Reading Chinese Classics: ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. I’m currently making my way through Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. It’s one of those pesky Four Chinese Classics and one of the obvious picks for this personal challenge of mine.

It’s also super long. So I’m working my way through it slowly (very, very slowly) and decided picked up something a little shorter during one of my breaks. And so, I picked up a copy of The Art of War by Sun Tzu.


The Art of War is undoubtedly a book that I never thought I was going to read. I mean, a book all about battling? That’s not exactly up my alley.

On a non-content based note, I also just want to talk about the copy that I picked up. I picked up Watkins’ The Art of War: The New Illustrated Edition translated by Samuel B. Griffith. Guys, this copy is freakin’ beautiful. The red is this beautiful fabric, the characters are a stunning shiny gold, the pages are thick and glossy… Is it obvious that I’m swooning? It even has one of those fancy bookmark things attached (…what are those called, anyway?).

This edition comes with a great introduction. It includes a brief overview of China at the time and a biography of Sun Tzu. The contents itself is heavily footnoted. It has useful clarifications, references specific characters… I just can’t imagine how it could possibly have been better done.

On to the content! This definitely isn’t like anything else I’ve ever read. Essentially, it’s a list of guidelines on how to successfully win battles. I’ll admit that it didn’t exactly thrill me, but I did genuinely find it super interesting.

I mean, it’s been around a long time. And because of that, there wasn’t exactly anything that I hadn’t heard before. But I can definitely see how something like this was once revolutionary.

Overall, I’m really glad that I looked a lil outside my comfort zone and picked this up. Although I was more than skeptical, I actually really enjoyed this.

Let me know if you’ve read this before! Did you love it? Hate it? And if you haven’t read it, do you think you’ll ever be inclined to do so?


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