Written in China more than 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu's classic The Art of War is the first known study of the planning and conduct of military operations. These terse, aphoristic essays are unsurpassed in comprehensiveness and depth of understanding, examining not only battlefield maneuvers, but also relevant economic, political, and psychological factors. Indeed, the precepts outlined by Sun Tzu can be applied outside the realm of military theory. It is read avidly by Japanese businessmen and in fact was touted in the movie Wall Street as the corporate raider's bible.
In addition to an excellent translation of Sun Tzu's text, Samuel Griffith also provides commentaries written by Chinese strategists, plus several thought-provoking essays on topics such as the influence of Sun Tzu on Mao Tse-tung and on Japanese military thought, the nature of warfare in Sun Tzu's time, and the life of Sun Tzu and other important commentators. Remarkable for its clear organization, lucid prose, and the acuity of its intellectual and moral insights, The Art of War is the definitive study of combat.
About the Author
The late Samuel B. Griffith is the author of The Battle for Guadalcanal and the editor and translator of Mao Tse-tung: "On Guerilla War."
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 conquerlet such a one be retained in command! The general who hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it will suffer defeatlet 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 timethat is, being a little ahead of your opponenthas 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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Table of Contents
|Sun Tzu and the Concubines|
|List of Abbreviations||xvii|
|III.||The Warring States||20|
|IV.||War in Sun Tzu's Age||30|
|V.||Sun Tzu on War||39|
|VI.||Sun Tzu and Mao Tse-tung||45|
|Biography of Sun Tzu||57|
|VI.||Weaknesses and Strengths||96|
|VIII.||The Nine Variables||111|
|XI.||The Nine Varieties of Ground||130|
|XII.||Attack by Fire||141|
|XIII.||Employment of Secret Agents||144|
|I.||A Note on Wu Ch'i||150|
|II.||Sun Tzu's Influence on Japanese Military Thought||169|
|III.||Sun Tzu in Western Languages||179|
|IV.||Brief Biographies of the Commentators||184|
|The Contending States--boundaries of 350 B.C.||33|
What People are Saying About This
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.
"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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have to say, this is the best interpretation of Sun Tzu¿s classic work I have read. The author focuses on the meanings behind this ancient Chinese war philosopher¿s writings. He puts them into a modern context, making them easy to understand. Sun Tzu's treatise on The Art of War is really a treatise on competitive advantage that applies not only to actual war but such things as getting a job, marketing, and any other competitive situation that you might come across. A deep understanding of competitive advantage, it is still the definitive text for understanding the concepts of how to come out on top in such situations. An easy book to read and understand on a basic level, it can take a lifetime to truly appreciate in on all levels and apply it to the various areas of your life. This translation still seems to be one of the best that I have seen. It is internally consistent between the translated concepts and so shows a level of knowledge and detail that is not present in some other translations. As a translator the author obviously sees the big picture. The Art of War contains both the complete translated text of Sun Tzu's enduring classic on battle strategy, and a modern-day interpretation packed with advice on leadership, learning to keep one's intentions a secret from one's opponents, leveraging advantages as the key to victory, and a great deal more. An excellent resource for anyone seeking self-improvement through internalizing Sun Tzu's wisdom, the Art of War is thoughtful and thought-provoking reading of the highest order. I don¿t think 'The Art of War' was meant to be a moral guide in the strict sense that we attribute to morality in Western civilization, in this particular era. In my opinion, Sun Tzu summarized all his personal experience on tactics and strategy (and perhaps other people's experience, too) in order to write a concise, logical and solid military manual. Military history is one of my biggest personal interests, and I've seen that it is possible to adapt Sun Tzu's ideas to most historical battlefields and eras. Not only does 'The Art of War' deal with maneuvers and tactics in the battlefield, it addresses everything a commander should take into account prior to engaging battle: logistics, intelligence, terrain, morale and last, but not least, the psychological understanding of the opponent. As I mentioned above, 'The Art of War' cannot be seen as guidance for the ethics and morality of our acts, nonetheless, it is a valuable instrument when it comes down to overcome daily life difficulties, it helps focus problems in such a way they can be solved systematically. And when it comes to use such knowledge against individuals, personal foes, it's important to keep on mind that it's best to beat an enemy without actually fighting overkill is not the best outcome most of the times.
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.
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.
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.
on every bookshelf. Brilliant read.
'Its not what you say but how you say it....' In The Art of War Sun Tzu explained how important dicipline must be heard.
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.
This book is a good tool for anyone to use in order to get ahead in any career.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Excellent. A classic read.
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.
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".
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!
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
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,
The Art of War is unlike any other book that I have ever read. The book provides a view that is not commonly shared throughout the world today. The fact that this book remains relevant today is a testament to just how insightful this book is. There is no other book that can shed light on the subject of war as well as Sun Tzu did.
It's worth reading just to say you have and because so many other books and films refer to it. I first read it in hopes of using it in corporate life but that's not always easy:Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare.
I give it a 5 because it's a classic that you can read in under an hour. One of the best books I have read. Simple, basic, and a great strategy foundation. I refer to it all the time. Great book from a historical standpoint, but certainly is a great asset in business.
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally here.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write essays on whether or not they deserve the label. The Art of War is essay #27 of this series.The story in a nutshell:More of a technical manual than a piece of general literature, The Art of War is a field guide of sorts by famed Chinese military leader Sun Tzu, written it's believed sometime in the 6th century BC (during the period when China was coming together as a unified empire for the first time in history), as a way of instructing other commanders how to have as much success on the battlefield as he had had. (And please know that there's a debate among scholars as well regarding whether Sun Tzu even wrote this book by himself, or if like many other classics from antiquity this isn't in fact a sly compilation, gathering up the best thoughts back then from amongst a whole group of military strategists.) Now of course let's not forget that Sun Tzu was a Taoist as well, so of course his particular advice is going to be Taoist in nature, a very important thing to understand in order to really "get" this book; he sees the best war, for example, as the one that's never actually fought, because you've already dismantled the enemy's forces through sabotage and cunning to the point where they can't put up a resistance in the first place. And so it is throughout this extremely slim book (which in fact is more like a long magazine article) -- chapter after chapter of surprisingly spiritual text concerning the fine art of getting what you want, even when other people are actively trying to stop you from doing so.The argument for it being a classic:It's a 2,500-year-old book still being read and studied on a daily basis, argue its fans; what more do you want? And in the meanwhile, it's influenced nearly every Western military leader since first being translated into a Romantic language (French) in 1782, racking up a whole list of self-declared admirers from Napoleon to Norman Schwarzkopf. And if this weren't enough, starting in the 1980s it also gained a whole new life as a surprisingly apt if not Machiavellian guide to the corporate business world, best typified by symbol-of-yuppie-greed Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone's fantastic movie Wall Street, who is constantly walking around quoting from it as a way to justify his monstrous, inhuman actions. If all of this isn't enough to safely consider a book a classic, ask its fans, what is?The argument against:The case against this being a classic seems to be one used a lot with books over a thousand years old; that even if that book turns out to be historically important (and it usually does), it might be better at this point to actually study the book and how it affected society, not read the book itself for pleasure anymore. Always remember, that's part of how I'm defining "classic" here in this CCLaP 100 series, is not just how important that title has been to human history, but also whether it's worth literally sitting down and reading it page-for-page yourself, no matter if you have any specific interest in that book's subject or not. If it's yes on the former but no on the latter, as critics of this book claim, then by my definition it's not a classic, but rather simply a historically important book that should be studied by the general public but not necessarily read.My verdict:So let me start by admitting how surprisingly readable this is for being 2,500 years old, and that it really does translate metaphorically to the business world surprisingly elegantly; after all, since it's a guide to war written by a Taoist, it's more of a symbolic examination of how to get out of life what you want the most, even in the face of tough opposition, with
To be honest, I was looking for a straightforward printing of the notes, not a re-hashing and review throughout the ages. This meant a lengthy pass-through of what others thought and believed,etc, etc. When I was finally able to decipher which was part of the book and which were the notes (as I was reading it on a digital device) it became obvious that a lot of the ideas of "war" were things already known to me. Whether it's due to our upbringing in the 20th century and exposure to the various media violences (movies, books, videos, etc) or not could be debated.