It is also possible, though less likely, that some of them existed in the time of the earlier historian and were purposely ignored by him.
Tu Mu, after Ts‘ao Kung the most important commentator on Sun Tzŭ, composed the preface to his edition about the middle of the ninth century. After a somewhat lengthy defence of the military art, he comes at last to Sun Tzŭ himself, and makes one or two very startling assertions: — “The writings of Sun Wu,” he says, “originally comprised several hundred thousand words, but Ts‘ao Ts‘ao, the Emperor Wu Wei, pruned away all redundancies and wrote out the essence of the whole, so as to form a single book in 13 chapters.” He goes on to remark that Ts‘ao Ts‘ao's commentary on Sun Tzŭ leaves a certain proportion of difficulties unexplained. This, in Tu Mu's opinion, does not necessarily imply that he was unable to furnish a complete commentary. According to the Wei Chih, Ts‘ao himself wrote a book on war in something over 100,000 words, known as the 新書. It appears to have been of such exceptional merit that he suspects Ts‘ao to have used for it the surplus material which he had found in Sun Tzŭ. He concludes, however, by saying: “The Hsin Shu is now lost, so that the truth cannot be known for certain.”
Tu Mu's conjecture seems to be based on a passage
- On the other hand, it is noteworthy that 吳子 Wu Tzŭ, which is now in 6 chapters, has 48 assigned to it in the Han Chih. Likewise, the 中庸 Chung Yung is credited with 49 chapters, though now in one only. In the case of such very short works, one is tempted to think that 篇 might simply mean “leaves.”
- See T‘u Shu, 講籍典, ch. 442, 彚考 2.
- An extract will be found on p. xlv.