355: The Art of War by Sun Tzu

by Gerard

355.02: Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Translated by Lionel Giles. London: Arcturus, 2008. 126 pp. ISBN 978-1-84193-358-0.

Dewey Construction:

  • 300: Social Science
  • 350: Public administration and military science
  • 355: Military science
  • 355.02: War and warfare

More than two thousand years ago, a humble servant of the King of Wu claimed to know the secrets to training a perfect army and winning battles. When the King asked him to prove his claims and train a harem of 180 concubines. He split them into two divisions and appointed one from each division to give orders. When the appointed leaders did, their respective armies ignored the orders and laughed among themselves. Sun Tzu ordered the leaders executed. Once they were, he appointed new leaders. And the armies obeyed immediately.

The Art of War is a collection of 13 chapters, each delineating axioms, strategies, and tactics for all kinds of warfare. Everything from philosophy of war to the general’s attitudes to the composition of the army to the different types of battlegrounds is included.

Some rules are simple but useful:

All warfare is based on deception

Some are archaic and specific:

Asked if an army can be made to imitate the shaui-jan (a snake), 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.

But all of them can be used in some way or another to help a general or other military leader to plan and execute a strategy of war.

It’s a very quick read, so you should take a second pass. You’ll need to in order absorb the nine types of battleground and the five faults of a losing general.