The Art of War by Sun Tzu [ 孫子兵法 ]


Khoo Kheng Hor (邱庆河 DOB: 2/3/1956) is a Malaysian author and speaker on contemporary application of the 500 BC Chinese military treatise, The Art of War, by renowned military strategist Sun Tzu.

In the 1990s, Khoo was the first Sun Tzu student in South-east Asia to link and teach the General’s principles in relation to business and management. To date, Khoo has written over 26 business and management books, most of which are based on Sun Tzu’s Art of War as he made it his life’s mission to “suntzunize” as many people as possible.

In 1997, although a Malaysian citizen, he was appointed as honorary Assistant Superintendent of Police by the Singapore Police Force in recognition for his contribution as consultant-trainer to the police force of Singapore. His first novel, Taikor, was nominated by the National Library of Malaysia for the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Since 1999, Khoo has gone into retirement and occasionally travels in Malaysia and Singapore to share the wisdom of Sun Tzu’s strategies for success and happiness upon requests from his readers and supporters.”

Read more about Khoo Kheng Hor here.


Just before his retirement in 1999, I attended his Sun Tzu’s Art of War lecture at Police Academy. DSP Khoo retired in 1999 at age 43 . I was amongst the few selected police reservist officers to attend that special lecture given free when outsiders especially corporate enterprises paid huge sums of money to invite him to conduct Sun Tzu’s courses or seminars. He was fully booked up to two or three years in advanced.

Even though he is a Malaysian, DSP Khoo was given the honorary rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and later promoted to DSP for his free voluntary contributions to the SPF in the form of conducting his trademark Sun Tzu training for police officers.

I remember DSP Khoo was very proud of his uniform. He would wear it even though he was driving back home. Rank has its privileges especially on Police Academy training grounds where discipline standards are highest and cannot be compromised. He was accorded full honours that goes with the rank!

DSP Khoo is now living alone in retirement at Cameron Highlands after his wife passed away few years back. They have no children. After more than 12 years the ravages of time and the passing of his beloved wife he dearly misses have certainly taken a toil on him. He has aged so much from the look of his recent photo.

I remember fondly then he was rather short and chubby but a very handsome guy with soft beautiful hair. Now he got no hair but his pate is not as shinning as DPM Tharman. We really enjoyed his lecture with full of endless anecdotes from his previous corporate working life as he expounded relentlessly on Sun Tzu’s philosophy.

It’s quite amazing for someone without a university first degree (He only got his MBA much later under special circumstances from Stirling University in Scotland) from the English medium stream yet could be so well versed in the ancient sage Sun Tzu’s treatise on warfare.

I kept wondering how could DSP Khoo who knows no Chinese yet able to immerse himself in Sun Tzu’s masterpiece. The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu in the classical Chinese more than 2,500 years ago. Maybe his Taiwanese wife ‘suntzunized’ him when he was given the first translation by her. That’s when he got stuck on Sun Tzu and made a fortune out of it!

DSP Khoo has written a total of 26 books on Sun Tzu’s Art of War and 3 fiction novels. “War At Work” is his first major best seller and breakthrough where he became the undisputed guru of Sun Tzu (shown in the picture below).

Interview given by DSP Khoo Kheng Hor.

DSP Khoo Kheng Hor’s website.

Articles on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

“To win without fighting is the supreme strategy” ~ Sun Tzu 孫子兵法


This is the most often quoted classical story of Sun Tzu prior to his appointment as Supreme Commander of the army by The Prince of Wu.

When Sun Tzu, a native of Wu, wrote The Art of War some 2.500 years ago. He Lu, the Prince of Wu at that time, was so impressed by what he read that he granted him an audience.

Prince He Lu, who had read all of Sun Tzu’s thirteen chapters on warfare, wanted to test Sun Tzu’s skill in drilling troops, using women. Sun Tzu was prepared to face this challenge and Prince He Lu sent for 180 ladies from his palace.

Sun Tzu divided them into two companies, each headed by one of the Prince’s two favourite concubines. After arming all the women with spears, Sun Tzu asked: “Do you know what is front and back, right and left?”

When all the women replied in the affirmative, Sun Tzu went on to instruct them thus: “When I command ‘front’, you must face directly ahead; ‘turn left,’ you must face to your left; ‘turn right,’ you must face to your right; ‘back,’ you must turn right around towards your back.”

As all the women assented, Sun Tzu laid out the executioner’s weapons to show his seriousness on discipline and began the drill to the sounds of drumbeats and shouts of commands. None of the women moved. Instead, they burst into laughter.

Sun Tzu patiently told that that commands which are unclear and, therefore, not thoroughly understood would be the commander’s fault, and proceeded to instruct them once more.

When the drums were beaten a second time and the commands repeated, the women again burst into fits of laughter. This time Sun Tzu said: “Commands which are unclear and not thoroughly understood would be the commander’s fault. But when the commands are clear and the soldiers nonetheless do not carry them out, then it is the fault of their officers.” So saying, he ordered both the leading concubines out for execution.

The Prince, who was witnessing the drill from a raised pavilion, on seeing his favourite concubines being sent for execution, was greatly alarmed and quickly sent an aide to Sun Tzu with the message: “I believe the general us capable of drilling troops. Without these two concubines, my food and drink will be tasteless. It is my desire that they be spared.”

Sun Tzu replied that having received the royal commission to lead the troops n the field, he can disregard any of the Ruler’s commands as he sees fit. Accordingly, he had the two concubines beheaded as an example and thereafter appointed two women next in line to replace the executed ones as company leaders.

Subsequently, the drill proceeded smoothly with every woman turning left, right, front or back; kneeling or rising, with perfect accuracy and precision, without uttering any dissent.

Sun Tzu then sent a messenger to the Prince requesting him to inspect the troops which he declared as having been properly drilled and disciplined, and prepared to even go through fire and water for the Prince.

When the Prince declined, Sun Tzu remarked: “The Prince is only fond of words which he cannot put into practice.”

Greatly ashamed by what he heard, and recognizing Sun Tzu’s ability, Prince He Lu promptly appointed Sun Tzu as the supreme commander of the Wu army.

From 506BC, Sun Tzu led five expeditions against the state of State of Chu which had regarded Wu as a vassal. He defeated the armies of Chu and forced his way into the Chu capital, Ying-du, while King Zhao fled leaving his country on the verge of extermination.

For almost twenty years thereafter, the armies of Wu continued to be victorious against those of its neighbors, the States of Qi, Qin and Yue. However, after Sun Tzu’s death, his successors failed to follow his precepts and suffered defeat after defeat until 473BC when the kingdom became extinct.


Related article.

PS: Below is part of DSP Khoo’s email to me dated 10/3/2012. I am most glad that he addresses me as a friend.

“Thank you, Alan. It’s very kind of you. I’m very touched.

Only correction is that I don’t teach the SPF for free. Only VSC got it free. SPF still have to pay albeit special concession fees. Oh yes, you got it right – it was my late Taiwanese wife who translated the original Chinese text to English for me. And I aged because of the stress when she was diagnosed with cancer and later after she died, life isn’t the same again as it took a 360-degree turn and I cease taking care of myself or trying to look good. But life has to go on, and I still have unfinished work to do, like suntzunizing more people.

Take care, my friend. Keep in touch.”

I wish him all the best of health and continue with his mission to “suntzunise” more people with more success!


About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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3 Responses to The Art of War by Sun Tzu [ 孫子兵法 ]

  1. hct says:

    Hi there,

    I know Mr Khoo Kheng Hor as well. I had attended a course conducted by him while serving in the Singapore Police Force. I got his book at the end of the course.

    • Yes. He is an exceptional man. Despite the fact that he knows little Chinese, yet he is able to make a living out of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. He is an expert authority on this subject having published many books on it. We will discuss more when we meet up. Thks.

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