This is an attempt to demonstrate that in early China anecdotes and biographical scenes are not to be despised in philosophical examination but, on the contrary, merit close attention. By analyzing the encounter between the monarch Helü of the state of Wu and the celebrated strategist Sun Wu, as it is described in various ancient written sources, an attempt will be made to show that this event, far from being a trivial story, concentrates and explains some of the most important ideas to be found in the work traditionally credited to the latter, The Art of War, as well as in other military treatises of the time.