The Art of War is a compilation of timeless war strategies. Written by Sun-Tzu during the sixth century BC, the book comprises 170 pages broken into 13 chapters, solely devoted to the concept of War. The Version I read was translated by Thomas Clearly and further commented on by Cao Cao, Meng Shi, Jai Lin; amongst others.
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise. For a book on War, it emphasized winning battles without actually going to War; or at least before opting for War. As such, planning, strategy, formation, plotting, tactics, negotiations and clear projections come to play. The picture of a battlefield is vividly painted in the mind of the reader; however, the principles provided can be used in any physical or perceived form of confrontation. Hence, its philosophy can serve as metaphors and may be interpreted to suit the corporate world, educational pursuance or just regular conflict resolution; even though it is apparent that it was originally designed for real War.
As stated, the paradox of the Art of War lies in its opposition to War- It wars against War. Rather we are to infiltrate the enemy’s lines, uncover their secrets and change the hearts of enemy troops. It encourages rewards and punishment. That is, the stick and carrot approach. It advices deception – “Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective”. Foresight, Momentum, the concept of Fire and Water; and an array of thought provoking concepts and tactics engulfed the basic theory of War.
The summary of this Piece lies in its 13 chapters:
- Strategic Assessments
- Doing Battle
- Planning a Siege
- Emptiness and Fullness
- Armed Struggle
- Maneuvering Armies
- Nine Grounds
- Fire attack
- On the use of spies
As a result of its complex presentation, it may be slightly hard to comprehend. Its presentation was so complex, that Derek M Yuen. Hurst had to write a full book on deciphering it . With patience, however, you can pick the powerful ideology behind it and unleash your inner warlord. I recommend it for fanatics of conflict resolution and those in the game of office politicking in whatever form it exists.
The Art of War is a timeless classic. The quotes and lessons it provides would linger on for generations to come. I almost lost interest right at the beginning with the translator’s introduction, talking about Chinese Classical History and Taoists laws, but I am very glad I persisted. War is inevitable in human relationships and we certainly need to be equipped to take on conflict and further our courses with proper skills. Ignorance never did anyone good.
I rate this book 4.2 out of 5, you can rate it yourself below.
About the Author
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.