The Art of War is one of the oldest books on military strategy in the world. It is the first and one of the most successful works on strategy and has had a huge influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, and beyond. Sun Tzu was the first to recognize 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 1782 by French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, and had possibly influenced , and even the planning of Operation Desert Storm. Leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, 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 13 chapters
The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters , and the collection is referred to as being one Ch'üan . As different translations have used differing titles for each chapter, a selection appears below. Lionel Giles' 1910 translation is considered the standard reference, but the other titles are, given the nature of translation, equally valid.
#Laying Plans OCS explores the five key elements that define competitive position and how to evaluate your competitive strengths against your competition.
#Waging War explains how to understand the economic nature of competition and how success requires making the winning play, which in turn, requires limiting the cost of competition and conflict.
#Attack by Stratagem defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and the five ingredients that you need to succeed in any competitive situation.
#Tactical Dispositions explains the importance of defending existing positions until you can advance them and how you must recognize opportunities, not try to create them.
#Energy explains the use of creativity and timing in building your competitive momentum.
#Weak Points & Strong explains how your opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of your competitors in a given area.
#Maneuvering explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon you.
#Variation in Tactics focuses on the need for flexibility in your responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
#The Army on the March describes the different situations in which you find yourselves as you move into new competitive arenas and how to respond to them. Much of it focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.
#Terrain looks at the three general areas of resistance and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offer certain advantages and disadvantages.
#The Nine Situations describe nine common situations in a competitive campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus you need to successfully navigate each of them.
#The Attack by Fire explains the use of weapons generally and the use of the environment as a weapon specifically. It examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack, and the appropriate responses to such attack.
#The Use of Spies focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, specifically the five types of sources and how to manage them.
Before the was discovered by archaeologists in April 1972, the most cited version of ''The Art of War'' was the ''Annotation of Sun Tzu's Strategies'' by Cao Cao, the founder of the Kingdom of Wei. In the preface, he wrote that previous annotations were not focused on the essential ideas. Other annotations cited in official history books include Shen You 's ''Sun Tzu's Military Strategy'', Jia Xu's ''Copy of Sun Tzu's Military Strategy'', Cao Cao and Wang Ling's ''Sun Tzu's Military Strategy''.
The ''Book of Sui'' documented seven books named after Sun Tzu. An annotation by Du Mu also includes Cao Cao's annotation. Li Jing's ''The Art of War'' is said to be a revision of Sun Tzu's strategies. Annotations by Cao Cao, Du Mu and Li Quan were translated into the Tangut language before 1040 AD.
After the was invented, ''The Art of War'' was published as a military text book, known as ''Seven Military Classics'' with six other strategy books. A book named ''Ten Schools of The Art of War Annotations'' was published before 1161 AD.
As a required reading military textbook since the Song Dynasty, Seven Military Classics has many annotations. More than 30 differently annotated versions of this book exist today.
Vernacular Chinese became increasingly popular in the late 1920s. Annotations in Vernacular Chinese began to appear after this time. Some of these works were translated from other languages, such as Japanese.
The two most common traditional Chinese versions of the ''Art of War'',
were the sources for early translation into English and other languages. It was not until the 1970s that these works were compiled with more recent archeological discoveries into a single more complete version in Taipei. The resulting work is known as the ''Complete Version of Sun Tzu's Art of War'' for the National Defense Research Investigation Office has been the source for more recent and complete translations.
Verses from the book occur in modern daily Chinese idioms and phrases, such as the last verse of Chapter 3:
:''So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.''
This has been more tersely interpreted and condensed into the modern proverb:
: 知己知彼 百戰不殆 （知彼知己，百战不殆）
:''If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can come out of hundreds of battles without danger.''
Many people interpret this sentence as 'If you know both sides, you will win a hundred times in one hundred battles. '. This translation is incorrect. The word '殆' in Chinese means 'danger'. '百' in this sentence is better interpreted as 'numerous' rather than 'hundred'.
Furthermore, knowing both sides doesn't guarantee winning. '知己知彼 百戰百勝' is untrue since in the beginning paragraph of chapter four, Sun Tzu wrote 'Hence, we can well predict who would win but there is no strategy guaranteeing winning '. The reason of the uncertainty is quite simple. How about dealing with the opponent who knows both sides better than you do?
Similar verses have also been borrowed -- in a manner construing skillfulness as victory "without fighting" -- for example:
:''Therefore one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.''
And, the most famous quotation :
:''All warfare is based on deception.''
:''Never will those who wage war tire of deception.''
In many East Asian countries, ''The Art of War'' was part of the syllabus for potential candidates of military service examinations. Various translations are available.
During the in Japan, a daimyo named Takeda Shingen is said to have become almost invincible in all battles without relying on guns, because he studied ''The Art of War''. The book even gave him the inspiration for his famous battle standard "Fūrinkazan" , meaning fast as the wind, silent as a forest, ferocious as fire and immovable as a mountain.
The translator Samuel B. Griffith offers a chapter on "Sun Tzu and Mao Tse-Tung" where ''The Art of War'' is cited as influencing Mao's ''On Guerilla Warfare'', ''On the Protracted War'', and ''Strategic Problems of China's Revolutionary War'' and includes Mao's quote: "We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, 'Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster.'"
During the Vietnam War, some officers studied ''The Art of War'', and reportedly could recite entire passages from memory.
The Department of the Army in the United States, through its Command and General Staff College, has directed all units to maintain libraries within their respective headquarters for the continuing education of personnel in the art of war. ''The Art of War'' is specifically mentioned by name as an example of works to be maintained at each individual unit, and staff duty officers are obliged to prepare short papers for presentation to other officers on their readings.
''The Art of War'' is listed on the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program .
Applicability outside the military
Since at least the 1980s, ''The Art of War'' has been applied to fields well outside the military. Much of the text is about how to fight wars without actually having to do battle: it gives tips on how to outsmart one's opponent so that physical battle is not necessary. As such, it has found application as a training guide for many competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.
The book has gained popularity in corporate culture; there have been a variety of business books written applying its lessons to "office politics" and corporate strategy. Many Japanese companies make the book required reading for their key .. The book is also popular among Western business management, who have turned to it for inspiration and advice on how to succeed in competitive business situations.
''The Art of War'' has also been the subject of various law books and legal articles on the trial process, including negotiation tactics and trial strategy.
It has also crept its way into sport: Australian cricket coach handed out excerpts from the book to his players before a match against England in 2001, and the book is allegedly a favorite of University of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
coach Luiz Felipe Scolari uses the book to plot his Soccer strategy. In the 2002 FIFA World Cup he gave each of his players copies. In the recent 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany he used the book to plan his team's win against England.
It had been reported what the Aryan Brotherhood let thier new recruits read and study ''The Art of War'' and ''The Book of Five Rings'' before they made them new members.
On the popular reality television show '''', participants were given copies as a source of strategy and advice.
It has found use in political campaigning as well; Republican election strategist Lee Atwater claimed he travelled everywhere with it.
Some have also interpreted ''The Art of War'' as providing methods for developing social strategies, such as social relationships, maintaining romantic relationships, and seduction. The book stresses subtlety and always making it appear like one is trying to achieve something other than one's actual intention.
The use of individual quotations from the book as a source of fortune cookie-like proverbs and not seeing the general coherence of the text has been criticized by many scholars of Chinese history.
The book has also gained influence among players of strategy games, including TCGs, collectible miniatures games, and real-time strategy games.
In 2008 the first fully comprehensive, professional film treatment of the Art of War was released by leading Australian documentary film maker Walt Missingham. The critically acclaimed Art of War on DVD draws on some of the world’s leading experts to analyse both the military and non military applications of the Art of War.
Depiction in media
"The Art of War" has been frequently mentioned in popular media such as film and television. Below are a ''few'' examples of this.
*''The Art of War'', by Stephen Jeffreys, is a dramatic interpretation incorporating recitations from the text with the telling of two stories: one of a US commander in the Iraq War and the other of a group of Australian company executives. The play was specially commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company for their resident "Actor's Company" of twelve actors. It was first performed in May 2007.
*In the 1987 film '''', the main antagonist, Gordon Gekko , says: "I don't throw darts at a board. I bet on sure things. Read Sun-tzu, ''The Art of War''. Every battle is won before it is ever fought." His protegé, Bud , comes back after reading the text and says: "All warfare is based on deception. If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight and if not: split and re-evaluate," to which Gekko smiles in approval.
*The 2000 Wesley Snipes film '''' was named after the book. Snipes is also seen reading the book in his 1992 movie ''Passenger 57''.
*The protagonist of the 1999 film '''', played by Forest Whitaker, makes frequent reference to the text, as well as the ''Hagakure'', upon which he bases his philosophy.
*A passage from the ''Art of War'' is recited in the James Bond film ''Die Another Day'' by Colonel Tan-Sun Moon and General Moon in the final scenes of the film. The book itself also appears during the fight between Miranda Frost and .
*The 2003 movie, ''Gigli'', quotes many of the philosophies in this book.
*In the 2003 animated adaptation of the 'Teen Titans' comic book series, General Immortus quotes the text in the episode 'The Homecoming: Part 2', where he observes the Doom Patrol crossing a vast desert and calls to mind the verse "Strike when your enemy is at his weakest, when he is mired in self-doubt, and your victory will be assured." He also later remarks that Sun Tzu was "one of best students".
*The ''Art of War'' is referenced multiple times as a tool for business strategy in ''''
* The ''Art of War'' also figures prominently in the plot resolution of the 1987 ''Star Trek: The Next Generation'' episode, "," wherein the last verse of Chapter 3 is rendered as "Know your enemy and know yourself and victory will always be yours." It is also said that ''The Art of War'' is required reading at Starfleet Academy.
*In the anime 'Grenadier - The Senshi of Smiles', and her nation hold the policy of winning by dissolving an enemy's will to fight and thus avoiding combat altogether as the ultimate battle strategy.
*In the five-part ''GI Joe'' episode, "Arise Serpentor," one of the DNA's that must be retrieved by Cobra in order to genetically construct Serpentor is that of Sun Tzu.
*In the ''Family Guy'' episode, "A Hero Sits Next Door," Stewie Griffin is reading ''The Art of War'', commenting that it is exquisite, until Lois Griffin, Stewie's mother, takes the book away.
*Tony Soprano, the lead character in The Sopranos, praises the utility of ''The Art of War'' in a number of episodes.
*On the August 29, 2008 edition of ''WWE Smackdown'', wrestler The Brian Kendrick and his bodyguard Ezekiel Jackson were seen in a promo reading ''The Art of War''. Kendrick then referenced combining various philosophies from the book's chapters and combining them into a strategy for winning the WWE Championship.
*Br?derbund Software published two games based on Sun Tzu's ''The Art of War''. The first, entitled ''The Ancient Art of War'', and the second, ''The Ancient Art of War at Sea''. They are primarily simulation games, incorporating elements of strategy, geography and adventure. They were released on a number of computer platforms including Apple II , Macintosh, and DOS. The first title was written by Ronald G. Helms.
* In Sid Meier's '''' computer game series, "Sun Tsu's Art of War" or "Military Academy" is one of the fictional "World Wonders" that can be created, giving the owner several temporary military advantages.
* A second Sid Meier simulation, ''Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri'', uses an excerpt from ''The Art of War'' as a narrative explanation of military intelligence gathering during a cutscene for the construction of a specific secret project.
* In the ''Total War'' series computer and video games, by The Creative Assembly, much of the AI in the earlier games in the series were programmed based on Sun Tzu's stratagems in ''The Art of War''. Passages from the book were also quoted on the '''' loading screens and were frequently mentioned in .
* The MMORPG ''Eternal Lands'' has a special day named after Sun Tzu, on which players receive more experience points for attack and defence.
* Bone Thugs-n-Harmony released a double disc album entitled The Art of War with a guest appearance by the late Tupac Shakur
* 30 Seconds to Mars quotes lines from the book at the end of their debut self-titled CD released 2002 by Virgin Records.
* '''' is the title of the major label debut album by acclaimed industrial metal act American Head Charge produced by Rick Rubin.
*Chinese American rapper Jin quotes the book in one of his songs.
*The Swedish metal band released the album '''' in 2008, partially based upon the book. Limited edition of this album also included the book itself.
Sun Tzu is attributed with having a grandson Sun Bin who wrote another treatise on military strategy often called "The Lost Art of War" or "The Art of Warfare". Sun Bin or Sun Pin as he is sometimes called is also known as Sun Tzu II. The following are some published texts in this area:
* This book by Thomas Cleary is a translation of the sequel to Sun Tzu's classic strategic manual.
* This book by Ralph Sawyer is a translation of work written by the purported great-grandson of Sun Tzu in the 4th Century.
* ''Mastering the Art of War'' - Memoirs and notes by famous Chinese military strategists Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji. This book details Zhuge and Liu's personal opinions and comments regarding Sun Tzu's ''The Art of War''. Translated by Thomas Cleary.
Sources and translations
* . The translation by Giles is one of the most widely used today. Giles provided the first "good" translation of ''The Art of War'', as well as providing the first translation by a serious linguist.
* , includes the Yin-ch'ueh-shan texts
* This edition was published as a tie-in with Clavell's ; it is essentially a re-working of the Lionel Giles translation.
* This translation tries to put The Art of War in its original context as a work of military strategy. It also includes a lengthy introduction and translations of some of the "bamboo strips" recovered from the shrine.
* This translation contains two parts. The first part is a completely unadorned, raw version of the core text. The second part is that same text with Chinese commentators as well as others.
* This book is written by General Tao Hanzhang, a senior officer in the People's Liberation Army. He is a senior advisor at the Beijing Institute for International Strategic Studies.
* This text is not a new interpretation of same texts that other editions are based on. Mr. Huang writes a new text based on manuscripts recently discovered in Linyi, China that predates all previous texts by as much as 1000 years.
* This book is written by Samuel B. Griffith, Brigadier General , U.S. Marine Corps., with a foreword by . "Wu Ch'i's Art of War" in six chapters is appended.
* This book written by Donald Krause is interpreted for today's business reader.
* This book by Ralph Sawyer is a culmination on various Chinese strategic texts.
* Aimed mainly at the martial artist, Kaufman's rendition of Sun Tzu's work was written from the perspective of a '''' .
* Winner of a 2003 Independent Publishers Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
* Sun Tzu translated by Paul Brennan . ''The Art of War for Martial Artists''. Odos Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-60402-416-6
*Sun Tzu translated by Victor H. Mair . ''The Art of War: Sun Zi's Military Methods''. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13382-1