Table of contents for The essential art of war = Sun-tzu ping-fa / translated, with historical introduction and commentaries, by Ralph D. Sawyer ; with the collaboration of Mei-chün Lee Sawyer.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog.

Note: Contents data are machine generated based on pre-publication provided by the publisher. Contents may have variations from the printed book or be incomplete or contain other coding.

	Sun-tzuís Art of War 
		 1	Initial Estimations
		 2	Waging War
		 3	Planning Offensives
		 4	Military Disposition
		 5	Strategic Military Power
		 6	Vacuity and Substance
		 7	Military Combat
		 8	Nine Changes
		 9	Maneuvering the Army
		10	Configurations of Terrain
		11	Nine Terrains
		12	Incendiary Attacks
		13	Employing Spies
	Pernicious Implications
	Subsequent Developments and Further Exploration
	Index to Strategic Concepts and Tactical Principles 
	The intent of The Essential Art of War is to provide a comprehensive yet succinct introduction to Sun-tzuís remarkable and often enigmatic Art of War. Thus, apart from entailing a somewhat different orientation and encompassing significant new materials, it differs from our well known, single volume Art of War and the translation embodied in our Seven Military Classics by excising material of interest primarily to scholars; drastically condensing the historical background; deleting the lengthy tactical analysis of the eraís pivotal battles; and selectively discussing the core concepts. 
	The core text has been based upon the heavily annotated, traditional Sung dynasty edition because it not only reflects the understanding of the past fifteen hundred years, the beliefs upon which government and military officials based their actions, but also continues to be widely circulated throughout Asia. Although the translation itself has been adopted from our single volume Art of War, individual sentences and certain important passages have been succinctly expanded with crucial tomb text materials that resolve otherwise opaque passages, supplement obvious deficiencies, or add new insights, as well as slightly reshaped and occasionally rephrased to make them more accessible upon first reading, though without ever simplifying the terminology or ìdumbing downî the text.
	Explanatory material will be found not only in the newly written introduction, but also an afterword and the few paragraphs appended to each chapter. Apart from setting the basic historical constraints and reprising Sun-tzuís infamous biography, the introduction examines the nature of text and the implications for the reader. The chapter commentaries then identify the core concepts and place some of the less obvious elements in context by elucidating key aspects and demystifying their organic relationships. Finally, the afterword discusses crucial issues that merit more extended treatment by broadening the interpretation within Sun-tzuís essential vision and suggesting some contemporary resonances. Although the bookís internal logic and occasional opacity significantly delimit the range and choice of topics, questions raised in numerous corporate, military, and intelligence seminars over the past three decades, as well as queries to our website (, have considerably shaped their treatment.
	With the aid of these introductory materials readers should have no difficulty in envisioning and selectively adopting Sun-tzuís principles and concepts to life or business situations. However, since the Art of Warís passages were the product of military activities, their initial or primary understanding should be martial, as they were realized by men and forces in the turmoil of command and tumult of battle. Only thereafter can they be successfully extrapolated and mapped onto other domains of endeavor. To this end the afterword offers a few suggestions of broader applicability and an overview of the darker implications, but as with the chapter comments, they are provided as a matter of explication. Determining the utility, legality, and appropriateness, if any, to individual situations and activities of all the materials included in the Essential Art of War remains the readerís responsibility. 
	Although our concise book is thus intended to be read as a fully independent work, it can also be used in conjunction with our single volume Art of War which contains a lengthy examination of Sun-tzuís life and the bookís authorship, an extensive historical introduction featuring the key battles of his era, a systematic analysis of the main concepts, additional tomb writings and other materials, and numerous textual and historical notes. Further understanding may also be gleaned from some of the other writings discussed in the brief section for suggested reading and from the comments to our other Sun-tzu volume, The Complete Art of War.
Ralph Sawyer
Summer, 2005
A Note on Pronunciation
	Unfortunately, neither of the two commonly employed orthographies makes the pronunciation of romanized Chinese characters easy. Each system has its stumbling blocks and we remain unconvinced that qi in pinyin is inherently more comprehensible to unpracticed readers than the older, increasingly discarded Wade-Giles chíi, although it is certainly no less comprehensible than j for r in Wade-Giles. However, because many of the important terms may already be familiar; a number of previous Art of War translations as well as all our martial writings employ Wade-Giles; and as a minor protest against the political practices of the PRCís draconian regime, we continue to employ it here. Nevertheless, for the convenience of younger readers key romanizations in pinyin have also been provided in parentheses, though well-known cities, names, and books are retained in their customary forms. 
	As a crude guide to pronunciation we offer the following notes on the significant exceptions to normally expected sounds:
	t , as in Tao : without apostrophe, pronounced like d (pinyin ìdî)
	p, as in ping : without apostrophe, pronounced like b (pinyin ìbî)
	ch , as in chuang : without apostrophe, pronounced like j (pinyin ìjî and ìzhî)
	hs , as in hsi : pronounced she (pinyin ìxî)
	j , as in jen : pronounced like r (pinyin ìrî)
Thus, the name of the famous Chou (or Zhou in pinyin) dynasty is pronounced as if written ìjouî and sounds just like the English name ìJoe.î
Dynastic Chronology
	Legendary Sage Emperors			2852 - 2255 BCE
	Hsia (Xia)					2205 - 1766
	Shang						1766 - 1045
	Chou (Zhou)
		Western Chou (Zhou)		1045 - 770
		Eastern Chou (Zhou)		 770 - 256
			Spring and Autumn		 722 - 481
			Warring States		 403 - 221
	Chíin (Qin)					 221 - 207
	Former Han (Western Han)	 	 206 - 008 CE
	Later Han (Eastern Han)			 023 - 220
	Six Dynasties				 222 - 589
		Three Kingdoms
	Sui						 589 - 618
	Tíang 	(Tang)					 618 - 907
	Five Dynasties				 907 - 959
	Sung						 960 - 1126
	Southern Sung				1127 - 1279
	Y,an (Mongol)				1279 - 1368
	Ming						1368 - 1644
	Chíing (Manchu) (Qing)			1644 - 1911
	Spawned during a period of increasingly horrific and incessant military strife, Sun-tzuís Ping-fa or Art of War quickly became the progenitor for a continuous, literate tradition of military science. Doubtlessly the most important book in Chinaís long and vaunted history apart from the Confucian Analects, it disproportionately influenced the conceptions, actions, and lives of untold millions over the centuries of interminable strife and frequent fragmentation that marred the stateís tenuous geopolitical unity. Studied and adopted by strategists and commanders, its tactical principles repeatedly determined the fate of armies, life and death of the state, and very existence or extinction of vast segments of the populace. 
	Even more remarkable, rather than having vanished and become forgotten, the Art of Warís impact not only continues undiminished, but continues to expand and penetrate every conceivable realm of human endeavor. Its renewed vitality is visible not just in the martial sphere where the worldwide revolution in military affairs has prompted the Peopleís Republic of China (PRC) to carefully reexamine its concepts and principles as an integral part of their ongoing search for a new military doctrine with unique Chinese characteristics, but also in the domains of business, personal relations, social interaction, the stock market, and the minutiae of everyday life. However, itís not the enigmatic, often opaque classical text that is read and pondered, but an astounding variety of contemporary, modern language versions. 
	These vernacular versions range from highly simplified, plain language translations through every imaginable variation and peregrination, including lavish illustrated editions and classical texts with traditional but expansive commentaries that explore not just the immediate meaning, but also extended implications and connotations, some wildly divergent, others simply the product of the writerís imagination. Numerous colorful comic book versions have also appeared, some cheap, pithy productions printed on execrable paper that yet sell hundreds of thousands, others finely detailed, multi-volume episodic tales intended primarily for Sun-tzu affectionados. 
	A variety of dedicated texts interpret the Art of War from a predetermined, systematized perspective such as Taoism or Buddhism; expand the ìtrue implicationsî through personal, sometimes bizarre insights; or adopt the principles and concepts to one or another specialized realm, particularly general business practices such as marketing or organizational management. Especially interesting are programs intended for singles seeking to vanquish the opposite sex and works discussing how husbands or wives may control their marriage partners or even nurture exciting new loves outside wedlock. Although some are characterized by levity, most are deadly serious in intent and execution. 
	Passages from the Art of War also permeate popular culture and the contemporary media, frequently being cited or employed in movie subplots, serialized television dramas, and short stories and novels, whether involving a martial theme or not. The principles and concepts are utilized almost daily in newspaper analyses of world events such as the Iraq conflict, generalized Mideast and Islamic tensions, major business and economic developments, and all aspects of the competitive Asian environment where Chinaís burgeoning power is viewed with increasing trepidation. Attesting to their ubiquitousness, many also underpin academic analyses and detailed strategic assessments of the greater international geopolitical struggle.
	Sun-tzuís thinking similarly pervades Japanese and, to a lesser extent, Korean and Singaporean popular culture, with the Art of War having heavily impacted traditional military practices and science in Vietnam, Japan, and Korea for centuries. However, this phenomenon has not been confined to Asia but similarly witnessed in the West where translations of the Art of War have not only been available for two centuries, but also continue to multiply in virtually every known format. Numerous variations and focal volumes explore the principles and their applicability in such realms as business and sports, and even United States military components have studied and consciously adopted many of the concepts and operational principles in increasingly shifting to maneuver warfare doctrine over the past three decades. Nor has exposure in the mass media lagged, movies such as Wall Street, the Art of War, and Rising Sun all having exploited the text for context and subplots, and the Sopranos and even the Simpsons having occasionally quoted the Art of War, immediately causing a temporary surge in its popularity due to televisionís broad impact.
	Apart from underpinning the Chinese mindset and strategic culture, numerous phrases from the Art of War have thus become well known and, much as American football coaches might claim ìthe best defense is a good offense,î have entered the language itself as popular sayings. Perhaps a reflection of Chinaís abiding confidence in the ability of strategy and planning, deceit and manipulation, to allow inferior forces to overcome significantly stronger foes, these chíeng-y, (chengyu) embody tactical fundamentals. Among the dozens commonly heard, the following are particularly prominent:
Warfare is the greatest affair of state.
Warfare is the Tao of deception. 
Although capable, display incapability.
Display profits to entice them.
Attack where they are unprepared.
If they are angry, perturb them.
No country has ever profited from protracted warfare.
The highest realization of warfare is to attack the enemyís plans. 
The lowest realization of warfare is to attack fortified cities -- generally rephrased today as ìdonít become entangled in urban combatî. 
Attaining one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of excellence. Subjugating the enemyís army without fighting is the pinnacle of excellence.
One who knows the enemy and himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. 
First make yourself unconquerable.
Conquer those who are easy to conquer. 
The victorious army is like a ton compared with an ounce !
The unorthodox and orthodox mutually produce each other.
Race forth where the enemy does not expect it.
The chíi (qi) of the Three Armies can be snatched away
If you know them and know yourself your victory will not be imperiled.
Cast them into hopeless positions and they will be preserved.
Be tranquil and obscure.
Attack what they love first.
Do not move unless it is advantageous.
	Within Chinaís own lengthy and voluminous tradition of military science the Art of War initiated rational speculation upon martial principles and concepts, transforming combat into an art or proto-science rather than mere exercise in force and brutality. Over the two millennia that subsequently saw the countryside constantly wracked by internal rebellion and external invasion, governments cyclically rise and fall, the population decimated, the infrastructure shattered, and the polity frequently fragmented or under alien occupation, it continued to provide the foundation for tactical and strategic thought and the production of dozens of significant military writings, particularly in the Warring States period and then from the Tíang dynasty onward. 
	Finally, in the eleventh century AD the Sung dynasty, much beset by foreign threats, made it and six other martial works canonical in the hopes that the newly designated compilation known as the Wu-ching Chíi-shu (Wujing Qishu) or Seven Military Classics would preserve and advance Chinaís martial knowledge. Although Sun-tzuís assertions were challenged and modified, they were never ignored, but instead continuously furnished an ever renewed starting point for each eraís technologically modified and modernized discussions. Despite dramatic changes wrought by advanced explosives, mechanization, air power, logistical transformation, nuclear missiles, digitization, and the rise of information based warfare, this trend remains much in evidence in the PRC. 
The Era of Conflict
	Sun-tzu reputedly lived at the end of the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BCE), an era of dominant personalities and intense, multi-party strife when any political or military misstep could doom the state. The semi-feudal order imposed by the reigning Chou (Zhou) dynasty in vanquishing its tyrannical predecessor, the Shang, in 1035 BCE had long since declined and even their ritual authority was now ignored. Dozens of states had dramatically perished, their populace having been brutally subjugated and their territory annexed. Others continued to survive only through servile submission, adroit political maneuvering, intrigue, assassination, bribery, and constant battling. 
	Seven of the remaining thirteen significant states -- including the southeastern coastal of Wu where Sun-tzu apparently plied his persuasions at the end of the sixth century BCE -- dominated the realm, the remaining six and a number of other minor entities constantly being at risk of imminent extinction. Because they all faced multiple threats from contiguous states, more distant enemies, and even nearby steppe and tribal peoples, committing forces to combat invariably entailed enormous risks. Not only could defeat prove fatal, even great victories might significantly debilitate the state, making it unexpectedly vulnerable to surprise attack and easy conquest. The sense of precariousness induced by such turmoil and uncertainty is emphatically captured by the Art of Warís very first utterance, ìWarfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the Way to survival or extinction.î 
	Although the book never mentions weapons, component forces, or any aspect of military organization, its principles, concepts, and tactics are clearly the product of a specific martial environment and contemporary military practices. A few observations on the nature of Chinese warfare in the late Spring and Autumn and Early Warring states are therefore warranted. However, it should also be noted that even though the two periods have long been emphatically distinguished by historians and many aspects of antique practices were changing, the effect was more evolutionary than radical, more continuous than disjunctive. Only after the fourth century BC when the infantryís mass became overwhelming did their gradual accumulation reach a critical point. 
	By Sun-tzuís era the nature, scope, and intensity of warfare had all long been escalating, evolving from limited chariot force clashes on relatively open terrain to extended campaigns undertaken by ever more massive infantry and chariot armies numbering in the tens of thousands. Chariots have in fact always been identified with early Chinese warfare, but they were not actually employed by the nobility until at least the middle Shang, after which they gradually grew in quantity and importance. Powered by two horses in combat but lighter and higher than their well known Roman counterparts, they normally carried three men standing in triangular formation: a driver, a warrior equipped with a crushing weapon, and an archer who doubled as the commander. Through the early Chou field deployments rarely exceeded a few hundred chariots, but at the Shangís overthrow they were already accompanied by anywhere from ten to twenty-five loosely attached troops.
 	Dedicated infantry and archery companies, originally about a hundred men each, also appeared in the Shang and campaign armies generally totaled 3,000 men, though they could be augmented by the dispatch of secondary and tertiary forces in similar quantities. As the populace multiplied and their material wealth grew over the centuries, warfare increased in duration, frequency, and scope. Moderate length Shang campaigns of a few weeks punctuated by brief, single day encounters gradually lengthened to several months, entailing repeated clashes, set piece deployments, and even stalemates. These tendencies were exacerbated when Chou authority completely collapsed and the newly obstreperous individual states aggressively asserted their independence, targeting clan relations equally with outsiders. Standing forces appeared, the basic army unit grew from 3,000 to 10,000 or 12,500 troops, and expeditionary efforts soon saw two or three indigenous armies combined with several allied contingents in a loosely integrated campaign force. 
	Chariot numbers also multiplied despite the vehicleís cost, complexity, lengthy production time, and a constant shortage of horses. Witnesses claim the strongest Spring and Autumn states could easily field a thousand each, with upwards of several thousand being common in the middle Warring States. However, by then foot soldiers had become disproportionately important, having soared to operational concentrations of 100,000 to 200,000, resulting in enormous command and logistical problems. Moreover, being inherently constrained to level terrain, the chariot proved less effective in peripheral mountainous and wet areas, especially south of the Yangtze and in the states of Wu and Y,eh.
	In fact, numerous questions have been raised about the actual role played by Chinaís light chariots. Although early literature romanticizes chariot clashes and mounted warriors apparently issued personal challenges to each other in the Spring and Autumn period, actual combat between chariot based fighters would have been nearly impossible due to problems of instability, the fighting radius of weapons, and limited target acquisition time unless they deliberately halted side by side. 
	Therefore, by the late Spring and Autumn period the chariot probably functioned primarily as a command and archery platform, mass penetrations and flanking tactics only occasionally being executed. Moreover, their vulnerability required protection by ground troops and therefore coordination between the elements of maneuver and those of persistence, highly difficult to attain and maintain, just as vestiges in the Art of War indicate. Nevertheless, they would have permitted the comparatively rapid conveyance of men, and under the direction of a skilled driver and upon reasonable terrain could undoubtedly have been formidable. In addition, an increasingly large number of specialized vehicles, such as supply and assault wagons, also had to be integrated into the army, complicating the synchronized movement of the campaign components while multiplying the commanderís burdens and responsibility. However, the cavalry did not appear as even a minor element until late in the third century, somewhat simplifying the task of coordination.
	The growth of massive infantry forces necessarily both caused and reflected major changes in civil organization and taxation practices, with increasingly draconian measures being applied at the local level in many areas to bind the people into mutual responsibility units and ensure that materials could be commandeered and manpower conscripted as required. (Thus the Art of War already speaks about six or seven people being inconvenienced to support one combat soldier deployed in the field.) As reflected in the bookís very first chapter, this naturally led to broader questions of training, motivation, and unification because ever greater numbers of people were adversely impacted and many reluctant soldiers found themselves serving for extended periods in hostile environments. 
	Once in the field, individual warriors were protected by relatively sturdy shields and armor and equipped with either highly sophisticated bows or crushing weapons. Neolithic armor probably consisted simply of animal skins, but leather came to comprise the basic material from the Shang through the end of the Warring States period. When employed in conjunction with shields of wood and leather and coupled with bronze helmets, it provided reasonable protection against the weapons and arrowheads of the period. However, as the scope and lethality of conflict intensified, the simple two piece arrays that formerly covered a soldierís front and back were abandoned for flexible, lamellar tunics fabricated by overlaying multiple small rectangles. Specialized designs also appeared that accommodated the warriorís designated role and function, such as lengthy robes for chariot mounted fighters. 
	Bows and (from the middle Warring States onward) crossbows provided the primary weapons for action at a distance, spears apparently having been reserved for close combat rather than thrown and thereby immediately leaving the soldier defenseless. Simple bows date back at least 28,000 years and numerous ancient skeletons attest that the composite, recurved bows of the Shang and thereafter were powerful enough to penetrate armor and bone. Used in the Early Chou as a criteria for office, skill in archery had long been prized and accuracy out to two hundred yards was normally expected. 
	Despite the swordís virtually worldwide mystique and contrary to many erroneous Western depictions, the true sword -- which might be defined as having a blade length more than double that of the haft and being at least thirty inches long -- did not really develop in China until very late in the Spring and Autumn period, and then primarily in the southeastern states of Wu and Y,eh where chariots had limited applicability. Moreover, they were designed for piercing and thrusting rather than slashing, a function reserved to the comparatively unique weapon known as the ko (ge) or dagger-axe until the advent of sabers near the end of the Warring States period. 
	Daggers themselves had in fact been carried by archers from the Shang onward as a weapon of last recourse, and while hand and other combat axes date back into the Neolithic period, by the Shang the true field weapon was the dagger-ax. Originally a simple piercing weapon with a three foot reach created by horizontally affixing a dagger to a long shaft, it was quickly transformed through changes in the bladeís curvature, mounting angle, and balance to become a slashing weapon that could effectively target the limbs and neck. Although chariot warriors carried fifteen foot versions to allow reaching their opponents, foot soldiers were equipped with both longer and shorter versions over the centuries. 
	As the Warring States unfolded, a spear tip was attached at the top of the shaft to remedy vulnerability and constraint problems, thereby converting it into a compound weapon capable of slashing, cutting, thrusting, and stabbing. Specific techniques then evolved that exploited this combined potential with sequences that integrated thrusting with reverse undercutting, slashing with reverse thrusting. Although longer versions are shown in the few depictions dating to the period, archaeological remains indicate the short, three foot version proliferated during the Warring States period, no doubt because it could be used single handedly in conjunction with a shield. 
	Sixth and fifth century BC field armies thus sought to integrate the component forces of chariots and infantry while exploiting a number of weapons, both in deliberate combination and in dedicated contingents, such as bowmen and unorthodox chariot companies. When deployed in the field and suffering the ongoing changes of combat this diversity naturally complicated the task of command. Basic organizational structures therefore had to be created and maintained, control measures integrated and imposed that could prove effective whether on the march, encamped, or on the battlefield. 
	Early China chose a hierarchical method based upon a multiplier of five and anchored by squads of five men who would be permanently unified and mutually responsible for each otherís actions and fate. Five squads were grouped to compose platoons of twenty-five, then companies of 125, brigades of 500 (rather than 625), regiments of 2,500, and finally armies of 12,500. Naturally there were alternative forms and pronounced regional variants, some decade based, as well as vestigial clan and private forces, but in term of the broader issues confronting commanders such details are unimportant, structure and responsiveness invariably being stressed. 
	Simply organizing men into functional units being inadequate, issues of command and control, of maneuver and deployment increasingly came to the fore. No longer could a great noble simply order his clan into battle, leading by example and courageously participating. Rather, preset deployments had to be developed and the men drilled not just in the complex task of dispersing into formation, but also in wielding their weapons effectively and sustaining a coordinated effort. Moreover, their disposition and mode of employment (such as attacking, defending, feinting) had to be inherently flexible and responsive. 
	Although only a few rudimentary dispositions seem to have existed in Sun-tzuís era, new training methods had to evolve to match their growing complexity. Simultaneously, the chaos of battle demanded communications measures that would allow the commander to exercise active control over his troops, altering their formations and redeploying them as necessary. With the noise -- both literal and figurative -- and confusion of the highly dynamic, combat situation looming large, only simple yet high visible methods of communication could penetrate the dust and din. Runners and verbal orders, whether written or transmitted by dedicated chains, being doomed to failure, drums, signal fires, colored smoke, flags, gongs, and whistles were all adopted, the men thereafter being rigorously trained in immediate, virtually intuitive response. 
	Despite constant improvements in systematic defenses that coupled thick, tamped earth fortifications with deep, wide moats and exploited a growing array of counter-siege weapons, cities were also evolving into priority targets due to their unremitting growth as military, economic, and political centers. Even though the tactics and technology for rapidly reducing them continued to advance, armies that mounted precipitous assaults could still easily be decimated because the well ensconced defenders enjoyed an almost insurmountable advantage. 
	In this context of swiftly improving weapons, formations, and skills all aspects of warfare suddenly demanded scrutiny. Moreover, the ìstate had to be enriched, the army strengthenedî if rulers were not to find themselves easy prey for their foes and friends alike. The commanderís character and qualifications necessarily grew critical, neither noble birth nor warrior status ever again being sufficient. Wisdom and experience were deemed vital, and while courage could not be absent, excessive courage could doom an army to defeat. Command techniques, battlefield tactics, and the fundamental concepts necessary to formulate an effective military science all swiftly appeared. Many seem to have originated with Sun-tzu, but others clearly preexisted him, being the product of both sudden strategic insight and long reflection by earlier commanders upon the nature of strife and conflict. 
Sun Wu, Man and Myth
	It is highly likely that the Art of War evolved in the Shandong and Jiangsu region of eastern China, site of the ancient states of Chíi (Qi), Wu, and subsequently Y,eh during the Spring and Autumn and early Warring States periods. In fact, having been founded by the semi-legendary Tíai Kung, the great strategist identified with the Chouís ascendancy over the Shang and comprehensive (though actually late Warring States) martial compilation known as the Liu-tíao (Liutao) or Six Secret Teachings, from inception the state of Chíi enjoyed a strong military heritage. By Sun-tzuís era it had long been an incubator for martial thought and aggressive political practices. Duke Huan and Kuan Chung (Guan Zhung), the putative author of the massive, eclectic work that bears his name, made Chíiís history glorious, while Sun Pin (Bin), who subsequently composed an Art of War that adopted and expanded Sun-tzuís thinking, would serve as a prominent strategist in Chíiís two mid-fourth century clashes with Wei. Moreover, although Wu had well embarked on a sophisticated military course long before his appearance, Sun-tzu himself may have been from Chíi.
	In comparison with Chíiís antiquity, Wu and Y,eh were still in the incipient stages of evolution in the last century of the Spring and Autumn period. Both enjoyed (or suffered) strong military stimuli from contiguous entities, Wu having intermittently clashed with Chíu (Chu) for decades and Y,eh soon battling Wu, eventually resurging from resounding defeat and near extinction to exterminate their nemesis in the fifth century. Accordingly, military knowledge was not just prized, but essential, often being acquired through the itinerant advisors who were beginning to appear. In fact, although Kuan Chung had earlier fulfilled a similar role on personal initiative in Chíi, the first deliberate martial advisory mission was undertaken by the Duke of Shen in 584 BC at the behest of Chin (Jin), an old northern power that sought to frustrate Chíuís plan and intentions (just as Sun-tzu would advocate). A high ranking Chíu defector, he was accompanied by a small contingent of troops and a few chariots that were intended to bolster Wuís skills and capabilities. However, since fifteen percent of Wuís alluvial terrain consisted of marshes, rivers, and lakes where naval and infantry forces necessarily predominated, the chariotís introduction had little visible impact. 
	Just prior to Sun-tzuís appearance another pivotal Chíu defector assumed an increasingly prominent role in Wu. Driven by a desire for revenge, the subsequently famous Wu Tzu-hs, (Wu Zixu) futilely tried to persuade King Liao to invade Chíu before turning to the future King Ho-l,, already a prominent military commander, in frustration. Ho-l,ís usurpation of the throne through an assassin introduced by the supposedly righteous Wu Tzu-hs, then set the stage for Sun-tzuís own appearance. Rather than simply being Sun-tzuís mentor, Wu Tzu-hs, recommended him to King Ho-l, solely to advance his own vengeful objectives.
	Traditionally identified as the author of the seminal Ping-fa (Bingfa) or Art of War, Sun Wu or Sun-tzu (Sunzi) -- the ìtzuî being an honorific marking him as Master Sun -- first appeared in this maelstrom about 512 BC as an itinerant strategist and military advisor. Surprisingly, despite his subsequent fame and the many legends that would surround him throughout imperial Chinese history, Sun-tzu remains an enigma. Because his name never appears any of the supposedly authentic historical records of the late Spring and Autumn period, his reputation rests solely upon oral transmission and a single incident and some laudatory words preserved in a brief Shih Chi (Shi Ji) biography penned by Ssu-ma Chíien (Sima Qian) some four centuries after the event that may have been prompted by the Art of Warís popularity in the midst of the Former Han. 
	Slightly embellished, the Wu Y,eh Chíun-chíiu (Chunqiu) retells the same incidents in more dramatic form: 
{EXT}	In the third year of Ho-l,ís reign as king of Wu, Wuís generals wanted to attack Chíu but no action was being taken. Wu Tzu-hs, and Po Píi (Bo Pi) spoke with each other: ìWe nurture officers and make plans on the kingís behalf. Because these strategies will be advantageous to the state, the king should attack Chíu. But he has put off issuing the orders and has no intention of mobilizing the army. What should we do?î
	Somewhat later King Ho-l, queried Wu Tzu-hs, and Po Píi: ìI want to send forth the army. What do you think?î 
	Wu-tzu Hs, and Po Píi replied: ìWe would like to receive the order.î 
	However, the King of Wu secretly thought that the two of them harbored great enmity for Chíu and deeply feared that they would take the army out only to be exterminated. Ascending his tower, he faced into the southern wind and groaned. A little while later he sighed. None of his ministers understood the kingís thoughts. Wu Tzu-hs, secretly realized the king would not make a decision, so he recommended Sun-tzu to him.
	Sun-tzu, whose name was Wu, was a native of Wu. Although he excelled at military strategy, as he dwelled in secrecy far away from civilization ordinary people did not recognize his ability. However, being enlightened, wise, and skilled in discrimination, Wu Tzu-hs, knew Sun-tzu could penetrate and destroy the enemy. 
	One morning while he was discussing military affairs with the king he recommended Sun-tzu seven times. King Ho-l, retorted: ìSince you have found several excuses to advance this officer, I want him brought in.î He questioned Sun-tzu about military strategy and each time that Sun-tzu laid out a section of his book the king couldnít praise him enough.
	Greatly pleased, he inquired: ìIf possible, I would like to have a minor test of your military strategy.î 
	Sun-tzu replied: ìItís possible. We can conduct a minor test with women from the inner palace.î 
	When the king assented, Sun-tzu said: ìI would like to have two of your Majestyís beloved concubines each act as commanders for a company.î 
	He ordered all three hundred women to wear helmets and armor, carry swords and shields, and stand. He then instructed them in military methods, that they should advance, withdraw, go left or right, or turn around in accord with the drum. He informed them of the armyís prohibitions and then ordered, ìAt the first beating of the drum you should all assemble, at the second you should advance with your weapons, and at the third deploy into the military formation.î At this the palace women all covered their mouths and laughed.
	Sun-tzu then personally took up the sticks and beat the drum, giving the orders three times and explaining them five times. They laughed as before. Sun-tzu was enraged when he saw that the women laughed continuously. His eyes suddenly opened wide, his sound was like a terrifying tiger, his hair stood on end under his cap, and his neck broke the tassels at the side. He said to the Master of Laws, ìGet the executionerís axes.î 		
	Sun-tzu then said: ìIf the instructions are not clear, the explanations and orders not trusted, it is the generalís fault. When they have been instructed three times and the orders have been explained five times, if the troops still do not perform, it is the fault of the officers. What is the procedure according to the rescripts for military discipline ?î 
	The Master of Laws said: ìDecapitation !î 
	Sun-tzu then ordered that the two company commanders, the kingís favorite concubines, be beheaded.
	King Ho-l, ascended his observation platform just as they were about to behead his beloved concubines. He had an official hasten down to Sun-tzu with orders to say, ìI already know that you, my general, are able to command forces. Without these two concubines my food will not be sweet. It would be appropriate not to behead them.î
	Sun-tzu said: ìI have already received my commission as commanding general. According to the rules for generals, when I, as a general, am in command of the army, even though you issue orders to me, I do not have to accept them.î He then had them beheaded.
	Thereafter when he again beat the drum the women went left and right, advanced and withdrew, and turned around in accord with the prescribed standards without daring to blink an eye. The two companies were completely silent, not daring to look around. 
	Thereupon Sun-tzu reported to King Ho-l,: ìThe army is already well ordered. I would like your Majesty to observe them. However you might want to employ them, even sending them forth into fire and water, will not present any difficulty. They can be used to settle All under Heaven.î
	King Ho-l,, suddenly displeased, said: ìI know that you excel at employing the army. Even though I can thereby become a hegemon, there is no place to exercise them. General, please dismiss the army and return to your dwelling. I am unwilling to act further.î
	Sun-tzu said: ìYour Majesty only likes the words, he isnít able to realize their substance.î 
	Wu Tzu-hs, then remonstrated with the king: ìI have heard that the army is an inauspicious affair and cannot be wantonly tested. Thus, if someone forms an army but fails to go forth to launch a punitive attack, the Tao of the military will become unclear. Now Your Majesty has been sincerely seeking out talented officers and wants to mobilize the army to execute the brutal state of Chíu, become hegemon of All under Heaven, and overawe the feudal lords. However, if you do not employ Sun-tzu as your commander, who else can ford the Huai, cross the Ssu (Si), and traverse a thousand kilometers to engage in battle ?î 
	King Ho-l, was elated. He had the drum beaten to convene the armyís staff, assembled the troops, and attacked Chíu. Sun-tzu took Shu, killing the two renegade Wu generals, Princes Kai-yu (Gaiyou) and Chu-yung (Zhuyong). {/EXT}
	Ssu-ma Chíien concluded by noting that ìThe king defeated the powerful state of Chíu in the west, advancing into Ying. He overawed Chíi (Qi) and Chin (Jin) to the north and manifested his name among the feudal lords. This was due to Sun-tzu imparting power to him.î Nevertheless, prompted by certain discrepancies and anachronisms, as well as the rather improbable story about executing the kingís favorite concubines, skeptical scholars have long questioned not only the Art of Warís ìauthenticity,î but also its attribution to the historical figure known as Sun Wu. Moreover, perhaps due in part to the contemporary tendency to disparage the contributions of ìgreat menî in favor of political, economic, and other historical explanations, even Sun-tzuís very existence has been increasingly denied, leading to highly acrimonious debates between traditionalists, particularly in the PRC, and scholars aligned with various other schools and interpretations. 
	Although these highly intriguing questions are historically important, whether the Art of War was created by Sun-tzu, the famous Chíu advisor known as Wu Tzu-hs,, some other anonymous author, a school of martial thought located in Chíi or Wu, or even Sun Pin in the middle of the deadly Warring States period is irrelevant to its subsequent existence and impact. An early version of the text was certainly circulating late in the forth century BC; thereafter, its teachings quickly became the tactical and conceptual basis for the burgeoning military studies necessitated by the ever more lethal strife of the Warring States period and subsequent contemplations by strategists and commanders during the imperial period. Even though the book has been variously called Sun-tzuís Art of War, the Art of War, or just Sun-tzu (since each chapter originally opened with ìSun-tzu saidî), the bookís inception has always been associated with Sun-tzu and the dramatic, indelible image of executing the palace women. Accordingly, throughout our discussions we have adopted the conventional means of referring to the author (or authors) as ìSun-tzu,î though with full consciousness of alternative possibilities. 
Nature of the Work
	Irrespective of the actual author, the Art of War evolved in the general milieu of the late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States period when, perhaps in response to the verve of the period, systematic philosophic thought first evolved and the first overt instructors appeared, epitomized by Confucius who has traditionally been venerated as Chinaís first teacher. In fact, Confucius and Sun-tzu, the paragons of the virtuous and martial approaches respectively, were contemporaries, both having flourished at the end of the sixth and early fifth centuries. Moreover, the Analects -- the famous compendium of sayings attributed to Confucius himself but now known to have been substantially composed subsequent to his death -- and Art of War equally consist of a series of laconic pronouncements on a variety of discrete topics, cobbled together under chapter headings marked by only tangential relationships with the contents. For example, a typical, well known saying preserved in the Analects states, ìDonít be troubled that other men do not know you, be concerned that you do not know other men.î Thus, despite their widely acknowledged profundity and voluminous explications of subsequent commentators, readers have regarded many of them as enigmatic, confusing, and even impenetrable for nearly twenty-five centuries.
	This esoteric, often frustrating sense of disjuncture stems in part from the verbal nature of late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States teaching practices. Memorized materials generally formed the basis for discussion and the masterís pronouncements were expected to be precisely remembered for subsequent transmission and contemplation. (Numerical rubrics that facilitate both memorization and recall, such as ìfiveî categories or ìnineî terrains, no doubt reflect this oral emphasis.) Moreover, the Art of War also incorporates battlefield wisdom, observational notes, and formulaic pronouncements apparently derived from centuries of combat experience. Although memorizing lengthy passages was not completely precluded, the instructionís extemporaneous nature clearly favored succinct summaries, just as are visible in the Buddhaís early pronouncements. 
	More importantly, apart from the occasional silk roll, until paper made its first appearance in the Later Han the recording medium consisted of narrow bamboo strips, generally a foot or slightly more in length, that could hold between fifteen and thirty brush written Chinese characters. Laboriously produced and highly inconvenient, they had to be strung together with thin cords to create paragraphs, chapters, and then books that would be rolled up for storage or carrying. (A single ìbookî might need two or three such rolls, while three such books would require a wheelbarrow to transport.) Since each strip basically functioned as the equivalent of a modern note card, to a considerable extent both the Analects and Art of War may be considered collections of ìpromptsî or ìcribsî that capture the essence of a subject, materials to be expanded in the process of instruction and discussion. 
	Certain topics required two or more strips, others were revisited over time, whether because of queries or because the master summarized the material differently, adding insights and providing new perspectives. Some of the strips may also have been used individually rather than immediately bound up, adding to the complexity of the final integration. With practice, the mediumís inconveniences became tolerated and by the middle of the fourth century BCE true paragraphs were appearing in works such as the Mencius as well as the Tso Chuan, Chinaís first historical narrative, with increasingly lengthy disquisitions quickly following. 
	Some observations from our own reconstruction of a bamboo Art of War three decades ago that required nearly three hundred strips may prove illuminating. Despite the project being undertaken solely by native Chinese speakers, the process proved tedious, frustrating, and troublesome, all annoyances that would be multiplied during the composing or writing of an original over weeks or months in comparison with merely copying an extant book. Once the ink dried, maintaining order among the completed strips should have been simplicity itself, but when more than a few accumulated, they frequently became disordered by being moved and shuffled about, requiring further effort to reorganize. Similar problems no doubt faced ancient readers when the bindings failed or a ìbookî was retied, not to mention the scholars who reconstructed the Art of War, Sun Pinís Military Methods, and the other pre-Chíin writings from the disheveled piles of Han dynasty tomb slips that are now revealing so much about Warring States culture and history.
	Whatever writings Confucius and Sun-tzu may have bequeathed, their immediate disciples and numerous compilers subsequently edited and reedited the collections, sometimes expanding, excising, rearranging, and generally ìimprovingî the material. This practice continued even after the introduction of paper in the Han, the great Three Kingdoms general Tsíao Tsíao, the first known commentator, now being vilified for fatally damaging the Art of War when he reportedly reduced it from eighty-two chapters to just thirteen. (However, other traditions, some tomb fragments, and the Shih Chi biography all imply that the work consisted of just thirteen sections when first presented, and just such a text clearly circulated early in the Han.) 
Moreover, at least in the case of the Analects, layers and even chapters of extensive material were subsequently added while a few accretions reputedly reflecting Warring States conflict levels and practices can arguably be discerned in the Art of War. Some of Sun-tzuís discussions, being remarkably systematic and coherent, would certainly have required two or three strips, suggesting either a slightly later stage of composition or subsequent expansion. At the same time, so called classical Chinese being extremely condensed, a single strip may be sufficient to compress a discussion that sprawls across several lengthy English sentences. 
	Not unexpectedly, despite extensive scrutiny and reshaping over the centuries, whether beneficial or detrimental, the authorís original intent was often muddied by these editors, compilers, and commentators, particularly since the language continued to evolve and earlier meanings changed or were forgotten. Accordingly, even though nominal connectors such as ìthusî and ìthereforeî repeatedly appear, contiguous sentences often lack continuity, the Art of War frequently appears bereft of systemic thinking, and parts may strike the most astute reader as mutually contradictory. However, careful reading and pondering within the larger context of the Warring States and the subsequent Chinese military corpus reveals that a dramatic, core vision underlies the entire text, that the Art of War is an organic whole with multiple links between the many parts, and that the concrete contents can be rendered understandable by unpacking the compressed text and systematically explicating the pronouncements in terms of that vision, emphasizing their role in achieving greater objectives. This is the intent of our chapter notes and the afterwordís broader contemplation of selected core concepts and their possible relevance in the contemporary world.

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

Military art and science -- Early works to 1800.