Compiled during the Warring States period of 475-221 B.C.E., The Art of War has had an enormous impact on the development of Chinese military strategy over the past two thousand years and occupies an important place in East Asian intellectual history. It is the first known attempt to formulate a rational basis for the planning and conduct of military operations, and while numerous editions of the work exist, Victor Mair's translation is the first to remain true to the original structure and essential style of the text.
Mair's fidelity to the original, along with his insightful commentary and reliance on archaeologically recovered manuscripts, breaks new ground in solving The Art of War's difficult textual and contextual problems. He confronts complex questions concerning the authorship of the work, asserting that Sun Wu, a supposed strategist of the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.E.) to whom the text is traditionally attributed, never existed. Instead, Mair claims that The Art of War coalesced over a period of around seventy-five years, from the middle of the fourth century to the first quarter of the third century B.C.E.
Mair also reveals the way The Art of War reflects historical developments in technological and military strategy in civilizations throughout Eurasia, especially in regards to iron metallurgy. He demonstrates the close link between the philosophy in The Art of War and Taoism and discusses the reception of the text from the classical period to today. Finally, Mair highlights previously unaddressed stylistic and statistical aspects and includes philological annotations that present new ways of approaching the intellectual and social background of the work. A phenomenal achievement, Mair's comprehensive translation is an indispensable resource for today's students, strategists, and scholars.
About the Author
Sun Tzu is thought to have been a military general and adviser to the king of the southern Chinese state of Wu during the sixth century BCE. Although some modern scholars have called his authorship into doubt, the world's most influential and enduring treatise on military strategy, The Art of War, bears his name.
Victor Mair is a graduate of Dartmouth College, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and Harvard University. He is professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania and is the founder and editor of Sino-Platonic Papers, an academic journal that examines diverse aspects of Chinese language, script, and culture, paying particular attention to historical relationships with other societies in Eurasia. For the past two decades, he has led a major international investigation of the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age peoples of Eastern Central Asia, a project that has resulted in numerous publications and several films. His Columbia books include The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature and The Columbia History of Chinese Literature.