Book Review of Translation of "Sun Tzu: the Art of War" by Samuel B.

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8 Aug 2002
The translation of the "Sun Tzu: The Art of War" ancient Chinese text has been given by many different writers. Samuel B. Griffith, Brigadier General, retired, U.S. Marine Corps; is a proven strategist that studied the English commandos war fighting skills as a Captain. As a Major, Griffith was hand picked to serve as Executive Officer under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Merritt Edson of the 1st Raider Battalion, one of the battalions that perfected the amphibious landings during World War II. Samuel B. Griffith gives his in-depth study on "Sun Tzu: The Art of War" and how Mao Tse-tung used the strategies and teachings of Sun Tzu while commanding the Red Army of China. Griffith's translation of Sun Tzu's work is written in three parts: Introduction, Translation, and Appendix. PART 1: INTRODUCTION

In his first chapter of his study titled The Author, Griffith gives many different possibilities as to who the actual author of the writings is. Griffith sites many theories from other sources trying to validate the origin of the author, but settles on one basic theory for the text. The Art of War was written by a single author probably around the time of the Warring States and during the periods from 400-320 B.C. (p. 11) Furthermore, Griffith states that there is not enough evidence to positively say if a person named Sun Tzu actually wrote the book or if it was written as a tribute to him, and the case of the authorship remains unsettled.

The second chapter, The Text, of Griffith's study focuses on the text itself. There has been debate about how many chapters were originally in "The Art of War": Eighty-Two or Thirteen. (p. 13) Griffith gives a sound theory that the current thirteen chapters were the only writings. Based on copywriting errors, the eighty-two chapters were probably written into thirteen categories (or chapters) while trying to transcribe written work onto paper from silk or wood. Griffith also asserts that the text was used for entry-level war fighting studies in early Chinese military academies.

The Warring States is the subject and title of Griffith's third chapter, which gives an enlightening look at the life and times in China after the defeat of the rule of Chin at Ching Yang in 453. (p. 20) The country was divided into eight individual warring sects (with the exception of Yen and Yeuh) that worked to build their empires by consuming one of the smaller sects. In the life of the warring states, Griffith examines the traveling modes, philosophies, businesses, legal and political structures, weaponry, and most important to this text war fighting scholars. Griffith compares these scholars to the likes of Plutarch and lists the penalties for those giving bad advice and the rewards for those that were talented. The author of "The Art of War" was one such author, and although the author is still in question his works were successful enough to survive the ages.

The fourth chapter, War in Sun Tzu's Age, gives a brief historical description of how war was conducted prior to 500 B.C., which was mostly considered civilized and with mutual respect. But during the era of Sun Tzu, war had become ferocious and Griffith shares an account of three thousand condemned men forced to commit suicide by cutting their own throat. (p. 33) The more brutal warring became; the more insight of successful combating was sought. Sun Tzu's doctrine includes the soldiers of the time with the armies composed of swordsmen, archers, spearmen, crossbowmen, and chariots who found themselves using techniques of tactical reconnaissance, to observation, flank patrolling, and security issues. (pp. 36, 38)

Sun Tzu on War, chapter five, is Griffith's description of Sun Tzu's recommendations in strategy for winning battles. The best way to win a battle is by not having to fight it at all, and when a war has to be conducted it should be "applied so that victory was gained in the...
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