The Art of War – Most important and famous military treatise in the world

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The Art of War (AKA: 孫子兵法) is the existing earliest military book (a book on the art of war) in China, also the earliest military work in the world. It was written by Sun Tzu (Sun Wu, 孫武) in the 5th century BC (has more than 2500 years of history), whose time is earlier than Carl von Clausewitz‘s On War about 2300 years, and is known as the “sacred book of war” and “the first ancient book on war”. It is the concentrated embodiment of the essence of Chinese ancient military thought, and played an extremely important guiding role in Chinese ancient military art and war practice.

The Art of War was translated into French and published in 1772 by the French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot. And, a partial translation into English was attempted by British officer Everard Ferguson Calthrop in 1905 (under the title “The Book of War”). The book AppNee shared here is the first complete and annotated English translation (with introduction, critical notes and cross references) completed and published by Lionel Giles in 1910.

There are about 6,000 characters (in Chinese) in the book, which are divided into 13 chapters (each one is devoted to a different set of skills/arts related to warfare and how it applies to military strategy and tactics): Laying Plans, Waging War, Attack By Stratagem, Tactical Dispositions, Energy, Weak Points And Strong, Maneuvering, Variation In Tactics, The Army On The March, Terrain, The Nine Situations, The Attack By Fire, and The Use Of Spies.

The art of war is strategy, while strategy is not a trick, but a grand strategy and great wisdom. The Art of War has long been translated into many languages and recognized by the world. It also plays an important role in the world’s military history, and is still of great practical significance so far. It remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare and has influenced both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, lifestyles and beyond. BTW, military and political leaders such as the Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, Japanese pre-eminent daimyō Takeda Shingen, Vietnamese general Võ Nguyên Giáp, and American military general Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. have drawn inspiration from the book.

// Table Of Contents //

Chapter Title Description
I Laying Plans Explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. By thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration.
II Waging War Explains how to understand the economy of warfare and how success requires winning decisive engagements quickly. This section advises that successful military campaigns require limiting the cost of competition and conflict.
III Attack by Stratagem Defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and discusses the five factors that are needed to succeed in any war. In order of importance, these critical factors are: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army and Cities.
IV Tactical Dispositions Explains the importance of defending existing positions until a commander is capable of advancing from those positions in safety. It teaches commanders the importance of recognizing strategic opportunities, and teaches not to create opportunities for the enemy.
V Use of Energy Explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army’s momentum.
VI Weak Points and Strong Explains how an army’s opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy and how to respond to changes in the fluid battlefield over a given area.
VII Maneuvering an Army Explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.
VIII Variation of Tactics Focuses on the need for flexibility in an army’s responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
IX The Army on the March Describes the different situations in which an army finds itself as it moves through new enemy territories, and how to respond to these situations. Much of this section focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.
X Classification of Terrain Looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offers certain advantages and disadvantages.
XI The Nine Situations Describes the nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus that a commander will need in order to successfully navigate them.
XII Attack by Fire Explains the general use of weapons and the specific use of the environment as a weapon. This section examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack and the appropriate responses to such attacks.
XIII Use of Spies Focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them.

// Download URLs //

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