Page:Sun Tzu on The art of war.djvu/27

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xxv
Introduction

belong to the early part of the fifth century. Seeing that he is actually engaged in an attempt to disprove the existence of Sun Wu himself, we may be sure that he would not have hesitated to assign the work to a later date had he not honestly believed the contrary. And it is precisely on such a point that the judgment of an educated Chinaman will carry most weight. Other internal evidence is not far to seek. Thus, in XIII. § 1, there is an unmistakable allusion to the ancient system of land-tenure which had abready passed away by the time of Mencius, who was anxious to see it revived in a modified form.[1] The only warfare Sun Tzŭ knows is that carried on between the various feudal princes (諸侯), in which armoured chariots play a large part. Their use seems to have entirely died out before the end of the Chou dynasty. He speaks as a man of Wu, a state which ceased to exist as early as 473 B. C. On this I shall touch presently.

But once refer the work to the 5th century or earlier, and the chances of its being other than a bonâ fide production are sensibly diminished. The great age of forgeries did not come until long after. That it should have been forged in the period immediately following 473 is particularly unlikely, for no one, as a rule, hastens to identify himself with a lost cause. As for Yeh Shui-hsin’s theory, that the author was a literary recluse,[2] that seems to me quite untenable. If one thing is more apparent than another after reading the maxims of Sun Tzŭ, it is that their essence has been distilled from a large store of personal observation and experience. They reflect the mind not only of a born strategist, gifted with a rare faculty of generalisation, but also of a practical soldier closely acquainted with the military conditions of his time. To say nothing


  1. See Mencius III. 1. iii. 13—20.
  2. 山林處士 need not be pressed to mean an actual dweller in the mountains. I think it simply denotes a person living a retired life and standing aloof from public affairs.