Page:Sun Tzu on The art of war.djvu/10

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VIII
Preface

oldest and best compendium of military science. It was not until the year 1905 that the first English translation by Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A., appeared at Tokyo under the title “Sonshi” (the Japanese form of Sun Tzŭ)[1]. Unfortunately, it was evident that the translator’s knowledge of Chinese was far too scanty to fit him to grapple with the manifold difficulties of Sun Tzŭ. He himself plainly acknowledges that without the aid of two Japanese gentlemen “the accompanying translation would have been impossible.” We can only wonder, then, that with their help it should have been so excessively bad. It is not merely a question of downright blunders, from which none can hope to be wholly exempt. Omissions were frequent, hard passages were wilfully distorted or slurred over. Such offences are less pardonable. They would not be tolerated in any edition of a Greek or Latin classic, and a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted upon in translations from Chinese.

From blemishes of this nature, at least, I believe that the present translation is free. It was not undertaken out of any inflated estimate of my own powers; but could not help feeling that Sun Tzŭ deserved a better fate than had befallen him, and I knew that, at any rate I could hardly fail to improve on the work of my predecessors. Towards the end of 1908, a new and revised edition of Capt. Calthrop’s translation was published in London, this time, however, without any allusion to his Japanese collaborators. My first three chapters were then already in the printer’s hands, so that the criticisms of Capt. Calthrop therein contained must be understood as referring to his earlier edition. In the subsequent chapters I have of course transferred my attention to the second edition. This is on the whole an improvement on the other, though there still remains much that cannot pass


  1. A rather distressing Japanese flavour pervades the work throughout. Thus, King Ho Lu masquerades as “Katsuryo,” Wu and Yüeh become “Go” and “Etsu,” etc. etc.