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Book Review: Sun Tzu's Art Of War

3581 words - 15 pages

The legendary figure known as Sun Tzu was a master military strategist and general during the 6th century BC. Sun Tzu lived during a period of martial evolution and massive warfare. During this period most of China was fragmented and violent. Feudal leaders and kings all vied for control. In The Art of War this period is known as the Warring States. Sun Tzu arose as a brilliant general under the command of leader Wu. After a string of skillful victories he began to share his wisdom orally. His subjects were forced to memorize and tediously write the text onto bamboo strips. Though Sun Tzu lived during the age of Confucius his words reflect a Taoist philosophy that called for compassion, ...view middle of the document...

He divides his text into thirteen chapters: Appraisals, Doing Battle, Strategy of Attack, Shih [momentary advantage], The Solid and the Empty, The Army Contending, The Nine Transformations, Moving the Army, Forms of Earth, The Nine Grounds, Attack by Fire, and Employing Spies. Examining the text closer, it is further divides his wisdom into many short, reflective statements and poetic metaphors. The language employed is of a natural order that reflects his spiritual-like relationship with the battlefield and earth alike. One can see in this exert from chapter nine Sun Tzu’s connection with nature:Many trees move.He is approaching.Many obstacles in thick grass.He is misleading us.Birds rise up.He is concealing himself.Animals are startled.He is launching a total assault.(Sun Tzu 38)This is but one parallel passage with natural imagery in the context of war. The impact of Sun Tzu’s words will influence leaders of both civic and military realms for millennia to come.According to contemporary accounts of Sun Tzu’s words they were intended to guide the general in the art and subtleties of warfare. Used in a contemporary context his book can be directed to any sort of leader either in civic, economic, or political affairs. Regardless of the audience anyone can find wisdom in Sun Tzu’s unique Taoist-like perspective. He viewed the world whole, comprised of a multitude of shifting interrelated components. This is not only a way of seeing but also a way of acting. He teaches victory in favorable of war. The continuation of war only leads to a drain of the states resources and unnecessary death and destruction. Swift victory was his aim, and the means of achieving this victory was the lesson to be learned. Although the teachings are strong, one must remember Sun Tzu gave his wisdom orally. Thus text that is known as The Art of War today is a second hand record from this ancient oral tradition. Consequently some of Sun Tzu’s intentions may be that of others or lost in the eons. Nevertheless with what exists today the message is clear; war (or any obstacle for that matter) can be over come with the knowledgeable application of skill.Sun Tzu’s original thirteen chapters address various issues covering the exploitation strategic advantage, maneuvering in various battle situations, and to the importance of deception. Each chapter’s individual theme is evident and as a whole provides leaders the knowledge of attaining victory with as little direct conflict as possible. In the first chapter Appraisals, Sun Tzu underlines the importance of the military in society with the following:The military is a great matter of the state.It is the ground of death and life,The Tao of survival or extinction.One cannot but examine it.(Sun Tzu 3)Essentially he states that one must consider that survival as a nation is relative to the power of the forces that protect it. The power of the military is based on five principles: Tao, heaven, earth...

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