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THE ILLUSTRATED ART OF WAR: SUN TZU

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THE ILLUSTRATED ART OF WAR: SUN TZU

An illustrated version of the classic Chinese Study. 12,000 words, 104 historical images

  • By Andrew Forbes and David Henley

Sun Tzu – more correctly but less commonly rendered as Sūnzǐ in pinyin transcription – was a celebrated Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher of the late Spring and Autumn Period (722-581 BCE) who is traditionally believed to have lived between 544-496 BCE. A native of either Qi or Wu, Both the Spring and Autumn Annals and the Records of the Grand Historian agree that he was active as a general and military strategist in the service of King Helu of Wu from around 512 BCE.

Sun Tzu recognises war as a necessary evil that should be avoided wherever possible and only resorted to as a means of last resort. Moreover, war should be fought swiftly, with minimum loss of life or economic loss, for ‘no long war ever profited any country'. Similarly, massacres and atrocities against civilians should be avoided, as they will only provoke resistance.

Sun Tzu's Art of War has been read and appreciated by a host of military men and philosophers down through the ages. It has been most influential in China and East Asia, no doubt, and was familiar to generals and statesman throughout the Sinosphere – that is, in the related states of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and Vietnam – for many centuries.

More recently, it has become popular as a manual for business success and guide to boardroom battles, seen by many as a lodestar in achieving success in the ruthless world of competitive capitalism – a text so currently fashionable that even Paris Hilton has been photographed reading it.   

Yet what makes the present study so valuable is not just the text, but the genuinely unique collection of 104 singular and eclectic collection of images linking, for example, China's first unifying Emperor Qin Shi Huang with Mao Zedong, Genghis Khan with the Amir Timur, Hulagu Khan with the Manchu conqueror Nurhaci, the first Qing Emperor Taizu – and, indeed, Sun Tzu with General Douglas MacArthur.

© 2012-2013 CPA Media &  Cognoscenti Books. All Rights Reserved.

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