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The Art of War: The Denma Translation

The Art of War: The Denma Translation

3.6 516
by Sun Tzu, Thomas Cleary

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Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. 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


Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. 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, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has 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 the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way Sun Tzu's The Art of War is undisputedly one of the bestselling leadership books of all time. This new translation by the Denma Translation Group--led by Kidder Smith (Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching), an Asian studies expert at Bowdoin College, and James Gimian, publisher of the Shambhala Sun magazine--helps bridge the gap between the ancient Chinese oral tradition and today's modern reader. It's supplemented with essays and commentary that demonstrate just how much this message of victory without aggression still resonates with how we conduct all aspects of our lives today. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The Art of War is a title familiar to many Westerners, at least by name. Tzu is said to have been the patriarch of the Chinese military lineage that collectively created this work approximately 2300 years ago, and since then the text has fascinated casual readers as well as business and military leaders with its unusually clear delineation of strategic thinking. The standard modern translation with commentary is that of Samuel Griffith (Oxford Univ., 1988). The Denma Translation Group, an amalgam of scholars who are also Buddhist practitioners, was formed specifically for the purpose of creating this new translation in a way that faithfully conveys, as best possible, the meaning and flavor of the classical Chinese. By the group's own admission, this makes the text occasionally difficult. The commentary and essays included, however, will help the reader appreciate that this work has endured, not simply as a manual for the conduct of warfare but because of the depth of the principles on which it is based and their applicability to everyday life. Libraries, particularly academic collections, will want to acquire this as a complement to the Griffith translation. Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll., NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This new translation promises to preserve the enigmatic quality of the original work, a strategy manual whose core idea is an understanding that conflict is an inescapable part of human life and whose purpose is to make war unnecessary. While Sun Tzu's teachings have been widely adopted by those seeking a competitive edge in business, this handsomely designed volume focuses on broader implications of the philosopher's ideas and how they can be applied to everyday circumstances. The translation team was led by Kidder Smith (Asian studies, Bowdoin College) and James Gimian (publisher, magazine). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"The commentary and essays included will help the reader appreciate that this work has endured, not simply as a manual for the conduct of warfare but because of the depth of the principles on which it is based and their applicability to everyday life."—Library Journal

"An exhilarating experience. The principles of translation are among the best I have ever encountered. They have a collective genius. . . ."—Victor H. Mair, Professor, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania

"The Denma Group show us how to apply Sun Tzu's wisdom in everyday situations."—James A. Autry, co-author of Real Wisdom: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching

Product Details

Publication date:
Shambhala Library
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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326 KB

Read an Excerpt


When you are going to attack nearby, make it look as if you are going to go a long way; when you are going to attack far away, make it look as if you are going just a short distance.

Quan – This is to cause the opponent to be unprepared.


Draw them in with the prospect of gain, take them by confusion.

Yaochen – If they are greedy, lure them with goods.

Yu – Show them a little prospect of gain to lure them, then attack and overcome them.

Mu – When the enemy is confused, you can use this opportunity to take them.

Lin – I would have crafty interlopers confuse them, then wait for them to fall directly into disarray in order to take them.

Yu – Use deception to throw them into confusion, lead them on in order to take them. When the states of Wu and Yue were at war with each other, Wu sent out three thousand criminals to give an appearance of disorder so as to lure
Yue. Some of the criminals ran, some of them gave up; the Yue army fought with them, only to be defeated by the army of Wu.


When they are fulfilled, be prepared against them; when they are strong, avoid them.

Mu – If the enemy's government is fulfilled—meaning that there is mutual love between the rulers and the ruled, there is clarity and trustworthiness in the system of rewards and punishments, and the soldiers are well trained—then you should be on guard against them. Do not wait for a clash to make your preparations. When the enemy's military is strong, you should avoid them for the time being, waiting until they slack off, watching for an opening to attack.

Hao – If the enemy does not stir, is complete and fulfilled, then you should prepare carefully. Fulfill yourself too, so as to be ready for them.

Yanxi – If you only see fulfillment in the enemy, and do not see any gap,
then you should build up your power to be prepared.

Yu – A classic says, "Struggling with them, you find out where they have plenty and where they are lacking." Having plenty is what is meant by being fulfilled, lacking is what is meant by having gaps. Once the military power of the adversary is full, you should treat them as if they were unbeatable, and not attack lightly. As a military guide says, "When you see a gap, then advance; when you see fullness, then stop."

Lin – For the weak to control the strong, it is logically necessary to await a change.

You – When their storehouses are full and their soldiers are in top form,
then you should withdraw in order to watch for an opening when they relax,
observing any changes and responding to them.

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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The Art of War 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 516 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book and many other classics are free from "Project Gutenburg" on various ebook formats.
rawhideron More than 1 year ago
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.
Knight-2000 More than 1 year ago
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.
Fyrebird More than 1 year ago
The Art of War is an excellent book-when it's in a readable format. This is NOT the format to choose.
kittypaws More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Preserves and present the original text nicely, but could do without the definitions that interupt the flow of the text.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew that the book wuld be realy good but I wasn't expecting it to be this good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
US-Military-Art-Guy More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think it is very useful. If the trojans had it they just might have won the war.
NelsonH More than 1 year ago
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.
Joel_M More than 1 year ago
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.
Colin Bennett More than 1 year ago
Spent half the time skipping over information and interpretations i didnt want to read. wouldve been better if it was just sun tzu's writing.
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If you want to read all the babble and very little of the actual text- this is your book!
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manircu33 More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sum Tzu said: I'M F***KING CHINESE, NOT JAP! YOU IDIOTS Thank you for sharing my wisdom...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago