English Translation History

The "public domain" versions of Sun Tzu's The Art of War that are available today are all from the early translations by Calthrop (1905) and Giles (1910). Another popular work by Samuel Griffith on The Art of War was published in 1963. Written prior to the Chinese compilations of Sun Tzu in the 1970s, all of these works were based on fragmentary and often contradictory Chinese sources.

The Art of War became more popular in the 1980s, when it began to make its way into popular culture. This inspired the popular writers, Clavell and Cleary, to release their own versions of the work, which remain popular today. Unfortunately, these works were based either on earlier English translations or the older incomplete sources, rather than the more complete versions of the Chinese that were now available in China.

The first modern English translations of what is now considered the complete Art of War were done in the nineties, first by Roger Ames and later by Gary Gagliardi. Gagliardi's work, The Art of War plus the Ancient Chinese Revealed, remains the only award-winning translation and the only translation that is updated regularly. It is used as a guide for translations into other languages, including Asian languages.