got to be good," Baltimore Sun, May 12, 2001. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
- "The Art of War," IMDb, 2000. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
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- Balch, Christopher D. "The Art of War and the Art of Trial Advocacy: Is There Common Ground?" (1991), 42 Mercer L. Rev. 861–873.
- Barnhizer, David. The Warrior Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Winning Legal Battles. Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Bridge Street Books, 1997. ISBN 978-1571050502
- de Campos, Jr., Celso. "Luiz Felipe Scolari: One-on-One," FourFourTwo, July 1, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- Forbes, Andrew, and David Henley. The Illustrated Art of War: Sun Tzu. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Cognoscenti Books, 2013. ISBN 978-1310513138
- Gawlikowski, Krzysztof, and Michael Loewe. "Sun tzu ping fa," (孫子兵法) in Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley, CA: Society for the Study of Early China; Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1993. ISBN 978-1557290434, 446-455.
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- Hlavatý Jozef, and Ján Ližbetin. "The Use of the Art of War Ideas in the Strategic Decision-making of the Company," "Transportation Research Procedia" (14th International scientific conference on sustainable, modern and safe transport) (55) (January 2021): 1273–1280. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
- Jeffrey, D. "A Teacher Diary Study to Apply Ancient Art of War Strategies to Professional Development," The International Journal of Learning 7(3) (2010): 21–36.
- Kammerer, Peter. "The Art of Negotiation," South China Morning Post, April 21, 2006. Retrieved January 6, 2023.
- Krause, Donald G. The Art of War for Executives: Ancient Knowledge for Today's Business Professional. New York, NY: Berkley Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 978-1857881318
- Lauletta, Tyler. "Bill Belichick explains how advice from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War' helped build the Patriots dynasty," Business Insider, December 5, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
- Lewis, Mark Edward. "Warring States Political History," in The Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0521470308, 587-650.
- Mair, Victor H. The Art of War: Sun Zi's Military Methods. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0231133821
- McCready, Douglas. "Learning from Sun Tzu," Military Review (May–June 2003).
- McNeilly, Mark. Sun Tzu and the Art of Business : Six Strategic Principles for Managers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0195099966
- Michaelson, Gerald. Sun Tzu: The Art of War for Managers; 50 Strategic Rules. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2001.
- Pribetic, Antonin I. "The Trial Warrior: Applying Sun Tzu's The Art of War to Trial Advocacy," Alberta Law Review 45(4) (2007): 1017-1035. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
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All links retrieved April 30, 2023.
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- 11 The Nine Situations | The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Animated)
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