Classic Author Focus: Sun Tzu

Statue of Sun Tzu

Probably the most interesting thing about Sun Tzu is that it is not even known whether he actually existed. Although he is famous for having written The Art of War, in recent years, some historians have begun to wonder if he wasn’t a made-up descriptor. That is because he isn’t mentioned in any of the classic historical references of the period in which he is supposed to have lived (the Spring and Autumn periods of the ancient Chinese Eastern Zhou period). Also, the only known battle in which he is supposed to have fought has no record of him in it (although no record of officers was kept at that period). These skeptics think his famous work was actually a compilation of works by various writers.

In fact, there are three traditional views of the work itself, one that it was written by Sun Tzu during the Spring and Autumn periods (722-481 BC), a second that it was written later, during the Warring States period (481-221 BC), and a third that it was published in the last half of the fifth century BC.

What is traditionally believed of Sun Tzu is that he was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived during the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Some Chinese historians say that he was a minister to King Helü of Wu in the sixth century BC. Modern historians place him later and say he may be the same person as Sun Bin, who also write a text named The Art of War. In any case, his treatise was one of the most widely read military treatises during the Warring States period and is regarded a masterpiece on strategy.

Dates 544BC?-496BC?

Most popular work: The Art of War

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