The strategy book for power people that everyone must read. Want to know why?

Sun Tzu – translation by Thomas Cleary - Shambhala Publications, Inc.- 1988 - 484 pages

The Art of War - Complete Texts and Commentaries

2021 June 22 | by Arduino Mancini Conflict and Games Theory - Effective thinking - Leadership

Sun Tzu’s Art of War, compiled more than two thousand years ago, is a study of the behaviour of organizations in conflict:

it is perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War, or Sun-Tzu pìng-fa, was written in the Warring States Period (453-221B.C.) by a mysterious Chinese philosopher-warrior; the book has been studied and used for over two thousand years by warriors, military leaders and politicians, including Mao Zedong and Henry Kissinger.

Yet this aspect of this strategic manual is only one face, the most visible, and perhaps not the most profound, of this classic.

Conceived in a period troubled by never-ending civil wars, a period to which other Chinese classics such as the Tao Te Chìng (fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism), I-Ching (how to live following the alternating cycles of nature), and Zhuangzi (collection of anecdotes and fables) also date, The Art of War is deeply permeated with the humanist principles of Taoism, the philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (lit. ‘Way’, the source of everything that exists).

Just as the I-Ching has preserved certain philosophical ideas through the most varied socio-political changes due to its popularity as a book of oracles, so Sun Tzu’s manual has preserved from destruction the essence of practical Taoist philosophy thanks to its precise antithesis: the study of war.

In general, the Sun-Tzu ping-fa is thus a manual of strategy deeply permeated with the Taoist vision that raises many questions, such as:

  • What is the goal of this strategy?
  • Is it only for war and competitions of all kinds?
  • Or is it perhaps about the eternal clash-combat of the two energies that permeate everything, the Yin and Yang?
  • And does the conflict, the competition of forces refer only to a social, external dynamic, or also to an inner one, in which the forces involved can be the most varied, depending on the conflicts that trouble our minds?
  • Or perhaps the supreme victory to which this strategic pedagogy intends to guide us is the victory over the illusions of the ego?

The strength of the greatest classical Taoist texts is that all of these questions are relevant, all of them uncover an aspect of The Art of War, and countless others can arise.

Like the I-Ching, this text can and should be used as a projective test, and its instructions understood as a dialectical logic of profound wisdom, applicable to any aspect of internal and external reality that presents itself under the dynamic form of conflict.

The most valuable lesson that comes to anyone involved in conflict management is that

the best warrior is the one who wins without fighting.

Military strategies and tactics are oriented to the deep sense of the conservation of resources and their proper use, of the clash conceived as the ultimate solution, when every alternative is impracticable.

A book that preserves the youth of timeless wisdom: the chapter on spying makes it clear that probably very little has been invented since then.

A curious characteristic of this book is that it is one of the most read and least publicized, and often found on the night table of managers, politicians, entrepreneurs; however, I rarely come across people who recommended it as naturally as they would have done a good novel…

Better others don’t know?

Wish to maintain a supposed advantage in managing a business or simply relationships?

Perhaps both reasons!

Who can benefit from reading this book?

Just executives, politicians and entrepreneurs? Not at all!

Here is a set of people who can benefit greatly from Sun-Zu’s masterpiece:

  • first of all women, especially the ones who tend to reject confrontation as an inappropriate practice for them. By reading these pages, they will become aware that conflict situations can be managed with an approach that encourages the achievement of goals while preserving the integrity of resources and people;
  • people who manage roles that involve complex personal and functional interaction, and may be involved in change processes more than others;
  • in general, people that can benefit from the knowledge of conflict strategies, especially when dealing with people who use the same strategies daily.

In any case, this is a must-read book, one of the “timeless” ones.


Browsing in bookstores you’ll find many editions of this book; don’t buy just one, because the preface by Thomas Cleary (the editor and translator of this one) will guide you through the reading better ten others.




A classic collection of commentaries by eleven interpreters.

  • Translator’s Preface
  • Translator’s Introduction
  1. Strategic Assessments
  2. Doing Battle
  3. Planning a Siege
  4. Formation
  5. Force
  6. Emptiness and Fullness
  7. Armed Struggle
  8. Adaptations
  9. Manoeuvring Armies
  10. Terrain
  11. Nine Grounds
  12. Fire Attack
  13. On the Use of Spies


Essays by two prominent statesmen-generals of the Han dynasty, Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji. The book develops the strategies of Sun Tzu’s classic into a complete handbook of organization and leadership; it draws on episodes from Chinese history to show in practical terms the proper use of Sun Tzu’s principles.

  • Note on Pronunciation
  • Translator’s Introduction
  • The Art of War and the I Ching: Strategy and Change
  • Notes on Sources

Part One – The Way of the General: Essays on Leadership and Crisis Management

Part Two – Lessons of War: Studies in Strategy


Written by Sun Bin (descendant of Sun Tzu) more than one hundred years after Sun Tzu’s text. It is his classic of political and military strategy, faithful to the principles of The Art of War; it will be of great help because it concentrates on the practical application of Sun Tzu’s principles.

  • Introduction
  • Sun Bin’s Art of War
  • Leadership, Organization, and Strategy: How Sun Tzu and Sun Tzu II complement Each Other


Translator’s Introduction

  1. Strategic Measurements
  2. Combat
  3. Planning Attack
  4. Formations
  5. Disposition and Momentum
  6. Vulnerability and Substantiality
  7. Armed Struggle
  8. Adapting to All Changes
  9. Manoeuvring Forces
  10. The Lay of the Land
  11. Nine Grounds
  12. Fire Assault
  13. Employing Secret Agents


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