CULTURE Ancient military treatise 'The Art of War' sells out thanks to hit Chinese TV show


Ancient military treatise 'The Art of War' sells out thanks to hit Chinese TV show

Global Times

08:27, January 31, 2023

The Art of War bamboo slips. (Photo: VCG)

TV series The Knockout, which focuses on crackdowns on gang crimes and corruption, has become popular with Chinese audiences, sparking a lot of discussion on social media and boosting sales of the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War.

The Art of War, dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) and introducing skills related to warfare and military strategy, has returned to the top of the bestseller lists for ancient books on several e-commerce platforms such as and Dangdang and some versions have sold out. Industry insiders said the sudden popularity of the book was thanks to the hit TV series.

The manager of the Librairie Avant-garde bookstore in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province told the Global Times that she put the same version of The Art of War as that in the series in the bookstore and readers have been more interested.

The series covers efforts by Chinese police to tackle gang crimes and corruption among officials. It features policeman An Xin (Zhang Yi) and Gao Qiqiang (Zhang Songwen) who leads a gang and cooperates with some officials in the local government to commit crimes.

When the two characters first meet in 2000, they almost become friends and An recommends a series of books to Gao, who was just a poor fishmonger at the time, encouraging him to read more books and learn how to run a business. The Art of War was included in the book list.

Gao researches the book carefully and some of his lines in the series are picked from the book, like “If you surround the enemy and have the certainty of victory, you must leave a gap and let him escape, otherwise he will make it a life and death struggle.” These lines attracted Chinese netizens, who found that the classic military text is full of wisdom.

The Art of War is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Wu and remains the most influential text in East Asian warfare. It has influenced both Far Eastern and Western military thinking, as well as business tactics, legal strategy, politics, sport and beyond. Military and political leaders around the world such as US military generals Douglas MacArthur and Norman Schwarzkopf were all known to have drawn inspiration from the book.

The new wave of popularity for the ancient book proves the charm of Chinese ancient classics and also shows the influence of the TV series.

The realistic themes such as the fight against gangs can also attract a huge number of followers, Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times.

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