The Art of War

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The Art of War (Chinese: 孫子兵法; pinyin: Sūnzĭ bīngfǎ) is an ancient Chinese military text that was written by Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist, and Taoist philosopher over 2,500 years ago.[1] The text contains 13 chapters, each of which covers an aspect of warfare.

It as one of the earliest books on Chinese warfare. It remains one of the best known and most influential books ever written.[1] The book was widely copied in the ancient world. At first, it was written on bamboo slats that were sewn together. It was read by politicians, scholars and military leaders.[2]

Translations of the book were first read in Japan and Korea. The oldest copy from Japan dates to the 8th century.[2] It was translated into French in 1772 by a Jesuit named Jean Joseph Marie Amiot. The first translation into English was published by Lionel Giles in 1910.[3] The Art of War was first translated into Russian in 1950.[4] The Russians' knowledge of French culture makes it probable that they had copies in French much earlier.[4]

The book is used today by business schools and militaries worldwide.[5]

Changing rules[change | change source]

When Sun Tzu first wrote The Art of War, it was not the first book on military tactics. He quotes from The Book of Military Administration by Chun Cheng.[6] The quote is limited to the use of signal flags and drums to move soldiers. Chun's book has not survived and so little is known of what else was in it.[6] However, books of the time were based on rules of warfare that all sides followed. War was the sport of rich noblemen.[7] The rules were based on chivalry.

Sun Tzu refused to see war as a sport.[7] He used Taoist principles and applied them to warfare.[7] In doing this he changed the rules of war. Unlike generals who enjoyed long campaigns, he understood that war is serious. Sun Tzu believed that once a war started, the goal was to defeat the enemy.[7] Sun Tzu was unconventional in that he did not follow the prevailing wisdom of his time. Other generals were simply unprepared for Sun Tzu's tactics. Sun Tzu mastered the art of being unpredictable in warfare.

David and Goliath[change | change source]

In situations where a smaller weaker force is faced with a stronger larger force, Sun Tzu's tactics are very often successful.[5] David and Goliath is a Biblical story of a weaker shepherd boy facing a giant who is a skilled warrior. David uses an unconventional weapon and slays Goliath. David refused to fight by Goliath's rules. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft did calculations on wars. He discovered that about a third of the, time the weaker country actually wins.[5]

The Art of War is credited by Mao Zedong as having helped him defeat Chiang Kai-Shek during the Chinese Civil War.[2] Ho Chi Minh was a fan of Sun Tzu. He led communist North Vietnam in their fight against American-backed South Vietnam.[2] American Generals Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and Colin Powell followed Sun Tzu's princples during the Gulf War.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Sun Tzu and The Art of War". Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "The Art of War". Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  3. Giles, Lionel The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Special Edition. Special Edition Books. 2007. p. 62.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Alessandro Corneli, 'Sun Tzu and the Indirect Strategy', Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali, Vol. 54, No. 3 (215) (Luglio-Settembre 1987), pp. 420–421
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Eric Barker (2 June 2014). "Sun Tzu's Art of War: How Ancient Strategy Can Lead to Modern Success". Time. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Daniel Coetzee, Philosophers of War: The Evolution of History's Greatest Military Thinkers (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger (ABC-CLIO, LLC), 2013), p. 168
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Sun-Tzu". Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited. Retrieved 5 July 2015.

Other websites[change | change source]