We have all probably met that person, holding one of the millions of published copies of The Art of War, who thinks reading the book or quoting from it makes him better than his peers. If you haven’t, you have probably seen this scenario play out in movies or TV shows. However, regardless of the negative opinion attached to promoters of the book, it is universally accepted work of military strategy credited to Sun Tzu, a Chinese General.
Although debate continues to exist in various circles on the validity of his authorship of the book, his reputation is without debate. He is one of China’s legendary figures, both in his social and military history.
For fans of The Art of War and the curious, here is everything you need to know about Sun Tzu, the Chinese General.
Sun Tzu’s Biography
When it comes to his place of birth, there is a debate regarding his exact place of birth, with some believing the legendary general was born in Qi while others believe he was born in Wu, in the Zhou Kingdom. He was born in 544 BC during the late spring and autumn period.
There has been limited information regarding his background, as some historians still doubt his existence, and consider him to be rather a fictional figure created to serve a literary purpose. However, historical evidence exists, such as accounts of the Sima Qian, prove the existence of the famed general.
He is believed to have served King Helu of Wu as a general and a strategist in 512 BC. The subsequent victories and the manner by he won, reportedly led to the creation of The Art of War, where he documented his military and philosophical ideas.
He once killed two of King Helu’s concubines
Sun Tzu has often been a symbol of ingenuity and brilliant strategic thinking rather than an actual person, but one of the few existing stories that humanize him is the story of how he trained King Helu’s concubines.
Having been ordered by the king to train his 360 concubines and make them soldiers, a task that was considered ridiculous and impossible, he took on the challenge and split the concubines into two groups. He picked out two of the concubines most beloved by King Helu and made them the commander of each group.
Sun Tzu reportedly gave out a command to the group and was met with laughter and giggles from the concubines. After giving out the order twice, he ordered the execution of both leaders of the group, both of which were the King’s favorite whores. As a result of the punishment, he managed to shape the remaining concubines into soldiers.
His book has been adapted to television shows
There are millions of books that have been written over the years, but very few writers can say they have had their work adapted into modern media. His book, which was reportedly written for the first time in 512 BC has been adapted for television by Zhang Jizhong, who is a Chinese TV producer.
The book was made into a TV series titled ‘Bing Sheng’ and it lasted 40 episodes. Sun Tzu was played by the Chinese actor, Zhu Yawen.
Sun Tzu’s book is an integral part of modern warfare
Although his book was first written as a treatise for the war between states in ancient Chinese states during his time, it has remained applicable to date and has become a major influence among modern military states. His book has influenced the Japanese Armed Forces, the Vietnamese forces, who credit the book for the Asian country’s victory over French and American forces during the Vietnam War. The book is also a part of the US Army curriculum and it exists in every library of the US Army facility.
The Art of War is considered an example of Taoist Strategy
The original text of the book was written in the Chinese language and as a result, contains several texts and remarks that lack the context of the Chinese meaning when translated into a Western language. This has been implied to suggest that Sun Tzu wrote the book for an enlightened Taoist master, and thus, it was written in the context of Taoist principles and strategy.
Sun Tzu’s book has been translated more than five times
The original text was written in ancient Chinese and it has been translated into Western language by a few writers and published by various publishing companies such as Oxford University Press, Luzac and Company, Random House and a couple more
The book has been translated by personalities such as Thomas Cleary, John Minford, and Roger Arnes. However, the translation by Lionel Giles in 1910 is generally considered to be the best.