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Background: Historical and Textual

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2024

Scott Boorman
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut
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Summary

This chapter has two parts. Adopting an accretionist perspective on the Sun Tzu text – regarding it as developing over an extended period with no single author – the first part provides basic background on the Warring States era in which the text took shape. It analyzes an early Chinese battle illustrating Sun Tzu principles, then ends with discussion of logistics aspects of Warring States warfare. Shifting from battlefields to texts, the second part provides comparative overview of different extant copies of the Sun Tzu text, some traditionally transmitted, one archaeologically recovered. Some textual issues aside, the Sun Tzu text is in relatively good shape for a text of its antiquity. The second part ends with overview of a set of eleven traditional commentators on the text; perspective on the sprawling modern Sun Tzu literature; and brief orientation to the Sanguo yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), one of China’s great pre-modern vernacular novels. Although this novel of Ming dynasty vintage is not properly part of the Sun Tzu tradition, in modern times many Chinese have been exposed to Sun-Tzu-esque thinking through the Sanguo’s vivid, albeit fictionalized, stories.

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Chapter
Information
Three Faces of Sun Tzu
Analyzing Sun Tzu's <i>Art of War</i>, A Manual on Strategy
, pp. 23 - 46
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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