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Sun Tzu: The Art of War

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Sun Tzu's The Art of War, written in China more than 2,000 years ago, is the first known attempt to formulate a rational basis for the planning and conduct of military operations. These essays have never been surpassed in comprehensiveness and depth of understanding, and might well be termed the concentrated essence of wisdom on the conduct of war. Terse and aphoristic, the contain principles still acted upon by Chinese generals today: it is well known that Mao Tsu-tung turned to Sun Tzu when in doubt about his military policy, as did his adviser of long standing, Marshal Chu Teh.

For many years there has been no satisfactory rendering into English of this unique classic. Samuel Griffith's accurate translation, relevant to modern conditions and accompanied by his own explanatory introduction as well as by selections from the many commentaries in the Chinese language, it is particularly welcome. The paperback edition of this definitive work, published originally in 1963, makes this "source of Mao Tse-tung's strategic theories and of the tactical doctrine of the Chinese armies" widely available to students of China's history and culture as well as to those specifically dedicated to military pursuits and to government servants and politicians who have an interest n the China of today.

197 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 401

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Sun Tzu

1,178 books2,785 followers
Sun Tzu (孫子; pinyin: Sūnzǐ) is a honorific title bestowed upon Sūn Wu (孫武 c. 544-496 BC), the author of The Art of War (孫子兵法), an immensely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy. Sun Tzu believed in the use of the military sciences to effect outcomes that would result in peace.

In the author's name, Sūn Wu, the character wu, meaning "military", is the same as the character in wu shu, or martial art. Sun Wu also has a courtesy name, Chang Qing (Cháng Qīng).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 17,501 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
4,060 reviews69.5k followers
January 14, 2023
Hey! Look at me stepping outside my comfort zone!


I saw this audiobook in the library, and I thought it looked interesting.
Hell, I've got 4 kids. This could come in handy.
Next year I'll have not one, but two teenage boys. I need to prepare myself to defend my babies home from the invading whores hoards. I figured this book would help me gird my loins (or whatever it is you do) when you head into battle.
Back off, Skanks! You're not getting past the front door!


Still, even teenage boys pale in comparison to the sheer terror that comes with sharing a home with pre-pubescent girls...
Retreat! Retreat! We've misjudged the enemy's abilities!


I can definitely use the help of a master strategist. Although, in retrospect, I actually have one of those living with me. She's 10, and she's been fully in charge of my home since she clawed her way out of my womb. My husband says I was hallucinating (bless whoever came up with drugs in the delivery room!), but I swear I saw her gnaw off her own umbilical cord.
She's ruthless, clever, and has the smile of an angel.
Lucifer was an angel, too...
Anyway, I could have skipped this and simply begged for the honor to sit at her feet and learn.
Teach me your ways, Mighty Warrior!


But the cover said this was only a 4 1/2 hour book.
What? She probably wouldn't have shared her secrets anyway...
Confession time: I did not make it all the way through the audiobook.
I did, however, make it all the way through The Art of War. That part of it was short. I don't know what the actual length of time was, but I listened to it while I was making dinner, and then took it with me on a short jaunt to Wal-mart.
Boom! Done! Thank you, Sun Tzu!


The rest of this particular audio is supposedly speculation about Sun Tzu's life, and a history lesson on the politics of the time he lived in.
Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah...
All the names bled together in my head, and the words just sort of sloshed around inside my brain till I finally gave up on it.


I'm not saying it was badly done or boring, but my tiny dinosaur brain isn't built to process books without pictures. So listening to someone with a smooth jazzy voice read from a history book is just like asking for some sort of an internal meltdown to happen up there.


So. The Art of War.
I actually don't feel like Mr. Tzu had much to say that would help me out.
I mean, a there were a few things translated into real life...
Be consistent in rewards and punishments. Duh.
Employ spies. Double duh. I've got every one of my kids on the payroll, and they each think they're the only mole I've got. Suckers!
Make sure the enemy is tired before attacking. Hello? Why do you think I'm out at the pool all day long with them? It's not like I enjoy basking in the glow of my cellulite, all while gaining a few more liver spots. If Sun Tzu had mentioned dosing the enemy with Benadryl before long trips, I would have been more impressed.
A lot of it, however, was about how to fight on different types of terrain. Swampy, mountainous, flat, etc..
That's no help to me, buddy!
I need some sort of inside scoop that's going to give me an edge over the full blown she-devil I live with, the smaller demon-in-training (currently under the tutelage of the aforementioned she-devil), and the two walking hormones that used to be my little boys!
I can't hold 'em off much longer! I'm going down! Going dow....


*pants frantically*

Anyhoo, I'm glad I read listened to it. It's one of those books you need to study...not read, though. So, I'm pretty sure I missed the vast majority of wisdom by doing it this way.
But so what? I can say I've read it!
I feel like a badass now, and that's all that's important.

Profile Image for ❀ Lily ❀.
79 reviews15.9k followers
February 25, 2018
I definitely never thought i'd want to read a book about Chinese military strategy written in 5th century BC .... yet here we are.
This one turned out to be so interesting.
Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
May 6, 2015
Simply put, Sun Tzu says that it is better not to fight than to be involved in a conflict, but if you are going to have to fight, then you have to do it to win, and these are the various strategies, often brutal, that will get you that result.

Niccolò Machiavelli, in The Prince says if you are in a position of power and seek to maintain it, it is better to be loved and respected, but if you can't achieve that, then at least enforce respect and these are the, often brutal, strategies that will get that result.

I say, if you are going to be a politician in the generally-winning party and you don't like reading much, The Prince is for you. Very sly. If however you see yourself in opposition, arguing your point, try Sun Tzu first.

For the rest of us the books are short and make interesting historical and somewhat philosophical reading but they aren't going to change your life other than giving you a leg up on the intellectual book ladder, always a plus for the pseuds!
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,281 followers
June 15, 2016
The Art of Goodreads

1. Lotz says: The greatest books are the ones you never have to read, and the greatest words are the ones you never have to speak. Likewise, the greatest book reviews are the ones you never have to write.

2. There are five types of books: (1) Ones I have read. (2) Ones I have not read. (3-5) It's complicated.

3. To begin a book, find its weakest point. This is commonly the first page.

4. Do not turn the page too slowly, as you will make it greasy; do not turn it too quickly, as it might tear.

5. If a sentence is giving you trouble, make like you're going to skip over it, and then read it all at once really fast to take it by surprise!

6. If a sentence is particularly difficult, yell it at the top of your voice, trying to imitate the sound of the cock when the sun peaks over the distant mountains.

7. Do not let your teachers or professors know if you have actually read your assigned readings. Keep them in suspense. Then you can subject them to your will.

8. To impress the erudite girl, take well-known quotes and misattribute them, so that she can correct you. She will feel smart, and you will rush in for the kill!

9. If you can see the sun, you do not have the keenest vision. If you can hear the thunder, you do not have the keenest hearing. Likewise, if you get the most likes, you do not have the best review. I do.

10. Love is a battlefield, that's why I always wear camouflage on first dates.

11. You can apply the lessons of military tactics to any aspect of your life, as long as you don't mind going to prison.

12. Fun fact: If you read the English translation of The Art of War backwards, and in a Jamaican patois, it exactly reproduces the original Chinese.

13. If a word is giving you difficulty, you have two options: (1) use a dictionary, you dolt; (2) skip over it, because who has time in life for such things?

14. The Empire in Star Wars could totally have won if they had just used more spies.

15. The same goes for Sauron in The Lord of the Rings.

16. When running out of ideas for a book review, the wisest course of action is to stop.

17. The second wisest action is to keep going.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
434 reviews4,251 followers
September 20, 2023
Years ago, I wanted to lose some weight, and I started a 60-day challenge. When I was at work, I was sure to tell a certain co-worker my goal. Why? Was he my friend? No way. I detested this guy. He was so disrespectful, talked over me, and lied. But I used that to my advantage. Because once I told this gentleman my goal there was no chance that I was going to let him see me fail.

Oh to have a great enemy!

The Art of War has several different translations. Some of them are better than others. Originally, I checked one out of the library (the Peter Harris translation), but I couldn’t get an audiobook to match that particular text. I ended up buying a copy from Amazon (the Lionel Giles translation) and an audiobook. However, I liked the original version from the library better.

This book offers 13 lessons for war. However, most of them are extremely repetitive. They usually boil down to some version of attack your enemy by surprise and think before acting.

The Poppy War seemed to have a better and more engaging discussion of strategy.

This book is a bit outdated because so much has changed since 5th century BC.

For example….

Once upon a time, there was a library called the Troy Public Library. During the recession, the city didn’t have enough money to keep the library running so it asked for a very slight tax increase. However, one political group went into overtime about taxes, taxes, taxes. The conversation became all about taxes and not about the library or reading.

The sweet, kind, loving, intelligent, and gentle library lovers had to come up with a plan to save the library. And quick. They made up a campaign, “Vote To Close Troy Library August 2nd Book Burning Party August 5th” Now, this enraged the Trojans, and the campaign reached the national level.

People turned out to vote 342% greater than projected, and the library was saved.

That’s how we do it in Troy.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews34 followers
September 29, 2021
Sūnzǐ Bīngfǎ= The Art of War, Sun Tzu

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Spring and Autumn Period (roughly 771 to 476 BC).

The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu ("Master Sun", also spelled Sunzi), is composed of 13 chapters.

Each one is devoted to a distinct aspect of warfare and how that applies to military strategy and tactics. For almost 1,500 years it was the lead text in an anthology that would be formalized as the Seven Military Classics by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1080.

The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare. It has a profound influence on both Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «هنر جنگ»؛ «هنر جنگاوری»؛ «آئین و قواعد رزم سون تزو مشهور به (هنر رزم سون تزو)»؛ «هنر رزم»؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ انتشاراتیها (قلم؛ موسسه فرهنگی هنری بشیر علم و ادب؛ فرا، سایپا دیزل؛ سازمان فرهنگی هنری شهرداری تهران؛ بعثت؛ کاروان؛ قطره؛ سیته؛ روزگارنو؛ آوای مکتوب)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانزدهم ماه آگوست سال 1995میلادی

عنوان: هنر جنگ؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ حسن حبیبی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، انتشارات قلم، 1364، در ؟؟ص، موضوع: علوم نظامی، جنگ و جنگاوری، فن جنگ م��ون قدیمی از نویندگان چین - سده ششم پیش از میلاد

عنوان: هنر جنگ؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ بازنویسی: جیمز کلاول؛ مترجم: آیدا دریائیان؛ به اهتمام: سعید پورداخلی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، موسسه فرهنگی هنری بشیر علم و ادب، 1380، در 93ص، شابک 9646818811؛

عنوان: هنر جنگاوری؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ مترجم: علی کردستی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، فرا، سایپا دیزل، 1383؛ چاپ بعدی سازمان فرهنگی فرا، 1387، در 143ص، شابک 9789647092340؛ ترجمه از متن انگلیسی با ترجمه ساموئل گریفیث

عنوان: آئین و قواعد رزم سون تزو مشهور به (هنر رزم سون تزو)؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ مترجم: محمدهادی موذن جامی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، سازمان فرهنگی هنری شهرداری تهران، 1388، در 100ص، شابک 9789642381876؛

عنوان: هنر جنگ؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ عین الله عزیززاده فیروزی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، بعثت، 1387، در 116ص، شابک 9786005116052

عنوان: هنر رزم؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ مترجم: نادر سعیدی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، کاروان، 1388، در 103ص، شابک 9789641750369؛ در چاپهای بعد نشر قطره در سال 1389؛ با شابک 9786001191527؛

عنوان: هنر جنگ؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ محمود حمیدخانی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، سیته، 1392، در 128ص، شابک9786005253214؛

عنوان: هنر جنگ؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ محمدصادق رئیسی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، روزگارنو، 1392، در 120ص، شابک9786006867342؛

عنوان: هنر جنگ؛ اثر: سون دزو؛ حامد ذات عجم؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، آوای مکتوب، 1393، در 80ص، شابک9786007364192؛

این کتاب «سون دزو»، در زبان چینی (سونتسی بینگفا)، خوانده‌ می‌شود؛ و به معنی «شیوه‌ های جنگی»؛ یا «روش‌های به کارگیری نیروها» است؛ این کتاب نخستین بار، در سال 1722میلادی، به زبان «فرانسه»، برگردانده شد، و این نخستین باری بود، که این کتاب، به زبانی «اروپایی»، برگردان می‌شد؛ نام این کتاب در ترجمه ی «فرانسوی»، «هنر جنگ» نامیده‌ شد؛ کتاب، یکی از خواستنی‌ترین مجموعه‌ های جنگی، در طول تاریخ، بوده‌ است.؛

چینیان باستان، شیفته‌ ی این کتاب بودند، گفته شده، که «مائو تسه‌ دونگ»، و «ژوزف استالین»، هر دو، در هنگام جنگ، این کتاب را می‌خوانده‌ اند.؛ از هر ن��ر، «سان تزو»، به عنوان یکی از اسطوره های استراتژی‌ پردازان است، از دیدگاه «سون دزو»، ایجاد عدم تقارن در جنگ، کلید پیروزی خواهد بود؛ به نظر ایشان، ایجاد و یا کشف عدم تقارن‌ها، و عدم تشابه‌ ها، بین طرفین درگیری، در نهایت، منجر به پیروزی خواهد شد، تنها مهم این است، که چه کسی، سریع‌تر به این عدم تشابهات پی ببرد، و یا چه کسی، سریع‌تر، از این عدم تشابهات، بهترین بهره‌ برداری را، در صحنه ی نبرد، یا دیپلماسی ببرد؛ «هنر جنگ» را، می‌توان به عنوان نمونه ی بسیار خوبی، از آموزه‌ های جنگ نامتقارن، یا حداقل تعریف مشخص، و روشنی از «جنگ نامتقارن»، در دوران کهن، به شمار آورد.؛

نخستین نکته‌ ای که «سان تزو»، روشن می‌کند، این است، که نامتقارن‌ها را، می‌توان در ابعاد، و حوزه‌ های گوناگون یافت، و یا، آفرید؛ ایشان باور داشتند، که در حین درگیری، ابعاد «سیاسی»، «دیپلماسی»، «اقتصادی»، و «روحی»، حذف نخواهند شد، و در واقع، برای توجه نشان دادن تنها به یک روی سکه در جنگ، که همان بعد ویژه ی نظامی منظورشان است، هشدار می‌دهند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 26/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 06/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Ruby Granger.
Author 3 books46.9k followers
January 5, 2022
I thought this would contain more wisdom than it did. I’ve heard so many people rave about it that I expected it to be more readily applicable to modern-day conflict. It’s interesting because of its age, but not for much else.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
December 18, 2018
Who reads the Art of War?

OK, sure everybody, or anybody can, but who actually does and why?

If we could somehow take a survey and create a pie chart of who reads this 2500 year old Chinese manual, what would we find, who reads it?

Military professionals, sure; executives, probably – wanna be executives, almost certainly; sports coaches, law enforcement officers, school teachers, teenage gamers, etc etc.

The title will get attract and repel many all by itself. The text, full of philosophical musings and anecdotal asides, will lose and / or gain many more.

What will readers take from these words written so long ago? One thing, unfortunately, is that human nature does not seem to change – if Master Sun was a wise and great general 2500 years ago, people had been fighting long before then and enough for him to be considered a master of the subject. Even a casual observer of history will notice that there have been plenty of students of war ever since.

In history – how many humans have been killed in war, in battle, in organized conflict? Old age and cancer and heart trouble seems to account for a great many deaths, but throughout history there seems to be a virus that gets too many of our young people.

One thing that can be drawn from this tome is that if war is to be fought, if it is inevitable, if a line has been crossed (or a river in Italy) and there is no going back, then it must be fought to win. Military leaders are taught to be prepared and decisive, to act.

But for me, and I think the everlasting philosophy that should be taken from this work, is that war is costly, and brutal, and ugly and should be avoided if at all possible. Hawks in the congress and saber rattlers elsewhere seem to be conspicuously NOT in the military; rather the WE to which they ascribe is most frequently “we” in the collective sense, but in every sense a “we” that does not see them getting dirty or bloody.

What do readers other than military leaders take from this? To go for the jugular? To win at every cost? Not if they’ve actually read it. Preparation and contemplation and the ability to act when necessary are all elements attributed to the Art, and certainly decisiveness when the time is right, but not savage brutality or chaos for the sake of destruction. Ultimately this is about conflict, strategy and leadership – themes that are relevant to more than just the military.

An important work that should be read.

** 2018 addendum - this is at once a great source of quotes but also a work that is likely misquoted frequently. I heard a quote recently that made me wonder if the speaker had it right, misquoted, or was just making up a quote and attributing the statement to Sun Tzu for effect; and that made me think of Kevin Klein's character Otto from A Fish Called Wanda.

Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,271 reviews2,443 followers
June 29, 2023
"The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.

This book, written in the 5th century BC, tells us the strategies and tactics needed for winning a war. Sun Tzu tells us that no nation is ever benefitted by prolonged warfare, and it is better to avoid battles. If we reach a point where war is inevitable, Sun Tzu will help us win it in the best way possible without hurting many people. Even though it was written centuries ago, all the tactics mentioned in it are still relevant.

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Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,374 followers
April 30, 2019
Finally finished the first book of this year! Yay! Took me a lot of time due to my exams and uni in general.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

I wanted to read The Art of War for very long and I finally managed to get to it.

And I liked it. I think everybody should read it because many of the ideas from the Art of War can be found in different fields, for example in business.

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

“All warfare is based on deception.”

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

“Danger has a bracing effect.”

Profile Image for Baba.
3,620 reviews985 followers
August 28, 2022
How does a Fifth Century BC(!) Chinese Military text be of so much interest to so many people over the following 2,500 years and even now today? The answer is quite simple, it's because this treatise could just as well be called The Art of Strategy. Essentially this book manages to give simple and still coherent today, advice on dealing with conflict.

What surprised me initially, but made sense when I thought about it, was how well structured, accessible and obvious (at times) the guidance in this book is. I can imagine thousands of Eighties 'businessmen' carrying this book in their pocket to help steer them through conflicts in business. Obviously a book to read before you die. As this book is mentioned throughout our multimedia continuously it's nice to finally have more detailed context. 8 out of 12.

2022 read
Profile Image for Colleen.
1 review
September 17, 2008
While Sun Tzu is constantly praised for his work on The Art of War, I find it hard to believe that it has inspired anyone. This famous military strategy book has provided people such as Napoleon and the cast of 'Survivor: China' advice on handling the opposing force. However, despite the simple (yet adequate) translation that Lionel Giles provided, The Art of War does nothing more than to reiterate common sense. Sun Tzu asks the audience to not show off their strong points, but to lead the enemy to think that they are at a weak state. Does the average right-headed general not know this?

In addition to that, Sun Tzu starts off by glorifying his tactics and dares any ignorant generals to oppose him. He says that he can predict a battle's outcome based on that alone. It almost seems as if he is basking in his own arrogance.

The Art of War may have once been an excellent strategy book, but it's also out-of-date in many ways. Only read this if you're interested in Imperial Chinese military.
Profile Image for Steven Medina.
204 reviews937 followers
February 1, 2022
Libro importante en la antigüedad, pero obsoleto en nuestro presente.

En realidad 1,8

Cuando inicié en este mundo de escribir reseñas en Goodreads, solía impresionarme mucho por aquellos lectores que, recién finalizada su lectura, ya tenían en menos de veinticuatro horas un texto súper largo sobre su opinión, análisis, etc., de su experiencia. Recuerdo que pensaba constantemente algo parecido a «¿Cómo pueden organizar tan rápido sus ideas? Son unos profesionales». Y por ello, quizás para intentar hacer algo similar, en ese tiempo empecé a escribir unas reseñas —si se le pueden llamar así— rarísimas que no tenían orden, sentido, ni propósito. En ese tiempo recuerdo que leía Harry Potter, y me sentía tan presionado por escribir una reseña antes de marcar el libro como «leído», que tardaba mucho en comenzar la próxima lectura; sentía que si no escribía algo de inmediato se me olvidaría todo lo que podría expresar en ese instante. Sin embargo, fue en esos tiempos, cuando leyendo las reseñas de una chica española muy agradable llamada Elena Rodríguez (Si alguna vez lees esto te doy mis infinitas gracias por inspirarme), observé que ella usaba unas palabras mágicas que le permitían darse tiempo de escribir con calma lo que tuviera que expresar; esas palabras eran «Reseña completa más adelante». Aquellas palabras me inspiraron y me hicieron replantear la forma cómo escribía, y por ello, siguiendo su ejemplo, desde entonces también las uso y cambié mi método de hacer reseñas: ahora prefiero tomarme el tiempo necesario —a veces seis meses— para escribir con paciencia, neutralidad y cordura lo que en verdad pienso de un libro. He preferido ser lento pero cauto. ¿Cómo hago para no olvidar nada si ha pasado tanto tiempo? Muy sencillo, realizo anotaciones de mis sensaciones. ¿Y por qué cuento esta historia específicamente en la reseña de este libro? Pues bien, esto lo hago porque de no ser por este método, la reseña de este libro sería completamente tóxica debido a la insatisfacción tan grande que sentí recién finalizada mi lectura, pero ahora, han pasado los meses, y ahora sí me siento con la capacidad de escribir con neutralidad sobre una historia que aunque, ya no tiene utilidad en nuestros tiempos, no merece que la condenen o la destruyan como hace unos meses pensaba hacer.

El arte de la guerra es un libro directo, escrito como un manual de televisor, que instruyó a sus contemporáneos sobre lo que se tenía que saber al momento de enfrentar una guerra. Literalmente dice algo como «Si te ocurre X situación, entonces haz Y solución», «Un buen comandante es quien XXX, un mal comandante es quien XXX». Así, simple, sencillo, sin misterio, lo dice en el lenguaje más básico posible para que el futuro aprendiz de la guerra lograra interpretar sin dificultad cada uno de los consejos mencionados. La información es demasiado primitiva, pero teniendo en cuenta que el libro tiene más de dos mil años de antigüedad y que en ese tiempo eran muy privilegiados los que sabían leer, entonces este libro pasa de ser un texto obsoleto en nuestra actualidad, a un texto antiguo de gran valor para nuestros antepasados, que lograron sobrevivir y vencer a sus enemigos gracias a un pequeño libro como este. Este libro lo debieron leer muchísimos comandantes, reyes y sinfín de personas con un vasto poder, y por libros como este cambió la historia del mundo. Es decir, en nuestra actualidad puede parecer un libro que no sirve para nada, pero en el pasado fue un texto que cambió los acontecimientos de nuestra sociedad. Un libro así es absurdo criticarlo, no tiene sentido hacerlo. Es como si juzgáramos con nuestro «yo adulto», a las primeras tareas que nos dejaron en nuestra niñez. Es muy diferente el nivel de educación, por lo que es bastante irrespetuoso desprestigiar algo, solo por tener el beneficio de tener una mejor formación. ¿Ahora entienden por qué decía que las palabras «Reseña completa más adelante» cambiaron mi estilo completamente? Esta perspectiva nunca la pensé hace unos meses.

A pesar de que mencioné que el libro no tiene ninguna utilidad para nosotros, puede que en el fondo sí. Si eres una persona que quiere escribir una historia, y en ella piensas planear una guerra, pues este libro te cae como anillo al dedo porque podrás aprender a realizar una gran ambientación de aquellas escenas. El lector te lo agradecerá porque aquellas batallas parecerán más lógicas, más reales, y de esa forma las escenas te quedarán increíbles. También, este libro, podría ayudarnos a comprender mejor las guerras del pasado, aprendiendo a interpretar los resultados de dicho evento y comprendiendo mejor el motivo por el que se tomó la decisión de atacar, huir, etc. ¿En qué momento X o Y país perdió la guerra? ¿Fue por atacar? ¿Fue por la insurrección de sus filas? ¿Fue por falta de carácter de su comandante? Todo eso podremos empezar a analizarlo como una partida de ajedrez, observando jugada tras jugada hasta el momento en que todo finaliza con el inevitable jaque mate. Con este libro he aprendido que las guerras en el pasado no eran tan épicas y deseadas como lo describen en la televisión, sino que justamente era lo contrario. Las mejores guerras eran las que no se comenzaban, las que se ganaban sin derramar una gota de sangre. Conclusión que me hace entender que esas guerras son las que libran actualmente los gobiernos y países cada día: Atacar sin atacar, debilitar al enemigo con multas y partidarios en contra, controlar la economía del mundo con la posesión de los recursos, controlar y controlar. O, si por el contrario, lo que buscas en este libro es una enseñanza para tu vida, la única que podrás hallar es que cada problema que enfrentas es una guerra, y que de tus capacidades, decisiones y equilibrio mental, dependerá la resolución de cada uno de ellos. Cada uno combate una guerra interna, por lo que aprendiendo a analizar a nuestros enemigos secretos, posiblemente podremos encontrar estrategias que nos volverán vencedores de cada batalla que debamos luchar.

No puedo negar que cuando recién finalicé quedé completamente insatisfecho, sentí que me había equivocado de lectura, y que este libro no servía para nada: Y en partes es verdad. Naturalmente las expectativas han jugado en mi contra porque siendo completamente honesto esperaba otro tipo de libro. Yo esperaba un libro más interesante, con algo de historia, no sé quizás algún personaje, pero mi falta de investigación sobre este libro me llevó a la completa frustración por lo que es realmente esta obra. El arte de la guerra no se debe leer con el objetivo de buscar una historia en sí —como cualquier otro libro— sino se debe hacer con cero expectativas, sin un objetivo claro, y comprendiendo que esto solo es un texto antiguo, que por arte de magia no desapareció con el paso del tiempo. No es un libro indispensable de leer, es más como un recuerdo de la humanidad, del patrimonio que nuestra raza ha venido dejando con el paso de las generaciones. ¿Recomiendo el libro? A pesar de las mencionadas posibles utilidades de este libro en la actualidad, la verdad no lo recomiendo. Si quieres aprender sobre la guerra, posiblemente hay cien fuentes de información más útiles actualmente, que este pequeño texto antiguo. Mi calificación de dos estrellas refleja justamente lo que he vivido: Una obra que no me ha gustado, pero que en el pasado fue importante; ya no lo es, pero sí lo fue. En la actualidad solo es un recuerdo, una prueba más de nuestra historia, nada más que ello. Libro no recomendado.
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,066 reviews1,759 followers
June 11, 2019
یک فرمانده ی بزرگ نظامی، پانصد سال قبل از میلاد مسیح، کتابی اعجاب انگیز و ستودنی در مورد شیوه های فرماندهی لشکر می نویسد که تا سال های سال، در کشورهای شرق دور به عنوان دستور راه فرماندهان جنگ استفاده می شده. هم اکنون این کتاب در لیست کتاب های پیشنهادی ارتش امریکا برای دانشگاه های افسری و نظامی است.

این کتاب، درست در مقابل هاگاکوره: کتاب سامورایی قرار می گیرد.

هاگاکوره، کتابی سامورایی، یاد می دهد که چطور از شکست و مرگ نهراسید و اهدافی والاتر از سودهای دنیوی و عقل حسابگر داشته باشید: به فکر شجاعت باشید، و افتخار. می گوید اگر خواستید انتقام کسی را بگیرید، بدون این که وقت را تلف کنید تا محاسبه کنید که چطور پیروز می شوید، به دل دشمن بزنید و اگر هم کشته شدید، چه بهتر. چرا که «طریقت سامورایی بر مردن استوار است».

هنر رزم، در مقابل، کاملاً سودگرایانه است و به شما می آموزد که چطور قبل از اقدام به دقت و با هوشمندی همه چیز را محاسبه کنید، و استراتژی های خود را دقیق، و البته همراه با انعطاف، مشخص کنید تا حتماً به پیروزی دست بیابید. می گوید اگر محاسبات تان نشان می دهند در جنگ شکست می خورید، بیهوده منابع مالی و انسانی را هدر نکنید و به فکر حیله ای باشید تا کمترین تلفات را بدهید. به همین دلیل معمولاً هنر رزم را به عنوان یک کتاب «موفقیت» می خوانند، هر چند به اشتباه.

خواندن هر دو کتاب با هم، فرصت بسیار خوبی بود برای مقایسه ی دو طرز فکر کاملاً متضاد در دو کشور نزدیک به هم: چین و ژاپن.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,389 reviews1,470 followers
October 18, 2016
Frankly, I got tired of my husband quoting this and having no idea what he was talking about. So, Heidi-the-Hippie/Librarian picked up The Art of War. I must love him a great deal because this was so not my thing though I valiantly struggled my way through it. I'd say about three quarters of the book was commentary and translation quibbles on the text itself, which is really rather brief and kind of pretty in a "this is how you kill a bunch of people" sort of way.

My big take-aways from this were:
1 Pay attention to where you are and what's going on around you all the time, especially in war. And also be super sneaky about what you're going to do. "..concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act." loc 1143

2 If you have to fight, do it fast because it's too expensive to do for long. "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged war." loc 822, ebook.

3 Everybody uses spies and if you don't, then you're going to lose because the other guy is for sure using spies.

4 Be flexible and make the call as things happen. Don't stick to orders from an emperor who's really far away because he doesn't know what the heck is going on like you do. "Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions." loc 1296, ebook.

5 Know who you are and who you're fighting. This knowledge makes you strong so other people can't determine your future. Use it to win your war. "The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable." loc 1542, ebook.

6 Have a vision beyond what is right in front of you and guide yourself toward it, one good decision at a time. "To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the whole Empire says, "Well done!" To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease." loc 1011-1030, ebook

7 The place that you fight is very important as well as the officer who is calling the shots and telling you which way to go. If either of these things suck, you're in trouble. "The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally; but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general." loc 1886, ebook.

8 Knowing small details about the enemy is very important. For example, if the dudes you're going to war against put their pots and pans away, they're planning on dying in battle. Who knew, right? "When an army feeds its horses with grain and kills its cattle for food, and when the men do not hang their cooking-pots over the campfires, showing that they will not return to their tents, you may know that they are determined to fight to the death." loc 1752, ebook.

So, that's The Art of War. Now back to my regularly scheduled reading. :)
4 reviews3 followers
May 6, 2007
Evidently, it seems, for the last couple thousand years, EVERYONE has been using the same textbook on how to conduct a war. It also seems to be that nobody even knows for sure who wrote the book or when, but everyone uses it anyway. Included in this book are precious reminders that strategy helps you win, retreating helps you not die, if you outnumber the enemy 5 to 1, attacking would probably be a good idea, and also if you're a tiny country surrounded by powerful countries, it might be time to make an alliance or two. If these sound like things you don't already know, but would like to know, then this book is for you. However, in the off-chance you're in a position to command a war against enemy forces, and you DON'T study this book THOROUGHLY, you're probably going to die. Horribly. And all your country's women, children, and probably most of the men will be raped and slaughtered in such gruesome manner as to make those easily victorious soldiers who just did the raping and slaughtering vomit from their own gruesomeness.
Profile Image for Atlas.
221 reviews265 followers
June 14, 2017
It is hard to speculate that this book has been written for one single era...When you read it you realise it meant to stay and teach all the humanity, a book that needs to be taught in schools, teaching kids how to THINK....How it is SIMPLE to THINK....Now THAT`S somthing they don`t usually teach us to know when we are nothing but small lads....Such a damn complicate world :(

Here`s a small taste of what you may find in this small book :)
- According as circumstances are favourable, one should modify one's plans.
- All warfare is based on deception.
- Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem 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.
- Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
- Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.
- In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
- It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.
- To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
- In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack — the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manœuvres.
- Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.
- 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.
- The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.
- Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.
- Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.
- Manœuvring with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
- If you march thirty Li with the same object, two-thirds of your army will arrive.
- Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy: — this is the art of retaining self-possession.
- Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not attack soldiers whose temper is keen.
- Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.
- When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
- Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on them; make trouble for them, and keep them constantly engaged; hold out specious allurements, and make them rush to any given point.
- Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare.
- In crossing salt-marshes, your sole concern should be to get over them quickly, without any delay.
- All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark.
- When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or not he is in a position to fight, the result is ruin.
- If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.”
- Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
- How to make the best of both strong and weak — that is a question involving the proper use of ground.
- Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.
- No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.
- Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men.
- Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. Spies are a most important element in war, because on them depends an army's ability to move.
Profile Image for Tom Marotta.
13 reviews5 followers
July 17, 2007
So many little wars must be waged daily. Works on the battlefield and the office.


"When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move."

"In conflict, straightforward actions generally lead to engagement, surprising actions generally lead to victory."

"Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle .... They conquer by strategy."

"Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril."

"In war, numbers alone confer no advantage."

"To ... not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues."

"What is of the greatest importance in war is extraordinary speed: One cannot afford to neglect opportunity."
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews239 followers
August 23, 2019
This was on the "Surprise Yourself" stack at the library. It was a choice between "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "The Art of War". I took the latter even if I think I'm more of a lover than a fighter. Besides, the stack was on the front desk, choosing the former is kinda awkward. I am quite surprised I finished this book. I felt like I subjected myself to study even if I'm not required to do so. It's actually quite entertaining, more so that I know that there won't be a test later.

Despite the title, the text (I don't know if I should call it a primer) is more concerned with nonviolent strategy:

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Sun Tzu appears to regard war as a necessary, but wasteful, evil, and one to be avoided whenever possible. He made a lot of useful and brilliant points but this all I can remember. Most of the stuff I have read just went down the drain!

Like I said, I'm a lover, not a fighter! Buwahahaha!
Profile Image for Araz Goran.
824 reviews3,625 followers
July 17, 2018

" الكـتاب المـقـدس للـدراسـات العـسكـرية "

خمسة وعشرون قرناً من الزمان ولا يزال كتاب " فن الحرب " من أهم وافضل الكتب الحربية والعسكرية ومازال من ضمن قائمة أهم مائة كتاب في التاريخ..

سن أتزو جعل من الحرب فناً ،خدعة ودهاء، تعليمات عسكرية صارمة وتكتيكات عبقرية وخطط ماكرة واقعية فذة، تفكير في أدق تفاصيل شؤون الحرب وإغتنام كافة السبل و الفرص المؤدية إلى النصر المؤزر في أي معركة بكيفية واقعية لا تخرج عن نطاق الممكن..

قد لا يهمه عدد الجنود في داخل المعركة ولا قوة العدو ولا نوع الأسلحة ولا التضاريس التي تجرى فيها المعارك..
سن أتزو يفكر في النصر في كل المعارك التي يخوضها بوسائل عبقرية ناضجة وخطط محكمة وبديهة سريعة ترافق الأستعداد الذهني والبدني وتجعل الجيش بكامله في أقصى درجات التحدي والأستعداد للمتغيرات والمفاجأت التي قد تحملها المعركة..

كتاب " فن الحرب " لا يقتصر فقط على شرح كيفية تحقيق الأنتصارات وإلحاق الهزيمة بالعدو فحسب، بل وحتى تجنب الهزيمة والوقوع في شرك العدو والأسر وخلافه..

عندما تقرأ الكتاب لا تشعر أن الكتاب قد كُتب منذ ذلك الزمن البعيد.. قيمة تاريخية وعسكرية لا مثيل لها، يمكن تطبق تعليماتها حتى في الوقت الحاضر رغم التقدم التقني والعسكري، ولكن مازالت نفس الطرق ونفس الأستراتيجيات والخطط تُستخدم من قبل القادة العسكريين ..

قد يقول قائل أن ماكتبه أتزو من البديهيات ومن الممكن أن تخطر تعاليمه وخططه على بال أي عسكري متمرس
نعم صحيح ولكن مع تلك الشمولية وتلك البصيرة الحادة والفكر الثاقب مع مراعاة الزمن الذي كُتب فيه الكتاب، لا أتصور حقيقة أن ماكتبه أتزو كان ضرباً من الحظ..

للمفارقة لم يكن أتزو من محبي الحرب ولم يكن يتصور الحرب كطريقة مُثلى لحل الخلافات، كان يرى أن الحوار والمفاوضات هي التي يجب أن تسود لحل المشاكل بين الدول والأمم، ذكر ذلك صراحة في الكتاب رغم أنه كتاب للحرب وفنونه..
كان يرى أن النجاح الحقيقي في الحرب هو الفوز في معركة بدون خسائر من الطرفين ثم العمل على إحلال سلام مستديم قائم على المعاهدات والأتفاقيات الموثوق بها، ولكن كرر فيما بعد أن الحرب ضرورة في بعض الأحيان وشر لابد منه ..

Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,104 followers
November 20, 2016

Quick Demo: On Ruining a Classic Text

Kaufman (author more than translator, I feel) boasts: In this work you will learn how people are to be treated and dealt with. The work was written for men in command and leaders of states. It is for the ambitious and strong spirited; do not seek morality lessons here.

Sun Tzu has been translated and interpreted countless times by people with little knowledge of true combat reality on either the physical or mental level.

Most of the available translations and interpretations maintain a poetic approach that really doesn’t pertain to the times we are living in. There is a tendency to maintain a “mystique” regarding ancient knowledge. This is quaint, relative to today’s aggressive personality. We are living in a global network and must think in decisive terms if we are to succeed.

He also chooses to leave out the valuable commentaries, which are supposed to be as much a part of the work as the original.

He says: In reality, who cares what Ch’en Fu thinks about Sun Tzu’s hidden meaning about the jade stalk in the midst of the enemy’s goldfish pond? We are grown-up and intelligent enough to develop our own understanding without the need for quaint allegories. There is nothing sacred here. I find that approach unnecessary, limiting, and a waste of time to the educated reader.

And here is a fun fact:

As an acknowledged and world-recognized martial arts master, a Hanshi (which is the highest rank attainable), I am thoroughly aware of my responsibility for the interpretation of this doctrine, and I have made it incumbent upon myself to explain Sun Tzu’s tenets as I perceive them in a definitive manner. 

— Must have recently taken a crash course on how to prepare a CV!

Well, the book is a bore and a complete failure. It does no justice to Sun Tzu’s masterpiece and is worse than the regular self-help fare because it has only pretentiousness (of being tough, goal-oriented, warlord-like, if you please) and no real intention of even trying to 'help' any non-delusional executive.

There is a reason why The Art of War is always presented poetically — it is so that the metaphors can be interpreted by the reader and applied as they want, so that they can understand the spirit of planned and prepared combat/conduct and apply that in life. That is why Art of war is an enduring and much loved classic.

The author obviously has no clue about all this. He thinks it is a good idea to just present the text as-is, without ornamentation, without poetry, without any hints at broader applications beyond the battleground — Because the global corporation IS a battleground! Hello!

Not realizing that once you strip away the poetry, you also strip the power of metaphor and what you have left is a dated txt that talks of war and claims to be for managers. It makes no sense to be told in plain prose to poison your enemy and insult his wife. Idiotic, without even being entertaining. Takes all the fun out of reading a bad book.
Profile Image for Lily.
72 reviews23 followers
September 16, 2007
If you've ever picked up a self-help book where the author is repeatedly stating the obvious, then you've experienced the writing style of this book. The overall concepts could've been summarized in a short essay rather than a book. Its length is a testament to its antiquity, though the author has done a noble job of re-ordering and editing bits of the chapters to provide continuity and to delete repetition.

Oriental philosophy is often ripe with a kind of double-speak and this book is no exception.

The main idea, covered ad nauseam, are that generals must be wise, adapt to changing situations, and maintain order.

What people get out of this book is whatever they want to read into it. It was an alright read but, in general, the book is overrated.
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
November 5, 2017
Sun Tzu's The Art of War is said to be the oldest military treatise in the world. Written centuries before the height of the Chinese empire before the common era, this slim volume did not make its way to the west until 1890, when French colonists brought a copy back to Paris. Regarded as classic by many, I decided to read the treatise for myself. Selecting an edition translated by Lionel Giles, the version I read was a mere 98 pages in length and at times underwhelming.

The first forty pages of the volume I selected was a whirlwind of a rundown of over two thousand years of Chinese history. Not much quantity was given to any particular dynasty or time period, and it seemed as though this introduction was written for a high school text book. It was difficult to keep dates and names straight, and the only significant item that stood out was the construction of the Great Wall and its subsequent expansion. The only saving grace of this introduction was a timeline that contrasted eras of history with Chinese dynasties and their contributions to both Chinese and world history. While I found out that the origins of foot binding occurred nearly one thousand years ago, this historical footnote did little to benefit the actual text and its place in literary history.

Perhaps the edition I read is dated. Currently many western schools teach Chinese to children as young as six so by the time that they are adults, these children turned adults are fluent in Mandarin. Likewise, as China has opened to the west, educated Chinese have knowledge in English. Unfortunately, I was at the liberty of what was available at my library system, and a modern, more fluid translation was not available to me. While it is apparent that Giles has knowledge of Chinese, at times it was hard to follow whether the words were Giles' insights or Sun Tzu's words. Including numerous examples of modern warfare to augment the text, Giles does not give justice to Sun Tzu's original intent. While these examples lend credence to how the Chinese military treatise has been implemented over the years, I was more interested in the original text than the interpretations of it.

Tzu's actual text is limited due to the translation. It does offer advice to militaries as to how to implement battle plans. These include the knowledge of terrain, the season in which to invade, and knowledge of one's enemy and how to overcome one's deficiencies. Giles takes liberties in discussing why certain chapters are included where they are, and I give him credit for taking the time to discuss the Chinese tradition of honor and killing oneself if a soldier committed an error of warfare. I found this especially intriguing in terms of spying and what an honorable Chinese soldier would do when either caught by his enemy or when having failed to deliver information to his superior. As one who enjoys reading about and watching films about modern espionage, I thought it was fascinating that the Chinese had developed rules in regards to spies over two thousand years ago.

The Art of War has been utilized by armies for over two centuries. The fact that it has endured is a testament to Chinese culture and traditions that have remained unspoiled over the millennia. I feel as though I would have enjoyed the treatise more if I had read a more modern version where the translation was seamless and did not indulge on the liberties of the translator. As a result I found myself reading more of the translator's interpretations and addendums than the actual text. I would be interested in reading an unspoiled edition of this classic as it remains relevant in warfare today.

3 stars, downgraded for translation
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,330 followers
June 18, 2012
My wife says watching me read The Art of War is like watching Danny DeVito read The Joy of Sex. I'm not sure how to take that.

Bottom line, I'm a lover not a fighter. I started this because I know that many people love this work and say they get a lot out of it. But it became clear to me after quite a few pages that The Art of War really is about fighting a war no matter what other people might interpret it to be. So I'm not interested.

Besides the two things I need to know about fighting I learned from The Princess Bride...

1. Never get into a land war in Indo-China.

2. Never make a bet involving death with a Sicilian.

Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
174 reviews352 followers
January 24, 2021
3.5 ⭐

Master Sun said:
Ultimate excellence lies
Not in applying false subtext to my teachings
To suit your corporate self-help douche-baggery
But in defending their integrity
By acknowledging them for what they are
Military Stratagems, through and through

For the purpose of review, my edition of ‘The Art of War’ is the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. Edited, translated and with an introduction by John Minford. This was a really great way to experience this 2500-year-old military treatise. It begins with about a 50-page section reserved for the introduction, notes on text, list of dynasties and historical events as well as a list and description of the various canon commentators ranging from the Pre-Tang era (as early as 155-220) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). You are then given the treatise, unadorned, to read and make your own presumptions as to it’s meaning, followed by the same treatise with extensive commentary.

Beginning with the work itself, as not everyone’s copy will have the commentary included, Sun Tzu’s treatise, in my opinion, is to be taken as nothing other than military strategy. The foundation of this work is exploitation and deception or “Success through cunning”. This is why I can appreciate its genius in the context of war and even individual combat (Bruce Lee applies many of the same underlying Taoist principles to his philosophy of ‘Jeet Kune Do’ with devastating effect) but can’t understand why anyone would want to introduce such dishonest tactics of subterfuge to their personal or work life. If I took anything beneficial from a personal perspective it was from the Taoist ideas which seem to permeate both Sunzi’s thoughts and those of the commentators. The treatise places huge importance on the planning and gathering of information through espionage, understanding the forms and dispositions of both yourself and the enemy army at any given time, unpredictability (formlessness), the benefits of advantageous terrain and both the virtues of an effective general as well as the pitfalls of a poor one.

I’ve seen Sunzi’s work taken out of context and used in countless personal and corporate self-help books. The idea of taking pure ideology and twisting it, almost beyond recognition, to suit your own needs is nothing new. In fact, even Sun Tzu himself abuses a number of the basic notions of Taoist teachings to support his own ideas. As did the so-called “legalists” (Chinese fascists) of the warring states period who derived a perverted justification for their Orwellian State through certain Taoist principles.

One of the more horrifying examples of distorting well-intentioned philosophies are the Chinese teachings regarding the “Art of Love”. These somehow take the wholesome lessons of the Tao and use them to justify a “relentless quest for sexual power” in which women are reduced to “objects for the enhancement of male potency and long life”. Get a load of this insane shit:
“The man should defeat the enemy in the sexual battle by keeping himself under complete control… while exciting the woman till she reaches orgasm and sheds her Yin essence which is then absorbed by the man.”
Well, ladies, if that doesn’t get you up and about, I don’t know what will. I mean, as long as you’re cool with being perceived as a sexual enemy by your loved-one, objectified and having your precious “Yin essence” absorbed, the rest sounds ok, right?!... Doesn’t sound like the Tao that I know.

I was concerned but not entirely turned away by the fact that this kind of philosophical distortion might leak into the commentary of this translation but I needn’t have worried. The commentary given here is completely literal. A number of the commentators themselves were generals in the centuries closely following the time in which these stratagems were allegedly compiled. Minford compiles these commentaries brilliantly. At times he has ordered them so as to be a sort of commentary on commentary. One philosopher will comment on Master Sun’s work, followed by another philosopher commenting on what the previous commentator said. Often this reads like a multi-generational conversation between strategists which I really enjoyed. You also really begin to get a feel for the personality traits of a number of the commentators. For example, there’s Du You, lover of cat analogies, or Cao Cao, the brutal general and strict disciplinarian who was prepared to take his own life upon breaking one of his own trivial rules. These were the things I liked about the commentary.

On the other hand, there were times when the commentary became repetitive and at times felt redundant due to the fact that a lot of Sunzi’s information is quite literal and unclouded by metaphor. In stark contrast to something like the ‘Tao Te Ching’ by Lao Tzu whose teachings are infamously intangible and elusive. Sun Tzu already has a habit of repeating some ideas in an educationally beneficial manner. On a number of occasions, the exact phrase is repeated. Whether this was actually him or the way the bamboo strips have been compiled, I don’t know. The point is, when you pile on additional, unrequired clarification and expansion, it does begin to get a little tiresome after a couple of hundred pages.

Sun Tzu: ”Deadlock” means that neither side finds it advantageous to make a move.
Du You: What Sunzi means is that neither side finds it advantageous to move, and the situation remains deadlocked.
Sun Tzu: Yeah bro, that’s literally exactly what I just said! Du You even listen?

I enjoyed this, despite the last 100 pages becoming a bit of a battle of attrition, and am now really looking forward to reading the ‘Tao Te Ching’ and the ‘Analects of Confucius’ in the next month or so. Happy reading amigos!

”Know the enemy,
Know yourself,
And Victory
Is never in doubt
Not in a hundred battles.”
Profile Image for Phoenix  Perpetuale.
206 reviews66 followers
January 20, 2022
The Art of War by Sun Tzu is an ancient Chinese generals' instructions on war. Having listened to this book left me with feelings of calmness. Everything is strategically and logically explained. I could transfer myself to the ancient world of China and see how they applied all the suggestions. Sort strong, yet calm and thoughtful.
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
288 reviews559 followers
March 6, 2020
'The Most Influential Book of Strategy' of all time, Sun Tzu's Art of War might have been intended for the Military, but it is applicable for all types of business ventures. Despite the fact that the book was written over two thousand years ago, the 13 strategies explained starting from 'Laying Plans' to 'The Use of Spies,' are adoptable for present day management requirements. This little book will open your eyes to very important but quite simple strategies applicable to being a leader.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
March 9, 2016
We all know one person who has an answer for everything. This person is usually annoying and won’t accept that sometimes they’re just wrong; they won’t accept that at some point their logic may fail them and run dry; they’re completely resolute in what they believe and they just won’t budge from it: they simply can’t be proven wrong or at fault. This is how I feel about Sun Tzu. It’s like he interpreted questions and doubts before they were born, and countered them with his own logic based responses that felt immaculately persuasive to the point that I found them to be convincing truths. Sun Tzu, literally, has an answer for everything war based.

How to win at war


I could never consider war as a form of art, but Sun Tzu has provided a detailed manual of how to survive it. Well, at least if you’re a general in the command of legions of armies and have the ability to respond to a multitude of situations with the quick thinking advice of Sun Tzu. Then, and only then, might you be ok. If you’re a foot solider or a random underling, then you’re screwed because you’d most likely be spent in some well thought out attack or defensive manoeuvre. This book is certainly one for the generals who must consider victory first and overcome the loss of human life.

There’s a reason why this book is still read today by military leaders, soldiers and random bookworms; it provides valuable insight on how to master the battlefield; it advises the reader on how to respond, in the most effective manner, to a number of tactical situations. There is so much covered in this relatively small book that it’s quite surprising. However, despite the convincing nature of his arguments, I do feel like there would be a situation where his logic failed him. There will be a situation where an unforeseeable circumstance defeats his approach and leads in an unexpected defeat and complete rout. No manual of war could ever be completely extensive even if it appears that way. But, don’t tell Sun Tzu I said that because he’d have an answer.

Easy to read

One thing that struck me when reading this was the sheer approachability of it. I expected it to be very complex and intricate. The manoeuvres and counters are conveyed in a simple, yet comprehensive, manner. It undeniably makes war look easy, which it obviously isn’t. I’m not saying that it’s misleading, but I was just looking for a logic hole in here. I was unable to find one, though I think if someone used this in war they may find it. I am glad of the simplicity of it, though, because it made the book very approachable and easy to understand. I never thought I’d say this, but The Art of War is very light reading.

This was such an interesting book to read. I feel like I learnt a lot from it, which is quite scary really. Perhaps, I won’t read it a second time, as I don’t want to get to many ideas in my head. I do recommend giving this book a read though, just for the sake of reading something completely different.

A tactical three stars
Profile Image for Tassa DeSalada.
Author 55 books270 followers
January 8, 2018
This book should be read in high school, and then again in college, and then again at the start of every new job or lifestyle change. The information it contains is useful for every stage in your life, over and over again. The information is useful in order to create long-term strategies, but also to fortify your defenses. The best offense is a good defense. This book will clue you into what’s out there waiting for you. People are sneaky and malicious. Sun Tzu discusses almost every shitty situation you will encounter. Consider Sun Tzu your mensch, your therapist, your life advisor. How cool is that?
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