The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu, a high ranking military general and strategist. It is said to be the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time, and is still read for its military insight. The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy in the world.
This edition of The Art of War was translated by Lionel Giles in 1910. This eBook does not include Giles' commentary. It is simply the text written by Tzu.
The Art of War is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare.
I Laying Plans
II Waging War
III Attack by Stratagem
IV Tactical Dispositions
VI Weak Points and Strong
VIII Variation of Tactics
IX The Army on the March
XI The Nine Situations
XII The Attack by Fire
XIII The Use of Spies
Summary of Chapters
Laying Plans explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. By thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state, and must not be commenced without due consideration.
Waging War explains how to understand the economy of warfare, and how success requires winning decisive engagements quickly. This section advises that successful military campaigns require limiting the cost of competition and conflict.
Attack by Stratagem defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and discusses the five factors that are needed to succeed in any war. In order of importance, these critical factors are: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army, and Cities.
Tactical Dispositions explains the importance of defending existing positions until a commander is capable of advancing from those positions in safety. It teaches commanders the importance of recognizing strategic opportunities, and teaches not to create opportunities for the enemy.
Energy explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army's momentum.
Weak Points & Strong explains how an army's opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy in a given area.
Maneuvering explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.
Variation in Tactics focuses on the need for flexibility in an army's responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
The Army on the March describes the different situations in which an army finds itself as it moves through new enemy territories, and how to respond to these situations. Much of this section focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.
Terrain looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers, and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offer certain advantages and disadvantages.
The Nine Situations describes the nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus that a commander will need in order to successfully navigate them.
The Attack by Fire explains the general use of weapons and the specific use of the environment as a weapon. This section examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack, and the appropriate responses to such attacks.
The Use of Spies focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them.