"Because Ping-fa is intentionally, and delightfully, metaphorical, the messages need to be ferreted out, tasted, and tested."

Many people have heard of the classic Chinese text The Art of War by Sun Tzu and may also be somewhat familiar with the way in which our society tends to twist its messages of troop deployment and terrain navigation into some sort of business strategy. The author of this examination of Sun Tzu lays forth a compelling argument that much of what we understand about this ancient text is colored by mistranslations, commentaries of existing erroneous commentaries, and even revisionist histories of China’s first empire. Re-examining this classic work of Chinese literature and understanding it as a series of educational metaphors rather than literal pieces of advice allow it to appear as a tool for cooperation rather than conquering and sheds a whole new light on what so many people claim to understand.

Demonstrating a profound understanding not only of the original text but of many of the most popular translations and commentaries of The Art of War, the author provides these with equal time while also offering his interpretations as well as an analysis of what others have gleaned from the text. This helpful approach allows readers to apply the author’s perspective to the translated text and then see how it sizes up to other interpretations in the voluminous footnotes. Through the author’s provision of ample history, modern perspectives from books and magazines, and even well-known Chinese parables, readers can get a more complete picture on the realities of not only The Art of War (referred to largely by its untranslated name, Ping-fa) but also of Sun Tzu “himself.” The resulting read is enlightening and challenging to preconceived notions but in a way that makes plenty of sense and allows the reader to create their own conclusions based on their understanding and the compelling evidence put forth by the author.

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