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US troops marching to the front in 1951, during the Korean War. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War describes success as winning decisive engagements quickly. This particular conflict lasted three years with no clear victory for either side.

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BLOOMSBURY CHINA Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY CHINA and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain in 2019 This electronic edition published in 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc Translation copyright Š Lionel Giles New commentary text copyright Š Anthony Tucker-Jones in 2019 Anthony Tucker-Jones has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication data has been applied for ISBN: HB: 978-1-91239-211-7; eBook: 978-1-91239-210-0; ePDF: 978-1-9123-9209-4 All photographs courtesy of Getty images. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc makes every effort to ensure that the papers used in the manufacture of our books are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in well-managed forests. Our manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. To find out more about our authors and books visit Here you will find extracts, author interviews, details of forthcoming events and the option to sign up for our newsletters. Lionel Giles published his translation of The Art of War in 1910. At that time, the Wade-Giles system for romanising Chinese script was standard. (Giles himself was the son of Herbert Giles, who had improved the method devised by Thomas Wade.) Since the 1980s, Pinyin has been the preferred method, and this has been used for the commentary.

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CONTENTS Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 1. Laying Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 2. Waging War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 3. Attack by Stratagem . . . . . . . . . . . 38 4. Tactical Dispositions . . . . . . . . . . 48 5. Energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 6. Weak Points and Strong . . . . . . . . . 68 7. Manoeuvring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 8. Variation in Tactics . . . . . . . . . . . 92 9. The Army on the March . . . . . . . . . 102 10. Terrain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 11. The Nine Situations . . . . . . . . . . 128 12. The Attack by Fire . . . . . . . . . . . 148 13. The Use of Spies . . . . . . . . . . . . 158 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Acknowledgements and references . . . Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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British troops fire from their positions in a sunken lane during Operation Epsom in 1944. In line with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the Allied invasion of north-west Europe used creativity and timing to build momentum.

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China, like many other nations, has been forged in fire and blood. Towards the end of the last century, it was stricken by civil war and foreign invasion.

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Communist soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army were issued in 1939 with a small textbook called A Preliminary Study of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. This had been produced by Guo Huaruo, a leading strategist of the time, and such was the power and fame of The Art of War that the soldiers cared little that it dated from the 4th century bce. It had been written by an enigmatic and semi-mythical individual by the name of Sun Tzu, who has since been elevated to the status of global superstar as the original military guru. The book was the classic Sun Tzu Ping Fa or Master Sun’s Art of War.


How on earth could such an ancient text have any relevance in 20th-century China? Sun Tzu’s opening remarks showed a universal truth about warfare: ‘The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.’ This holds as true today as when it was first written, more than two thousand years ago. Communist leader Mao Zedong thought highly of The Art of War, saying: ‘We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu: “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”’ Ever since, the book has lined the

shelves not only of statesmen and soldiers, but also of businessmen seeking an edge over their competitors. From the City of London to Wall Street, The Art of War has become a talisman to success – the very first selfhelp book, if you like. The seventh to third centuries bce encompass the era of the Spring and Autumn Annals followed by the Warring States period, which saw an explosion of intellectual thought across China. This was in part stimulated by competition between the rulers, which ensured that no single ideology came to dominate. (A similar process was experienced in Classical Greece and Renaissance Italy.) This inevitably had an impact on the conduct of war. Slowly the more powerful states began to conquer their weaker neighbours. The survivors naturally sought any advantage over their rivals. This included the use of wandering scholars who shared the benefit of their knowledge. In reality, many of them were little more than unprincipled mercenaries who sold their services to the highest bidder during the Warring States period. Second to Sun Tzu in terms of reputation is Wu Qi, another strategist of the Warring States period. He served the kingdoms of Lu, Wei and Qi during the early decades of the fourth century. His own art of war has

Warfare is based on deception Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery aptly summed up The Art of War: ‘It teaches that the proper object of strategy is the speedy attainment of the political object of the war and a secure peace, not lengthy and destructive warfare. Victory must be gained at the minimum cost in lives and destruction. Though integrity is valued in a commander, ultimately all warfare is based on deception.’ ‘To cheat is to win’ is how the business world interpreted this.

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survived and has many similar elements to Sun Tzu, but each military philosopher inevitably sought to put their own spin on military thinking. There was another school of thought known as Mohism, led by Mozi, who died in 391 bce. While he denounced war, his followers often aided smaller states that were being menaced by their larger neighbours. Mozi was far from a pacifist, though. Rather, he was an advocate of deterrence. In one instance he is said to have displayed military equipment for defending city walls to an attacker, adding that he would supply it to the defenders if the aggressor did not desist. Similarly Hsun Tzu, also practising in the third century, believed in a hearts and minds approach, which would impress an aggressor enough to not attack. This Confucian approach disapproved of duplicity in politics and war. Xun Kuang argued that ‘the armies of the benevolent man cannot use deceit.’ This, of course, ran counter to everything Sun Tzu advocated. Quite how Sun Tzu withstood the test of time is hard to fathom once you understand that Chinese military manuals were far from unique. For example, a catalogue from the early Han dynasty (second century bce) listed more than180 books on the subject. There numbered around 350 by the Song dynasty (960–1179), but crucially only two have survived. These manuals were not books in the conventional sense. Before paper appeared in the Han dynasty, scholars painted onto strips of bamboo or wood. These were tied into bundles and, although portable, could hardly be used on the battlefield. Hence the value of the wandering scholars. Ironically The Art of War grew from the teachings of Laozi, the founder of Taoism, which is the antithesis of militarism. Taoists are taught that the secret of success is through the Tao, or the Way. Sun Bin, one of Sun Tzu’s successors, referred to his work as ‘Tao Warfare’. Sun Tzu was to echo many of the elements of the Tao Te Ching, which is believed to date from about the fifth

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century bce. Notably both used water as a metaphor for hidden strength. In many respects, psychology became the key to Sun Tzu’s military thought. Central to this is the role of deception and the ability to understand and manipulate one’s enemies. This has resonated ever since and is accepted practice.

Who was Sun Tzu?

Despite the fame of his book, the man himself has proved frustratingly difficult to pin down to an exact time or place. Intriguingly, it has long been speculated that he was a figment of someone’s imagination and his The Art of War was in fact what today we would call a product of spin. His name gives us very little to go on: it is simply a title meaning The Master Sun. According to Sima Qian’s Shiji, he was born in Qi (the western part of Shandong province) and wrote The Art of War in 13 chapters. This brought him to the notice of King Helü of the southeastern state of Wu, who ruled between 513 and 494 bce. As a result, Sun Tzu is sometimes referred to as Sun Wu. Sima Qian says:


Sun Tzu defeated the strong state of Chu to the west and entered Ying (i.e. the Chu capital); to the north he intimidated Qi and Qin. That the name of [the state of] Wu was illustrious among the feudal lords was partly due to his achievements. Both Sima Qian and the Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue refer to him, rather confusingly, as Sun Wu, who served the state of Wu around the end of the sixth century bce. Curiously, Zuo Qiuming, who also chronicled the kingdom of Wu, does not mention Sun Tzu. Doubt has been cast on the age of The Art of War because the style of warfare discussed is more indicative of the fourth century bce – most notably, references to the crossbow. This has led over the years to speculation that Sun Tzu never existed and that his book was ghosted by the much later writer Sun Bin.

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The Essence of The Art of War While The Art of War is a very short book, it is not always an easy read. Many of Sun Tzu’s key teachings are common sense and still strike a chord, but some of his guidance can come across as decidedly inscrutable. This is in part due to translators over the centuries adding their own poetic gloss, but it also is a reflection of how language and meaning changes over time. In addition, there is a great degree of overlap in some of the chapters, so there is a sense of repetition in places. This may have been in part an attempt by Sun Tzu to drive home his message. Even so, the essence of The Art of War is very simple to understand.


To embark on a military campaign, Sun Tzu explains that a commander must calculate such factors as the strength of the combatant’s forces, the capabilities of the opposing commander and the ability of an enemy state to wage war. If war is necessary, then the fight should be taken to the enemy because this offers three advantages. It disrupts his mobilisation plans; soldiers will live off the land, thereby not putting a burden on their own civilian population; and once in hostile territory, soldiers are less likely to desert because it is safer to stay together. Desertion was clearly a problem at the time of writing, and Sun Tzu offers much advice on how to prevent this. Not least is his suggestion of leading an army into the death ground, where retreat is impossible – obliging troops to win or to die trying. Perhaps the best-known Sun Tzu mantra is the importance of knowing your enemy before giving battle. This is best achieved through reconnaissance and developing a knowledge of the local terrain. His tactics are based on employing ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ forces. Sun Tzu’s main themes are familiar to modern commanders, because these focus on operations against an enemy’s flanks and rear as well as frontal attacks by well-motivated troops. The right time to conduct any of these is based on making assessments of enemy troop intentions and morale. Sun Tzu and his colleagues stress the primacy of the offensive. Again, this is a strategy understood by modern commanders as attack is the best form of defence. While the ancient Chinese made use of field fortifications, these were largely used to protect encampments overnight and as a base of operations. This is why Sun Tzu devotes an entire chapter to employing fire to attack an enemy camp using fire arrows or setting alight dry grass.

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Confusingly Sima Qian says that Sun Bin (‘Pin’) was a descendant of Sun Tzu. The name Bin was just a nickname, thereby clouding his identity. What is known is that his family was related to the ruling house of Qi. Sun Bin was born Qi during the early fourth century bce – the middle of the Warring States period. He was brought up with a military background, and tradition has it studied under Guiguzi along with Pang Juan from Wei. It was the former who entrusted Sun Bin with the secret of his ancestor’s The Art of War. Sun Bin’s first job was with the ruler of a rival state, King Hui of Wei, where he found an old classmate among the king’s generals. Pang Juan was jealous of Sun’s military knowledge and had him arrested and put on trial on trumped up charges. Sun was found guilty, though his death sentence was commuted to mutilation, which involved having his kneecaps removed and his face tattooed. Luckily for Sun, an emissary from Qi managed to smuggle him out of Wei. He then became the Chief of Staff to T’ien Chi, the commander of the Qi army. In 354 bce, in support of the kingdom of Chao, Qi went to war with Wei, resulting in the Kuei-ling campaign. Sun counselled that the Qi army be divided into three to lure Pang Juan’s forces to their destruction. This defied accepted wisdom but brought victory. Thirteen years later, in the Maling campaign, Sun helped defeat Pang again. Sun Tzu’s book had served him well and after the wars he wrote the Sun Bin Bing-Fa or Sun Pin’s Art of War. This was written on 400 strips and was in circulation until the late Han dynasty, but was lost until a copy was found in 1972 in a Han tomb. Thanks to his illustrious military career, he was eminently qualified to write this book. His military philosophy proved strikingly similar to Sun Tzu’s, which gave rise to speculation that they were one and the same person. In the Warring States period, there was a practice of enhancing a work by claiming it had been written by an illustrious (and mythical)

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ancestor who had lived during the Golden Age of Wisdom. Could it be that Sun Bin produced two versions of the same work and ascribed one to a forebear in order to give The Art of War bearing his own name greater credibility? Chinese military manuals are known to date from way before the fourth century bce. Tàigōng’s Liú Tāo, or Six Secret Teachings, was thought to date from the Chou dynasty, around 1050 bce. On closer inspection, it looks much more like a work from the Warring States period. References to cavalry certainly mean it is later than the Chou period. A Chu military commander quoted from a manual in 595 bce. Seven of the oldest were recognised as military classics by the Song period. Their provenance is not entirely clear and it has been suggested that they do not predate Sun Tzu. It is quite possible that Sun Bin edited together a series of earlier manuals, perhaps including works by his own ancestors, to produce Sun Tzu’s book. During the fourth century bce, cavalry and the crossbow first began to make their mark. Interestingly, Sun Tzu describes chariots and infantry, and also references the crossbow, even though this weapon did not have a decisive effect on the battlefield until Maling in 341 bce. In Sun Tzu’s defence, it has been recorded that the crossbow was invented in the sixth century bce. Sima Qian is considered an accurate chronicler, so did he get his facts wrong? What is known is that at some point in the fourth century bce or perhaps later, the Sun Tzu Ping Fa was edited and revised. Sun Bin may have been involved in this process. His conduct of two highly successful campaigns certainly marks out Sun Bin as one of the greatest commanders of the East. It was a time that marked a change in the art of warfare.


During Sun Bin’s lifetime, other great military commanders emerged – most notably Alexander the Great, who took his armies from the Mediterranean to the North China Plain. He would be followed by Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal and Scipio Africanus.

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These generals were able to conduct their campaigns because kingdoms had developed to a point where they could sustain very large armies and keep them in the field. Once it got to the point where empires controlled vast areas, such as those of the Qin and Rome, it became a case of holding ground against barbarians. This did not require generals of quite the same flare. Where Sun Tzu and Sun Bin were concerned, the art of warfare was all about the intellectual challenge of outwitting an equal or superior enemy. As Sun Bin put it: Thus when those who excel at warfare discern an enemy’s strength, they know where he has a shortcoming. When they discern an enemy’s insufficiency, they know where he has a surplus. They perceive victory as easily as seeing the sun and moon. Their measures for victory are like using water to conquer fire.


Famous Military Practitioners

During the Second World War, Basil Liddell Hart was amazed to discover that The Art of War had fallen from fashion in China. During conversations with the Chinese Military Attaché, who was a pupil of Chiang Kai-shek, Liddell Hart recalled being told ‘that while Sun Tzu’s book was venerated as a classic, it was considered out of date by most younger officers, and thus hardly worth study in the era of mechanized weapons.’ It was evident that Chiang Kai-shek and his commanders had committed a blunder, for it meant they did not truly understand their enemy. By contrast, Guo Huaruo wrote a commentary in 1939, A Preliminary Study of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, for use in Communist-controlled areas. ‘The Art of War is regarded as one of the great works of Chinese literature,’ said Field Marshal Montgomery. ‘It is full of mature military wisdom – much of which Europeans were not to learn for themselves until

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the Napoleonic era.’ Napoleon Bonaparte himself had not been a student of Sun Tzu: for the most part, his military idols came from much later eras. He advised: ‘Read and reread the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick; take them for your model, that is the only way of becoming a great captain, to obtain the secrets of the art of war.’ Famous commanders in Chinese history include Po Chi, Chang Chien and Tsao Kung, but little is known about them. There is no evidence that Chinese warfare developed significantly, and expansion is likely to have been as much a matter of alliances and cultural conversion as of force of arms. … Although in the time of Kublai Khan (1259–94), the combined Mongol and Chinese arms touched Japan, Burma and Java these expeditions were not finally successful. Space does not permit a comprehensive survey of the Chinese military leaders who were influenced by The Art of War over the centuries and who achieved China’s unification. Apart from Sun Bin, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek, very few Chinese generals are widely known in the West. However, Xiang Yu, Liu Bang, Han Xin, An Lushan and Yelü Chucai are worth mentioning.

Xiang Yu Warlord Xiang Yu came to prominence in early 200 bce during the Chu rebellion against the Qin. Xiang Yu had wanted to be a scholar, saying: ‘What I want to learn is the art of attacking 10,000 enemies.’ He was not a very diligent student but presumably read Sun Tzu, for he became the power behind King Huai and commander of his army. In 207 bce, Yu defeated the Qin at Julu, north of the Yellow River, using Sun Tzu’s desperate ground technique whereby his troops had to fight or die. He achieved this by burning all their ships after crossing the river. After his victory, he tricked an enemy general into surrendering and murdered 200,000 Qin soldiers.

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Liu Bang

An Lushan

Liu Bang was a contemporary of Xiang Yu’s. Although not a great commander, he surrounded himself with able subordinates, including Han Xin, who was a student of Sun Tzu and won a series of brilliant victories for him. He also maintained better discipline with his forces, forbidding looting and killing. As a result he was able to enter Xianyang, the Qin capital, unopposed. Yu subsequently arrived and burned the city to the ground and went on to defeat Bang at P’engch’eng. The latter got his revenge in 202 bce at Kai-Hsia.

Although not even Chinese, warlord An Lushan had become the single most powerful man in north-east China by 750 ce. He was half-Iranian, half-Turk and born in what became Uzbekistan. Like all nomadic peoples from beyond the frontier, the Chinese considered him an uncultured barbarian. However, through a combination of guile and military prowess, he rose to enjoy the Emperor’s patronage. He then rebelled and, with the aid of his chief strategist Yen Chuang, defeated the Imperial Army in the battle for the Tong Pass in 756 ce. He was now at the height of his power, but was murdered the following year. To the barbarians, though, he became a legend: he had played the Chinese at their own game and won.

Han Xin Han Xin was described by The Art of War translator Lionel Giles as a ‘transcendent genius’. Certainly he successfully implemented many of Sun Tzu’s teachings on the battlefield. He was a daring strategist whose actions often confounded and surprised his enemies. At the Battle of Wei River, the army of Long Ju was deployed on the far bank. During the night, Han Xin dammed the river upstream and the following day crossed with half his army to attack. After some fighting he retreated back over the river, with Long Ju in hot pursuit. At this point the dam was breached and Long Ju trapped and slain. The rest of his army fled. At the Battle of Jingxing Pass in 205 bce, Han Xin lured his Chao enemies from their strong fortifications by deliberately fighting with his back to the Tao river. At the critical moment, several thousand of his cavalry, who had remained hidden, swooped from behind into the enemy camp, causing panic amongst the enemy army. Han Xin then launched a two-pronged attack and clinched victory.

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Yelü Chucai The Chinese exerted considerable influence over the Mongols, both culturally and militarily. Becoming Genghis Khan’s personal advisor in 1215, Chucai followed Sun Tzu’s teachings and said: ‘The Mongol Empire has been won from the saddle – it cannot be ruled from the saddle.’ He advised that benevolence should be shown to the conquered: sacked cities would mean a loss of tribute and trade, and killing the people would not help the Mongol campaigns. On the whole, Genghis and his son Ögedei heeded his wise counsel. A true wandering scholar, Yelü Chucai had amassed no great fortune by the time he died; his sole possessions were medicines, musical instruments and his books.


Takeda Shingen Outside China, The Art of War had a profound effect on the Japanese and first appeared in Japan around 760 ce. Generations of Samurai grew up on Sun Tzu’s 13 chapters and it helped shape their feudal obligation, known as Bushidō, or the Way of Warriors. By the time of the Genpei War of 1180–85, the power of the Emperor had been declining for decades, and two clans were jostling for control. Into this vacuum stepped the

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warlords, most notably Japan’s three ‘great unifiers’.

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Takeda Shingen’s successful military tactics and strategy are said to have been based on The Art of War. It was also the inspiration for his Fūrinkazan battle standard: ‘as swift as wind, as gentle as forest, as fierce as fire, as unshakable as mountain’. He fought his rival Uesugi Kenshin year after year, meeting on the battlefield five times in the Battles of Kawanakajima. Shingen died in 1573 while campaigning against Oda Nobunga and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

After the death of Hideyoshi, the country was split. It was Ieyausu who emerged victorious after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He became Shogun and members of his family were to hold this post for the next 250 years. Ieyasu sealed his hold on power at the battle of Osaka in 1615.

Oda Nobunaga In 1575 Oda Nobunaga, one of the greatest Samurai innovators, defeated Shingen’s successor Takeda Katsuyori at Nagashino. Thanks to Nobunaga’s successful use of arquebusiers or musketeers, he ushered in a new era in Japanese military history.


Toyotomi Hideyoshi Also at Nagashino were two of Japan’s other leading military thinkers: Nobunga’s protégé Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nobunaga was killed in 1582 by one of his generals and swiftly succeeded by Hideyoashi. Two years later, he and Ieyasu fought at Nagakute. The latter lost and pledged his allegiance.

Tog0 Heihachir0 Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō was the commander of the Japanese Navy during the Russo Japanese War of 1904–05, and the hero of the battles of Port Arthur and Tsushima. Born in Satsuma on Kyushu, he was trained in the traditions of the Samurai from childhood. A fan of The Art of War, he was characterised as merciless in the treatment of his enemies. On the eve of battle, he said: ‘The thoughts of victory or defeat belong, properly, to the time before the fighting takes place. Once you cross fire with the enemy, you should never think of victory or defeat. Those who are desirous of not being defeated shall undoubtedly be defeated.’ Tsushima has been described as the greatest and most decisive sea battle since Trafalgar.

Võ Ngyugên Giáp General Giáp served with Mao’s guerrillas before commanding Vietnamese Communist forces during the French Indo-China War and the subsequent Vietnam War. He viewed himself as a politician and strategist rather than a professional soldier. His greatest military achievement was the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. However, his Tet Offensive of 1968 ended in failure.

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Canadian infantrymen conduct a street battle in Campochiaro, Italy, in 1943. The Second World War was the deadliest conflict in human history, with between 50 and 85 million lives lost. Sun Tzu stresses war is a very grave matter and must not be commenced without due consideration.

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Mao Zedong

The Other Great Military Theorist

Mao drew heavily on Sun Tzu. In Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare), he wrote: ‘The concept of guerrilla warfare is an end in itself and that guerrilla activities can be divorced from those of the regular forces is incorrect.’ He believed in the need for base areas that resulted in positional warfare, but understood this was not the route to victory. His collected military writings filled numerous other volumes, which included On Protracted War and Strategic Problems of China’s Revolutionary War. Where Mao offered something new was in combing guerrilla warfare strategy with social revolution. It was Mao who converted the Chinese Communist Party to a true socialist peasant revolution that achieved victory in 1949.

In the fame stakes, General Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) is Sun Tzu’s nearest rival. He served with the Prussian Army as a staff officer during the Napoleonic Wars, including the Waterloo campaign. Like Sun Tzu before him, he wrote to give substance to his observations on the art of war. He examined the relationship between war and policy, the importance of morale and strategy, and he explored the concept of absolute war.

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim

Unfortunately, Clausewitz did not have time to fully appraise and conclude his work. He contributed no new ideas to tactics or strategy, but simply gave substance to existing thought. Clausewitz has been criticised for confining his research to too narrow a historical period – the Napoleonic Wars – and he made very limited use of comparative analysis considering the vastness of the subject. He admitted that his unfinished work was ‘a mass of conceptions . . . open to endless misconceptions’.

Field Marshal Mannerheim commanded Finland’s small armed forces during the Winter War and the Second World War (known as the Continuation War by the Finns). He drew on the French translation of The Art of War to help fend off the superior numbers of Stalin’s Red Army. Mannerheim’s strategic planner, Lieutenant General Aksel Fredrik Airo, was also a student of Sun Tzu’s work.

Norman Schwarzkopf Sun Tzu can be found on the shelves of every military college, including West Point. The US Defense Department considers it required reading for its cadets. In 1944, at the height of World War Two, a version was published with an introduction by Brigadier General Thomas R. Phillips for use by the US military. During the Gulf War in 1991, General Norman Schwarzkopf utilised the teachings of Sun Tzu: employing deception, feints and manoeuvre, and capitalising on an enemy’s weaknesses, he defeated Saddam Hussein and liberated Kuwait.

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Clausewitz died of Cholera in 1831 and his work was published posthumously by his widow as Vom Kreige (On War). Like Sun Tzu, he was to gain far greater influence after his death than he ever did in life. His book became a standard text for military academies around the world.

Clausewitz wrote: ‘War is thus the act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.’ He also famously observed: ‘War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means.’ Influenced by philosophy, Clausewitz assumed the existence of an archetypal form of war, towards which all military operations should be directed, which he dubbed absolute warfare. He noted that war continually pursues the ideal but can never attain it. In his view, the Napoleonic Wars came nearest, with entire states becoming subservient to the war machine. Unlike Sun Tzu, the British military theorist Sir Basil Liddell Hart and Winston Churchill, Clausewitz was not an advocate of the indirect approach to strategy.

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Pearls of Wisdom Surprisingly, The Art of War was very slow to reach the West despite its known value in China and Japan. It appeared in French first in the early 1780s courtesy of a Jesuit Priest by the name of Father Joseph Amiot. Unfortunately, this was far from being a faithful translation and was soon overshadowed by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. As a result, it was Clausewitz who caught on in Europe. Captain E.F. Calthrop produced the first English language version in Japan in 1905. It was viewed just as bad as Amiot’s attempt. Five years later, Lionel Giles, an assistant curator at the British Museum, published his translation – and this has been considered the gold standard in the English language ever since. Giles was not impressed by his predecessors’ efforts, calling them ‘little better than an imposture’ and ‘excessively bad’ respectively. Through the ages, many chroniclers and scholars have sought to translate, decipher and interpret Sun Tzu’s teachings; using the Lionel Giles translation, this book follows in that tradition with the aim of making him accessible and relevant. It includes numerous examples of battles throughout history, intended to illustrate just how universal and visionary The Art of War proved to be. According to Liu Yin, a scholar during the Ming dynasty, The Art of War should be read ‘in a lively manner, like pearls rattling around in a dish, with no prescribed order’. This deluxe illustrated edition is designed to be read with those sage words very much in mind.

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General Simpson, Major General Gillem and Major General McLain discuss tactics in advance of the 9th US army’s crossing of the Rhine towards the end of the Second World War. Sun Tzu’s text highlights that with careful planning and assessment a commander can calculate their chances of victory.

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A new illustrated edition of Sun Tzu’s classic ancient Chinese meditation on military strategy and human psychology, with a new commentary that highlight its continued relevance for modern readers.

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