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    The Text of Sun Tzu

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    I have found it difficult to glean much about the history of
    Sun Tzu's text. The quotations that occur in early authors go to
    show that the "13 chapters" of which Ssu-ma Ch'ien speaks were
    essentially the same as those now extant. We have his word for
    it that they were widely circulated in his day, and can only
    regret that he refrained from discussing them on that account.
    Sun Hsing-yen says in his preface: --

    During the Ch'in and Han dynasties Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR
    was in general use amongst military commanders, but they seem
    to have treated it as a work of mysterious import, and were
    unwilling to expound it for the benefit of posterity. Thus
    it came about that Wei Wu was the first to write a commentary
    on it.

    As we have already seen, there is no reasonable ground to
    suppose that Ts'ao Kung tampered with the text. But the text
    itself is often so obscure, and the number of editions which
    appeared from that time onward so great, especially during the
    T'ang and Sung dynasties, that it would be surprising if numerous
    corruptions had not managed to creep in. Towards the middle of
    the Sung period, by which time all the chief commentaries on Sun
    Tzu were in existence, a certain Chi T'ien-pao published a work
    in 15 CHUAN entitled "Sun Tzu with the collected commentaries of
    ten writers." There was another text, with variant readings put
    forward by Chu Fu of Ta-hsing, which also had supporters among
    the scholars of that period; but in the Ming editions, Sun Hsing-
    yen tells us, these readings were for some reason or other no
    longer put into circulation. Thus, until the end of the 18th
    century, the text in sole possession of the field was one derived
    from Chi T'ien-pao's edition, although no actual copy of that
    important work was known to have survived. That, therefore, is
    the text of Sun Tzu which appears in the War section of the great
    Imperial encyclopedia printed in 1726, the KU CHIN T'U SHU CHI
    CH'ENG. Another copy at my disposal of what is practically the
    same text, with slight variations, is that contained in the
    "Eleven philosophers of the Chou and Ch'in dynasties" [1758].
    And the Chinese printed in Capt. Calthrop's first edition is
    evidently a similar version which has filtered through Japanese
    channels. So things remained until Sun Hsing-yen [1752-1818], a
    distinguished antiquarian and classical scholar, who claimed to
    be an actual descendant of Sun Wu, [36] accidentally discovered a
    copy of Chi T'ien-pao's long-lost work, when on a visit to the
    library of the Hua-yin temple. [37] Appended to it was the I
    SHUO of Cheng Yu-Hsien, mentioned in the T'UNG CHIH, and also
    believed to have perished. This is what Sun Hsing-yen designates
    as the "original edition (or text)" -- a rather misleading name,
    for it cannot by any means claim to set before us the text of Sun
    Tzu in its pristine purity. Chi T'ien-pao was a careless
    compiler, and appears to have been content to reproduce the
    somewhat debased version current in his day, without troubling to
    collate it with the earliest editions then available.
    Fortunately, two versions of Sun Tzu, even older than the newly
    discovered work, were still extant, one buried in the T'UNG TIEN,
    Tu Yu's great treatise on the Constitution, the other similarly
    enshrined in the T'AI P'ING YU LAN encyclopedia. In both the
    complete text is to be found, though split up into fragments,
    intermixed with other matter, and scattered piecemeal over a
    number of different sections. Considering that the YU LAN takes
    us back to the year 983, and the T'UNG TIEN about 200 years
    further still, to the middle of the T'ang dynasty, the value of
    these early transcripts of Sun Tzu can hardly be overestimated.
    Yet the idea of utilizing them does not seem to have occurred to
    anyone until Sun Hsing-yen, acting under Government instructions,
    undertook a thorough recension of the text. This is his own
    account: --

    Because of the numerous mistakes in the text of Sun Tzu
    which his editors had handed down, the Government ordered
    that the ancient edition [of Chi T'ien-pao] should be used,
    and that the text should be revised and corrected throughout.
    It happened that Wu Nien-hu, the Governor Pi Kua, and Hsi, a
    graduate of the second degree, had all devoted themselves to
    this study, probably surpassing me therein. Accordingly, I
    have had the whole work cut on blocks as a textbook for
    military men.

    The three individuals here referred to had evidently been
    occupied on the text of Sun Tzu prior to Sun Hsing-yen's
    commission, but we are left in doubt as to the work they really
    accomplished. At any rate, the new edition, when ultimately
    produced, appeared in the names of Sun Hsing-yen and only one co-
    editor Wu Jen-shi. They took the "original edition" as their
    basis, and by careful comparison with older versions, as well as
    the extant commentaries and other sources of information such as
    the I SHUO, succeeded in restoring a very large number of
    doubtful passages, and turned out, on the whole, what must be
    accepted as the closes approximation we are ever likely to get to
    Sun Tzu's original work. This is what will hereafter be
    denominated the "standard text."
    The copy which I have used belongs to a reissue dated 1877.
    it is in 6 PEN, forming part of a well-printed set of 23 early
    philosophical works in 83 PEN. [38] It opens with a preface by
    Sun Hsing-yen (largely quoted in this introduction), vindicating
    the traditional view of Sun Tzu's life and performances, and
    summing up in remarkably concise fashion the evidence in its
    favor. This is followed by Ts'ao Kung's preface to his edition,
    and the biography of Sun Tzu from the SHIH CHI, both translated
    above. Then come, firstly, Cheng Yu-hsien's I SHUO, [39] with
    author's preface, and next, a short miscellany of historical and
    bibliographical information entitled SUN TZU HSU LU, compiled by
    Pi I-hsun. As regards the body of the work, each separate
    sentence is followed by a note on the text, if required, and then
    by the various commentaries appertaining to it, arranged in
    chronological order. These we shall now proceed to discuss
    briefly, one by one.
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