For many generations, scholars have studies the Art of War, trying to figure out who Sun Tzu was, or if he existed at all. Legend tells us that he was a Chinese military leader in the Spring and Autumn Period. During this time, China was in great turmoil as many states fought for control and power over the country’s unpopulated territories.
This is a book that continues to be used by business professionals, military leaders, and everyday people in search of the type of inspiration and life lessons that Sun Tzu is known for.
This Art of War summary will discuss the main points of the book and the lessons Sun Tzu taught a nation.
Inside the Art of War
As the story goes, Sun Tzu was challenged to prove his military skills by turning a harem of courtesans into a well-trained, organized army, by the king of one of the feuding states. Initially, the courtesans failed in their duties. Sun Tzu responded by beheading two of the king’s favorites in front of a crowd. After that incident, the armies followed their orders perfectly. The king was so impressed by these results that Sun Tzu was put in control of the whole military.
While scholars still debate whether or not Sun Tzu ever existed, what they do know is that copies of this book ended up in the hands of scholars, military leaders, and politicians, all across China. From there, the book was translated and sent to Japan and Korea.
For more than a thousand years, scholars and rulers all across Asia have consulted this book for effective military strategies. The book did not reach the Western world until the end of the eighteenth century.
This book presents the basic principles of warfare, providing military leaders with advice regarding how and when to fight. It consists of thirteen chapters that offer specific battle strategies. As an example, one chapter tells the reader how to move an army through inhospitable terrain, while another focuses on how to respond to and use different types of weapons.
Planning Military Action
The book lists plenty of important information to consider when planning any type of military action. The author first advises avoiding war because it can be detrimental to a country and isn’t cost effective. But if war is inevitable, then you must keep control over the different stages of the war. You must also be prepared to avoid attacking first. As part of the preparation of war, you must take into account these factors: the moral law, method and discipline, the commander, earth, and heaven.
With the moral law, soldiers will be in complete sync with their military commander. Orders should be followed unquestionably. Heaven means to always keep in mind the time of day and the weather. You must consider when is the best time of day for battle? How will the weather affect the conflict? If it’s hot out, will the soldiers fall over from heat exhaustion or can it cause their actions to become sluggish under the unrelenting sun?
Earth means to take into account safety, danger, and distances, whether a pass is too narrow or a battle must be fought in an open area. The author stresses that this can easily mean the difference between victory and defeat. How far will the soldiers have to travel before they engage in battle? Will the soldiers have enough time to rest or must they engage in conflict tired and hungry? Are there any places an enemy can hide, such as overpasses?
The commander must be considered beyond reproach and must put the well-being of his men first. Method and discipline are the foundations of the operation.
When the author counseled on the importance of method and discipline, he stressed the importance of organization. Organizing an army involves separating them into workable troops.
Deception in Warfare
When waging war is necessary you must be decisive and quick. You should try to avoid damaging the enemy’s lands as much as possible. Don’t make the people desperate or demoralized. A desperate man can quickly become dangerous.
Using all of the points the author makes can be crucial in warfare, as is the art of deception. The author stresses the importance of deception in war. You must appear to have an unprepared, small army. In this way, you’ll be able to lure the enemy into a false sense of victory.
Knowing the human brain is able to better retain information when it’s presented in lists and groups, the information in this book is presented in that format. The way the book is written and formatted allows the reader to read through the effective strategies easily and quickly, ensuring that this information is simple to retain and reference later on.
There are four essential facts the author discusses that can ensure victory
• Know when not to fight and when to fight
• Know how to handle inferior and superior forces
• Have the same spirit and animation throughout the ranks
• Be prepared
Advice on Battle
• When you find yourself in a difficult country, don’t make camp
• In a country where any high roads intersect, you must join hands with your allies
• Never linger in isolated positions
• If you’re in a desperate situation, you must fight
Dangerous Faults of a General
• Recklessness can lead to destruction
• Cowardice leads to capture
• A hasty temper provokes insults
The author was involved in the study of Taoism. This religion practiced a method for accessing parts of the brain from self-conception to meditation. The author wrote about using the brain in order to visualize the type of outcome you want and moving towards the goal. Not only was the author a general, but he was also a philosopher who studied military history. Throughout Asia and China, he is a true legend. His warfare tactics have been taught for generations. In his book, he offers outlines and advice regarding the best ways to achieve success and victory. Ultimately, most can agree that this advice and the strategies Tzu used continues to prove effective and timeless.