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Sun Tzu

A statue of Sun Tzu
Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan

Born

544 BCQi or Wu, Zhou Kingdom

Died

496 BC

Occupation

Military general, tactician, writer, philosopher

Period

Spring and Autumn

Subject

Military strategy

Notable works

The Art of War

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has affected Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking. His works focus much more on alternatives to battle, such as stratagem, delay, the use of spies and alternatives to war itself, the making and keeping of alliances, the uses of deceit and a willingness to submit, at least temporarily, to more powerful foes. Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and East Asian culture as a legendary historical and military figure. His birth name was Sun Wu and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing. The name Sun Tzu by which he is best known in the Western World is an honorific which means "Master Sun".

Sun Tzu's historicity is uncertain. The Han dynasty historian Sima Qian and other traditional Chinese historians placed him as a minister to King Helü of Wu and dated his lifetime to 544–496 BC. Modern scholars accepting his historicity place the extant text of The Art of War in the later Warring States period based on its style of composition and its descriptions of warfare. Traditional accounts state that the general's descendant Sun Bin wrote a treatise on military tactics, also titled The Art of War. Since Sun Wu and Sun Bin were referred to as Sun Tzu in classical Chinese texts, some historians believed them identical, prior to the rediscovery of Sun Bin's treatise in 1972.

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Discover Sun Tzu Quotes and Sayings

Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley. - Sun Tzu

Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

Sun Tzu

leadership chinese war honor respect
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Sun Tzu

war art
In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact to shatter and destroy it is not so good. - Sun Tzu

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact to shatter and destroy it is not so good.

Sun Tzu

war good best art
Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. - Sun Tzu

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.

Sun Tzu

death
Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared. - Sun Tzu

Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.

Sun Tzu

death
If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. - Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.

Sun Tzu

fear
The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. - Sun Tzu

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

Sun Tzu

good
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom. - Sun Tzu

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.

Sun Tzu

good
The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. - Sun Tzu

The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution.

Sun Tzu

good
It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. - Sun Tzu

It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.

Sun Tzu

intelligence great
Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? - Sun Tzu

Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?

Sun Tzu

imagination
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious. - Sun Tzu

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.

Sun Tzu

leadership
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. - Sun Tzu

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

Sun Tzu

men
Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge. - Sun Tzu

Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge.

Sun Tzu

men
The skilful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man. - Sun Tzu

The skilful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man.

Sun Tzu

men
If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. - Sun Tzu

If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.

Sun Tzu

men