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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Friday, January 6, 2012

THE ART OF WAR GIFT

As a young officer – and later – I read just about every version of Sun Tzu’s Art of War I could lay my hands on. Resting in my bookcase, I have six different copies and interpretations of this incredible work. The last edition I bought was Sun Tzu’s Art of War by General Tao Hanzhang in 2011.

Now I have seven – and the latest edition is the most special edition I could ever dream of having. Besides, as I said to LP a while back, I am not an e-book type; I love the feel and smell of books. However, the latest addition to my Sun Tzu collection is an incredible piece of art in its own right albeit somewhat very different from those normally found in bookstores. 

My very good friend Raymond Cheung presented me with this version of Sun Tzu’s Art of War over dinner at the Ye Shanghai restaurant on the 26 December 2011 and it is an edition I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Although my photographs can never do justice to this amazing gift, I would nevertheless like to share it with you all.

This version of the Art of War is presented in its own redwood presentation case:
 

Once the presentation case is opened, this is what one finds:



Inside is a bamboo scroll, a stand, a pair of surgical gloves and a magnifying glass with which to read the scroll with as the print is very small. The surgical gloves are included to ensure that sweaty hands do not degrade the writing on the scroll.

When the scroll is removed, it can be placed on its own stand:



The scroll has Sun Tzu’s Art of War in both Chinese and English and can be opened and read at will:
 

Obviously, the print is very fine, hence the magnifying glass.

I look at this incredible gift daily and marvel at the skill it took to produce this edition.

Thank you, Raymond!

16 comments:

cor said...

Hi Eben,

Amazingly I got the same gift after spending 14 months in China last year!
A very happy and prosperous 2012 to you and the missus!

Regards,
Cor (aka Andrew circa '91/92)

Ryan Erwin said...

Great gift!

Though not another translation of "Art of War", I just finished reading "How Great Generals Win", with extensive Art of War references and the most interesting account of Mao's "Long March" that I've seen yet.

Are you still in Shangahi?
Ye Shanghai at Xintiandi is quite nice ;-)

Superman said...

Lovely gift. I have great respect for the classics. There is an old Chinese saying, "good Men are not used for Soldiers, no more than good steel is used for nails." I can't say I agree, but it does show the elevation of the profession over the centuries.

There is something special about the look, feel, smell, of a real book. I think about my dog eared copy of FM 101-5 with my ever present notes in the margins. Even in retirement it remains close by.

Over the years, the paper cover of my copy has be come soft as velvet.

Best regards,

M

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Cor,

All of those “Andrews” made my head spin at times as I started getting confused as to who was who!

Great that you too have got a similar version. I was incredibly taken aback at receiving such a gift. It is a true work of art and an heirloom to boot.

Bestest to you and yours for 2012 as well.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Ryan,

Incredible isn’t it?

Sounds like a good book you are reading. Thanks for pointing it out as I will go and hunt it down.

I am back home again for a few days. Who knows where my path will lead me next...

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi M,

I suppose in the early days armies took whoever they could before becoming more professional in nature. Today’s armies are looking for good men – so I agree with your comment re “Good men are not used for soldiers...”

Yes, the look, feel and smell of a book is something like you that I too treasure. Many of my books are also dog-eared and full of notes in the margins. But to me, that makes them special. Besides, books are honest friends. I guess that like me, you cannot get rid of your books?

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Good Morning Eeben,

All I can rightly say is what a stunning gift. An amazing addition to any library.

I do agree on real books, I have a massive personal library as well, but only have 2 different copies of the Art of War - neither of this caliber. Of course your tome is a very fine keystone in my library.

Thanks for sharing.

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi John,

Indeed, I am fortunate. As Cor wrote, he too has a similar one and he also got his as a gift.

I am pleased that you too are a book lover. Too many people nowadays have traded books for electronic books. I admit that to travel with e-books is lighter than with real books but I would rather carry heavy and have a real book in my hands.

Rgds,

Eeben

Herbert said...

Mr. Barlow,

What a gift! I too am a book lover, as in hard copy. My copies of Sun Tzu do not match yours. I also began to read Sun Tzu many decades ago.

Back when I was on the faculty of a US war college, I was disappointed that Sun Tzu, while covered, never got the exposure that was lavished on Clausewitz. I've always felt old Carl would turn over in his grave if he could see the obeisance his writing garners from the US community of military academics. Of course Clausewitz has much to offer, but let us allow for a little perspective and room for discussion--even a wee bit of dissent.

My point is that Sun Tzu has much to offer; in my view, more than Carl.

Regards,
Herbert

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Herbert,

It is nice to know that there are still booklovers around.

I am not anti e-book in any way, it is just a personal preference. Some of my friends have e-books/readers which they enjoy and always have a laugh at me carting books around. Truth be told, I have read one or 2 books off their readers and actually enjoyed it. But, that did not deter my love for real books.

I too can never really understand why Clausewitz is viewed so highly above the likes of De Jomini and Sun Tzu. Yes, he does have a lot to offer but people want to follow him rigidly and the type of wars being fought when he wrote it have changed substantially. Whereas much of what he wrote still has validity, it must be viewed with some flexibility as well.

Rgds,

Eeben

ray said...

Hi Eeben,

Sarinda and I are very happy you love the gift. We like to meet you soon.
Wishing you and your family a prosperous and happy Lunar New Year of Dragon.

Best Regards
Raymond

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Raymond,

Again, my thanks to you!

I think it is time for you, Sarinda and Stephen to visit me for a change. However, we will probably accompany J to HK when he starts at university but we will keep you posted.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

Along the line of spectacular new literary aquisitions this jewel showed up on my front porch today, Al Venter's new work on Neall Ellis. I look forward to a great read.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1612000703/ref=oh_o05_s00_i00_details

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi John,

Neall is a great pilot and a man who will fly through hell to help out those who call him. I am sure it will be a great read.

Rgds,

Eeben

Feral Jundi said...

Very cool gift. Happy New Year Eeben and hope all is well with you and your family. Take care.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Matt,

And a great New Year to you as well.

A great gift it certainly is. I am very fortunate.

Rgds,

Eeben