Sun Tzu on The Art of War (Part 3)
The Molossian Naval Academy

The Sun-tzu Art of War

Translation and Commentary by Lionel Giles

Index to the Translation

Title Page

01 ~ Laying Plans

02 ~ Waging War

03 ~ Attack by Stratagem

04 ~ Tactical Dispositions

05 ~ Energy

06 ~ Weak Points and Strong

07 ~ Maneuvering

08 ~ Variation in Tactics

09 ~ The Army on the March

10 ~ Terrain

11 ~ The Nine Situations

12 ~ The Attack by Fire

13 ~ The Use of Spies


     1.  Sun Tzu said:  In war, the general receives his commands
from the sovereign.
     2.  Having collected an army and concentrated his forces, he
must blend and harmonize the different elements thereof before
pitching his camp.

     ["Chang   Yu says:   "the establishment of harmony   and
confidence between the higher and lower ranks before venturing
into the field;" and he quotes a saying of Wu Tzu (chap.  1 ad
init.):   "Without harmony in the State, no military expedition
can be undertaken; without harmony in the army, no battle array
can be formed."  In an historical romance Sun Tzu is represented
as saying to Wu Yuan:  "As a general rule, those who are waging
war should get rid of all the domestic troubles before proceeding
to attack the external foe."]

     3.  After that, comes tactical maneuvering, than which there
is nothing more difficult.

     [I    have   departed   slightly   from   the    traditional
interpretation of Ts`ao Kung, who says:   "From the time of
receiving the sovereign's instructions until our encampment over
against the enemy, the tactics to be pursued are most difficult."

It seems to me that the tactics or maneuvers can hardly be said
to begin until the army has sallied forth and encamped,  and
Ch`ien Hao's note gives color to this view:   "For levying,
concentrating,  harmonizing and entrenching an army,  there are
plenty of old rules which will serve.  The real difficulty comes
when we engage in tactical operations."  Tu Yu also observes that
"the great difficulty is to be beforehand with the enemy in
seizing favorable position."]

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the
devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.

     [This sentence contains one of those highly condensed and
somewhat enigmatical expressions of which Sun Tzu is so fond.
This is how it is explained by Ts`ao Kung:  "Make it appear that
you are a long way off, then cover the distance rapidly and
arrive on the scene before your opponent."   Tu Mu   says:
"Hoodwink the enemy, so that he may be remiss and leisurely while
you are dashing along with utmost speed."   Ho Shih gives a
slightly different turn:  "Although you may have difficult ground
to traverse and natural obstacles to encounter this is a drawback
which can be turned into actual advantage by celerity of
movement."   Signal examples of this saying are afforded by the
two famous passages across the Alps--that of Hannibal, which laid
Italy at his mercy, and that of Napoleon two thousand years
later, which resulted in the great victory of Marengo.]

     4.  Thus,  to take a long and circuitous route,  after
enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him,
to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the
artifice of DEVIATION.

     [Tu Mu cites the famous march of Chao She in 270 B.C.  to
relieve the town of O-yu, which was closely invested by a Ch`in
army.  The King of Chao first consulted Lien P`o on the
advisability of attempting a relief, but the latter thought the
distance too great, and the intervening country too rugged and
difficult.  His Majesty then turned to Chao She,  who fully
admitted the hazardous nature of the march, but finally said:
"We shall be like two rats fighting in a whole--and the pluckier
one will win!"  So he left the capital with his army,  but had
only gone a distance of 30 LI when he stopped and began
throwing   up   entrenchments.   For 28   days   he   continued
strengthening his fortifications, and took care that spies should
carry the intelligence to the enemy.  The Ch`in general was
overjoyed,  and attributed his adversary's tardiness to the fact
that the beleaguered city was in the Han State,  and thus not
actually part of Chao territory.  But the spies had no sooner
departed than Chao She began a forced march lasting for two days
and one night,  and arrive on the scene of action with such
astonishing rapidity that he was able to occupy a commanding
position on the "North hill" before the enemy had got wind of his
movements.  A crushing defeat followed for the Ch`in forces,  who
were obliged to raise the siege of O-yu in all haste and retreat
across the border.]

     5.  Maneuvering with an army is advantageous;  with an
undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.

     [I adopt the reading of the T`UNG TIEN, Cheng Yu-hsien and
the T`U SHU, since they appear to apply the exact nuance required
in order to make sense.  The commentators using the standard text
take this line to mean that maneuvers may be profitable, or they
may be dangerous:  it all depends on the ability of the general.]

     6.  If you set a fully equipped army in march in order to
snatch an advantage, the chances are that you will be too late.
On the other hand, to detach a flying column for the purpose
involves the sacrifice of its baggage and stores.

     [Some of the Chinese text is unintelligible to the Chinese
commentators,  who paraphrase the sentence.  I submit my own
rendering without much enthusiasm, being convinced that there is
some deep-seated corruption in the text.  On the whole,  it is
clear that Sun Tzu does not approve of a lengthy march being
undertaken without supplies.  Cf. infra, ss. 11.]

     7.  Thus, if you order your men to roll up their buff-coats,
and make forced marches without halting day or night,  covering
double the usual distance at a stretch,

     [The ordinary day's march, according to Tu Mu, was 30 LI;
but on one occasion, when pursuing Liu Pei, Ts`ao Ts`ao is said
to have covered the incredible distance of 300  _li_  within
twenty-four hours.]

doing a hundred LI in order to wrest an advantage, the leaders of
all your three divisions will fall into the hands of the enemy.
     8.  The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will
fall behind, and on this plan only one-tenth of your army will
reach its destination.

     [The moral is, as Ts`ao Kung and others point out:   Don't
march a hundred LI to gain a tactical advantage, either with or
without impedimenta.  Maneuvers of this description should be
confined to short distances.  Stonewall Jackson said:   "The
hardships of forced marches are often more painful than the
dangers of battle."  He did not often call upon his troops for
extraordinary exertions.  It was only when he intended   a
surprise,  or when a rapid retreat was imperative,  that he
sacrificed everything for speed. [1] ]
     9.  If you march fifty LI in order to outmaneuver the enemy,
you will lose the leader of your first division, and only half
your force will reach the goal.

     [Literally,  "the leader of the first division will be

     10.  If you march thirty LI with the same object, two-thirds
of your army will arrive.

     [In the T`UNG TIEN is added:  "From this we may know the
difficulty of maneuvering."]

     11.  We may take it then that an army without its baggage-
train is lost; without provisions it is lost; without bases of
supply it is lost.

     [I think Sun Tzu meant "stores accumulated in depots."   But
Tu Yu says  "fodder and the like," Chang Yu says  "Goods in
general," and Wang Hsi says "fuel, salt, foodstuffs, etc."]

     12.  We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted
with the designs of our neighbors.
     13.  We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we
are familiar with the face of the country--its mountains and
forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.
     14.  We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to account
unless we make use of local guides.

     [ss. 12-14 are repeated in chap. XI. ss. 52.]

     15.  In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed.

     [In the tactics of Turenne,  deception of the   enemy,
especially as to the numerical strength of his troops,  took a
very prominent position. [2] ]

     16.  Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops,  must
be decided by circumstances.
     17.  Let your rapidity be that of the wind,

     [The simile is doubly appropriate, because the wind is not
only swift but,  as Mei Yao-ch`en points out,  "invisible and
leaves no tracks."]

your compactness that of the forest.

     [Meng Shih comes nearer to the mark in his note:   "When
slowly marching,  order and ranks must be preserved"--so as to
guard against surprise attacks.  But natural forest do not grow
in rows, whereas they do generally possess the quality of density
or compactness.]

     18.  In raiding and plundering be like fire,
     [Cf.  SHIH CHING, IV. 3. iv. 6:  "Fierce as a blazing fire
which no man can check."]

is immovability like a mountain.

     [That is, when holding a position from which the enemy is
trying to dislodge you, or perhaps, as Tu Yu says, when he is
trying to entice you into a trap.]

     19.  Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night,  and
when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.

     [Tu Yu quotes a saying of T`ai Kung which has passed into a
proverb:  "You cannot shut your ears to the thunder or your eyes
to the lighting--so rapid are they."  Likewise, an attack should
be made so quickly that it cannot be parried.]

     20.  When you plunder a countryside,  let the spoil be
divided amongst your men;

     [Sun Tzu wishes to lessen the abuses of indiscriminate
plundering by insisting that all booty shall be thrown into a
common stock,  which may afterwards be fairly divided amongst

when you capture new territory, cut it up into allotments for the
benefit of the soldiery.

     [Ch`en Hao says "quarter your soldiers on the land, and let
them sow and plant it."  It is by acting on this principle,  and
harvesting the lands they invaded,  that the Chinese   have
succeeded in carrying out some of their most memorable and
triumphant expeditions, such as that of Pan Ch`ao who penetrated
to the Caspian, and in more recent years, those of Fu-k`ang-an
and Tso Tsung-t`ang.]

     21.  Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.

     [Chang Yu quotes Wei Liao Tzu as saying that we must not
break camp until we have gained the resisting power of the enemy
and the cleverness of the opposing general.  Cf.  the  "seven
comparisons" in I. ss. 13.]

     22.  He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of

     [See supra, SS. 3, 4.]

Such is the art of maneuvering.

     [With these words, the chapter would naturally come to an
end.  But there now follows a long appendix in the shape of an
extract from an earlier book on War, now lost,  but apparently
extant at the time when Sun Tzu wrote.  The style of this
fragment is not noticeable different from that of Sun Tzu
himself,   but   no commentator raises a doubt as   to   its

     23.  The Book of Army Management says:

     [It is perhaps significant that none of the   earlier
commentators give us any information about this work.  Mei Yao-
Ch`en calls it "an ancient military classic," and Wang Hsi,  "an
old book on war."  Considering the enormous amount of fighting
that had gone on for centuries before Sun Tzu's time between the
various kingdoms and principalities of China, it is not in itself
improbable that a collection of military maxims should have been
made and written down at some earlier period.]

On the field of battle,

     [Implied, though not actually in the Chinese.]

the spoken word does not carry far enough:  hence the institution
of gongs and drums.  Nor can ordinary objects be seen clearly
enough:  hence the institution of banners and flags.
     24.  Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means whereby
the ears and eyes of the host may be focused on one particular

     [Chang   Yu   says:    "If sight   and   hearing   converge
simultaneously on the same object, the evolutions of as many as a
million soldiers will be like those of a single man."!]

     25.  The host thus forming a single united body,  is it
impossible either for the brave to advance alone,  or for the
cowardly to retreat alone.

     [Chuang Yu quotes a saying: "Equally guilty are those who
advance against orders and those who retreat against orders."  Tu
Mu tells a story in this connection of Wu Ch`i,  when he was
fighting against the Ch`in State.  Before the battle had begun,
one of his soldiers, a man of matchless daring, sallied forth by
himself, captured two heads from the enemy, and returned to camp.

Wu Ch`i had the man instantly executed,  whereupon an officer
ventured to remonstrate, saying:  "This man was a good soldier,
and ought not to have been beheaded."  Wu Ch`i replied:  "I fully
believe he was a good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he
acted without orders."]

This is the art of handling large masses of men.
     26.  In night-fighting, then, make much use of signal-fires
and drums,  and in fighting by day, of flags and banners,  as a
means of influencing the ears and eyes of your army.
     [Ch`en Hao alludes to Li Kuang-pi's night ride to Ho-yang at
the head of 500 mounted men; they made such an imposing display
with torches, that though the rebel leader Shih Ssu-ming had a
large army, he did not dare to dispute their passage.]

     27.  A whole army may be robbed of its spirit;

     ["In war," says Chang Yu, "if a spirit of anger can be made
to pervade all ranks of an army at one and the same time,  its
onset will be irresistible.  Now the spirit of the enemy's
soldiers will be keenest when they have newly arrived on the
scene,  and it is therefore our cue not to fight at once, but to
wait until their ardor and enthusiasm have worn off,  and then
strike.  It is in this way that they may be robbed of their keen
spirit."   Li Ch`uan and others tell an anecdote (to be found in
the TSO CHUAN, year 10, ss. 1) of Ts`ao Kuei, a protege of Duke
Chuang of Lu.  The latter State was attacked by Ch`i,  and the
duke was about to join battle at Ch`ang-cho, after the first roll
of the enemy's drums, when Ts`ao said:  "Not just yet."   Only
after their drums had beaten for the third time, did he give the
word for attack.  Then they fought, and the men of Ch`i were
utterly defeated.  Questioned afterwards by the Duke as to the
meaning of his delay,  Ts`ao Kuei replied:   "In battle,  a
courageous spirit is everything.  Now the first roll of the drum
tends to create this spirit, but with the second it is already on
the wane, and after the third it is gone altogether.  I attacked
when their spirit was gone and ours was at its height.  Hence our
victory."   Wu Tzu (chap. 4) puts "spirit" first among the  "four
important influences"  in war, and continues:  "The value of a
whole army--a mighty host of a million men--is dependent on one
man alone:  such is the influence of spirit!"]

a commander-in-chief may be robbed of his presence of mind.

     [Chang Yu says:  "Presence of mind is the general's most
important asset.  It is the quality which enables him to
discipline disorder and to inspire courage into the panic-
stricken."   The great general Li Ching (A.D.  571-649)  has a
saying:  "Attacking does not merely consist in assaulting walled
cities or striking at an army in battle array; it must include
the art of assailing the enemy's mental equilibrium."]

     28.  Now a solider's spirit is keenest in the morning;

     [Always provided, I suppose, that he has had breakfast.  At
the battle of the Trebia, the Romans were foolishly allowed to
fight   fasting,  whereas Hannibal's men had breakfasted   at
their leisure.  See Livy, XXI, liv. 8, lv. 1 and 8.]

by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is
bent only on returning to camp.
     29.  A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its
spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined
to return.  This is the art of studying moods.
     30.  Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of
disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy:--this is the art of
retaining self-possession.
     31.  To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from
it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to
be well-fed while the enemy is famished:--this is the art of
husbanding one's strength.
     32.  To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are
in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in
calm   and confident array:--this is the art   of   studying
     33.  It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against
the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill.
     34.  Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight;  do not
attack soldiers whose temper is keen.
     35.  Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.

     [Li Ch`uan and Tu Mu, with extraordinary inability to see a
metaphor, take these words quite literally of food and drink that
have been poisoned by the enemy.  Ch`en Hao and Chang Yu
carefully point out that the saying has a wider application.]

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.

     [The commentators explain this rather singular piece of
advice by saying that a man whose heart is set on returning home
will fight to the death against any attempt to bar his way,  and
is therefore too dangerous an opponent to be tackled.  Chang Yu
quotes the words of Han Hsin:  "Invincible is the soldier who
hath his desire and returneth homewards."  A marvelous tale is
told of Ts`ao Ts`ao's courage and resource in ch. 1 of the SAN
KUO CHI:  In 198 A.D., he was besieging Chang Hsiu in Jang,  when
Liu Piao sent reinforcements with a view to cutting off Ts`ao's
retreat.  The latter was obligbed to draw off his troops, only to
find himself hemmed in between two enemies, who were guarding
each outlet of a narrow pass in which he had engaged himself.  In
this desperate plight Ts`ao waited until nightfall, when he bored
a tunnel into the mountain side and laid an ambush in it.  As
soon as the whole army had passed by, the hidden troops fell on
his rear,  while Ts`ao himself turned and met his pursuers in
front,  so that they were thrown into confusion and annihilated.
Ts`ao Ts`ao said afterwards:  "The brigands tried to check my
army in its retreat and brought me to battle in a desperate
position:  hence I knew how to overcome them."]

     36.  When you surround an army, leave an outlet free.

     [This does not mean that the enemy is to be allowed to
escape.  The object, as Tu Mu puts it, is "to make him believe
that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting
with the courage of despair."  Tu Mu adds pleasantly:   "After
that, you may crush him."]

Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
     [Ch`en Hao quotes the saying:   "Birds and beasts when
brought to bay will use their claws and teeth."  Chang Yu says:
"If your adversary has burned his boats and destroyed his
cooking-pots, and is ready to stake all on the issue of a battle,
he must not be pushed to extremities."  Ho Shih illustrates the
meaning by a story taken from the life of Yen-ch`ing.  That
general, together with his colleague Tu Chung-wei was surrounded
by a vastly superior army of Khitans in the year 945 A.D.  The
country was bare and desert-like, and the little Chinese force
was soon in dire straits for want of water.  The wells they bored
ran dry, and the men were reduced to squeezing lumps of mud and
sucking out the moisture.  Their ranks thinned rapidly, until at
last Fu Yen-ch`ing exclaimed:  "We are desperate men.  Far better
to die for our country than to go with fettered hands into
captivity!"   A strong gale happened to be blowing from the
northeast and darkening the air with dense clouds of sandy dust.
To Chung-wei was for waiting until this had abated before
deciding on a final attack; but luckily another officer, Li Shou-
cheng by name,  was quicker to see an opportunity,  and said:
"They are many and we are few, but in the midst of this sandstorm
our numbers will not be discernible; victory will go to the
strenuous fighter,  and the wind will be our best   ally."
Accordingly,  Fu Yen-ch`ing made a sudden and wholly unexpected
onslaught with his cavalry, routed the barbarians and succeeded
in breaking through to safety.]

     37.  Such is the art of warfare.

[1]  See Col. Henderson, op. cit. vol. I. p. 426.

[2]   For a number of maxims on this head, see "Marshal Turenne"
(Longmans, 1907), p. 29.

[Go to Index]


     [The heading means literally "The Nine Variations," but as
Sun Tzu does not appear to enumerate these, and as,  indeed,  he
has already told us (V SS. 6-11) that such deflections from the
ordinary course are practically innumerable,  we have little
option but to follow Wang Hsi, who says that "Nine" stands for an
indefinitely large number.  "All it means is that in warfare we
ought to very our tactics to the utmost degree....  I do not know
what Ts`ao Kung makes these Nine Variations out to be, but it has
been suggested that they are connected with the Nine Situations"
- of chapt. XI.  This is the view adopted by Chang Yu.  The only
other alternative is to suppose that something has been lost--a
supposition to which the unusual shortness of the chapter lends
some weight.]
     1.   Sun Tzu said:   In war,  the general receives his
commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates
his forces.

     [Repeated from VII. ss. 1, where it is certainly more in
place.  It may have been interpolated here merely in order to
supply a beginning to the chapter.]

     2.  When in difficult country, do not encamp.  In country
where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies.  Do not
linger in dangerously isolated positions.

     [The last situation is not one of the Nine Situations as
given in the beginning of chap. XI, but occurs later on  (ibid.
ss. 43. q.v.).  Chang Yu defines this situation as being situated
across the frontier, in hostile territory.  Li Ch`uan says it is
"country in which there are no springs or wells, flocks or herds,
vegetables or firewood;" Chia Lin, "one of gorges,  chasms and
precipices, without a road by which to advance."]

In hemmed-in situations,  you must resort to stratagem.  In
desperate position, you must fight.
     3.  There are roads which must not be followed,

     ["Especially those leading through narrow defiles," says Li
Ch`uan, "where an ambush is to be feared."]

armies which must be not attacked,

     [More correctly, perhaps, "there are times when an army must
not be attacked."  Ch`en Hao says:  "When you see your way to
obtain a rival advantage, but are powerless to inflict a real
defeat, refrain from attacking, for fear of overtaxing your men's

towns which must be besieged,

     [Cf.  III.  ss.  4   Ts`ao Kung gives   an   interesting
illustration   from his own experience.  When invading   the
territory of Hsu-chou, he ignored the city of Hua-pi, which lay
directly in his path, and pressed on into the heart of the
country.  This excellent strategy was rewarded by the subsequent
capture of no fewer than fourteen important district cities.
Chang Yu says:  "No town should be attacked which,  if taken,
cannot be held, or if left alone, will not cause any trouble."
Hsun Ying, when urged to attack Pi-yang, replied:  "The city is
small and well-fortified; even if I succeed intaking it, it will
be no great feat of arms; whereas if I fail, I shall make myself
a laughing-stock."   In the seventeenth century,  sieges still
formed a large proportion of war.  It was Turenne who directed
attention to the importance of marches,  countermarches and
maneuvers.  He said:  "It is a great mistake to waste men in
taking a town when the same expenditure of soldiers will gain a
province." [1] ]
positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign
which must not be obeyed.

     [This is a hard saying for the Chinese, with their reverence
for authority,  and Wei Liao Tzu (quoted by Tu Mu) is moved to
exclaim:    "Weapons   are   baleful   instruments,   strife   is
antagonistic to virtue, a military commander is the negation of
civil order!"  The unpalatable fact remains, however, that even
Imperial wishes must be subordinated to military necessity.]

     4.  The general who thoroughly understands the advantages
that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his
     5.  The general who does not understand these, may be well
acquainted with the configuration of the country, yet he will not
be able to turn his knowledge to practical account.

     [Literally,  "get the advantage of the ground," which means
not only securing good positions, but availing oneself of natural
advantages in every possible way.  Chang Yu says:  "Every kind of
ground is characterized by certain natural features,  and also
gives scope for a certain variability of plan.  How it is
possible to turn these natural features to account unless
topographical knowledge is supplemented by versatility of mind?"]

     6.  So, the student of war who is unversed in the art of war
of varying his plans, even though he be acquainted with the Five
Advantages, will fail to make the best use of his men.

     [Chia Lin tells us that these imply five obvious and
generally advantageous lines of action, namely:  "if a certain
road is short, it must be followed; if an army is isolated,  it
must be attacked; if a town is in a parlous condition, it must be
besieged; if a position can be stormed, it must be attempted; and
if consistent with military operations, the ruler's commands must
be obeyed."  But there are circumstances which sometimes forbid a
general to use these advantages.  For instance, "a certain road
may be the shortest way for him, but if he knows that it abounds
in natural obstacles, or that the enemy has laid an ambush on it,
he will not follow that road.  A hostile force may be open to
attack,  but if he knows that it is hard-pressed and likely to
fight with desperation, he will refrain from striking,"  and so

     7.  Hence in the wise leader's plans,  considerations of
advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.

     ["Whether in an advantageous position or a disadvantageous
one,"  says Ts`ao Kung, "the opposite state should be always
present to your mind."]

     8.  If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way,
we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our
     [Tu Mu says:  "If we wish to wrest an advantage from the
enemy, we must not fix our minds on that alone, but allow for the
possibility of the enemy also doing some harm to us, and let this
enter as a factor into our calculations."]

     9.  If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we
are always ready to seize an advantage,  we may extricate
ourselves from misfortune.

     [Tu Mu says:   "If I wish to extricate myself from a
dangerous position, I must consider not only the enemy's ability
to injure me, but also my own ability to gain an advantage over
the enemy.  If in my counsels these two considerations are
properly blended, I shall succeed in liberating myself....  For
instance;  if I am surrounded by the enemy and only think of
effecting an escape, the nervelessness of my policy will incite
my adversary to pursue and crush me; it would be far better to
encourage my men to deliver a bold counter-attack, and use the
advantage thus gained to free myself from the enemy's toils."
See the story of Ts`ao Ts`ao, VII. ss. 35, note.]

     10.  Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on them;

     [Chia Lin enumerates several ways of inflicting this injury,
some of which would only occur to the Oriental mind:--"Entice
away the enemy's best and wisest men, so that he may be left
without counselors.  Introduce traitors into his country,  that
the government policy may be rendered futile.  Foment intrigue
and deceit,  and thus sow dissension between the ruler and his
ministers.   By means of every artful   contrivance,   cause
deterioration amongst his men and waste of his treasure.  Corrupt
his morals by insidious gifts leading him into excess.  Disturb
and unsettle his mind by presenting him with lovely women."
Chang Yu (after Wang Hsi) makes a different interpretation of Sun
Tzu here:  "Get the enemy into a position where he must suffer
injury, and he will submit of his own accord."]

and make trouble for them,

     [Tu Mu, in this phrase, in his interpretation indicates that
trouble   should   be make for the   enemy   affecting   their
"possessions," or, as we might say, "assets," which he considers
to be  "a large army, a rich exchequer,  harmony amongst the
soldiers,  punctual fulfillment of commands."  These give us a
whip-hand over the enemy.]

and keep them constantly engaged;

     [Literally,  "make servants of them."  Tu Yu says  "prevent
the from having any rest."]

hold out specious allurements, and make them rush to any given
     [Meng Shih's note contains an excellent example of the
idiomatic use of:  "cause them to forget PIEN (the reasons for
acting otherwise than on their first impulse), and hasten in our

     11.  The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood
of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive
him;  not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the
fact that we have made our position unassailable.
     12.  There are five dangerous faults which may affect a
general:  (1)  Recklessness, which leads to destruction;

     ["Bravery without forethought," as Ts`ao Kung analyzes it,
which causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad
bull.  Such an opponent, says Chang Yu, "must not be encountered
with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain."
Cf. Wu Tzu, chap. IV. ad init.:  "In estimating the character of
a general,  men are wont to pay exclusive attention to his
courage,  forgetting that courage is only one out of many
qualities which a general should possess.  The merely brave man
is prone to fight recklessly; and he who fights recklessly,
without any perception of what is expedient, must be condemned."
Ssu-ma Fa, too, make the incisive remark:  "Simply going to one's
death does not bring about victory."]

     (2)  cowardice, which leads to capture;

     [Ts`ao Kung defines the Chinese word translated here as
"cowardice"  as being of the man "whom timidity prevents from
advancing to seize an advantage," and Wang Hsi adds "who is quick
to flee at the sight of danger."  Meng Shih gives the closer
paraphrase "he who is bent on returning alive," this is, the man
who will never take a risk.  But, as Sun Tzu knew, nothing is to
be achieved in war unless you are willing to take risks.  T`ai
Kung said:   "He who lets an advantage slip will subsequently
bring upon himself real disaster."  In 404 A.D., Liu Yu pursued
the rebel Huan Hsuan up the Yangtsze and fought a naval battle
with him at the island of Ch`eng-hung.  The loyal troops numbered
only a few thousands, while their opponents were in great force.
But Huan Hsuan,  fearing the fate which was in store for him
should be be overcome, had a light boat made fast to the side of
his war-junk,  so that he might escape,  if necessary,  at a
moment's notice.  The natural result was that the fighting spirit
of his soldiers was utterly quenched, and when the loyalists made
an attack from windward with fireships, all striving with the
utmost ardor to be first in the fray, Huan Hsuan's forces were
routed,  had to burn all their baggage and fled for two days and
nights without stopping.  Chang Yu tells a somewhat similar story
of Chao Ying-ch`i,  a general of the Chin State who during a
battle with the army of Ch`u in 597 B.C. had a boat kept in
readiness for him on the river, wishing in case of defeat to be
the first to get across.]

     (3)  a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;
     [Tu Mu tells us that Yao Hsing, when opposed in 357 A.D.  by
Huang Mei,  Teng Ch`iang and others shut himself up behind his
walls and refused to fight.  Teng Ch`iang said:  "Our adversary
is of a choleric temper and easily provoked; let us make constant
sallies and break down his walls, then he will grow angry and
come out.  Once we can bring his force to battle, it is doomed to
be our prey."  This plan was acted upon, Yao Hsiang came out to
fight,  was lured as far as San-yuan by the enemy's pretended
flight, and finally attacked and slain.]

     (4)  a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame;

     [This need not be taken to mean that a sense of honor is
really a defect in a general.  What Sun Tzu condemns is rather an
exaggerated sensitiveness to slanderous reports, the thin-skinned
man who is stung by opprobrium, however undeserved.  Mei Yao-
ch`en truly observes, though somewhat paradoxically:  "The seek
after glory should be careless of public opinion."]

     (5)  over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry
and trouble.

     [Here again, Sun Tzu does not mean that the general is to be
careless of the welfare of his troops.  All he wishes to
emphasize is the danger of sacrificing any important military
advantage to the immediate comfort of his men.  This is a
shortsighted policy,  because in the long run the troops will
suffer more from the defeat, or, at best, the prolongation of the
war,  which will be the consequence.  A mistaken feeling of pity
will often induce a general to relieve a beleaguered city, or to
reinforce a hard-pressed detachment, contrary to his military
instincts.  It is now generally admitted that our repeated
efforts to relieve Ladysmith in the South African War were so
many strategical blunders which defeated their own purpose.  And
in the end, relief came through the very man who started out with
the distinct resolve no longer to subordinate the interests of
the whole to sentiment in favor of a part.  An old soldier of one
of our generals who failed most conspicuously in this war,  tried
once,  I remember, to defend him to me on the ground that he was
always "so good to his men."  By this plea, had he but known it,
he was only condemning him out of Sun Tzu's mouth.]

     13.  These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous
to the conduct of war.
     14.  When an army is overthrown and its leader slain,  the
cause will surely be found among these five dangerous faults.
Let them be a subject of meditation.

[1]  "Marshal Turenne," p. 50.

[Go to Index]


     [The contents of this interesting chapter are   better
indicated in ss. 1 than by this heading.]

     1.  Sun Tzu said:  We come now to the question of encamping
the army, and observing signs of the enemy.  Pass quickly over
mountains, and keep in the neighborhood of valleys.

     [The idea is, not to linger among barren uplands,  but to
keep close to supplies of water and grass.  Cf. Wu Tzu,  ch.  3:
"Abide not in natural ovens," i.e. "the openings of valleys."
Chang Yu tells the following anecdote:  Wu-tu Ch`iang was a
robber captain in the time of the Later Han, and Ma Yuan was sent
to exterminate his gang.  Ch`iang having found a refuge in the
hills, Ma Yuan made no attempt to force a battle, but seized all
the favorable positions commanding supplies of water and forage.
Ch`iang was soon in such a desperate plight for want of
provisions that he was forced to make a total surrender.  He did
not know the advantage of keeping in the neighborhood of

     2.  Camp in high places,

     [Not on high hills, but on knolls or hillocks elevated above
the surrounding country.]

facing the sun.

     [Tu Mu takes this to mean "facing south,"  and Ch`en Hao
"facing east."  Cf.  infra, SS. 11, 13.

Do not climb heights in order to fight.  So much for mountain
     3.  After crossing a river, you should get far away from it.

     ["In order to tempt the enemy to cross after you," according
to Ts`ao Kung,  and also, says Chang Yu, "in order not to be
impeded in your evolutions."  The T`UNG TIEN reads, "If THE ENEMY
crosses a river," etc.  But in view of the next sentence, this is
almost certainly an interpolation.]

     4.  When an invading force crosses a river in its onward
march, do not advance to meet it in mid-stream.  It will be best
to let half the army get across, and then deliver your attack.

     [Li Ch`uan alludes to the great victory won by Han Hsin over
Lung Chu at the Wei River.  Turning to the CH`IEN HAN SHU,  ch.
34, fol. 6 verso, we find the battle described as follows:   "The
two armies were drawn up on opposite sides of the river.  In the
night,  Han Hsin ordered his men to take some ten thousand sacks
filled with sand and construct a dam higher up.  Then,  leading
half his army across, he attacked Lung Chu; but after a time,
pretending to have failed in his attempt, he hastily withdrew to
the other bank.  Lung Chu was much elated by this unlooked-for
success, and exclaiming:  "I felt sure that Han Hsin was really a
coward!" he pursued him and began crossing the river in his turn.

Han Hsin now sent a party to cut open the sandbags,  thus
releasing a great volume of water, which swept down and prevented
the greater portion of Lung Chu's army from getting across.  He
then turned upon the force which had been cut off,   and
annihilated it, Lung Chu himself being amongst the slain.  The
rest of the army, on the further bank, also scattered and fled in
all directions.]

     5.  If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet
the invader near a river which he has to cross.

     [For fear of preventing his crossing.]

     6.  Moor your craft higher up than the enemy, and facing the

     [See supra,  ss.  2.  The repetition of these words in
connection with water is very awkward.  Chang Yu has the note:
"Said either of troops marshaled on the river-bank, or of boats
anchored in the stream itself; in either case it is essential to
be higher than the enemy and facing the sun."   The other
commentators are not at all explicit.]

Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy.

     [Tu Mu says:  "As water flows downwards, we must not pitch
our camp on the lower reaches of a river, for fear the enemy
should open the sluices and sweep us away in a flood.  Chu-ko Wu-
hou has remarked that 'in river warfare we must not advance
against the stream,' which is as much as to say that our fleet
must not be anchored below that of the enemy, for then they would
be able to take advantage of the current and make short work of
us."  There is also the danger, noted by other commentators, that
the enemy may throw poison on the water to be carried down to

So much for river warfare.
     7.  In crossing salt-marshes, your sole concern should be to
get over them quickly, without any delay.

     [Because of the lack of fresh water, the poor quality of the
herbage, and last but not least, because they are low, flat,  and
exposed to attack.]

     8.  If forced to fight in a salt-marsh,  you should have
water and grass near you, and get your back to a clump of trees.

     [Li Ch`uan remarks that the ground is less likely to be
treacherous where there are trees, while Tu Mu says that they
will serve to protect the rear.]

So much for operations in salt-marches.
     9.  In dry, level country, take up an easily accessible
position with rising ground to your right and on your rear,

     [Tu Mu quotes T`ai Kung as saying:  "An army should have a
stream or a marsh on its left, and a hill or tumulus on its

so that the danger may be in front, and safety lie behind.  So
much for campaigning in flat country.
     10.  These are the four useful branches of   military

     [Those,  namely, concerned with (1) mountains,  (2)  rivers,
(3)  marshes,  and  (4)  plains.  Compare Napoleon's  "Military
Maxims," no. 1.]

which enabled the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four several

     [Regarding the "Yellow Emperor":  Mei Yao-ch`en asks,  with
some plausibility,  whether there is an error in the text as
nothing is known of Huang Ti having conquered four other
Emperors.  The SHIH CHI (ch. 1 ad init.) speaks only of his
victories over Yen Ti and Ch`ih Yu.  In the LIU T`AO it is
mentioned that he  "fought seventy battles and pacified the
Empire."   Ts`ao Kung's explanation is, that the Yellow Emperor
was the first to institute the feudal system of vassals princes,
each of whom (to the number of four) originally bore the title of
Emperor.  Li Ch`uan tells us that the art of war originated under
Huang Ti, who received it from his Minister Feng Hou.]

     11.  All armies prefer high ground to low.

     ["High Ground,"  says Mei Yao-ch`en,  "is not only more
agreement and salubrious, but more convenient from a military
point of view; low ground is not only damp and unhealthy,  but
also disadvantageous for fighting."]

and sunny places to dark.
     12.  If you are careful of your men,

     [Ts`ao Kung says:  "Make for fresh water and pasture,  where
you can turn out your animals to graze."]

and camp on hard ground, the army will be free from disease of
every kind,

     [Chang Yu says:  "The dryness of the climate will prevent
the outbreak of illness."]
and this will spell victory.
     13.  When you come to a hill or a bank, occupy the sunny
side,  with the slope on your right rear.  Thus you will at once
act for the benefit of your soldiers and utilize the natural
advantages of the ground.
     14.  When, in consequence of heavy rains up-country, a river
which you wish to ford is swollen and flecked with foam, you must
wait until it subsides.
     15.  Country in which there are precipitous cliffs with
torrents running between, deep natural hollows,

     [The latter defined as "places enclosed on every side by
steep banks, with pools of water at the bottom.]

confined places,

     [Defined as "natural pens or prisons" or "places surrounded
by precipices on three sides--easy to get into, but hard to get
out of."]

tangled thickets,

     [Defined as "places covered with such dense undergrowth that
spears cannot be used."]


     [Defined as "low-lying places, so heavy with mud as to be
impassable for chariots and horsemen."]

and crevasses,

     [Defined by Mei Yao-ch`en as "a narrow difficult way between
beetling cliffs."  Tu Mu's note is "ground covered with trees and
rocks,  and intersected by numerous ravines and pitfalls."   This
is very vague,  but Chia Lin explains it clearly enough as a
defile or narrow pass, and Chang Yu takes much the same view.  On
the whole, the weight of the commentators certainly inclines to
the rendering "defile."  But the ordinary meaning of the Chinese
in one place is "a crack or fissure" and the fact that the
meaning of the Chinese elsewhere in the sentence indicates
something in the nature of a defile, make me think that Sun Tzu
is here speaking of crevasses.]

should be left with all possible speed and not approached.
     16.  While we keep away from such places, we should get the
enemy to approach them; while we face them, we should let the
enemy have them on his rear.
     17.  If in the neighborhood of your camp there should be any
hilly country, ponds surrounded by aquatic grass, hollow basins
filled with reeds, or woods with thick undergrowth, they must be
carefully routed out and searched; for these are places where men
in ambush or insidious spies are likely to be lurking.

     [Chang Yu has the note:  "We must also be on our guard
against traitors who may lie in close covert, secretly spying out
our weaknesses and overhearing our instructions."]

     18.  When the enemy is close at hand and remains quiet,  he
is relying on the natural strength of his position.

     [Here begin Sun Tzu's remarks on the reading of signs,  much
of which is so good that it could almost be included in a modern
manual like Gen. Baden-Powell's "Aids to Scouting."]

     19.  When he keeps aloof and tries to provoke a battle,  he
is anxious for the other side to advance.

     [Probably because we are in a strong position from which he
wishes to dislodge us.  "If he came close up to us, says Tu Mu,
"and tried to force a battle, he would seem to despise us,  and
there would be less probability of our responding to the

     20.  If his place of encampment is easy of access,  he is
tendering a bait.
     21.  Movement amongst the trees of a forest shows that the
enemy is advancing.

     [Ts`ao Kung explains this as "felling trees to clear a
passage,"  and Chang Yu says:  "Every man sends out scouts to
climb high places and observe the enemy.  If a scout sees that
the trees of a forest are moving and shaking, he may know that
they are being cut down to clear a passage for the enemy's

The appearance of a number of screens in the midst of thick grass
means that the enemy wants to make us suspicious.

     [Tu Yu's explanation, borrowed from Ts`ao Kung's,  is as
follows:   "The presence of a number of screens or sheds in the
midst of thick vegetation is a sure sign that the enemy has fled
and,  fearing pursuit, has constructed these hiding-places in
order to make us suspect an ambush."  It appears that these
"screens"  were hastily knotted together out of any long grass
which the retreating enemy happened to come across.]

     22.  The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an

     [Chang Yu's explanation is doubtless right:   "When birds
that are flying along in a straight line suddenly shoot upwards,
it means that soldiers are in ambush at the spot beneath."]

Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.
     23.  When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the
sign of chariots advancing; when the dust is low, but spread over
a wide area, it betokens the approach of infantry.
     ["High and sharp,"  or rising to a peak,  is of course
somewhat exaggerated as applied to dust.  The commentators
explain the phenomenon by saying that horses and chariots,  being
heavier than men, raise more dust, and also follow one another in
the same wheel-track, whereas foot-soldiers would be marching in
ranks,  many abreast.  According to Chang Yu, "every army on the
march must have scouts some way in advance, who on sighting dust
raised by the enemy, will gallop back and report it to the
commander-in-chief."  Cf. Gen. Baden-Powell:  "As you move along,
say,  in a hostile country, your eyes should be looking afar for
the enemy or any signs of him:  figures,  dust rising,  birds
getting up, glitter of arms, etc." [1] ]

When it branches out in different directions,  it shows that
parties have been sent to collect firewood.  A few clouds of dust
moving to and fro signify that the army is encamping.

     [Chang Yu says:   "In apportioning the defenses for a
cantonment,  light horse will be sent out to survey the position
and   ascertain the weak and strong points all along   its
circumference.  Hence the small quantity of dust and   its

     24.  Humble words and increased preparations are signs that
the enemy is about to advance.

     ["As though they stood in great fear of us," says Tu Mu.
"Their object is to make us contemptuous and careless,  after
which they will attack us."  Chang Yu alludes to the story of
T`ien Tan of the Ch`i-mo against the Yen forces,  led by Ch`i
Chieh.  In ch. 82 of the SHIH CHI we read:  "T`ien Tan openly
said:   'My only fear is that the Yen army may cut off the noses
of their Ch`i prisoners and place them in the front rank to fight
against us; that would be the undoing of our city.'   The other
side being informed of this speech,  at once acted on the
suggestion;  but those within the city were enraged at seeing
their fellow-countrymen thus mutilated, and fearing only lest
they should fall into the enemy's hands, were nerved to defend
themselves more obstinately than ever.  Once again T`ien Tan sent
back converted spies who reported these words to the enemy:
"What I dread most is that the men of Yen may dig up the
ancestral tombs outside the town,  and by inflicting   this
indignity on our forefathers cause us to become faint-hearted.'
Forthwith the besiegers dug up all the graves and burned the
corpses lying in them.  And the inhabitants of Chi-mo, witnessing
the outrage from the city-walls, wept passionately and were all
impatient to go out and fight,  their fury being increased
tenfold.  T`ien Tan knew then that his soldiers were ready for
any enterprise.  But instead of a sword,   he himself too a
mattock in his hands, and ordered others to be distributed
amongst his best warriors, while the ranks were filled up with
their wives and concubines.  He then served out all the remaining
rations and bade his men eat their fill.  The regular soldiers
were told to keep out of sight, and the walls were manned with
the old and weaker men and with women.  This done,  envoys were
dispatched to the enemy's camp to arrange terms of surrender,
whereupon the Yen army began shouting for joy.  T`ien Tan also
collected 20,000 ounces of silver from the people, and got the
wealthy citizens of Chi-mo to send it to the Yen general with the
prayer that,  when the town capitulated, he would allow their
homes to be plundered or their women to be maltreated.  Ch`i
Chieh, in high good humor, granted their prayer; but his army now
became increasingly slack and careless.  Meanwhile, T`ien Tan got
together a thousand oxen, decked them with pieces of red silk,
painted their bodies, dragon-like, with colored stripes,  and
fastened sharp blades on their horns and well-greased rushes on
their tails.  When night came on, he lighted the ends of the
rushes, and drove the oxen through a number of holes which he had
pierced in the walls, backing them up with a force of 5000 picked
warriors.  The animals, maddened with pain,   dashed furiously
into the enemy's camp where they caused the utmost confusion and
dismay; for their tails acted as torches, showing up the hideous
pattern on their bodies, and the weapons on their horns killed or
wounded any with whom they came into contact.  In the meantime,
the band of 5000 had crept up with gags in their mouths, and now
threw themselves on the enemy.  At the same moment a frightful
din arose in the city itself, all those that remained behind
making as much noise as possible by banging drums and hammering
on bronze vessels, until heaven and earth were convulsed by the
uproar.  Terror-stricken, the Yen army fled in disorder,  hotly
pursued by the men of Ch`i, who succeeded in slaying their
general Ch`i Chien....  The result of the battle was the ultimate
recovery of some seventy cities which had belonged to the Ch`i

Violent language and driving forward as if to the attack are
signs that he will retreat.
     25.  When the light chariots come out first and take up a
position on the wings, it is a sign that the enemy is forming for
     26.  Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant
indicate a plot.

     [The reading here is uncertain.  Li Ch`uan indicates  "a
treaty confirmed by oaths and hostages."  Wang Hsi and Chang Yu,
on the other hand, simply say "without reason," "on a frivolous

     27.  When there is much running about

     [Every man hastening to his proper place under his own
regimental banner.]

and the soldiers fall into rank, it means that the critical
moment has come.
     28.  When some are seen advancing and some retreating, it is
a lure.
     29.  When the soldiers stand leaning on their spears,  they
are faint from want of food.
     30.  If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking
themselves, the army is suffering from thirst.

     [As Tu Mu remarks:  "One may know the condition of a whole
army from the behavior of a single man."]

     31.  If the enemy sees an advantage to be gained and makes
no effort to secure it, the soldiers are exhausted.
     32.  If birds gather on any spot, it is unoccupied.

     [A useful fact to bear in mind when, for instance, as Ch`en
Hao says, the enemy has secretly abandoned his camp.]

Clamor by night betokens nervousness.

     33.  If there is disturbance in the camp,  the general's
authority is weak.  If the banners and flags are shifted about,
sedition is afoot.  If the officers are angry, it means that the
men are weary.

     [Tu Mu understands the sentence differently:  "If all the
officers of an army are angry with their general, it means that
they are broken with fatigue" owing to the exertions which he has
demanded from them.]

     34.  When an army feeds its horses with grain and kills its
cattle for food,

     [In the ordinary course of things, the men would be fed on
grain and the horses chiefly on grass.]

and when the men do not hang their cooking-pots over the camp-
fires, showing that they will not return to their tents, you may
know that they are determined to fight to the death.

     [I may quote here the illustrative passage from the HOU HAN
SHU,  ch. 71, given in abbreviated form by the P`EI WEN YUN FU:
"The rebel Wang Kuo of Liang was besieging the town of Ch`en-
ts`ang,  and Huang-fu Sung, who was in supreme command, and Tung
Cho were sent out against him.  The latter pressed for hasty
measures, but Sung turned a deaf ear to his counsel.  At last the
rebels were utterly worn out, and began to throw down their
weapons of their own accord.  Sung was not advancing to the
attack,  but Cho said:  'It is a principle of war not to pursue
desperate men and not to press a retreating host.'   Sung
answered:  'That does not apply here.  What I am about to attack
is a jaded army, not a retreating host; with disciplined troops I
am falling on a disorganized multitude, not a band of desperate
men.'   Thereupon he advances to the attack unsupported by his
colleague, and routed the enemy, Wang Kuo being slain."]

     35.  The sight of men whispering together in small knots or
speaking in subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank
and file.
     36.  Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at the
end of his resources;

     [Because, when an army is hard pressed, as Tu Mu says, there
is always a fear of mutiny, and lavish rewards are given to keep
the men in good temper.]

too many punishments betray a condition of dire distress.

     [Because in such case discipline becomes relaxed,  and
unwonted severity is necessary to keep the men to their duty.]

     37.  To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at
the enemy's numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence.

     [I follow the interpretation of Ts`ao Kung, also adopted by
Li Ch`uan,  Tu Mu, and Chang Yu.  Another possible meaning set
forth by Tu Yu, Chia Lin, Mei Tao-ch`en and Wang Hsi, is:   "The
general who is first tyrannical towards his men,  and then in
terror lest they should mutiny, etc."  This would connect the
sentence with what went before about rewards and punishments.]

     38.  When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths,
it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.

     [Tu Mu says:   "If the enemy open friendly relations be
sending hostages,  it is a sign that they are anxious for an
armistice, either because their strength is exhausted or for some
other reason."   But it hardly needs a Sun Tzu to draw such an
obvious inference.]

     39.  If the enemy's troops march up angrily and remain
facing ours for a long time without either joining battle or
taking themselves off again, the situation is one that demands
great vigilance and circumspection.

     [Ts`ao Kung says a maneuver of this sort may be only a ruse
to gain time for an unexpected flank attack or the laying of an

     40.  If our troops are no more in number than the enemy,
that is amply sufficient; it only means that no direct attack can
be made.

     [Literally,  "no martial advance."  That is to say,  CHENG
tactics and frontal attacks must be eschewed,  and stratagem
resorted to instead.]

What we can do is simply to concentrate all our available
strength,   keep a close watch on the enemy,   and   obtain

     [This is an obscure sentence, and none of the commentators
succeed in squeezing very good sense out of it.  I follow Li
Ch`uan, who appears to offer the simplest explanation:  "Only the
side that gets more men will win."  Fortunately we have Chang Yu
to expound its meaning to us in language which is lucidity
itself:   "When the numbers are even, and no favorable opening
presents itself, although we may not be strong enough to deliver
a sustained attack, we can find additional recruits amongst our
sutlers and camp-followers, and then, concentrating our forces
and keeping a close watch on the enemy, contrive to snatch the
victory.  But we must avoid borrowing foreign soldiers to help
us."   He then quotes from Wei Liao Tzu, ch.  3:   "The nominal
strength of mercenary troops may be 100,000, but their real value
will be not more than half that figure."]

     41.  He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his
opponents is sure to be captured by them.

     [Ch`en Hao, quoting from the TSO CHUAN, says:  "If bees and
scorpions carry poison, how much more will a hostile state!  Even
a puny opponent, then, should not be treated with contempt."]

     42.  If soldiers are punished before they have grown
attached to you, they will not prove submissive;  and,  unless
submissive,  then will be practically useless.  If,  when the
soldiers have become attached to you,  punishments are not
enforced, they will still be unless.
     43.  Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first
instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron

     [Yen Tzu  [B.C. 493] said of Ssu-ma Jang-chu:   "His civil
virtues endeared him to the people; his martial prowess kept his
enemies in awe."  Cf. Wu Tzu, ch. 4 init.:  "The ideal commander
unites culture with a warlike temper; the profession of arms
requires a combination of hardness and tenderness."]

This is a certain road to victory.

     44.  If in training soldiers commands are   habitually
enforced,  the army will be well-disciplined;  if not,   its
discipline will be bad.
     45.  If a general shows confidence in his men but always
insists on his orders being obeyed,

     [Tu Mu says:  "A general ought in time of peace to show
kindly confidence in his men and also make his authority
respected,  so that when they come to face the enemy, orders may
be executed and discipline maintained, because they all trust and
look up to him."  What Sun Tzu has said in ss. 44, however, would
lead one rather to expect something like this:  "If a general is
always confident that his orders will be carried out," etc."]

the gain will be mutual.

     [Chang Yu says:  "The general has confidence in the men
under his command, and the men are docile, having confidence in
him.  Thus the gain is mutual"  He quotes a pregnant sentence
from Wei Liao Tzu, ch. 4:  "The art of giving orders is not to
try to rectify minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty
doubts."   Vacillation and fussiness are the surest means of
sapping the confidence of an army.]

[1]  "Aids to Scouting," p. 26.

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     [Only about a third of the chapter, comprising ss. ss. 1-13,
deals with "terrain," the subject being more fully treated in ch.
XI.  The  "six calamities" are discussed in SS. 14-20,  and the
rest of the chapter is again a mere string of desultory remarks,
though not less interesting, perhaps, on that account.]

     1.  Sun Tzu said:  We may distinguish six kinds of terrain,
to wit:  (1)  Accessible ground;

     [Mei Yao-ch`en says:  "plentifully provided with roads and
means of communications."]

(2)  entangling ground;

     [The same commentator says:  "Net-like country,  venturing
into which you become entangled."]

(3)  temporizing ground;

     [Ground which allows you to "stave off" or "delay."]

(4)  narrow passes; (5)  precipitous heights; (6) positions at a
great distance from the enemy.

     [It is hardly necessary to point out the faultiness of this
classification.  A strange lack of logical perception is shown in
the   Chinaman's unquestioning acceptance of glaring   cross-
divisions such as the above.]

     2.  Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is
     3.  With regard to ground of this nature,  be before the
enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots,  and carefully
guard your line of supplies.

     [The general meaning of the last phrase is doubtlessly,  as
Tu Yu says, "not to allow the enemy to cut your communications."
In view of Napoleon's dictum, "the secret of war lies in the
communications,"  [1]  we could wish that Sun Tzu had done more
than skirt the edge of this important subject here and in I.  ss.
10,  VII. ss. 11.  Col. Henderson says:  "The line of supply may
be said to be as vital to the existence of an army as the heart
to the life of a human being.  Just as the duelist who finds his
adversary's point menacing him with certain death, and his own
guard astray,  is compelled to conform to his   adversary's
movements,  and to content himself with warding off his thrusts,
so the commander whose communications are suddenly threatened
finds himself in a false position, and he will be fortunate if he
has not to change all his plans, to split up his force into more
or less isolated detachments, and to fight with inferior numbers
on ground which he has not had time to prepare, and where defeat
will not be an ordinary failure, but will entail the ruin or
surrender of his whole army." [2]

Then you will be able to fight with advantage.
     4.  Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy
is called ENTANGLING.
     5.  From a position of this sort,  if the enemy   is
unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him.  But if the enemy
is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him,  then,
return being impossible, disaster will ensue.
     6.  When the position is such that neither side will gain by
making the first move, it is called TEMPORIZING ground.

     [Tu Mu says:  "Each side finds it inconvenient to move,  and
the situation remains at a deadlock."]

     7.  In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should
offer us an attractive bait,

     [Tu Yu says, "turning their backs on us and pretending to
flee."   But this is only one of the lures which might induce us
to quit our position.]

it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat,
thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army
has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage.
     8.  With regard to NARROW PASSES, if you can occupy them
first,  let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of
the enemy.

     [Because then, as Tu Yu observes, "the initiative will lie
with us,  and by making sudden and unexpected attacks we shall
have the enemy at our mercy."]

     9.  Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass,  do
not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it
is weakly garrisoned.
     10.  With regard to PRECIPITOUS HEIGHTS,  if you   are
beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and
sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up.

     [Ts`ao Kung says:  "The particular advantage of securing
heights and defiles is that your actions cannot then be dictated
by the enemy."   [For the enunciation of the grand principle
alluded to,  see VI.  ss. 2].  Chang Yu tells the following
anecdote of P`ei Hsing-chien (A.D. 619-682), who was sent on a
punitive expedition against the Turkic tribes.  "At night he
pitched his camp as usual, and it had already been completely
fortified by wall and ditch, when suddenly he gave orders that
the army should shift its quarters to a hill near by.  This was
highly displeasing to his officers, who protested loudly against
the extra fatigue which it would entail on the men.  P`ei Hsing-
chien,  however, paid no heed to their remonstrances and had the
camp moved as quickly as possible.  The same night,  a terrific
storm came on, which flooded their former place of encampment to
the depth of over twelve feet.  The recalcitrant officers were
amazed at the sight, and owned that they had been in the wrong.
'How did you know what was going to happen?' they asked.  P`ei
Hsing-chien replied:  'From this time forward be content to obey
orders without asking unnecessary questions.'  From this it may
be seen,"  Chang Yu continues, "that high and sunny places are
advantageous not only for fighting, but also because they are
immune from disastrous floods."]

     11.  If the enemy has occupied them before you,  do not
follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away.

     [The turning point of Li Shih-min's campaign in 621 A.D.
against the two rebels, Tou Chien-te, King of Hsia,  and Wang
Shih-ch`ung,  Prince of Cheng, was his seizure of the heights of
Wu-lao,  in spike of which Tou Chien-te persisted in his attempt
to relieve his ally in Lo-yang, was defeated and taken prisoner.
See CHIU T`ANG, ch. 2, fol. 5 verso, and also ch. 54.]

     12.  If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy,
and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to
provoke a battle,

     [The point is that we must not think of undertaking a long
and wearisome march, at the end of which, as Tu Yu says,  "we
should be exhausted and our adversary fresh and keen."]

and fighting will be to your disadvantage.

     13.  These six are the principles connected with Earth.

     [Or perhaps,  "the principles relating to ground."   See,
however, I. ss. 8.]

The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful
to study them.
     14.  Now an army is exposed to six several calamities,  not
arising from natural causes, but from faults for which the
general   is   responsible.   These are:    (1)   Flight;   (2)
insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganization; (6)
     15.  Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled
against another ten times its size, the result will be the FLIGHT
of the former.
     16.  When the common soldiers are too strong and their
officers too weak, the result is INSUBORDINATION.

     [Tu Mu cites the unhappy case of T`ien Pu [HSIN T`ANG SHU,
ch. 148], who was sent to Wei in 821 A.D. with orders to lead an
army against Wang T`ing-ts`ou.  But the whole time he was in
command,  his soldiers treated him with the utmost contempt,  and
openly flouted his authority by riding about the camp on donkeys,
several thousands at a time.  T`ien Pu was powerless to put a
stop to this conduct, and when, after some months had passed,  he
made an attempt to engage the enemy, his troops turned tail and
dispersed in every direction.  After that, the unfortunate man
committed suicide by cutting his throat.]

When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too
weak, the result is COLLAPSE.

     [Ts`ao Kung says:  "The officers are energetic and want to
press on, the common soldiers are feeble and suddenly collapse."]

     17.  When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate,
and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a
feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell
whether or no he is in a position to fight, the result is RUIN.

     [Wang Hsi`s note is:  "This means, the general is angry
without cause,  and at the same time does not appreciate the
ability of his subordinate officers; thus he arouses fierce
resentment and brings an avalanche of ruin upon his head."]

     18.  When the general is weak and without authority;  when
his orders are not clear and distinct;

     [Wei Liao Tzu (ch. 4) says:  "If the commander gives his
orders with decision, the soldiers will not wait to hear them
twice;  if his moves are made without vacillation,  the soldiers
will not be in two minds about doing their duty."  General Baden-
Powell says,  italicizing the words:  "The secret of getting
successful work out of your trained men lies in one nutshell--in
the clearness of the instructions they receive."  [3]  Cf.  also
Wu Tzu ch. 3:  "the most fatal defect in a military leader is
difference;  the worst calamities that befall an army arise from

when there are no fixes duties assigned to officers and men,

     [Tu Mu says:  "Neither officers nor men have any regular

and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner,  the
result is utter DISORGANIZATION.
     19.  When a general,  unable to estimate the   enemy's
strength,  allows an inferior force to engage a larger one,  or
hurls a weak detachment against a powerful one, and neglects to
place picked soldiers in the front rank, the result must be ROUT.

     [Chang Yu paraphrases the latter part of the sentence and
continues:   "Whenever there is fighting to be done, the keenest
spirits should be appointed to serve in the front ranks, both in
order to strengthen the resolution of our own men and to
demoralize the enemy."  Cf. the primi ordines of Caesar  ("De
Bello Gallico," V. 28, 44, et al.).]

     20.  These are six ways of courting defeat, which must be
carefully noted by the general who has attained a responsible

     [See supra, ss. 13.]

     21.  The natural formation of the country is the soldier's
best ally;

     [Ch`en Hao says:  "The advantages of weather and season are
not equal to those connected with ground."]

but a power of estimating the adversary,  of controlling the
forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties,
dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general.
     22.  He who knows these things, and in fighting puts his
knowledge into practice, will win his battles.  He who knows them
not, nor practices them, will surely be defeated.
     23.  If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must
fight,  even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not
result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler's

     [Cf. VIII. ss. 3 fin.  Huang Shih-kung of the Ch`in dynasty,
who is said to have been the patron of Chang Liang and to have
written the SAN LUEH, has these words attributed to him:   "The
responsibility of setting an army in motion must devolve on the
general alone;  if advance and retreat are controlled from the
Palace,  brilliant results will hardly be achieved.  Hence the
god-like ruler and the enlightened monarch are content to play a
humble part in furthering their country's cause [lit., kneel down
to push the chariot wheel]."  This means that "in matters lying
outside the zenana, the decision of the military commander must
be absolute."  Chang Yu also quote the saying:  "Decrees from the
Son of Heaven do not penetrate the walls of a camp."]
     24.  The general who advances without coveting fame and
retreats without fearing disgrace,

     [It was Wellington, I think, who said that the hardest thing
of all for a soldier is to retreat.]

whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service
for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.

     [A noble presentiment, in few words, of the Chinese  "happy
warrior."   Such a man, says Ho Shih, "even if he had to suffer
punishment, would not regret his conduct."]

     25.  Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will
follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own
beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.

     [Cf.  I. ss. 6.  In this connection, Tu Mu draws for us an
engaging picture of the famous general Wu Ch`i,  from whose
treatise on war I have frequently had occasion to quote:   "He
wore the same clothes and ate the same food as the meanest of his
soldiers,  refused to have either a horse to ride or a mat to
sleep on, carried his own surplus rations wrapped in a parcel,
and shared every hardship with his men.  One of his soldiers was
suffering from an abscess, and Wu Ch`i himself sucked out the
virus.  The soldier's mother, hearing this, began wailing and
lamenting.  Somebody asked her, saying:  'Why do you cry?   Your
son is only a common soldier, and yet the commander-in-chief
himself has sucked the poison from his sore.'  The woman replied,
'Many years ago,  Lord Wu performed a similar service for my
husband, who never left him afterwards, and finally met his death
at the hands of the enemy.  And now that he has done the same for
my son, he too will fall fighting I know not where.'"  Li Ch`uan
mentions the Viscount of Ch`u, who invaded the small state of
Hsiao during the winter.  The Duke of Shen said to him:  "Many of
the soldiers are suffering severely from the cold."  So he made a
round of the whole army, comforting and encouraging the men;  and
straightway they felt as if they were clothed in garments lined
with floss silk.]

     26.  If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your
authority   felt;  kind-hearted,  but unable to enforce   your
commands;  and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder:   then
your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children;  they are
useless for any practical purpose.

     [Li Ching once said that if you could make your soldiers
afraid of you, they would not be afraid of the enemy.  Tu Mu
recalls an instance of stern military discipline which occurred
in 219 A.D., when Lu Meng was occupying the town of Chiang-ling.
He had given stringent orders to his army not to molest the
inhabitants nor take anything from them by force.  Nevertheless,
a certain officer serving under his banner, who happened to be a
fellow-townsman,  ventured to appropriate a bamboo hat belonging
to one of the people, in order to wear it over his regulation
helmet as a protection against the rain.  Lu Meng considered that
the fact of his being also a native of Ju-nan should not be
allowed to palliate a clear breach of discipline, and accordingly
he ordered his summary execution, the tears rolling down his
face,  however,  as he did so.  This act of severity filled the
army with wholesome awe, and from that time forth even articles
dropped in the highway were not picked up.]

     27.  If we know that our own men are in a condition to
attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack,  we
have gone only halfway towards victory.

     [That is,  Ts`ao Kung says, "the issue in this case is

     28.  If we know that the enemy is open to attack,  but are
unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack,  we
have gone only halfway towards victory.

     [Cf. III. ss. 13 (1).]

     29.  If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and also
know that our men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware
that the nature of the ground makes fighting impracticable,  we
have still gone only halfway towards victory.
     30.  Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never
bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss.

     [The reason being, according to Tu Mu, that he has taken his
measures so thoroughly as to ensure victory beforehand.  "He does
not move recklessly," says Chang Yu, "so that when he does move,
he makes no mistakes."]

     31.  Hence the saying:  If you know the enemy and know
yourself,  your victory will not stand in doubt;  if you know
Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.

     [Li Ch`uan sums up as follows:  "Given a knowledge of three
things--the affairs of men, the seasons of heaven and the natural
advantages of earth--,  victory will invariably crown   your

[1]  See "Pensees de Napoleon 1er," no. 47.

[2]  "The Science of War," chap. 2.

[3]  "Aids to Scouting," p. xii.

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