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Ancient China

Sun Tzu and the Art of War

History for Kids >> Biography >> Ancient China

Biography:

Early Life

Little is known of Sun Tzu's early life. He was originally born Sun Wu, the son of an aristocrat during the Spring and Autumn period of Ancient China. He had a strong interest in battle and became a mercenary soldier. Over time Sun Tzu gained a reputation as a good leader of soldiers.

The King's Test

The King of Wu noticed that Sun Tzu was a good leader. He brought Sun Tzu to his palace to test him. He ordered Sun Tzu to train 180 of his concubines (wives) as soldiers. Sun Tzu divided the women up into two groups and assigned two of the women as their leaders. He then gave them a command. The women just giggled. Sun Tzu had the two leaders executed. He then assigned two more women as leaders. The next time he gave the command, the women obeyed flawlessly.

Military Leader

As his knowledge about war grew, Sun Tzu had begun to form his own theories and strategies regarding war. He tested many of them out as general for the King of Wu. When the state of Wu went to war against the powerful Chu state, Sun Tzu led them to many victories including the capture of the Chu capital city of Ying.

The Art of War

Sun Tzu wrote down his theories about war in a book called the Art of War. This became one of the most famous books on war strategy in the world. There are thirteen chapters in the book. Each one describing strategies for a different aspect of war.
  1. Laying Plans
  2. Waging War
  3. The Plan of Attack
  4. Positioning
  5. Directing
  6. Weak Points and Strong
  7. Maneuvering
  8. The Nine Variations
  9. The Army on the March
  10. Terrain
  11. The Nine Terrains
  12. Attack by Fire
  13. The Use of Spies
Sun Tzu did not advocate war. He recommended avoiding war if possible, but also thought that it was best to win any war quickly. He believed that long wars were harmful even for the winner.

Famous Sayings from the Art of War Legacy

The Art of War has been studied throughout history by military leaders of many nations including China, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, and the United States. Mao Zedong studied the book and used its strategies in defeating the Kuomintang during the Chinese Civil War.

The Art of War is still studied today and is considered an important text in many military schools. It is required reading for CIA officers and is on the recommended reading list for U.S. Military Intelligence personnel. The book has even been used to teach strategy outside of war for fields such as business, management, sports, and politics.

Interesting Facts about Sun Tzu Activities

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  • For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:

    Overview
    Timeline of Ancient China
    Geography of Ancient China
    Silk Road
    The Great Wall
    Forbidden City
    Terracotta Army
    The Grand Canal
    Battle of Red Cliffs
    Opium Wars
    Inventions of Ancient China
    Glossary and Terms

    Dynasties
    Major Dynasties
    Xia Dynasty
    Shang Dynasty
    Zhou Dynasty
    Han Dynasty
    Period of Disunion
    Sui Dynasty
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    Song Dyanasty
    Yuan Dynasty
    Ming Dynasty
    Qing Dynasty

    Culture
    Daily Life in Ancient China
    Religion
    Mythology
    Numbers and Colors
    Legend of Silk
    Chinese Calendar
    Festivals
    Civil Service
    Chinese Art
    Clothing
    Entertainment and Games
    Literature

    People
    Confucius
    Kangxi Emperor
    Genghis Khan
    Kublai Khan
    Marco Polo
    Puyi (The Last Emperor)
    Emperor Qin
    Emperor Taizong
    Sun Tzu
    Empress Wu
    Zheng He
    Emperors of China

    Works Cited

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