Sun Tzu

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu (sōōn dzōō), fl. c.500–320. BC, name used by the unknown Chinese authors of the sophisticated treatise on philosophy, logistics, espionage, and strategy and tactics known as The Art of War. It includes many commentaries by later Chinese philosophers. The core text was probably written by one person during a time of expanding feudal conflicts, but the exact century is uncertain. Most authorities now support a date early in the Warring States period (c.453–221 BC). This work has deeply influenced Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese military thinking and has enjoyed growing popularity among businessmen. It stresses the unpredictability of battle, the importance of deception and surprise, the close relationship between politics and military policy, and the high costs of war. The futility of seeking hard and fast rules and the subtle paradoxes of success are major themes. The best battle, Sun Tzu says, is the battle that is won without being fought. See guerrilla warfare.

See The Art of War (tr. by S. B. Griffith, 1971).

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