The top FAQ about my new translation of the Art of War, is why the world needs another one. Apparently, Sun Tzu’s Art of War is the second most-translated Chinese book in history, after the Dao De Jing.
Well, there’s translations and there’s translations. Let me give you a passage of Chinese. Here is chapter one, verse two:
And here is the same piece of text, by several different translators:
Lionel Giles (1910)
The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline
Samuel Griffith (1963)
Therefore appraise it in terms of the five fundamental factors and make comparison of the seven elements later named. So you may assess its essentials. The first of these factors is moral influence; the second, weather; the third terrain; the fourth, command; and the fifth, doctrine.
Thomas Cleary (1988)
Therefore measure in terms of five things, use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are. The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, leadership and discipline.
And finally, this is my version:
Jonathan Clements (2012)
War is governed by five crucial factors, which you must consider and implement:
And that is why I think the world can wear a new translation of the Art of War. In bookshops now, and also on Kindle.
I can’t resist; here’s what Google translator made of it:
“Therefore be passed through to the school of the five things to take into account their feelings and cable The first Road second is day The third is to Si Yue Wu Yue will”
Says it all.
Native Chinese speaker here. The others are all more or less acceptable, but why is the Thomas Cleary version so bad?
Who said it was “bad”?
I can imagine this sort of thing causing a lot of headaches. Its interesting to note you can see how each version can tie back to the same root origins of each of the five factors, but slight and not so slight differences slip in due to point of view and considerations of the translator.
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