Monday, March 2, 2009

Sun Tzu's The Art of War: how to win wars and sound profound at the same time

I spent my idle hours reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a Chinese military treatise written during the 6th century BC. My copy is the 1910 English translation of Lionel Giles and edited by the novelist James Clavell.

The book, divided into 13 chapters, gives overview of the fundamentals of war (free access here). Sun Tzu makes sure that the reader understands that wars must be fought and fought well—not with caprice, but with definite plans. Clearly, each page is packed with wisdom and insight from the ancient Chinese warrior—many, if not all of which, still apply today.

Sun Tzu says:
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him when he is unprepared, appear when you are not expected.

Sun Tzu gives guidelines on the use of tactics, explains when to attack and when to flee, expounds the importance of using spies, and emphasizes the value of good military leadership and obedience.

I'm not sure if the Philippine Military Academy requires their students to read The Art of War. If not, then they're missing a lot.

Reading the book is a lot like watching Crouching tiger, Hidden Dragon for me, or those Chinese films where they practically fly when they jump. Staggering.

3 comments:

  1. hindi ko natapos itong librong 'to (pero dapat siguro tularan na kita sa pagtapos ng lahat ng librong sinisimulan), pero ang impression na nakukuha ko mula sa kanya e saksakan talaga ng yaman ang history ng China. ang dami niyang mga giyerang kinukwento.

    pero sana si Genghis Khan natutuong magsulat at gumawa rin siya ng sarili niyang Art of War.

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  2. Carlo, oo, saksakan ng kulay ang kasaysayan ng Tsina. Nakakabilib isipin na ang mga pinakaimportanteng gabay sa pakikidigma noon ay pareho pa rin sa kung ano ang mayroon tayo ngayon. Basahin mo ang libro kapag tapos mo na ang tisis mo.

    Baka saksakan ng pangit ang sulat-kamay ni Genghis Khan, di rin maintindihan...

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