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Scholars do not know how The Art of War came to be—and whether or not “Sun Tzu,” if he existed, had anything to do with its creation.What they do know is that copies of the book, typically written on sets of sewn-together bamboo slats, ended up in the hands of politicians, military leaders and scholars across China.After that, the book was in such demand that Oxford University Press had to print 25,000 extra copies.

Scholars have long believed that The Art of War’s author was a Chinese military leader named Sun Tzu, or Sunzi.

Today, however, many people think that there was no Sun Tzu: Instead, they argue, the book is a compilation of generations of Chinese theories and teachings on military strategy.

Meanwhile, executives and lawyers use the teachings of The Art of War to get the upper hand in negotiations and to win trials.

Business-school professors assign the book to their students and sports coaches use it to win games.

Legend has it that he was a Chinese military leader in an era known as the Spring and Autumn Period.

This was a time of great turmoil in China, as many vassal states vied for power and control of the country’s unpopulated territories.The Art of War presents the basic principles of warfare and gives military leaders advice on when and how to fight.Its 13 chapters offer specific battle strategies–for example, one tells commanders how to move armies through inhospitable terrain, while another explains how to use and respond to different types of weapons–but they also give more general advice about conflicts and their resolution.“The art of war is of vital importance to the state.It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.In the twentieth century, the Communist leader Mao Zedong said that the lessons he learned from The Art of War helped him defeat Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist forces during the Chinese Civil War.

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