Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare

A Translation of the Classic Chinese Work of Philosophy and Strategy

Translated by D. C. Lau, Roger T. Ames
Introduction by D. C. Lau, Roger T. Ames
Commentaries by D. C. Lau, and Roger T. Ames

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791454961, 262 pages, March 2003
Hardcover : 9780791454954, 262 pages, March 2003

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Table of contents



The Excavation at Yinqueshan
Sun Bin as a Historical Person
The Reconstructed Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare
Analysis of Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare


An Overview
Sunzi and Sun Bin: The Overlap


Sunzi and Sun Bin: Textual Borrowings
Sunzi and Sun Bin: Thematic Continuities


Sunzi and Sun Bin: The Differences


Sun Bin on Siege Warfare
Sun Bin and the Introduction of Cavalry
Sun Bin and Battle Formation (zhen)


Sun Bin: Current Assessments of its Value
The Art of Warfare as a Genre
Sun Bin as Philosophical Literature

Foreknowledge (zhi)
The Way (dao)
Strategic Advantage (shi)
Weighing with the Lever Scales (quan)
Battle Formation and Display (zhen / chen)
Adaptability (bian)
Yin-yang and a Correlative Vocabulary
The Exemplary Commander (jiang)
The Complete Victory (quan sheng)

Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare A Translation

Part I--Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare The Sixteen-Chapter Text Recovered from the Yingueshan Han Dynasty Strips

Chapter 1: Capturing Pang Juan
Chapter 2: [An Audience with King Wei of Qi]
Chapter 3: The Questions of King Wei of Qi
Chapter 4: Tian Ji Inquires about Battlefield Defenses
Chapter 5: On Selecting the Troops
Chapter 6: The Moon and Warfare
Chapter 7: The Eightfold Division of Formations
Chapter 8: Terrain as Treasure
Chapter 9: Preparing the Strategic Advantage (shi)
Chapter 10: [The Real Nature of Military]
Chapter 11: Carrying out the Selection of Personnel
Chapter 12: Sacrifice in Battle
Chapter 13. Raising and Keeping Morale High
Chapter 14: Coordinating Military Assignments
Chapter 15: The Five Kinds of Training Methods
Chapter 16: [Strengthening the Military]

Part II--Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare The Fifteen Supplemental Chapters Recovered from the Yinqueshan Han Dynasty Strips

Chapter 17: Ten Military Formations
Chapter 18: Ten Questions
Chapter 19: Overwhelming an Armed Infantry
Chapter 20: The Positions of Invader and Defender
Chapter 21: The Expert Commander
Chapter 22: Five Postures and Five Situations in which an Army Respects Conventions
Chapter 23: [Military Mistakes]
Chapter 24: The Rightness (yi) of the Commander
Chapter 25: [The Excellence (de) of the Commander]
Chapter 26: Fatal Weaknesses of the Commander
Chapter 27: [Fatal Mistakes of the Commander]
Chapter 28: [Male and Female Fortifications]
Chapter 29: [Five Considerations and Nine Objectives]
Chapter 30: [Concentrated and Sparse Troops]
Chapter 31: Straightforward and Surprise Operations

Part III--Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare Text Recovered from Later Commentarial, Historical, and Encyclopedic Sources

Chapter 32: Ten Advantages of Using the Cavalry
Chapter 33: Attacking the Heart-and-Mind
Chapter 34: Fragments


Background to the Excavation at Yinqueshan
Dating the Tombs and Identifying the Occupants
The First Published Reports
The Bamboo Strip Manuscripts and their Dates


Bibliography of Works Cited


About the Authors

A classic of both military strategy and Eastern philosophy from the fourth century B. C.E.


Sun Bin's Art of Warfare is an essential text of Chinese military philosophy and of strategy in general. This book, lost for over two thousand years and rediscovered only in 1972, has not yet reached the prominence of Sunzi's (Sun-tzu) The Art of Warfare, which is the best-known military treatise in the world. Sun Bin's work is an indispensable companion to the work of Sunzi, who is believed to be his ancestor, but deserves to be better known in its own right, both philosophically and historically. Here, noted sinologists D. C. Lau and Roger T. Ames offer an admirably lucid translation, and provide an introduction examining the life, times, and original philosophical contributions of Sun Bin.

Sun Bin, advisor to King Wei of the state of Qi, worked and wrote during the mid-fourth century B. C.E. during China's Warring States period. It was a time of unprecedented violence; without a central national authority, nation-states fought fiercely amongst one another. New technologies made fighting more deadly, so that between the mid-fourth and mid-third centuries B. C.E. , the number of battlefield casualties increased tenfold. Sun Bin's work is the key to understanding the physical and intellectual revolution that made such "progress" in the efficiency of warfare possible.

The Art of Warfare shows Sun Bin as both practical tactician and philosopher. He discusses war and rulership not only as philosophical concepts, but also as practical matters, evidenced by his battle-tested techniques. This is a fascinating book both for its reflection on its own time and for its reflection on power, conflict, and leadership for all times.

D. C. Lau is Professor Emeritus at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has translated such Chinese classics as Mencius and Confucius: The Analects. Roger T. Ames is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii. He is the author and editor of many books, including Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare and, from SUNY Press (with David L. Hall), Thinking from the Han: Self, Truth, and Transcendence in Chinese and Western Culture.


"For one who has really mastered the way of warfare, his enemy can do nothing to escape death. " — Sun Bin