The Art of War

by

Sun-tzu

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The Way Term Analysis

The Way is intrinsic to Master Sun’s worldview, approach to warfare, and moral code. For Master Sun, all aspects of life and the cosmos have their own particular Way—that is, “path,” “road,” or, more loosely, “doctrine” or “principle,” from translations of the Chinese word “Tao.” For example, there is a Way to writing calligraphy, a Way to leading a nation, and a Way to waging war. This notion that perfection exists, and is even achievable, is based on the concept of an ordered world regulated by unbreakable laws. The Way is in a sense the order of the universe, which human beings must seek. The simplest examples include physics or math—there is a correct and provable answer to every problem. But the Way also encapsulates more subjective concepts, such as morale or morals. Sun draws on this perspective in much of his advice in The Art of War. If the enemy is prone to pride, for instance, Sun says to inflate his ego further to prompt him into making a rash or arrogant decision. If the men are likely to flee at the first sign of danger, the general should put them somewhere they cannot escape, and they will fight for their lives.

The Way Quotes in The Art of War

The The Art of War quotes below are all either spoken by The Way or refer to The Way. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Yin and Yang Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Art of War published in 2002.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The Way of War is
A Way of Deception.

Related Characters: Master Sun (Sun-Tzu) (speaker), The General, The Enemy
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Ultimate excellence lies
Not in winning
Every battle
But in defeating the enemy
Without ever fighting.

Related Characters: Master Sun (Sun-Tzu) (speaker), The General, The Enemy
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

War has no
Constant dynamic;
Water has no
Constant form.
Supreme military skill lies
In deriving victory
From the changing circumstances
Of the enemy.

Related Characters: Master Sun (Sun-Tzu) (speaker), The General, The Enemy
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Way Term Timeline in The Art of War

The timeline below shows where the term The Way appears in The Art of War. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Yin and Yang Theme Icon
War as a Means to Protect Peace Theme Icon
The Responsibility of Authority Theme Icon
...carefully considered. There are five fundamental aspects to be considered when preparing for war: the Way, heaven, earth, command, and discipline. The Way leads to unity between the general and the... (full context)
The Responsibility of Authority Theme Icon
In preparing for war, the general must look at which ruler has the Way, which general is able, which army has heaven and earth, which has more discipline, which... (full context)
Chapter 4
Taking the Path of Least Resistance Theme Icon
War as a Means to Protect Peace Theme Icon
The Responsibility of Authority Theme Icon
...opposite is true for defeated armies. The general who is skilled in strategy keeps the Way and the law, so he is master of victory and defeat. (full context)
Chapter 10
Taking the Path of Least Resistance Theme Icon
...to engage and there is no advantage. The general must study these terrains and their Ways. (full context)
Chapter 12
Yin and Yang Theme Icon
Taking the Path of Least Resistance Theme Icon
War as a Means to Protect Peace Theme Icon
The Responsibility of Authority Theme Icon
...destroyed, they cannot be rebuilt. Rulers must be prudent and generals cautious. This is the Way to preserve peace and keep men whole. (full context)