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Assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and MSS. in

the British Museum

First Published in 1910



To my brother
 Captain Valentine Giles,

 in the hope that
 a work 2400

years old
 may yet contain lessons worth

 by the soldier of

 this translation
 is affectionately dedicated.



Preface to the Project Gutenberg Etext —————————————


When Lionel Giles began his translation of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR,

the work was virtually unknown in Europe. Its introduction to Europe

began in 1782 when a French Jesuit Father living in China, Joseph

Amiot, acquired a copy of it, and translated it into French. It was not a

good translation because, according to Dr. Giles, "[I]t contains a great

deal that Sun Tzu did not write, and very little indeed of what he did."

The first translation into English was published in 1905 in Tokyo by

Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A. However, this translation is, in the words

of Dr. Giles, "excessively bad." He goes further in this criticism: "It is not merely a question of downright blunders, from which none can

hope to be wholly exempt. Omissions were frequent; hard passages

were willfully distorted or slurred over. Such offenses are less

pardonable. They would not be tolerated in any edition of a Latin or

Greek classic, and a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted

upon in translations from Chinese." In 1908 a new edition of Capt.

Calthrop's translation was published in London. It was an

improvement on the first — omissions filled up and numerous

mistakes corrected — but new errors were created in the process. Dr.

Giles, in justifying his translation, wrote: "It was not undertaken out of

any inflated estimate of my own powers; but I could not help feeling

that Sun Tzu deserved a better fate than had befallen him, and I

knew that, at any rate, I could hardly fail to improve on the work of my

predecessors." Clearly, Dr. Giles' work established much of the

groundwork for the work of later translators who published their own

editions. Of the later editions of the ART OF WAR I have examined;

two feature Giles' edited translation and notes, the other two present

the same basic information from the ancient Chinese commentators

found in the Giles edition. Of these four, Giles' 1910 edition is the

most scholarly and presents the reader an incredible amount of

information concerning Sun Tzu's text, much more than any other

translation. The Giles' edition of the ART OF WAR, as stated above,

was a scholarly work. Dr. Giles was a leading sinologue at the time

and an assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and

Manuscripts in the British Museum. Apparently he wanted to produce

a definitive edition, superior to anything else that existed and perhaps

something that would become a standard translation. It was the best

translation available for 50 years. But apparently there was not much

interest in Sun Tzu in English- speaking countries since it took the

start of the Second World War to renew interest in his work. Several

people published unsatisfactory English translations of Sun Tzu. In

1944, Dr. Giles' translation was edited and published in the United

States in a series of military science books. But it wasn't until 1963

that a good English translation (by Samuel B. Griffith and still in print)

was published that was an equal to Giles' translation. While this

translation is more lucid than Dr. Giles' translation, it lacks his

copious notes that make his so interesting. Dr. Giles produced a work

primarily intended for scholars of the Chinese civilization and

language. It contains the Chinese text of Sun Tzu, the English

translation, and voluminous notes along with numerous footnotes.

Unfortunately, some of his notes and footnotes contain Chinese

characters; some are completely Chinese. Thus, a conversion to a

Latin alphabet etext was difficult. I did the conversion in complete

ignorance of Chinese (except for what I learned while doing the

conversion). Thus, I faced the difficult task of paraphrasing it while

retaining as much of the important text as I could. Every paraphrase

represents a loss; thus I did what I could to retain as much of the text

as possible. Because the 1910 text contains a Chinese concordance,

I was able to transliterate proper names, books, and the like at the

risk of making the text more obscure. However, the text, on the

whole, is quite satisfactory for the casual reader, a transformation

made possible by conversion to an etext. However, I come away from

this task with the feeling of loss because I know that someone with a

background in Chinese can do a better job than I did; any such

attempt would be welcomed.

Bob Sutton



Sun Wu and his Book —————————-

Ssu-ma Chìen gives the following biography of Sun Tzu: [1]

Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Chì State. His ART OF WAR

brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, [2] King of Wu. Ho Lu said to him:

"I have carefully perused your 13 chapters. May I submit your theory

of managing soldiers to a slight test?" Sun Tzu replied: "You may."

Ho Lu asked: "May the test be applied to women?" The answer was

again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180

ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzu divided them into two companies,

and placed one of the King's favorite concubines at the head of each.

He then bade them all take spears in their hands, and addressed

them thus: "I presume you know the difference between front and

back, right hand and left hand?" The girls replied: Yes. Sun Tzu went

on: "When I say "Eyes front," you must look straight ahead. When I say "Left turn," you must face towards your left hand. When I say

"Right turn," you must face towards your right hand. When I say

"About turn," you must face right round towards your back." Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thus explained,

he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the drill.

Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order "Right turn." But the

girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu said: "If words of command are

not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then

the general is to blame." So he started drilling them again, and this

time gave the order "Left turn," whereupon the girls once more burst

into fits of laughter. Sun Tzu: "If words of command are not clear and

distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to

blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless

disobey, then it is the fault of their officers." So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be beheaded. Now the king of Wu

was watching the scene from the top of a raised pavilion; and when

he saw that his favorite concubines were about to be executed, he

was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message:

"We are now quite satisfied as to our general's ability to handle

troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and drink

will lose their savor. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded."

Sun Tzu replied: "Having once received His Majesty's commission to

be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His

Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept."

Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and straightway

installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this

had been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once more; and

the girls went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the

left, marching ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with

perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then

Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying: "Your soldiers, Sire,

are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for your majesty's

inspection. They can be put to any use that their sovereign may

desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey."

But the King replied: "Let our general cease drilling and return to

camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect the

troops." Thereupon Sun Tzu said: "The King is only fond of words,

and cannot translate them into deeds." After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun

Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army, and finally appointed

him general. In the west, he defeated the Chù State and forced his

way into Ying, the capital; to the north he put fear into the States of

Chì and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the feudal

princes. And Sun Tzu shared in the might of the King.

About Sun Tzu himself this is all that Ssu-ma Chìen has to tell us in

this chapter. But he proceeds to give a biography of his descendant,

Sun Pin, born about a hundred years after his famous ancestor's

death, and also the outstanding military genius of his time. The

historian speaks of him too as Sun Tzu, and in his preface we read:

"Sun Tzu had his feet cut off and yet continued to discuss the art of

war." [3] It seems likely, then, that "Pin" was a nickname bestowed on him after his mutilation, unless the story was invented in order to

account for the name. The crowning incident of his career, the

crushing defeat of his treacherous rival Pàng Chuan, will be found

briefly related in Chapter V. ss. 19, note. To return to the elder Sun

Tzu. He is mentioned in two other passages of the SHIH CHI: —

In the third year of his reign [512 B.C.] Ho Lu, king of Wu, took the

field with Tzu-hsu [i.e. Wu Yuan] and Po Pèi, and attacked Chù. He

captured the town of Shu and slew the two prince's sons who had

formerly been generals of Wu. He was then meditating a descent on

Ying [the capital]; but the general Sun Wu said: "The army is

exhausted. It is not yet possible. We must wait"…. [After further

successful fighting,] "in the ninth year [506 B.C.], King Ho Lu

addressed Wu Tzu-hsu and Sun Wu, saying: "Formerly, you declared

that it was not yet possible for us to enter Ying. Is the time ripe now?"

The two men replied: "Chù's general Tzu-chàng, [4] is grasping and

covetous, and the princes of Tàng and Tsài both have a grudge

against him. If Your Majesty has resolved to make a grand attack,

you must win over Tàng and Tsài, and then you may succeed." Ho

Lu followed this advice, [beat Chù in five pitched battles and

marched into Ying.] [5]

This is the latest date at which anything is recorded of Sun

He does not appear to have survived his patron, who died
 from the

effects of a wound in 496.
 In another chapter there occurs this

passage: [6]

From this time onward, a number of famous soldiers arose, one after

the other: Kao-fan, [7] who was employed by the Chin State; Wang-

tzu, [8] in the service of Chì; and Sun Wu, in the service of Wu.

These men developed and threw light upon the principles of war.

It is obvious enough that Ssu-ma Chìen at least had no doubt about

the reality of Sun Wu as an historical personage; and with one

exception, to be noticed presently, he is by far the most important

authority on the period in question. It will not be necessary, therefore,

to say much of such a work as the WU YUEH CHÙN CHÌU, which is

supposed to have been written by Chao Yeh of the 1st century A.D.

The attribution is somewhat doubtful; but even if it were otherwise, his

account would be of little value, based as it is on the SHIH CHI and

expanded with romantic details. The story of Sun Tzu will be found,

for what it is worth, in chapter 2. The only new points in it worth noting

are: (1) Sun Tzu was first recommended to Ho Lu by Wu Tzu-hsu. (2)

He is called a native of Wu. (3) He had previously lived a retired life,

and his contemporaries were unaware of his ability. The following

passage occurs in the Huai-nan Tzu: "When sovereign and ministers

show perversity of mind, it is impossible even for a Sun Tzu to

encounter the foe." Assuming that this work is genuine (and hitherto

no doubt has been cast upon it), we have here the earliest direct

reference for Sun Tzu, for Huai-nan Tzu died in 122 B.C., many years

before the SHIH CHI was given to the world. Liu Hsiang (80-9 B.C.)

says: "The reason why Sun Tzu at the head of 30,000 men beat Chù

with 200,000 is that the latter were undisciplined." Teng Ming-shih

informs us that the surname "Sun" was bestowed on Sun Wu's

grandfather by Duke Ching of Chì [547-490 B.C.]. Sun Wu's father

Sun Pìng, rose to be a Minister of State in Chì, and Sun Wu himself,

whose style was Chàng-chìng, fled to Wu on account of the

rebellion which was being fomented by the kindred of Tìen Pao. He

had three sons, of whom the second, named Ming, was the father of

Sun Pin. According to this account then, Pin was the grandson of Wu,

which, considering that Sun Pin's victory over Wei was gained in 341

B.C., may be dismissed as chronological impossible. Whence these

data were obtained by Teng Ming-shih I do not know, but of course

no reliance whatever can be placed in them. An interesting document

which has survived from the close of the Han period is the short

preface written by the Great Tsào Tsào, or Wei Wu Ti, for his edition

of Sun Tzu. I shall give it in full: —

I have heard that the ancients used bows and arrows to their

advantage. [10] The SHU CHU mentions "the army" among the "eight

objects of government." The I CHING says: "'army' indicates firmness

and justice; the experienced leader will have good fortune." The SHIH

CHING says: "The King rose majestic in his wrath, and he marshaled

his troops." The Yellow Emperor, Tàng the Completer and Wu Wang

all used spears and battle-axes in order to succor their generation.

The SSU-MA FA says: "If one man slay another of set purpose, he

himself may rightfully be slain." He who relies solely on warlike

measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful

measures shall perish. Instances of this are Fu Chài [11] on the one

hand and Yen Wang on the other. [12] In military matters, the Sage's

rule is normally to keep the peace, and to move his forces only when

occasion requires. He will not use armed force unless driven to it by

necessity. Many books have I read on the subject of war and fighting;

but the work composed by Sun Wu is the profoundest of them all.

[Sun Tzu was a native of the Chì state, his personal name was Wu.

He wrote the ART OF WAR in 13 chapters for Ho Lu, King of Wu. Its

principles were tested on women, and he was subsequently made a

general. He led an army westwards, crushed the Chù state and

entered Ying the capital. In the north, he kept Chì and Chin in awe. A

hundred years and more after his time, Sun Pin lived. He was a

descendant of Wu.] [13] In his treatment of deliberation and planning,

the importance of rapidity in taking the field, [14] clearness of

conception, and depth of design, Sun Tzu stands beyond the reach of

carping criticism. My contemporaries, however, have failed to grasp

the full meaning of his instructions, and while putting into practice the

smaller details in which his work abounds, they have overlooked its

essential purport. That is the motive which has led me to outline a

rough explanation of the whole.

One thing to be noticed in the above is the explicit statement that the

13 chapters were specially composed for King Ho Lu. This is

supported by the internal evidence of I. ss. 15, in which it seems clear

that some ruler is addressed. In the bibliographic section of the HAN

SHU, there is an entry which has given rise to much discussion: "The

works of Sun Tzu of Wu in 82 PÌEN (or chapters), with diagrams in 9

CHUAN." It is evident that this cannot be merely the 13 chapters

known to Ssu-ma Chìen, or those we possess today. Chang Shou-

chieh refers to an edition of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR of which the "13

chapters" formed the first CHUAN, adding that there were two other

CHUAN besides. This has brought forth a theory, that the bulk of

these 82 chapters consisted of other writings of Sun Tzu — we

should call them apocryphal — similar to the WEN TA, of which a

specimen dealing with the Nine Situations [15] is preserved in the

TÙNG TIEN, and another in Ho Shin's commentary. It is suggested

that before his interview with Ho Lu, Sun Tzu had only written the 13

chapters, but afterwards composed a sort of exegesis in the form of

question and answer between himself and the King. Pi I-hsun, the

author of the SUN TZU HSU LU, backs this up with a quotation from

the WU YUEH CHÙN CHÌU: "The King of Wu summoned Sun Tzu,

and asked him questions about the art of war. Each time he set forth

a chapter of his work, the King could not find words enough to praise

him." As he points out, if the whole work was expounded on the same

scale as in the above- mentioned fragments, the total number of

chapters could not fail to be considerable. Then the numerous other

treatises attributed to Sun Tzu might be included. The fact that the

HAN CHIH mentions no work of Sun Tzu except the 82 PÌEN,

whereas the Sui and Tàng bibliographies give the titles of others in

addition to the "13 chapters," is good proof, Pi I-hsun thinks, that all of these were contained in the 82 PÌEN. Without pinning our faith to the

accuracy of details supplied by the WU YUEH CHÙN CHÌU, or

admitting the genuineness of any of the treatises cited by Pi I-hsun,

we may see in this theory a probable solution of the mystery.

Between Ssu-ma Chìen and Pan Ku there was plenty of time for a

luxuriant crop of forgeries to have grown up under the magic name of

Sun Tzu, and the 82 PÌEN may very well represent a collected

edition of these lumped together with the original work. It is also

possible, though less likely, that some of them existed in the time of

the earlier historian and were purposely ignored by him. [16] Tu Mu's

conjecture seems to be based on a passage which states: "Wei Wu

Ti strung together Sun Wu's Art of War," which in turn may have

resulted from a misunderstanding of the final words of Tsào King's

preface. This, as Sun Hsing-yen points out, is only a modest way of

saying that he made an explanatory paraphrase, or in other words,

wrote a commentary on it. On the whole, this theory has met with

very little acceptance. Thus, the SSU KÙ CHÙAN SHU says: "The

mention of the 13 chapters in the SHIH CHI shows that they were in

existence before the HAN CHIH, and that latter accretions are not to

be considered part of the original work. Tu Mu's assertion can

certainly not be taken as proof." There is every reason to suppose,

then, that the 13 chapters existed in the time of Ssu-ma Chìen

practically as we have them now. That the work was then well known

he tells us in so many words. "Sun Tzu's 13 Chapters and Wu Chì's

Art of War are the two books that people commonly refer to on the

subject of military matters. Both of them are widely distributed, so I

will not discuss them here." But as we go further back, serious

difficulties begin to arise. The salient fact which has to be faced is

that the TSO CHUAN, the greatest contemporary record, makes no

mention whatsoever of Sun Wu, either as a general or as a writer. It

is natural, in view of this awkward circumstance, that many scholars

should not only cast doubt on the story of Sun Wu as given in the

SHIH CHI, but even show themselves frankly skeptical as to the

existence of the man at all. The most powerful presentment of this

side of the case is to be found in the following disposition by Yeh

Shui-hsin: [17] —

It is stated in Ssu-ma Chìen's history that Sun Wu was

native of the Chì State, and employed by Wu; and that in
 the reign

of Ho Lu he crushed Chù, entered Ying, and was a
 great general.

But in Tso's Commentary no Sun Wu appears at
 all. It is true that

Tso's Commentary need not contain
 absolutely everything that

other histories contain. But Tso
 has not omitted to mention vulgar

plebeians and hireling
 ruffians such as Ying Kào-shu, [18] Tsào

Kuei, [19], Chu
 Chih-wu and Chuan She-chu [20]. In the case of

Sun Wu, whose
 fame and achievements were so brilliant, the

omission is much
 more glaring. Again, details are given, in their

due order,
 about his contemporaries Wu Yuan and the Minister

Pèi. [21]
 Is it credible that Sun Wu alone should have been

 In point of literary style, Sun Tzu's work

belongs to
 the same school as KUAN TZU, [22] LIU TÀO, [23] and

the YUEH
 YU [24] and may have been the production of some

 scholar living towards the end of the "Spring and Autumn"

 the beginning of the "Warring States" period. [25] The

 that his precepts were actually applied by the Wu State,

 merely the outcome of big talk on the part of his

 From the flourishing period of the Chou dynasty

 down to the time of the "Spring and Autumn," all

 commanders were statesmen as well, and the class

 professional generals, for conducting external campaigns,

 not then exist. It was not until the period of the "Six

[27] that this custom changed. Now although Wu was

uncivilized State, it is conceivable that Tso should have

unrecorded the fact that Sun Wu was a great general and
 yet held

no civil office? What we are told, therefore, about
 Jang-chu [28]

and Sun Wu, is not authentic matter, but the
 reckless fabrication of

theorizing pundits. The story of Ho
 Lu's experiment on the women,

in particular, is utterly
 preposterous and incredible.

Yeh Shui-hsin represents Ssu-ma Chìen as having said that Sun Wu

crushed Chù and entered Ying. This is not quite correct. No doubt

the impression left on the reader's mind is that he at least shared in

these exploits. The fact may or may not be significant; but it is

nowhere explicitly stated in the SHIH CHI either that Sun Tzu was

general on the occasion of the taking of Ying, or that he even went

there at all. Moreover, as we know that Wu Yuan and Po Pèi both

took part in the expedition, and also that its success was largely due

to the dash and enterprise of Fu Kai, Ho Lu's younger brother, it is

not easy to see how yet another general could have played a very

prominent part in the same campaign. Chèn Chen-sun of the Sung

dynasty has the note: —

Military writers look upon Sun Wu as the father of their art. But the

fact that he does not appear in the TSO CHUAN, although he is said

to have served under Ho Lu King of Wu, makes it uncertain what

period he really belonged to.

He also says: —

The works of Sun Wu and Wu Chì may be of genuine antiquity.

It is noticeable that both Yeh Shui-hsin and Chèn Chen-sun, while

rejecting the personality of Sun Wu as he figures in Ssu-ma Chìen's

history, are inclined to accept the date traditionally assigned to the

work which passes under his name. The author of the HSU LU fails to

appreciate this distinction, and consequently his bitter attack on

Chèn Chen-sun really misses its mark. He makes one of two points,

however, which certainly tell in favor of the high antiquity of our "13

chapters." "Sun Tzu," he says, "must have lived in the age of Ching Wang [519-476], because he is frequently plagiarized in subsequent

works of the Chou, Chìn and Han dynasties." The two most

shameless offenders in this respect are Wu Chì and Huai-nan Tzu,

both of them important historical personages in their day. The former

lived only a century after the alleged date of Sun Tzu, and his death

is known to have taken place in 381 B.C. It was to him, according to

Liu Hsiang, that Tseng Shen delivered the TSO CHUAN, which had

been entrusted to him by its author. [29] Now the fact that quotations

from the ART OF WAR, acknowledged or otherwise, are to be found

in so many authors of different epochs, establishes a very strong

anterior to them all, — in other words, that Sun Tzu's treatise was

already in existence towards the end of the 5th century B.C. Further

proof of Sun Tzu's antiquity is furnished by the archaic or wholly

obsolete meanings attaching to a number of the words he uses. A list

of these, which might perhaps be extended, is given in the HSU LU;

and though some of the interpretations are doubtful, the main

argument is hardly affected thereby. Again, it must not be forgotten

that Yeh Shui- hsin, a scholar and critic of the first rank, deliberately

pronounces the style of the 13 chapters to belong to the early part of

the fifth century. Seeing that he is actually engaged in an attempt to

disprove the existence of Sun Wu himself, we may be sure that he

would not have hesitated to assign the work to a later date had he not

honestly believed the contrary. And it is precisely on such a point that

the judgment of an educated Chinaman will carry most weight. Other

internal evidence is not far to seek. Thus in XIII. ss. 1, there is an

unmistakable allusion to the ancient system of land-tenure which had

already passed away by the time of Mencius, who was anxious to see

it revived in a modified form. [30] The only warfare Sun Tzu knows is

that carried on between the various feudal princes, in which armored

chariots play a large part. Their use seems to have entirely died out

before the end of the Chou dynasty. He speaks as a man of Wu, a

state which ceased to exist as early as 473 B.C. On this I shall touch


But once refer the work to the 5th century or earlier, and the chances

of its being other than a bona fide production are sensibly diminished.

The great age of forgeries did not come until long after. That it should

have been forged in the period immediately following 473 is

particularly unlikely, for no one, as a rule, hastens to identify himself

with a lost cause. As for Yeh Shui-hsin's theory, that the author was a

literary recluse, that seems to me quite untenable. If one thing is

more apparent than another after reading the maxims of Sun Tzu, it is

that their essence has been distilled from a large store of personal

observation and experience. They reflect the mind not only of a born

strategist, gifted with a rare faculty of generalization, but also of a

practical soldier closely acquainted with the military conditions of his

time. To say nothing of the fact that these sayings have been

accepted and endorsed by all the greatest captains of Chinese

history, they offer a combination of freshness and sincerity,

acuteness and common sense, which quite excludes the idea that

they were artificially concocted in the study. If we admit, then, that the

13 chapters were the genuine production of a military man living

towards the end of the "CHÙN CHÌU" period, are we not bound, in

spite of the silence of the TSO CHUAN, to accept Ssu-ma Chìen's

account in its entirety? In view of his high repute as a sober historian,

must we not hesitate to assume that the records he drew upon for

Sun Wu's biography were false and untrustworthy? The answer, I

fear, must be in the negative. There is still one grave, if not fatal,

objection to the chronology involved in the story as told in the SHIH

CHI, which, so far as I am aware, nobody has yet pointed out. There

are two passages in Sun Tzu in which he alludes to contemporary

affairs. The first in in VI. ss. 21: —

Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our

own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of

victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.

The other is in XI. ss. 30: —

Asked if an army can be made to imitate the SHUAI-JAN, I should

answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies;

yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a

storm, they will come to each other's assistance just as the left hand

helps the right.

These two paragraphs are extremely valuable as evidence of the

date of composition. They assign the work to the period of the

struggle between Wu and Yueh. So much has been observed by Pi I-

hsun. But what has hitherto escaped notice is that they also seriously

impair the credibility of Ssu-ma Chìen's narrative. As we have seen

above, the first positive date given in connection with Sun Wu is 512

B.C. He is then spoken of as a general, acting as confidential adviser

to Ho Lu, so that his alleged introduction to that monarch had already

taken place, and of course the 13 chapters must have been written

earlier still. But at that time, and for several years after, down to the

capture of Ying in 506, Chù and not Yueh, was the great hereditary

enemy of Wu. The two states, Chù and Wu, had been constantly at

war for over half a century, [31] whereas the first war between Wu

and Yueh was waged only in 510, [32] and even then was no more

than a short interlude sandwiched in the midst of the fierce struggle

with Chù. Now Chù is not mentioned in the 13 chapters at all. The

natural inference is that they were written at a time when Yueh had

become the prime antagonist of Wu, that is, after Chù had suffered

the great humiliation of 506. At this point, a table of dates may be

found useful.

B.C. | | 514 | Accession of Ho Lu. 512 | Ho Lu attacks Chù, but is

dissuaded from entering Ying, | the capital. SHI CHI mentions Sun

Wu as general. 511 | Another attack on Chù. 510 | Wu makes a

successful attack on Yueh. This is the first | war between the two

states. 509 | or | Chù invades Wu, but is signally defeated at Yu-

chang. 508 | 506 | Ho Lu attacks Chù with the aid of Tàng and

Tsài. | Decisive battle of Po-chu, and capture of Ying. Last | mention

of Sun Wu in SHIH CHI. 505 | Yueh makes a raid on Wu in the

absence of its army. Wu | is beaten by Chìn and evacuates Ying.

504 | Ho Lu sends Fu Chài to attack Chù. 497 | Kou Chien becomes

King of Yueh. 496 | Wu attacks Yueh, but is defeated by Kou Chien at

Tsui-li. | Ho Lu is killed. 494 | Fu Chài defeats Kou Chien in the great

battle of Fu- | chaio, and enters the capital of Yueh. 485 | or | Kou

Chien renders homage to Wu. Death of Wu Tzu-hsu. 484 | 482 | Kou

Chien invades Wu in the absence of Fu Chài. 478 | to | Further

attacks by Yueh on Wu. 476 | 475 | Kou Chien lays siege to the

capital of Wu. 473 | Final defeat and extinction of Wu.

The sentence quoted above from VI. ss. 21 hardly strikes me as one

that could have been written in the full flush of victory. It seems rather

to imply that, for the moment at least, the tide had turned against Wu,

and that she was getting the worst of the struggle. Hence we may

conclude that our treatise was not in existence in 505, before which

date Yueh does not appear to have scored any notable success

against Wu. Ho Lu died in 496, so that if the book was written for him,

it must have been during the period 505-496, when there was a lull in

the hostilities, Wu having presumably exhausted by its supreme effort

against Chù. On the other hand, if we choose to disregard the

tradition connecting Sun Wu's name with Ho Lu, it might equally well

have seen the light between 496 and 494, or possibly in the period

482-473, when Yueh was once again becoming a very serious

menace. [33] We may feel fairly certain that the author, whoever he

may have been, was not a man of any great eminence in his own

day. On this point the negative testimony of the TSO CHUAN far

outweighs any shred of authority still attaching to the SHIH CHI, if

once its other facts are discredited. Sun Hsing-yen, however, makes

a feeble attempt to explain the omission of his name from the great

commentary. It was Wu Tzu-hsu, he says, who got all the credit of

Sun Wu's exploits, because the latter (being an alien) was not

rewarded with an office in the State. How then did the Sun Tzu

legend originate? It may be that the growing celebrity of the book

imparted by degrees a kind of factitious renown to its author. It was

felt to be only right and proper that one so well versed in the science

of war should have solid achievements to his credit as well. Now the

capture of Ying was undoubtedly the greatest feat of arms in Ho Lu's

reign; it made a deep and lasting impression on all the surrounding

states, and raised Wu to the short-lived zenith of her power. Hence,

what more natural, as time went on, than that the acknowledged

master of strategy, Sun Wu, should be popularly identified with that

campaign, at first perhaps only in the sense that his brain conceived

and planned it; afterwards, that it was actually carried out by him in

conjunction with Wu Yuan, [34] Po Pèi and Fu Kai? It is obvious that

any attempt to reconstruct even the outline of Sun Tzu's life must be

based almost wholly on conjecture. With this necessary proviso, I

should say that he probably entered the service of Wu about the time

of Ho Lu's accession, and gathered experience, though only in the

capacity of a subordinate officer, during the intense military activity

which marked the first half of the prince's reign. [35] If he rose to be a

general at all, he certainly was never on an equal footing with the

three above mentioned. He was doubtless present at the investment

and occupation of Ying, and witnessed Wu's sudden collapse in the

following year. Yueh's attack at this critical juncture, when her rival

was embarrassed on every side, seems to have convinced him that

this upstart kingdom was the great enemy against whom every effort

would henceforth have to be directed. Sun Wu was thus a well-

seasoned warrior when he sat down to write his famous book, which

according to my reckoning must have appeared towards the end,

rather than the beginning of Ho Lu's reign. The story of the women

may possibly have grown out of some real incident occurring about

the same time. As we hear no more of Sun Wu after this from any

source, he is hardly likely to have survived his patron or to have taken

part in the death-struggle with Yueh, which began with the disaster at

Tsui- li. If these inferences are approximately correct, there is a

certain irony in the fate which decreed that China's most illustrious

man of peace should be contemporary with her greatest writer on


The Text of Sun Tzu —————————-

I have found it difficult to glean much about the history of Sun Tzu's

text. The quotations that occur in early authors go to show that the

"13 chapters" of which Ssu-ma Chìen speaks were essentially the

same as those now extant. We have his word for it that they were

widely circulated in his day, and can only regret that he refrained from

discussing them on that account. Sun Hsing-yen says in his preface:

During the Chìn and Han dynasties Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR was in

general use amongst military commanders, but they seem to have

treated it as a work of mysterious import, and were unwilling to

expound it for the benefit of posterity. Thus it came about that Wei

Wu was the first to write a commentary on it.

As we have already seen, there is no reasonable ground to suppose

that Tsào Kung tampered with the text. But the text itself is often so

obscure, and the number of editions which appeared from that time

onward so great, especially during the Tàng and Sung dynasties,

that it would be surprising if numerous corruptions had not managed

to creep in. Towards the middle of the Sung period, by which time all

the chief commentaries on Sun Tzu were in existence, a certain Chi

Tìen-pao published a work in 15 CHUAN entitled "Sun Tzu with the

collected commentaries of ten writers." There was another text, with

variant readings put forward by Chu Fu of Ta-hsing, which also had

supporters among the scholars of that period; but in the Ming

editions, Sun Hsing- yen tells us, these readings were for some

reason or other no longer put into circulation. Thus, until the end of

the 18th century, the text in sole possession of the field was one

derived from Chi Tìen-pao's edition, although no actual copy of that

important work was known to have survived. That, therefore, is the

text of Sun Tzu which appears in the War section of the great

Imperial encyclopedia printed in 1726, the KU CHIN TÙ SHU CHI

CHÈNG. Another copy at my disposal of what is practically the same

text, with slight variations, is that contained in the "Eleven

philosophers of the Chou and Chìn dynasties" [1758]. And the

Chinese printed in Capt. Calthrop's first edition is evidently a similar

version which has filtered through Japanese channels. So things

remained until Sun Hsing-yen [1752-1818], a distinguished

antiquarian and classical scholar, who claimed to be an actual

descendant of Sun Wu, [36] accidentally discovered a copy of Chi

Tìen-pao's long-lost work, when on a visit to the library of the Hua-

yin temple. [37] Appended to it was the I SHUO of Cheng Yu-Hsien,

mentioned in the TÙNG CHIH, and also believed to have perished.

This is what Sun Hsing-yen designates as the "original edition (or

text)" — a rather misleading name, for it cannot by any means claim

to set before us the text of Sun Tzu in its pristine purity. Chi Tìen-pao

was a careless compiler, and appears to have been content to

reproduce the somewhat debased version current in his day, without

troubling to collate it with the earliest editions then available.

Fortunately, two versions of Sun Tzu, even older than the newly

discovered work, were still extant, one buried in the TÙNG TIEN, Tu

Yu's great treatise on the Constitution, the other similarly enshrined in

the TÀI PÌNG YU LAN encyclopedia. In both the complete text is to

be found, though split up into fragments, intermixed with other matter,

and scattered piecemeal over a number of different sections.

Considering that the YU LAN takes us back to the year 983, and the

TÙNG TIEN about 200 years further still, to the middle of the Tàng

dynasty, the value of these early transcripts of Sun Tzu can hardly be

overestimated. Yet the idea of utilizing them does not seem to have

occurred to anyone until Sun Hsing-yen, acting under Government

instructions, undertook a thorough recension of the text. This is his

own account: —

Because of the numerous mistakes in the text of Sun Tzu which his

editors had handed down, the Government ordered that the ancient

edition [of Chi Tìen-pao] should be used, and that the text should be

revised and corrected throughout. It happened that Wu Nien-hu, the

Governor Pi Kua, and Hsi, a graduate of the second degree, had all

devoted themselves to this study, probably surpassing me therein.

Accordingly, I have had the whole work cut on blocks as a textbook

for military men.

The three individuals here referred to had evidently been occupied on

the text of Sun Tzu prior to Sun Hsing-yen's commission, but we are

left in doubt as to the work they really accomplished. At any rate, the

new edition, when ultimately produced, appeared in the names of

Sun Hsing-yen and only one co- editor Wu Jen-shi. They took the

"original edition" as their basis, and by careful comparison with older versions, as well as the extant commentaries and other sources of

information such as the I SHUO, succeeded in restoring a very large

number of doubtful passages, and turned out, on the whole, what