The Art of War

The Art of War

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Overview

Ssu-ma Ch`ien gives the following biography of Sun Tzu: [1]
--
Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i State. His ART OF
WAR brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, [2] King of Wu. Ho
Lu said to him: "I have carefully perused your 13 chapters.
May I submit your theory of managing soldiers to a slight
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The Art of War
test?"
Sun Tzu replied: "You may."
Ho Lu asked: "May the test be applied to women?"
The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements
were made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzu
divided them into two companies, and placed one of the King's
favorite concubines at the head of each. He then bade them
all take spears in their hands, and addressed them thus: "I
presume you know the difference between front and back, right
hand and left hand?"
The girls replied: Yes.
Sun Tzu went on: "When I say "Eyes front," you must
look straight ahead. When I say "Left turn," you must face
towards your left hand. When I say "Right turn," you must
face towards your right hand. When I say "About turn," you
must face right round towards your back."
Again the girls assented. The words of command having
been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes
in order to begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he
gave the order "Right turn." But the girls only burst out
laughing. Sun Tzu said: "If words of command are not clear
and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then
the general is to blame."
So he started drilling them again, and this time gave
the order "Left turn," whereupon the girls once more burst
into fits of laughter. Sun Tzu: "If words of command are
not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly
understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders ARE
clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the
fault of their officers."
So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies
to be beheaded. Now the king of Wu was watching the scene
from the top of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his
favorite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly
alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message: "We
are now quite satisfied as to our general's ability to handle
troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat
and drink will lose their savor. It is our wish that they
shall not be beheaded."
Sun Tzu replied: "Having once received His Majesty's
commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain
commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am
unable to accept."
Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and
straightway installed the pair next in order as leaders in
their place. When this had been done, the drum was sounded
for the drill once more; and the girls went through all the
evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching
ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect
accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then
Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying: "Your soldiers,
Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for
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The Art of War
your majesty's inspection. They can be put to any use that
their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and
water, and they will not disobey."
But the King replied: "Let our general cease drilling
and return to camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down
and inspect the troops."
Thereupon Sun Tzu said: "The King is only fond of
words, and cannot translate them into deeds."
After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how
to handle an army, and finally appointed him general. In the
west, he defeated the Ch`u State and forced his way into
Ying, the capital; to the north he put fear into the States
of Ch`i and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the
feudal princes. And Sun Tzu shared in the might of the King.
About Sun Tzu himself this is all that Ssu-ma Ch`ien has to
tell us in this chapter. But he proceeds to give a biography of
his descendant, Sun Pin, born about a hundred years after his
famous ancestor's death, and also the outstanding military genius
of his time. The historian speaks of him too as Sun Tzu, and in
his preface we read: "Sun Tzu had his feet cut off and yet
continued to discuss the art of war." [3] It seems likely, then,
that "Pin" was a nickname bestowed on him after his mutilation,
unless the story was invented in order to account for the name.
The crowning incident of his career, the crushing defeat of his
treacherous rival P`ang Chuan, will be found briefly related in
Chapter V. ss. 19, note.
To return to the elder Sun Tzu. He is mentioned in two
other passages of the SHIH CHI: --
In the third year of his ...

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014501767
Publisher: All classic book warehouse
Publication date: 05/30/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 125
File size: 259 KB

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