Welcome to Sun Wu's hometown


Guangrao County, China - About 2 500 years ago in war-torn China, Sun Wu wrote what would become the world's most well-known military text.

Born during China's Chunqiu period, the famed tactician who wrote The Art Of War is called a “military saint” in China and is considered one of its greatest ancient philosophers.

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A statue of Sun Wu in a Shandong Province historical museum in China. Yomiuri Shimbun photo by Kazuhiko MakitaConstruction on a Sun Wu theme park is pressing ahead at a fever pitch in Guangrao County. Yomiuri Shimbun photo by Kazuhiko Makita

Studied by generals during the Sengoku period (Warring States period in the late 15th century to late 16th century) in Japan and by US presidents, Sun Wu's ideas have influenced people of the East and West, and from ancient to modern times, and continue to fascinate many.

Drive northeast for about two hours on the highway from Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, and you arrive at Guangrao County.

Take a look around and you will find Sun Wu Road and Bingsheng (the Saint of War) Road. Go into a restaurant, and you can try a local liquor with a name that translates roughly as “military saint king alcohol.”

The county claims Sun Wu was born nearby and has dubbed itself “Sun Wu's hometown.”

On the outskirts of Guangrao County is a memorial temple dedicated to Sun Wu. In the 1990s, the county rebuilt the mausoleum, which was originally constructed in the 12th century. Inside, panel exhibits and miniature models give a detailed introduction to Sun Wu's life and The Art Of War. Just inside the entrance stands an imposing 1o 1/2-foot statue of Sun Wu.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

This quote from The Art Of War is displayed prominently in the exhibition room. It may be the most well-known quote in China and was frequently referenced by Mao Zedong when he led the Communist Party.

Zhao Chengfeng, 70, chairman of the Shandong SunZi Research Association, has long been entranced by Sun Wu's philosophy.

Zhao, 70, said he was taught “Sun Tzu” when he was in the military and decided to devote himself to researching the famous warrior after he retired. He formed the association in 2008 to promote exchanges between domestic and overseas researchers.

“Sun Wu's The Art Of War is not constrained by time or national boundaries,” Zhao said. “It has a universality that can be accepted by a wide range of academic fields. Along with Confucius, Sun Wu is one of the great philosophers born in Shandong.”

Although Guangrao County is little known outside of Sun Wu researchers, it could be on the verge of a major transformation. In March 2012, it established the Sun Tzu Cultural Tourist Area Management Committee and is pushing ahead with tourism developments aimed at selling itself as Sun Wu's hometown.

The man-made Sun Wu Lake is surrounded by a huge, 42-square-kilometre tourism district that is to include a theme park, research institute, hot spring hotel and other facilities.

“It will be a base for transmitting Sun Wu's philosophy to the world,” said Wang Tingwen, director of of the Centre for Sun Tzu Cultural Studies of Guangrao.

Though expectations are great, the theme park will require 1.6-billion yuan in investments and more than 3 billion yuan for the entire district.

With China's economy slowing down, development projects led by local municipalities have failed one after another.

“Engaging in unreasonable battles with smaller forces will only make you the prey of an enemy with a larger force.”

Amid the sounds of hammering, I seemed to hear the words of a wise man warning against imprudence. - The Washington Post

* Born in the sixth century B.C. in the Qi Kingdom (around current Shandong Province), Sun Wu moved to the Wu Kingdom (around current Jiangsu Province) because of civil war. At about age 30, he wrote the original version of The Art Of War. He was made a general by King Helu of Wu and gained fame by defeating enemies, including the Chu Kingdom.

* Makita is a correspondent in Shenyang, China.

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