The Transmission of Sun Tzu's the Art of War

Parent Category: Kongming
Category: The Art of War

Before the bamboo scroll version was discovered by archaeologists in April 1972, a commonly cited version of The Art of War was the Annotation of Sun Tzu's Strategies by Cao Cao, the founder of the Kingdom of Wei. In the preface, he wrote that previous annotations were not focused on the essential ideas. Other annotations cited in official history books include Shen You (176-204)'s Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, Jia Xu's Copy of Sun Tzu's Military Strategy, Cao Cao and Wang Ling's Sun Tzu's Military Strategy.

The Book of Sui documented seven books named after Sun Tzu. An annotation by Du Mu also includes Cao Cao's annotation. Li Jing's The Art of War is said to be a revision of Master Sun's strategies. Annotations by Cao Cao, Du Mu and Li Quan were translated into the Tangut language before AD 1040. A book named Ten Schools of The Art of War Annotations was published before AD 1161.

After the movable type printer was invented, The Art of War (with Cao Cao's annotations) was published as a military text book, known as Seven Military Classics with six other strategy books.

As a required reading military textbook since the Song Dynasty, Seven Military Classics (武经七书) has many annotations. More than 30 differently annotated versions of this book exist today.

The two most common traditional Chinese versions of the Art of War, (the Complete Specialist Focus and Military Bible versions) were the sources for early translation into English and other languages. It was not until the 1970s that these works were compiled with more recent archaeological discoveries into a single more complete version in Taipei, Taiwan. The resulting work is known as the Complete Version of Sun Tzu's Art of War. The National Defense Research Investigation Office has been the source for more recent and complete translations.

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