Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu

Was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of “The Art of War”, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy. Aside from his legacy as the author of “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and the Culture of Asia as a legendary historical figure. His birth name was Sun Wu, and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing. The name Sun Tzu by which he is best known in the West is an honorific which means “Master Sun”.

Historians have questioned about whether or not Sun Tzu was a Chinese traditional character. The Chinese traditional writings mention that he was a Chinese general of King Wu and lived between 544 and 496 BC. According to the traditional writings, Sun Tzu was born in Qi and became King’s Wu General. His victories inspired him to write “The Art of War”. The period in which he lived was a period of wars between 7 nations: Zhao, Qi, Qin, Chu, Han, Wei and Yan, all of which were seeking to control China. A legend tells us that King Wu tested Sun Tzu by ordering him to train a harem of 180 concubines and turn them into soldiers.

Sun Tzu divided the concubines into 2 companies, naming the two favourite concubines of the Emperor as commanders. When Sun Tzu gave the first order, the two concubines began to laugh. Sun Tzu said that in this case, the General is responsible to ensure that the soldiers understand the given orders. He gave the order once again and the concubines began to laugh once more. Then, Sun Tzu ordered the execution of the Emperor’s two favorite concubines. After both concubines were executed, other officers were selected to replace them, after which both companies have executed the given orders without problems.

“The Art of War” had the original name of “Sun Tzu Ping Fa”. In the book, there is described the philosophy of war, the management of conflicts and last, but not the least, how to win battles. The book includes not only the original writings of the first author, but it also contains the clarifications of Li Quan and Du Mu’s military philosophy. “The Art of War” is a masterpiece of military strategy and was frequently cited by generals and academics from all the world since its publication. The book is not only popular among generals and academics, but is very appreciated by politicians and business people as well. In spite of the title, “The Art of War” unveils planning strategies in public administration as well. In the text, there are explained military strategies, but also diplomatic strategies and the relations with other states.

“The Art of War” has influenced many notable people in history. The historical writings mention that the first emperor of unified China, Qi Shin Huang considered the book as invaluable. The book arrived in Japan in 760, and became very popular among the Japanese Generals. Historians claim that even Napoleon studied Sun Tzu’s book. Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong credited his victory over Chiang Kai-Shek in 1949 to “The Art of War” book. During the Gulf War of 1990 General Norm Schwarzkopf Jr. and General Colin Powell applied the principles of Sun Tzu.

Daoist rhetoric is a component incorporated in “The Art of War”. According to Steven C. Combs in “Sun Tzu and the Art of War: The Rhetoric of Parsimony”, warfare is “used as a metaphor for rhetoric, and that both are philosophically based arts.” Combs wrote “Warfare is analogous to persuasion, as a battle for hearts and minds.” The application of “The Art of War” strategies throughout history is attributed to its philosophical rhetoric. Daoism is the central principle in “The Art of War”. Combs compared the ancient Daoist Chinese to the traditional Aristotelian rhetoric, notably for the differences in persuasion. Daoist rhetoric in the art of war warfare strategies is described as “peaceful and passive, favoring silence over speech”. This form of communication is parsimonious. Parsimonious behavior, which is highly emphasized in “The Art of War” as avoiding confrontation and being spiritual in nature, shapes basic principles in Daoism.

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