Sun Tzu

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Brainsuker, Jul 17, 2016.

  1. Brainsuker
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    Brainsuker New Member
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    I quote this post from another sub-forum because this post give me a tickle to start this post.
    So who was Sun Tzu? As far as I know, he was a general from a kingdom called Wu (in the Spring and Autumn era). His biggest performance was to help his kingdom to capture the biggest kingdom at that era, Chu. But only for some time. Because then, the Chu King was able to repel the invader.

    But then if Sun Tzu was truly a strategist / General of Wu at that era, and he was a truly military genius at that time, then why the Wu kingdom was destroyed sometime later by a kingdom called Yan?

    So let us discuss this
     
  2. solarz
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    solarz Senior Member

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    You can have the most brilliant military strategist in the world, but if the political and economic state of a country is screwed up, then that country will still be screwed.

    Sun Tzu's greatest contribution is writing a book that was became the bible of warfare in China. It doesn't mean he is necessarily the greatest general in history, although his military feats are still quite impressive. Chu was a powerful kingdom, while Wu was pretty small.

    As for Taxiya's comment, Sun Tzu's idea of "winning wars without battles" is based on being so strong militarily, and so wise politically, that no enemies want to fight you. It is basically being able to live in peace because you "speak softly and carry a big stick".
     
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  3. vesicles
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    vesicles Senior Member

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    It's a lot more complicated then that.

    Sun Tzu was already pretty old when he was "discovered" by the Lord of Wu. I think he was in his 50's by the time he was invited to join Wu military as the commanding general. At the time, Wu was small and just came out of a major internal power struggle. So Wu was very weak when Sun Tzu joined.

    Yet after only a few years, Sun Tzu was able to train a very elite army. And he led this army and defeated THE most powerful state in the land, Chu. He was able to accomplish such feat via his rigorous training and ingenious battle field tactics.

    After the conquer of Chu, the Lord of Wu wanted to destroy the state of Yu (not Yan, which was located way up north) on their south. Sun Tzu was against it. And because of his disagreement with his Lord, he was purged. So from this point on, Sun Tzu had nothing to do with what would happen.

    Sun Tzu has been considered to be one of the greatest battlefield tacticians in Chinese history because he was able to defeat Chu. Keep in mind that Wu was much much smaller and weaker than Chu at the time. It's like Cuba vs the US. So his accomplishment is tremendous. And Wu was able to become one of the dominating states during the late Spring and Autumn period almost solely because of Sun Tzu's military genius. However, to become a true superpower, you need economic, political as well as military support. Wu was too small, in terms of land and population. It was impossible to become to a true superpower like other dominating states like Qin, Chu and Qi. So Wu collapsed not too long after Sun Tzu was gone.

    What happened next? The Lord of Wu led the campaign against Yu on his own. And he lost badly and was mortally wounded in the final battle.

    Then the son of the Lord Wu avenged his father's defeat and destroyed Yu a few years later. He also managed to capture the Lord of Yu.

    The Lord of Yu became a slave in Wu for a few years before being allowed to go back to his own state. He then used almost 20 years to gather enough strength to defeat Wu.

    So Sun Tzu had absolutely nothing to do with the final destruction of Wu. By that time, he had been dead for a long time.
     
  4. Lezt
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    Lezt Junior Member

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    We also have to remember that Sun Tze is actually two person, basically, the term Sun tze meant "man with surname Sun" and the two generals we refer to is the grand father and the grand son. Both author parts of the art of war. Sun Wu and Sun Bin were the two men.

    The brilliance of Sun Tze is that he is a Bismark figure whose policies and helped transformed as vesicles have said. he is also a statesman. Importantly. he left a manual.

    There are many more war focused generals in Chinese history, Wang Jian who unified china for Qin, Yue Fei perfected Chinese area denial warfare; Bai Qi who probably slaughtered more men in antiquity than any other until modern times - estimates are around 1 million to 2 million enemy soldiers killed. But the key is, they are no stateman when Sun Tze was.
     
  5. vesicles
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    vesicles Senior Member

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    Actually Sun Tzu, or his full name Sun Wu, was only one person. Sun Tzu lived at the end of the Spring and Autumn period of the East Zhou dynasty. He served the state of Wu.

    Sun Bin, although shared the same last name, had no relation with Sun Tzu. Also, Sun Bin lived almost 200 years after Sun Tzu. Sun Bin lived at the end of the Warring State period. He's famous for fighting against his classmate, Pang Juan. And Sun Bin served Qi state after a brief painful period with the state of Wei (literally tortured by his classmate Pang Juan).

    They were two separate people. And ONLY Sun Wu is referred to as Sun Tzu. Sun Bin has nothing to do with it and had nothing to do with the classic literature.
     
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  6. taxiya
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    taxiya Senior Member
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    Solarz made a very good point "economical and political state is decisive".

    Besides "Sun Tzu/Wu", there is another example later "Zhuge Liang/Shu Han" where a great tactician can not save his kingdom for the same reason.

    I think one can not take a great tactician and strategist for too high value in winning a war, but many people today keep on making the mistake.

    The economy is the foundation of everything, a strategist is the organizer who can play the foundational factors to the most. But he can not make an achievement out of nothing.

    Qin, on the other hand, had everything from strong economy, advanced technology, great tacticians to well trained troops. Although none of Qin's generals wrote any books, Qin conquered the whole China.

    At end of the day, fight between two parties is not decided by tricks but by brute force. The clever little guy can win 100 battles without finishing the big guy, but one defeat of the little guy will mean the end of him. Napoleon and Hitler were another two examples.
     
  7. Lezt
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    Lezt Junior Member

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    Thats not what I have been taught, but I could be wrong.

    Here: Sun Bin's art of war:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Bin's_Art_of_War
     
  8. solarz
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    solarz Senior Member

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    That is a different work from Sun Tzu's Art of War.
     
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  9. vesicles
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    vesicles Senior Member

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    Yeah... Most of that is myth. If you follow the Weki link that you provided, you will find an archeological dig site, where they unearthed BOTH Sun Tzu's Art of War (13 chapters) AND Sun Bin's Art of War (16 chapters). So definitely two different books from two different individuals.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yinqueshan_Han_Slips

    Because of the legendary nature of both Sun Tzu and Sun Bin, there have been many myths and legends about them. Another myth says that Sun Bin's teacher, Gui Gu Zi (master of ghost valley) was actually the reincarnation of Sun Tzu.

    And there has been no evidence that Sun Bin was related to Sun Tzu. Most of that has been myth and rumors. In fact, some scholars since the 17th century actually thought Sun Tzu should actually be the alter ego of a famed military and political strategist, Wu Zixu, who escaped from Chu and seeked asylum in the state of Wu (his entire family of 300 was all executed by the Lord of Chu and he was the only one who got out). It made certain sense. Sun Tzu's full name is Sun Wu. "Sun" in ancient Chinese could sometimes mean "fugitive" and Wu is the last name of Wu Zixu. And to add to the confusion, "Wu" in Wu Zixu and "Wu" in Sun Wu are the same: meaning military or martial. So Sun Wu could mean a fugitive with the family name of Wu, or a military genius with a last name "Sun". Who knows...

    And in the most widely accepted accounts of Sun Tzu, Sun Wu was a simple farmer. It was Wu Zixu who invited Sun Tzu to the Lord of Wu. And Wu Zixu accompanied Sun Tzu in the campaign against Chu.
     
    #9 vesicles, Jul 18, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2016
  10. advill
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    advill Junior Member

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    Sun Tsu was a great general with good foresight in warfare. I like his "Know yourself & know your enemy, 100 battles 100 victories."
     

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