The Art of War is among the greatest classics of military literature ever written. Sun Tzu warfare is as applicable today as when the book was written some 2,500 years ago. As a reflection of the Chinese mind, this little work is as relevant as any Confucian classic.
Originally a text for victory on the battlefield, the book has vastly transcended its original purpose.
Here is a seminal work on the philosophy of successful leadership that is as applicable to contemporary business as it is to war. Today many leading American business schools use the text as required reading for aspiring managers, and even Oliver Stone's award-winning film Wall Street cites The Art of War as a guide to those who strive for success.
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About the Author
Sun Tzu (544 B.C.–496 B.C.) was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist, and philosopher from the Zhou Dynasty, who has had a significant impact on Chinese and Asian history and culture, both as an author of The Art of War as well as through legend.
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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 it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
The art of war is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
These are: the Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, the Commander and 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 heads should be familiar to every general. He who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:
Seven Searching Questions
1. Which of two sovereigns is imbued with the moral law?
2. Which of two generals has most ability?
3. With whom lie the advantages derived from heaven and earth?
4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
5. Which army is the stronger?
6. On which side are officers and men most highly trained?
7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.
The general who harkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer. Let such a one be retained in command! The general who harkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat. Let such a one be dismissed! While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans.
[Sun Tzu is a practical soldier and wants no bookish theories. He cautions here not to pin one's faith on abstract principles. Tactics must be guided by the action of the enemy, as is well illustrated by Sir W. Fraser in his Words on Wellington: On the eve of the battle of Waterloo, Lord Uxbridge asked the Duke of Wellington what his plans were for the morrow, because, he explained, he might suddenly find himself Commander in Chief and would be unable to frame new plans in a critical moment. The Duke asked, "Who will attack first tomorrow — I or Bonaparte?" "Bonaparte," replied Lord Uxbridge. "Well," continued the Duke, "Bonaparte has not given me any idea of his projects; and as my plans will depend on his, how can you expect me to tell you what mine are?"]
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 that we are 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 superior in 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 inactive, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere 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 do no calculation at all pave the way to defeat! It is by attention to this point that I can see who is likely to win or lose.CHAPTER 2
SUN TZU SAID: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li [2.78 modern li make one mile] 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 100,000 men.
[It is interesting to note the similarity between early Chinese warfare and that of the Homeric Greeks. In each case, the war chariot was the nucleus around which was grouped the foot soldiers. Each light Chinese chariot was accompanied by 75 infantry, and each heavy chariot by 25 infantry, so that the whole army would be divided into a thousand battalions, each consisting of two chariots and 100 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 damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the state will not be equal to the strain.
Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will rarely be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been associated with long delays. There is no instance of a country having been benefited from prolonged warfare.
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 soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have enough for its needs.
[Once war is declared, the great general strikes immediately without waiting until every last detail is taken care of. This may seem audacious advice, but all great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Hitler, realized that time is of vital importance. "Too little, too late" was not one of their mottos.]
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 people to be impoverished.
On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.
When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.
Living at Enemy Expense
With this loss of subsistence and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare and three-tenths of their incomes will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantlets, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.
Hence 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 [about 133 pounds] of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.
In order to kill the enemy, men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.
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 depends whether the nation shall be in peace or peril.CHAPTER 3
Attack by Stratagem
SUN TZU SAID: 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 profitable. 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 annihilate them.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
[The elder Moltke's greatest triumph, the capitulation of the French at Sedan in 1870, was achieved practically without bloodshed. The Battle of France, May–June 1940, was the climax to a long succession of bloodless and practically bloodless victories for Hitler.]
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. The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds [from which to attack] over against the walls will take three months more.
[Another sound piece of military theory. If the Boers had acted upon it in 1899 and refrained from dissipating their strength before Kimberley and Mafeking they would probably have been masters of the situation before the British were ready seriously to oppose them. The Germans beat their brains out before Stalingrad in 1943.]
The general who is unable to control his impatience will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town remains untaken. Such are liable to be the disastrous effects of a siege.
Therefore 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 will dispute the mastery of the empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.
Advantage in Numbers
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.
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. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.
Now the general is the bulwark of the state: if the bulwark is complete 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 ruler 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 amounts to hobbling the army.
By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness among the soldiers.
By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adapting action to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is sure to come from other feudal princes. This is simply equivalent in results to 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 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.
Victory lies in the knowledge of those five points.
Hence the saying: 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 suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.CHAPTER 4
SUN TZU SAID: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.
Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength.
The general who is skilled in defense, in effect, hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.
To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you conquer and the whole empire says, "Well done!"
To lift an autumn leaf is no sign of great strength; to see sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Avoidance of mistakes establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
To Avoid Defeat
Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.
Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist seeks battle after his plans indicate that victory is possible under them, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights without skillful planning and expects victory to come without planning.
The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline. Thus it is in his power to control success. In respect of military method, we have: First, measurement; second, estimation of quantity; third, calculation; fourth, balancing of chances; fifth, victory. Measurement owes its existence to earth; estimation of quantity to measurement; calculation to estimation of quantity; balancing of chances to calculation; and victory to balancing of chances.
[The first of these terms would seem to be terrain appreciation, from which an estimate of the enemy's strength can be formed, and calculations of relative strength made on the data thus obtained; we are thus led to a general comparison of the enemy's chances with our own; if the latter turn the scale, then victory ensues.]
A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a pound's weight placed in the scale against a single grain. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep. So much for tactical dispositions.CHAPTER 5
Use of Energy
SUN TZU SAID: The control of a large force is the same in principle as the control of a few men. It is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.
Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one. It is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.
To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken is effected by direct and indirect maneuvers.
That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg. That is effected by the science involving contacts between weak points and strong. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to ensure victory.
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 their course but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass to return once more.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Art of War"
Copyright © 2019 Sun Tzu.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsContents
I. LAYING PLANS 5
II. WAGING WAR 7
III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM 9
IV. TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS 11
V. ENERGY 13
VI. WEAK POINTS AND STRONG 15
VII. MANEUVERING 18
VIII. VARIATION IN TACTICS 21
IX. THE ARMY ON THE MARCH 23
X. TERRAIN 26
XI. THE NINE SITUATIONS 29
XII. THE ATTACK BY FIRE 34
XIII. THE USE OF SPIES 36
What People are Saying About This
"Scott Brick's steady, imperative tone conveys Sun Tzu's certainty. Shelly Frasier's smooth counterpoint...balances Brick's pronouncements. Transitions between the two are flawless." -AudioFile
"The strategic advice that [The Art of War] offers concerns much more than the conduct of war. It is an ancient book of proverbial wisdom, a book of life." (John Minford, from the Introduction)
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,
This book has good insight, whereby the reader should take notes relevant to their desired attack and end results.
Great strategies that can be applied to situations outside of an actual war.
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.