Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) wrote the original text of The Art of War shortly before 510 BC. During most of the past two thousand years, the common people in China were forbidden to read it. What happened to tit? Read more about the Chinese history here.
A Jesuit missionary, Father Amiot, first brought The Art of War to the West, translating it into French in 1782. Unfortunately, this translation started the tradition of mistranslating Sun Tzu's work. How? Read more about the first Western translation here.
The "public domain" English versions of Sun Tzu's The Art of War that are available today are all based on these early translations. All are based on different Chinese versions. Why? Read about the earliest English translations here.
In the 1990s, the first English translations using the complete Chinese version of the text began to emerge. The first translation was by Roger Ames. Gary Gagliardi followed with the first award-winning translation. Read more about the complete English translations here.
It is interesting to compare how the most of the popular English translations handle the same Chinese verse. Even when they agree on meaning, they different a lot. Access a simple comparison of translation style here.
Sun Tzu was born in what is today the Shandong area, but at that time it would have been the northern state of Ch'i. Not very much is known about his life, but we do that the name we use for him and the English name of his book are both wrong. Read about Sun Tzu's life here.
This was an era of warring city states like Greece of the time. Our timeline shows the major political and military events of the "Spring and Autumn" period of China during which Sun Tzu lived. Read about Sun Tzu's era here.
The ideas on which the martial arts are based can be traced back to Sun Tzu's The Art of War. When the book was suppressed, martial arts practice passed down many of its concepts. Read about how Sun Tzu's work led to the martial arts.
The Art of War played a large role in reshaping ancient China. The text led eventually led to the unification of China. Read more about how Chinese history was affected by Sun Tzu.
Don't start off on the wrong foot. Learn the six most common myths about Sun Tzu and how they lead people astray. Read about the common myths that surround the Art of War.
There were six schools of scientific and philosophical thought during Sun Tzu's era: the yinyang, Confucian, Mohist, legalist, fatalist, and Taoist schools. Sun Tzu's work was both a reflection of and a reaction against many of these ideas. Read about the Chinese philosophies that influenced the Art of War.
Historically, the conceptual base for Sun Tzu's The Art of War is the ancient Chinese concept of "yin and yang." We refer to this idea in Sun Tzu's strategy as "complementary opposites". Read about the yinyang philosophy.
The center of Sun Tzu's system is the strategic position. A position consists of five elements. The interaction of these elements assures us that 1) new positions are constantly being created and 2) existing positions are constantly being destroyed. Read about these cycles here.
In the West, we use writing to capture the sounds and content of spoken language. Ancient Chinese writing uses symbols very differently. Read about the ancient Chinese language here.
Translators beware! As would be expected over thousands of years, the Chinese language written language has change dramatically. Read about the changes in written Chinese here.
Like Euclid's Geometry, Sun Tzu carefully defined all his terms. Why don't translators use his definitions in their translations of The Art of War? Read about Sun Tzu's use of language here.
Much of Sun Tzu's writing describes the relationships of his elements. This is why it is so useful to think about positions when interpretting his writing. Read about those relationships in his language here.