Page:Sun Tzu on The art of war.djvu/32

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Introduction

above mentioned. He was doubtless present at the investment and occupation of Ying, and witnessed Wu’s sudden collapse in the following year. Yüeh’s attack at this critical juncture, when her rival was embarrassed on every side, seems to have convinced him that this upstart kingdom was the great enemy against whom every effort would henceforth have to be directed. Sun Wu was thus a well-seasoned warrior when he sat down to write his famous book, which according to my reckoning must have appeared towards the end, rather than the beginning, of Ho Lu’s reign. The story of the women may possibly have grown out of some real incident occurring about the same time. As we hear no more of Sun Wu after this from any source, he is hardly likely to have survived his patron or to have taken part in the death-struggle with Yüeh, which began with the disaster at Tsui-li.

If these inferences are approximately correct, there is a certain irony in the fate which decreed that China’s most illustrious man of peace should be contemporary with her greatest writer on war.

The Text of Sun Tzŭ.

I have found it difficult to glean much about the history of Sun Tzŭ's text. The quotations that occur in early authors go to show that the “13 chapters” of which Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien speaks were essentially the same as those now extant. We have his word for it that they were widely circulated in his day, and can only regret that he refrained from discussing them on that account.[1] Sun Hsing-yen says in his preface: —

During the Ch‘in and Han dynasties Sun Tzŭ's Art of War was in general use amongst military commanders, but they seem to have treated it as a work of mysterious import, and were unwilling to expound it for


  1. See supra, p. xx.