Sun Tzu: The General

Broadly speaking, Sun Tzu’s life, death and the recording of his sayings into The Art of War occurred between the 6th and 3rd century BCE. Most of what is perceived to be known about Sun Tzu primarily comes from either the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian (145-85 BCE) or The Spring and Autumn Annals detailing events from around 722-481 BCE in the Zhou Dynasty.

Based on Sima Qian’s work, Sun Tzu is thought to have been a contemporary of Confucius, living around 551-479 BCE. He was likely born in Ch’i (or Qi), in the modern Shandong Province. He eventually found employment in the court of King Ho-Lu (or He Lü) of Wu (in modern Zhejiang), who likely reigned from 514-496 BCE. On a more solid historical note, the Kingdom of Wu was a major participant of the Warring States Period, and King Ho-Lu (r. 514-496 BCE) is widely believed to have been an actual king of the Kingdom of Wu.

Sun Tzu is often mentioned in commentary on the Wu-Chu Wars that occurred between 512-506 BCE. In particular, Master Sun supposedly played a major role in Wu’s victory over Chu in the Battle of Boju (506 BCE), when the strategist commanded Wu’s forces, along with King Ho-Lu and the king’s brother, Fugai. It remains historically suspicious, though, that Master Sun’s name is absent from one of the major prime sources describing King Ho-Lu’s time period—The Zou Commentary. Nevertheless, by the time of the Han Dynasty (around 206 BCE-220 CE), The Art of War, and its supposed author, Sun Tzu, were widely known household names in China.

Sun Tzu had a unique philosophy on war—he was utterly ruthless, and yet, he would go above and beyond in his attempts to avoid unnecessary confrontation. Sun Tzu’s ideal victory would involve deploying spies to discover an enemy’s vulnerabilities, followed by espionage, sabotage and diplomacy to exploit those weaknesses. He would force the enemy into submission without raising a single weapon. If war was unavoidable, then Sun Tzu would rely on a system of military moves and countermoves and rigorous preparation and training to ensure victory.

All images used in this video are either Public Domain or appropriately licensed for use via Creative Commons.

The intro-music was written and recorded by C. Keith Hansley for use on The Historian’s Hut YouTube channel.

The catchy song throughout the remainder of the video:
Indore Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Thank you and enjoy!


Leave a Reply