Page:Sun Tzu on The art of war.djvu/28

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xxvi
Introduction

of the fact that these sayings have been accepted and endorsed by all the greatest captains of Chinese history, they offer a combination of freshness and sincerity, acuteness and common sense, which quite excludes the idea that they were artificially concocted in the study. If we admit, then, that the 13 chapters were the genuine production of a military man living towards the end of the “Ch‘un Ch‘iu” period, are we not bound, in spite of the silence of the Tso Chuan, to accept Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien’s account in its entirety? In view of his high repute as a sober historian, must we not hesitate to assume that the records he drew upon for Sun Tzŭ’s biography were false and untrustworthy? The answer, I fear, must be in the negative. There is still one grave, if not fatal, objection to the chronology involved in the story as told in the Shih Chi, which, so far as I am aware, nobody has yet pointed out. There are two passages in Sun Tzŭ in which he alludes to contemporary affairs. The first is in VI. § 21: —

Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yüeh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.

The other is in XI. § 30: —

Asked if an army can be made to imitate the shuai-jan, I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yüeh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other’s assistance just as the left hand helps the right.

These two paragraphs are extremely valuable as evidence of the date of composition. They assign the work to the period of the struggle between Wu and Yüeh. So much has been observed by Pi I-hsün. But what has hitherto escaped notice is that they also seriously impair the credibility of Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien’s narrative. As we have seen above, the first positive date given in connection with Sun Wu is 512 B. C. He is then spoken of as a general, acting as confidential adviser to Ho Lu, so that his alleged introduction to that monarch had already taken place,