About the Book
Here we include all the things we imagine a prospective reader of
of War might peruse if they were holding the book in their hands for the first time in their favorite bookstore – the dust jacket
copy, the table of contents, a little bit of the introduction, and something about the authors. You can also read the back cover blurbs by going to the
Reviews and Comments page.
From the Dust Jacket:
At the core of the ancient strategy manual known as The Art of War
is the understanding that conflict is an inseparable part of human life; that
the cycle of aggression and reaction can lead only to destruction; and that we must
therefore learn to work with conflict in a more profound and effective way.
Crucial to this new strategic vision is knowledge—especially
self-knowledge—and a view of the whole that seeks to minimize loss for all
concerned and thus render all sides victorious.
This new and unusually faithful translation carefully avoids paraphrase
and hews closely to the enigmatic quality of the original—precisely the
quality that allows us to find untold riches in its terse, almost coded lines
millennia after this oral tradition was first set down. Line-by-line commentary
and three extensive essays reveal the broader implications of Sun Tzu’s
teachings and how they can be applied to everyday circumstances. The classic’s
teachings and basic vocabulary take on new meaning: War is any situation
that demands hard choices about creation and destruction, life or death. The state
is the system in which we live—our household, our culture or society, or our
own mind. Defense ensures the integrity of our boundaries and allows life
to flourish within them. Force is the energy of concentrated action. And victory
lies in bringing others around to embracing a larger view—one that includes
their own—without ever going to battle.
|| Applying The Art of War xi
|| Sun Tzu’s The Art of War I
||Taking Whole 65
||The Sage Commander 82
||Joining the Tradition 107
|| Commentary 125
||About the Translation 225
The Denma Translation Group 231
From the Introduction: Applying The Art of War
About 2,300 years ago in what is now north China, a lineage of military
leaders put their collective wisdom into written form for the first time. Their
text was to shape the strategic thinking of all East Asia. It offered a
radically new perspective on conflict, whereby one might attain victory without
going to battle. Though in the West their text is called The Art of War,
in China it is still known as the Sun Tzu, named for the patriarch of
Over the last half-century, this text has become a handbook for people
all around the world seeking to transform their approach to conflict, whether in
warfare, in business or simply in everyday life. When a squadron leader targets
his objective or a boardroom falls under siege, when our neighbors join a zoning
battle to protect local parkland, we may find modern-day warriors turning to the
Sun Tzu. Clearly they have a conviction that its ancient wisdom has
considerable value today. But how might we apply this Chinese text to our lives
in a genuine manner? How can it teach us to work more effectively with conflict?
These are the central questions of this book.
The answers lie within the Sun Tzu itself. The text shows how to
conquer without aggression, whether our conflict is large or small, personal or
national. One of its most famous couplets states:
One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not
the most skillful.
Subduing the other’s military without battle is the
The wisdom of this book is a profound human knowledge, something to which
every one of us has access. It does not belong to any proprietary group, Chinese
or Western. It shows a way of working with conflict that is sane, kindly and
effective. Though the Sun Tzu offers models of behavior, it does not
suggest we copy them. Instead, it invites us to enter its teachings fully. When
we do so, we find we come naturally to the same insights that are contained
within its text.
The Sun Tzu begins with the understanding that conflict is an
integral part of human life. It is within us and all around us. Sometimes we can
skillfully sidestep it, but at other times we must join with it directly. Many
of us have seen the destructive power of aggression, whether on a personal level
or in the disasters of armed conflict. We know as well the limitations of most
political and personal responses to that aggression. How can we work with it in
a more profound and effective way?
The Sun Tzu recommends that our response to conflict start from
knowledge, of ourselves and of the other. In chapter 3 it says:
And so in the military—
Knowing the other and knowing oneself,
In one hundred battles no danger.
Not knowing the other and knowing oneself,
One victory for one loss.
Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself,
In every battle certain defeat.
Self-knowledge in the Sun Tzu includes awareness of the full
condition of our forces, but it begins with something far more intimate:
knowledge of our own minds. People come to this knowledge in many ways. The
contemplative practices offer one means of insight. More basic than any
particular practice, though, is the openness of mind to which it leads. This
openness can be present in all our activities. We find ourselves there when we
experience a sudden moment of beauty. It is the unformed, creative source of the
performing and plastic arts. Athletes know it as “the zone,” and lovers do
not even name it. It is where they are most at home and their actions most
Why, though, would anyone wary of aggression’s destructive force study
a text about conflict? As the Sun Tzu says, it is essential to know
ourselves, to know our own minds. But we also live in a world where aggression
cannot be avoided. We must know the other in order to skillfully engage him or
her. It was necessary, therefore, to learn to work directly with the conflict in
our environment, not ignore it, submerge it, give up on it or try to deny its
existence. However profound our individual wisdom, it will not survive in the
world unless it is joined with some kind of power. Recognizing this seems
especially important at the present time, when the consequences of human action
can be so thoroughly devastating. This text, then, shows how we could work with
conflict both within and outside ourselves.
The Denma Translation Group is led by Kidder Smith and James
Gimian, and includes Hudson Shotwell, Grant MacLean, Barry Boyce and Suzann
Duquette. We worked together on the translation over a ten-year period. Kidder Smith
and James Gimian served as general editors of the book and wrote the essays
and commentary. Hudson Shotwell, Grant MacLean and Barry Boyce contributed
to this writing in many ways. Grant MacLean composed the military history
section of the essay "Joining the Tradition."
Kidder Smith teaches Chinese history at Bowdoin College, where he
also directs the Asian Studies Program. He is senior author of Sung
Dynasty Uses of the I Ching (Princeton: 1990) and has written on the
military texts of ancient China.
James Gimian is the publisher of the
Shambhala Sun magazine and is a publishing and bookselling consultant.
Hudson Shotwell owns and operates Trident Booksellers and Cafe in
Halifax, and has had an interest in military matters since his
service with the United States Army in the late 1960s.
Grant MacLean works as a
psychologist while pursuing his writing interests in military
history and strategy. He is the author of Walk Historic Halifax
(Nimbus Publishing), an historic tour guide highlighting the
city's role as an imperial bastion.
Barry Boyce is a
professional writer and editor. He is President of Victory
Communication and a columnist for the Halifax Daily News.
Suzann Duquette is
currently Co-Director of Karme Choling Buddhist Meditation Center in
Barnet, VT. She has worked as an editor and writer for much of the
past twenty years.