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Sun Tzu — On The Art Of War

By Sun Tzu, Translated From Chinese By Lionel Giles

About This Book

When seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison in this way:

Item 13. (1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? (2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

Item 14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

An interesting footnote: In the late '80s, "The Art of War" was recommended reading in many MBA courses, where it was identified as one of the best possible handbooks for getting ahead in the business world!

About Sun Tzu

(Circa 100 B.C. - 100 A.D.) The legendary "warrior philosopher," Sun Tzu, who is credited with authoring "The Art of War," is described as both a superb general and a follower of the Tao philosophy/religion. This appears to be a contradiction in terms, as TAO 49 states: The Tao person dwells in peace: / Reaching out in a community of heart, / Regarding that all lives as one family.

TAO 51 states:
To follow the Tao is to honor its principles, / To realize: that we live in nature / But can never possess it; we can guide and serve, / But never control. / This is the highest wisdom.

That's not warrior talk. How can a soldier reconcile non-intervention with marching to battle? Can anyone imagine going to war while maintaining a community of heart with a family as large as the whole world of living things?

Perhaps, like followers of other religions and philosophies, this Chinese nobleman was able to pick and choose the aspects of the belief that best suited his needs. For there are, indeed, precepts of Taoism that make a kind of sense when applied to the art of war. For example: TAO 63: Deal with the difficult while it is still easy. / Solve large problems while they are still small. / Preventing large problems by taking small steps / is easier than solving them. / Therefore, the TAO person anticipates and lives wisely, / By small actions / accomplishing great things.


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