Comparing English Translations

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To compare styles, we compare most of the popular translations of Sun Tzu's The Art of War to give you an idea of how translations vary.

To do this, we used the same section of the original Chinese text. We looked for a stanza that could be used as a standard benchmark, having the same general meaning in all the translations. We also looked for a verse that appeared for the most part in all Chinese sources.

To give you a variety of "flavors," we compare:

The problem with most translated works is that readers do not have access to the source material, so they do not know what they are really getting. We have seen books that call themselves "Sun Tzu's Art of War" in which we could find no connection to Sun Tzu's original work at all. They were either completely invented by the authors or were from Chinese sources other than Sun Tzu. Fortunately, most of the versions we examine here are not nearly that bad.