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The Art of War


The Art of War (Sunzi bingfa) is a 5th-century BCE military treatise questionably written by the Chinese general and strategist Sun-Tzu. It covers all aspects of warfare and seeks to advise commanders on how to prepare, mobilize, attack, defend, and treat the enemy. Many of the stratagems rely heavily on the use of deception. The book is not a glorification of warfare; Sun-Tzu stresses that actual combat only results from the failure of other strategies to defeat the enemy and is always an undesirable waste of men and resources. 

The Art of War is often cited as the go-to source for those engaging in guerrilla warfare. One of the most influential texts in history, it has been used by military strategists for over 2,000 years and admired by leaders from Napoleon to Mao Zedong.

The first translation of the book from Chinese into English was published in 1905 in Tokyo by Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A. However, this translation was badly done. In 1910, Dr. Lionel Giles published a English translation of the book. 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 Giles' so interesting.

Strategies and tactics from The Art of War can be useful in preparing for personal combat.

The book itself

The Art of War is divided into 13 chapters (subtopics) that cover different aspects of warfare from planning to diplomacy. The complete Giles translation can be viewed at:


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