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Mastering the "Art of War": Zhuge Liang's and Liu Ji's Commentaries on the Classic by Sun Tzu (Shambhala Dragon Editions) [Paperback]

Zhuge Liang , Liu Ji , Thomas Cleary
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £11.78 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

11 April 1990 Shambhala Dragon Editions
Composed by two prominent statesmen-generals of classical China, this book develops the strategies of Sun Tzu's classic, The Art of War, into a complete handbook of organization and leadership. The great leaders of ancient China who were trained in Sun Tzu's principles understood how war is waged successfully, both materially and mentally, and how victory and defeat follow clear social, psychological, and environmental laws. Drawing on episodes from the panorama of Chinese history, Mastering the Art of War presents practical summaries of these essential laws along with tales of conflict and strategy that show in concrete terms the proper use of Sun Tzu's principles. The book also examines the social and psychological aspects of organization and crisis management. The translator's introduction surveys the Chinese philosophies of war and conflict and explores in depth the parallels between The Art of War and the oldest handbook of strategic living, the I Ching (Book of Changes).

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Frequently Bought Together

Mastering the "Art of War": Zhuge Liang's and Liu Ji's Commentaries on the Classic by Sun Tzu (Shambhala Dragon Editions) + The Art of War (Penguin Classics)
Price For Both: £17.77

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  • The Art of War (Penguin Classics) £5.99


Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc; 1 edition (11 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877735131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877735137
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Zhuge Liang, commonly known by his style, Kongming, was born around the year 180, the son of a provincial official in the latter days of the Han dynasty. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extention to Sun Tzu's "Art of War" 15 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book on the thoughts of Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji is a must have for anyone who owns the the original works of Sun Tzu. Zhuge Liang's thougths on the successful running of a state, and Liu Ji's moralistic anecdotes tell of the ways to extend the original theories of Sun Tzu, then explaining them with stories from the time, showing how they were put to good advantage by ancient martial strategists. All in all, a superior work by both of the martial masters Zhuge Liang, and Liu Ji.
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5.0 out of 5 stars everything just fine 23 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Book was in topcondition and delivery on time - and if youre in any kind of business that requires human interaction i think its the book to read
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chinese classic 5 Jan 2006
Format:Hardcover
Not only is this volume a great companion for those who have read the Art of War (Sun Tzu) but also for any one intrested in Chinese war over a wider period.
The volume has good introduction setting the work in context with the art of war and other books such as the I Ching. The introduction also gives a history of its two writers and their careers.
The actual books are packed with examples of the sucsesfull aplication of the art of war and were failiures have occured that were needless.
All in all a must read for any one who has read the art of war or is intrested in Chinese history.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very general, like a book of proverbs. 12 Jan 2005
By D. Mok - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Let me first clarify the confusion over Sun Wu ("Sun Tzu")'s The Art of War and this book.

This is not a translation of the book The Art of War as it is known by the Western world. Sun Wu, a strategist from hundreds of years before Zhuge Liang, is indeed the father of Chinese military strategy, but culturally Zhuge Liang has acquired an even higher stature. A master strategist in the Three Kingdoms period, Zhuge Liang was dubbed "The Hidden Dragon", one of the two greatest strategists of the time, alongside his colleague Pang Tong ("The Young Phoenix"). Zhuge Liang almost single-handedly turned the wandering warlord Liu Bei, "whose army did not exceed a thousand", into one of the three superpowers during the Chinese civil wars of the Three Kingdoms. Zhuge Liang's reputation for manipulating the enemy was so great that he eventually became known as a sorceror figure who was able to summon weather and conjure spirits to do his bidding. For the record -- Zhuge Liang, philosophically, belonged to the "ru jia", or "confucianism", and *not* taoism or legalism, though often his methodology and concepts show similarities to the latter two. Zhuge Liang belongs in a tradition of "ru zhang", or "confucian generals", military leaders who were learned and studied, skilled in literature and philosophy, yet actively led military campaigns.

His influence has permeated Chinese culture -- in Chinese language, the name "Zhuge Liang" is now used (and not archaically) as a symbol of preternatural intelligence, while if you used "Sun Tzu" in your everyday language, you'd be considered pretentious.

Finally, the very title "The Art of War" has always been misleading. The Chinese term "bing fa" means more along the lines of "the methodology of war", and the use of this term often does *not* refer to the specific title of Sun Wu's treatise; the words "bing fa" are often used in the way you'd use the words "geography", "physics", or "agriculture". The translation "The Art of War" probably puts Sun Wu's original work more in the realm of philosophy than was ever intended -- imagine if a book entitled "Geographical Studies" were translated as "The Art of the Earth".

This particular book is *not* a translation of Sun Wu's "bing fa". It does not pretend to be one: The cover explicitly says that it is "Zhuge Liang's and Liu Ji's commentaries on the classic by Sun Tzu". So those who complain that this is a poor translation of Sun Wu's book need to have their eyesight checked.

That said, I still have major issues with this book.

I've never had the chance to read any of Zhuge Liang's original writings on warfare. Fictitious accounts of his life as related in Romance of the Three Kingdoms mention books that he'd passed onto his military successor Jiang Wei, but I had never found these in the original Chinese language. Thomas Cleary's translated passages in this book read as extremely dry, and far too general. Most of the concepts amount to "Be kind to your men, be smart in dealing with your enemies, don't fight unless victory is sure". All true, of course, but how useful is that? Occasionally interesting angles emerge ("to know an officer, get them drunk to observe their nature"; "a decadence in a general - to assess others without assessing oneself"), but all in all, these translated passages read like proverbs, with broadly defined terms. Not having read the original Chinese text, I don't know whether the problem stems from the original works by Zhuge Liang or from Mr. Cleary's translations, but I do know that the Chinese language, especially passages of discourse, are highly difficult to translate and often come across as broad and imprecise when put into another language. There are so many Chinese words without properly English equivalents (for example "Xiao", which combines filial obedience with love, and "Yi", which means far more than just "honour" or "loyalty" could convey) that Chinese-English translation is always a tricky business.

However, in moving to the second half, the "Liu Ji" section, I find major flaws in Mr. Cleary's work. The right-hand man of Ming Dynasty founder Zhu Yuan Zhang, Liu Ji was another strategist who had acquired near-mystical status; under his familiar name "Liu Ba Wen", Liu Ji is known as a fortune-teller figure who saves Zhu by reading omens and stars. He's not exactly known for military strategy in the same way as Sun Wu or Zhuge Liang, but once I'd figured out who he was, I was quite eager to read the translation.

Much like the approach of Meng Zi ("Mencius"), Liu Ji uses examples and stories to illustrate his points -- which makes his points a livelier read. Unfortunately, here Mr. Cleary's translations are often awkward, bogged down by names and geography. This book was smart in including a timeline of dynasties and Chinese historical periods referred to in Liu Ji's tales, but probably should have included maps from various periods. Many of the warlord states and territories over Chinese history share the same phonetic translation ("Jin", "Han", "Wei", and "Wu" all have multiple, disparate representatives throughout Chinese history), and Mr. Cleary's translations of these tales become very cluttered because of this. I had studied the Warring States and Three Kingdoms periods quite a bit, if not in an academic setting, and even I was usually confused as to when and where I was in a particular tale.

However, Mr. Cleary makes an even greater mistake in certain tales by omitting the names of participants. And when a tale refers to "this general and that governor and that other general...", it's linguistic chaos. As difficult as it may be to know the various phonetically translated names, omitting them not only raises questions as to the translation's faithfulness to the original text, but also discredits such tales on a stylistic level -- without the specificity of characters, the accounts may well have been fictitious (though they're not).

On a very broad level, some of the concepts in this book probably can be applied to the modern day. But there are precious few strategies to be absorbed from here that are detailed and specific enough to prove practically useful. Personally, I had bought this book in hopes of getting a more historical and less mystical picture of the man Zhuge Liang himself, and on that front, this book was entirely wrong for the job. I knew no more about Zhuge Liang after reading this than I had known from growing up in Chinese culture, reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and my past historical research into the Three Kingdoms period. So to me, this book is simply a novelty, lacking in the information I needed.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew this book was out there? 7 Sep 2003
By Adrian Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I must confess, I was ignorant that any of the great warlord Zhuge Liang's work still existed today. Imagine my surprise then, in typing the name into Amazon and coming up with this work. Needless to say, the price was right, and so I ordered it.
I was not disappointed! While I cannot say that Zhuge Liang did not lift his thoughts from another more ancient writer (I am certainly not the scholar of Chinese literature that I claim to be!), nonetheless, his thoughts are quite clear on the right (and more importantly, WRONG) ways of leading an army, and indeed, these words can be applied to other situations. In particular, pay attention to the essay "The virtues and faults of the great general", which I think is a lesson for ANY walk of life.
Also, the writing of Liu Pi are collected here, but I must say that the reader probably wants familiarity with the intrigues of the "Three Kingdoms" at this point. Still, with so many nuggets of wisdom to be found, and at this price, you would be foolish not to pick this up, and three kingdom fans may also broaden their own knowledge.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent study in leadership & strategy 29 July 1999
By Life of Brian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Chinese have been studying leadership almost two millenia before it became a popular management topic in the West. In the first chapter of "The Art of War", Sun Tzu already recognised leadership as one of 5 factors that determines a nation's strategic success. Zhuge Liang has substantial authority to espouse on the subject - he is the most capable ( and feared ) strategist in China's turbulent era of Three Kingdoms. Cleary has put forth Zhuge's thoughts in a clear and concise manner.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extention to Sun Tzu's "Art of War" 15 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book on the thoughts of Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji is a must have for anyone who owns the the original works of Sun Tzu. Zhuge Liang's thougths on the successful running of a state, and Liu Ji's moralistic anecdotes tell of the ways to extend the original theories of Sun Tzu, then explaining them with stories from the time, showing how they were put to good advantage by ancient martial strategists. All in all, a superior work by both of the martial masters Zhuge Liang, and Liu Ji.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading 7 Sep 2000
By "randy_1" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I liked the qualities of the general section of this book. For those who are looking for some insight that applies to today's world, you can find some gems here. I read The Art of War translated by Griffith and think that this is much better. The commentary is easier to follow and is presented well. The book gives examples of the principles it talks about from The Three Kingdoms but doesnt always give the names of the people that it talks about. So for readers familiar with the Three Kindoms this can be a little disappointing. Otherwise its a good book to read.
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