THE ART OF WAR is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time. It has been the most famous and influential of China's Seven Military Classics, and "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 and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.
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About the Author
The ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu was estimated to have been living between c. 544 and 496 BC. Also known under the names Sun Wu and Sunzi, Sun Tzu was widely recognised to be the author of The Art of War, an ancient and world-renowned Chinese military strategy book. A great influence on Chinese history and culture, Sun Tzu’s beliefs are known through his writing and told through legend.
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SUN TZU SAID: The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
The art of war is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
These are: the Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, the Commander and Method and Discipline.
The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.
Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness.
By Method and Discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the gradations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.
These five heads should be familiar to every general. He who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:
Seven Searching Questions
1. Which of two sovereigns is imbued with the moral law?
2. Which of two generals has most ability?
3. With whom lie the advantages derived from heaven and earth?
4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
5. Which army is the stronger?
6. On which side are officers and men most highly trained?
7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.
The general who harkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer. Let such a one be retained in command! The general who harkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat. Let such a one be dismissed! While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans.
[Sun Tzu is a practical soldier and wants no bookish theories. He cautions here not to pin one's faith on abstract principles. Tactics must be guided by the action of the enemy, as is well illustrated by Sir W. Fraser in his Words on Wellington: On the eve of the battle of Waterloo, Lord Uxbridge asked the Duke of Wellington what his plans were for the morrow, because, he explained, he might suddenly find himself Commander in Chief and would be unable to frame new plans in a critical moment. The Duke asked, "Who will attack first tomorrow — I or Bonaparte?" "Bonaparte," replied Lord Uxbridge. "Well," continued the Duke, "Bonaparte has not given me any idea of his projects; and as my plans will depend on his, how can you expect me to tell you what mine are?"]
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is superior in strength, evade him. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
If he is inactive, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: How much more do no calculation at all pave the way to defeat! It is by attention to this point that I can see who is likely to win or lose.CHAPTER 2
SUN TZU SAID: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li [2.78 modern li make one mile] the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.
[It is interesting to note the similarity between early Chinese warfare and that of the Homeric Greeks. In each case, the war chariot was the nucleus around which was grouped the foot soldiers. Each light Chinese chariot was accompanied by 75 infantry, and each heavy chariot by 25 infantry, so that the whole army would be divided into a thousand battalions, each consisting of two chariots and 100 men.]
When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, the men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the state will not be equal to the strain.
Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will rarely be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been associated with long delays. There is no instance of a country having been benefited from prolonged warfare.
It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have enough for its needs.
[Once war is declared, the great general strikes immediately without waiting until every last detail is taken care of. This may seem audacious advice, but all great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Hitler, realized that time is of vital importance. "Too little, too late" was not one of their mottos.]
Poverty of the state exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes people to be impoverished.
On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.
When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.
Living at Enemy Expense
With this loss of subsistence and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare and three-tenths of their incomes will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantlets, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.
Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a single picul [about 133 pounds] of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.
In order to kill the enemy, men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.
Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.
In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom depends whether the nation shall be in peace or peril.CHAPTER 3
Attack by Stratagem
SUN TZU SAID: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so profitable. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to annihilate them.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
[The elder Moltke's greatest triumph, the capitulation of the French at Sedan in 1870, was achieved practically without bloodshed. The Battle of France, May–June 1940, was the climax to a long succession of bloodless and practically bloodless victories for Hitler.]
Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans. The next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces. The next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field. The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds [from which to attack] over against the walls will take three months more.
[Another sound piece of military theory. If the Boers had acted upon it in 1899 and refrained from dissipating their strength before Kimberley and Mafeking they would probably have been masters of the situation before the British were ready seriously to oppose them. The Germans beat their brains out before Stalingrad in 1943.]
The general who is unable to control his impatience will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town remains untaken. Such are liable to be the disastrous effects of a siege.
Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.
With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.
Advantage in Numbers
It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.
If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.
Now the general is the bulwark of the state: if the bulwark is complete at all points, the state will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the state will be weak.
There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:
By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This amounts to hobbling the army.
By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness among the soldiers.
By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adapting action to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is sure to come from other feudal princes. This is simply equivalent in results to bringing anarchy into the army and flinging victory away. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all ranks.
He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
Victory lies in the knowledge of those five points.
Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.CHAPTER 4
SUN TZU SAID: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.
Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength.
The general who is skilled in defense, in effect, hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.
To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you conquer and the whole empire says, "Well done!"
To lift an autumn leaf is no sign of great strength; to see sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Avoidance of mistakes establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
To Avoid Defeat
Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.
Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist seeks battle after his plans indicate that victory is possible under them, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights without skillful planning and expects victory to come without planning.
The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline. Thus it is in his power to control success. In respect of military method, we have: First, measurement; second, estimation of quantity; third, calculation; fourth, balancing of chances; fifth, victory. Measurement owes its existence to earth; estimation of quantity to measurement; calculation to estimation of quantity; balancing of chances to calculation; and victory to balancing of chances.
[The first of these terms would seem to be terrain appreciation, from which an estimate of the enemy's strength can be formed, and calculations of relative strength made on the data thus obtained; we are thus led to a general comparison of the enemy's chances with our own; if the latter turn the scale, then victory ensues.]
A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a pound's weight placed in the scale against a single grain. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep. So much for tactical dispositions.CHAPTER 5
Use of Energy
SUN TZU SAID: The control of a large force is the same in principle as the control of a few men. It is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.
Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one. It is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.
To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken is effected by direct and indirect maneuvers.
That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg. That is effected by the science involving contacts between weak points and strong. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to ensure victory.
Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as heaven and earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end their course but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass to return once more.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Art of War"
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Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents
1. Laying Plans
2. Waging War
3. Attack by Stratagem
4. Tactical Dispositions
5. Use of Energy
6. Weak Points and Strong
7. Maneuvering an Army
8. Variation of Tactics
9. The Army on the March
10, Classification of Terrain
11. The Nine Situations
12. Attack by Fire
13. Use of Spies
What People are Saying About This
"Scott Brick's steady, imperative tone conveys Sun Tzu's certainty. Shelly Frasier's smooth counterpoint...balances Brick's pronouncements. Transitions between the two are flawless." -AudioFile
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book and many other classics are free from "Project Gutenburg" on various ebook formats.
This concise and compact version of Sun Tzu is printed entirely in a "bullet format" which makes it very readable and enhances the understanding of ancient principles of war that are applicable in everyday life. Mr. Giles has published two versions of Sun Tzu's writings into this single book. The first section is a purist version with no interjections and an additional bonus version that incorporates translations and viewpoints of ancient Chinese masters of war.
The first time that I ever heard of Sun Tzu was on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and to be honest I thought Sun Tzu was a fictional character. Turns out that its not, and the Art of War is a very real work. Its a very interesting read, and this book is used by the military, and even in the business world.
The Art of War is an excellent book-when it's in a readable format. This is NOT the format to choose.
Very interesting historical text that can be extrapolated to fit many modern contemporary situations, however, I found it hard to read this particular version because the formatting was so poor. The footnotes made the text hard to read and often it was hard to tell where the footnote began and the text resumed.
Preserves and present the original text nicely, but could do without the definitions that interupt the flow of the text.
This an excellent book that I have found myself applying its strategies, tactical dispositions, or whatever you want to call them in both my professional and personal lives. I think everyone should have a copy of this book in their briefcase and/or book bag.
Mom step dad baby brother
I knew that the book wuld be realy good but I wasn't expecting it to be this good
The Art of War is in many ways the Bible of warfare and strategy. And much like the Bible, a passage can have many different meaning depending on who's reading it. I've read through this translation a couple times now and the meanings are always changing, just as the events in our lives are always changing, giving each passage new life and understanding based on those personal experinces that are forever molding and shaping our conscienceness.
I was expecting a difficult read, but this was not the case. The annotations are very helpful and interesting, particularly in putting things into historical perspective. Very relevant to the actions in Afganhistan and Iraq today. Although this is mandatory reading for military academy graduates, you can see from current news stories how the deviation from the principles laid out in this work lead to defeat and unnessary loss of life. Perhaps it should be mandatory reading for our Commanders-in-Chief also! I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the military affairs of our country looking for an understanding of why the current wars proceed as they do. To our civilian leaders, this book says "Let the professionals fight the war! Follow their advice! Set policy, then keep your hands off!" Otherwise, don't get involved!
I think it is very useful. If the trojans had it they just might have won the war.
Chinese is a very ancient language and is quite context-sensitive. This makes good translations to English difficult and two different translations of the same work in Chinese may come very different in English. The Denma Group has done an excellent translation of this ancient Chinese work making it quite understandable and east to read in English. Sun Tzu may have been one of the earliest professional soldiers to actually think about their trade and has come up with some valuable insights about conflict and war in general. Most people who are interested in this work will benefit greatly from having a copy of this translation in their library. A number of essays are included showing how the Denma Group has come to this particular translation and, also the huge amount of effort they have put into it. I own four different translations of the Art of War and this is the one that I carry on my e-reader.
A lot of people read The Art of War to gain insight into business competition, inter-personal conflict, etc. Personally, I think it is most interesting as an actual treatise on warfare, statecraft, and tactics as originally intended. Comparing the tactics and outcome of various battles and wars (past and present) to Sun Tzu's advice demonstrates that he generally knew what he was talking about and many (most?) of his principles still hold true. This translation made a serious effort to preserve the ambiguities present in the original, giving it a much more Eastern flavor than some older translations. I can't vouch for translation accuracy since I can't read the original, but Cleary at least sounds a bit more authentic than Giles (the "classic" English translation). The commentary sections sometimes gave insight into how "Master Sun" was understood by others over the next few centuries, but sometimes it was just a tedious unimaginative rephrasing of the original. On your first reading of The Art of War skip the commentary; it breaks up the flow of thought. (Also, don't bother with the 60 page intro unless you really want to hear the translator pontificate about Taoism for 50 pages while saying nothing that you can't pick up from the book itself) If you are interested in diplomacy, espionage, military tactics, etc. this is definitely a great read. Next time you watch a war movie or play a conquer-the-world type game you'll find yourself thinking in terms of The Art of War.
Spent half the time skipping over information and interpretations i didnt want to read. wouldve been better if it was just sun tzu's writing.
Now this is what I call a true classic! This book, as well as The Book of Lord Shang, preceded Machiavelli¿s captivating masterpiece, Il Principe, by nearly 2000 years (I have to confess that I almost completely forget Il Principe¿s contents, but I still remember that it was a captivating read).Back to Sun Tzu¿Yes, some of his advices are already outdated and cannot be applied in the modern war. However, the others are, well, I should say mind-opening and inspirational, yet very simple.Want some examples? Here you go.¿Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you¿ll never be defeated. When you¿re ignorant of the enemy but know yourself; your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.¿ If Hitler and General Tojo read this book, we¿d all live in fascism now. If only Bush read this book, the war in Iraq will be over by now.Sun Tzu may taught us about war. But note this, he stressed that non-violent ways are better. This means employing effective politics, diplomacy and strategic considerations. He said: ¿To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.¿ That¿s my favorite quote.I also heart this one: ¿A sovereign cannot launch a war because he is enraged, not can a general fight a war because he is resentful. For while an angered man may again be happy, and a resentful man again be pleased, a state that perished cannot be restored, nor can the dead be brought to life.¿That statement breaks me heart, really¿. considering what happens in the world today.Highly, highly recommended. I¿ll give this book a solid five stars.
This is a beautiful and scholarly presentation of a truly elegant piece of ancient literature. Griffith puts forth his interpretation of "The Art of War" based on a revision of his Ph.D. thesis presented some years ago. Commentaries from several sources are included along side of Griffith's own translation. Footnotes are ubiquitous in the text explaining various discrepancies in interpretations, translations and historical contexts. There is a nicely-done introduction discussing various scholarly debates surrounding "The Art of War" including, original authorship, and date of creation. Beyond the content, the presentation of the book is beautiful. The cover is silk fabric with silk-screened golden Chinese characters on the cover. There is also an attached black ribbon bookmark. The pages are thick construction done with a glossy-print and includes many beautiful color plates placed throughout the text.Really, I believe this to be an exquisite presentation of this piece of literature. Not only is the presentation exceptional, the scholarly content is both attainable and interesting. This is an excellent piece to have in any library.
Meh. Okay I guess but overall I'm not that impressed.
This turned out to be a cheap and good translation. If all you want is the straight translation, this is a great edition
A subtle and fascinating philosophy on how to wage war. Knowledge of assured victory is key for Sun Tzu. At once it is esoteric and simple giving the reader the opportunity to find new angles and places to learn with each repeated reading. Intense and interesting. (Shambhala translation)
Awesome for anyone looking for a good strategy book. helps with any type of war situation, I recommend reading it if you choose to go into the military.
Clavell provides a brief but pointed introduction, noting that this is a reprint of the first English translation by Lionel Giles, 1910. Sun Tzu was translated into Russian centuries ago, and into French before Napoleon, in 1782. Mao Tse-tung's Little Red Book of strategic doctrine used it almost word for word. Notes the emphasis on maneuver and on spies -- "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."  Clavell himself used the work in his Noble House historical novels -- qv Taipan, Shogan. The art of war is governed by constant calculation of five factors: Moral Law (the accord of the people with the ruler); Heaven (signifying times, seasons, weather); Earth (comprising distances, conditions of the ground); Commander (sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness); Method & Discipline (army divisions, ranks, supplies, expenditures). Sun Tzu emphasizes the importance of spies and control of "signals" -- press relations. "All warfare is based on deception."  The arts explained by Sun Tzu contrast with almost all elements of the War in Iraq being prosecuted by Bush-Cheney and promised by Senator McCann. For example, Sun Tzu repeatedly emphasizes planned maneuver and timing: "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."  Time -- being ahead of the opponent -- counts for more than numbers. Treat prisoners kindly - better to capture than kill. Find the supreme excellence of breaking the enemy, not by fighting, but by NOT fighting. The use of the Sheathed Sword. The emphasis on "maneuver" over static force can be used by any size of combat unit--individual soldier to large army. But no part of the plan is more difficult the maneuver. Hence the study of deviation.  Like Machiavelli, Sun Tzu illustrates his points with largely fictional but very clear examples that appear to be historical recitations. (He clearly writes for an emperor devoted to words rather than scholarship or action.) Since ancient times, it has been known by realists that prosperity requires peace and peace requires strength for protection. And in Sun Tzu's words..."the true object of war is peace."
It is a really old book, but still has much application to everyday life in modern times. The book is a little hard to read at times. However, the knowledge you get from reading it worth it. I recommend everyone read this title at least once in their lifetime.
How ironic that the copy I found in my apartment should have a foreword by James Clavell, author of "Shogun;" my Mum is forever mixing up China and Japan herself, and often remarks about the former when in fact I lived in the latter.The book, meanwhile, is an interesting couple of hours' read, but without a more thorough guide I don't see how I could use Sun Tzu's ideas to conquer Wall Street, as some have proposed.
A great translation. That was meant to be funny since I don't read Chinese and can't possibly really know how good his translation is. However, this is a great book and belongs right next to your other war strategy greats.