Sun Bin

Sun Bin (died 316 BC) also known as (Sun Pin, Sun the Mutilated, or Sun Tzu II), was a military strategist who lived during the Warring States Period in ancient China. Born in Qi, he was a member of a local Sun family famed for producing military strategists. He is considered a descendant of Sun Tzu, and may have helped edit the Art of War. He also wrote his own military treatise, the Sun Bin Bing Fa, that was recently rediscovered after being lost for almost 2000 years.


Sun Bin was recognized for his military brilliance at an early age which he studied as a student of Master Guiguzi, a hermit who is skilled in military strategies, Sun Bin managed to recite Sun Tzu's Art of War by heart, which made Master Guiguzi remark that he was a learned man which all his other disciples could match up towards. Pang Juan, a fellow student who was jealous of Sun Bin, plotted to bring Sun Bin to ruin. During those days, the kingdom of Wei needed a military commander skilled in military strategies, King Hui appointed Pang as a minister in Wei, Pang Juan enticed Sun Bin to go to Wei, then plotted to ruin Sun Bin. Sun Bin was mutilated, having his kneecaps removed; bin is a reference to the knees or the practice of mutilation by removing one's knees. In ancient China, mutilation was an ignominious event and generally caused a person to be shunned by society for life; after the mutilation, Sun Bin's career should have effectively been over.

Sun Bin later escaped to Qi by help from his friend. His military skills were recognized, and he came to serve under King Wei. He formed a strong partnership with the head military commander Tian Ji. Sun Bin could not be the head military commander of the Qi army, even though Tian Ji and the King had begged him to, for his mutilated legs could not allow him to ride on horseback, a practise all commanders had to undertake. So, both Tian Ji and the King decided to make him head advisor of the army. Tian Ji also managed to convince the King to create a rule stating all commands given by Sun Bin had to be obeyed, even though the commands didn't have to be. This was exactly how skilled and respected Sun Bin was, mainly because he memorized the book "The Art of War".

The pair defeated the state of Wei] (not to be confused with King Wei) at the Battle of Guiling against forces led by Pang Juan. When Tian Ji was banished from Qi due to court politics, Sun Bin followed him into exile to Chu. After Sun Bin sent letters to the King, he immediately recalled Tian Ji and Sun Bin. Sun Bin and Tian Ji later defeated Wei again at the Battle of Maling. He later resigned from his job and became a hermit preventing himself to succumb to Premier Zou Ji's political persecution.

Sun Bin Bing Fa

The Sun Bin Bing Fa is considered to be a text of military treatise written by Sun Bin. After the Han Dynasty, this text was considered to be lost. Although there were numerous references to the Sun Bin Bing Fa from post-contemporary texts, some historians later came to believe that the text was never written or simply a forgery. In April of 1972, archaeologists discovered a tomb in Linyi, Shandong Province, that contained several fragments of important scrolls buried during the Han Dynasty. Among the scrolls was a copy of the Sun Bin Bing Fa.

Although ancient texts mention that the original Sun Bin Bing Fa contained 89 chapters, the rediscovered copy contains only sixteen verifiable chapters. Since the tomb also contained fragments of the Art of War, some chapters might actually be lost chapters from the Art of War instead.

The newly discovered text provides historians with a different perspective on the Battle of Guiling and the Battle of Maling. In addition, the Sun Bin Bing Fa shows one major strategic divergence from the Art of War; while Sun Tzu advised against siege warfare, the Sun Bin Bing Fa contains numerous stratagems for assaulting a sieged city. This paralleled a shift in strategic consideration of siege warfare during the later stages of the Warring States Period.


  • The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. Sawyer, Ralph D. ISBN 0-8133-1228-0
  • Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare. Lau, D.C. and Ames, Roger T. ISBN 0-345-37991-8

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