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The Art of War: With Commentaries by James Clavell

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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 you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle....

These are the words of ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, whose now-classic treatise, The Art of War, was written more than 2,500 years ago. Originally a text for victory on the...

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Overview

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 you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle....

These are the words of ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, whose now-classic treatise, The Art of War, was written more than 2,500 years ago. Originally a text for victory on the battlefield, the book has vastly transcended its original purpose.

Here is a seminal work on the philosophy of successful leadership that is as applicable to contemporary business as it is to war. Today many leading American business schools use the text as required reading for aspiring managers, and even Oliver Stone's award-winning film Wall Street cites The Art of War as a guide to those who strive for success.

Now acclaimed novelist James Clavell, for whom Sun Tzu's writing has been an inspiration, gives us a newly edited Art of War. Author of the best-selling Asian saga consisting of Shogun, Tai-Pan, Gai-jin, King Rat, Noble House, and Whirlwind, Clavell first heard about Sun Tzu in Hong Kong in 1977, and since then The Art Of War has been his constant companion—he refers to it frequently in Noble House. He has taken a 1910 translation of the book and clarified it for the contemporary reader. This new edition of The Art Of War is an extraordinary book made even more relevant by an extraordinary editor.

Includes: Sun Pin's The Art of Warfare

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The most useful and important book ever written for aspiring leaders."
Toronto Sun Times
From Barnes & Noble
This classic of military strategy includes a detailed introduction & commentary on the history of Chinese warfare & military thought. Includes battle diagrams.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385299855
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1989
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 236,266
  • Product dimensions: 6.97 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Read an Excerpt

I: LAYING PLANS

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 under no circumstances can it be neglected.

The art of war is governed by five constant factors, all of which need to be taken into account. They are: the Moral Law; Heaven; Earth; the Commander; 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 factors should be familiar to every general. He who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

Therefore, when seeking to determine your military conditions, make your decisions on the basis of a comparison in this wise:

Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral Law?

Which of the two generals has the most ability?

With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?

On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
Tu Mu alludes to the remarkable story of Ts'ao Ts'ao (A.D. I55 - 220), who was such a strict disciplinarian that once, in accordance with his own severe regulations against injury to standing crops, he condemned himself to death for having allowed his horse to stray into a field of corn! However, in lieu of losing his head, he was persuaded to satisfy his sense of justice by cutting off his hair. "When you lay down a law, see that it is not disobeyed; if it is disobeyed, the offender must be put to death."
Which army is the stronger?

On which side are officers and men more highly trained?

In which army is there the most absolute certainty that merit will be properly rewarded and misdeeds summarily punished?

By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat. The general who hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it will conquer—let such a one be retained in command! The general who hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it will suffer defeat—let such a one be dismissed! But remember: While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules and modify your plans accordingly.

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. 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 in superior 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 taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before 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 no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

II: ON WAGING WAR

In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, ten thousand heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li*, 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 a hundred thousand 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 dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength, and if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the state will not be equal to the strain. Never forget: When your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted, and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Only one who knows the disastrous effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close. 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 general does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply wagons loaded more than twice. Once war is declared, he will not waste precious time in waiting for reinforcements, nor will he turn his army back for fresh supplies, but crosses the enemy's frontier without delay. The value of time—that is, being a little ahead of your opponent—has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the nicest calculations with regard to commissariat.

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs. 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 the people to be impoverished.

On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause people's substance to be drained away. When their substance is drained away, they will be afflicted by heavy exactions. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and their incomes dissipated; at the same time government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breastplates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantlets, draught oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to almost half its total revenue.

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** of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.

Now, in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger. For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards. Thus, when you capture spoils from the enemy, they must be used as rewards, so that all your men may have a keen desire to fight, each on his own account.

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 it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.

* 2.78 modern li make a mile. The length may have varied slightly since Sun Tzu's time.

** A Chinese unit of weight equal to 133.33 pounds.

III: THE SHEATHED SWORD

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. 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. 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 destroy them.

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; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities, because the preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take three months more. The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one third of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege.

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 disputes the mastery of the empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph is complete.

This is the method of attacking by stratagem of using the sheathed sword.

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, one to meet the enemy in front, and one to fall upon his rear; if he replies to the frontal attack, he may be crushed from behind; if to the rearward attack, he may be crushed in front.

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. Though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.

The general is the bulwark of the state: if the bulwark is strong 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 sovereign 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 is called hobbling the army.

By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions that obtain in an army.

This causes restlessness in the soldiers' minds. Humanity and justice are the principles on which to govern a state, but not an army; opportunism and flexibility, on the other hand, are military rather than civic virtues.

By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
Su-ma Ch'ien about 100 B.C. added to this section: If a general is ignorant of the principle of adaptability, he must not be entrusted with a position of authority. The skillful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man. For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.
When the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is sure to come from the other feudal princes. This is simply 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 its 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.

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 you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

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Table of Contents

Preface 11
A Note on the Translation and Pronunciation 21
Chronology of Approximate Dynastic Periods 25
General Introduction and Historical Background 29
Introduction 77
The Art of War in Translation 163
1 Initial Estimations 165
2 Waging War 171
3 Planning Offensives 175
4 Military Disposition 181
5 Strategic Military Power 185
6 Vacuity and Substance 189
7 Military Combat 195
8 Nine Changes 201
9 Maneuvering the Army 205
10 Configurations of Terrain 211
11 Nine Terrains 217
12 Incendiary Attacks 225
13 Employing Spies 229
Tomb Texts and Lost Writings 235
Notes to the General Introduction and Historical Background 249
Selected Notes to the Introduction 275
Notes to the Translation 301
Notes to the Tomb Texts and Lost Writings 331
Selected Bibliography 337
Glossary 351
Index 363
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 621 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(246)

4 Star

(139)

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(108)

2 Star

(46)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 629 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2011

    Get it free

    This book and many other classics are free from "Project Gutenburg" on various ebook formats.

    25 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 11, 2010

    Review of Sun Tzu

    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.

    19 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2011

    Very poorly formatted

    The Art of War is an excellent book-when it's in a readable format. This is NOT the format to choose.

    10 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Interesting

    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.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    like the text, hate the formatting

    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.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Must Have

    on every bookshelf. Brilliant read.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2005

    I love this book!!!

    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.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    On the whole, not a bad copy........

    Preserves and present the original text nicely, but could do without the definitions that interupt the flow of the text.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2011

    Timeless Advice, Enjoyable Read

    The Art of War is a military classic, written around 400 BC. However, because the maxims contained in the book are so succinct and universal, this is still a useful book for understanding and waging war today. The central themes are to attack where the enemy is weak, deceive the enemy into attacking you on your terms (not his), and the use of espionage to confuse the enemy while gathering information for your own use.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    The art or war

    I knew that the book wuld be realy good but I wasn't expecting it to be this good

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

    Demigod person

    I think it is very useful. If the trojans had it they just might have won the war.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

    Good

    Just confusing but i am also 13

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2011

    Its just complicated

    I feel like it is imposible to read but yet ver interesting. Its complicated

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Written 2500 years ago, but still relevant today!

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2012

    Highly recommended.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    SUKY

    This book sucks it big horible ripoff

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    Very useful

    He was even more of a genius with strategy than Alexander the great!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Not good

    Half the book is about if sun zo rilly exsisted

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Good translation; Okay commentaries; Skip the introduction

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    A must read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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