The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, including The Art of War Review

The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, including The Art of War
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The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, including The Art of War ReviewIn considering Ralph Sawyer's translation of "The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China" one must look at the work from two angles. First, one must consider the quality of the translation, and how well the author has set the historical stage for the piece. Second, one must consider the pieces themselves, and their pertinence to modern strategic thinking.
Regarding the first issue, Sawyer has done a superb job in both his translation, and in his historical research. The prose is easy to read and understand, but the essential, almost poetic, essence of the original language has not been sacrificed. Furthermore, each piece is prefaced by a brief, but detailed, overview of the work including a biography of the author, or possible authors, and a synopsis of the historical context in which the work was created. In addition, the book is heavily footnoted, which allows the reader to fully comprehend each piece, without the primary texts being chopped up.
Regarding the second angle, I was genuinely astonished by how pertinent theses works are to modern military thinking. For such primitive (chronologically, not intellectually) works, they do a superb job of capturing the key elements of strategic thinking: maneuver, logistics, terrain, combined arms and command hierarchy. Moreover, they are extremely sophisticated in their consideration of Grand Strategy and the mobilization of the population. While these works are by no means a blue print for a modern army (the codes of conduct are draconian, to say the least), they undoubtedly provide a framework for the analysis/planning of modern operations.
This is truly a superb work that captures both the philosophical and the practical aspects of some of the most ancient books on the planet. Furthermore, it is a fascinating look at ancient Chinese history. It is truly a must read for anyone interested in military theory or international relations, particularly with China once again ascendant on the world stage.The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, including The Art of War Overview

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