The Art of War: Complete Texts and Commentaries [NOOK Book]


Sun Tzu's Art of War, compiled more than two thousand years ago, is a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict. It is perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world today. Now, this unique volume brings together the essential versions of Sun Tzu's text, along with illuminating commentaries and auxiliary texts written by distinguished strategists. The translations, by the renowned translator Thomas Cleary, have all been published previously in book form, except for The Silver ...

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The Art of War: Complete Texts and Commentaries

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Sun Tzu's Art of War, compiled more than two thousand years ago, is a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict. It is perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world today. Now, this unique volume brings together the essential versions of Sun Tzu's text, along with illuminating commentaries and auxiliary texts written by distinguished strategists. The translations, by the renowned translator Thomas Cleary, have all been published previously in book form, except for The Silver Sparrow Art of War, which is available here for the first time. This collection contains:

The Art of War: This edition of Sun Tzu's text includes the classic collection of commentaries by eleven interpreters.

Mastering the Art of War: Consisting of essays by two prominent statesmen-generals of Han dynasty China, Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji, this book develops the strategies of Sun Tzu's classic into a complete handbook of organization and leadership. It draws on episodes from Chinese history to show in concrete terms the proper use of Sun Tzu's principles.

The Silver Sparrow Art of War: A version of Sun Tzu's Art of War based on a manuscript of the classic text discovered at a Chinese archeological site in China's Shandong Province in 1972, which contains previously unknown fragments.

Note: The electronic edition of this book does not contain The Lost Art of War, as seen in the paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834827301
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Series: Shambhala Publications
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 323,745
  • File size: 690 KB

Meet the Author

The warrior-philosopher and master strategist Sun Tzu, about whom little is known, compiled The Art of War more than two thousand years ago. Legend has it that he was known for the brilliant campaigns he led around the time of Confucius. His work was memorized and passed down orally, before eventually being copied onto bamboo strips and passed around.

Thomas Cleary holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. He is the translator of over fifty volumes of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Islamic texts from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and Arabic.

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Read an Excerpt

the Translator's Introduction

Taoism and

Art of War

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.

The physician, whose reputation was such that his name became synonymous with medical science in China, replied, "My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so his name does not get out of the house.

"My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute, so his name does not get out of the neighborhood.

"As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords."

Among the tales of ancient China, none captures more beautifully than this the essence of
Art of
the premiere classic of the science of strategy in conflict. A Ming dynasty critic writes of this little tale of the physician: "What is essential for leaders, generals, and ministers in running countries and governing armies is no more than this."

The healing arts and the martial arts may be a world apart in ordinary usage, but they are parallel in several senses: in recognizing, as the story says, that the less needed the better, in the sense that both involve strategy in dealing with disharmony, and in the sense that in both knowledge of the problem is key to the solution.

As in the story of the ancient healers, in Sun Tzu's philosophy the peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict altogether unnecessary: "To overcome others' armies without fighting is the best of skills." And like the story of the healers, Sun Tzu explains there are all grades of martial arts: The superior militarist foils enemies' plots; next best is to ruin their alliances; next after that is to attack their armed forces;
worst is to besiege their cities.

Just as the eldest brother in the story was unknown because of his acumen and the middle brother was hardly known because of his alacrity, Sun Tzu also affirms that in ancient times those known as skilled warriors won when victory was still easy, so the victories of skilled warriors were not known for cunning or rewarded for bravery.

This ideal strategy whereby one could win without fighting, accomplish the most by doing the least, bears the characteristic stamp of Taoism, the ancient tradition of knowledge that fostered both the healing arts and the martial arts in China. The
Way and Its Power,
applies the same strategy to society that Sun Tzu attributes to warriors of ancient times:

Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small. The most difficult things in the world must be done while they are still easy, the greatest things in the world must be done while they are still small. For this reason sages never do what is great, and this is why they can achieve that greatness.

Written over two thousand years ago during a period of prolonged civil warfare,
Art of War
emerged from the same social conditions as some of the greatest classics of Chinese humanism, including the
Taking a rational rather than an emotional approach to the problem of conflict, Sun
Tzu showed how understanding conflict can lead not only to its resolution, but even to its avoidance altogether.

The prominence of Taoist thought in
Art of War
has been noted by scholars for centuries, and the classic of strategy is recognized in both philosophical and political works of the Taoist canon. The level of knowledge represented by the upper reaches of
Art of War,
the level of invincibility and the level of no conflict, is one expression of what
Taoist lore calls "deep knowledge and strong action."

Book of Balance and Harmony (Chung-ho chi/Zhongho ii),
a medieval Taoist work, says, "Deep knowledge of principle knows without seeing, strong practice of the Way accomplishes without striving. Deep knowledge is to 'know without going out the door, see the way of heaven without looking out the window.' Strong action is to 'grow ever stronger, adapting to all situations.'"

In terms of
Art of War,
the master warrior is likewise the one who knows the psychology and mechanics of conflict so intimately that every move of an opponent is seen through at once,
and one who is able to act in precise accord with situations, riding on their natural patterns with a minimum of effort.
Book of Balance and Harmony
goes on to describe Taoist knowledge and practice further in terms familiar to the quest of the warrior.

Deep knowledge is to be aware of disturbance before disturbance, to be aware of danger before danger, to be aware of destruction before destruction, to be aware of calamity before calamity. Strong action is training the body without being burdened by the body, exercising the mind without being used by the mind,
working in the world without being affected by the world, carrying out tasks without being obstructed by tasks.

By deep knowledge of principle, one can change disturbance into order, change danger into safety, change destruction into survival, change calamity into fortune. By strong action on the Way, one can bring the body to the realm of longevity, bring the mind to the sphere of mystery, bring the world to great peace, and bring tasks to great fulfillment.

As these passages suggest, warriors of Asia who used Taoist or Zen arts to achieve profound calmness did not do so just to prepare their minds to sustain the awareness of imminent death, but also to achieve the sensitivity needed to respond to situations without stopping to ponder.
Book of Balance and Harmony

Comprehension in a state of quiescence, accomplishment without striving, knowing without seeing—this is the sense and response of the Transformative Tao. Comprehension in a state of quiescence can comprehend anything, accomplishment without striving can accomplish anything, knowing without seeing can know anything.

As in
Art of War,
the range of awareness and efficiency of the Taoist adept is unnoticeable,
imperceptible to others, because their critical moments take place before ordinary intelligence has mapped out a description of the situation.
Book of Balance and Harmony

To sense and comprehend after action is not worthy of being called comprehension.
To accomplish after striving is not worthy of being called accomplishment. To know after seeing is not worthy of being called knowing. These three are far from the way of sensing and response.

to be able to do something before it exists, sense something before it becomes active, see something before it sprouts, are three abilities that develop interdependently. Then nothing is sensed but is comprehended, nothing is undertaken without response, nowhere does one go without benefit.

One of the purposes of Taoist literature is to help to develop this special sensitivity and responsiveness to master living situations.
Book of Balance and Harmony
mentions the "Transformative Tao" in reference to the analytical and meditative teachings of the
the locus classicus of the formula for sensitivity and responsiveness. Like the
and other classical Taoist literature,
Art of War
has an incalculable abstract reserve and metaphorical potential. And like other classical Taoist literature, it yields its subtleties in accord with the mentality of the reader and the manner in which it is put into practice.

The association of martial arts with Taoist tradition extends back to the legendary
Yellow Emperor of the third millennium B.C.E.,

one of the major culture heroes of China and an important figure in Taoist lore.
According to myth, the Yellow Emperor conquered savage tribes through the use of magical martial arts taught him by a Taoist immortal, and he is also said to have composed the famous
Convergence Classic (Yinfu ching/Yinfu jing),
Taoist work of great antiquity traditionally given both martial and spiritual interpretations.

Over a thousand years later, warrior chieftains overthrowing the remnants of ancient
Chinese slave society and introducing humanistic concepts of government composed the classic sayings of the
Taoist text traditionally used as a basis for both martial and civil arts. The basic principles of the
figure prominently in Sun Tzu's science of political warfare, just as they are essential to individual combat and defense techniques in the traditional martial arts that grew out of Taoist exercises.

The next great Taoist text after the
Convergence Classic
was the
Art of War
a product of the era of the Warring States, which ravaged China in the middle of the first millennium B.C.E.

This great classic represents the prevailing attitude toward war that characterizes
Sun Tzu's manual: that it is destructive even for the victors, often counterproductive, a reasonable course of action only when there is no choice:

Those who assist a leader by means of the Tao do not use arms to coerce the world,
for these things tend to reverse—brambles grow where an army has been, bad years follow a great war.

Weapons are inauspicious instruments, not the tools of the enlightened. When there is no choice but to use them, it is best to be calm and free from greed, and not celebrate victory. Those who celebrate victory are bloodthirsty, and the bloodthirsty cannot have their way with the world.

In a similar way,
Art of War
pinpoints anger and greed as fundamental causes of defeat. According to Sun Tzu, it is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune. The

Those who are good at knighthood are not militaristic, those who are good at battle do not become angry, those who are good at prevailing over opponents do not get involved.

The strategy of operating outside the sphere of emotional influence is part of the general strategy of unfathomability that
Art of War
emphasizes in characteristic Taoist style: Sun Tzu says, "Those skilled in defense hide in the deepest depths of the earth, those skilled in attack maneuver in the highest heights of the sky. Therefore they can preserve themselves and achieve complete victory."

This emphasis on the advantage of enigma pervades Taoist thinking, from the political realm to the realms of commerce and craft, where, it is said, "A
good merchant hides his treasures and appears to have nothing," and
"A good craftsman leaves no traces." These sayings were adopted by
Zen Buddhists to represent their art, and the uncanny approach to the warrior's way was taken up both literally and figuratively by Zen Buddhists, who were among the foremost students of the Taoist classics and developers of esoteric martial arts.

Writings on both the civil and military aspects of political organization are found throughout the Taoist canon.
Book of the Huainan Masters (Huainanzi/Huai-nan-tzu),
one of the great Taoist classics of the early Han dynasty, which followed the dramatic end of the Warring States period, includes an entire chapter on Taoist military science that takes up the central theme of the practice of
Art of War:

In martial arts, it is important that strategy be unfathomable, that form be concealed, and that movements be unexpected, so that preparedness against them be impossible.

What enables a good general to win without fail is always having unfathomable wisdom and a modus operandi that leaves no tracks.

Only the formless cannot be affected. Sages hide in unfathomability, so their feelings cannot be observed; they operate in formlessness, so their lines cannot be crossed.

Art of War,
Tzu writes, "Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."

Sun Tzu and the masters of Huainan, a group of Taoist and Confucian sages gathered by a local king, recognize a level of wisdom where conflict does not emerge and victory is not visible to the ordinary eye, but both books are,
after all, written in recognition of the difficulty and rarity of this refined attainment. Like Sun Tzu's art of war, the strategy of the masters of Huainan provides for actual conflict, not only as a last resort, but also as an operation to be carried out under the strictest conditions, with appropriate leadership:

general must see alone and know alone, meaning that he must see what others do not see and know what others do not know. Seeing what others do not see is called brilliance, knowing what others do not know is called genius. Brilliant geniuses win first, meaning that they defend in such a way as to be unassailable and attack in such a way as to be irresistible.

The rigorous conditions of Taoistic military action are paralleled by those of
Taoist spiritual practice. Metaphors of peace and war axe widely used in manuals of Taoist meditation and exercise. One of the most basic principles of
Taoist practice, deriving from the teachings of the
is the mastery of "emptiness and fullness," which has both physical and psychological implications.

Given an entire chapter in
Art of War,
the mastery of emptiness and fullness is fundamental to the physical accomplishment o Taoist fighting arts like Absolute Boxing, and to the organizational, or sociopolitical, aspect of the arts of both civil and military governrnent.
Explaining the understanding of emptiness and fullness as the
to certain victory, the masters of Huainan say:

This is a matter of emptiness and fullness. When there are rifts between superiors and subordinates, when generals and officers are disaffected with each other,
and dissatisfaction has built up in the minds of the troops, this is called emptiness. When the civilian leadership is intelligent and the military leadership is good, when superiors and subordinates are of like mind, and will and energy operate together, this is called fullness.

The skilled can fill their people with energy to confront the emptiness of others,
while the incompetent drain their people of energy in face of the fullness of others.

When welfare and justice embrace the whole people, when public works are sufficient to meet national emergencies, when the policy of selection for office is satisfactory to the intelligent, when planning is sufficient to know strengths and weaknesses, that is the basis of certain victory.

The political basis of military strength, or the social basis of the strength of any organization, is a teaching that is also rooted in the
Art of War
this is given premier importance, as the first item in the first chapter, on strategy, involves examining the Way of an adversary group—the moral fiber,
the coherence of the social order, the popularity of the government, or the common morale. Under the right conditions, according to Sun Tzu, a small group could prevail over a large group; and among the conditions that could make this possible were justice, order, cohesion, and morale. This is another pivot of
Chinese thought that is also highlighted by the masters of Huainan in the context of military strategy:

Strength is not just a matter of extensive territory and a large population, victory is not just a matter of efficient armaments, security is not just a matter of high walls and deep moats, authority is not just a matter of strict orders and frequent punishments. Those who establish a viable organization will survive even if they are small, while those who establish a moribund organization will perish even if they are large.

This theme is also emphasized by another of the great military strategists of old
China, Zhuge Liang of the third century C.E., who followed the teachings of Sun
Tzu to become legendary for his genius:

Tao of military operations lies in harmonizing people. When people are in harmony, they will fight naturally, without being exhorted to do so. If the officers and soldiers are suspicious of each other, warriors will not join up;
if loyal advice is not heard, small minds will talk and criticize in secret.
When hypocrisy sprouts, even if you have the wisdom of ancient warrior kings you could not defeat a peasant, let alone a crowd of them. This is why tradition says, "A military operation is like a fire; if it is not stopped, it will burn itself out."

Zhuge's status as a practical genius is so great that his writings, his designs, and writings about him are actually included in the Taoist canon. Like
Art of War
and the Taoist classics, Zhuge's philosophy of warfare approaches the positive by way of the negative, in the Taoist fashion of "nondoing":

In ancient times, those who governed well did not arm, those who were armed well did not set up battle lines, those who set up battle lines well did not fight,
those who fought well did not lose, those who lost well did not perish.

This echoes the idea of combat as a last resort, the ideal of winning without fighting offered by
Art of War,
following the teaching of the
Liang also quotes the classic admonition from this revered Taoist text,
"Weapons are instruments of ill omen, to be used only when unavoidable," but he too shares the Taoist historical consciousness that the age of original humanity was already gone, and like Sun Tzu he was personally involved in a time of raging civil war. Zhuge's work in the Taoist canon therefore contains both rational views and practical teachings for political and military security that follow closely on those of ancient Sun Tzu:

The administration of military affairs means the administration of border affairs,
or the administration of affairs in outlying regions, in such a way as to relieve people from major disturbances.

This administration is done by authority and military prowess, executing the violent and rebellious in order to preserve the country and keep the homeland secure.
This is why civilization requires the existence of military preparedness.

It is for this reason that beasts have claws and fangs. When they are joyful, they play with each other, when angry they attack each other. Humans have no claws or fangs, so they make armor and weapons to help defend themselves.

So nations have armies to help them, rulers have ministers to assist them. When the helper is strong, the nation is secure; when the helper is weak, the nation is in peril.

Zhuge follows Sun Tzu directly, as he does in his emphasis on leadership and its popular basis. In Sun Tzu's scheme, both civil and military leadership are among the first conditions to be scrutinized. Zhuge follows Sun Tzu and the masters of Huainan in seeing the strength of leadership based at once on personal qualities and on popular support. In Taoist thought, power was moral as well as material, and it was believed that moral power manifested itself both as self-mastery and as influence over others. To explain the strength of a national defense force, Zhuge writes:

This in turn depends on the generals entrusted with military leadership. A general that is not popular is not a help to the nation, not a leader of the army.

general who is "not popular" is one who, according to another way of reading the characters, "denies the people." Sun Tzu emphasizes the unity of wills as a fundamental source of strength, and his minimalist philosophy of warfare is a natural outgrowth of the central idea of common interests on the basis of this principle. Zhuge Liang again quotes the
to express the ideal of the sage warrior concerned for the body of society as a whole—"Weapons are instruments of ill omen, to be used only when it is unavoidable."Zhuge also follows
Art of War
closely in his emphasis on avoiding action without strategy as well as action without need:

The way to use weapons is to carry out operations only after having first determined your strategy. Carefully examine the patterns of the climate and terrain, and look into the hearts of the people. Train in the use of military equipment, make patterns of rewards and punishments clear, observe the strategy of opponents, watch out for dangerous passes en route, distinguish places of safety and danger, find out the conditions of both sides, be aware of when to advance and when to withdraw, adapt to the timing of circumstances, set up defensive measures while strengthening your attack force, promote soldiers for their ability, draw up plans for success, consider the matter of life and death—only when you have done all this can you send forth armies entrusted to generals that will reach out with the power to capture opponents.

Speed and coordination, central to success in battle according to Sun Tzu's art of war, also derive not only from strategic preparedness, but from the psychological cohesion on which leadership depends; Zhuge writes:

general is a commander, a useful tool for a nation. First determining strategy then carrying it out, his command is as though borne afloat on a torrent, his conquest is like a hawk striking its prey. Like a drawn bow when still, like a machine starting up in action, he breaks through wherever he turns, and even powerful enemies perish. If the general has no foresight and the soldiers lack impetus, mere strategy without unification of wills cannot suffice to strike fear into an enemy even if you have a million troops.

Sun Tzu's classic as the ultimate manual for successful strategy, Zhuge concludes his essay on military organization by summing up the main points of
Art of War
as he incorporated them into his own practice, centering on those aspects of the training and mood of warriors that derive from Taoist tradition:

Have no hard feelings toward anyone who has not shown you enmity, do not fight with anyone who does not oppose you. The effective skill of an engineer can only be seen by the eyes of an expert, the operation of plans in battle can only be set in action through the strategy of Sun Tzu.

Sun Tzu, Zhuge emphasizes the advantages of unexpectedness and speed, capable of reversing otherwise insurmountable odds:

Planning should be secret, attack should be swift. When an army takes its objective like a hawk striking its prey, and battles like a river broken through a dam, its opponents will scatter before the army tires. This is the use of the momentum of an army.

As mentioned before, among the main points of emphasis in Sun Tzu's art of war is objectivity, and his classic teaches how to assess situations in a dispassionate manner. Zhuge also follows Sun in this, stressing the advantage of carefully calculated action:

Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win.

Zhuge quotes
Art of War
adding Sun Tzu's warnings about the consequences of poor planning, wasteful actions, and wasteful personnel:

country is exhausted when it must buy its supplies at high prices, and is impoverished when it ships supplies long distances. Attacks should not be repeated, battles should not be multiplied. Use strength according to capacity,
aware that it will be spent with excessive use. Get rid of the worthless, and the country can be peaceful; get rid of the incompetent, and the country can be profited.

Zhuge goes on in the tradition of the
Ching, The Art of War,
Masters of Huainan
to give victory to the unfathomable:

skilled attack is one against which opponents do not know how to defend; a skilled defense is one which opponents do not know how to attack. Therefore those skilled in defense are not so because of fortress walls.

This is why high walls and deep moats do not guarantee security, while strong armor and effective weapons do not guarantee strength. If opponents want to hold firm, attack where they are unprepared; if opponents want to establish a battlefront, appear where they do not expect you.

This idea of knowing while being unknown, repeated again and again as a key to success, is one of the strongest links between Taoist meditation and
Art of War,
for the secret to this art of "invisibility" is precisely the interior detachment cultivated by Taoists for attaining impersonal views of objective reality. Certain of the philosophical teachings of early Taoism are commonly used in practical schools as codes for exercises used in personal cultivation.

Understanding the practical aspect of Taoist philosophical teachings helps to cut through the sense of paradox that may be caused by seemingly contradictory attitudes. That
Sun Tzu calmly teaches the ruthless art of war while condemning war may seem contradictory if this fact is seen outside the context of the total understanding of the human mentality fostered by Taoist learning.

The simultaneous appreciation of very different points of view is a powerful Taoist technique, whose understanding can resolve contradiction and paradox. The model of the paradox of
Art of War
can be seen in the
where both ruthlessness and kindness are part of the Way of the sage.

"Heaven and earth are not humanistic—they regard myriad beings as straw dogs; sages are not humanistic—they regard people as straw dogs," wrote the philosopher of the
horrified Western Sinologist working in the 1950s, shortly after the truce in
Korea, wrote that this passage had "unleashed a monster," but to a
Taoist this statement does not represent inhumanity but an exercise in objectivity, similar to Buddhist exercises in impersonality.

In modern terms, this sort of statement is no different from that of a psychologist or sociologist making the observation that the attitudes,
thoughts, and expectations of entire nations are not arrived at purely by a multitude of independent rational decisions, but largely under the influence of environmental factors beyond the control of the individual or even the community.

Sun Tzu's classic attests, the place of such an observation in the art of war is not to cultivate a callous or bloodthirsty attitude, but to understand the power of mass psychology. Understanding how people can be manipulated through emotions, for example, is as useful for those who wish to avoid this as it is for those who wish to practice it.

Seen in this light,
Art of War
is no more a call to arms than a study on conditioning is a recommendation for slavery. By so thoroughly analyzing the political, psychological, and material factors involved in conflict, Sun Tzu's professed aim was not to encourage warfare but to minimize and curtail it.

An impersonal view of humanity as not the master of its own fate may be necessary to liberate a warrior from emotional entanglements that might precipitate irrational approaches to conflict; but it is not, in the Taoist scheme of things, held to justify destructive behavior. The counterbalance to this view is also found in the
Sun Tzu's teachings in
Art of War:

have three treasures that I keep and prize: one is kindness, second is frugality, and third is not presuming to take precedence over others. By kindness one can be brave, by frugality one can reach out, and by not presuming to take precedence one can survive effectively. If one gives up kindness and courage, gives up frugality and breadth, and gives up humility for aggressiveness, one will die. The exercise of kindness in battle leads to victory, the exercise of kindness in defense leads to security.

In his classic Master Sun likens military action to a "fire, which burns itself out if not stopped," and if his strategy of success without conflict was not always attainable, his strategy of hyperefficiency could at least minimize senseless violence and destruction. In Taoist terms, success is often gained by not doing, and the strategy of
Art of War
is as much in knowing what not to do and when not to do it as it is in knowing what to do and when to do it.

The art of not doing—which includes the unobtrusiveness, unknowability, and ungraspability at the core of esoteric Asian martial arts—belongs to the branch of Taoism known as the science of essence. The arts of doing—which include the external techniques of both cultural and martial arts—belong to the branch of Taoism known as the science of life. The science of essence has to do with state of mind, the science of life has to do with use of energy.
Like a classic Taoist text, it is in true balance of these two that
Art of War
is most completely understood.

In more modem times, the definitive Taoist statement on this subject is immortalized in
Journey to the West (Hsi-yu chi/Xi you ii),
one of the Four Extraordinary Books of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Drawing on earlier Taoist sources from wartime China under the duress of Mongol invasions, this remarkable novel is a classic representation of the result of what in Taoist terms would be called studying the science of life without the science of essence, material development without corresponding psychological development, or in Sun Tzu's terms having force without intelligence.

The central figure of this novel is a magical monkey who founds a monkey civilization and becomes its leader by establishing a territory for the monkeys. Subsequently the monkey king overcomes a "devil confusing the world," and steals the devil's sword.

Returning to his own land with the devil's sword, the monkey king takes up the practice of swordsmanship. He even teaches his monkey subjects to make toy weapons and regalia to play at war.

though ruler of a nation, the martial monkey king is not yet ruler of himself.
In eminently logical backward reasoning, the monkey reflects that if neighboring nations note the monkeys' play, they might assume the monkeys were preparing for war. In that case, they might therefore take preemptive action against the monkeys, who would then be faced with real warfare armed only with toy weapons.

the monkey king thoughtfully initiates the arms race, ordering pre-preemptive stockpiling of real weapons.

If it seems disconcerting to read a thirteenth-century description of twentieth-century politics, it may be no less so to read a book as old as the
Bible describing tactics in use today not only by guerrilla warriors but by influential politicians and corporate executives. Following the disilusionist posture of the
Art of War,
the story of the monkey king also prefigures a major movement in modern scientific thought following the climax of the Western divorce of religion and science centuries ago.

The monkey king in the story exercised power without wisdom, disrupting the natural order and generally raising hell until he ran into the limits of matter, where he was finally trapped. There he lost the excitement of impulsive enthusiasm,
and he was eventually released to seek the science of essence, under the strict condition that his knowledge and power were to be controlled by compassion, the expression of wisdom and unity of being.

The monkey's downfall finally comes about when he meets Buddha, whom the Taoist celestial immortals summon to deal with the intractable beast. The immortals had attempted to "cook" him in the "cauldron of the eight trigrams," that is, to put him through the training of spiritual alchemy based on the Taoist
but he had jumped out still unrefined.

Buddha conquers the monkey's pride by demonstrating the insuperable law of universal relativity and has him imprisoned in "the mountain of the five elements," the world of matter and energy, where he suffers the results of his arrogant antics.

After five hundred years, at length Guanyin (Kuan Yin), the transhistorical Buddhist saint traditionally honored as the personification of universal compassion,
shows up at the prison of the now repentant monkey and recites this telling verse:

Too bad the magic monkey didn't serve the public

As he madly flaunted heroics in days of yore.

With a cheating heart he made havoc

In the gathering of immortals;

With grandiose gall he went for his ego

To the heaven of happiness.

Among a hundred thousand troops,

None could oppose him;

In the highest heavens above

He had a threatening presence.

But since he was stymied on meeting our Buddha,

When will he ever reach out and show his achievements again?

Now the monkey pleads with the saint for his release. The saint grants this on the condition that the monkey devote himself to the quest for higher enlightenment,
not only for himself but for society at large. Finally, before letting the monkey go to set out on the long road ahead, as a precaution the saint places a ring around the monkey's head, a ring that will tighten and cause the monkey severe pain whenever a certain spell invoking compassion is said in response to any new misbehavior on the part of the monkey.

Art of War
has been known for a hundred generations as the foremost classic of strategy, but perhaps its greatest wizardry lies in the ring of compassion that Master Sun slips over the head of every warrior who tries to use this book. And as history shows, the magic spell that tightens its grip is chanted whenever a warrior forgets the ring.

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Table of Contents



Strategic Assessments

2. Doing Battle
Planning a Siege
Emptiness and Fullness

7. Armed Struggle

8. Adaptations

9. Maneuvering Armies
Nine Grounds
Fire Attack
On the Use of Spies


Note on Pronunciation
Art of War
and the
Strategy and Change
Notes on Sources

One: The Way of the General: Essays on Leadership and Crisis Management
Two: Lessons of War: Studies in Strategy


Introduction 317

Art of War
Organization, and Strategy: How Sun Tzu and Sun Tzu II Complement Each Other



Strategic Measurements
2. Combat 429
3. Planning
4. Formations 433
5. Disposition and Momentum
6. Vulnerability and Substantiality
7. Armed
8. Adapting to All Changes
9. Maneuvering
10. The
Lay of the Land
Nine Grounds
12. Fire
13. Employing
Secret Agents

Sources 459

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 621 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 630 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.

    27 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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.

    11 out of 15 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.

    10 out of 11 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.

    8 out of 10 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 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.

    4 out of 5 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 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

    3 out of 4 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 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


    Just confusing but i am also 13

    2 out of 4 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.

    2 out of 2 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


    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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