Excerpt from The Art of War by Sun Tzu – Deluxe Hardcover Edition. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Art of War is attributed to Sun Tzu, and was originally called the Sun Tzu Ping Fa, or simply the Sun Tzu. As a text, it presents a philosophy of managing conflicts and winning battles in war. It contains not only the writings of the original author, but also commentary and clarifications from later military philosophers, such as Du Mu and Li Quan.
The Art of War was written during the Zhou dynasty, sometime around the 6th century BCE. It was first successfully translated into English by Lionel Giles in 1910. Before the bamboo scroll version was discovered by archaeologists in 1972, the most cited version of The Art of War was the Annotation of Sun Tzu’s Strategies by Cao Cao, the founder of the Kingdom of Wei.
Of the texts written before the unification of China in the 2nd century BCE, six major works survived, including The Art of War. During the Song dynasty in the early 1st millennium CE, the six works were combined with a Tang dynasty text into a collection called the Seven Military Classics. As a central part of that compilation, The Art of War formed the foundations of orthodox military theory in China.
According to the 2nd century BCE biography written by Sima Qian, Sun Tzu was born in Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period of China (722–481 BCE), and became a heroic general for Helü the king of Wu. His victories then inspired him to write The Art of War. Historians place the writing of the text in the Warring States Period (476–221 BCE), based on its description of warfare. The period was a time of constant conflict between seven nations (Zhao, Qi, Qin, Chu, Han, Wei and Yan) seeking to control all of China.