The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise, written sometime during the time between 771 to 476 BC. Sun Tzu is credited with writing the book, but some scholars are not sure if he even existed. The book certainly existed, and it first appeared written on sets of sewn-together bamboo slats with 13 chapters, each of which focus on different approaches to warfare, military strategy and tactics. The book was used for over 1500 years before it was brought together in what was called the “Seven Military Classics” by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1080 AD.
Rulers throughout Asia used The Art of War to plan their military moves. The oldest Japanese translation dates back to the 8th century AD and was a text to study for the Japanese Samurai.
The book first reached the Western World when it was translated into French in 1772, which allowed Napoleon to study it. In 1805 it was translated into English and is now consulted for advice and direction on business tactics, legal strategy as well as for war purposes.
Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, Japanese daimyo Takeda Shingen, and American military general Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. have claimed inspiration from the book.
The book presents the basic principles of warfare, giving advice on when and how to fight. Chapters include: how to move armies through inhospitable terrain, how to use and respond to different types of weapons, and advice on rules of engagement. Methods of war are the core of many of the chapters presented as rules, titled; “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight; He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces; He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks; Victory usually goes to the army who has better trained officers and men; and Know the enemy and know yourself.”
The rules and examples the present can be used not just in battle but also in disagreements and approaching a variety of conflicts.
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.”
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”