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The Art of War

The Art of War (Chinese: 孫子兵法 sūn zi bīng fǎ) was a Chinese military text written during the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu. Composed of 13 chapters, it has long been praised as the definitive work on military strategies and tactics prior to the collapse of Imperial China. In many East Asian countries including China, Korea and Vietnam, it was part of the syllabus for potential candidates of military service examination s. Various translations are available and are used by some European military institutions, for instance, in Germany before World War I.

Verses from the book occur in modern daily Chinese idioms and phrases, such as the last verse of Chapter 3:

So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

This has been condensed into the modern proverb:

知己知彼, 百戰百勝
If you know yourself and know others you will win a hundred times in a hundred battles.

In recent times the book has gained widespread popularity among managers wishing to compete in the cutthroat world of business. It has also crept its way into sport, with Australian cricket coach John Buchanan handing out excerpts from the book to his players before a match against England in 2001. At the same time this use has been criticized by many scholars of Chinese history for using the Art of War as a source of fortune cookie-like proverbs and not seeing the general coherence of the text.

The Art of War was recently made into a Chinese television series of the same name.

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The Art of War

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The Art of War

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45