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The Art of War 1 The Art of War SUN TZU ON THE ART OF WAR THE OLDEST MILITARY TREATISE IN THE WORLD Translated from the Chinese with Introduction and Critical Notes BY LIONEL GILES, M.A. Assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and MSS. in the British Museum First Published in 1910 To my brother Captain Valentine Giles, R.G. in the hope that a work 2400 years old may yet contain lessons worth consideration by the soldier of today this translation is affectionately dedicated. Prefa
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  The Art of War SUN TZU ON THE ART OF WAR THE OLDEST MILITARY TREATISE IN THE WORLDTranslated from the Chinese with Introduction and Critical NotesBYLIONEL GILES, M.A.Assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and MSS. in the British MuseumFirst Published in 1910To my brother Captain Valentine Giles, R.G. in the hope that a work 2400 years old may yet contain lessonsworth consideration by the soldier of today this translation is affectionately dedicated.Preface to the Project Gutenburg EtextWhen Lionel Giles began his translation of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR, the work was virtually unknown inEurope. Its introduction to Europe began in 1782 when a French Jesuit Father living in China, Joseph Amiot,acquired a copy of it, and translated it into French. It was not a good translation because, according to Dr.Giles, [I]t contains a great deal that Sun Tzu did not write, and very little indeed of what he did. The firsttranslation into English was published in 1905 in Tokyo by Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A. However, thistranslation is, in the words of Dr. Giles, excessively bad. He goes further in this criticism: It is not merely aquestion of downright blunders, from which none can hope to be wholly exempt. Omissions were frequent;hard passages were willfully distorted or slurred over. Such offenses are less pardonable. They would not betolerated in any edition of a Latin or Greek classic, and a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted uponin translations from Chinese. In 1908 a new edition of Capt. Calthrop's translation was published in London.It was an improvement on the first −− omissions filled up and numerous mistakes corrected −− but new errorswere created in the process. Dr. Giles, in justifying his translation, wrote: It was not undertaken out of anyinflated estimate of my own powers; but I could not help feeling that Sun Tzu deserved a better fate than hadbefallen him, and I knew that, at any rate, I could hardly fail to improve on the work of my predecessors. Clearly, Dr. Giles' work established much of the groundwork for the work of later translators who publishedtheir own editions. Of the later editions of the ART OF WAR I have examined; two feature Giles' editedtranslation and notes, the other two present the same basic information from the ancient Chinesecommentators found in the Giles edition. Of these four, Giles' 1910 edition is the most scholarly and presentsthe reader an incredible amount of information concerning Sun Tzu's text, much more than any othertranslation. The Giles' edition of the ART OF WAR, as stated above, was a scholarly work. Dr. Giles was aleading sinologue at the time and an assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts inthe British Museum. Apparently he wanted to produce a definitive edition, superior to anything else thatexisted and perhaps something that would become a standard translation. It was the best translation availablefor 50 years. But apparently there was not much interest in Sun Tzu in English− speaking countries since theit took the start of the Second World War to renew interest in his work. Several people publishedunsatisfactory English translations of Sun Tzu. In 1944, Dr. Giles' translation was edited and published in theUnited States in a series of military science books. But it wasn't until 1963 that a good English translation (bySamuel B. Griffith and still in print) was published that was an equal to Giles' translation. While thistranslation is more lucid than Dr. Giles' translation, it lacks his copious notes that make his so interesting. Dr.Giles produced a work primarily intended for scholars of the Chinese civilization and language. It contains the The Art of War1  Chinese text of Sun Tzu, the English translation, and voluminous notes along with numerous footnotes.Unfortunately, some of his notes and footnotes contain Chinese characters; some are completely Chinese.Thus, a conversion to a Latin alphabet etext was difficult. I did the conversion in complete ignorance of Chinese (except for what I learned while doing the conversion). Thus, I faced the difficult task of paraphrasing it while retaining as much of the important text as I could. Every paraphrase represents a loss;thus I did what I could to retain as much of the text as possible. Because the 1910 text contains a Chineseconcordance, I was able to transliterate proper names, books, and the like at the risk of making the text moreobscure. However, the text, on the whole, is quite satisfactory for the casual reader, a transformation madepossible by conversion to an etext. However, I come away from this task with the feeling of loss because Iknow that someone with a background in Chinese can do a better job than I did; any such attempt would bewelcomed.Bob Sutton Wu and his Book Ssu−ma Ch`ien gives the following biography of Sun Tzu: [1] −−Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i State. His ART OF WAR brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, [2] Kingof Wu. Ho Lu said to him: I have carefully perused your 13 chapters. May I submit your theory of managingsoldiers to a slight test? Sun Tzu replied: You may. Ho Lu asked: May the test be applied to women? Theanswer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace. SunTzu divided them into two companies, and placed one of the King's favorite concubines at the head of each.He then bade them all take spears in their hands, and addressed them thus: I presume you know thedifference between front and back, right hand and left hand? The girls replied: Yes. Sun Tzu went on: WhenI say Eyes front, you must look straight ahead. When I say Left turn, you must face towards your lefthand. When I say Right turn, you must face towards your right hand. When I say About turn, you mustface right round towards your back. Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thusexplained, he set up the halberds and battle−axes in order to begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, hegave the order Right turn. But the girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu said: If words of command are notclear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. So he started drillingthem again, and this time gave the order Left turn, whereupon the girls once more burst into fits of laughter.Sun Tzu: If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the generalis to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of theirofficers. So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be beheaded. Now the king of Wu waswatching the scene from the top of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his favorite concubines were aboutto be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message: We are now quitesatisfied as to our general's ability to handle troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat anddrink will lose their savor. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded. Sun Tzu replied: Having oncereceived His Majesty's commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majestywhich, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept. Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, andstraightway installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this had been done, the drum wassounded for the drill once more; and the girls went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left,marching ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing toutter a sound. Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying: Your soldiers, Sire, are now properlydrilled and disciplined, and ready for your majesty's inspection. They can be put to any use that theirsovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey. But the King replied: Let our general cease drilling and return to camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect thetroops. Thereupon Sun Tzu said: The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds. After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army, and finally appointed him The Art of War2  general. In the west, he defeated the Ch`u State and forced his way into Ying, the capital; to the north he putfear into the States of Ch`i and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the feudal princes. And Sun Tzushared in the might of the King.About Sun Tzu himself this is all that Ssu−ma Ch`ien has to tell us in this chapter. But he proceeds to give abiography of his descendant, Sun Pin, born about a hundred years after his famous ancestor's death, and alsothe outstanding military genius of his time. The historian speaks of him too as Sun Tzu, and in his preface weread: Sun Tzu had his feet cut off and yet continued to discuss the art of war. [3] It seems likely, then, that Pin was a nickname bestowed on him after his mutilation, unless the story was invented in order to accountfor the name. The crowning incident of his career, the crushing defeat of his treacherous rival P`ang Chuan,will be found briefly related in Chapter V . ss. 19, note. To return to the elder Sun Tzu. He is mentioned intwo other passages of the SHIH CHI: −−In the third year of his reign [512 B.C.] Ho Lu, king of Wu, took the field with Tzu−hsu [i.e. Wu Yuan] andPo P`ei, and attacked Ch`u. He captured the town of Shu and slew the two prince's sons who had formerlybeen generals of Wu. He was then meditating a descent on Ying [the capital]; but the general Sun Wu said: The army is exhausted. It is not yet possible. We must wait .... [After further successful fighting,] in theninth year [506 B.C.], King Ho Lu addressed Wu Tzu−hsu and Sun Wu, saying: Formerly, you declared thatit was not yet possible for us to enter Ying. Is the time ripe now? The two men replied: Ch`u's generalTzu−ch`ang, [4] is grasping and covetous, and the princes of T`ang and Ts`ai both have a grudge against him.If Your Majesty has resolved to make a grand attack, you must win over T`ang and Ts`ai, and then you maysucceed. Ho Lu followed this advice, [beat Ch`u in five pitched battles and marched into Ying.] [5]This is the latest date at which anything is recorded of Sun Wu. He does not appear to have survived hispatron, who died from the effects of a wound in 496. In another chapter there occurs this passage: [6]From this time onward, a number of famous soldiers arose, one after the other: Kao−fan, [7] who wasemployed by the Chin State; Wang−tzu, [8] in the service of Ch`i; and Sun Wu, in the service of Wu. Thesemen developed and threw light upon the principles of war.It is obvious enough that Ssu−ma Ch`ien at least had no doubt about the reality of Sun Wu as an historicalpersonage; and with one exception, to be noticed presently, he is by far the most important authority on theperiod in question. It will not be necessary, therefore, to say much of such a work as the WU YUEH CH`UNCH`IU, which is supposed to have been written by Chao Yeh of the 1st century A.D. The attribution issomewhat doubtful; but even if it were otherwise, his account would be of little value, based as it is on theSHIH CHI and expanded with romantic details. The story of Sun Tzu will be found, for what it is worth, inchapter 2. The only new points in it worth noting are: (1) Sun Tzu was first recommended to Ho Lu by WuTzu−hsu. (2) He is called a native of Wu. (3) He had previously lived a retired life, and his contemporarieswere unaware of his ability. The following passage occurs in the Huai−nan Tzu: When sovereign andministers show perversity of mind, it is impossible even for a Sun Tzu to encounter the foe. Assuming thatthis work is genuine (and hitherto no doubt has been cast upon it), we have here the earliest direct referencefor Sun Tzu, for Huai−nan Tzu died in 122 B.C., many years before the SHIH CHI was given to the world.Liu Hsiang (80−9 B.C.) says: The reason why Sun Tzu at the head of 30,000 men beat Ch`u with 200,000 isthat the latter were undisciplined. Teng Ming−shih informs us that the surname Sun was bestowed on SunWu's grandfather by Duke Ching of Ch`i [547−490 B.C.]. Sun Wu's father Sun P`ing, rose to be a Minister of State in Ch`i, and Sun Wu himself, whose style was Ch`ang−ch`ing, fled to Wu on account of the rebellionwhich was being fomented by the kindred of T`ien Pao. He had three sons, of whom the second, named Ming,was the father of Sun Pin. According to this account then, Pin was the grandson of Wu, which, consideringthat Sun Pin's victory over Wei was gained in 341 B.C., may be dismissed as chronological impossible.Whence these data were obtained by Teng Ming−shih I do not know, but of course no reliance whatever canbe placed in them. An interesting document which has survived from the close of the Han period is the shortpreface written by the Great Ts`ao Ts`ao, or Wei Wu Ti, for his edition of Sun Tzu. I shall give it in full: −− The Art of War3  I have heard that the ancients used bows and arrows to their advantage. [10] The SHU CHU mentions thearmy among the eight objects of government. The I CHING says: 'army' indicates firmness and justice;the experienced leader will have good fortune. The SHIH CHING says: The King rose majestic in his wrath,and he marshaled his troops. The Yellow Emperor, T`ang the Completer and Wu Wang all used spears andbattle−axes in order to succor their generation. The SSU−MA FA says: If one man slay another of setpurpose, he himself may rightfully be slain. He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated;he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish. Instances of this are Fu Ch`ai [11] on the one hand andYen Wang on the other. [12] In military matters, the Sage's rule is normally to keep the peace, and to movehis forces only when occasion requires. He will not use armed force unless driven to it by necessity. Manybooks have I read on the subject of war and fighting; but the work composed by Sun Wu is the profoundest of them all. [Sun Tzu was a native of the Ch`i state, his personal name was Wu. He wrote the ART OF WAR in13 chapters for Ho Lu, King of Wu. Its principles were tested on women, and he was subsequently made ageneral. He led an army westwards, crushed the Ch`u state and entered Ying the capital. In the north, he keptCh`i and Chin in awe. A hundred years and more after his time, Sun Pin lived. He was a descendant of Wu.][13] In his treatment of deliberation and planning, the importance of rapidity in taking the field, [14] clearnessof conception, and depth of design, Sun Tzu stands beyond the reach of carping criticism. My contemporaries,however, have failed to grasp the full meaning of his instructions, and while putting into practice the smallerdetails in which his work abounds, they have overlooked its essential purport. That is the motive which hasled me to outline a rough explanation of the whole.One thing to be noticed in the above is the explicit statement that the 13 chapters were specially composed forKing Ho Lu. This is supported by the internal evidence of I. ss. 15, in which it seems clear that some ruler isaddressed. In the bibliographic section of the HAN SHU, there is an entry which has given rise to muchdiscussion: The works of Sun Tzu of Wu in 82 P`IEN (or chapters), with diagrams in 9 CHUAN. It isevident that this cannot be merely the 13 chapters known to Ssu−ma Ch`ien, or those we possess today. ChangShou−chieh refers to an edition of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR of which the 13 chapters formed the firstCHUAN, adding that there were two other CHUAN besides. This has brought forth a theory, that the bulk of these 82 chapters consisted of other writings of Sun Tzu −− we should call them apocryphal −− similar to theWEN TA, of which a specimen dealing with the Nine Situations [15] is preserved in the T`UNG TIEN, andanother in Ho Shin's commentary. It is suggested that before his interview with Ho Lu, Sun Tzu had onlywritten the 13 chapters, but afterwards composed a sort of exegesis in the form of question and answerbetween himself and the King. Pi I−hsun, the author of the SUN TZU HSU LU, backs this up with a quotationfrom the WU YUEH CH`UN CH`IU: The King of Wu summoned Sun Tzu, and asked him questions aboutthe art of war. Each time he set forth a chapter of his work, the King could not find words enough to praisehim. As he points out, if the whole work was expounded on the same scale as in the above− mentionedfragments, the total number of chapters could not fail to be considerable. Then the numerous other treatisesattributed to Sun Tzu might be included. The fact that the HAN CHIH mentions no work of Sun Tzu exceptthe 82 P`IEN, whereas the Sui and T`ang bibliographies give the titles of others in addition to the 13chapters, is good proof, Pi I−hsun thinks, that all of these were contained in the 82 P`IEN. Without pinningour faith to the accuracy of details supplied by the WU YUEH CH`UN CH`IU, or admitting the genuinenessof any of the treatises cited by Pi I−hsun, we may see in this theory a probable solution of the mystery.Between Ssu−ma Ch`ien and Pan Ku there was plenty of time for a luxuriant crop of forgeries to have grownup under the magic name of Sun Tzu, and the 82 P`IEN may very well represent a collected edition of theselumped together with the srcinal work. It is also possible, though less likely, that some of them existed in thetime of the earlier historian and were purposely ignored by him. [16] Tu Mu's conjecture seems to be based ona passage which states: Wei Wu Ti strung together Sun Wu's Art of War, which in turn may have resultedfrom a misunderstanding of the final words of Ts`ao King's preface. This, as Sun Hsing−yen points out, isonly a modest way of saying that he made an explanatory paraphrase, or in other words, wrote a commentaryon it. On the whole, this theory has met with very little acceptance. Thus, the SSU K`U CH`UAN SHU says: The mention of the 13 chapters in the SHIH CHI shows that they were in existence before the HAN CHIH,and that latter accretions are not to be considered part of the srcinal work. Tu Mu's assertion can certainly notbe taken as proof. There is every reason to suppose, then, that the 13 chapters existed in the time of Ssu−ma The Art of War4
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