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The Art of War

by Sun Tzu

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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22,399240157 (3.83)1 / 227
Business. Politics. Self-Improvement. Nonfiction. HTML:

Inspiring countless business, political and military leaders (Napoleon, Mao Zedong and General MacArthur among them), The Art of War is a Chinese military treatise by Sun Tzu from the 6th century BC. Its 13 chapters are each dedicated to an aspect of warfare. Praised as a definitive work on the art of strategy and tactic, The Art of War now finds its greatest application in the world of business and management.

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 Philosophy and Theory: Three Chinese classics18 unread / 18CosmicMiddleChild, March 3

» See also 227 mentions

English (205)  Spanish (14)  Italian (4)  Portuguese (Portugal) (4)  French (3)  Portuguese (Brazil) (3)  Portuguese (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (239)
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
Read this yet again while at the NWC in August 2023. Specifically read pages 63-149 as required by the S&W syllabus.

From the S&W syllabus: Brigadier General Griffith’s experience in the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as his deep understanding of Asian languages and cultures, make his translation of this important text on war both scholarly and approachable for the professional military officer and civilian leader.
  SDWets | Sep 1, 2023 |
I have two different editions of Sun Tzu 19s 1CThe Art of War 1D which has been translated into European languages since at least the eighteenth century, but most of the many translations into English date from the twentieth century. The first one I have looked at, which is by Lionel Giles, is one hundred years old. I have the ebook version edited by Bob Sutton.

Giles includes an introductory look at both the history of the text and the Chinese commentaries on it. The discussion might be too much information for most readers, and I can tell you, based on a lecture I 19ve heard by Prof. Andrew R. Wilson of the U.S. Naval War College that not all scholars would agree with Giles 19 conclusions about Sun Tzu and his book. By the way, Wilson says the Chinese title actually translates 1CMaster Sun 19s Military Method 1D (Sun Tzu bing fa), not 1CThe Art of War, 1D but Wilson says you can call it that if you want, it's ok.

Giles notes that the traditional commentaries disagree about whether Sun Tzu existed, when he existed and whether he wrote the book attributed to him. A more pressing problem for us readers is that there have been several versions of the text and therefore some question as to which, if any, can be declared to be authoritative. In the present text, Giles occasionally has to give us alternative versions of a sentence.

Another thing that is confusing about Giles introduction, at least in the electronic edition that I am reading, is that he sometimes refers to historical periods by their Chinese nicknames such as 1CWarring States 1D and 1CSix States 1D without indicating when these were in Western terms. (Actually, the two terms seem to mean the same period, from about 475 to 221 B.C., when the number of warring kingdoms was six or seven, but long after Sun Tzu is supposed to have lived.)

Giles 19 text itself is broken up by his translations of the commentary which, as Wilson complains, breaks up the flow of Sun 19s argument, but also provides some insights into the meanings of Sun 19s condensed sentences. On the other hand, as Giles shows again and again, some of Sun Tzu 19s Chinese commentators give obviously wrong interpretations, and sometimes Giles does, too.

The 1CSun Tzu 1D (as the book is often called for short) is about more than strategy, although there are famous strategic gems such as "Attack [the enemy] where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected." But it is also about the culture of war, the economics and organization of war, its relationship to government and society and the psycholgy, sociology and physics of war. Yet the book is pithy, making most of its points in one or two terse sentences before moving on to the next point; yet it is supposed to be helpful in understanding these little nuggets of General Sun 19s wisdom to remember that the whole essay is a sustained argument, and that each topic is related to the next. (This is why breaking up the text with commentary might distort the meaning.)

There are thirteen short chapters. (The commentary really makes this book more than twice as long as it would be in its supposed earliest form.) The first chapter is about planning for war, and warns that war should not be entered into lightly or without plan. War is expensive and therefore requires the firm commitment not only of the ruler but also the people who need to believe that the war is necessary. (I have just been reading 1CMein Kampf 1D by Adolf Hitler, where, in chapter seven, he goes into a long discussion of the relative merits of German and Allied propaganda in World War I and how they succeeded or failed in persuading the troops of the necessity of the war and the need to stay the course.)

A superficial reading might leave one with the impression that this book is superficial, but actually, this is one of those books that can be read and re-read and something new discovered each time. The Sun Tzu consists of a lot of lists, most of them short, such as the five factors that govern war: Moral law (which really has more to do with morale and the determination to wage war), Heaven (which means weather, climate, seasons and time of day), Earth (which refers to geography, distances 14the terrain over which the army must travel and physical conditions of the battlefield), the qualities of the Commander himself, and, together, Method and Discipline. Although terse, this essay is all about the nuts and bolts of warfare. The mundane job of the quartermaster who must be in charge of clothing, equipping and paying for the army is covered under method.

A surprising feature of the 1CSun Tzu 1D is its frequent consideration of psychology, both the personal psychology of the Commanders and the mass psychology of troops on both sides. In making stratagems, Sun Tzu emphasizes planning well beforehand but moving quickly once the action has begun. Do not get into a protracted war, he advises.

The well thought out plan will win if the commander knows more about his enemy than his enemy knows about him. Outnumbered forces can win if other factors are in their favor, and Sun Tzu discusses all of these factors. But how does he know so much about his enemy?

The 1CSun Tzu 1D has a surprising amount to say about espionage. Indeed, one of the qualities of a good general is said to be benevolence, but the only time that this term is defined in any context is in a discussion of the general 19s willingness to pay spies well for good information. That, apparently, is when benevolence really counts, when the general patronizes spies like a rich father giving his favorite children their allowances.

In battlefield strategy, Sun Tzu talks about dividing his army and hitting the enemy in the front and the back. Some commentators have been bothered by the forbidden division of an already outnumbered army. In our own history, don 19t we know that General Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn made a huge mistake by dividing his men so that the Native American warriors outnumbered him even more wildly? Sun Tzu might have said that the mistake was not in dividing up his forces but in having them go off in different directions so far away that during the battle they could not reach or support Custer, could not find the enemy's vulnerability and perhaps distract him so that Custer could withdraw. At the ancient Battle of Cannae 14which Giles mentions in a slightly different context 14Hannibal divided his outnumbered forces, too, but only so that they could converge on the Romans from every side all at once. Giles does not seem to understand this, although his Chinese commentators seem to understand it less, leading me to wonder whether the commentators are more harmful than helpful to the student of the text.

This edition does not seem to me to be the best way to study this text.

A better prospect seems to be the James Clavell version which sticks to the bare text. It is true that with no explanation at all this book can be too inscrutible, but I feel I have a better time with Clavell's spare editing down of Giles' text rather than with the commentary-cluttered version that Giles made. Yes, Clavell's version is based on Giles' version, though with more typos. There are typos copied from Giles, such as Chapter one, saying 16, which says, "While heading the profit of my counsel,..." That should be "heeding" not "heading" and the mistake is there in both editions. But Clavell has also introduced new typos, so it is profitable to return to this edition of Sun Tzu to see if the original translation can help correct Clavell's typos.

BTW, those who think that a book more than two thousand years old cannot be relevant today should know that a lot of work has been done applying Sun Tzu's principles to cyber-warfare. ( )
  MilesFowler | Jul 16, 2023 |
Advice that I found interesting included:

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 we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

The captured soldiers should be kindly treated. This is called using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.

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 good.

It is the rule of 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.

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.

Now a soldier’s spirit is keenest in the morning; by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is bent only on returning to camp.

When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the sign of chariots advancing; when the dust is low, but spread over a wide area, it betokens the approach of infantry. When it branches out in different directions, it shows that parties have been sent to collect firewood. A few clouds of dust moving to and fro signify that the army is encamping.

If those [of the enemy] who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst.

If birds gather on any spot, it is unoccupied.

If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler’s bidding.

No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.

Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy’s condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honours and emoluments [i.e. for spies], is the height of inhumanity.

( )
1 vote markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Colpevolmente letto solo ora e ahimè non avendo mancato di citarlo a vanvera... quanto meno, sono arrivato a leggerlo forte dell'interpretazione di Francois Jullien (Pensare l'efficacia in Cina e in Occidente), che senza dubbio me l'ha fatto leggere in maniera diversa da come avrei fatto altrimenti. ( )
  d.v. | May 16, 2023 |
multe dintre aspecte sunt șocant de actuale încă; fiind pasionat de WW2 și campaniile napoleoniene, l-am citit constant cu exemple reale în minte și de fiecare dată m-am întrebat: cum au fost posibile înfrângeri dezastruoase în secolele 19-20, prin încălcarea unor reguli elementare atât de vechi? Răspunsul l-am găsit tot în Sun Tzu, care recomandă ca la război generalul să nu execute ordinele suveranului...
Pierde o stea fiindcă pentru un cititor modern este greu de urmărit, noi fiind învățați cu alt tip de narațiune (are un stil asemănător versetelor biblice, implicit la fel de fragmentat și cu salturi de dis/continuitate). ( )
  milosdumbraci | May 5, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 205 (next | show all)
Sun Tzuova knjiga Umeće ratovanja, je jedno od najznačajnijih klasičnih kineskih dela.

Ova knjiga ne sadrži ni jednu zastarelu maksimu ili nejasno uputstvo. Najbolje je pobediti bez borbe, rekao je Sun Tzu. Za njega je rat bio sastavni deo života.

Pažljivo pročitajte ovu knjigu, i sve savremene knjige koje govore o upravljanju državom više vam se neće činiti dostojne pažnje.
added by Sensei-CRS | editknjigainfo.com
Ralph Sawyer has produced a lively translation, with a historical essay and explanatory notes, of Sun-tzu’s classic work.
Sun-tzu has nothing to teach us about the technological aspects of war or the logistics required to feed a modern army, and his work obviously cannot speak to certain complex political relations between modern nations. But Sun-tzu’s book has much value, for it says a lot about how a commander should approach his enemy, how he should decide to attack or to retreat, how to outsmart an enemy, and what it takes to be victorious. He presents his ideas in a logical, principled way that is consistent with his deeper philosophy of nature.

» Add other authors (166 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tzu, Sunprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ames, Roger T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barrera Parra, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cawthorne, NigelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clavell, JamesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cleary, Thomas F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Denma Translation GroupTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frasier, ShellyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Galvin, DallasEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giles, LionelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gimian, JamesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffith, Samuel B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heath, DaveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huang, J. H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hulskramer, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karkkolainen, HeikkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaufman, Stephen F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kramer, Gert-JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lévi, JeanTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Liddell Hart, B.H.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mair, Victor H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantegna, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miceli, JayaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minford, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nojonen, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nylan, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ochlan, P.J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oriele, RichardDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pieterse, AndersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porter, RayNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raver, LornaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sawyer, Mei-chün LeeContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sawyer, Ralph D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smit, KeesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, KidderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warrilow, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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War is a howling, baying jackal.
Sun Tzu said:
The art of war is of vital importance to the State.
Translator's Introduction: According to an old story, a lord of ancient China once asked his physician, a member of a family of healers, which of them was the most skilled in the art.
[Thomas Cleary]
Sun Tzu believed that even before considering a confrontation—for whatever purpose—it is essential to Calculate a complete analysis of the situation.
[R.L. Wing, Intro to Chapter 1]
Introduction:  It is an unusual book that was written 2500 years ago in an impenetrable classical language and yet figures on the recommended reading list of the United States Marine Corps.
[Version translated by James Trapp]
A battle that cannot be won is not worth fighting.
All warfare is based on deception.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt.
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Business. Politics. Self-Improvement. Nonfiction. HTML:

Inspiring countless business, political and military leaders (Napoleon, Mao Zedong and General MacArthur among them), The Art of War is a Chinese military treatise by Sun Tzu from the 6th century BC. Its 13 chapters are each dedicated to an aspect of warfare. Praised as a definitive work on the art of strategy and tactic, The Art of War now finds its greatest application in the world of business and management.


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The original and bestselling leadership book! Sun Tzu's ideas on survival and success have been read across the world for centuries. Today they can still be applied to business, politics and life. The Art of War demonstrates how to win without conflict. It shows that with enough intelligence and planning, it is possible to conquer with a minimum of force and little destruction. This luxury hardback edition includes an introduction by Tom Butler-Bowdon that draws out lessons for managers and business leaders, and highlights the power of Sun Tzu's thinking in everyday life.
Warhammer Ancient Battles: Art Of War - The Art of War: The Chinese approach to warfare 2205 BCE – 280 CE is a source book for Warhammer Ancient Battles. China has the longest continuous civilisation in history and was finally unified by the First Emperor in 221 BCE. The Warring States period was over, and Qin victorious! Yet only 16 years later, the Qin Dynasty was in turmoil, the Emperor dead and all that would remain of his legacy would be the silent warriors of Xian- the Terracotta army. This source book contains an historical overview that covers the principle military events and developments of Chinese culture from small bands of tribal warriors right up to the mighty Imperial armies that dominated Asia. Featured within this book are detailed army lists including: Shang Dynasty Zhou Dynasty Warring States Eastern Steppe Nomads Han Dynasty Red Eyebrow Rebels Yellow Scarves Religious Cultists Three Kingdoms Using these army lists and variants within them you can create over 34 different varieties of armies from early Chinese history! Other resources included are scenarios, battles, a campaign system and Ruses for use in your games, as well as advice for modelling Chinese armies and terrain in full colour. The Art of War also contains a full colour section portraying the armies of the time and a wealth of illustrations and maps. - Warhammer Historical Rules
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