Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read The Art of War
Derek M. C. Yuen
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
As the People's Republic's seemingly inexorable rise to economic and military power continues, never has the need for a better grasp of Chinese strategic thought by the West been more acute. In Deciphering Sun Tzu, Derek Yuen seeks to reclaim for the reader the hidden contours and lost Chinese and Taoist contexts of Sun Tzu's renowned treatise The Art of War, a literary classic and arguably one of the most influential books ever written. He also explains its historical, philosophical, strategic, and cross-cultural significance.
His comprehensive analysis of Sun Tzu, based on a close reading of the Chinese sources, also reconstructs the philosophy, Taoist methodology and worldview that effectively form the cornerstones of Chinese strategic thinking, which are arguably as relevant today as at any moment in history.
Yuen's innovative reading and analysis of Sun Tzu within and from a Chinese context is a new way of approaching the strategic master's main concepts, which he compares with those of Clausewitz, Liddell-Hart and other Western strategists.
Deciphering Sun Tzu offers illuminating analysis and contextualization of The Art of War in a manner that has long been sought by Western readers and opens new means of getting to grips with Chinese strategic thought.
orientation, while the logic of yin and yang is a Chinese specialty. Conversely, in the area of operations and tactics, as well as in technology and its applications, the West clearly has an edge over the Chinese. Overall, Chinese strategic thought tends to be more theoretical, while its Western counterpart is more practical in nature. Even though the Four Schools were originally proposed by the Chinese, it is clear that a well-balanced, comprehensive system can be fully realized only with inputs
yourself.”33 111 DECIPHERING SUN TZU â•… T’ai-tsung, the emperor of T’ang, further elaborates on this idea: When I was about to engage in battle, I first evaluated the enemy’s mind by comparing it with my mind to determine who was more thoroughly prepared. Only after that could I know his situation. To evaluate the enemy’s ch’i I compared it with our own to determine who was more controlled. Only then could I know myself. For this reason, “know them and know yourself” is the great essence
analogy: [T]he army’s disposition of force [hsing] is like water … Water configures [hsing] its flow in accord with the terrain; the army controls its victory in accord with the enemy. Thus the army does not maintain any constant strategic configuration of power [shih], water has no constant shape [hsing]. (Chapter 6)51 â•… As Sun Tzu’s concept of formlessness points at “form” at the systemic level, rather than a physical “form,” it is futile to counter a “formless” army with better intelligence
are well versed in the principles of Western strategic thought are likely to find the Chinese strategic tradition utterly baffling. Chinese Strategic Thought: Assumptions In the West, definitions of strategy tend to focus on the use of force and concepts such as the rational model of behavior with its emphasis on 13 DECIPHERING SUN TZU ways, means, and ends. Yet Chinese strategic thought places no particular emphasis on these conceptual traditions and can remain operational without them.
Western strategic thought and its further synthesis with its Chinese counterpart, in fact, rest in a number of aspects that are hard to discern by Western people. This is because these aspects are, on one hand, missing not only in Western strategic thought, but in the Western cultural and philosophical frameworks as well, and, on the other hand, they are inherent to Chinese strategic thought and philosophy, so they are seldom being adequately elucidated in the Chinese works—this poses a real