The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China translated by Ralph D. Sawyer

The books contained in this set are: T’ai Kung Liu-t’ao (Six Secret Teachings), The Methods of Ssu-ma Fa, Sun-tzu Ping-fa (Art of War), Wu-tzu, Wei Liao-tzu, Huang Shih-kung San-lueh (Three Strategies), and Questions and Replies between T’ang T’ai-tsung and Li Wei-kung. Apologies in advance if I butchered any of that. The more you understand Confucian thought and its impact on Chinese statecraft, the more incredible and terrifying these works become when you consider what might have been without Confucius.

For those approaching this book without knowing what to expect, let it be said this tome is not for the faint of heart. It is a heavy-duty slog for scholars and those with heavier levels of enthusiasm for the subject matter. Each book in this set is worthy of deep thought and consideration, and for that reason I would suggest digesting it in bite-size offerings. If you tear through it, it’ll run together, and you won’t benefit from it. For general audiences, my recommendation is to seek out a copy of The Art of War and see if it holds your interest. If it does, this book is probably for you. Chances are, you likely already know up front, which is why you’re looking at this book in the first place.

The Art of War is the only one of the texts in this collection that has been readily available for English speaking audiences. I’m glad this oversight has been corrected because the other books in this set are every bit as valuable. To compare and contrast these works is to better understand history, people, and yourself on levels you might not expect. It really depends on where your focus lies and how you apply the knowledge. Warriors, philosophers, and businesspeople will use the same ideas in different ways, and some will see no separation at all. Regardless of how you apply it, you will not walk away from this unchanged on some level.

5 stars

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