360 of 374 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2006
The Art of War seems to be a classic piece of Chinese philosophy that is easy to translate into a mediocre work. I've read a number of translations of Sun Tzu that are clunky and have none of the wit of the original text. Now, I don't read ancient Chinese, but when a Chinese philisophical text reads like a manual for a microwave, you know something is lost in translation.
On the other hand, this translation, done by Thomas Cleary, showed me the subtlety in the Art of War. In addition to the work itself (which would make a very thin book) there is a long, interesting introduction written by the translator which I found very helpful in thinking about the Art of War, as well as helping to put the work in both a historical context, and the context amongst many of the other ancient Chinese philisophical works. How Sun Tzu's work relates to Taoism is very interesting. Also, there are selected commentation on each of the paragraphs of the Art of War. These commentaries were written over different periods of time by different Chinese philosophers. These help to show how many different points of view can exist over a single statement made by Sun Tzu.
I find this translation very well done, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to read The Art of War.
220 of 229 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2002
War is ugly, dirty, brutal, wasteful and expensive. That is the reality of it. Let's not pretend otherwise.
Having said that, the ancient Chinese master strips away all the familiar trappings of war - the warriors, weapons, forts and tactics - to reveal the essence of conflict and how to win.
His lessons are as valid here and now as they were in an empire a long time ago and far, far away. It simply does not matter how you are fighting, what you are fighting over nor even why you are fighting. If you are forced into conflict with another, the lessons in this book will guarantee victory.
Brute strength, overwhelming force, super weapons, holding the high ground, none of these are required for victory. All that is needed is a leader who can understand and apply the principles of warfare.
Essentially it boils down to three ideas.
1. Know yourself.
2. Know your enemy.
3. Only fight when you can win.
Do this, and you will win competitions, elections, games. Anything that involves conflict. Even wars.
Sun Tzu's elegant language lays bare the principles of warfare, illustrating his lessons with examples from Ancient China. It is a thought-provoking, colourful and valuable book.
256 of 272 people found the following review helpful
I got this particular edition of Sun Tzu's Art of War at a strategy course for sales. I already had a copy of it at home, but this edition is so nicely done that I gave my old copy away and kept this one. The introduction of James Clavell is a nice touch.
It is amazing to me that this book is not read in high schools or colleges in favor of Machiavelli's work (The Prince or The Art of War.) Sun Tzu's writing is clear and to the point. Unlike the popular Book of Five Rings by Musashi, this book is not metaphorical and poetic; it's downright practical. And it's not hard to read, unlike many classics.
If you are doing business in China, this is also a good book to know. I mentioned some of the classic strategies while giving a course in China, and every member of the class had read it, knew it well, and gave me many examples from recent Chinese history where Sun Tzu's strategies were employed. This book is close to their hearts, and will give you insight if you are doing business in the East.
Of course, the most famous anecdote from this book is about gaining the obedience of troops; the emperor, wishing to interview Sun Tzu for the commission of general, asked if Sun Tzu's military principles could be applied to women. Sun Tzu replied yes, the principles worked for women as well as men. Accordingly, Sun Tzu was given the task of organizing the emperor's many concubines into an army. Sun Tzu lined up the concubines and set the two favorites as officers at the head of the columns.
He gave them a simple set of orders to march and drill (eyes front, right face, about face. The drums sounded and instead of following the commands, the girls simply giggled and blushed.
He repeated the orders again, saying that if the orders were not clear, it is first the fault of the general. He repeated the commands, and the girls simply stood and giggled again.
"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." Upon saying this, he ordered the two concubines at the head of the troop, favorites of the emperor, to be beheaded.
The emperor hurriedly sent down the command to stop, he had no desire to see his favorites executed. The emperor said "We are satisfied that the general knows how to command."
But Sun Tzu said, "Once having received the commission, there are certain commands I am unable to accept." And he ordered the two favorites to be beheaded. Once again, he gave the commands. The concubines marched, whirled about and drilled in perfect order. The emperor appointed Sun Tzu general.
149 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2012
Formatting is impossible to read, with too many comments unformatted so that you don't know if you are reading Sunzu or the translator's comments, and he's got far more comments than Sunzu has to say about this!
Just download a free web version and copy this whole webpage onto notepad, save it and then put it in Kindle. Looks great and is easy to read. That's what I'm doing.
240 of 265 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2008
The translation is clumsy and needs improvement. Copy editing is sloppy. Numerous typos, misspellings, punctuation, and format errors. Serves as a cheap option, but would not recommend it for anyone seeking a quality copy to add to their collection or library.
98 of 106 people found the following review helpful
This ancient classic of 13 chapters was written over 2,500 years ago by the legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu. It is a must have for military buffs that enjoy reading about the tactics of the most succesful generals. It is rumored that Napoleon used a French translation of the Art of War to his advantage while conquering most of Europe, and he lost when he broke its principles.
The principles that are with in this ancient text can also be used in games of strategy, business conflicts, and the day to day battles of life.
Here are ten principles to give you a sample of the wisdom found in its pages:
Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance with out fighting.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
Spies are the most important element in war, because upon them depends an army's ability to move.
All warfare is based on deception.
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations before the battle is fought.
There is no instance of a country having benefited from a prolonged war.
The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals.
In war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. (So they can retreat).
Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained, fight not unless the position is critical.
Taken as a whole this is a book of wisdom and principles on how to win. I rank it in my top ten books I have ever read. It is a must have for any home library. The is a very small book that is quick and easy to read.
225 of 251 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2008
This edition was published by Filiquarian Publishers and from a publishing perspective, this book appears to have been designed in a basic Word processing program. Shoddy, shoddy, work. Lacks creative design, weak choice of fonts, inconsistent spacing, erroneous punctuation symbols, etc. Additionally, one of the chapters was out of order. I'm speculating that the publisher didn't know how to read roman numerals and therefore placed the chapter incorrectly, and if they did, and there was a purpose for this, it should have been addressed in the non-existent introduction. The content of the book is fine, just buy an edition by a an established publisher rather than someone working from their basement.
80 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2012
I should not complain RE the Kindle Version becaue it was free. That said - it is awful and I will add my comments to the other 18 reviewers who feel the same.
The formatting is non-existent. The paragraphs are not indented nor is there spacing between them. The result is a giant word salad all jumbled together devoid of context.
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2012
There are hardly any divisions, indents, and parts where the reading is clearly divided. I ended having to ramble through pages and pages to find out which part to start.
The ridiculous translations and interpretations of the transcribers and translators destroyed the actual quality of the book.
This book looked as though it was one large block text without any breaths and pauses. It was formatted so horribly that I went out and just bought a hardcopy which seemed infinitely more concise and clear.
****AVOID AT ALL COSTS****
I was wondering why it was free and I understand now.
1/5 * Stars
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2005
Sun Tzu's great classic work has been read, re-read and appreciated in China and the East for about 2,500 years. Even today, major Japanese corporations are said to require their executives to be intimately familiar with "The Art of War" for its value as a source of strategy. Napoleon was said to have been influenced by this book - as was Karl von Clausewitz and most modern day military planners around the world.
For an ancient work to have had and still have such a following is ample evidence of its importance. Its current day applications range from military strategy to business philosophy to sales training to computer games. More important than the information contained in "The Art of War" is the logical mindset, the rational point of view that Sun Tzu presents, that contributes to the timelessness of the great book.
Of the numerous editions of "The Art of War" that are available, this Special Edition that contains the Chinese characters, an uncommented English translation, and the full Giles translation with an introduction and annotation is undoubtedly the pick of the litter. It has been said of the Giles translation that it is "somewhat dated". The same could be said of Sun Tzu's great classic itself. Yet it stands, unequaled.