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INTRODUCTION




Sun Wu and his Book.


Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien gives the following biography of Sun Tzŭ:[1]

孫子武 Sun Tzŭ Wu was a native of the Ch'i State. His Art of War brought him to the notice of 闔盧 Ho Lu,[2] King of Wu. Ho Lu said to him: I have carefully perused your 13 chapters. May I submit your theory of managing soldiers to a slight test? — Sun Tzŭ replied: You may. — Ho Lu asked: May the test be applied to women? — The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzŭ divided them into two companies, and placed one of the King’s favourite concubines at the head of each. He then bade them all take spears in their hands, and addressed them thus: I presume you know the difference between front and back, right hand and left hand? — The girls replied: Yes. — Sun Tzŭ went on: When I say "Eyes front," you must look straight ahead. When I say “Left turn," you must face towards your left hand. When I say "Right turn," you must face towards your right hand. When I say "About turn," you must face right round towards the back. — Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order "Right turn." But the girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzŭ said: If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. — So he started drilling them again, and this time gave the order "Left turn," whereupon the girls once more burst into fits of laughter. Sun Tzŭ said: If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers. — So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be beheaded. Now the King of Wu was watching the scene from the top of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his

favourite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message: We are now quite satisfied as to our general’s ability to handle troops. If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and drink will lose their savour. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded. — Sun Tzŭ replied: Having once received His Majesty’s commission to be general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept. — Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and straightway installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this had been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once more; and the girls went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then Sun Tzŭ sent a messenger to the King saying: Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for Your Majesty’s inspection. They can be put to any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey. — But the King replied: Let our general cease drilling and return to camp. As for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect the troops. — Thereupon Sun Tzŭ said: The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds. — After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzŭ was one who knew how to handle an army, and finally appointed him general. In the West, he defeated the Chu(楚) State and forced his way into Ying(燕), the capital; to the north, he put fear into the States of Ch‘i(齊) and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the feudal princes. And Sun Tzŭ shared in the might of the King.

About Sun Tzŭ himself this is all that Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien has to tell us in this chapter. But he proceeds to give a biography of his descendant, 孫臏 Sun Pin, born about a hundred years after his famous ancestor’s death, and also the outstanding military genius of his time. The historian speaks of him too as Sun Tzŭ, and in his preface we read: 孫子臏腳而論兵法 "Sun Tzŭ had his feet cut off and yet continued to discuss the art of war.”[3] It seems likely, then, that "Pin” was a nickname bestowed on him after his mutilation, unless indeed the story was invented in order to account for the name. The crowning incident of his career, the crushing defeat of his treacherous rival P‘ang Chüan, will be found briefly related on p. 40. To return to the elder Sun Tzŭ. He is mentioned in two other passages of the Shih Chi:

In the third year of his reign [512 B.C.] Ho Lu, King of Wu, took the field with 子胥 Tzŭ-hsü [i.e. 伍員 Wu Yüan] and 伯嚭 Po P‘ei, and attacked Ch‘u. He captured the town of Shu and slew the two prince’s sons who had formerly been generals of Wu. He was then meditating a descent on Ying [the capital]; but the general Sun Wu said: “The army is exhausted.[4] It is not yet possible. We must wait”....[5] [After further successful fighting,] “in the ninth year [506 B.C.], King Ho Lu of Wu addressed Wu Tzŭ-hsü and Sun Wu, saying: “Formerly, you declared that it was not yet possible for us to enter Ying. Is the time ripe now?” The two men replied: “Ch‘u’s general, 子常 Tzŭ—ch‘ang,[6] is grasping and covetous, and the princes of T‘ang and Ts‘ai both have a grudge against him. If Your Majesty has resolved to make a grand attack, you must win over T‘ang and Ts‘ai, and then you may succeed.” Ho Lu followed this advice, [beat Ch‘u in five pitched battles and marched into Ying].[7]

This is the latest date at which anything is recorded of Sun Wu. He does not appear to have survived his patron, who died from the effects of a wound in 496.

In the chapter entitled 律書 (the earlier portion of which M. Chavannes believes to be a fragment of a treatise on Military Weapons), there occurs this passage:[8]

From this time onward, a number of famous soldiers arose, one after the other: 咎犯 Kao-fan,[9] who was employed by the Chin State; Wang—tzŭ,[10] in the service of Ch‘i; and Sun Wu, in the service of Wu. These men developed and threw light upon the principles of war (申明軍約).

   It is obvious that Ssŭ-ma Ch'ien at least had no doubt

about the reality of Sun Wu as an historical personage; and with one exception, to be noticed presently, he is by far the most important authority on the period in question. It will not be necessary, therefore, to say much of such a work as the 吳越春秋 Wu Yüeh Ch‘un Ch’iu, which is supposed to have been written by 趙曄 Chao Yeh of the 1st century A.D. The attribution is somewhat doubtful; but even if it were otherwise, his account would be of little value, based as it is on the Shih Chi and expanded with romantic details. The story of Sun Tzŭ will be found, for what it is worth, in chapter 2. The only new points in it worth noting are: 1) Sun Tzŭ was first recommended to Ho Lu by Wu Tzŭ-hsü. 2) He is called a native of Wu. [11] 3) He had previously lived a retired life, and his contemporaries were unaware of his ability.[12]

   The following passage occurs in 淮南子 Huai-nan Tzŭ : "When sovereign and ministers show perversity of mind, it is impossible even for a Sun Tzŭ to encounter the foe." [13] Assuming that this work is genuine (and hitherto no doubt has been cast upon it), we have here the earliest direct reference to Sun Tzŭ, for Huai-nan Tzu died in 122 B.C., many years before the Shih Chi was given to the world.

  劉向 Liu Hsiang (B.C. 80-9) in his 新序 says: "The reason why Sun Wu at the head of 30,000 men beat Ch‘u with 200,000 is that the latter were undisciplined."[14]

  鄧名世 Têng Ming-shih in his 姓氏辨證書 (completed in 1134) informs us that the surname was bestowed on Sun Wu’s grandfather by 景公 Duke Ching of Ch'i [547-490 B.C.]. Sun Wu’s father Sun P'ing, rose to be a Minister of State in Ch'i, and Sun Wu him- self, whose style was 長卿 Ch‘ang-ch‘ing, fled to wu on account of the rebellion which was being fomented by the kindred of 田鮑 T'ien Pao. He had three sons, of whom the second, named Ming, was the father of Sun Pin. According to this account, then, Pin was the grandson of Wu,[15] which, considering that Sun Pin's victory over Wei was gained in 341 B.C., may be dismissed as chronologically impossible. Whence these data were ob- tained by Têng Ming-shih I do not know, but of course no reliance whatever can be placed in them.

  An interesting document which has survived from the close of the Han period is the short preface written by the great 曹操 Ts‘ao Ts‘ao, or 魏武帝 Wei Wu Ti, for his edition of Sun Tzu. I shall give it in full: —-

  I have heard that the ancients used bows and arrows to their advantage.[16] The Lun Yū says: "There must be a sufficiency of military strength."[17] The Shu Ching mentions "the army" among the "eight objects of government."[18] The I Ching says: " 'army' indicates firmness and justice; the experienced leader will have good fortune."[19] The Shih Ching says: "The King rose majestic in his wrath, and he marshalled his troops." [20] The Yellow Emperor, T‘ang the Completer and Wu Wang all used spears and battle-axes in order to succour their generation. The Ssŭ—ma Fa says: "If one man slay another of set purpose, he himself may rightfully be slain." [21] He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish. Instances of this are Fu Ch‘ai [22] on the one hand and Yen Wang on the other. [23] In military matters, the Sage’s rule is normally to keep the peace, and to move his forces only when occasion requires. He will not use armed force unless driven to it by necessity.[24]

   Many books have I read on the subject of war and fighting; but the work composed by Sun Wu is the profoundest of them all. [Sun Tzŭ was a native of the Ch‘i state, his personal name was Wu. He wrote the Art of War in 13 chapters for Ho Lü, King of Wu. Its principles were tested on women, and he was subsequently made a general. He led an army westwards, crushed the Ch‘u State and entered Ying the capital. In the north, he kept Ch‘i and Chin in awe. A hundred years and more after his time, Sun Pin lived. He was a descendant of Wu].[25] In his treatment of deliberation and planning, the importance of rapidity in taking the field,[26] clearness of conception, and depth of design, Sun Tzŭ stands beyond the reach of carping criticism. My contemporaries, however, have failed to grasp the full meaning of his instructions, and while putting into practice the smaller details in which his work abounds, they have overlooked its essential purport. That is the motive which has led me to outline a rough explanation of the whole.[27]

   One thing to be noticed in the above is the explicit statement that the 13 chapters were specially composed for King Ho Lu. This is supported by the internal evidence of I. § 15, in which it seems clear that some ruler is addressed.

   In the bibliographical section of the Ham Shu,[28] there is an entry which has given rise to much discussion: 吳孫子八十二篇圖九卷 “The works of Sun thi of Wu in 82 p‘ien (or chapters), with diagrams in 9 chüan.” It is evident that this cannot be merely the 13 chapters known to Ssfi-ma Ch‘ien, or those we possess to-day. Chang Shou-chieh in his 史記正義 refers to an edition of Sun Tzŭ‘s 兵法 of which the “13 chapters” formed the first chüan, adding that there were two other chüan besides.[29] This has brought forth a theory, that the bulk of these 82 chapters consisted of other writings of Sun ~Tzu — we should call them apocryphal — similar to the 問答 Wén Ta, of which a specimen dealing with the Nine Situations[30] is preserved in the 通典 T‘ung Tien, and another in Ho Shih’s commentary. It is suggested that before his interview with Ho Lu, Sun Tzŭ had only written the 13 chapters, but afterwards composed a sort of exegesis in the form of question and answer between himself and the King. 畢以珣 Pi I-hsün, author of the 孫子敘錄Sun Tzŭ Hsü Lu, backs this up with a quotation from the Wu Yüeh Ch'un Ch'iu: “The King of Wu summoned Sun Tzu, and asked him questions about the art of war. Each time he set forth a chapter of his work, the King could not find words enough to praise him.“[31] As he points out, if the whole work was ex- pounded on the same scale as in the above-mentioned fragments, the total number of chapters could not fail to be considerable. [32] Then the numerous other treatises at— tributed to Sun Tzu [33] might also be included. The fact that the Han C/zz'lz mentions no work of Sun Tzu except the 82 f‘z'en, whereas the Sui and T‘ang bibliographies give the titles of others in addition to the “13 chapters," is good proof, Pi I-hsiin thinks, that all of these were contained in the 82 jfi‘z'en. Without pinning our faith to the accuracy of details supplied by the Wu YiZe/z C/z‘zm Clz‘z’u, or admitting the genuineness of any of the treatises cited by Pi I-hsijn, we may see in this theory a probable solution of the mystery. Between Ss'u-ma Ch‘ien and Pan Ku there was plenty of time for a luxuriant crop of for- geries to have grown up under the magic name of Sun Tzu, and the 82 [fi‘z'en may very well represent a collected edition of these lumped together with the original work. It is also possible, though less likely, that some of them existed in the time of the earlier historian and were pur- posely ignored by him. 1

   Tu Mu, after Ts‘ao Kung the most important commen- tator on Sun Tzfi, composed the preface to his edition2 about the middle of the ninth century. After a somewhat lengthy defence of the military art, 3 he comes at last to Sun Tzu 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 I 3 chapters.” 4 He goes on to remark that Ts‘ao Ts‘ao’s commentary on Sun Tzu leaves a certain proportion of difficulties unexplained. This, in Tu Mu’s opinion, does not necessarily imply that he was unable to furnish a com- plete commentary.5[34] According to the Wez' C/zz'lz, 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 th’i. He concludes, however, by saying: “The H5292 Sim is now lost, so that the truth cannot be known for certain.”6

   Tu Mu’s conjecture seems to be based on a passage in the 漢官解詁 “Wei Wu Ti strung together Sun VVu’s Art of War,”1[35] which in turn may have resulted from a misunderstanding of the final words of Ts‘ao Kung’s preface: 故撰為略解焉。 This, as Sun Hsing—yen points out,2 is only a modest way of saying that he made an explana- tory paraphrase, 3 or in other words, wrote a commentary on it. On the whole, the theory has met with very little acceptance. Thus, the 四庫全書 says:[36] “The mention of the 13 chapters in the Skz'fi Cfiz' shows that they were in existence before the Ham Cfizfi, and that later accretions are not to be considered part of the original work. Tu Mu’s assertion can certainly not be taken as proof.” 5

   There is every reason to suppose, then, that the 13 chapters existed in the time of Ssu-ma Ch‘ien practically as we have them now. That the work was then well known he tells us in so many words: “Sun Tzu’s 13 Chapters and Wu Ch‘i’s Art of War are the two books that people commonly refer to on the subject of military matters. Both of then are widely distributed, so I will not discuss them here.”6 But as we go further back, serious difficulties begin to arise. The salient fact, Which has to be faced is that, the T30 Chum, the great con- temporary record, _makes no mention whatever of Sun


征戰 Wu, eith_er as__a_gene1;al onas a writer. It is natural, in View of this awkward circumstance, that many scholars should not only cast doubt on the story of Sun Wu as given in the 5/2272 C52", but even show themselves frankly sceptical as to the existence of the man at all. The most powerful presentment of this side of the case is to be found in the following disquisition by % 7k1l‘1‘ Yeh Shui—hsin: 1 —

\

It is stated in Ss'fi—ma Ch‘ien’s history that Sim Wu was a native of the Ch‘i State, and employed by Wu ; and that in the 'gn of H0 Lu he crushed‘ Ch‘u, entered Ying, and was a great general. But in Tso’s Commentary no Sun Wu appears at all. tary need not contain absolutely everything that other histories contain. But Tso has not omitted to mention vulgar plebeians and hireling ruf— fians such as Ying K‘ao—shu, ‘-‘ Ts‘ao Kuei, 3 Chu Chih-wu‘ and Chuan She-Chu. 5 In the case of Sun Wu, whose fame and achievements were so brilliant, the omission is much more glaring. Again, details are given, in their due order, about his contemporaries Wu Yuan and the Minister P‘ei. 5 Is it credible that Sun Wu alone should have been passed over?7

In point of literary style, Sun Tz‘u’s work belongs to the same school as Kucm Tzfi,8 the £222 T ‘ao,9 and the Yz‘ie/z Yiz, 1° and may have been the production of some private scholar living towards the end of the “Spring and Autumn” or the beginning of the “.Warring States ’ period..1 The story that his precepts were actually applied by the Wu State, 1s merely the outcome of big talk on the part of h1s followers. 2 . From the flourishing period of the Chou dynasty 3 down to the t1me of the “Spring and Autumn,” all military commanders were statesmen as well, and the class of professional generals, for conducting external campalgns, did not then exist. It was not until the period of the “Six States’”I that this custom changed. Now although Wu was an uncivilised State, is it conceivable that Tso should have left unrecorded the fact that Sun Wu was a great general and yet held no civil ofiice? What we are told, therefore, about Jang—chu5 and Sun Wu, is not authentic matter, but the reckless fabrication of theorising pundits. The story of Ho Lu’s ex— periment on the women, in particular, is utterly preposterous and incredible.8

Yeh Shui-hsin represents Ssu-ma Ch‘ien as having said that Sun Wu crushed Ch‘u and entered Ying. This is not quite correct. No d0ubt the impression left on the reader’s mind is that he at least shared in these exploits; but the actual subject of the verbs m, A, El: and is certainly % as is shown by the next words:

j] 1%.7 The fact may or may not be

significant; but it is nowhere explicitly stated in the S/zz'k Chi either that Sun Tzu was general on the occasion of the taking of Ying, 'or that he even went there at all. Moreover, as we know that Wu Yuan and Po Pcei both took part in the expedition, and also that its success was largely due to the dash and enterprise of 93 E53 Fu Kai, Ho Lu’s younger brother, it is not easy to see how. yet another general could have played a very prominent part in the same campaign.

[3% :er % Ch‘én Chen-sun of the Sung dynasty has the note: 1 —

Military writers look upon Sun Wu as the father of their art. But the fact that he does not appear in the T50 C/zucm, although he is said to have served under Ho Lil King of Wu, makes it uncertain what period he really belonged to. 2

He also says: —— The works of Sun Wu and Wu Ch‘i may be of genuine antiquity. 3

It is noticeable that both Yeh Shui—hsin and Ch‘én Chen-sun, while rejecting the personality of Sun Wu as he figures in Ss'u-ma Ch‘ien’s history, are inclined to ac- cept the date traditionally assigned to the work which passes under his name. The author of the Hsii Lu fails to appreciate this distinction, and consequently his bitter attack on Ch‘én Chén-sun really misses its mark. He makes one or two points, however, which certainly tell in favour of the high antiquity of our “13 chapters.” “Sun Tzu,” he says, “must have lived in the age of Ching Wang [519—476], because he is frequently plagiarised in - subsequent works of the Chou, Ch‘in and Han dynasties.” The two most shameless offenders in this respect are Wu Ch‘i and Huai-nan Tzfi, both of them important historical personages in their day. The former lived only a century after the alleged date of Sun Tan, and his death is known to have taken place in 381 B. C. It was to him, according to Liu Hsiang, that {BI} I13 Tséng Sheri delivered the T so Cfimm, which had been entrusted to him by its author. 1 Now the fact that quotations from the Arz‘ of PVar, acknowledged or otherwise, are to be found in so many authors of different epochs, establishes a very strong probability that there was some common source anterior to them all, — in other words, that Sun Tzfi’s treatise was already in existence towards the end of the 5th century B. C. Further proof of Sun Tz'u’s antiquity is furnished by the archaic or wholly obsolete meanings attaching to a number of the words he uses. A list of these, which might perhaps be extended, is given in the Hsii Lu; and though some of the interpretations are doubtful, the main argument is hardly affected thereby. 2 Again, it must not be forgotten that Yeh Shui-hsin, a scholar and critic of the first rank, deliberately pronounces the style of the I3 chapters to 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 01 Mencius, who was anxious to see it revived in a modified form. 1 The only warfare Sun Tzi’i knows is that carried on between the various feudal princes (%€§), 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 47 3 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 éomifia’e pro— duction 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 47 3 is parti- cularly 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 an- other after reading the maxims of Sun Tzi’i, 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 gene- ralisation, but also of a practical soldier closely acquainted with the military conditions of his time. To say nothing 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, acute- ness 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 pro- duction 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 T50 C/mcm, to accept Sst’i-ma Ch‘ien’s ac- count 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 VVu’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 Skz'k Ckz', which, so far as I am aware, nobody has yet pointed out. There are two passages in Sun Tz'u in which he alludes to contemporary affairs. The first is in VI. § 21: ——

Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yfieh 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 slzuai—jan, I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yfieh 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 YUeh. So much has been observed by Pi I-hsiin. But what has hitherto escaped notice is that they also seriously impair the cre- dibility of Ssh-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, actmg as confidential adviser to Ho Lu, so that his alleged introduction to that monarch had already taken place, and of course the 13‘ chapters must have been written earlier still. But at that time, and for several years after, down to the capture of Ying in 506, Q Ch‘u, and not Yiieh, was the great hereditary enemy of Wu. The two states, Ch‘u and Wu, had been constantly at war for over half a century,1 whereas the first war between Wu and Yiieh was waged only in 510,2 and even then was no more than a short interlude sandwiched in the midst 01 the fierce struggle with Ch‘u. Now Ch‘u is not mentioned in the 13 chapters at all. The natural inference is that they were written at a time when Yiieh had become the prime antagonist of Wu, that is, after Ch‘u had suffered the great humiliation of 5o6. At this point, a table of dates may be found useful.

BC. 514 Accession of Ho Lu.

512 Ho Lu attacks Ch‘u, but is dissuaded from entering 5'35 Ying, the capital. Slzz'lz C/zz' mentions Sun Wu as general.

511 Another attack on Ch‘u.

510 Wu makes a successful attack on Yfieh. This is the first war be- tween the two states.

mu _

5:; y} Ch‘u 1nvades Wu, but 15 Slgnally defeated at a E Yfi-chang. 506 Ho Lu attacks Ch‘u with the aid of T‘ang and Ts‘ai. Decisive battle of g Po-chfi, and capture of Ying. Last mention of Sun Wu in 5/2272 C/zz'. .

505 Yfieh makes a raid on Wu in the absence of its army. Wu is beaten by Ch‘in and evacuates Ying.

504 Ho Lu sends * 2:5 Fu Ch‘ai to attack Ch‘u.

497 fig Kou Chien becomes King of Yfieh.

496 Wu attacks Yfieh, but is defeated by Kou Chien at 35 Tsui-li. Ho Lu is killed. RC.

494 F u Ch‘ai defeats Kou Chien in the great battle of jg r. F u-chiao, and enters the capital of Yfieh.

485

or 2Kou Chien renders homage to Wu. Death of Wu Tzi’i-hsfi. 484

482 I Kou Chien invades Wu in the absence of Fu Ch‘ai. 47: gFurther attacks by Yfieh on Wu.

47

475 Kou Chien lays siege to the capital of Wu.

473 Final defeat and extinction of Wu.

The sentence quoted above from VI. § 21 hardly strikes me as one that could have been written in the full flush of victory. It seems rather to imply that, for the moment at least, the tide had turned against Wu, and that she was getting the worst of the struggle. Hence we may conclude that our treatise was not in existence in 505, before which date Yueh does not appear to have scored any notable success against Wu. Ho Lu died in 496, so that if the book was written for him, it must have been during the period 505—496, when there was a lull in the hostilities, Wu having presumably been exhausted by its supreme effort against Ch‘u. On the other hand, if we choose to disregard the tradition connecting Sun VVu's name with Ho Lu, it might equally well have seen the light between 496 and 494, or possibly in the period 482—473, when Yueh was once again becoming a very serious menace.1 We may feel fairly certain that the author, whoever he may have been, was not a man of any great eminence in his own day. On this point the negative testimony of the T50 C/zucm far outweighs any shred of authority still attaching to the 5/2272 C/zz', if once its other facts are discredited. Sun I-Ising-yen, however, makes a feeble attempt to explain the omission of his name from the great commentary. It was Wu Tzfi-hsii, he says, who got all the credit of Sun VVu’s exploits, because the latter (being an alien) was not rewarded with an office in the State. 1

How then did the Sun Tzfi 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 0W in the science of should have solid achievements to

his credit as well. Now the capture of Ying was un- doubtedly 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 \Nu Yuan, 2 Po P‘ei and Fu Kai?

It is obvious that any attempt to reconstruct even the outline of Sun th’i’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 above mentioned. He was doubtless present at the in— vestment and occupation of Ying, and witnessed Wu’s sudden collapse in the following year. Yijeh’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 Y'ueh, 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.


  1. Shih Chi, ch. 65.
  2. Also written 闔閭 Ho Lü. He reigned from 514 to 496 B.C.
  3. Shih Chi, ch. 130, f. 6 r°.
  4. I note that M. Chavannes translates 民勞 “le peuple est épuisé.” But in Sun Tzŭ's own book (see especially VII §§ 24—26) the ordinary meaning of is “army,” and this, I think, is more suitable here.
  5. These words are given also in Wu Tzŭ-hsü's biography, ch. 66, fol. 3 r°.
  6. The appellation of 囊瓦 Nang Wa.
  7. Shih Chi, ch. 31, fol. 6 r°.
  8. Ibid. ch. 25, fol. 1 r°.
  9. The appellation of 狐偃 Hu Yen, mentioned in ch. 39 under the year 637.
  10. 王子城父 Wang-tzŭ Ch‘eng-fu, ch. 32, year 607.
  11. The mistake is natural enough. Native critics refer to the 越絕書,a work of the Han dynasty,which says(ch. 2, fol. 3 v° of my edition): 巫門外大冢吳王客齊孫武冢也去縣十里善為兵法 "Ten li outside the Wu gate [of the city of Wu, now Soochow in Kiangsu] there is a great mound, raised to commemorate the entertainment of Sun Wu of Ch'i, who excelled in the art of war, by the King of Wu."
  12. 孫子者吳人也善為兵法辟幽居世人莫知其能。
  13. 君臣乖心則孫子不能以應敵。
  14. 孫武以三萬破楚二十萬者楚無法故也
  15. The Shih Chi, on the other hand, says:臏亦孫武之後世子孫也。I may remark in passing that the name for one who was a great warrior is just as for a man who had his feet cut off.
  16. An allusion to 易經,繫辭,II. 2:弦木為弧剡木為失弧矢之利以威天下 "They attached strings to wood to make bows, and sharpened wood to make arrows. The use of bows and arrows is to keep the Empire in awe."
  17. 論語 XII. 7.
  18. 書經 V.iv. 7.
  19. 易經,7th diagram().
  20. 詩經 III. I. vii. 5.
  21. 司馬法 ch. 1 (仁本ad init. The text of the passage in the 圖書 T‘u Shu戎政典, ch. 85) is: 是故殺人安人殺之可也。
  22. The son and successor of Ho Lu. He was finally defeated and overthrown by 勾踐 Kou Chien, King of Yüeh, in 473 B.C. See post.
  23. King Yen of Hsü, a fabulous being, of whom Sun Hsing-yen says in his preface: 仁而敗 "His humanity brought him to destruction." See Shih Chi, ch. 5, f. I vc, and M. Chavannes' note, Mémoires Historiques, tom. II, p. 8.
  24. T‘u Shu, ibid. ch. 90: 操聞上古有弧矢之利論語曰足兵尚書八政曰師易曰師貞丈人吉詩曰王赫斯怒爰征其旅黃帝湯武咸用干戚以濟世也司馬法曰人故殺人殺之可也恃武者滅恃文者亡夫差偃王是也聖人之用兵戰而時動不得已而用之。
  25. The passage I have put in brackets is omitted in the T‘u Shu, and may be an interpolation. It was known, however, to 張守節 Chang Shou-chieh of the T‘ang dynasty, and appears in the T‘ai P‘ing Yü Lan.
  26. Ts‘ao Kung seems to be thinking of the first part of chap. II, perhaps especially of § 8.
  27. 吾觀兵
  28. 漢書藝文志、兵權謀。
  29. 宋藝文志 孫武孫子 朱服校定孫子。
  30. See chap. XI.
  31. 吳王召孫子問以兵法每陳一篇王不知口之稱善。
  32. 按此皆釋九地篇義辭意甚詳故其篇帙不能不多也。
  33. 八陣圖 鄭玄 戰鬭大甲兵法 兵法雜占 隨志 三十二壘經
  34. 其所爲
  35. 魏氏
  36. CH. 99