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Just another Masterpiece: the Differences between Sun Tzu's the Art of War and Sun Bin's the Art of War





孫子 孫臏 兵法 師傅與門徒 作與述

Parallel abstracts

Mao Yuan-yi(茅元儀)asserts that, ”Those before Sunzi, their teachings essence are all absorbed into Sunzi; those after Sunzi, they can't afford to miss what Sunzi proclaimed.”(前孫子者,孫子不遺;後孫子者,不能遺孫子)Though somewhat of an exaggeration, this comment illustrates the influences Master Sun has made. In fact, there are two Master Suns, for the honorific appellation of ”Master Sun” can be understood to refer to either Sun Wu or his descendent, Sun Bin; and this has brought great confusion and misunderstanding to both treatises titled with their names: Sun Tzu's the Art of War and Sun Bin's the Art of War. The heavy use of the honorific ”Master Sun” suggests these treatises were not written by Sun Wu or Sun Bin themselves, but were the work of later disciples who wished to honor their revered masters. Sun Tzu and Sun Bin are both recognized for their intellectual and philosophical approach to warfare. They focus on both strategy and tactics equally, rather than just relying on brute force. In addition to sharing similar language, Sun Tzu and Sun Bin share similar thematic continuities, or shared values and commitments. While some similarities between Sun Bin and Sun Tzu are quite apparent, there still remain some significant differences. We take into account the fact that these two masterpieces were written nearly a century and a half apart, and it is the intention of this paper to study why Sun Bin faded away and was rediscovered eventually in a 1972 archaeological excavation after being lost for almost 2000 years, while his ancestor Sun Tzu continues to dominate Chinese military thinking till today.