Is the "shuai-jan" snake real or mythical?

Just finished reading “The Art of War,” and it has an interesting mention towards the end:

Very interesting, but I don’t find any mention of it in Google besides some usernames and quotes back to The Art of War.

Anybody know if this is or was a real snake?

I wonder what they mean by “attacked by the tail.” Snakes don’t have stingers or any other weapon on the tail that I’ve ever heard of.

My assumption is that the snake moves and acts as though its tail is its head, making a potential predator with poor vision wary about attacking either end. Interesting evolutionary possibility, if true.

There are a lot of myths that they do, though, so Sun Tzu might have believed that it did.

Without further information, I’d agree that this is likely a folk belief about a real species or subspecies. The Chinese is 率然 (shuàirán in pinyin), which the online MDBG dictionary gives as “hastily, rashly, suddenly” and individually as “rash, hasty” + “pledge, promise” so there may be a pun involved. I don’t speak Chinese, much less Classical Chinese, so I don’t know. Those mountains seem to be in Zhejiang Province, and I imagine you could find a list of snakes native to the region.

ETA: You could always email the local snake institute and ask them.