The Art of War

( 17 )

Overview

Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world today, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it as been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory ...

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Overview

Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world today, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it as been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding of the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.

Translated from a standard collection of commentaries on Sun Tzu's text by eleven interpreters, this pocket classic has been edited by Thomas Cleary to bring out the meaning of the principles of strategy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Thomas Cleary's translation of Sun Tzu's 2,000-year-old The Art of War makes immediately relevant one of the greatest Chinese classical texts. There's not a dated maxim or vague prescription in it. 'To win without fighting is best,' Sun Tzu said. For him, war was coeval with life. Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership."— Newsweek
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This new translation of the ancient Chinese military treatise includes chapters of historical analysis touching on its relevance to today's corporate environment. (June)
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.
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: 9780877735373
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1991
  • Series: Shambhala Pocket Classics Series
  • Edition description: Abridged Pocket Book
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 127,750
  • Product dimensions: 3.00 (w) x 4.50 (h) x 0.35 (d)

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.

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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 theremarkable 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 4.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2004

    Absolutely fabulous

    There's no better book that this when it comes to military and warfare. Pity the book is NOT standard reading for OCS, West Point or The Citadel. Yet most of my officer buddies all have a copy. It helps clear matters up and gives a perspective and deeper understanding about warfare and even modern business practices. This book will certainly enlighten you in more ways that you can imagine,

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2005

    Although written centuries ago this book still holds practical applications today

    The tools of war have changed drastically since the days of Sun Tzu. However the techniques and purposes of war have not. Written centuries ago it still has practical applications in armed conflicts that will be waged today and those that will be waged centuries from now...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2004

    thousands of years old and still the best

    Great book to read. When I lead a group of people one day. I will <br>make sure they read this book. Like A Warrior Blends With Life book, they look at <br>life like war. 'Life is war', that is the philoshphy. The book goes into detail <br>about the use of force and how it is used to win battles. A very good book indeed. I will have to read it again to get a better understanding of it. To understand your enemy is a valuabe trait. To expose and use his strengths and weaknesses against him/her is vary valuable indeed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2004

    Very nice to have around

    This book was written about 2,500 years ago in China when a man was told to write a report on war and its bases in combat. The Art of War is a scientific look at how war should be conducted and carried out. It goes into what to do and not to do while at war. Through the book Sun Tzu lays down the basics of assessing a battle, formations, siege planning, and when to go to battle or avoid battle. In the book he makes a metaphor by saying, ¿I am known for curing death and curing great sickness, and I¿m known by many, but there is another man in the village that no one has heard of because he stops death from ever getting near and stops sickness before it becomes great, and for this he is a great healer.¿ This means that it is a greater victory to disarm an opponent long before it ever comes to the highest conflict and to disrupt his allies so he has no one to turn to. This is the strongest point of the book although it goes into more detail of the use of fire and the jobs of spies and other elements of war. Sun Tzu¿s translator, Thomas Cleary, conveys the fine points well and makes the reading easy. He does this by having the actual translation in the text then after it made an understanding into today¿s modern look at things. This helps a lot when the majority of the original text is metaphors and then gives an explanation of the text. There are times when the original text seems to go much longer then the explanation, which leaves readers to figure it out for themselves. This is not always a bad thing in letting the readers to interpret the text for themselves. The book itself is made to just hit the main points of the text and is short, good for looking to and being a guide for decision making.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2003

    Art of War

    After reading The Art of War not knowing that the lesson taught to me through this scripture until I reread it and found that I was using the tactics of Master Sun. This book may stick with you if you allow it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2003

    Art of War

    This text was created to educate one on the matter of resolving probelms, thus this text was and is also a guide to ones' probelms in any matter. PS War is apart of life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2002

    War is for those that are strong

    Sure this is definitely a book for strategy, even for daily life if your a sissy. i mean come on people, this is a strategy book, it gives advise on how to fight a war. Not to solve dumb everyday life stuff. Yeah This is a awesome book, I mean modern combat command should be TRAINING from this book! Read it its really interesting but enough of the EVERYDAY LIFE Stuff!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2002

    Greatest

    Of this has to be the oldest book on management. When it was mentioned in 'Wallstreet' people finally got it that this is a management book. Bit extreme maybe... A good edition of the classic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2001

    Broadening your perspective

    War is not really based on honor... or glory, or even whose right. It's all about conditions, who has the advantage and how to dishearten your opponents while making sure your own resources are protected. It tells you what to look for through hundreds of various quotes and snippets of advice. This book was not entirely by Sun Tzu, but a collection of famous tacticians through-out history. Each seem to add another element to the concept of how to win in conflict. In life, you can see a little of this in each day... but just remember not too get too carried away. After all, even Sun Tzu himself said 'A battle not fought, is a battle won.' For broadening your perspective, I'd suggest adding this book to your collection as well as 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Little Book of Eastern Wisdom' by Taro Gold.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2001

    The great minds

    This book is extremely good on dealing with lifes situations, I have learned from his writings as well as Decheonbae jones writings in the book Verismo and Pearls of justice. You have to get these books and check them out very interesting takes on life and the completion in a ancient poetic form!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2000

    Great book, but there are better translations...

    Ames or Gagliardi's translations are more recent and complete. Before reading, check out Secrets of Sun Tzu are Clearbridge web site. Gagliardi's Clearbridge version gives you access to all their training materials on competition from Art of War.

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    Posted January 23, 2009

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    Posted September 30, 2010

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    Posted January 23, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

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