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The Art of War - Introduction

1. Introduction

2. The Text of Sun Tzu

3. The Commentators

4. Appreciations of Sun Tzu

5. Apologies for War

6. Bibliography

7. Footnotes

8. Chapter 1. Laying Plans

9. Chapter 2. Waging War

10. Chapter 3. Attack By Stratagem

11. Chapter 4. Tactical Disposition

12. Chapter 5. Energy

13. Chapter 6. Weak Points and Strong

14. Chapter 7. Manuevering

15. Chapter 8. Variations in Tactics

16. Chapter 9. The Army on the March

17. Chapter 10. Terrain

18. Chapter 11. The Nine Situations

19. Chapter 12. The Attack by Fire

20. Chapter 13. The Use of Spies


Sun Wu and his Book

Ssu-ma Ch`ien gives the following biography of Sun Tzu: [1]

Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i 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
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 Ch`u State and forced his way into
Ying, the capital; to the north he put fear into the States
of Ch`i 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 Ch`ien 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 P`ang 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 P`ei,
and attacked Ch`u. 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: "Ch`u's general
Tzu-ch`ang, [4] is grasping and covetous, and the princes of
T`ang and Ts`ai both have a grudge against him. If Your
Majesty has resolved to make a grand attack, you must win
over T`ang and Ts`ai, and then you may succeed." Ho Lu
followed this advice, [beat Ch`u in five pitched battles and
marched into Ying.] [5]

This is the latest date at which anything is recorded of Sun
Wu. 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 Ch`i; 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 Ch`ien 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 CH`UN CH`IU, 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
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 Ch`u with 200,000 is that the latter were
Teng Ming-shih informs us that the surname "Sun" was
bestowed on Sun Wu's grandfather by Duke Ching of Ch`i [547-490
B.C.]. Sun Wu's father Sun P`ing, rose to be a Minister of State
in Ch`i, and Sun Wu himself, whose style was Ch`ang-ch`ing, fled
to Wu on account of the rebellion which was being fomented by the
kindred of T`ien 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 Ts`ao
Ts`ao, 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, T`ang 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 Ch`ai [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 Ch`i 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 Ch`u state and entered Ying the
capital. In the north, he kept Ch`i 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 P`IEN (or chapters), with diagrams in 9 CHUAN."
It is evident that this cannot be merely the 13 chapters known to
Ssu-ma Ch`ien, 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 T`UNG 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 CH`UN CH`IU: "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 P`IEN, whereas the Sui
and T`ang 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 P`IEN. Without pinning our faith
to the accuracy of details supplied by the WU YUEH CH`UN CH`IU,
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 Ch`ien 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 P`IEN 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 Ts`ao 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 K`U CH`UAN 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 Ch`ien 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 Ch`i'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 Ch`ien's history that Sun Wu was
a native of the Ch`i State, and employed by Wu; and that in
the reign of Ho Lu he crushed Ch`u, 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 K`ao-shu, [18] Ts`ao 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 P`ei. [21]
Is it credible that Sun Wu alone should have been passed
In point of literary style, Sun Tzu's work belongs to
the same school as KUAN TZU, [22] LIU T`AO, [23] and the YUEH
YU [24] and may have been the production of some private
scholar living towards the end of the "Spring and Autumn" or
the beginning of the "Warring States" period. [25] The story
that his precepts were actually applied by the Wu State, is
merely the outcome of big talk on the part of his followers.
From the flourishing period of the Chou dynasty [26]
down to the time of the "Spring and Autumn," all military
commanders were statesmen as well, and the class of
professional generals, for conducting external campaigns, did
not then exist. It was not until the period of the "Six
States" [27] that this custom changed. Now although Wu was
an uncivilized State, it is conceivable that Tso should have
left 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 Ch`ien as having said that
Sun Wu crushed Ch`u 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 P`ei 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.
Ch`en 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 Ch`i may be of genuine

It is noticeable that both Yeh Shui-hsin and Ch`en Chen-sun,
while rejecting the personality of Sun Wu as he figures in Ssu-ma
Ch`ien'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 Ch`en 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, Ch`in
and Han dynasties." The two most shameless offenders in this
respect are Wu Ch`i 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 presently.

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 "CH`UN
CH`IU" period, are we not bound, in spite of the silence of the
TSO CHUAN, to accept Ssu-ma Ch`ien'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

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 Ch`ien'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, Ch`u and not Yueh, was the great
hereditary enemy of Wu. The two states, Ch`u 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 Ch`u. Now Ch`u 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 Ch`u 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 Ch`u, but is dissuaded from entering Ying,
| the capital. SHI CHI mentions Sun Wu as general.
511 | Another attack on Ch`u.
510 | Wu makes a successful attack on Yueh. This is the first
| war between the two states.
509 |
or | Ch`u invades Wu, but is signally defeated at Yu-chang.
508 |
506 | Ho Lu attacks Ch`u with the aid of T`ang and Ts`ai.
| 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 Ch`in and evacuates Ying.
504 | Ho Lu sends Fu Ch`ai to attack Ch`u.
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 Ch`ai 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 Ch`ai.
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 Ch`u.
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
P`ei 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-
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 war.

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