Sun Tzu Art Of War

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.


Sun Zi Said :

War is a matter of vital importance to a nation : a matter relating to life and death of the people, survival or ruin of sovereignty. Hence it demands serious study and should not be neglected under any circumstances.

In assessing the outcome of war , one should analyse the actual situation and compared by the strengths and weakness of both sides with respect to thefive fundamental factors :

  1. Morality
  2. Weather
  3. Terrain
  4. Commander
  5. Legal system
Five fundemental factors.

Morality enables people to be in complete accord with their sovereign, so that they will follow the general into battle regardless of their lives and without the slightest fear.

.Weather refers to climatic conditions such as day and night, cold and heat as well as the change of seasons.

.Terrain refers to geographical conditions such as long or short distances, perilous or level land, open ground or narrow passes as well as impasse or thoroughfare.

.Commander factor refers to whether the commander possesses attributes such as resourcefulness and ability, fairness in rewarding or punishing, kindness to the soldiers, courage and resolutions as well as strictness od discipline.

.Legal system signifies whether reliable systems are established in the organization of military units, division of responsibilities for officials and management of military supplies.

These five fundamental factors are known to every single commander. However, only one who has a through understanding and full command of them can win the war; otherwise he will fail. fundemental factors

Seven Dimensions
Therefore in order to have a full grasp of the situation of both sides, one should analyse and compare by calculations of the following seven dimensions :

  1. Which of the two sovereigns pursues a just cause and has won the support of their people?
  2. Which of the two commanders is more resourceful and capable?
  3. Which of the two sides holds more advantages in terms of climatic and terrain conditions?
  4. On which side is discipline more strictly enforced?
  5. Which of the two armies is stronger?
  6. Which side has better trained officers and soldiers?
  7. Which side is fairer in giving rewards or punishments?
After making a comprehensive analysis based on all the above, one should be able to predict which of the two sides will win the war.

If a commander follows the above , he will surely win. Let him be retained in command! Otherwise he will surely fail, and let him be dismissed.Once a commander has adopted the appropriate stratagems, he should create a readiness to assist the implementation of his war plan. This so called readiness is to take flexible action according to changing circumstances.

Deceptions and Battle Of Wits

All warfare is based on deceptions and battle of wits.
  • Therefore one should pretend to be unable to make an attack when he is able to.
  • One should hide his readiness for combat when he is ready to.
  • If you plan to attack a nearby place, you should pretend to attack from a far-off place and vice-versa.
  • Lure a greedy enemy with the promise of petty gains. When he is thrown into confusion, seize the opportunity to attack.
  • Take double precautions against enemy with substantial strength
  • Evade enemy of superior strength than you
  • Irritate enemy who is hot temper
  • Make enemy who is mean and low arrogant
  • Fatigue the enemy who is ease and comfort
  • Sow discord in the enemy who is united
  • Attack the enemy where he least expected and prepared

These are subtle devices to the victory of war but cannot be formulated in detail beforehand


Before a war is fought, one should calculate and compare the actual situation of both sides in the ancestral temple.

The side with more superiority is more likely to win, while the side with less superiority has less chance of wining.

Thus doing more calculations and planning will lead to victory, and fewer calculations will lose, what more to no calculations at all !! From this point of view , it is possible to foresee the outcome of a war.