Page:Sun Tzu on The art of war.djvu/31

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xxix
Introduction

the great commentary. It was Wu Tzŭ-hsü, he says, who got all the credit of Sun Wu’s exploits, because the latter (being an alien) was not rewarded with an office in the State.[1]

How then did the Sun Tzŭ legend originate? It may be that the growing celebrity of the book imparted by degrees a kind of factitious renown to its author. It was felt to be only right and proper that one so well versed in the science of should have solid achievements to his credit as well. Now the capture of Ying was undoubtedly the greatest feat of arms in Ho Lu’s reign; it made a deep and lasting impression on all the surrounding states, and raised Wu to the short-lived zenith of her power. Hence, what more natural, as time went on, than that the acknowledged master of strategy, Sun Wu, should be popularly identified with that campaign, at first perhaps only in the sense that his brain conceived and planned it; afterwards, that it was actually carried out by him in conjunction with Wu Yüan,[2] Po P‘ei and Fu Kai?

It is obvious that any attempt to reconstruct even the outline of Sun Tzŭ’s life must be based almost wholly on conjecture. With this necessary proviso, I should say that he probably entered the service of Wu about the time of Ho Lu’s accession, and gathered experience, though only in the capacity of a subordinate officer, during the intense military activity which marked the first half of that prince’s reign.[3] If he rose to be a general at all, he certainly was never on an equal footing with the three


  1. See his preface to Sun Tzŭ: — 入郢威齊晉之功歸之子胥故春秋傳不載其名葢功成不受官.
  2. With Wu Yuan himself the case is just the reverse: — a spurious treatise on war has been gathered on him simply because he was a great general. Here we have an obvious inducement to forgery. Sun Wu, on the other hand, cannot have been widely known to fame in the 5th century.
  3. See Tso Chuan, 定公, 4th year (506), § 14: 自昭王卽位無歲不有吳師 “From the date of King Chao’s accession [515] there was no year in which Ch‘u was not attacked by Wu.”