The Art of War

Long before the First Emperor Qin drove his army from west in Xian to reach the east coast area and united China in 221BC, there were two highly developed kingdoms in the region, one in Shaoxing (near Hangzhou) and another in Suzhou (near Shanghai).

It was the Spring and Autumn Era (770BC-476BC), a brilliant period in Chinese history. In the north, around the Yellow River basin, Confucius probed the human condition and Lao Tzu inquired the universal truth; in the south down the Yangtze River delta, Suzhou kingdom Wu drafted a Development Control Plan for the city, the first in the world, and Shaoxing kingdom Yue established a superior metallurgical industry.

Understandably, as two strong powers neighboring each other and both seeking further expansion, wars broke out, which lasted for decades.

Sword of Goujian

Sword of Goujian

It was for these wars, Goujian, King of Yue in Shaoxing, crafted the best sword in China known as Sword of Goujian, and Sun Tzu in Suzhou, a military consultant to King of Wu, composed the Art of War.

Art of War

Art of War

The Art of War is the oldest book on military strategy, and the first to understand the vital importance of laying strategic plan before taking military action and altering the plan according to changed conditions in the fields.

It has made a huge impact on Chinese military thinking throughout the history. Lately its influence has been extended to the areas like business management and competitive sports and beyond.

The book is composed of thirteen chapters, devoting to thirteen major aspects of a warfare. Following is a brief introduction to the each chapter:

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS:

Joseph Muela:

You like Sun Tzu, All Things Chinese​? The history of him is very vague. Some historians say he never existed! :O

All Things Chinese: 

Ya, I do 😉

There are several Art of Wars from different authors in Chinese history, just like there are several different I Chings compiled by different persons. Some authors’ identity might be a bit vague, but not with Sun Tzu. He wrote his Art of War in Suzhou and played an important role in Wu Kingdom’s development.

Architecture Technology:

China also lost just about every war after he wrote his book.

Joseph Muela:

I wouldn’t say that, but I have heard stories that the Wu empire lost after the book was written. That fotesnt the the book is bad, but it does make you feel like the book isn’t as powerful as it sounds.

All Things Chinese: 

When Sun Tzu wrote his Art of War, China was splitted into seven major kingdoms. Centuries later, China reunited, how can you say China lost just about every war after he wrote that book?

In the next 2,000 years, despite being repeatedly invaded, each time China was able to drive invaders out and regain the independence and unity, how can you say China lost just about every war after he wrote that book?

Architecture Technology: 

It is a good read for martial artist and business owners or even stock brokers who in the war of money. I practice martial arts myself and find it a good read as some things are great concepts, but I wouldn’t take everything away from this book.

All Things Chinese: 

Wu kingdom was just a small city state centred with Suzhou. After Sun Tzu, a Qi native, joined Wu where he wrote his Art of War, Wu kingdom won nearly every battle against neighbouring Chu kingdom in today’s Hubei and Yue kingdom in today’s Zhejiang.

But after both old Wu King and Sun Tzu passed away, the political climate in Wu was vastly different. The new king was a hopeless womaniser who killed and banished his royal advisers when they tried to stop him from taking and keeping Xishi, a pretty female spy from Yue, as the result he lost his kingdom and his own life.

Why Sun Tzu’s art of war no longer worked for Wu?

Firstly, any good military strategy needs a capable leader to implement.

Secondly, Wu kingdom did not own exclusively the copyright of the Art of War (there was no such a thing called “copyright” in ancient China, which actually helped spread knowledge and the culture). After the book was published (by hand copying on bamboo slips or fabrics), Wu’s enemies had an equal opportunity as Wu to learn the art of war. In fact it was the “honey trap”, one of the 36 strategies listed in the book, that helped Yue Kingdom to corrupted Wu king and subdued Wu Kingdom.

Finally, the military tactics and strategies are just part of the factors in war. The economy, the technology and, especially, the politics also play important, sometimes, crucial roles in a military campaign.

As Sun Tzu stated in his Art of War: It is possible for you to know how to win a battle, but it is not possible for you to determine whether you will win a battle. (胜可知, 而不可为).

Ultimately it is the nature of the war that determines the final outcome. Without popular support from people, no war can claim victory in a long run. And this support not only should come from within but beyond, including from the targeted state.

As new Wu king mistreated his officials and advisers, cared little the kingdom’s economy and the people’s welfare, but spent nearly all his time and a huge amount of kingdom’s wealth to please his loved woman, he, naturally, lost popular support. In such a situation, no military strategy could save him.

Aquil A Rahman:

I think the caption points to the core of the art of war.

To subdue the enemy without fighting involves thinking, intense and strategic thinking, like the game of Go or even the practice of Tai Chi.
A punch that one doesn’t have to throw.

It’s been years since I ve read the art of war…..

Winning war is not just and handbook for killing , but a Supreme way of maintaining peace and balance.

All Things Chinese: 

I love how you put it: Winning war is not just an handbook for killing , but a supreme way of maintaining peace and balance.

Joseph Muela:

Ah, okay. Interesting information. I agree, specifically when you said, “it is possible to know how to win a war, but not possible to determine if you will win a battle.”

I learned a lot of books on war, success, romanticism, etc, so I know the theories and strategies, but I am not good in any 😂.

The no copyright is also true. I’ve read that the true original art if war was destroyed so we only have copies other people wrote and commentaries.

All Things Chinese:

It may be a blessing that you never need to utilize art of war because you don’t have anyone in your life that you must fight against. Art of war is not a strategy to deal with family members and friends — romance and friendship require sincerity and honesty.

Chapter One: Laying A Plan

Paper was invented by Chinese in the 1st century, yet The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu 600 years earlier, so it was initially penned on bamboo slips.

It explains how to plan a war based on 5 key elements or conditions that define a competitive position, and the ways to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, advantages and constraints in comparison to your opponents.

故经之以五事,校之以计,而索其情:一曰道,二曰天,三曰地,四曰将,五曰法

Universal condition: justification of the mission;
Celestial condition: timing;
Terrestrial condition: location;
Human condition: leadership;
Technic condition: weapons.

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS:

Eric Horrobin:

They use this book at west point military academy in the U.S. it is a very prestigious military school, considered the tip in U.S.

Mile HsiangYang Lee:

Really? I did not know that. I used it for my master program in public administration + public policy 😃 Just 1 of my books 😇

soxfan1957:

It would have been nice if he wrote the Art of Peace. Sadly it probably wouldn’t have sold as many copies.

All Things Chinese:

Order often needs to be achieved through chaos (a reshuffle) and peace sometimes has to be attained through war (a violent shake up).

Without Red Army and Alliance force’s fierce battles, we could all live under Nazi’s fasciast rule, just a case in point.

When the book was written 2,500 years ago, there was no printing, no bookstores, no copyright and no royalties. In short, by then books were written for spreading knowledge not making money because nobody could make money from it regardless how many hand copies were produced.

soxfan1957:

Understood. My comments were more aimed at today’s world. 2500 years later and there are too many who prefer war over peace. Also more of these battles are fought over economics and not human rights.

Mile HsiangYang Lee:

Art of Peace, Eh? 😮 Why didn’t I think of that? 😐 Probably, only Dalai Lama did or Pope Francis 😉

All Things Chinese: 

According to my observation, those talking about peace all the time are often the ones waging the most nasty wars.

Eric Horrobin: 

It is all about greed and false power.

soxfan1957:

I promised I haven’t started any wars. Ever. Though your words are true. Look back on the church and the crusades.

All Things Chinese: 

Haaaa, I believe you 100% and your comments are spot on … about motivation of the wars, about some religious leaders. It’s not just church … 🧐

Renato Silva Abranches:

Minha cara este livro 😊 e segundo a lenda este livro ficou escondido no Japão por um bom tempo, diz a lenda que foi um monge que achou escondido lá em meados do século 2 depois de Cristo 😊

All Things Chinese: 

I’m not sure about Sunzi’s Art of War, but there are quite a few priceless books burned by Manchus when they invaded and ruled China during the late 17th and the early 20th centuries but preserved by Japanese.

Chapter Two: Waging A War

It explains how to understand the economic nature of military confrontation and how the cost effectiveness determines the outcome of a campaign.

故兵闻拙速,未睹巧之久.。夫兵久而国利者,未之有也。故兵贵胜,不贵久

There is no instance in history that a state could be benefit from prolonging a warfare. Thus the wise object for a military action should be of gaining victory, not of taking lengthy campaigns.

Chapter Three: Strategic Offensive Operation

It identifies different kinds of offensive strategies, with capturing your enemy’s heart the best and conquering your enemy’s land the least.

是故百战百胜,非善之善也;不战而屈人之兵,善之善者也。故上兵伐谋,其次伐交,其次伐兵,其下攻城。攻城之法,为不得已

To fight and conquer can not be defined as supreme success; the real victory is to win without fighting. Thus the first choise of offensive operation should be to foil your enemy’s plans; the next best is to break your enemy’s unity; the next in order is to destroy your enemy force; as to invade and occupy your enemy’s territory should be used as the last resort.

Chapter Four: Disposition

Chinese calligraphy in Kaiti script – Art of War by Sun Tzu (545BC – 470BC)

It explains how to advance your strength, which should not be achieved by creating opportunities but by recognizing and seizing opportunities when they emerge.

胜可知,而不可为。不可胜在己,可胜在敌。

Whether you can avoid being defeated by your enemy depends on how you act; whether you can defeat your enemy depends on how your enemy acts.

Therefore, it is possible for you to know how to win a war, but it is not possible for you to know whether you will win a war.

Guido Stepken:

Napoleon must have had a french edition of Sun Tsu’s war teratise. Otherwise some of his operations wouldn’t have been so successful. After having read Sun Tsu i directly recognized Napopeons military moves.

In Germany we had General von Clausewitz, who did also write a milltary treatise. Standard lecture at german Bundeswehr. Until i noticed, that General von Clausewitz did steal his work 1:1 from Sun Tsu. Even the paragraphs are the same.

The i confronted the von Clausewitz society (kind of foundation) with my findings. They heavily denied it.

Surprisingly Napoleon and Hitler finally miserably failed. Why? They were pretty successful until an event happened, that Sun Tse had left out in his treatise: Snow. Both miserably failed occupying Russia in winter. Something, Sun Tse didn’t write about, probably it was much warmer in China at that time he lived.

Under Hitler, all higher military grades, especially SS leaders, had to study Sun Tsu’s “Art of war”, e.g. at Ordensburg Vogelsang (Western Germany, near Aachen), a SS academy. Standard lecture!

That information i got 20 years back from an old guy, 90 years old at that time.

All Things Chinese: 

Really? That’s interesting… I thought they were only obsessed with and inspired by Lamanism, just like Mongols at the time when they burned and ruled half of the world and Manchus when they trashed and ruled entire China ~_^

Guido Stepken:

Dschingis Khan conquered Europe. In 1227 they suddenly stopped, 100 km before Berlin. Dschingis Khan died, so they returned.

If he wouldn’t have died, Berlin now would speak chinese.

I am very aware of that fact. Most people in Germany never have heard of that.

All Things Chinese: 

No, if he wouldn’t have died, Berlin now would speak Mongol and worship Lamanism’s strange deities.

Mongol and China are two different states right from the beginning. They have different ethnic origin, culture and language. The main reason for Chinese to build the Great Wall was to defend China from Mongols’ invasion.

But the Great Wall was broken and China was invaded and ruled by the Mongols for 100 years which enabled Khans to conquer half of the Europe.

Chinese, in fact, never invaded Europe or any other continent even when they had the capacity to do so, such as in the early 15th century when the Ming Dynasty sent fleets to tour half of the world.

Guido Stepken:

Inner mongolia is Han dynasty controlled and chinese speaking … 😉

Mile HsiangYang Lee:

There are 6 millions Mongols in China in Inner Mongolia. There are 3 million Mongols in Main Mongolia Republic. There are other Mongol states in Russia Federation like Republic of Buryatia (Buryat tribe of Mongol people), Republic of Tuva (Ruva tribe of the Mongol people) + Republic of Kalymkia. Even Kazakhs of Kazakhstan are a Mongol tribe. So is Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan. The Gurkha people in Gurkha land in India + Nepal are Descendents of Mongol tribes. Many of them are employed as warrior soldiers in British army, Singapore Special Police, even Now. They are known for their bravery + fearlessness + loyalty.

The Ural – Altaic people are related in language + ci;tire + warrior attitude. The Mongol is related to Turkic speaking people, e.g. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Urkmenistan, Azerbaijian, Turkestan (Xinjiang Province in eest China), Dagestan (in Central Russia), Tartarstan (in central Russia), Chechniya etc etc. They could understand each other fairly well.

Mongols ruled the world in ancient time. They were helped by Chinese traitors, Turkic speaking people in Central Asia + Asia Minor, Korean traitors, Mongol speaking people. The Mongols in Nepal are Hindus. Mongols in Central Asia are Moslems. Mongols in Mongolia are Tibetan Buddhists. I Hope this helps. After Mongol declined, the Turkic empire rose – 1st with Seljuk Turks in east Turkey. Subsequently, the Ottoman Turks rose building the Ottoman Islamic Caliphate.

People in Inner – Mongolia, some speak Chinese, many just don’t, particularly those who are practising nomadic life style + don’t go to school.

All Things Chinese:

Inner Mongolia was beyond the Great Wall while the Wall was built by First Emperor Qin which is before Han. As I’ve already said, the purpose to build the wall was no other but to stop Mongol invasion.

Historically, Mongols didn’t spoke Chinese and were not part of Chinese civilisation. It was during Manchu’s reign since the late 17th, Mongolia became part of the Qing dynasty that covered entire China and extended to Xizang. Mongols and Manchus are quite similar, ethnically and culturally, and both were/are fanatic followers of Xizang Lamaism. In the nearly 300 years of period between the late 17th and the turn of the 20th century, the three jointly ruled China and collectively ruined Chinese civilisation, politically, technologically, economically, culturally and spiritually. And the negative influence lingers to this day.

After Manchus lost their power, Mongolia and Xizang left China again. While Manchus felt homeless and went on helping Japanese to invade and conquer China before and during the WWII, Xizang kept going on with its surf system and the top lamas walked closely with Nazi Germany, and Mongolia eventually split into two with one part having joint China after the WWII.

Chapter Five: Power of Force

Chinese calligraphy – Art of War by Sun Tzu (545BC – 470BC)

It exokaubs how to grow your own strength and overpower your enemy.

凡战者,以正合,以奇

In all battles, be honest and upfront when communicating with your people in order to unite your own force; be eccentric and secretive when dealing with your enemies in order to breach their containment and cut through their defensive ring.

Chapter Six, Strength and Weakness

Chinese calligraphy – Art of War by Sun Tzu (545BC – 470BC)

It investigates how to exploit your enemy’s weakness to advance your own strength.

故善攻者,敌不知其所守;善守者,敌不知其所攻。故形兵之极,至于无形

You should attach your enemies at the point where they do not think they need to defend; to defend your position at the spot where your enemies do not know how to attack. Therefore the best tactical disposition is of no disposition, thus it is invisible and cannot be attacked.

Chapter Seven: Maneuvering

It describes the dangers of direct confrontation and explores the best approaches to tackle your enemy’s attacks.

三军可夺气,将军可夺心。是故朝气锐,昼气惰,暮气归。善用兵者,避其锐气,击其惰归,此治气者也.

Soldiers’ spirit is keenest in the morning; sluggish during the day and retreating when night falls. Therefore, avoid an army when its spirit is keen, attack an army when it becomes listless and withdrawing – this is the art of handling the energy level.

以治待乱,以静待哗,此治心者也

Keep your discipline and stay calm, await the moment when your enemy is in trouble and disarray – this is the art of dealing with heart.

以近待远,以佚待劳,此治力者也

To be near the target while your enemy is still far from it; to wait at ease while your enemy is toiling his way across. – this is the art of managing physical strength.

无邀正正之旗,无击堂堂之陈,此治变者也

Refrain from intercepting your enemy who is in perfect order; avoid attacking your opponent who is at composed position – this is the art of coping with situation.

Chapter Eight: Variation in Tactics

Chinese calligraphy in Running Script style – Art of War by Sun Tzu (545BC – 470BC)

It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances in war.

故用兵之法,无恃其不来,恃吾有以待之;无恃其不攻,恃吾有所不可攻也

Do not reply on the likelihood that your enemy may not come, but on your readiness to intercept emerge; Do not depend on the chance that your enemy may not attack, but on your preparation to make your position unassailable.

途有所不由,军有所不击,城有所不攻,地有所不争,君命有所不受

In wars, there are certain roads which must not be followed, certain armies which must not be assailed, certain cities which must not to be besieged, certain positions which must not be contested and certain commands from the head of the state which must not be obeyed.

Chapter Nine: On the Move

Calligraphy by contemporary Chinese calligrapher Zhang Kezhi – Art of War by Sun Tzu (545BC – 470BC)

It elaborates that when you are trying to move into more competitive theatres of war, how to comprehend your enemy’s true intention, evaluate and justify the altered circumstance and determine the right time to build your momentum.

敌近而静者,恃其险也; 远而挑战者,欲人之进也; 其所居易者,利也; 辞卑而备者,进也; 辞强而进驱者,退也; 轻车先出居其侧者,陈也; 无约而请和者,谋也; 奔走而陈兵者,期也; 半进半退者,诱也; 见利而不进者,劳也; 军扰者,将不重也;数赏者,窘也;数罚者,困也; 来委谢者,欲休息也

If your enemy is near but remains quiet, he must be on a good position to launch a sudden strike;

If you enemy is in a distance but tries to provoke a fight, he is luring you to enter his optimal position;

If there is an easy access to your enemy’s site, it is more likely to be a bait;

If your enemy’s humble gesture is coupled with his intensive preparation for war, it is a sign that he is about to attack;

If your enemy’s aggressive language is coupled with forceful advance of his troops, it is a signal that he is going to retreat;

If your enemy’s vanguards appear and take up a position on the wings, it indicates that a big battle is coming;

If peace is proposed but action to sign a treaty is not followed, it suggests that a nasty plot is hidden;

If your enemy soldiers fall into rank in hurry, you shall understand the critical moment is approaching;

If some of your enemies are advancing and some of your enemies are retreating, you should realise traps might be forming;

If your detractor refrains from taking advantage of his position, it suggests he must be exhausted;

If your enemy’s troops have poor discipline, it implies its general’s authority has been weakened;

If the rewards are over generous and fairly frequent among your enemy troops, you should know they are about to run out of their resource;

If the punishments are constant and harsh among your enemy ranks, you can be sure they are in great distress;

If there are too much compliments expressed by your enemy’s envoys, it is an indication that your foe is keen to have a truce.

Chapter Ten: Forms of Terrain

It looks at the six types of ground positions and their certain advantages and disadvantages.

地形有通者、有挂者、有支者、有隘者、有险者、有远者。我可以往,彼可以来,曰通。通形者,先居高阳,利粮道,以战则利。可以往,难以返,曰挂。挂形者,敌无备,出而胜之,敌若有备,出而不胜,难以返,不利。我出而不利,彼出而不利,曰支。支形者,敌虽利我,我无出也,引而去之,令敌半出而击之利。隘形者,我先居之,必盈之以待敌。若敌先居之,盈而勿从,不盈而从之。险形者,我先居之,必居高阳以待敌;若敌先居之,引而去之,勿从也。远形者,势均难以挑战,战而不利

When a ground can be easily accessed by both sides, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots before your enemy troop, and carefully guard your line of supplies.

When a ground that can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy, you should only mount attack when your enemy is unprepared.

When a ground is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, you should refrain from initiating a fight.

When a ground is accessed through narrow passes, you should wait for your enemy to advance.

When a ground is steep and high, you should not leave your position if you occupy it before your enemy, or you should entice your enemy away from his position if he arrives there before you.

When a ground is far away from your base and your strength is not greater than your enemy, you should not engage the battle.

Chapter Eleven: Common Battlefields

Calligraphy by contemporary Chinese calligrapher Zhang Kezhi – Art of War by by Sun Tzu (545BC – 470BC)

It illustrates some common battle grounds in a campaign, and the principles to effectively handle them.

用兵之法,有散地,有轻地,有争地,有交地,有衢地,有重地,有泛地,有围地,有死地。诸侯自战其地者,为散地;入人之地不深者,为轻地;我得亦利,彼得亦利者,为争地;我可以往,彼可以来者,为交地;诸侯之地三属,先至而得天下众者,为衢地;入人之地深,背城邑多者,为重地;山林、险阻、沮泽,凡难行之道者,为泛地;所由入者隘,所从归者迂,彼寡可以击吾之众者,为围地;疾战则存,不疾战则亡者,为死地。是故散地则无战,轻地则无止,争地则无攻,交地则无绝,衢地则合交,重地则掠,泛地则行,围地则谋,死地则战

A battlefield in your own territory is a holding ground, on which you should avoid fighting.

A battlefield in a nearby hostile territory is a shallow ground, on which you should keep advancing.

A battlefield with a strategic importance is contentious ground, on which you must not initiate attacks.

A battlefield that is easily accessible by all parties in the war is an open ground, on which you must not block your enemy’s passage.

A battlefield that is a key to the commanding position is an intersecting highway, on which you need to form a join force with your allies.

A battlefield in the heart of a hostile territary is a significant ground, on which you ought to attack your enemy with a force of storm.

A battlefield situated in a mountain, a marsh or other difficult terrain is a tough ground, on which you must not linger.

A battlefield that can only be reached through narrow gorges is an edging ground, on which you should mount a strategic campaign.

A battlefield that is a matter of life or death to the survival of your campaign or your troop is a crucial ground, on which you must fight to your last breath.

Chapter Twelve: Attack by Fire

It examines how to use natural conditions to aid attack and counterattack.

以火佐攻者明,以水佐攻者强

Those attack with fire are smart, those attack using water are strong.

Chapter Thirteen: Intelligence

It explains the vital importance of intelligence collection to the effectiveness and outcome of your military campaign.

先知者,不可取于鬼神,不可象于事,不可验于度,必取于人,知敌之情者也

Information on your enemy cannot be gained via divination, from experience, or by reasoning. It can only be obtained through agents.

用间有五:有因间,有内间,有反间,有死间,有生间。五间俱起,莫知其道,是谓神纪,人君之宝也

There are five types of agents: local agents hired from your enemy territories; inside agents within your enemy’s ranks; double agents converted from your enemy spies; sacrificed agents who give themselves away for the purpose of confusing your enemy; surviving agents who bring back information from the enemy’s camp.

When all five types of intelligence agents are at work, you have a key to access divine manipulation of the war.

Empty Town – One of 36 War Strategies in Art of War

Beijing Opera: An Empty Town — a video clip from Chinese New Year’s Eve 2017 TV opera show

It was a classic example in ancient Chinese art of war.

One day during the Three Kingdom’s era in the 3rd century, the superpower Wei Kingdom sent 150,000-strong troops towards the border of Shu Kingdom and borne down on West City from two directions taken over another garrison town.

When Zhuge Liang, the PM of Shu, received the report, it was too late to either summon reinforcement or evacuate the field depot.

So he ordered to throw open all city gates, while himself sat on the citywall with a pair of office juniors playing qin, entertaining the mighty enemy force with his solo concert.

“Hi, buddy,” in the interval, Zhu Geliang urged military leader of Wei troops, “look, the city is empty and I’m virtually alone, what are you waiting for, come to get me!”

“That’s too good to be true!” The Wei military leader reckoned it could only be a trick. He paused, hesitated and lingered until Shu’s relief force approached.

Wei troops had to struggle a hasty retreat.

Zhu Geliang, the man with long beard, is played by female Beijing Opera singer Wang Peiyu

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