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Book Review: "The Art Of War" By Sun Tzu

1234 words - 5 pages

"The Art of War" by Sun Tzu is the oldest military classic known to the world. It is estimated that Sun Tzu lived as far back as the fifth century B.C., around the same time as the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is among the most well-known and esteemed military texts known to man. This version was translated by Lionel Giles in 1910. This was the first accurate translation of the book in English, and also the most famous. The work is divided into thirteen chapters, Laying Plans, Waging War, Attack by Stratagem, Tactical Dispositions, Energy, Weak Points and Strong, Maneuvering, Variation of Tactics, The Army on the March, Terrain, The Nine Situations, The Attack by Fire, and The Use of Spies. Each of these chapters discusses a certain aspect of warfare and provides guidelines on how to deal with them.Sun Tzu was born into a family that was part of a clan of experts on arms and fighting. This type of clan can more accurately be called a guild. The Art of War is most likely based on the ideas passed down to Sun Tzu from his clan as well as his own ideas. He also integrates some concepts of early Taoism. Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Shih chi, or The Records of the Grand Historian, state that Sun Tzu lived in the Ch'i State and was a military general. The only known account of Sun Tzu commanding an army is when he commanded the army of King Lo-Hu of the Wu state, and successfully conquered the Ch'u states capital, Ying, effectively defeating the powerful province. The story of Sun Tzu's later life and death is unknown."The Art of War" can hardly be called a book, as it is simply a set of guidelines and ideas, presented with little or no adjective or description. Lionel Giles salvages the book by providing his own notes as well as quotes of modern military geniuses. These annotations make the book much easier to understand. Without these commentaries, the book would be a raw package of straightforward rules and orders. This style makes the book an only average selection for typical pleasure reading. However, this direct, to the point approach has its advantages. It makes the book very easy to read, unlike most ancient classics, and it is not cluttered by poetic imagery and unnecessary adjectives, in fact, The Art of War has almost no adjectives at all. Although Sun Tzu's ideas are presented in a direct manner, one with no past military experience needs to read each of Sun Tzu's short statements multiple times to fully grasp the point he is trying to get across.The concept of the Tao, the simple but nearly impossible to understand Chinese religion, is deeply imbedded in the roots of the book. Sun Tzu often comments on the simplicity of the world and does not sanction any complex combat maneuvers, as they would not be in accordance with the Tao. The style in which The Art of War is written also resembles Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese classic that essentially founded Taoism. To fully understand Sun Tzu, one must partially understand some motives of the...

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