The Art of War
Overview
 
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

 (also referred to as "Sunzi" and "Sun Wu"), a high ranking military general and strategist during the late Spring and Autumn period (some scholars believe that the Art of War was not completed until the subsequent Warring States period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

).
Encyclopedia
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

 (also referred to as "Sunzi" and "Sun Wu"), a high ranking military general and strategist during the late Spring and Autumn period (some scholars believe that the Art of War was not completed until the subsequent Warring States period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

). Composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, it is said to be the definitive work on military strategies
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

 and tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 of its time, and is still read for its military insights.

The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy in the world. It has been the most famous and influential of China's Seven Military Classics
Seven Military Classics
The Seven Military Classics of China were seven important military texts of ancient China which included Sun-tzu's The Art of War. The texts were canonized under this name during the 11th century AD, and from the Song Dynasty onwards were included in most military encyclopedias...

: "for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name." It has had an influence on Eastern military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 thinking, business tactics, and beyond.

Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

 emphasized the importance of positioning in military strategy, and that the decision to position an army must be based on both objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective beliefs of other, competitive actors in that environment. He thought that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment, but in a changing environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.

The book was first translated into the French language
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 in 1772 by French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot
Jean Joseph Marie Amiot
Jean Joseph Marie Amiot was a FrenchJesuit missionary.-Life:Joseph Marie Amiot was born at Toulon. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1737 and was sent in 1750 as a missionary to China. He soon won the confidence of the Qianlong Emperor and spent the remainder of his life at Beijing...

, and into English by British officer Everard Ferguson Calthrop in 1905. Leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, General Vo Nguyen Giap
Vo Nguyen Giap
Võ Nguyên Giáp is a retired Vietnamese officer in the Vietnam People’s Army and a politician. He was a principal commander in two wars: the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War...

, Baron Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

, General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, Napoleon, and leaders of Imperial Japan have drawn inspiration from the work. The Art of War has also been applied to business
Business
A business is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit...

 and managerial strategies.

The 13 chapters

The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters (or Piān), and the collection is referred to as being one Chuán ("whole" or alternatively "chronicle"). As different translations have used differing titles for each chapter, a selection appears below.
Chapter Lionel Giles (1910) R.L. Wing (1988) Ralph D. Sawyer (1996) Chow-Hou Wee (2003)
I Laying Plans The Calculations Initial Estimations Detail Assessment and Planning
(Chinese: 始計,始计)
II Waging War The Challenge Waging War Waging War
(Chinese: 作戰,作战)
III Attack by Stratagem The Plan of Attack Planning Offensives Strategic Attack
(Chinese: 謀攻,谋攻)
IV Tactical Dispositions Positioning Military Disposition Disposition of the Army
(Chinese: 軍形,军形)
V Energy Directing Strategic Military Power Forces
(Chinese: 兵勢,兵势)
VI Weak Points and Strong Illusion and Reality Vacuity and Substance Weaknesses and Strengths
(Chinese: 虛實,虚实)
VII Maneuvering Engaging The Force Military Combat Military Maneuvers
(Chinese: 軍爭,军争)
VIII Variation of Tactics The Nine Variations Nine Changes Variations and Adaptability
(Chinese: 九變,九变)
IX The Army on the March Moving The Force Maneuvering the Army Movement and Development of Troops
(Chinese: 行軍,行军)
X Terrain Situational Positioning Configurations of Terrain Terrain
(Chinese: 地形)
XI The Nine Situations The Nine Situations Nine Terrains The Nine Battlegrounds
(Chinese: 九地)
XII The Attack by Fire The Fiery Attack Incendiary Attacks Attacking with Fire
(Chinese: 火攻)
XIII The Use of Spies The Use of Intelligence Employing Spies Intelligence and Espionage
(Chinese: 用間,用间)

Chapter summary

  1. Laying Plans/The 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.
  2. Waging War/The Challenge 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.
  3. Attack by Stratagem/The Plan of 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.
  4. Tactical Dispositions/Positioning 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.
  5. Energy/Directing explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army's momentum.
  6. Weak Points & Strong/Illusion and Reality explains how an army's opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy in a given area.
  7. Maneuvering/Engaging The Force explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.
  8. Variation in Tactics/The Nine Variations focuses on the need for flexibility in an army's responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
  9. The Army on the March/Moving The Force 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.
  10. Terrain/Situational Positioning 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 offer certain advantages and disadvantages.
  11. The Nine Situations/Nine Terrains 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.
  12. The Attack by Fire/Fiery Attack 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.
  13. The Use of Spies/The Use of Intelligence 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.

Traditionalist viewpoint

Traditionalist scholars attribute this book to the historical Sun Wu, who is recorded in both the Shiji and the Spring and Autumn Annals
Spring and Autumn Annals
The Spring and Autumn Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 BCE to 481 BCE. It is the earliest surviving Chinese historical text to be arranged on annalistic principles. The text is extremely concise and, if all the commentaries are excluded, about 16,000...

 as having been active in Wu around the end of the sixth century BC, beginning in 512 BC. The traditional interpretation concludes that the text should therefore date from this period, and should directly reflect the tactics and strategies used and created by Sun Wu. The traditionalist approach assumes that only very minor revision may have occurred shortly after Sunzi's death, in the early fifth century BC, as the body of his writings may have needed to be compiled in order to form the complete, modern text.

The textual support for the traditionalist view is that several of the oldest of the Seven Military Classics
Seven Military Classics
The Seven Military Classics of China were seven important military texts of ancient China which included Sun-tzu's The Art of War. The texts were canonized under this name during the 11th century AD, and from the Song Dynasty onwards were included in most military encyclopedias...

 share a focus on specific literary concepts (such as terrain classifications) which traditionalist scholars assume were created by Sunzi. The Art of War also shares several entire phrases in common with the other Military Classics, implying that other texts borrowed from the Art of War, and/or that The Art of War borrowed from other texts. According to traditionalist scholars, the fact that The Art of War was the most widely reproduced and circulated military text of the Warring States period indicates that any textual borrowing between military texts must have been exclusively from The Art of War to other texts, and not vice versa. (The classical texts which most similarly reflect Sunzi's terms and phraseology are the Wei Liaozi and Sun Bin's Art of War.)

Later criticism

Skeptics to the traditionalist view within China have abounded since at least the time of the Song dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

. Some, following Du Fu
Du Fu
Du Fu was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty.Along with Li Bai , he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations...

, accused The Art of War's first commentator, Cao Cao
Cao Cao
Cao Cao was a warlord and the penultimate chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty who rose to great power during the dynasty's final years. As one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, he laid the foundations for what was to become the state of Cao Wei and was posthumously titled...

, of butchering the text. The criticisms of Cao Cao were based on a Book of Han
Book of Han
The Book of Han, Hanshu or History of the Former Han Dynasty |Fan Ye]] . Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE...

 bibliographical notation of a work composed of eighty two sections that was attributed to Sunzi. The description of a work of Sunzi composed of eighty-two sections contrasts with the Shiji description of The Art of War as having thirteen sections (the current number). Others doubted Sunzi's historical existence, and/or claimed that the work must be a later forgery. Much of The Art of War's historical condemnation within China has been due to its realistic approach to warcraft: it advocates utilizing spies and deception. The advocacy of dishonest methods contradicted perceived Confucian values, making it a target of Confucian literati throughout later Chinese history. According to later Confucian scholars, Sun Wu's historical existence was accordingly a late fabrication, unworthy of consideration except by the morally reprehensible.

Modern archaeological findings

The discovery in 1972 of a nearly-complete Han dynasty copy of The Art of War
Yinqueshan Han Slips
The Yinqueshan Han Slips are ancient Chinese writing tablets, made of bamboo strips and were discovered in 1972. The tablets contain many important writings that were not previously known, and important copies of existing work....

 from a tomb, which is almost completely identical to modern editions, proves conclusively that The Art of War had achieved its current form by at least the early Han dynasty, and findings of less-complete copies dated earlier support the view that it existed in roughly its current form by at least the time of the mid-late Warring States. Because the archaeological evidence proves that The Art of War existed in its present form by the early Han dynasty, the Han dynasty record of a work of eighty-two sections attributed to Sunzi is assumed by modern historians to be either a mistake, or a lost work combining the existing The Art of War with biographical and dialectical material. Some modern scholars suggest that The Art of War must have existed in thirteen sections before Sunzi met the King of Wu, since the king mentions the number thirteen in the Shijis description of their meeting.

Was the Art of War created in the late Warring States?

Without questioning that The Art of War has existed in roughly its current form since at least the late Warring States period, the traditionalist interpretation of the text's history is challenged by modern historians. Even if the possibility of later revisions is disregarded, the traditionalist interpretation that Sunzi created The Art of War ex nihilo, and that all other military scholars must have copied and borrowed from him, disregards the likelihood of any previous formal or literary tradition of tactical studies, despite the historical existence of over 2,000 years of Chinese warfare and tactical development before 500 BC. Because it is unlikely that Sunzi effectively created China's entire body of tactical studies, "basic concepts and common passages seem to argue in favor of a comprehensive military tradition and evolving expertise, rather than creation ex nihilo."

One modern alternative to the traditionalist theory states that The Art of War achieved its current form by the mid-to-late Warring States (the fourth-to-third century BC), centuries after the historical Sun Wu's death. This interpretation is based on disparities between The Art of Wars tactics and the historical conditions of warfare in the late Spring and Autumn period (the late sixth century BC). Examples of warfare described in The Art of War which did not occur until the Warring States period include: the mobilization of one thousand chariots and 100,000 soldiers for a single battle; protracted sieges (cities were small, weakly fortified, economically and strategically unimportant centers in the Spring and Autumn period); the existence of military officers as a distinct subclass of nobility; deference of rulers' right to command armies to these officers; the advanced and detailed use of spies and unorthodox tactics (never emphasized at all in the Spring and Autumn period); and, the extensive emphasis on infantry speed and mobility, rather than chariot warfare. Because the conditions and tactics advocated in The Art of War are historically anachronistic to the historical Sun Wu's time, it is possible that The Art of War was created in the mid-to-late Warring States period.

Was it an early Warring States creation?

A view that mediates between the traditionalist interpretation, that the historical Sun Wu was the only contributor to The Art of War, and the most opposite possible interpretation, that The Art of War was created in the mid-late Warring States period, centuries after the historical Sun Wu's death, is that the core of the text was created by Sun Wu and underwent a period of revision before achieving roughly its current form within a century of Sun Wu's death (in the last half of the fifth-century BC). "It seems likely that the historical figure (of Sun Wu) existed, and that he not only served as a strategist and possibly a general, but also composed the core of the book that bears his name. Thereafter, the essential teachings were probably transmitted within the family or a close-knit school of disciples, being improved and revised with the passing decades while gradually gaining wider dissemination." The view that The Art of War achieved roughly its current form by the late fifth-century BC is supported by the recovery of the oldest existing fragments of The Art of War, and by the analysis of the prose of The Art of War, which is similar to other texts dated more definitively to the late fifth-century BC (i.e. Mozi
Mozi
Mozi |Lat.]] as Micius, ca. 470 BC – ca. 391 BC), original name Mo Di , was a Chinese philosopher during the Hundred Schools of Thought period . Born in Tengzhou, Shandong Province, China, he founded the school of Mohism, and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism...

), but dissimilar either to earlier (i.e. The Analects) or later (i.e. Xunzi) literature from roughly the same period. This theory accounts both for the historical record attributing The Art of War to Sun Wu, and for the description of tactics anachronistic to Sun Wu's time within The Art of War.

Some scholars have raised questions regarding the authenticity of the list of virtues ascribed to the commander in Section I, ss.9. It has been urged that this section was added posthumously to align The Art of War with the five cardinal virtues of Confucianism. This is based on the contention that sincerity stands opposed to the deception in war that the text discusses. Because archeological recoveries
Yinqueshan Han Slips
The Yinqueshan Han Slips are ancient Chinese writing tablets, made of bamboo strips and were discovered in 1972. The tablets contain many important writings that were not previously known, and important copies of existing work....

 of the text prove that the text existed in roughly its present form by the early Han dynasty (when Confucianism was first officially adopted as the state philosophy), because archeological recoveries make it very probable that The Art of War existed in roughly its present form by (at the latest) the mid-late Warring States period, and because Confucian scholars in late Chinese history did not recognize The Art of War as promoting Confucian values, it is unlikely that the modern text was directly altered by early Confucian scholars to reflect Confucian values. If the modern text of The Art of War reflects contrasting interpretations of the value in chivalry in warfare, the existence of these differing interpretations within the text supports the theory that the core of The Art of War was created by a figure (i.e. the historical Sun Wu) who existed at a time when chivalry was more highly valued (i.e. the Spring and Autumn period), and that the text was amended by his followers to reflect the realities of warfare in a subsequent, distinctly un-chivalric period (i.e. the Warring States period).

Annotations

Before the bamboo scroll version
Yinqueshan Han Slips
The Yinqueshan Han Slips are ancient Chinese writing tablets, made of bamboo strips and were discovered in 1972. The tablets contain many important writings that were not previously known, and important copies of existing work....

 was discovered by archaeologists in April 1972, a commonly cited version of The Art of War was the Annotation of Sun Tzu's Strategies by Cao Cao
Cao Cao
Cao Cao was a warlord and the penultimate chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty who rose to great power during the dynasty's final years. As one of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period, he laid the foundations for what was to become the state of Cao Wei and was posthumously titled...

, the founder of the Kingdom of Wei. In the preface, he wrote that previous annotations were not focused on the essential ideas. Other annotations cited in official history books include Shen You's (176-204) Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, Jia Xu
Jia Xu
Jia Xu , style name Wenhe , was an advisor to the warlord Cao Cao during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. He previously served Dong Zhuo, Li Jue and Zhang Xiu before finally joining Cao Cao...

's Copy of Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, Cao Cao and Wang Ling's Sun Tzu's Military Strategy.

The Book of Sui
Book of Sui
The Book of Sui was the official history of the Chinese dynasty Sui Dynasty, and it ranks among the official Twenty-Four Histories of imperial China. It was compiled by a team of historians led by the Tang Dynasty official Wei Zheng and was completed in 636.-External links:* of the Book of Sui,...

 documented seven books named after Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

. An annotation by Du Mu
Du Mu
Du Mu was a leading Chinese poet of the late Tang Dynasty. His courtesy name was Muzhi , and sobriquet Fanchuan .He was born in Chang'an into an elite family whose fortunes were declining...

 also includes Cao Cao's annotation. Li Jing
Li Jing
Li Jing , né Yaoshi , formally Duke Jingwu of Wei , was a general and one time chancellor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty...

's The Art of War is said to be a revision of Master Sun's strategies. Annotations by Cao Cao, Du Mu and Li Quan were translated into the Tangut language
Tangut language
Tangut is an ancient northeastern Tibeto-Burman language once spoken in the Western Xia Dynasty, also known as the Tangut Empire. It is classified by some linguists as one of the Qiangic languages, which also include Qiang and rGyalrong, among others...

 before AD 1040. A book named Ten Schools of The Art of War Annotations was published before AD 1161.

After the movable type printer
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 was invented, The Art of War (with Cao Cao's annotations) was published in a military textbook along with six other strategy books, collectively known as the Seven Military Classics (武經七書 / 武经七书).

As required reading military textbooks since the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

, the Seven Military Classics have had many annotations. More than 30 differently annotated versions of these books exist today.

The two most common traditional Chinese versions of the Art of War,
(the Complete Specialist Focus and Military Bible versions) were the sources for early translation into English and other languages. It was not until the 1970s that these works were compiled with more recent archeological discoveries into a single more complete version in Taipei, Taiwan. The resulting work is known as the Complete Version of Sun Tzu's Art of War. The National Defense Research Investigation Office has been the source for more recent and complete translations.

Quotations

Verses from the book occur in modern daily Chinese idioms and phrases, such as the last verse of Chapter 3:
故曰:知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必殆。

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.


This has been more tersely interpreted and condensed into the modern proverb:
知己知彼,百戰不殆。

If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous (literally, 'a hundred') battles without jeopardy.

Military applications

In many East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

n countries, The Art of War was part of the syllabus for potential candidates of military service examinations. Various translations are available.

During the Sengoku era in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, a daimyo
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 named Takeda Shingen
Takeda Shingen
, of Kai Province, was a preeminent daimyo in feudal Japan with exceptional military prestige in the late stage of the Sengoku period.-Name:Shingen was called "Tarō" or "Katsuchiyo" during his childhood...

 (1521–1573) is said to have become almost invincible in all battles without relying on gun
Gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

s, because he studied The Art of War. The book even gave him the inspiration for his famous battle standard "Fūrinkazan
Furinkazan
, literally "Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain", was the battle standard used by the Sengoku period daimyo Takeda Shingen, quoting chapter 7 of Sun Tzu's The Art of War: "Move as swift as a wind, stay as silent as forest, attack as fierce as fire, undefeatable defense like a mountain."The original...

" (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
Samuel B. Griffith
-Web:...

 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
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, some Vietcong
National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam
The Vietcong , or National Liberation Front , was a political organization and army in South Vietnam and Cambodia that fought the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War . It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized...

 officers studied The Art of War, and reportedly could recite entire passages from memory.

General Vo Nguyen Giap successfully implemented tactics described in The Art of War during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that...

 ending major French involvement in Indochina and leading to the accords which partitioned Vietnam into North and South. General Vo
Vo Nguyen Giap
Võ Nguyên Giáp is a retired Vietnamese officer in the Vietnam People’s Army and a politician. He was a principal commander in two wars: the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War...

, later the military mastermind behind victories over American forces in Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, 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 American military theory.

Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim and general Aksel Airo
Aksel Airo
Aksel Fredrik Airo was a Finnish lieutenant general and main strategic planner during the Winter War and the Continuation War. He was the virtual second-in-command of the Finnish army under Field Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim....

 were avid readers of Art of War. They both read it in French; Airo kept the French translation of the book on his bedside table in his quarters.

The Department of the Army in the United States, through its Command and General Staff College, has directed all units to maintain libraries within their respective headquarters for the continuing education of personnel in the art of war. The Art of War is mentioned as an example of works to be maintained at each individual unit, and staff duty officers are obliged to prepare short papers for presentation to other officers on their readings.

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 and is required reading for all CIA officers.

Application outside the military

The Art of War has been applied to many fields well outside of the military. Much of the text is about how to fight wars without actually having to do battle: it gives tips on how to outsmart one's opponent so that physical battle is not necessary. As such, it has found application as a training guide for many competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.

There are business books applying its lessons to "office politics
Office politics
Workplace politics, sometimes referred to as Office politics is "the use of one's individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one's legitimate authority...

" and corporate strategy. Many Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese companies make the book required reading for their key executives. The book is also popular among Western business management, who have turned to it for inspiration and advice on how to succeed in competitive business situations. It has also been applied to the field of education.

The Art of War has been the subject of various law books and legal articles on the trial process, including negotiation tactics and trial strategy.

The Art of War has also been applied in the world of sports. NFL coach Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick
William Stephen "Bill" Belichick is an American football head coach for the New England Patriots of the National Football League. After spending his first 15 seasons in the league as an assistant coach, Belichick got his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns in 1991...

 is known to have read the book and used its lessons to gain insights in preparing for games. Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 as well as Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

ian association football coaches Luis Felipe Scolari and Carlos Alberto Parreira
Carlos Alberto Parreira
Carlos Alberto Gomes Parreira is a Brazilian former football manager. He managed Brazil to championships at the 1994 World Cup, the 2004 Copa América, and the 2005 Confederations Cup...

 are known to have embraced the text. Scolari made the Brazilian World Cup
FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup, often simply the World Cup, is an international association football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association , the sport's global governing body...

 squad of 2002 study the ancient work during their successful campaign.

Depiction in media

The Art of War served as the basis for the VNV Nation
VNV Nation
VNV Nation are a British/Irish electronic music band originally from Dublin, Ireland and Essex, United Kingdom and now based in Hamburg, Germany. They combine elements of electro-industrial, trance, synthpop and electronic body music . The members are Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson...

 song "Art of Conflict", the sixth track on their 2009 album Of Faith, Power, and Glory.

The Art of War was also republished in a comic book form in 2010 by Smarter Comics

Television

  • In 1996, a 13-episode TV series based on Sun Tzu's life story, titled Sun Wu (孫子兵法 – 孫武兵聖傳奇), was produced, starring Sun Yanjun as Sun Tzu.
  • In 2008, producer Zhang Jizhong adapted Sun Tzu's life story into a 40-episode historical drama TV series titled Bing Sheng
    Bing Sheng
    Bing Sheng is a 2008 Chinese television series produced by Zhang Jizhong, starring Zhu Yawen, Li Tai, Hu Jing, Zhao Yi, He Zhuoyan, Xu Huanhuan, Tu Men and Wu Ma. The series is based on a semi-fictional biography of the ancient Chinese militarist Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War...

     (兵聖; aka The Ultimate Master of War: Sun Tzu), starring Zhu Yawen as Sun Tzu.
  • In 2009, the History Channel released a special on the Art of War, exploring the book's content and how it has been applied throughout history.

Sources and translations

,
  • Sun Tzu translated by Paul Brennan (2007). The Art of War for Martial Artists. Odos Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-60402-416-6
  • Sun Tzu translated by Victor H. Mair
    Victor H. Mair
    Victor Henry Mair is a Philologist specializing in Sinitic and Indo-European languages, and holds the position of Professor of Chinese Language and Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States...

     (2007). The Art of War: Sun Zi's Military Methods. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13382-1 Gagliardi's article about problems of translating the text.
  • Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Thomas Huynh and the Editors of Sonshi.com (2008). The Art of War: Spirituality for Conflict. Skylight Paths Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59473-244-7
  • The Art of Electoral War: A liberal interpretation of Sun Tzu's The Art of War in the context of Indian electoral scene by Madhuker Upadhyay, Indian journalist and author. (2004). ANA Publishers. ISBN 81-89015-01-X
  • Sun Tzu translated in Hindi by Indian journalist and author Madhuker Upadhyay (2001). 'Yudhkala'. ISBN 81-7778-041-7


Note that there is an error in the final sentence of Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

's transcription of Lionel Giles' work. In the fragment "Spies are a most important element in war" the word "war" is transposed to "water". Also in Chapter 9, "If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless", the word "useless" is transposed as "unless".

See also

  • Epitoma rei militaris of Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus
  • Sextus Julius Frontinus
    Sextus Julius Frontinus
    Sextus Julius Frontinus was one of the most distinguished Roman aristocrats of the late 1st century AD, but is best known to the post-Classical world as an author of technical treatises, especially one dealing with the aqueducts of Rome....

  • The Seven Military Classics      
  • Thirty-Six Stratagems
  • On War
    On War
    Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

  • The 33 Strategies of War
    The 33 Strategies of War
    The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene is a "guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the ... military principles in war.". It is composed of discussions and examples on offensive and defensive strategies from a wide variety of people and conditions such as Napoleon...

  • The 48 Laws of Power
    The 48 Laws of Power
    The 48 Laws of Power is a 1998 book by Robert Greene. Robert Greene takes elements of some of the worlds most influential political thinkers to come up with the 48 Laws of Power, from Niccolò Machiavelli to Sun Tsu, he captures their most important points of power. - The Laws :# Never outshine the...

  • The Art of War (Machiavelli)
    The Art of War (Machiavelli)
    Art of War is a treatise by the Italian Renaissance political philosopher and historian Niccolò Machiavelli.The format of Art of War is a socratic dialogue...

  • The Book of Five Rings
    The Book of Five Rings
    is a text on kenjutsu and the martial arts in general, written by the samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi circa 1645. There have been various translations made over the years, and it enjoys an audience considerably broader than only that of martial artists: for instance, some business leaders find its...

  • Arthashastra
    Arthashastra
    The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy which identifies its author by the names Kautilya and , who are traditionally identified with The Arthashastra (IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and...

  • Chanakya
    Chanakya
    Chānakya was a teacher to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta , and the first Indian emperor generally considered to be the architect of his rise to power. Traditionally, Chanakya is also identified by the names Kautilya and VishnuGupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise...

  • Sun Tzu
    Sun Tzu
    Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

  • List of Chinese military texts
  • List of military writers
  • Antoine de Jomini
  • Philosophy of war
    Philosophy of war
    The philosophy of war examines war beyond the typical questions of weaponry and strategy, inquiring into such things as the meaning and etiology of war, the relationship between war and human nature, and the ethics of war...

  • State of Wu
  • Warring States Period
    Warring States Period
    The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

  • Spring and Autumn Period
  • Shiji


External links

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