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The Art of War


The Art of War

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UpdatedSeptember 15, 2013
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CategoryBooks & Reference



Translated from the Chinese
By LIONEL GILES, M.A. (1910)

The Art of War (孙子兵法,Sun Zi Bing Fa) is a Chinese military treatise that was written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC, during the Spring and Autumn period. Composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, it has long been praised as the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time, and one of the basic texts on the subject.
The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy in the world. It has had a huge influence on Eastern military thinking, business tactics, and beyond. Sun Tzu recognized the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment. He taught that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through a to-do list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment, but in a competitive environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.
The book was first translated into the French language in 1772 by French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, and into English by British officer E. F. Calthrop in 1905. It very likely influenced Napoleon, and the planning of Operation Desert Storm. Leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, Baron Antoine-Henri Jomini, and General Douglas MacArthur have claimed to have drawn inspiration from the work. The Art of War has also been applied to business and managerial strategies.
The Art of War is the most popular military classic in both Asia and the West. By Japanese managers it was even employed as guideline for war inside the economic market. It is contributed to the semi-legendary Sun Wu 孙武 (6th cent BC), a strategist of the state of Wu 吴, but considering different secondary sources about him and the influence of Daoist conceptions may result in the conclusion that he was from the traditonal state of military thinkers, that is Qi 齐. Recently a copy of Sunzi Bingfa was recoverd form a Han period 汉 tomb in Linyi, including significant additional material such as the “King of Wu’s questions.”

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