Sun Tzu - 'The Art of War'

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy. Aside from his legacy as the author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and the Culture of Asia as a legendary historical figure. This work is also becoming prominent in Western popular culture. The name Sun Tzu by which he is best known in the West is an honorific which means "Master Sun".  The famous 'Art of War' is traditionally ascribed to Sun Tzu. It presents a philosophy of war for managing conflicts and winning battles. It is accepted as a masterpiece on strategy and has been frequently cited and referred to by generals and theorists since it was first published, translated, and distributed internationally. Although short, this book is incredibly significant. It is comprised of a series of principles of waging war. For example;

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

This principle can be read literally as the strategic importance of reaching the battlefield first and preparing to meet the enemy, but can also be applied to a variety of other scenarios. It can be read as the need to get up early and put in extra hours at the gym, or to get up earlier to better prepare for work.

As a result, the book has been adapted in a variety of contexts and has become popular among political leaders and those in business management. There have been editions to relate its philosophies to self help, business strategy and motivation.  Despite its title, The Art of War also addresses strategy in a broad fashion, touching upon public administration and planning. The text outlines theories of battle, but also advocates diplomacy and the cultivation of relationships with other nations as essential to the health of a state. It emphasises that waging a long war is detrimental to the resolve of an army and nation; 'if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardour will dampened'. The book's adaptability means that this same idea can be applied to inspire people's whose goal may not be forthcoming despite their best efforts by urging them to be the exception of this rule.

Sun Tzu's Art of War has influenced many notable figures. In the 20th century, the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong partially credited his 1949 victory over Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang to The Art of War. The work strongly influenced Mao's writings about guerrilla warfare, which further influenced communist insurgencies around the world.  The Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, the strategist behind victories over French and American forces in Vietnam, was an avid student and practitioner of Sun Tzu's ideas, also crediting him with victories over Western foes.

It is impossible to rate The Art of War, just as it is impossible to give the Bible a verdict out of 5. It is a timeless work, just as relevant now as it was millennia ago.


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