Sun Tzu (pronounced SOON-zuh) means Master Sun. His first name was Wu.
According to Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Shih chi, also called the Records of the Grand Historian, Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general during the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BC). The Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yueh confirms this account except it claims he originates from the state of Wu, not Ch'i. Most scholars surmise he lived from 544 BC to 496 BC.
Sun Tzu wrote the earliest -- and still the most revered -- military treatise in the world. This masterpiece is best known to most of us as The Art of War. Since naming a written work after its author was customary in ancient China, the text was originally referred to as simply "Sun Tzu." Sonshi.com uses the terms "Sun Tzu" and "The Art of War" interchangeably.
The Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yueh states:
Sun Tzu, whose name was Wu, was a native of Wu. He excelled at military strategy but dwelled in secrecy far away from civilization, so ordinary people did not know of his ability. Wu Tzu-hsu [King Ho-lu's advisor], himself enlightened, wise, and skilled in discrimination, knew Sun Tzu could penetrate and destroy the enemy. One morning when he was discussing military affairs he recommended Sun Tzu seven times. King Ho-lu said: "Since you have found an excuse to advance this shih, I want to have him brought in." He questioned Sun Tzu about military strategy, and each time that he laid out a section of his book the king could not praise him enough.
Skilled and experienced in warfare matters during a time of unprecedented political and military turmoil, Sun Tzu validates his treatise. When asked by King Ho-lu whether the book's principles can be applied to anyone, Sun Tzu replies, "Yes." As proof of his competency and to confirm the principles' effectiveness, he successfully transforms 180 court women into trained soldiers in one session.
With Sun Tzu as general, King Ho-lu captured the capital city of Ying to defeat the powerful Ch'u state in 506 BC. He then headed north and subdued the states of Ch'i and Chin. Not surprisingly, Sun Tzu's name quickly spread throughout the land and among the feudal lords.
How Sun Tzu later lived or died is unknown. However, the Yueh Chueh Shu declared "ten li outside the city gate of Wu Hsieh, there is a large tomb of the great strategist Sun Tzu." By the Han dynasty, his reputation as a wise and respected military leader was well-known. Considering the countless texts lost or destroyed throughout China's history, the remarkable survival and relevancy of Sun Tzu's Art of War to this very day attest to its immeasurable value.
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