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The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu (also referred to

as "Sun Wu" and "Sunzi")[1], a high ranking military general, strategist and tactician, and it was
believed to have been compiled during the late Spring and Autumn period or early Warring
States period [2]. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect
of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its
time. It has been the most famous and influential of China's Seven Military Classics: "for the
last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even
the common people knew it by name."[3] It has had an influence on Eastern and Western
military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, and beyond.
The book was first translated into the French language in 1772 by French Jesuit Jean Joseph
Marie Amiot, and a partial translation into English was attempted by British officer, Everard
Ferguson Calthrop in 1905. The first annotated English language translation was completed
and published by Lionel Giles in 1910.[4]Leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong, General Vo
Nguyen Giap, Baron Antoine-Henri Jomini, General Douglas MacArthur, and leaders
of Imperial Japan have drawn inspiration from the work.

Sun Tzu emphasized the importance of positioning in military strategy. The decision to
position an army must be based on both objective conditions in the physical environment and
the subjective beliefs of other, competitive actors in that environment. He thought that strategy
was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires
quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled
environment; but in a changing environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected
[edit]The 13 chapters
The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters (or piān), and the collection is referred to as being
onezhuàn ("whole" or alternatively "chronicle"). Because different
translations have used different titles for each chapter, a selection
appears below.
Lionel Giles Ralph D. Sawyer
Chapter R.L. Wing (1988) Chow-Hou Wee (2003)
(1910) (1996)
Detail Assessment and
I Laying Plans The Calculations Initial Estimations Planning
(Chinese: 始計,始计)
Waging War
II Waging War The Challenge Waging War
(Chinese: 作戰,作战)
Attack by The Plan of Strategic Attack
III Planning Offensives
Stratagem Attack (Chinese: 謀攻,谋攻)
Tactical Disposition of the Army
IV Positioning Military Disposition
Dispositions (Chinese: 軍形,军形)
Strategic Military Forces
V Energy Directing
Power (Chinese: 兵勢,兵势)
Weaknesses and
Weak Points and Illusion and Vacuity and
VI Strengths
Strong Reality Substance
(Chinese: 虛實,虚实)
Engaging The Military Maneuvers
VII Maneuvering Military Combat
Force (Chinese: 軍爭,军争)
The Nine Variations and Adaptability
VIII Variation of Tactics Nine Changes
Variations (Chinese: 九變,九变)
Movement and
The Army on the Moving The Maneuvering the
IX Development of Troops
March Force Army
(Chinese: 行軍,行军)
Situational Configurations of Terrain
X Terrain
Positioning Terrain (Chinese: 地形)
The Nine The Nine The Nine Battlegrounds
XI Nine Terrains
Situations Situations (Chinese: 九地)
Attacking with Fire
XII The Attack by Fire The Fiery Attack Incendiary Attacks
(Chinese: 火攻)
Intelligence and
The Use of
XIII The Use of Spies Employing Spies Espionage
(Chinese: 用間,用间)
[edit]Chapter summary
The beginning of The Art of War, in a classical bamboo book from the reign of theQianlong Emperor.
1. Laying Plans/The Calculations 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
2. Waging War/The Challenge 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.
3. Attack by Stratagem/The Plan of Attack 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.
4. Tactical Dispositions/Positioning 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.
5. Energy/Directing explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army's
6. Weak Points & Strong/Illusion and Reality explains how an army's opportunities
come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the
enemy in a given area.
7. Maneuvering/Engaging The Force explains the dangers of direct conflict and how
to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.
8. Variation in Tactics/The Nine Variations focuses on the need for flexibility in an
army's responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
9. The Army on the March/Moving The Force 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.
10. Terrain/Situational Positioning 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 offer certain advantages and disadvantages.
11. The Nine Situations/Nine Terrains 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.
12. The Attack by Fire/Fiery Attack 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.
13. The Use of Spies/The Use of Intelligence 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.
Main article: Sun Tzu
[edit]Traditionalist viewpoint
Traditionalist scholars attribute the writings of "Sun Tzu" to the historical Sun Wu, who is
recorded in both the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) and the Spring and Autumn
Annals as having been active in Wu around the end of the sixth century BC, beginning in 512
BC. The traditional interpretation concludes that the text should therefore date from this
period, and should directly reflect the tactics and strategies used and created by Sun Wu. The
traditionalist approach assumes that only very minor revisions may have occurred shortly
after Sun Wu's death, in the early fifth century BC, as the body of his writings may have
needed to be compiled in order to form the complete, modern text. [5]
The textual support for the traditionalist view is that several of the oldest of the Seven Military
Classicsshare a focus on specific literary concepts (such as terrain classifications) which
traditionalist scholars assume were created by Sun Tzu. The Art of War also shares several
entire phrases in common with the other Military Classics, implying that other texts borrowed
from the Art of War, and/or that The Art of War borrowed from other texts. According to
traditionalist scholars, the fact thatThe Art of War was the most widely reproduced and
circulated military text of the Warring States period indicates that any textual borrowing
between military texts must have been exclusively fromThe Art of War to other texts, and not
vice versa.[6] The classical texts which most similarly reflect Sun Tzu's terms and phraseology
are the Wei Liaozi and Sun Bin's Art of War.[7]
[edit]Later criticism
Skeptics to the traditionalist view within China have abounded since at least the time of
the Song dynasty. Some following Du Fu accused The Art of War's first commentator, Cao
Cao, of butchering the text. The criticisms of Cao Cao were based on a Book of
Han bibliographical notation of a work composed of eighty-two sections that was attributed to
Sun Tzu. The description of a work by Sun Tzu composed of eighty-two sections contrasts
with the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) description of The Art of War as having thirteen
sections (the current number). Others doubted Sun Tzu's historical existence and claimed that
the work must be a later forgery. Much of The Art of War'shistorical condemnation within
China has been due to its realistic approach to warcraft: it advocates utilizing spies and
deception. The advocacy of dishonest methods contradicted perceived Confucian values,
making it a target of Confucian literati throughout later Chinese history. According to later
Confucian scholars, Sun Tzu's historical existence was accordingly a late fabrication,
unworthy of consideration except by the morally reprehensible. [8]
If the modern text of The Art of War reflects contrasting interpretations of the value in chivalry
in warfare, the existence of these differing interpretations within the text supports the theory
that the core of The Art of War was created by a figure (i.e. the historical Sun Tzu) who
existed at a time when chivalry was more highly valued (i.e. the Spring and Autumn period),
and that the text was amended by his followers to reflect the realities of warfare in a
subsequent, distinctly un-chivalric period (i.e. the Warring States period). [8]
[edit]Modern archaeological findings
The 1972 discovery in a tomb of a nearly complete Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) copy
of The Art of War, known as the Yinqueshan Han Slips, which is almost completely identical
to modern editions, lends support that The Art of War had achieved its current form by at least
the early Han dynasty, and findings of less-complete copies dated earlier support the view
that it existed in roughly its current form by at least the time of the mid-late Warring States.
Because the archaeological evidence proves thatThe Art of War existed in its present form by
the early Han dynasty, the Han dynasty record of a work of eighty-two sections attributed to
Sun Tzu is assumed by modern historians to be either a mistake, or a lost work combining the
existing The Art of War with biographical and dialectical material. Some modern scholars
suggest that The Art of War must have existed in thirteen sections before Sun Tzu met the
King of Wu, since the king mentions the number thirteen in the Records of the Grand
Historian (Shiji) description of their meeting.[8]
[edit]Alternative viewpoints of origin
The traditionalist interpretation of the text's history is challenged by some modern historians.
Even if the possibility of later revisions is disregarded, the traditionalist interpretation that Sun
Tzu createdThe Art of War himself (ex nihilo), and that all other military scholars must have
copied and borrowed from him, disregards the likelihood of any previous formal or literary
tradition of tactical studies, despite the historical existence of over 2,000 years of Chinese
warfare and tactical development before 500 BC. Because it is unlikely that Sun Tzu
effectively created China's entire body of tactical studies, "basic concepts and common
passages seem to argue in favor of a comprehensive military tradition and evolving expertise,
rather than creation ex nihilo."[6]
One modern alternative to the traditionalist theory states that The Art of War achieved its
current form by the mid-to-late Warring States (the fourth-to-third century BC), centuries after
the historical Sun Tzu's death. This interpretation is based on disparities between The Art of
War's tactics and the historical conditions of warfare in the late Spring and Autumn period (the
late sixth century BC). Examples of warfare described in The Art of War which did not occur
until the Warring States period include: the mobilization of one thousand chariots and 100,000
soldiers for a single battle; protracted sieges (cities were small, weakly fortified, economically
and strategically unimportant centers in the Spring and Autumn period); the existence of
military officers as a distinct subclass of nobility; deference of rulers' right to command armies
to these officers; the advanced and detailed use of spies and unorthodox tactics (never
emphasized at all in the Spring and Autumn period); and, the extensive emphasis on infantry
speed and mobility, rather than chariot warfare. Because the conditions and tactics advocated
in The Art of War are historically anachronistic to the historical Sun Tzu's time, it is possible
that The Art of War was created in the mid-to-late Warring States period.[9]
A view that mediates between the traditionalist interpretation that the historical Sun Tzu was
the only creator of The Art of War in the Spring and Autumn Period and the opposite view,
that The Art of Warwas created in the mid-late Warring States Period centuries after Sun
Tzu's death, is that the core of the text was created by Sun Tzu and underwent a period of
revision before achieving roughly its current form within a century of Sun Tzu's death (in the
last half of the fifth-century BC). "It seems likely that the historical figure (of Sun Tzu) existed,
and that he not only served as a strategist and possibly a general, but also composed the
core of the book that bears his name. Thereafter, the essential teachings were probably
transmitted within the family or a close-knit school of disciples, being improved and revised
with the passing decades while gradually gaining wider dissemination." [10] The view that The
Art of War achieved roughly its current form by the late fifth-century BC is supported by the
recovery of the oldest existing fragments of The Art of War, and by the analysis of the prose
ofThe Art of War, which is similar to other texts dated more definitively to the late fifth-century
BC (i.e.Mozi), but dissimilar either to earlier (i.e. The Analects) or later (i.e. Xunzi) literature
from roughly the same period.[7] This theory accounts both for the historical record
attributing The Art of War to Sun Tzu, and for the description of tactics anachronistic to Sun
Tzu's time within The Art of War.
[edit]Historical annotations
A portion of The Art of War in Tangut script.
Before the bamboo scroll version was discovered by archaeologists in April 1972, a
commonly cited version of The Art of War was the Annotation of Sun Tzu's Strategies by Cao
Cao, the founder of the Kingdom of Wei. In the preface, he wrote that previous annotations
were not focused on the essential ideas. Other annotations cited in official history books
include Shen You's (176-204) Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, Jia Xu's Copy of Sun Tzu's Military
Strategy, Cao Cao and Wang Ling's Sun Tzu's Military Strategy.[4]
The Book of Sui documented seven books named after Sun Tzu. An annotation by Du
Mu also includes Cao Cao's annotation. Li Jing's The Art of War is said to be a revision of
Master Sun's strategies. Annotations by Cao Cao, Du Mu and Li Quan were translated into
the Tangut language before year 1040.
After the movable type printer was invented, The Art of War (with Cao Cao's annotations) was
published in a military textbook along with six other strategy books, collectively known as the
Seven Military Classics (武經七書 / 武经七书).
As required reading military textbooks since the Song Dynasty, the Seven Military Classics
have had many annotations. More than 30 differently annotated versions of these books exist
Verses from the book occur in modern daily Chinese idioms and phrases, such as the last
verse of Chapter 3:
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred
battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
This has been more tersely interpreted and condensed into the Chinese modern
If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous (literally, "a
hundred") battles without jeopardy.
Common examples can also be found in English use, such as verse 18 in
Chapter 1:
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem
unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must
make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe
we are near.
This has been abbreviated to its most basic form and condensed
into the English modern proverb:
All warfare is based on deception.
[edit]Military applications
In many East Asian countries, The Art of War was part of the
syllabus for potential candidates of military service
examinations. Various translations are available.
During the Sengoku era in Japan, a daimyo named Takeda
Shingen (1521–1573) is said to have become almost invincible
in all battles without relying on guns, because he studied The
Art of War. [2]The book even gave him the inspiration for his
famous battle standard "Fūrinkazan" (Wind, Forest, Fire and
Mountain), meaning fast as the wind, silent as a forest,
ferocious as fire and immovable as a mountain.
The translator Samuel B. Griffith offers a chapter on "Sun Tzu
and Mao Tse-Tung" where The Art of War is cited as
influencing Mao's On Guerrilla Warfare, On the Protracted War,
and Strategic Problems of China's Revolutionary War and
includes Mao's quote: "We must not belittle the saying in the
book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China,
'Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a
thousand battles without disaster.'"[2]
During the Vietnam War, some Vietcong officers studied The
Art of War, and reportedly could recite entire passages from
General Vo Nguyen Giap successfully implemented tactics
described in The Art of War during theBattle of Dien Bien
Phu ending major French involvement in Indochina and leading
to the accords which partitioned Vietnam into North and South.
General Vo, later the military mastermind behind victories over
American forces in Vietnam, was an avid student and
practitioner of Sun Tzu’s ideas. America's defeat there, more
than any other event, brought Sun Tzu to the attention of
leaders of American military theory.[11][12]
Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim and general Aksel Airo were
avid readers of Art of War. They both read it in French; Airo
kept the French translation of the book on his bedside table in
his quarters.
The Department of the Army in the United States, through its
Command and General Staff College, has directed all units to
maintain libraries within their respective headquarters for the
continuing education of personnel in the art of war. The Art of
War is mentioned as an example of works to be maintained at
each individual unit, and staff duty officers are obliged to
prepare short papers for presentation to other officers on their
The Art of War is listed on the Marine Corps Professional
Reading Program (formerly known as the Commandant's
Reading List). It is recommended reading for all United States
Military Intelligence personnel and is required reading for all
CIA officers.[14]
[edit]Application outside the military
The Art of War has been applied to many fields well outside of
the military. Much of the text is about how to fight wars without
actually having to do battle: it gives tips on how to outsmart
one's opponent so that physical battle is not necessary. As
such, it has found application as a training guide for many
competitive endeavors that do not involve actual combat.
There are business books applying its lessons to office
politics and corporate strategy.[15][16]
ManyJapanese companies make the book required reading
for their key executives.[18] The book is also popular among
Western business management, who have turned to it for
inspiration and advice on how to succeed in competitive
business situations. It has also been applied to the field of
The Art of War has been the subject of law books[20] and legal
articles on the trial process, including negotiation tactics and
trial strategy.[21][22][23][24]
The Art of War has also been applied in the world of
sports. NFL coach Bill Belichick is known to have read the book
and used its lessons to gain insights in preparing for games.
Australian cricket as well as Brazilian association
football coaches Luis Felipe Scolari and Carlos Alberto
Parreira are known to have embraced the text. Scolari made
the Brazilian World Cup squad of 2002 study the ancient work
during their successful campaign.[26]
[edit]Sources and translations
 Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Lionel
Giles (2005).The Art of War by Sun Tzu – Special Edition.
El Paso Norte Press. ISBN 0-9760726-9-6.
 Sun Tzu translated and annotated by R. L. Wing
(1988).The Art of Strategy. Main Street Books. ISBN 0-
 Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Ralph D.
Sawyer(1994). The Art of War. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-
 Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Chow-Hou Wee
(2003). Sun Zi Art of War: An Illustrated Translation with
Asian Perspectives and Insights. Pearson Education
Asia.ISBN 0-13-100137-X.
 Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Samuel B.
Griffith(1963). The Art of War. Oxford University
Press. ISBN 0-19-501476-6.
 Sun Tzu translated by John Minford (2002). The Art of
War. Viking. ISBN 0-670-03156-9.
 Sun Tzu translated by Thomas Cleary (1991). The Art Of
War. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 0-87773-537-9.
 Sun Tzu translated by Victor H. Mair (2007). The Art of
War: Sun Zi's Military Methods. Columbia University Press.
 Sun Tzu edited by James Clavell (1983). The Art of War.
Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-29216-3.
 Sun-Tzu translated by Roger Ames (1993). The Art of
Warfare. Random House. ISBN 0-345-36239-X..
 Sun Tzu translated by the Denma translation group
(2001). The Art of War: the Denma translation. Shambhala
Publications. ISBN 1-57062-904-8.
 Sun Tzu translated by J.H. Huang (1993). The Art of War:
The New Translation. Quill William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-
 Sun Tzu translated by Donald G. Krause (1995). The Art of
War For Executives. Berkely Publishing Group; Perigee
Books. ISBN 0-399-51902-5.
 Sun Tzu translated by Stephen F. Kaufman (1996). The Art
of War: The Definitive Interpretation of Sun Tzu's Classic
Book of Strategy. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3080-0.
 Sun Tzu translated by Yuan Shibing (1987). Sun Tzu's Art
of War: The Modern Chinese Interpretation. Sterling
Publishing Co., Inc.. ISBN 0-8069-6638-6.
 Sun Tzu translated and annotated by Thomas Huynh and
the Editors of Sonshi.com (2008). The Art of War:
Spirituality for Conflict. Skylight Paths Publishing. ISBN
 Sun Tzu translated in Hindi by Madhuker Upadhyay
(2001). 'Yudhkala'. ISBN 81-7778-041-7
 The Art of War plus The Ancient Chinese Revealed.
translated by Gary Gagliardi. Hillsborough, Washington:
Clearbridge Publishing. 2003. ISBN 1-929194-42-0.
[edit]See also
China portal

 Philosophy of war
 List of military writers
 List of Chinese military texts
 The Seven Military Classics
 Thirty-Six Stratagems
 Shiji
 Records of the Grand Historian
 Wei Liaozi
 Sima Rangju
 Jiang Ziya
 Sun Bin's Art of War
 Spring and Autumn Period
 Warring States Period
 State of Wu
 Confucianism
 Chinese Transcription
 Wade-Giles
 Pinyin
 Sinology
 Lionel Giles
 Ralph D. Sawyer
 Samuel B. Griffith
 The 33 Strategies of War
 The 48 Laws of Power
 The Art of War (Machiavelli)
 The Art of War (de Jomini)
 The Book of Five Rings
 On War
 Arthashastra
 Chanakya
 Epitoma rei militarisof Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus
 Sextus Julius Frontinus