Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read The Art of War

In This Review

Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read The Art of War
By Derek M. C. Yuen
Oxford University Press, 2014
256 pp. $29.95

Sun-tzu’s writings are marked by paradox and deception. Indeed, the simple, familiar aphorisms of The Art of War—so frequently cited in Western literature on war and strategy—obscure complex patterns of thought with deep roots in Chinese culture. Yuen puts Sun-tzu in context, identifying his debts to Chinese philosophy (particularly Taoism), providing historical background, guiding the reader through the key themes in his work, explaining common interpretations of it, and detailing its reception in the West. Yuen presents Sun-tzu’s view of strategic thought as holistic and nonlinear. This is not a book for the faint-hearted or for those skeptical about Sun-tzu’s approach to strategy. But anyone who wishes to understand Sun-tzu should not ignore it.