SUN ZI'S ART OF WAR:
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Article
THE THOUGHTS OF SUN ZI

Dr. Chong Kuang-Yin. 29th January 1999

Sun Zi Art of War,
the world oldest military strategy manual


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The Thoughts of Sun Zi

The thoughts of Sun Zi in the field of military operations is that swiftness of military operations must like the wind, slowness must like the growth of the forest, invasion must like the fire and disguise must like the mountain. Sun Zi started his thought with admonition that warfare is the greatest affair of the nation, a serious matter of life or death, the path to survival or decease. He put his thought into thirteen chapters as listed below.

  • Chapter 1 shi ji pian = master plan
  • Chapter 2 zuo zhan pian = conduct operations
  • Chapter 3 mou gong pian = offensive stratagem
  • Chapter 4 jun xing pian = military positioning
  • Chapter 5 bing shi pian = military power
  • Chapter 6 xu shi pian = feints and ambushes
  • Chapter 7 jun zheng pian = military maneuvering
  • Chapter 8 jiu bian pian = nine variables
  • Chapter 9 xing jun pian = troops advancing considerations
  • Chapter 10 di xing pian = battlefield topography
  • Chapter 11 jiu di pian = nine classes of battlefield
  • Chapter 12 huo gong pian = fire tactics
  • Chapter 13 yong jian pian = information

In 1972, archeologists found the zhu jian (bamboo slips used for writing on) of Sun Zi Bing Fa (=Sun Zi's Art of War) in the Han tomb at the Yin Que mountain, Lin Yi district, Shan Dong province, China.This proves the existence of Sun Zi in the history of China.

Sun Zi's strategic philosophy composes of:

  • 1. Master plan: never go to the battlefield without proper planning;
  • 2. Implementation: must have strategic management thought in mind;
  • 3. Time consideration: the duration for warfare should be short, as time might deplete all the resources;
  • 4. Space consideration: the need for information on the ecology of the battlefield and logistics;
  • 5. Best policy for victory: the best achievement in warfare is to overcome enemy's attempt and plan, secondly is to isolate enemy from his alliance, thirdly is to defeat the enemy's military forces, lastly is to attack the enemy's fortress;
  • 6. Strategy and tactics: the versatile means in warfare. Chapter 1 to Chapter 6 emphasizes the warfare strategy and Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 stresses the military operational tactics.

The System Thinking of Sun Zi

Sun Zi illustrates the system thinking of the strategy philosophy of the ancient Chinese. The book integrated the strategic thought and the operational tactics in warfare. He emphasizes the importance of synthesizing the national power of politics, economy, military, diplomacy, morale and dynamism of the fighters. The system thinking of Sun Zi composes of:

  • 1. warfare is a national affair;
  • 3. warfare must have a sequence of examination on home organization;
  • 4. warfare must comprehend enemy's organization;
  • 5. warfare must have political stability and economic power at home;
  • 6. warfare must have detail knowledge on the environment and ecology of the battlefield;
  • 7. warfare must break the enemy's bonding with his alliance;
  • 8. warfare must have up-to-date information and communication;
  • 9. warfare must have a policy of conquering enemy without a battle;
  • 10. warfare must keep enemy on passive position.

The founder of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Zhong Shan said,"The military book written by Sun Zi is the fundamental military thought in the revolutionary philosophy in the book of The Three Principles of the People". The book of Three Principles is the revolutionary treatise written by Dr. Sun. The founder of the People's Republic of China, Mao Ze Dong said that the strategy and tactics applied to fight against Japanese invaders were based on the four principles of:

  • 1. retreating, when the enemy advances;
  • 2. harassing, when the enemy halts;
  • 3. attacking, when the enemy seeks to avoid battle;
  • 4. pursuing, when the enemy retreats.

This military jingle sounds similar to the thought of Sun Zi.

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