Sun Tzu's Methods

Comparing English Translations

Competitive Arenas: 

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:

Obama displays how to use emotion in a negotiation- Sun Tzu style

When engaged in a negotiation, emotion plays a clear role. Debates are a form of negotiation. In the 3rd and final debate of this presidential season we see this dynamic at work. Sun Tzu spoke to dealing with opposing generals according to their weaknesses. John McCain is by his own accord a "fighter" and a "maverick". Is this a strength? Yes, and no.

Secrets of Sun Tzu

Competitive Arenas: 

Sun Tzu means very specific and important things when he says that "we must know ourselves and our enemies." The problem is that most of us lack a deep understanding of the concepts of which Sun Tzu speaks. This is why our victories are usually far from painless.

The Specific Use of Terminology

Competitive Arenas: 

“Know the enemy and know yourself.
Your victory will be painless."

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War 10:5.15-16

The two lines above appear rather late in Sun Tzu's work, the tenth chapter out of thirteen. At this point in the book, every term in these lines has a very specific definition. To understand these lines, you must first be familiar with the concepts "to know," "enemy," "victory," and "pain."

Not Modern Nonfiction

Competitive Arenas: 

When reading modern nonfiction, you can read the lead sentences and skim the rest of most paragraphs and understand exactly what is being said. When reading science—modern or ancient—you have to read every word and every sentence carefully to learn the terminology. You can open a nonfiction book to any chapter and understand most of it without studying the preceding chapters carefully. But science and math start with developing precise language. If you skip even a few paragraphs defining their concepts, you get completely lost.


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