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Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare (Classics of Ancient China)


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Publisher:Ballantine Books, 1996



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About the book:

Lost for some 2,000 years and only rediscovered by chance in 1972, Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare is now recognized as one of the essential texts of classical Chinese military philosophy. In this new edition, D. C. Lau and Roger T. Ames, eminent scholars of Chinese philosophy and widely respected translators, offer a comprehensive translation of the Sun Pin texts, along with extensive notes and commentary. The publication of this volume returns the work of one of the great military innovators to the canon of Chinese literature.
Sun Pin, believed to be a direct descendant of the distinguished military theorist Sun-tzu, flourished during the mid-fourth century B.C. during China's Warring States era, a period of unprecedented violence. As independent nation states attempted to annihilate each other through incessant and escalating battles, military tactics increased exponentially in sophistication and brutality. In the China of the mid-fourth century B.C., it was not uncommon for as many as 80,000 soldiers to perish in a single defeat. As Lau and Ames write in their introduction, warfare was increasingly a way of life, and a way of death. This was the world that Sun Pin both reflected and deeply influenced through his writings.
Sun Pin, himself a victim of a court intrigue that resulted in the amputation of his legs below the knee, rose above disgrace to become the key adviser of King Wei, the ruler of the state of Ch'i. In his writings, Sun Pin draws on battles he had waged as well as examples from earlier history to explore the nature, the purpose, and the effective conduct of war. Sun Pin, essentially a philosopher of the battlefield, ponders such key concepts as the exemplary ruler, the importance of strategy and morale, and the advantages to be gained from adaptability, display, and discretion. Yet these texts are also clearly intended to be practical and to be used to maximum effect on the battlefield. As Sun Pin writes, for one who has really mastered the way of warfare, his enemy can do nothing to escape death.
This new edition of Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare includes not only the sixteen chapters and fragments of the main text recovered at Yin-ch'üeh-shan in 1972, but also fifteen supplementary chapters and three extracts from the encyclopedic tradition. The translation by professors D.C. Lau and Roger T. Ames is admirably clear and fluid, and their comprehensive introduction examining the life and times and the original philosophical contribution of the Sun Pin literature is a brilliant work in its own right.
Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare is a timeless text that fuses history, philosophy, military technique, and reflections on the nature of human conflict. At once evocative of an ancient culture and deeply relevant to contemporary concepts of power and leadership, this volume belongs in the libraries of all serious readers.

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