Sun Zi's Art of War was written by Sun Wu in the final year of the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC - 476BC).
It is not only the oldest Chinese military work in existence but also the oldest book of military theory in the world, well-known for a long time in the history of the military academy in China and abroad.
Sun Zi's Art of War have altogether 13 chapters. Both concise and comprehensive, this book sum up the experience of ancient wars, bring to light the many laws of war which are of universal significance.E
Here is a excerpt from Sun Wu and Wu Chi (both are great military genius) in The Record of the Historians by Sima Qian :
Sun Wu, a native of Qi, presented his work of the art of war to King He Lu of Wu and secured an audience with him.
"I have read all thirteen chapters of your book," said the King. "Will you train my people on a small scale as an experiment for me to see?"
"Yes of course," replied Sun Wu.
"Will you try on women"
"If you wish, Sir"
The king sent him one hundred and eighty beauties from the palace and Sun Wu divided them into two companies with the King's two favorite concubines as their leaders. Then he tell them to hold halberds in theirs hands and asked,
"Do you know the front from the back and your left hand from your right?"
The women assured him they did.
"When I give the order to advance, go forward. At the order 'Left!' turn towards your left hand side, at 'Right!' turn towards your right hand side and "Retreat!" to turn back.Understand?"
They replied, "Yes.We understand all what you had said."
Having laid down these commands, Sun Wu had the executioners' swords and axes made ready and repeated his instructions time and again. Then with the beating of the drum, he gave the order "Turn right!" The women burst out in laughters without making any move.
Sun Wu said, "If the rules are not clear and the orders are not understood, the commander is to blame.".So he repeated all the commands again in details , and he made sure that the women understood it. He beat the drum again and gave the order for a left turn. But once again, the women burst out laughing.
After seeing all this, he said "If the rules are not clear and the orders are not understood, the commander is to blame." But when order are given clearly yet not carried out, it is the officers who are to blame."
Immediately, he ordered that the two company leaders be executed.
The King, wtching from his stand, was aghast to see that his favorites were about to be executed. He hurriedly sent a messenger to Sun Wu with the order against the execution.
"I can see that you are a competent general. But without these two concubines, my food and wine would lose all flavor. Please spare their life."
Sun Wu replied, "Since I have been appointed as the commander of the army, I am not bound by all orders from my sovereign."
So he had the two leaders beheaded as a warning to those who disobey his orders. Then he appointed the pair next in order as new leaders. This time when the drum was beat, the women obey all his commands, not daring to utter a single word.
Then Sun Wu sent a message to the King informing that the troops are well trained and ready for inspection. And that they are now at the King's disposal and will forge ahead unflinchingly even if they have to go through fire or water.
" You may go back and rest, I had no desire to inspect them."
Sun Wu said, "Your Majesty is only interested in theory but not in practical."
King He Lu, convinced of Sun Wu skill as a commander, later made him his general. In the west , Sun Wu defeated the powerful state of that time, Chu and captured Ying, the capital of Chu. In the north, he struck terror into the states of Qi and Jin. His fame spread far and wide among the feudal lords.