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The Art of War: Significance and Quotes

By Yona Williams    8/26/08

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Sun Tzu is given credit for writing "The Art of War," which was originally called the Sun Tzu Ping Fa (mostly shortened to Sun Tzu). The book centered on a philosophy concentrated on managing the ins and outs of warfare, as well as touches upon how to achieve victory. While Sun Tzu is often highlighted as the sole contributor to the book, clarifications and commentary of later military thinkers are also included, such as Li Chu'uan and Tu Mu.

Throughout history, The Art of War has become a reference for many generals and theorists around the world to take notice to. In the world of business and politics, the book has also served its purpose with well-rounded topics that could apply to a variety of settings and individuals.

When it comes to the text that were written before the unification of China, only six of the major works were able to survive, which includes Sun Tzu's work. During the Sung Dynasty, all six of these texts were combined with a T'and Dynasty text to create a collection known as the Seven Military Classics.

There is no question that Art of War served as an important influence. For instance, the book is believed to have played a significant role in putting an end to the Age of Warring States, as Qin Shihuang referenced the book as he became the first emperor to rule a unified China. In 760 AD, Japan gravitated to the book and it became quite a hit with their generals. The book is also stated as playing a role in unifying Japan. It even found a place amongst the samurai warriors. Others to embrace the book include Napoleon, Mao Zedong, and General Norman Schwartzkopf during the Desert Storm days.

To gain a better understanding of the teaching of Sun Tzu, consider the following quotes taken from the book:

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.
Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"

"The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected. "
 
"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him. "
 
"If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
 
Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays".

"It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. "

"Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength. "

"In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it. "

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