SUN TZU The Art of War - Krone Limited Edition
by Len Provisor
  Article # 437 Article Type: Review


"Warfare is the highest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the Tao to survival or extinction.”

Sun Tzu from the Art of WarThe central premise of Sun Tzu’s classic treatise on warfare, the Art of War, is that there is no human endeavor more important to the survival of a nation state than the ability to conduct war properly.

Sun Tzu lived during the spring and autumn period in Chinese history, which ran from 722 to 481 BC. The ruling Chou Dynasty was in a perpetual state of conflict with other powerful families of the era and this warlike culture gave rise to fortress cities and elaborate defensive structures. The most prominent among these was the Great Wall of China, the first section of which was constructed in the 7th Century BC by vassal states who were seeking protection from one another.

After China was unified in 221 BC the walls were joined to hold off potential foreign invaders. Such elaborate defenses necessitated the advent of new approaches to conducting warfare. It was in the year 509 BC that Sun Tzu had the opportunity to validate his theories on war. He lived in the Chinese state of Wu, which was engaged in a long running war for survival against it’s chief rival the state of Ch’u. The war was in its fiftieth year and at a critical juncture with the state of Wu’s survival hanging in the balance.

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

A charismatic General, Wu Tzu-shu, recommended to the king of Wu that Sun Tzu be commissioned to organize the army for a major campaign against Ch’u and to deal them a death blow. While the king was much impressed with Sun Tzu’s theories, he was still reticent to attack, fearing the destruction of his army. The defining moment came when Sun Tzu used 300 of the king’s concubines to illustrate his tenet or organization and discipline. He then challenged the king to demonstrate the will to mobilize his army against Ch’u. He was ultimately entrusted with overall command of Wu’s military forces for the purpose of effecting their reorganization and training after Sun Tzu’s mentor, Wu Tzu-shu, made an impassioned speech on his behalf.

Sun Tzu assumed command and it is clear from the Art of War and other classic military treatises that even at this early date small unit organization, segmentation, articulation and maneuver were all central to military preparation. In a major campaign against Ch’u that eventually reached its capital city of Ying, Wu’s three armies fielded 33,600 highly disciplined and well organized soldiers capable of following orders and executing tactics. Ch’u was decisively defeated and the state of Wu became the dominant state in the wild and barbaric southern region of China. History has noted that the glory of Sun Tzu was fleeting in spite of his victory.

“The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”Sun Tzu remains an enigmatic figure. There is very little historical data in the texts of the period and his life never generated the types of anecdotes associated with famous figures from later periods. After his great victory at Ying, his name disappears altogether. It is speculated that he became embroiled in political intrigue related to Wu’s royal court and fearing execution at the hands of a new king, he disappeared and lived in anonymity for the rest of his life. The glory of his decisive battles with the state of Ch’u lives on 2,500 years later in his legacy as one of the most influential military theorists in history whose timeless theories are studied and practiced to this day.

Outside, the packaging is a leather box (250mm wide, 100mm deep and 95mm tall) with a bold warrior’s hand grasping his sword in a lovely relief mounted prominently on its top. Inside, the pen rests softly in a plush bed of ultra suede.

The Art of War is a magnificent work of art, with thousands of elements and segments. The concept, planning, design and strategy took a year and a half to develop. The pen is carved from a solid block and rod of ebonite, and the nib is of the highest quality 18-karat gold with rapid reflex. The clip is a warrior’s sword or spear blade dating to the second and first century B.C.E. Hand-tooled metal end caps chase the cap and barrel’s meticulous and laboriously painted work by a master artist. Every paint stroke to the pen’s body is applied individually by a Russian mini-point brush of a single sable hair and creates a flourishing three-dimensional effect to the eye. Each facet of every scene is painted separately. Only two or three master craftsmen produce each piece. Every letter, character, peak, shading, silhouette, scene and landscape portion is decided upon individually, one brief stroke at a time.


The Great Wall spirals around the pen’s body in muted colors. In the foreground we see twelve generals in bright, vivid contrast. The two red characters represent Sun Tzu and the four black ones represent The Art of War while five black characters represent Sun Tzu’s five constant factors.

THE ART OF WAR is lettered atop the cap band and, true to Krone’s historical tie-in, a piece of The Great Wall is imbedded in the band. The standard size Art of War measures 147mm capped, 177mm posted and bears a substantial 45mm long clip. The barrel is 18mm wide and the grip section is 13mm across when measured at midpoints or midsection. The pen fills via its internal fixed mechanism piston and weighs 1.6 oz. empty. By utilizing bronze for the trim metal, Krone’s design accentuates a refined patina. Your eye will immediately lock onto the highly intricate hand-painted, minutely detailed artwork on the pen body.

The Krone Sun Tzu pen is individually hand painted by a single artist in exquisite detail. The image of the Great Wall swirls around the barrel and is painted in muted colors.

In the foreground there are representations of the twelve most significant Chinese Generals in a bright and bold color. This contrast in painting creates a beautiful three-dimensional effect. In addition there are various Chinese characters in the painting. The two red Chinese characters symbolize Sun Tzu. The four black characters symbolize “Sun Tzu – Art of War”. The five black characters represent the major elements of Sun Tzu’s philosophywhich are “truth, heaven, earth, general and law”. The top of the cap is crowned with an ornate Chinese decorative band. The hand-painted Chinese characters within the square opening represent one of the main themes of the Art of War…”attack”.

Expertly set into the band is an authentic piece of the Great Wall of China.

The clip of this pen is symbolic of an ancient Chinese spear blade dating back to the second or first century BCE.

This Krone Limited Edition is available as fountain pen and rollerball.

I found this pen to be a dramatic and impressive size, yet remarkably light and well balanced due to the ebonite material. I handled the pre-production prototype of this pen and did not test write with this example. The 18K nib will perform as prior models I have reviewed, they are firm, give an expected smooth flow and performance and have a hint of flex for line variation with a mindful attitude. I find that the intricate micro-portrait art is the most hypnotizing element of this pen design. One can not help but stare and explore every detail as the pen is rotated in hand and examined closely with the provided high quality magnifier furnished with this pen.

I am a pen user. Some collectors will accumulate a valuable Limited Edition pen like so many coins or other rarities and keep them pristine in the box, unused, neglected and in the dark. This would be a great loss to the owner…this pen is meant to be used. This is a work of art meant to be handled and appreciated, to show to friends and associates, to explain the story of Sun Tzu and in my opinion, to read the book.

The Edition is 288 fountain pens and 28 rollerballs worldwide. In addition the fountain pen will be available as a Magnum Edition with the decoration hand-painted on pearl. The magnum pen is larger and has a more intense painting style adorned with gold leaf and 18K gold accents.

Additional material courtesy of Stylus Magazine



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