Sun Tzu's The Art of War Essay

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Sun Tzu's The Art of War

     The translation of the “Sun Tzu: The Art of War” ancient Chinese text has been given by many different writers. Samuel B. Griffith, Brigadier General, retired, U.S. Marine Corps; is a proven strategist that studied the English commandoes war fighting skills as a Captain. As a Major, Griffith was hand picked to serve as Executive Officer under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Merritt Edson of the 1st Raider Battalion, one of the battalions that perfected the amphibious landings during World War II. Samuel B. Griffith gives his in-depth study on “Sun Tzu: The Art of War” and how Mao Tse-tung used the strategies and teachings of Sun Tzu while commanding the Red Army of China. Griffith’s translation of Sun Tzu’s work is written in three parts: Introduction, Translation, and Appendix.


     In his first chapter of his study titled The Author, Griffith gives many different possibilities as to who the actual author of the writings is. Griffith sites many theories from other sources trying to validate the origin of the author, but settles on one basic theory for the text. The Art of War was written by a single author probably around the time of the Warring States and during the periods from 400-320 B.C. (p. 11) Furthermore, Griffith states that there is not enough evidence to positively say if a person named Sun Tzu actually wrote the book or if it was written as a tribute to him, and the case of the authorship remains unsettled.

     The second chapter, The Text, of Griffith’s study focuses on the text itself. There has been debate about how many chapters were originally in “The Art of War”: Eighty-Two or Thirteen. (p. 13) Griffith gives a sound theory that the current thirteen chapters were the only writings. Based on copywriting errors, the eighty-two chapters were probably written into thirteen categories (or chapters) while trying to transcribe written work onto paper from silk or wood. Griffith also asserts that the text was used for entry-level war fighting studies in early Chinese military academies.

     The Warring States is the subject and title of Griffith’s third chapter, which gives an enlightening look at the life and times in China after the defeat of the rule of Chin at Ching Yang in 453. (p. 20) The country was divided into eight individual warring sects (with the exception of Yen...

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...g for you. An expendable agent is given false information on purpose. And a living agent is one that returns to the commander with information.

PART III: Appendix

     Griffith’s study also includes four different appendixes. The first is A Note from Wu Ch’I, the second is titled Sun Tzu’s Influence on Japanese Military Thought, the third is Sun Tzu in Western Languages, and the fourth appendix is Brief Biographies of the Commentators.

     Samuel B. Griffith’s translation of “Sun Tzu: The Art of War” is an inside look at military practices of today. I did not find one technique that is not or would not be utilized in modern military maneuver, leadership, or training. The most astounding fact is that the Art of War was written well over two thousand years ago, even at the most conservative date. Although most of the techniques in this text are already in practice today, the value of “The Art of War” is a never-ending treasure chest of knowledge, and it deserves a place as a required reading for anyone seeking knowledge about war fighting or the history of war.

Works Cited

Sun Tzu: The Art of War, Ed. By Samuel B. Griffith (New
York:Oxford University Press, 1963)

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