The Art of War

The Art of War

4.0 478
by Sun Tzu, Sun Zi

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Complexities of meaning and historical interpretations illustrate the timelessness of Sun Tzu's treatise on war.  See more details below


Complexities of meaning and historical interpretations illustrate the timelessness of Sun Tzu's treatise on war.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This year's crop of Penguin "Great Ideas" volumes offers another eclectic dozen works that shaped society from the ancient Greeks to the 20th century. The books are fairly no frills, but the price isn't bad. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
City Book Review
With editorial notes and a new translation by James Trapp, this beautifully bound book is a must for any strategist or business man, or any everyday man that is looking for tips on how to rise to the top of whatever corporate or social ladder he is climbing.
From the Publisher

Robert L. O’Connell, author of Arms and Men: A History of Warm Weapons, and Aggression
“A tour de force. Sawyer puts this most famous of the classic Chinese military writings into context and shows that Sun-tzu was not just a solitary genius, but the product of a remarkably rich martial culture.”

Robin D.S. Yates, Burlington Northern Professor of Asian Studies, Dartmouth College
“I am convinced that this translation…will prove to be the definitive edition for many years to come.”

Arther Ferrill, author of The Origins of War: From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great
“Fills a serious gap for anyone interested in the history of ancient warfare…a fascinating book.”

Product Details

Cloud Hands, Incorporated
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5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

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Sun-tzu is the earliest extant strategic book in human history. It is also the most brilliant and widely applied strategic book ever written.

This timeless, invaluable classic has been handed down to us over approximately twenty-four hundred years.' Even its earliest existing version -- the Linyi text -- is about twenty-one hundred years old. Throughout these two millennia, Sun-tzu's compact but rich text has been the authoritative guide for military affairs and political activities primarily in the Far East.

In more modern times, Sun-tzu was translated into French (in 1772 ) and so gradually was introduced to the West. It also has come to be extensively adopted in all areas where problem solving, competition, or development require strategic guidance. Therefore, in addition to its traditional military and political uses, it has naturally become a part of international affairs, global trade, political campaigns, athletic competitions, the management of large or small businesses, and even daily concerns for both profit and success. We therefore may say that Sun-tzu can address something as enormous as a country's existence and the achievement of its military goals, or as modest as a person's satisfaction in life.


Sun-tzu is the book's title, and it also is the author's name; labeling a book after its author was customary in China during the pre-Qin period (before 211 B.C.). From historical records we know that Sun-tzu's given name was Sun Wu, that he was born into a noble clan initially surnamed Chen which lived in the state of Qi, and that he was a youngercontemporary of Confucius. Since the early Zhou Dynasty his ancestors had possessed feudal territory south of the Yellow River; theirs was a small state called Chen, which was later assimilated by the major power, Chu (see the map in Appendix 1).

The state of Chen was filled with political intrigues. In 675 B.C. a political storm in which the heir apparent was murdered swept the state, and this persuaded the princeling Chen Wan to escape to the state of Qi. This princeling was the first generation of Sun Wu's clan to live in Qi.

When Chen Wan was still young, his father, the Lord of Chen, invited a taishi in charge of records and astronomy for the Zhou emperor's court to cast an oracle for his son; this oracle foretold that Chen Wan's descendants would possess a state outside of Chen. Later, when Chen Wan was betrothed, his fiancée's family had the bridal couple's fortunes read, and they were told that their descendants would begin to prosper in the fifth generation, and by the eighth generation they would be without peer.

The Power Struggles of Sun Wu's Ancestors

After the Chen clan immigrated to Qi, its members showed a marked ability for political advancement. The fifth-generation descendant of Chen Wan was named Chen Wuyu, and he ultimately achieved the paramount station of daifu (comparable to a proconsul); this coincided with what had been foretold at his great-great-grandmother's betrothal.

Since the Chen clan rose out of a dangerous environment awash with political machinations, it grew to be adept in cultivating exceptional strategic insight, So, at about the time Chen Wuyu became a daifu, he and his father, Chen Wenzi, sensitively took note of the increasingly serious dissension between the ruling Qing clan of Qi and the other nobles. The father said to his son, "Something is about to happen.... What can we gain from this?" Chen Wuyu obliquely replied, "On the main boulevard of the capital we will be able to secure a hundred carts of the Qing family's lumber." Chen Wenzi warned him to "guard them carefully." (This riddle meant that they would obtain the resources on which the Qing clan's political power was based.)

In the autumn of 545 B.C., the wielder of the Qing clan's political power, Qing Feng, went on a hunt with Chen Wuyu accompanying him as an attendant. Before they arrived at the hunting ground, Chen's father sent him the grievous news that Chen Wuyu's mother was critically ill. Qing's men immediately had a tortoiseshell oracle cast and were given a forewarning of death. Tightly clasping the shell in both of his hands, Chen Wuyu wept, and Qing Feng therefore allowed him to return. On his way back, though, Chen Wuyu destroyed all of the boats and bridges, thereby cutting off Qing Feng's return route. And upon his arrival, the Chen clan instantly allied itself with the enemies of the Qing clan.

Before long, the Lord of Qi held the autumnal sacrifices. While the Qing clan still remaining in the capital guarded the shrine, the Chens and their allies sent in their own grooms to sing at the festivities. As the hours passed, the Qing men took off their armor, tethered their horses, drank wine, and enjoyed the entertainment. When the time was ripe, the Chens and their allies swiftly stole all of the armor and weapons, then slew the entire Qing family. The Chen clan thereupon began its climb to become the most politically influential in all of Qi.

Chen Wuyu had three sons: Kai, Qi, and Shu. The surname Sun was conferred upon the third son, Chen Shu, because of his military accomplishments; he became Sun Wu's father. The three sons of Chen Wuyu all gained considerable experience as battle commanders, in addition to their political seasoning.

The second son, Chen Qi, was the most adept of the three at political intrigue; he was the one his father and grandfather relied on for realizing their plans to seize power in Qi. Since ancient times those who have lusted after power typically have been ruthless -- they have cared nothing for bonds or relationships -- so we can imagine how fragile the family ties of these three Chen brothers must have been.

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What People are saying about this

Tony Soprano
Been reading that-- that book you told me about. You know, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I mean here's this guy, a Chinese general, wrote this thing 2400 years ago, and most of it still applies today! Balk the enemy's power. Force him to reveal himself. You know most of the guys that I know, they read Prince Machiabelli, and I had Carmela go and get the Cliff Notes once and -- he's okay. But this book is much better about strategy.
From the Publisher
"The strategic advice that [The Art of War] offers concerns much more than the conduct of war. It is an ancient book of proverbial wisdom, a book of life." (John Minford, from the Introduction)
Samuel B. Griffith
"As a reflection of the Chinese mind, this little work is as relevant as any Confucian classic." -- Brigadier General, ret. U.S. Marine Corps, is the author of The Battle for Guadalcanal, Peking and People and People's Wars, The Chinese People's Liberation Army, and editor and translator of Mao Tse-tung: On Guerilla War.

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The Art of War 4 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 478 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not merely a military or tactical manual - this is a book of pure wisdom. Sun Tzu was way ahead of his time in creating such an extraordinary guide to strategy and leadership, both in and out of combat. Read this book once, then read it again the advice and aphorisms that flow from it are infinite each time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book full of wisdom and knowledge in the dealings of war. The concept of war can then be taken from the text and applied to all area of one's life. I have become a stronger individual after reading the book.
DonQuixote18 More than 1 year ago
While originally thought to be a manual for making and winning wars and battles, astute readers and practioners will find Sun Tzu's writing to be a way of living life. The priciaples of war ae there for certain but think, dig deeper and improve your life.
GiaTheBookWorm More than 1 year ago
on every bookshelf. Brilliant read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Its not what you say but how you say it....' In The Art of War Sun Tzu explained how important dicipline must be heard.
The_wonderous_Mutt More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book, but I don't want people to be deceived, it's dry. The driest martini in the world type of dry, the Sahara looks like a rain forest dry. It is meant to be educational and it is useful for creating your own philosophies and maybe a little bit useful in warfare (still great if you want to wage an ancient war). But not every reader that loves reading will understand why this is great. it is not an escape.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a good tool for anyone to use in order to get ahead in any career.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My hockey team went on a retreat about 9 months ago. We were told that we would be uncofortable. Over the course of a few days, our coach opened up Sun Tzu's work to us. He focused on the Chinese word 'tao', which means 'the way'. Sun Tzu used it to refer to battle, we used it to refer to a battle on the ice rink. We made our own tao and used it throughout the season. This is just one small way the book can relate to other things than war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the wisdom of Sun Tzu remains infallible throughout the ages, the commentary of Lionel Giles is asinine, unwanted, and unavoidable in this edition of Art of War. Mixed in with the translation of the original text, Giles' notations are unneeded at best, but are distracting and then irritating most of the time as they disrupt the flow of Sun Tzu's counsel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found myself reading into Military strategies and this book popped up. Well just to put it plain and simple this is a great book. I loved how it taught strategies not only for war but for leadership in any situation.
Franz_Bonaparta More than 1 year ago
As a United States Marine who served in Iraq as a sniper, I strongly recommend this book. Even though this book was written a long time ago this general knew what he was talking about this book has many philosophies that I enjoyed very much and even though I have not finished reading the book I am looking forward to reading the rest of it. For all those who love reading like I do take a read at this awesome book. I leave you all with this quote from the book. "Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as  Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four season, they pass away to return once more". 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent. A classic read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought that the book was very well written. I found that you have to attack from higher ground. Thats how it is in life and in war. I thought the book was very informational. It was written in a format that i could understand.
dessiiflychick More than 1 year ago
Sun Tzu and his book of knowledge was and is one of the greatest pieces of knowledge man has ever created. From war to the job his strategies are very applicable.
gbautista72 More than 1 year ago
Amazing knowledge & wisdom on war tactics. Sun Tzu wrote & others observed these writing throughougt history. Sun Tzu wrote it's is better not to fight than to be involved in a conflict, but if you are going to have to fight, have your strategy and plan in place. I agree with this good summary of the lessons: "When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move." "In conflict, straightforward actions generally lead to engagement, surprising actions generally lead to victory." "Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle .... They conquer by strategy." "Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril." "In war, numbers alone confer no advantage." "To ... not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues." "What is of the greatest importance in war is extraordinary speed: One cannot afford to neglect opportunity." 
1000_Character_Reviews More than 1 year ago
The Art of War has in recent decades been applied to such modern day problems as politics and business - really anything where conflict can surface. It was also suggested reading during my entire time in business school. So, I finally pulled the trigger and read the "original" (or at least the most well-regarded translation) The Art of War. The most impressive thing to me (which is explained in the introductory material) is how well the Chinese recorded their history. My only complaint about the introductory materials was that most great Chinese historical figures have multiple names - this makes it hard to track who is who in some of the commentaries. The actual strategies themselves are full of guidelines on determining your opponent's weaknesses, exploiting them and achieving victory. Not exactly full of moral or ethical advice, so I can't use much of it. I'm glad that I read it as it gave me a great look into Chinese history...but its practical use in my world is limited.
James_Durby21 More than 1 year ago
This book was cool. If you are creative enough you can apply this stuff to modern opposition in life. The only reason I didn't give it 5 is because some people might have trouble with the old references to war. Although it's still relative today, it might be a slow read in some spots. I just read an amazing book like this but for leadership and it has amazing references to life. Very similar. If you loved this book like I did then you will absolutely love the book "Don't Follow Me I'm The Leader". These style of books are so helpful... Good Luck & Happy Reading!
Alex_J More than 1 year ago
This is a great edition of "The Art of War" the editing is perfect and it really helps you understand what you're reading. I own 3 versions of the Art of War and this is by far the best version. Who would believe that a book on military strategy from the 6th century BC, would be this relevant to todays affairs, be it business or strategy.
alexmorris444 More than 1 year ago
Introduction Sun Tzu's strategy to war was more unique than any dynasty emperors. It consisted of spies, And even stealth attacks. Description and summary of main points The way sun Tzu's army was composed .It had very many consistent With nobody's army was. His army was very intelligent. Evaluation His army was very unique. with any he was a strategic genius. And is general was a master swordsman. Conclusion This book is very likeable if you can tolerate mythology And his commander Yao Shin was a smart man as well. Your final review This book was very good's liked a lot
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dave05641 More than 1 year ago
I purchased as a thought provoker about warfare and it's cryptic almost oracle like pronouncements served the purpose admirably.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For much,much more than just warfare.getting a job,even a hot dog eating contest you could use this for