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Sun Tzu On The Art Of War
The Oldest Military Treatise In The World


Translated from the Chinese with Introduction 
and Critical Notes 



Assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and MSS. 
in the British Museum 

First Published in 1910 


To my brother Captain Valentine Giles, R.G. in the hope that a
work 2400 years old may yet contain lessons worth consideration
by the soldier of today this translation is affectionately



When Lionel Giles began his translation of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR,
the work was virtually unknown in Europe. Its introduction to
Europe began in 1782 when a French Jesuit Father living in
China, Joseph Amiot, acquired a copy of it, and translated it
into French. It was not a good translation because, according
to Dr. Giles, "[I]t contains a great deal that Sun Tzu did not
write, and very little indeed of what he did."

The first translation into English was published in 1905 in
Tokyo by Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A. However, this translation
is, in the words of Dr. Giles, "excessively bad." He goes
further in this criticism: "It is not merely a question of
downright blunders, from which none can hope to be wholly
exempt. Omissions were frequent; hard passages were willfully
distorted or slurred over. Such offenses are less pardonable. 
They would not be tolerated in any edition of a Latin or Greek
classic, and a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted
upon in translations from Chinese."

In 1908 a new edition of Capt. Calthrop's translation was
published in London. It was an improvement on the first --
omissions filled up and numerous mistakes corrected -- but new
errors were created in the process. Dr. Giles, in justifying his
translation, wrote: "It was not undertaken out of any inflated
estimate of my own powers; but I could not help feeling that Sun
Tzu deserved a better fate than had befallen him, and I knew
that, at any rate, I could hardly fail to improve on the work of
my predecessors."

Clearly, Dr. Giles' work established much of the groundwork for
the work of later translators who published their own editions. 
Of the later editions of the ART OF WAR I have examined; two
feature Giles' edited translation and notes, the other two
present the same basic information from the ancient Chinese
commentators found in the Giles edition. Of these four, Giles'
1910 edition is the most scholarly and presents the reader an
incredible amount of information concerning Sun Tzu's text, much
more than any other translation.

The Giles' edition of the ART OF WAR, as stated above, was a
scholarly work. Dr. Giles was a leading sinologue at the time
and an assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and
Manuscripts in the British Museum. Apparently he wanted to
produce a definitive edition, superior to anything else that
existed and perhaps something that would become a standard
translation. It was the best translation available for 50
years. But apparently there was not much interest in Sun Tzu in
English- speaking countries since the it took the start of the
Second World War to renew interest in his work. Several people
published unsatisfactory English translations of Sun Tzu. In
1944, Dr. Giles' translation was edited and published in the
United States in a series of military science books. But it
wasn't until 1963 that a good English translation (by Samuel B.
Griffith and still in print) was published that was an equal to
Giles' translation. While this translation is more lucid than
Dr. Giles' translation, it lacks his copious notes that make his
so interesting.

Dr. Giles produced a work primarily intended for scholars of the
Chinese civilization and language. It contains the Chinese text
of Sun Tzu, the English translation, and voluminous notes along
with numerous footnotes. Unfortunately, some of his notes and
footnotes contain Chinese characters; some are completely
Chinese. Thus, a conversion to a Latin alphabet etext was

I did the conversion in complete ignorance of Chinese (except
for what I learned while doing the conversion). Thus, I faced
the difficult task of paraphrasing it while retaining as much of
the important text as I could. Every paraphrase represents a
loss; thus I did what I could to retain as much of the text as

Because the 1910 text contains a Chinese concordance, I was able
to transliterate proper names, books, and the like at the risk
of making the text more obscure. However, the text, on the
whole, is quite satisfactory for the casual reader, a
transformation made possible by conversion to an etext. However,
I come away from this task with the feeling of loss because I
know that someone with a background in Chinese can do a better
job than I did; any such attempt would be welcomed.

Bob Sutton 



Sun Wu and his Book

Ssu-ma Ch`ien gives the following biography of Sun Tzu: [1] 

Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i State. His ART OF WAR
brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, [2] King of Wu. Ho Lu said
to him: "I have carefully perused your 13 chapters. May I submit
your theory of managing soldiers to a slight test?"

Sun Tzu replied: "You may."

Ho Lu asked: "May the test be applied to women?" The answer was
again in the affirmative, so arrangements were made to bring 180
ladies out of the Palace. Sun Tzu divided them into two
companies, and placed one of the King's favorite concubines at
the head of each. He then bade them all take spears in their
hands, and addressed them thus: "I presume you know the
difference between front and back, right hand and left hand?"

The girls replied: Yes.

Sun Tzu went on: "When I say "Eyes front," you must look
straight ahead. When I say "Left turn," you must face towards
your left hand. When I say "Right turn," you must face towards
your right hand. When I say "About turn," you must face right
round towards your back."

Again the girls assented. The words of command having been thus
explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to
begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order
"Right turn." But the girls only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu
said: "If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders
are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame."

So he started drilling them again, and this time gave the order
"Left turn," whereupon the girls once more burst into fits of
laughter. Sun Tzu: "If words of command are not clear and
distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general
is to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers
nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers."

So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies to be
beheaded. Now the king of Wu was watching the scene from the top
of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his favorite
concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and
hurriedly sent down the following message: "We are now quite
satisfied as to our general's ability to handle troops. If We
are bereft of these two concubines, our meat and drink will lose
their savor. It is our wish that they shall not be beheaded."

Sun Tzu replied: "Having once received His Majesty's commission
to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of
His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to

Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded, and straightway
installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When
this had been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once
more; and the girls went through all the evolutions, turning to
the right or to the left, marching ahead or wheeling back,
kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not
venturing to utter a sound. Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the
King saying: "Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and
disciplined, and ready for your majesty's inspection. They can
be put to any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go
through fire and water, and they will not disobey." But the King
replied: "Let our general cease drilling and return to camp. As
for us, We have no wish to come down and inspect the troops."

Thereupon Sun Tzu said: "The King is only fond of words, and
cannot translate them into deeds." After that, Ho Lu saw that
Sun Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army, and finally
appointed him general. In the west, he defeated the Ch`u State
and forced his way into Ying, the capital; to the north he put
fear into the States of Ch`i and Chin, and spread his fame
abroad amongst the feudal princes. And Sun Tzu shared in the
might of the King.

About Sun Tzu himself this is all that Ssu-ma Ch`ien has to tell
us in this chapter. But he proceeds to give a biography of his
descendant, Sun Pin, born about a hundred years after his famous
ancestor's death, and also the outstanding military genius of
his time. The historian speaks of him too as Sun Tzu, and in his
preface we read: "Sun Tzu had his feet cut off and yet continued
to discuss the art of war." [3] It seems likely, then, that
"Pin" was a nickname bestowed on him after his mutilation,
unless the story was invented in order to account for the name.
The crowning incident of his career, the crushing defeat of his
treacherous rival P`ang Chuan, will be found briefly related in
Chapter V. ss. 19, note.

To return to the elder Sun Tzu. He is mentioned in two other
passages of the SHIH CHI: --

In the third year of his reign [512 B.C.] Ho Lu, king of Wu,
took the field with Tzu-hsu [i.e. Wu Yuan] and Po P`ei, and
attacked Ch`u. He captured the town of Shu and slew the two
prince's sons who had formerly been generals of Wu. He was then
meditating a descent on Ying [the capital]; but the general Sun
Wu said: "The army is exhausted. It is not yet possible. We must
wait".... [After further successful fighting,] "in the ninth
year [506 B.C.], King Ho Lu addressed Wu Tzu-hsu and Sun Wu,
saying: "Formerly, you declared that it was not yet possible for
us to enter Ying. Is the time ripe now?" The two men replied:
"Ch`u's general Tzu-ch`ang, [4] is grasping and covetous, and
the princes of T`ang and Ts`ai both have a grudge against him.
If Your Majesty has resolved to make a grand attack, you must
win over T`ang and Ts`ai, and then you may succeed." Ho Lu
followed this advice, [beat Ch`u in five pitched battles and
marched into Ying.] [5]

This is the latest date at which anything is recorded of Sun Wu.
He does not appear to have survived his patron, who died from
the effects of a wound in 496. In another chapter there occurs
this passage: [6]

From this time onward, a number of famous soldiers arose, one
after the other: Kao-fan, [7] who was employed by the Chin
State; Wang-tzu, [8] in the service of Ch`i; and Sun Wu, in the
service of Wu. These men developed and threw light upon the
principles of war.

It is obvious enough that Ssu-ma Ch`ien at least had no doubt
about the reality of Sun Wu as an historical personage; and with
one exception, to be noticed presently, he is by far the most
important authority on the period in question. It will not be
necessary, therefore, to say much of such a work as the WU YUEH
CH`UN CH`IU, which is supposed to have been written by Chao Yeh
of the 1st century A.D. The attribution is somewhat doubtful;
but even if it were otherwise, his account would be of little
value, based as it is on the SHIH CHI and expanded with romantic
details. The story of Sun Tzu will be found, for what it is
worth, in chapter 2. The only new points in it worth noting are:
(1) Sun Tzu was first recommended to Ho Lu by Wu Tzu-hsu. (2) He
is called a native of Wu. (3) He had previously lived a retired
life, and his contemporaries were unaware of his ability.

The following passage occurs in the Huai-nan Tzu: "When
sovereign and ministers show perversity of mind, it is
impossible even for a Sun Tzu to encounter the foe." Assuming
that this work is genuine (and hitherto no doubt has been cast
upon it), we have here the earliest direct reference for Sun
Tzu, for Huai-nan Tzu died in 122 B.C., many years before the
SHIH CHI was given to the world.

Liu Hsiang (80-9 B.C.) says: "The reason why Sun Tzu at the head
of 30,000 men beat Ch`u with 200,000 is that the latter were

Teng Ming-shih informs us that the surname "Sun" was bestowed on
Sun Wu's grandfather by Duke Ching of Ch`i [547-490 B.C.]. Sun
Wu's father Sun P`ing, rose to be a Minister of State in Ch`i,
and Sun Wu himself, whose style was Ch`ang-ch`ing, fled to Wu on
account of the rebellion which was being fomented by the kindred
of T`ien Pao. He had three sons, of whom the second, named Ming,
was the father of Sun Pin.

According to this account then, Pin was the grandson of Wu,
which, considering that Sun Pin's victory over Wei was gained in
341 B.C., may be dismissed as chronological impossible. Whence
these data were obtained by Teng Ming-shih I do not know, but of
course no reliance whatever can be placed in them.

An interesting document which has survived from the close of the
Han period is the short preface written by the Great Ts`ao
Ts`ao, or Wei Wu Ti, for his edition of Sun Tzu. I shall give it
in full: --

I have heard that the ancients used bows and arrows to their
advantage. [10] The SHU CHU mentions "the army" among the "eight
objects of government." The I CHING says: "'army' indicates
firmness and justice; the experienced leader will have good
fortune." The SHIH CHING says: "The King rose majestic in his
wrath, and he marshaled his troops." The Yellow Emperor, T`ang
the Completer and Wu Wang all used spears and battle-axes in
order to succor their generation.

The SSU-MA FA says: "If one man slay another of set purpose, he
himself may rightfully be slain." He who relies solely on
warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on
peaceful measures shall perish. Instances of this are Fu Ch`ai
[11] on the one hand and Yen Wang on the other. [12] In military
matters, the Sage's rule is normally to keep the peace, and to
move his forces only when occasion requires. He will not use
armed force unless driven to it by necessity.

Many books have I read on the subject of war and fighting; but
the work composed by Sun Wu is the profoundest of them all. [Sun
Tzu was a native of the Ch`i state, his personal name was Wu. He
wrote the ART OF WAR in 13 chapters for Ho Lu, King of Wu. Its
principles were tested on women, and he was subsequently made a
general. He led an army westwards, crushed the Ch`u state and
entered Ying the capital. In the north, he kept Ch`i and Chin in
awe. A hundred years and more after his time, Sun Pin lived. He
was a descendant of Wu.] [13] In his treatment of deliberation
and planning, the importance of rapidity in taking the field,
[14] clearness of conception, and depth of design, Sun Tzu
stands beyond the reach of carping criticism.

My contemporaries, however, have failed to grasp the full
meaning of his instructions, and while putting into practice the
smaller details in which his work abounds, they have overlooked
its essential purport. That is the motive which has led me to
outline a rough explanation of the whole.

One thing to be noticed in the above is the explicit statement
that the 13 chapters were specially composed for King Ho Lu.
This is supported by the internal evidence of I. ss. 15, in
which it seems clear that some ruler is addressed.

In the bibliographic section of the HAN SHU, there is an entry
which has given rise to much discussion: "The works of Sun Tzu
of Wu in 82 P`IEN (or chapters), with diagrams in 9 CHUAN." It
is evident that this cannot be merely the 13 chapters known to
Ssu-ma Ch`ien, or those we possess today. Chang Shou-chieh
refers to an edition of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR of which the "13
chapters" formed the first CHUAN, adding that there were two
other CHUAN besides. This has brought forth a theory, that the
bulk of these 82 chapters consisted of other writings of Sun Tzu
-- we should call them apocryphal -- similar to the WEN TA, of
which a specimen dealing with the Nine Situations [15] is
preserved in the T`UNG TIEN, and another in Ho Shin's
commentary. It is suggested that before his interview with Ho
Lu, Sun Tzu had only written the 13 chapters, but afterwards
composed a sort of exegesis in the form of question and answer
between himself and the King. Pi I-hsun, the author of the SUN
TZU HSU LU, backs this up with a quotation from the WU YUEH
CH`UN CH`IU: "The King of Wu summoned Sun Tzu, and asked him
questions about the art of war. Each time he set forth a chapter
of his work, the King could not find words enough to praise
him." As he points out, if the whole work was expounded on the
same scale as in the above- mentioned fragments, the total
number of chapters could not fail to be considerable. Then the
numerous other treatises attributed to Sun Tzu might be
included. The fact that the HAN CHIH mentions no work of Sun Tzu
except the 82 P`IEN, whereas the Sui and T`ang bibliographies
give the titles of others in addition to the "13 chapters," is
good proof, Pi I-hsun thinks, that all of these were contained
in the 82 P`IEN. Without pinning our faith to the accuracy of
details supplied by the WU YUEH CH`UN CH`IU, or admitting the
genuineness of any of the treatises cited by Pi I-hsun, we may
see in this theory a probable solution of the mystery. Between
Ssu-ma Ch`ien and Pan Ku there was plenty of time for a
luxuriant crop of forgeries to have grown up under the magic
name of Sun Tzu, and the 82 P`IEN may very well represent a
collected edition of these lumped together with the original
work. It is also possible, though less likely, that some of them
existed in the time of the earlier historian and were purposely
ignored by him. [16]

Tu Mu's conjecture seems to be based on a passage which states:
"Wei Wu Ti strung together Sun Wu's Art of War," which in turn
may have resulted from a misunderstanding of the final words of
Ts`ao King's preface. This, as Sun Hsing-yen points out, is only
a modest way of saying that he made an explanatory paraphrase,
or in other words, wrote a commentary on it. On the whole, this
theory has met with very little acceptance. Thus, the SSU K`U
CH`UAN SHU says: "The mention of the 13 chapters in the SHIH CHI
shows that they were in existence before the HAN CHIH, and that
latter accretions are not to be considered part of the original
work. Tu Mu's assertion can certainly not be taken as proof."

There is every reason to suppose, then, that the 13 chapters
existed in the time of Ssu-ma Ch`ien practically as we have them
now. That the work was then well known he tells us in so many
words. "Sun Tzu's 13 Chapters and Wu Ch`i's Art of War are the
two books that people commonly refer to on the subject of
military matters. Both of them are widely distributed, so I will
not discuss them here." But as we go further back, serious
difficulties begin to arise. The salient fact which has to be
faced is that the TSO CHUAN, the greatest contemporary record,
makes no mention whatsoever of Sun Wu, either as a general or as
a writer. It is natural, in view of this awkward circumstance,
that many scholars should not only cast doubt on the story of
Sun Wu as given in the SHIH CHI, but even show themselves
frankly skeptical as to the existence of the man at all. The
most powerful presentment of this side of the case is to be
found in the following disposition by Yeh Shui-hsin: [17] --

It is stated in Ssu-ma Ch`ien's history that Sun Wu was a native
of the Ch`i State, and employed by Wu; and that in the reign of
Ho Lu he crushed Ch`u, entered Ying, and was a great general.
But in Tso's Commentary no Sun Wu appears at all. It is true
that Tso's Commentary need not contain absolutely everything
that other histories contain. But Tso has not omitted to mention
vulgar plebeians and hireling ruffians such as Ying K`ao-shu,
[18] Ts`ao Kuei, [19], Chu Chih-wu and Chuan She-chu [20]. In
the case of Sun Wu, whose fame and achievements were so
brilliant, the omission is much more glaring. Again, details are
given, in their due order, about his contemporaries Wu Yuan and
the Minister P`ei. [21] Is it credible that Sun Wu alone should
have been passed over?

In point of literary style, Sun Tzu's work belongs to the same
school as KUAN TZU, [22] LIU T`AO, [23] and the YUEH YU [24] and
may have been the production of some private scholar living
towards the end of the "Spring and Autumn" or the beginning of
the "Warring States" period. [25] The story that his precepts
were actually applied by the Wu State, is merely the outcome of
big talk on the part of his followers. From the flourishing
period of the Chou dynasty [26] down to the time of the "Spring
and Autumn," all military commanders were statesmen as well, and
the class of professional generals, for conducting external
campaigns, did not then exist. It was not until the period of
the "Six States" [27] that this custom changed. Now although Wu
was an uncivilized State, it is conceivable that Tso should have
left unrecorded the fact that Sun Wu was a great general and yet
held no civil office? What we are told, therefore, about
Jang-chu [28] and Sun Wu, is not authentic matter, but the
reckless fabrication of theorizing pundits. The story of Ho Lu's
experiment on the women, in particular, is utterly preposterous
and incredible.

Yeh Shui-hsin represents Ssu-ma Ch`ien as having said that Sun
Wu crushed Ch`u and entered Ying. This is not quite correct. No
doubt the impression left on the reader's mind is that he at
least shared in these exploits. The fact may or may not be
significant; but it is nowhere explicitly stated in the SHIH CHI
either that Sun Tzu was general on the occasion of the taking of
Ying, or that he even went there at all. Moreover, as we know
that Wu Yuan and Po P`ei both took part in the expedition, and
also that its success was largely due to the dash and enterprise
of Fu Kai, Ho Lu's younger brother, it is not easy to see how
yet another general could have played a very prominent part in
the same campaign.

Ch`en Chen-sun of the Sung dynasty has the note: --

Military writers look upon Sun Wu as the father of their art.
But the fact that he does not appear in the TSO CHUAN, although
he is said to have served under Ho Lu King of Wu, makes it
uncertain what period he really belonged to.

He also says: --

The works of Sun Wu and Wu Ch`i may be of genuine antiquity.

It is noticeable that both Yeh Shui-hsin and Ch`en Chen-sun,
while rejecting the personality of Sun Wu as he figures in
Ssu-ma Ch`ien's history, are inclined to accept the date
traditionally assigned to the work which passes under his name.
The author of the HSU LU fails to appreciate this distinction,
and consequently his bitter attack on Ch`en Chen-sun really
misses its mark. He makes one of two points, however, which
certainly tell in favor of the high antiquity of our "13
chapters." "Sun Tzu," he says, "must have lived in the age of
Ching Wang [519-476], because he is frequently plagiarized in
subsequent works of the Chou, Ch`in and Han dynasties." The two
most shameless offenders in this respect are Wu Ch`i and
Huai-nan Tzu, both of them important historical personages in
their day. The former lived only a century after the alleged
date of Sun Tzu, and his death is known to have taken place in
381 B.C. It was to him, according to Liu Hsiang, that Tseng Shen
delivered the TSO CHUAN, which had been entrusted to him by its
author. [29] Now the fact that quotations from the ART OF WAR,
acknowledged or otherwise, are to be found in so many authors of
different epochs, establishes a very strong anterior to them
all, -- in other words, that Sun Tzu's treatise was already in
existence towards the end of the 5th century B.C. Further proof
of Sun Tzu's antiquity is furnished by the archaic or wholly
obsolete meanings attaching to a number of the words he uses. A
list of these, which might perhaps be extended, is given in the
HSU LU; and though some of the interpretations are doubtful, the
main argument is hardly affected thereby. Again, it must not be
forgotten that Yeh Shui- hsin, a scholar and critic of the first
rank, deliberately pronounces the style of the 13 chapters to
belong to the early part of the fifth century. Seeing that he is
actually engaged in an attempt to disprove the existence of Sun
Wu himself, we may be sure that he would not have hesitated to
assign the work to a later date had he not honestly believed the
contrary. And it is precisely on such a point that the judgment
of an educated Chinaman will carry most weight. Other internal
evidence is not far to seek. Thus in XIII. ss. 1, there is an
unmistakable allusion to the ancient system of land-tenure which
had already passed away by the time of Mencius, who was anxious
to see it revived in a modified form. [30] The only warfare Sun
Tzu knows is that carried on between the various feudal princes,
in which armored chariots play a large part. Their use seems to
have entirely died out before the end of the Chou dynasty. He
speaks as a man of Wu, a state which ceased to exist as early as
473 B.C. On this I shall touch presently.

But once refer the work to the 5th century or earlier, and the
chances of its being other than a bona fide production are
sensibly diminished. The great age of forgeries did not come
until long after. That it should have been forged in the period
immediately following 473 is particularly unlikely, for no one,
as a rule, hastens to identify himself with a lost cause. As for
Yeh Shui-hsin's theory, that the author was a literary recluse,
that seems to me quite untenable. If one thing is more apparent
than another after reading the maxims of Sun Tzu, it is that
their essence has been distilled from a large store of personal
observation and experience. They reflect the mind not only of a
born strategist, gifted with a rare faculty of generalization,
but also of a practical soldier closely acquainted with the
military conditions of his time. To say nothing of the fact that
these sayings have been accepted and endorsed by all the
greatest captains of Chinese history, they offer a combination
of freshness and sincerity, acuteness and common sense, which
quite excludes the idea that they were artificially concocted in
the study. If we admit, then, that the 13 chapters were the
genuine production of a military man living towards the end of
the "CH`UN CH`IU" period, are we not bound, in spite of the
silence of the TSO CHUAN, to accept Ssu-ma Ch`ien's account in
its entirety? In view of his high repute as a sober historian,
must we not hesitate to assume that the records he drew upon for
Sun Wu's biography were false and untrustworthy? The answer, I
fear, must be in the negative. There is still one grave, if not
fatal, objection to the chronology involved in the story as told
in the SHIH CHI, which, so far as I am aware, nobody has yet
pointed out. There are two passages in Sun Tzu in which he
alludes to contemporary affairs. The first in in VI. ss. 21: --

Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our
own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter
of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.

The other is in XI. ss. 30: --

Asked if an army can be made to imitate the SHUAI-JAN, I should
answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies;
yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught
by a storm, they will come to each other's assistance just as
the left hand helps the right.

These two paragraphs are extremely valuable as evidence of the
date of composition. They assign the work to the period of the
struggle between Wu and Yueh. So much has been observed by Pi
I-hsun. But what has hitherto escaped notice is that they also
seriously impair the credibility of Ssu-ma Ch`ien's narrative.
As we have seen above, the first positive date given in
connection with Sun Wu is 512 B.C. He is then spoken of as a
general, acting as confidential adviser to Ho Lu, so that his
alleged introduction to that monarch had already taken place,
and of course the 13 chapters must have been written earlier
still. But at that time, and for several years after, down to
the capture of Ying in 506, Ch`u and not Yueh, was the great
hereditary enemy of Wu. The two states, Ch`u and Wu, had been
constantly at war for over half a century, [31] whereas the
first war between Wu and Yueh was waged only in 510, [32] and
even then was no more than a short interlude sandwiched in the
midst of the fierce struggle with Ch`u. Now Ch`u is not
mentioned in the 13 chapters at all. The natural inference is
that they were written at a time when Yueh had become the prime
antagonist of Wu, that is, after Ch`u had suffered the great
humiliation of 506. At this point, a table of dates may be found

B.C. |
514 | Accession of Ho Lu.
512 | Ho Lu attacks Ch`u, but is dissuaded from entering Ying, 
 |    the capital. SHI CHI mentions Sun Wu as general.
511 | Another attack on Ch`u.
510 | Wu makes a successful attack on Yueh. This is the first 
 |    war between the two states.
509 |
 or | Ch`u invades Wu, but is signally defeated at Yu-chang.
508 |
506 | Ho Lu attacks Ch`u with the aid of T`ang and Ts`ai. 
 |    Decisive battle of Po-chu, and capture of Ying. Last 
 |    mention of Sun Wu in SHIH CHI.
505 | Yueh makes a raid on Wu in the absence of its army. Wu 
 |    is beaten by Ch`in and evacuates Ying.
504 | Ho Lu sends Fu Ch`ai to attack Ch`u.
497 | Kou Chien becomes King of Yueh.
496 | Wu attacks Yueh, but is defeated by Kou Chien at Tsui-li. 
 |    Ho Lu is killed.
494 | Fu Ch`ai defeats Kou Chien in the great battle of Fu-
 |    chaio, and enters the capital of Yueh.
485 |
 or | Kou Chien renders homage to Wu. Death of Wu Tzu-hsu.
484 |
482 | Kou Chien invades Wu in the absence of Fu Ch`ai.
478 |
 to | Further attacks by Yueh on Wu.
476 |
475 | Kou Chien lays siege to the capital of Wu.
473 | Final defeat and extinction of Wu.

The sentence quoted above from VI. ss. 21 hardly strikes me as
one that could have been written in the full flush of victory.
It seems rather to imply that, for the moment at least, the tide
had turned against Wu, and that she was getting the worst of the
struggle. Hence we may conclude that our treatise was not in
existence in 505, before which date Yueh does not appear to have
scored any notable success against Wu. Ho Lu died in 496, so
that if the book was written for him, it must have been during
the period 505-496, when there was a lull in the hostilities, Wu
having presumably exhausted by its supreme effort against Ch`u.
On the other hand, if we choose to disregard the tradition
connecting Sun Wu's name with Ho Lu, it might equally well have
seen the light between 496 and 494, or possibly in the period
482-473, when Yueh was once again becoming a very serious
menace. [33] We may feel fairly certain that the author, whoever
he may have been, was not a man of any great eminence in his own
day. On this point the negative testimony of the TSO CHUAN far
outweighs any shred of authority still attaching to the SHIH
CHI, if once its other facts are discredited. Sun Hsing-yen,
however, makes a feeble attempt to explain the omission of his
name from the great commentary. It was Wu Tzu-hsu, he says, who
got all the credit of Sun Wu's exploits, because the latter
(being an alien) was not rewarded with an office in the State.

How then did the Sun Tzu legend originate? It may be that the
growing celebrity of the book imparted by degrees a kind of
factitious renown to its author. It was felt to be only right
and proper that one so well versed in the science of war should
have solid achievements to his credit as well. Now the capture
of Ying was undoubtedly the greatest feat of arms in Ho Lu's
reign; it made a deep and lasting impression on all the
surrounding states, and raised Wu to the short-lived zenith of
her power. Hence, what more natural, as time went on, than that
the acknowledged master of strategy, Sun Wu, should be popularly
identified with that campaign, at first perhaps only in the
sense that his brain conceived and planned it; afterwards, that
it was actually carried out by him in conjunction with Wu Yuan,
[34] Po P`ei and Fu Kai?

It is obvious that any attempt to reconstruct even the outline
of Sun Tzu's life must be based almost wholly on conjecture.
With this necessary proviso, I should say that he probably
entered the service of Wu about the time of Ho Lu's accession,
and gathered experience, though only in the capacity of a
subordinate officer, during the intense military activity which
marked the first half of the prince's reign. [35] If he rose to
be a general at all, he certainly was never on an equal footing
with the three above mentioned. He was doubtless present at the
investment and occupation of Ying, and witnessed Wu's sudden
collapse in the following year. Yueh's attack at this critical
juncture, when her rival was embarrassed on every side, seems to
have convinced him that this upstart kingdom was the great enemy
against whom every effort would henceforth have to be directed.
Sun Wu was thus a well-seasoned warrior when he sat down to
write his famous book, which according to my reckoning must have
appeared towards the end, rather than the beginning of Ho Lu's
reign. The story of the women may possibly have grown out of
some real incident occurring about the same time. As we hear no
more of Sun Wu after this from any source, he is hardly likely
to have survived his patron or to have taken part in the
death-struggle with Yueh, which began with the disaster at Tsui-

If these inferences are approximately correct, there is a
certain irony in the fate which decreed that China's most
illustrious man of peace should be contemporary with her
greatest writer on war.

The Text of Sun Tzu

I have found it difficult to glean much about the history of Sun
Tzu's text. The quotations that occur in early authors go to
show that the "13 chapters" of which Ssu-ma Ch`ien speaks were
essentially the same as those now extant. We have his word for
it that they were widely circulated in his day, and can only
regret that he refrained from discussing them on that account.
Sun Hsing-yen says in his preface: --

During the Ch`in and Han dynasties Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR was in
general use amongst military commanders, but they seem to have
treated it as a work of mysterious import, and were unwilling to
expound it for the benefit of posterity. Thus it came about that
Wei Wu was the first to write a commentary on it.

As we have already seen, there is no reasonable ground to
suppose that Ts`ao Kung tampered with the text. But the text
itself is often so obscure, and the number of editions which
appeared from that time onward so great, especially during the
T`ang and Sung dynasties, that it would be surprising if
numerous corruptions had not managed to creep in. Towards the
middle of the Sung period, by which time all the chief
commentaries on Sun Tzu were in existence, a certain Chi
T`ien-pao published a work in 15 CHUAN entitled "Sun Tzu with
the collected commentaries of ten writers." There was another
text, with variant readings put forward by Chu Fu of Ta-hsing,
which also had supporters among the scholars of that period; but
in the Ming editions, Sun Hsing- yen tells us, these readings
were for some reason or other no longer put into circulation.
Thus, until the end of the 18th century, the text in sole
possession of the field was one derived from Chi T`ien-pao's
edition, although no actual copy of that important work was
known to have survived. That, therefore, is the text of Sun Tzu
which appears in the War section of the great Imperial
encyclopedia printed in 1726, the KU CHIN T`U SHU CHI CH`ENG.
Another copy at my disposal of what is practically the same
text, with slight variations, is that contained in the "Eleven
philosophers of the Chou and Ch`in dynasties" [1758]. And the
Chinese printed in Capt. Calthrop's first edition is evidently a
similar version which has filtered through Japanese channels. So
things remained until Sun Hsing-yen [1752-1818], a distinguished
antiquarian and classical scholar, who claimed to be an actual
descendant of Sun Wu, [36] accidentally discovered a copy of Chi
T`ien-pao's long-lost work, when on a visit to the library of
the Hua-yin temple. [37] Appended to it was the I SHUO of Cheng
Yu-Hsien, mentioned in the T`UNG CHIH, and also believed to have
perished. This is what Sun Hsing-yen designates as the "original
edition (or text)" -- a rather misleading name, for it cannot by
any means claim to set before us the text of Sun Tzu in its
pristine purity. Chi T`ien-pao was a careless compiler, and
appears to have been content to reproduce the somewhat debased
version current in his day, without troubling to collate it with
the earliest editions then available. Fortunately, two versions
of Sun Tzu, even older than the newly discovered work, were
still extant, one buried in the T`UNG TIEN, Tu Yu's great
treatise on the Constitution, the other similarly enshrined in
the T`AI P`ING YU LAN encyclopedia. In both the complete text is
to be found, though split up into fragments, intermixed with
other matter, and scattered piecemeal over a number of different
sections. Considering that the YU LAN takes us back to the year
983, and the T`UNG TIEN about 200 years further still, to the
middle of the T`ang dynasty, the value of these early
transcripts of Sun Tzu can hardly be overestimated. Yet the idea
of utilizing them does not seem to have occurred to anyone until
Sun Hsing-yen, acting under Government instructions, undertook a
thorough recension of the text. This is his own account: --

Because of the numerous mistakes in the text of Sun Tzu which
his editors had handed down, the Government ordered that the
ancient edition [of Chi T`ien-pao] should be used, and that the
text should be revised and corrected throughout. It happened
that Wu Nien-hu, the Governor Pi Kua, and Hsi, a graduate of the
second degree, had all devoted themselves to this study,
probably surpassing me therein. Accordingly, I have had the
whole work cut on blocks as a textbook for military men.

The three individuals here referred to had evidently been
occupied on the text of Sun Tzu prior to Sun Hsing-yen's
commission, but we are left in doubt as to the work they really
accomplished. At any rate, the new edition, when ultimately
produced, appeared in the names of Sun Hsing-yen and only one
co- editor Wu Jen-shi. They took the "original edition" as their
basis, and by careful comparison with older versions, as well as
the extant commentaries and other sources of information such as
the I SHUO, succeeded in restoring a very large number of
doubtful passages, and turned out, on the whole, what must be
accepted as the closes approximation we are ever likely to get
to Sun Tzu's original work. This is what will hereafter be
denominated the "standard text."

The copy which I have used belongs to a reissue dated 1877. it
is in 6 PEN, forming part of a well-printed set of 23 early
philosophical works in 83 PEN. [38] It opens with a preface by
Sun Hsing-yen (largely quoted in this introduction), vindicating
the traditional view of Sun Tzu's life and performances, and
summing up in remarkably concise fashion the evidence in its
favor. This is followed by Ts`ao Kung's preface to his edition,
and the biography of Sun Tzu from the SHIH CHI, both translated
above. Then come, firstly, Cheng Yu-hsien's I SHUO, [39] with
author's preface, and next, a short miscellany of historical and
bibliographical information entitled SUN TZU HSU LU, compiled by
Pi I-hsun. As regards the body of the work, each separate
sentence is followed by a note on the text, if required, and
then by the various commentaries appertaining to it, arranged in
chronological order. These we shall now proceed to discuss
briefly, one by one.

The Commentators

Sun Tzu can boast an exceptionally long distinguished roll of
commentators, which would do honor to any classic. Ou-yang Hsiu
remarks on this fact, though he wrote before the tale was
complete, and rather ingeniously explains it by saying that the
artifices of war, being inexhaustible, must therefore be
susceptible of treatment in a great variety of ways.

1. TS`AO TS`AO or Ts`ao Kung, afterwards known as Wei Wu Ti
[A.D. 155-220]. There is hardly any room for doubt that the
earliest commentary on Sun Tzu actually came from the pen of
this extraordinary man, whose biography in the SAN KUO CHIH
reads like a romance. One of the greatest military geniuses that
the world has seen, and Napoleonic in the scale of his
operations, he was especially famed for the marvelous rapidity
of his marches, which has found expression in the line "Talk of
Ts`ao Ts`ao, and Ts`ao Ts`ao will appear." Ou-yang Hsiu says of
him that he was a great captain who "measured his strength
against Tung Cho, Lu Pu and the two Yuan, father and son, and
vanquished them all; whereupon he divided the Empire of Han with
Wu and Shu, and made himself king. It is recorded that whenever
a council of war was held by Wei on the eve of a far-reaching
campaign, he had all his calculations ready; those generals who
made use of them did not lose one battle in ten; those who ran
counter to them in any particular saw their armies incontinently
beaten and put to flight." Ts`ao Kung's notes on Sun Tzu, models
of austere brevity, are so thoroughly characteristic of the
stern commander known to history, that it is hard indeed to
conceive of them as the work of a mere LITTERATEUR. Sometimes,
indeed, owing to extreme compression, they are scarcely
intelligible and stand no less in need of a commentary than the
text itself. [40]

2. MENG SHIH. The commentary which has come down to us under
this name is comparatively meager, and nothing about the author
is known. Even his personal name has not been recorded. Chi
T`ien-pao's edition places him after Chia Lin,and Ch`ao Kung- wu
also assigns him to the T`ang dynasty, [41] but this is a
mistake. In Sun Hsing-yen's preface, he appears as Meng Shih of
the Liang dynasty [502-557]. Others would identify him with Meng
K`ang of the 3rd century. He is named in one work as the last of
the "Five Commentators," the others being Wei Wu Ti, Tu Mu,
Ch`en Hao and Chia Lin.

3. LI CH`UAN of the 8th century was a well-known writer on
military tactics. One of his works has been in constant use down
to the present day. The T`UNG CHIH mentions "Lives of famous
generals from the Chou to the T`ang dynasty" as written by him.
[42] According to Ch`ao Kung-wu and the T`IEN-I-KO catalogue, he
followed a variant of the text of Sun Tzu which differs
considerably from those now extant. His notes are mostly short
and to the point, and he frequently illustrates his remarks by
anecdotes from Chinese history.

4. TU YU (died 812) did not publish a separate commentary on Sun
Tzu, his notes being taken from the T`UNG TIEN, the encyclopedic
treatise on the Constitution which was his life- work. They are
largely repetitions of Ts`ao Kung and Meng Shih, besides which
it is believed that he drew on the ancient commentaries of Wang
Ling and others. Owing to the peculiar arrangement of T`UNG
TIEN, he has to explain each passage on its merits, apart from
the context, and sometimes his own explanation does not agree
with that of Ts`ao Kung, whom he always quotes first. Though not
strictly to be reckoned as one of the "Ten Commentators," he was
added to their number by Chi T`ien-pao, being wrongly placed
after his grandson Tu Mu.

5. TU MU (803-852) is perhaps the best known as a poet -- a
bright star even in the glorious galaxy of the T`ang period. We
learn from Ch`ao Kung-wu that although he had no practical
experience of war, he was extremely fond of discussing the
subject, and was moreover well read in the military history of
the CH`UN CH`IU and CHAN KUO eras. His notes, therefore, are
well worth attention. They are very copious, and replete with
historical parallels. The gist of Sun Tzu's work is thus
summarized by him: "Practice benevolence and justice, but on the
other hand make full use of artifice and measures of
expediency." He further declared that all the military triumphs
and disasters of the thousand years which had elapsed since Sun
Tzu's death would, upon examination, be found to uphold and
corroborate, in every particular, the maxims contained in his
book. Tu Mu's somewhat spiteful charge against Ts`ao Kung has
already been considered elsewhere.

6. CH`EN HAO appears to have been a contemporary of Tu Mu. Ch`ao
Kung-wu says that he was impelled to write a new commentary on
Sun Tzu because Ts`ao Kung's on the one hand was too obscure and
subtle, and that of Tu Mu on the other too long-winded and
diffuse. Ou-yang Hsiu, writing in the middle of the 11th
century, calls Ts`ao Kung, Tu Mu and Ch`en Hao the three chief
commentators on Sun Tzu, and observes that Ch`en Hao is
continually attacking Tu Mu's shortcomings. His commentary,
though not lacking in merit, must rank below those of his

7. CHIA LIN is known to have lived under the T`ang dynasty, for
his commentary on Sun Tzu is mentioned in the T`ang Shu and was
afterwards republished by Chi Hsieh of the same dynasty together
with those of Meng Shih and Tu Yu. It is of somewhat scanty
texture, and in point of quality, too, perhaps the least
valuable of the eleven.

8. MEI YAO-CH`EN (1002-1060), commonly known by his "style" as
Mei Sheng-yu, was, like Tu Mu, a poet of distinction. His
commentary was published with a laudatory preface by the great
Ou-yang Hsiu, from which we may cull the following: --

Later scholars have misread Sun Tzu, distorting his words and
trying to make them square with their own one-sided views. Thus,
though commentators have not been lacking, only a few have
proved equal to the task. My friend Sheng-yu has not fallen into
this mistake. In attempting to provide a critical commentary for
Sun Tzu's work, he does not lose sight of the fact that these
sayings were intended for states engaged in internecine warfare;
that the author is not concerned with the military conditions
prevailing under the sovereigns of the three ancient dynasties,
[43] nor with the nine punitive measures prescribed to the
Minister of War. [44] Again, Sun Wu loved brevity of diction,
but his meaning is always deep. Whether the subject be marching
an army, or handling soldiers, or estimating the enemy, or
controlling the forces of victory, it is always systematically
treated; the sayings are bound together in strict logical
sequence, though this has been obscured by commentators who have
probably failed to grasp their meaning. In his own commentary,
Mei Sheng-yu has brushed aside all the obstinate prejudices of
these critics, and has tried to bring out the true meaning of
Sun Tzu himself. In this way, the clouds of confusion have been
dispersed and the sayings made clear. I am convinced that the
present work deserves to be handed down side by side with the
three great commentaries; and for a great deal that they find in
the sayings, coming generations will have constant reason to
thank my friend Sheng-yu.

Making some allowance for the exuberance of friendship, I am
inclined to endorse this favorable judgment, and would certainly
place him above Ch`en Hao in order of merit.

9. WANG HSI, also of the Sung dynasty, is decidedly original in
some of his interpretations, but much less judicious than Mei
Yao-ch`en, and on the whole not a very trustworthy guide. He is
fond of comparing his own commentary with that of Ts`ao Kung,
but the comparison is not often flattering to him. We learn from
Ch`ao Kung-wu that Wang Hsi revised the ancient text of Sun Tzu,
filling up lacunae and correcting mistakes. [45]

10. HO YEN-HSI of the Sung dynasty. The personal name of this
commentator is given as above by Cheng Ch`iao in the TUNG CHIH,
written about the middle of the twelfth century, but he appears
simply as Ho Shih in the YU HAI, and Ma Tuan-lin quotes Ch`ao
Kung-wu as saying that his personal name is unknown. There seems
to be no reason to doubt Cheng Ch`iao's statement, otherwise I
should have been inclined to hazard a guess and identify him
with one Ho Ch`u-fei, the author of a short treatise on war, who
lived in the latter part of the 11th century. Ho Shih's
commentary, in the words of the T`IEN-I-KO catalogue, "contains
helpful additions" here and there, but is chiefly remarkable for
the copious extracts taken, in adapted form, from the dynastic
histories and other sources.

11. CHANG YU. The list closes with a commentator of no great
originality perhaps, but gifted with admirable powers of lucid
exposition. His commentator is based on that of Ts`ao Kung,
whose terse sentences he contrives to expand and develop in
masterly fashion. Without Chang Yu, it is safe to say that much
of Ts`ao Kung's commentary would have remained cloaked in its
pristine obscurity and therefore valueless. His work is not
mentioned in the Sung history, the T`UNG K`AO, or the YU HAI,
but it finds a niche in the T`UNG CHIH, which also names him as
the author of the "Lives of Famous Generals." [46]

It is rather remarkable that the last-named four should all have
flourished within so short a space of time. Ch`ao Kung-wu
accounts for it by saying: "During the early years of the Sung
dynasty the Empire enjoyed a long spell of peace, and men ceased
to practice the art of war. but when [Chao] Yuan-hao's rebellion
came [1038-42] and the frontier generals were defeated time
after time, the Court made strenuous inquiry for men skilled in
war, and military topics became the vogue amongst all the high
officials. Hence it is that the commentators of Sun Tzu in our
dynasty belong mainly to that period. [47]

Besides these eleven commentators, there are several others
whose work has not come down to us. The SUI SHU mentions four,
namely Wang Ling (often quoted by Tu Yu as Wang Tzu); Chang Tzu-
shang; Chia Hsu of Wei; [48] and Shen Yu of Wu. The T`ANG SHU
adds Sun Hao, and the T`UNG CHIH Hsiao Chi, while the T`U SHU
mentions a Ming commentator, Huang Jun-yu. It is possible that
some of these may have been merely collectors and editors of
other commentaries, like Chi T`ien-pao and Chi Hsieh, mentioned

Appreciations of Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu has exercised a potent fascination over the minds of
some of China's greatest men. Among the famous generals who are
known to have studied his pages with enthusiasm may be mentioned
Han Hsin (d. 196 B.C.), [49] Feng I (d. 34 A.D.), [50] Lu Meng
(d. 219), [51] and Yo Fei (1103-1141). [52] The opinion of Ts`ao
Kung, who disputes with Han Hsin the highest place in Chinese
military annals, has already been recorded. [53] Still more
remarkable, in one way, is the testimony of purely literary men,
such as Su Hsun (the father of Su Tung-p`o), who wrote several
essays on military topics, all of which owe their chief
inspiration to Sun Tzu. The following short passage by him is
preserved in the YU HAI: [54] --

Sun Wu's saying, that in war one cannot make certain of
conquering, [55] is very different indeed from what other books
tell us. [56] Wu Ch`i was a man of the same stamp as Sun Wu:
they both wrote books on war, and they are linked together in
popular speech as "Sun and Wu." But Wu Ch`i's remarks on war are
less weighty, his rules are rougher and more crudely stated, and
there is not the same unity of plan as in Sun Tzu's work, where
the style is terse, but the meaning fully brought out.

The following is an extract from the "Impartial Judgments in the
Garden of Literature" by Cheng Hou: --

Sun Tzu's 13 chapters are not only the staple and base of all
military men's training, but also compel the most careful
attention of scholars and men of letters. His sayings are terse
yet elegant, simple yet profound, perspicuous and eminently
practical. Such works as the LUN YU, the I CHING and the great
Commentary, [57] as well as the writings of Mencius, Hsun K`uang
and Yang Chu, all fall below the level of Sun Tzu.

Chu Hsi, commenting on this, fully admits the first part of the
criticism, although he dislikes the audacious comparison with
the venerated classical works. Language of this sort, he says,
"encourages a ruler's bent towards unrelenting warfare and
reckless militarism."

Apologies for War

Accustomed as we are to think of China as the greatest
peace-loving nation on earth, we are in some danger of
forgetting that her experience of war in all its phases has also
been such as no modern State can parallel. Her long military
annals stretch back to a point at which they are lost in the
mists of time. She had built the Great Wall and was maintaining
a huge standing army along her frontier centuries before the
first Roman legionary was seen on the Danube. What with the
perpetual collisions of the ancient feudal States, the grim
conflicts with Huns, Turks and other invaders after the
centralization of government, the terrific upheavals which
accompanied the overthrow of so many dynasties, besides the
countless rebellions and minor disturbances that have flamed up
and flickered out again one by one, it is hardly too much to say
that the clash of arms has never ceased to resound in one
portion or another of the Empire.

No less remarkable is the succession of illustrious captains to
whom China can point with pride. As in all countries, the
greatest are fond of emerging at the most fateful crises of her
history. Thus, Po Ch`i stands out conspicuous in the period when
Ch`in was entering upon her final struggle with the remaining
independent states. The stormy years which followed the break-up
of the Ch`in dynasty are illuminated by the transcendent genius
of Han Hsin. When the House of Han in turn is tottering to its
fall, the great and baleful figure of Ts`ao Ts`ao dominates the
scene. And in the establishment of the T`ang dynasty,one of the
mightiest tasks achieved by man, the superhuman energy of Li
Shih-min (afterwards the Emperor T`ai Tsung) was seconded by the
brilliant strategy of Li Ching. None of these generals need fear
comparison with the greatest names in the military history of

In spite of all this, the great body of Chinese sentiment, from
Lao Tzu downwards, and especially as reflected in the standard
literature of Confucianism, has been consistently pacific and
intensely opposed to militarism in any form. It is such an
uncommon thing to find any of the literati defending warfare on
principle, that I have thought it worth while to collect and
translate a few passages in which the unorthodox view is upheld.
The following, by Ssu-ma Ch`ien, shows that for all his ardent
admiration of Confucius, he was yet no advocate of peace at any
price: --

Military weapons are the means used by the Sage to punish
violence and cruelty, to give peace to troublous times, to
remove difficulties and dangers, and to succor those who are in
peril. Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its
head will fight when it is attacked. How much more so will man,
who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy
and anger! When he is pleased, a feeling of affection springs up
within him; when angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play.
That is the natural law which governs his being.... What then
shall be said of those scholars of our time, blind to all great
issues, and without any appreciation of relative values, who can
only bark out their stale formulas about "virtue" and
"civilization," condemning the use of military weapons? They
will surely bring our country to impotence and dishonor and the
loss of her rightful heritage; or, at the very least, they will
bring about invasion and rebellion, sacrifice of territory and
general enfeeblement. Yet they obstinately refuse to modify the
position they have taken up. The truth is that, just as in the
family the teacher must not spare the rod, and punishments
cannot be dispensed with in the State, so military chastisement
can never be allowed to fall into abeyance in the Empire. All
one can say is that this power will be exercised wisely by some,
foolishly by others, and that among those who bear arms some
will be loyal and others rebellious. [58]

The next piece is taken from Tu Mu's preface to his commentary
on Sun Tzu: --

War may be defined as punishment, which is one of the functions
of government. It was the profession of Chung Yu and Jan Ch`iu,
both disciples of Confucius. Nowadays, the holding of trials and
hearing of litigation, the imprisonment of offenders and their
execution by flogging in the market- place, are all done by
officials. But the wielding of huge armies, the throwing down of
fortified cities, the hauling of women and children into
captivity, and the beheading of traitors -- this is also work
which is done by officials. The objects of the rack and of
military weapons are essentially the same. There is no intrinsic
difference between the punishment of flogging and cutting off
heads in war. For the lesser infractions of law, which are
easily dealt with, only a small amount of force need be
employed: hence the use of military weapons and wholesale
decapitation. In both cases, however, the end in view is to get
rid of wicked people, and to give comfort and relief to the
good.... Chi-sun asked Jan Yu, saying: "Have you, Sir, acquired
your military aptitude by study, or is it innate?" Jan Yu
replied: "It has been acquired by study." [59] "How can that be
so," said Chi-sun, "seeing that you are a disciple of
Confucius?" "It is a fact," replied Jan Yu; "I was taught by
Confucius. It is fitting that the great Sage should exercise
both civil and military functions, though to be sure my
instruction in the art of fighting has not yet gone very far."

Now, who the author was of this rigid distinction between the
"civil" and the "military," and the limitation of each to a
separate sphere of action, or in what year of which dynasty it
was first introduced, is more than I can say. But, at any rate,
it has come about that the members of the governing class are
quite afraid of enlarging on military topics, or do so only in a
shamefaced manner. If any are bold enough to discuss the
subject, they are at once set down as eccentric individuals of
coarse and brutal propensities. This is an extraordinary
instance in which, through sheer lack of reasoning, men
unhappily lose sight of fundamental principles.

When the Duke of Chou was minister under Ch`eng Wang, he
regulated ceremonies and made music, and venerated the arts of
scholarship and learning; yet when the barbarians of the River
Huai revolted, [60] he sallied forth and chastised them. When
Confucius held office under the Duke of Lu, and a meeting was
convened at Chia-ku, [61] he said: "If pacific negotiations are
in progress, warlike preparations should have been made
beforehand." He rebuked and shamed the Marquis of Ch`i, who
cowered under him and dared not proceed to violence. How can it
be said that these two great Sages had no knowledge of military

We have seen that the great Chu Hsi held Sun Tzu in high esteem.
He also appeals to the authority of the Classics: --

Our Master Confucius, answering Duke Ling of Wei, said: "I have
never studied matters connected with armies and battalions."
[62] Replying to K`ung Wen-tzu, he said: I have not been
instructed about buff-coats and weapons." But if we turn to the
meeting at Chia-ku, we find that he used armed force against the
men of Lai, so that the marquis of Ch`i was overawed. Again,
when the inhabitants of Pi revolted, the ordered his officers to
attack them, whereupon they were defeated and fled in confusion.
He once uttered the words: "If I fight, I conquer." [63] And Jan
Yu also said: "The Sage exercises both civil and military
functions." [64] Can it be a fact that Confucius never studied
or received instruction in the art of war? We can only say that
he did not specially choose matters connected with armies and
fighting to be the subject of his teaching.

Sun Hsing-yen, the editor of Sun Tzu, writes in similar strain:

Confucius said: "I am unversed in military matters." [65] He
also said: "If I fight, I conquer." Confucius ordered ceremonies
and regulated music. Now war constitutes one of the five classes
of State ceremonial, [66] and must not be treated as an
independent branch of study. Hence, the words "I am unversed in"
must be taken to mean that there are things which even an
inspired Teacher does not know. Those who have to lead an army
and devise stratagems, must learn the art of war. But if one can
command the services of a good general like Sun Tzu, who was
employed by Wu Tzu-hsu, there is no need to learn it oneself.
Hence the remark added by Confucius: "If I fight, I conquer."

The men of the present day, however, willfully interpret these
words of Confucius in their narrowest sense, as though he meant
that books on the art of war were not worth reading. With blind
persistency, they adduce the example of Chao Kua, who pored over
his father's books to no purpose, [67] as a proof that all
military theory is useless. Again, seeing that books on war have
to do with such things as opportunism in designing plans, and
the conversion of spies, they hold that the art is immoral and
unworthy of a sage. These people ignore the fact that the
studies of our scholars and the civil administration of our
officials also require steady application and practice before
efficiency is reached. The ancients were particularly chary of
allowing mere novices to botch their work. [68] Weapons are
baneful [69] and fighting perilous; and useless unless a general
is in constant practice, he ought not to hazard other men's
lives in battle. [70] Hence it is essential that Sun Tzu's 13
chapters should be studied.

Hsiang Liang used to instruct his nephew Chi [71] in the art of
war. Chi got a rough idea of the art in its general bearings,
but would not pursue his studies to their proper outcome, the
consequence being that he was finally defeated and overthrown.
He did not realize that the tricks and artifices of war are
beyond verbal computation. Duke Hsiang of Sung and King Yen of
Hsu were brought to destruction by their misplaced humanity. The
treacherous and underhand nature of war necessitates the use of
guile and stratagem suited to the occasion. There is a case on
record of Confucius himself having violated an extorted oath,
[72] and also of his having left the Sung State in disguise.
[73] Can we then recklessly arraign Sun Tzu for disregarding
truth and honesty?


The following are the oldest Chinese treatises on war, after Sun
Tzu. The notes on each have been drawn principally from the SSU
K`U CH`UAN SHU CHIEN MING MU LU, ch. 9, fol. 22 sqq.

1. WU TZU, in 1 CHUAN or 6 chapters. By Wu Ch`i (d. 381 B.C.). A
genuine work. See SHIH CHI, ch. 65.

2. SSU-MA FA, in 1 CHUAN or 5 chapters. Wrongly attributed to
Ssu-ma Jang-chu of the 6th century B.C. Its date, however, must
be early, as the customs of the three ancient dynasties are
constantly to be met within its pages. See SHIH CHI, ch. 64. The
SSU K`U CH`UAN SHU (ch. 99, f. 1) remarks that the oldest three
treatises on war, SUN TZU, WU TZU and SSU-MA FA, are, generally
speaking, only concerned with things strictly military -- the
art of producing, collecting, training and drilling troops, and
the correct theory with regard to measures of expediency, laying
plans, transport of goods and the handling of soldiers -- in
strong contrast to later works, in which the science of war is
usually blended with metaphysics, divination and magical arts in

3. LIU T`AO, in 6 CHUAN, or 60 chapters. Attributed to Lu Wang
(or Lu Shang, also known as T`ai Kung) of the 12th century B.C.
[74] But its style does not belong to the era of the Three
Dynasties. Lu Te-ming (550-625 A.D.) mentions the work, and
enumerates the headings of the six sections so that the forgery
cannot have been later than Sui dynasty.

4. WEI LIAO TZU, in 5 CHUAN. Attributed to Wei Liao (4th cent.
B.C.), who studied under the famous Kuei-ku Tzu. The work
appears to have been originally in 31 chapters, whereas the text
we possess contains only 24. Its matter is sound enough in the
main, though the strategical devices differ considerably from
those of the Warring States period. It is been furnished with a
commentary by the well-known Sung philosopher Chang Tsai.

5. SAN LUEH, in 3 CHUAN. Attributed to Huang-shih Kung, a
legendary personage who is said to have bestowed it on Chang
Liang (d. 187 B.C.) in an interview on a bridge. But here again,
the style is not that of works dating from the Ch`in or Han
period. The Han Emperor Kuang Wu [25-57 A.D.] apparently quotes
from it in one of his proclamations; but the passage in question
may have been inserted later on, in order to prove the
genuineness of the work. We shall not be far out if we refer it
to the Northern Sung period [420-478 A.D.], or somewhat earlier.

6. LI WEI KUNG WEN TUI, in 3 sections. Written in the form of a
dialogue between T`ai Tsung and his great general Li Ching, it
is usually ascribed to the latter. Competent authorities
consider it a forgery, though the author was evidently well
versed in the art of war.

7. LI CHING PING FA (not to be confounded with the foregoing) is
a short treatise in 8 chapters, preserved in the T`ung Tien, but
not published separately. This fact explains its omission from

8. WU CH`I CHING, in 1 CHUAN. Attributed to the legendary
minister Feng Hou, with exegetical notes by Kung-sun Hung of the
Han dynasty (d. 121 B.C.), and said to have been eulogized by
the celebrated general Ma Lung (d. 300 A.D.). Yet the earliest
mention of it is in the SUNG CHIH. Although a forgery, the work
is well put together.

Considering the high popular estimation in which Chu-ko Liang
has always been held, it is not surprising to find more than one
work on war ascribed to his pen. Such are (1) the SHIH LIU TS`E
(1 CHUAN), preserved in the YUNG LO TA TIEN; (2) CHIANG YUAN (1
CHUAN); and (3) HSIN SHU (1 CHUAN), which steals wholesale from
Sun Tzu. None of these has the slightest claim to be considered

Most of the large Chinese encyclopedias contain extensive
sections devoted to the literature of war. The following
references may be found useful: --

T`UNG TIEN (circa 800 A.D.), ch. 148-162.
T`AI P`ING YU LAN (983), ch. 270-359.
WEN HSIEN TUNG K`AO (13th cent.), ch. 221.
YU HAI (13th cent.), ch. 140, 141.
SAN TS`AI T`U HUI (16th cent).
KUANG PO WU CHIH (1607), ch. 31, 32.
CH`IEN CH`IO LEI SHU (1632), ch. 75.
YUAN CHIEN LEI HAN (1710), ch. 206-229.
KU CHIN T`U SHU CHI CH`ENG (1726), section XXX, esp. ch. 81-
HSU WEN HSIEN T`UNG K`AO (1784), ch. 121-134.
HUANG CH`AO CHING SHIH WEN PIEN (1826), ch. 76, 77.

The bibliographical sections of certain historical works 
also deserve mention: --

CH`IEN HAN SHU, ch. 30.
SUI SHU, ch. 32-35.
CHIU T`ANG SHU, ch. 46, 47.
HSIN T`ANG SHU, ch. 57,60.
SUNG SHIH, ch. 202-209.
T`UNG CHIH (circa 1150), ch. 68.

To these of course must be added the great Catalogue of the 
Imperial Library: --

SSU K`U CH`UAN SHU TSUNG MU T`I YAO (1790), ch. 99, 100.


1. SHI CHI, ch. 65.

2. He reigned from 514 to 496 B.C.

3. SHI CHI, ch. 130.

4. The appellation of Nang Wa.

5. SHI CHI, ch. 31.

6. SHI CHI, ch. 25.

7. The appellation of Hu Yen, mentioned in ch. 39 under the year

8. Wang-tzu Ch`eng-fu, ch. 32, year 607.

9. The mistake is natural enough. Native critics refer to a work
of the Han dynasty, which says: "Ten LI outside the WU gate [of
the city of Wu, now Soochow in Kiangsu] there is a great mound,
raised to commemorate the entertainment of Sun Wu of Ch`i, who
excelled in the art of war, by the King of Wu."

10. "They attached strings to wood to make bows, and sharpened
wood to make arrows. The use of bows and arrows is to keep the
Empire in awe."

11. The son and successor of Ho Lu. He was finally defeated and
overthrown by Kou chien, King of Yueh, in 473 B.C. See post.

12. King Yen of Hsu, a fabulous being, of whom Sun Hsing-yen
says in his preface: "His humanity brought him to destruction."

13. The passage I have put in brackets is omitted in the T`U
SHU, and may be an interpolation. It was known, however to Chang
Shou-chieh of the T`ang dynasty, and appears in the T`AI P`ING

14. Ts`ao Kung seems to be thinking of the first part of chap.
II, perhaps especially of ss. 8.

15. See chap. XI.

16. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that WU TZU, which is
not in 6 chapters, has 48 assigned to it in the HAN CHIH.
Likewise, the CHUNG YUNG is credited with 49 chapters, though
now only in one only. In the case of very short works, one is
tempted to think that P`IEN might simply mean "leaves."

17. Yeh Shih of the Sung dynasty [1151-1223].

18. He hardly deserves to be bracketed with assassins.

19. See Chapter 7, ss. 27 and Chapter 11, ss. 28.

20. See Chapter 11, ss. 28. Chuan Chu is the abbreviated form of
his name.

21. I.e. Po P`ei. See ante.

22. The nucleus of this work is probably genuine, though large
additions have been made by later hands. Kuan chung died in 645

23. See infra, beginning of INTRODUCTION.

24. I do not know what this work, unless it be the last chapter
of another work. Why that chapter should be singled out,
however, is not clear.

25. About 480 B.C.

26. That is, I suppose, the age of Wu Wang and Chou Kung.

27. In the 3rd century B.C.

28. Ssu-ma Jang-chu, whose family name was T`ien, lived in the
latter half of the 6th century B.C., and is also believed to
have written a work on war. See SHIH CHI, ch. 64, and infra at
the beginning of the INTRODUCTION.

29. See Legge's Classics, vol. V, Prolegomena p. 27. Legge
thinks that the TSO CHUAN must have been written in the 5th
century, but not before 424 B.C.

30. See MENCIUS III. 1. iii. 13-20.

31. When Wu first appears in the CH`UN CH`IU in 584, it is
already at variance with its powerful neighbor. The CH`UN CH`IU
first mentions Yueh in 537, the TSO CHUAN in 601.

32. This is explicitly stated in the TSO CHUAN, XXXII, 2.

33. There is this to be said for the later period, that the feud
would tend to grow more bitter after each encounter, and thus
more fully justify the language used in XI. ss. 30.

34. With Wu Yuan himself the case is just the reverse: -- a
spurious treatise on war has been fathered on him simply because
he was a great general. Here we have an obvious inducement to
forgery. Sun Wu, on the other hand, cannot have been widely
known to fame in the 5th century.

35. From TSO CHUAN: "From the date of King Chao's accession
[515] there was no year in which Ch`u was not attacked by Wu."

36. Preface ad fin: "My family comes from Lo-an, and we are
really descended from Sun Tzu. I am ashamed to say that I only
read my ancestor's work from a literary point of view, without
comprehending the military technique. So long have we been
enjoying the blessings of peace!"

37. Hoa-yin is about 14 miles from T`ung-kuan on the eastern
border of Shensi. The temple in question is still visited by
those about the ascent of the Western Sacred Mountain. It is
mentioned in a text as being "situated five LI east of the
district city of Hua-yin. The temple contains the Hua-shan
tablet inscribed by the T`ang Emperor Hsuan Tsung [713-755]."

38. See my "Catalogue of Chinese Books" (Luzac & Co., 1908),
no. 40.

39. This is a discussion of 29 difficult passages in Sun Tzu.

40. Cf. Catalogue of the library of Fan family at Ningpo: "His
commentary is frequently obscure; it furnishes a clue, but does
not fully develop the meaning."

41. WEN HSIEN T`UNG K`AO, ch. 221.

42. It is interesting to note that M. Pelliot has recently
discovered chapters 1, 4 and 5 of this lost work in the "Grottos
of the Thousand Buddhas." See B.E.F.E.O., t. VIII, nos. 3-4, p.

43. The Hsia, the Shang and the Chou. Although the last-named
was nominally existent in Sun Tzu's day, it retained hardly a
vestige of power, and the old military organization had
practically gone by the board. I can suggest no other
explanation of the passage.

44. See CHOU LI, xxix. 6-10.

45. T`UNG K`AO, ch. 221.

46. This appears to be still extant. See Wylie's "Notes," p. 91
(new edition).

47. T`UNG K`AO, loc. cit.

48. A notable person in his day. His biography is given in the
SAN KUO CHIH, ch. 10.

49. See XI. ss. 58, note.

50. HOU HAN SHU, ch. 17 ad init.

51. SAN KUO CHIH, ch. 54.

52. SUNG SHIH, ch. 365 ad init.

53. The few Europeans who have yet had an opportunity of
acquainting themselves with Sun Tzu are not behindhand in their
praise. In this connection, I may perhaps be excused for quoting
from a letter from Lord Roberts, to whom the sheets of the
present work were submitted previous to publication: "Many of
Sun Wu's maxims are perfectly applicable to the present day, and
no. 11 [in Chapter VIII] is one that the people of this country
would do well to take to heart."

54. Ch. 140.

55. See IV. ss. 3.

56. The allusion may be to Mencius VI. 2. ix. 2.

57. The TSO CHUAN.

58. SHIH CHI, ch. 25, fol. I.

59. Cf. SHIH CHI, ch 47.

60. See SHU CHING, preface ss. 55.

61. See SHIH CHI, ch. 47.

62. Lun Yu, XV. 1.

63. I failed to trace this utterance.

64. Supra.

65. Supra.

66. The other four being worship, mourning, entertainment of
guests, and festive rites. See SHU CHING, ii. 1. III. 8, and
CHOU LI, IX. fol. 49.

67. See XIII. ss. 11, note.

68. This is a rather obscure allusion to the TSO CHUAN, where
Tzu-ch`an says: "If you have a piece of beautiful brocade, you
will not employ a mere learner to make it up."

69. Cf. TAO TE CHING, ch. 31.

70. Sun Hsing-yen might have quoted Confucius again. See LUN YU,
XIII. 29, 30.

71. Better known as Hsiang Yu [233-202 B.C.].

72. SHIH CHI, ch. 47.

73. SHIH CHI, ch. 38.

74. See XIII. ss. 27, note. Further details on T`ai Kung will be
found in the SHIH CHI, ch. 32 ad init. Besides the tradition
which makes him a former minister of Chou Hsin, two other
accounts of him are there given, according to which he would
appear to have been first raised from a humble private station
by Wen Wang.



[Ts`ao Kung, in defining the meaning of the Chinese for the
title of this chapter, says it refers to the deliberations in
the temple selected by the general for his temporary use, or as
we should say, in his tent. See. ss. 26.]

1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the
State. 2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to
safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on
no account be neglected. 3. The art of war, then, is governed by
five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's
deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions
obtaining in the field. 4. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2)
Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.

[It appears from what follows that Sun Tzu means by "Moral Law"
a principle of harmony, not unlike the Tao of Lao Tzu in its
moral aspect. One might be tempted to render it by "morale,"
were it not considered as an attribute of the ruler in ss. 13.]

5, 6. The MORAL LAW causes the people to be in complete accord
with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of
their lives, undismayed by any danger.

[Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "Without constant practice,
the officers will be nervous and undecided when mustering for
battle; without constant practice, the general will be wavering
and irresolute when the crisis is at hand."]

7. HEAVEN signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and

[The commentators, I think, make an unnecessary mystery of two
words here. Meng Shih refers to "the hard and the soft, waxing
and waning" of Heaven. Wang Hsi, however, may be right in saying
that what is meant is "the general economy of Heaven," including
the five elements, the four seasons, wind and clouds, and other

8. EARTH comprises distances, great and small; danger and
security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and
death. 9. The COMMANDER stands for the virtues of wisdom,
sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.

[The five cardinal virtues of the Chinese are (1) humanity or
benevolence; (2) uprightness of mind; (3) self-respect, self-
control, or "proper feeling;" (4) wisdom; (5) sincerity or good
faith. Here "wisdom" and "sincerity" are put before "humanity or
benevolence," and the two military virtues of "courage" and
"strictness" substituted for "uprightness of mind" and "self-
respect, self-control, or 'proper feeling.'"]

10. By METHOD AND DISCIPLINE are to be understood the marshaling
of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank
among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies
may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. 11.
These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who
knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine
the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a
comparison, in this wise: -- 13. (1) Which of the two sovereigns
is imbued with the Moral law?

[I.e., "is in harmony with his subjects." Cf. ss. 5.]

(2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom
lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?

[See ss. 7,8]

(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?

[Tu Mu alludes to the remarkable story of Ts`ao Ts`ao (A.D.
155-220), who was such a strict disciplinarian that once, in
accordance with his own severe regulations against injury to
standing crops, he condemned himself to death for having allowed
him horse to shy into a field of corn! However, in lieu of
losing his head, he was persuaded to satisfy his sense of
justice by cutting off his hair. Ts`ao Ts`ao's own comment on
the present passage is characteristically curt: "when you lay
down a law, see that it is not disobeyed; if it is disobeyed the
offender must be put to death."]

(5) Which army is stronger?

[Morally as well as physically. As Mei Yao-ch`en puts it, freely
rendered, "ESPIRIT DE CORPS and 'big battalions.'"]

(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?

[Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "Without constant practice,
the officers will be nervous and undecided when mustering for
battle; without constant practice, the general will be wavering
and irresolute when the crisis is at hand."]

(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward
and punishment?

[On which side is there the most absolute certainty that merit
will be properly rewarded and misdeeds summarily punished?]

14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast
victory or defeat. 15. The general that hearkens to my counsel
and acts upon it, will conquer: --let such a one be retained in
command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts
upon it, will suffer defeat: --let such a one be dismissed!

[The form of this paragraph reminds us that Sun Tzu's treatise
was composed expressly for the benefit of his patron Ho Lu, king
of the Wu State.]

16. While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also
of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.
17. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify
one's plans.

[Sun Tzu, as a practical soldier, will have none of the "bookish
theoric." He cautions us here not to pin our faith to abstract
principles; "for," as Chang Yu puts it, "while the main laws of
strategy can be stated clearly enough for the benefit of all and
sundry, you must be guided by the actions of the enemy in
attempting to secure a favorable position in actual warfare." On
the eve of the battle of Waterloo, Lord Uxbridge, commanding the
cavalry, went to the Duke of Wellington in order to learn what
his plans and calculations were for the morrow, because, as he
explained, he might suddenly find himself Commander-in-chief and
would be unable to frame new plans in a critical moment. The
Duke listened quietly and then said: "Who will attack the first
tomorrow -- I or Bonaparte?" "Bonaparte," replied Lord Uxbridge.
"Well," continued the Duke, "Bonaparte has not given me any idea
of his projects; and as my plans will depend upon his, how can
you expect me to tell you what mine are?" [1] ]

18. All warfare is based on deception.

[The truth of this pithy and profound saying will be admitted by
every soldier. Col. Henderson tells us that Wellington, great in
so many military qualities, was especially distinguished by "the
extraordinary skill with which he concealed his movements and
deceived both friend and foe."]

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using
our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must
make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must
make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and
crush him.

[All commentators, except Chang Yu, say, "When he is in
disorder, crush him." It is more natural to suppose that Sun Tzu
is still illustrating the uses of deception in war.]

21. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is
in superior strength, evade him.

22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate
him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

[Wang Tzu, quoted by Tu Yu, says that the good tactician plays
with his adversary as a cat plays with a mouse, first feigning
weakness and immobility, and then suddenly pouncing upon him.]

23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.

[This is probably the meaning though Mei Yao-ch`en has the note:
"while we are taking our ease, wait for the enemy to tire
himself out." The YU LAN has "Lure him on and tire him out."]

If his forces are united, separate them.

[Less plausible is the interpretation favored by most of the
commentators: "If sovereign and subject are in accord, put
division between them."]

24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not

25. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be
divulged beforehand.

26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in
his temple ere the battle is fought.

[Chang Yu tells us that in ancient times it was customary for a
temple to be set apart for the use of a general who was about to
take the field, in order that he might there elaborate his plan
of campaign.]

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations
beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few
calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It
is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely
to win or lose.

[1] "Words on Wellington," by Sir. W. Fraser.



[Ts`ao Kung has the note: "He who wishes to fight must first
count the cost," which prepares us for the discovery that the
subject of the chapter is not what we might expect from the
title, but is primarily a consideration of ways and means.]

1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there are in
the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and
a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers,

[The "swift chariots" were lightly built and, according to Chang
Yu, used for the attack; the "heavy chariots" were heavier, and
designed for purposes of defense. Li Ch`uan, it is true, says
that the latter were light, but this seems hardly probable. It
is interesting to note the analogies between early Chinese
warfare and that of the Homeric Greeks. In each case, the war-
chariot was the important factor, forming as it did the nucleus
round which was grouped a certain number of foot-soldiers. With
regard to the numbers given here, we are informed that each
swift chariot was accompanied by 75 footmen, and each heavy
chariot by 25 footmen, so that the whole army would be divided
up into a thousand battalions, each consisting of two chariots
and a hundred men.]

with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI,

[2.78 modern LI go to a mile. The length may have varied
slightly since Sun Tzu's time.]

the expenditure at home and at the front, including
entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and
sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a
thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising
an army of 100,000 men.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in
coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will
be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your

3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the
State will not be equal to the strain.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your
strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains
will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man,
however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must
ensue. 5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war,
cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

[This concise and difficult sentence is not well explained by
any of the commentators. Ts`ao Kung, Li Ch`uan, Meng Shih, Tu
Yu, Tu Mu and Mei Yao-ch`en have notes to the effect that a
general, though naturally stupid, may nevertheless conquer
through sheer force of rapidity. Ho Shih says: "Haste may be
stupid, but at any rate it saves expenditure of energy and
treasure; protracted operations may be very clever, but they
bring calamity in their train." Wang Hsi evades the difficulty
by remarking: "Lengthy operations mean an army growing old,
wealth being expended, an empty exchequer and distress among the
people; true cleverness insures against the occurrence of such
calamities." Chang Yu says: "So long as victory can be attained,
stupid haste is preferable to clever dilatoriness." Now Sun Tzu
says nothing whatever, except possibly by implication, about
ill-considered haste being better than ingenious but lengthy
operations. What he does say is something much more guarded,
namely that, while speed may sometimes be injudicious, tardiness
can never be anything but foolish -- if only because it means
impoverishment to the nation. In considering the point raised
here by Sun Tzu, the classic example of Fabius Cunctator will
inevitably occur to the mind. That general deliberately measured
the endurance of Rome against that of Hannibals's isolated army,
because it seemed to him that the latter was more likely to
suffer from a long campaign in a strange country. But it is
quite a moot question whether his tactics would have proved
successful in the long run. Their reversal it is true, led to
Cannae; but this only establishes a negative presumption in
their favor.]

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from
prolonged warfare.

7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of
war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of
carrying it on.

[That is, with rapidity. Only one who knows the disastrous
effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of
rapidity in bringing it to a close. Only two commentators seem
to favor this interpretation, but it fits well into the logic of
the context, whereas the rendering, "He who does not know the
evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits," is distinctly

8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither
are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

[Once war is declared, he will not waste precious time in
waiting for reinforcements, nor will he return his army back for
fresh supplies, but crosses the enemy's frontier without delay.
This may seem an audacious policy to recommend, but with all
great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Napoleon Bonaparte, the
value of time -- that is, being a little ahead of your opponent
-- has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the
nicest calculations with regard to commissariat.]

9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the
enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.

[The Chinese word translated here as "war material" literally
means "things to be used", and is meant in the widest sense. It
includes all the impedimenta of an army, apart from provisions.]

10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be
maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to
maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be

[The beginning of this sentence does not balance properly with
the next, though obviously intended to do so. The arrangement,
moreover, is so awkward that I cannot help suspecting some
corruption in the text. It never seems to occur to Chinese
commentators that an emendation may be necessary for the sense,
and we get no help from them there. The Chinese words Sun Tzu
used to indicate the cause of the people's impoverishment
clearly have reference to some system by which the husbandmen
sent their contributions of corn to the army direct. But why
should it fall on them to maintain an army in this way, except
because the State or Government is too poor to do so?]

11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to
go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be
drained away.

[Wang Hsi says high prices occur before the army has left its
own territory. Ts`ao Kung understands it of an army that has
already crossed the frontier.]

12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be
afflicted by heavy exactions.

13, 14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength,
the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths
of their income will be dissipated;

[Tu Mu and Wang Hsi agree that the people are not mulcted not of
3/10, but of 7/10, of their income. But this is hardly to be
extracted from our text. Ho Shih has a characteristic tag: "The
PEOPLE being regarded as the essential part of the State, and
FOOD as the people's heaven, is it not right that those in
authority should value and be careful of both?"]

while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses,
breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields,
protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount
to four-tenths of its total revenue.

15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy.
One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty
of one's own, and likewise a single PICUL of his provender is
equivalent to twenty from one's own store.

[Because twenty cartloads will be consumed in the process of
transporting one cartload to the front. A PICUL is a unit of
measure equal to 133.3 pounds (65.5 kilograms).]

16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to
anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy,
they must have their rewards.

[Tu Mu says: "Rewards are necessary in order to make the
soldiers see the advantage of beating the enemy; thus, when you
capture spoils from the enemy, they must be used as rewards, so
that all your men may have a keen desire to fight, each on his
own account."]

17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots
have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first.
Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and
the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The
captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.

18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own

19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy

[As Ho Shih remarks: "War is not a thing to be trifled with."
Sun Tzu here reiterates the main lesson which this chapter is
intended to enforce."]

20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the
arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether
the nation shall be in peace or in peril.



1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of
all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter
and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to
recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a
regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

[The equivalent to an army corps, according to Ssu-ma Fa,
consisted nominally of 12500 men; according to Ts`ao Kung, the
equivalent of a regiment contained 500 men, the equivalent to a
detachment consists from any number between 100 and 500, and the
equivalent of a company contains from 5 to 100 men. For the last
two, however, Chang Yu gives the exact figures of 100 and 5

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme
excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's
resistance without fighting.

[Here again, no modern strategist but will approve the words of
the old Chinese general. Moltke's greatest triumph, the
capitulation of the huge French army at Sedan, was won
practically without bloodshed.]

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's

[Perhaps the word "balk" falls short of expressing the full
force of the Chinese word, which implies not an attitude of
defense, whereby one might be content to foil the enemy's
stratagems one after another, but an active policy of counter-
attack. Ho Shih puts this very clearly in his note: "When the
enemy has made a plan of attack against us, we must anticipate
him by delivering our own attack first."]

the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces;

[Isolating him from his allies. We must not forget that Sun Tzu,
in speaking of hostilities, always has in mind the numerous
states or principalities into which the China of his day was
split up.]

the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;

[When he is already at full strength.]

and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly
be avoided.

[Another sound piece of military theory. Had the Boers acted
upon it in 1899, and refrained from dissipating their strength
before Kimberley, Mafeking, or even Ladysmith, it is more than
probable that they would have been masters of the situation
before the British were ready seriously to oppose them.]

The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various
implements of war, will take up three whole months;

[It is not quite clear what the Chinese word, here translated as
"mantlets", described. Ts`ao Kung simply defines them as "large
shields," but we get a better idea of them from Li Ch`uan, who
says they were to protect the heads of those who were assaulting
the city walls at close quarters. This seems to suggest a sort
of Roman TESTUDO, ready made. Tu Mu says they were wheeled
vehicles used in repelling attacks, but this is denied by Ch`en
Hao. See supra II. 14. The name is also applied to turrets on
city walls. Of the "movable shelters" we get a fairly clear
description from several commentators. They were wooden
missile-proof structures on four wheels, propelled from within,
covered over with raw hides, and used in sieges to convey
parties of men to and from the walls, for the purpose of filling
up the encircling moat with earth. Tu Mu adds that they are now
called "wooden donkeys."]

and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take
three months more.

[These were great mounds or ramparts of earth heaped up to the
level of the enemy's walls in order to discover the weak points
in the defense, and also to destroy the fortified turrets
mentioned in the preceding note.]

5. The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch
his men to the assault like swarming ants,

[This vivid simile of Ts`ao Kung is taken from the spectacle of
an army of ants climbing a wall. The meaning is that the
general, losing patience at the long delay, may make a premature
attempt to storm the place before his engines of war are ready.]

with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the
town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a

[We are reminded of the terrible losses of the Japanese before
Port Arthur, in the most recent siege which history has to

6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops
without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying
siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy
operations in the field.

[Chia Lin notes that he only overthrows the Government, but does
no harm to individuals. The classical instance is Wu Wang, who
after having put an end to the Yin dynasty was acclaimed "Father
and mother of the people."]

7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the
Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be

[Owing to the double meanings in the Chinese text, the latter
part of the sentence is susceptible of quite a different
meaning: "And thus, the weapon not being blunted by use, its
keenness remains perfect."]

This is the method of attacking by stratagem. 8. It is the rule
in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround
him; if five to one, to attack him;

[Straightway, without waiting for any further advantage.]

if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.

[Tu Mu takes exception to the saying; and at first sight,
indeed, it appears to violate a fundamental principle of war.
Ts'ao Kung, however, gives a clue to Sun Tzu's meaning: "Being
two to the enemy's one, we may use one part of our army in the
regular way, and the other for some special diversion." Chang Yu
thus further elucidates the point: "If our force is twice as
numerous as that of the enemy, it should be split up into two
divisions, one to meet the enemy in front, and one to fall upon
his rear; if he replies to the frontal attack, he may be crushed
from behind; if to the rearward attack, he may be crushed in
front." This is what is meant by saying that 'one part may be
used in the regular way, and the other for some special
diversion.' Tu Mu does not understand that dividing one's army
is simply an irregular, just as concentrating it is the regular,
strategical method, and he is too hasty in calling this a

9. If equally matched, we can offer battle;

[Li Ch`uan, followed by Ho Shih, gives the following paraphrase:
"If attackers and attacked are equally matched in strength, only
the able general will fight."]

if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy;

[The meaning, "we can WATCH the enemy," is certainly a great
improvement on the above; but unfortunately there appears to be
no very good authority for the variant. Chang Yu reminds us that
the saying only applies if the other factors are equal; a small
difference in numbers is often more than counterbalanced by
superior energy and discipline.]

if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.

10. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small
force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.

11. Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark
is complete at all points; the State will be strong; if the
bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.

[As Li Ch`uan tersely puts it: "Gap indicates deficiency; if the
general's ability is not perfect (i.e. if he is not thoroughly
versed in his profession), his army will lack strength."]

12. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune
upon his army:--

13. (1) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being
ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called
hobbling the army.

[Li Ch`uan adds the comment: "It is like tying together the legs
of a thoroughbred, so that it is unable to gallop." One would
naturally think of "the ruler" in this passage as being at home,
and trying to direct the movements of his army from a distance.
But the commentators understand just the reverse, and quote the
saying of T`ai Kung: "A kingdom should not be governed from
without, and army should not be directed from within." Of course
it is true that, during an engagement, or when in close touch
with the enemy, the general should not be in the thick of his
own troops, but a little distance apart. Otherwise, he will be
liable to misjudge the position as a whole, and give wrong

14. (2) By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he
administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which
obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier's

[Ts`ao Kung's note is, freely translated: "The military sphere
and the civil sphere are wholly distinct; you can't handle an
army in kid gloves." And Chang Yu says: "Humanity and justice
are the principles on which to govern a state, but not an army;
opportunism and flexibility, on the other hand, are military
rather than civil virtues to assimilate the governing of an
army"--to that of a State, understood.]

15. (3) By employing the officers of his army without

[That is, he is not careful to use the right man in the right

through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to
circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

[I follow Mei Yao-ch`en here. The other commentators refer not
to the ruler, as in SS. 13, 14, but to the officers he employs.
Thus Tu Yu says: "If a general is ignorant of the principle of
adaptability, he must not be entrusted with a position of
authority." Tu Mu quotes: "The skillful employer of men will
employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the
stupid man. For the wise man delights in establishing his merit,
the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous
man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no
fear of death."]

16. But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is
sure to come from the other feudal princes. This is simply
bringing anarchy into the army, and flinging victory away.

17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

[Chang Yu says: If he can fight, he advances and takes the
offensive; if he cannot fight, he retreats and remains on the
defensive. He will invariably conquer who knows whether it is
right to take the offensive or the defensive.]

(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and
inferior forces.

[This is not merely the general's ability to estimate numbers
correctly, as Li Ch`uan and others make out. Chang Yu expounds
the saying more satisfactorily: "By applying the art of war, it
is possible with a lesser force to defeat a greater, and vice
versa. The secret lies in an eye for locality, and in not
letting the right moment slip. Thus Wu Tzu says: 'With a
superior force, make for easy ground; with an inferior one, make
for difficult ground.'"]

(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit
throughout all its ranks. (4) He will win who, prepared himself,
waits to take the enemy unprepared. (5) He will win who has
military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

[Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "It is the sovereign's
function to give broad instructions, but to decide on battle it
is the function of the general." It is needless to dilate on the
military disasters which have been caused by undue interference
with operations in the field on the part of the home government.
Napoleon undoubtedly owed much of his extraordinary success to
the fact that he was not hampered by central authority.]

18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself,
you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know
yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will
also suffer a defeat.

[Li Ch`uan cites the case of Fu Chien, prince of Ch`in, who in
383 A.D. marched with a vast army against the Chin Emperor. When
warned not to despise an enemy who could command the services of
such men as Hsieh An and Huan Ch`ung, he boastfully replied: "I
have the population of eight provinces at my back, infantry and
horsemen to the number of one million; why, they could dam up
the Yangtsze River itself by merely throwing their whips into
the stream. What danger have I to fear?" Nevertheless, his
forces were soon after disastrously routed at the Fei River, and
he was obliged to beat a hasty retreat.]

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in
every battle.

[Chang Yu said: "Knowing the enemy enables you to take the
offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the
defensive." He adds: "Attack is the secret of defense; defense
is the planning of an attack." It would be hard to find a better
epitome of the root-principle of war.]



[Ts`ao Kung explains the Chinese meaning of the words for the
title of this chapter: "marching and countermarching on the part
of the two armies with a view to discovering each other's
condition." Tu Mu says: "It is through the dispositions of an
army that its condition may be discovered. Conceal your
dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, which leads
to victory,; show your dispositions, and your condition will
become patent, which leads to defeat." Wang Hsi remarks that the
good general can "secure success by modifying his tactics to
meet those of the enemy."]

1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves
beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an
opportunity of defeating the enemy.

2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but
the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy

[That is, of course, by a mistake on the enemy's part.]

3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against
defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

[Chang Yu says this is done, "By concealing the disposition of
his troops, covering up his tracks, and taking unremitting

4. Hence the saying: One may KNOW how to conquer without being
able to DO it.

5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to
defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.

[I retain the sense found in a similar passage in ss. 1-3, in
spite of the fact that the commentators are all against me. The
meaning they give, "He who cannot conquer takes the defensive,"
is plausible enough.]

6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength;
attacking, a superabundance of strength.

7. The general who is skilled in defense hides in the most
secret recesses of the earth;

[Literally, "hides under the ninth earth," which is a metaphor
indicating the utmost secrecy and concealment, so that the enemy
may not know his whereabouts."]

he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost
heights of heaven.

[Another metaphor, implying that he falls on his adversary like
a thunderbolt, against which there is no time to prepare. This
is the opinion of most of the commentators.]

Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on
the other, a victory that is complete.

8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common
herd is not the acme of excellence.

[As Ts`ao Kung remarks, "the thing is to see the plant before it
has germinated," to foresee the event before the action has
begun. Li Ch`uan alludes to the story of Han Hsin who, when
about to attack the vastly superior army of Chao, which was
strongly entrenched in the city of Ch`eng-an, said to his
officers: "Gentlemen, we are going to annihilate the enemy, and
shall meet again at dinner." The officers hardly took his words
seriously, and gave a very dubious assent. But Han Hsin had
already worked out in his mind the details of a clever
stratagem, whereby, as he foresaw, he was able to capture the
city and inflict a crushing defeat on his adversary."]

9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer
and the whole Empire says, "Well done!"

[True excellence being, as Tu Mu says: "To plan secretly, to
move surreptitiously, to foil the enemy's intentions and balk
his schemes, so that at last the day may be won without shedding
a drop of blood." Sun Tzu reserves his approbation for things
that "the world's coarse thumb And finger fail to plumb."]

10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength;

["Autumn" hair" is explained as the fur of a hare, which is
finest in autumn, when it begins to grow afresh. The phrase is a
very common one in Chinese writers.]

to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the
noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.

[Ho Shih gives as real instances of strength, sharp sight and
quick hearing: Wu Huo, who could lift a tripod weighing 250
stone; Li Chu, who at a distance of a hundred paces could see
objects no bigger than a mustard seed; and Shih K`uang, a blind
musician who could hear the footsteps of a mosquito.]

11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not
only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

[The last half is literally "one who, conquering, excels in easy
conquering." Mei Yao-ch`en says: "He who only sees the obvious,
wins his battles with difficulty; he who looks below the surface
of things, wins with ease."]

12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom
nor credit for courage.

[Tu Mu explains this very well: "Inasmuch as his victories are
gained over circumstances that have not come to light, the world
as large knows nothing of them, and he wins no reputation for
wisdom; inasmuch as the hostile state submits before there has
been any bloodshed, he receives no credit for courage."]

13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes.

[Ch`en Hao says: "He plans no superfluous marches, he devises no
futile attacks." The connection of ideas is thus explained by
Chang Yu: "One who seeks to conquer by sheer strength, clever
though he may be at winning pitched battles, is also liable on
occasion to be vanquished; whereas he who can look into the
future and discern conditions that are not yet manifest, will
never make a blunder and therefore invariably win."]

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory,
for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

14. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position
which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for
defeating the enemy.

[A "counsel of perfection" as Tu Mu truly observes. "Position"
need not be confined to the actual ground occupied by the
troops. It includes all the arrangements and preparations which
a wise general will make to increase the safety of his army.]

15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks
battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is
destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for

[Ho Shih thus expounds the paradox: "In warfare, first lay plans
which will ensure victory, and then lead your army to battle; if
you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength
alone, victory will no longer be assured."]

16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly
adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to
control success.

17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly,
Measurement; secondly, Estimation of quantity; thirdly,
Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances; fifthly, Victory.

18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of
quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity;
Balancing of chances to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of

[It is not easy to distinguish the four terms very clearly in
the Chinese. The first seems to be surveying and measurement of
the ground, which enable us to form an estimate of the enemy's
strength, and to make calculations based on the data thus
obtained; we are thus led to a general weighing-up, or
comparison of the enemy's chances with our own; if the latter
turn the scale, then victory ensues. The chief difficulty lies
in third term, which in the Chinese some commentators take as a
calculation of NUMBERS, thereby making it nearly synonymous with
the second term. Perhaps the second term should be thought of as
a consideration of the enemy's general position or condition,
while the third term is the estimate of his numerical strength.
On the other hand, Tu Mu says: "The question of relative
strength having been settled, we can bring the varied resources
of cunning into play." Ho Shih seconds this interpretation, but
weakens it. However, it points to the third term as being a
calculation of numbers.]

19. A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a pound's
weight placed in the scale against a single grain.

[Literally, "a victorious army is like an I (20 oz.) weighed
against a SHU (1/24 oz.); a routed army is a SHU weighed against
an I." The point is simply the enormous advantage which a
disciplined force, flushed with victory, has over one
demoralized by defeat." Legge, in his note on Mencius, I. 2. ix.
2, makes the I to be 24 Chinese ounces, and corrects Chu Hsi's
statement that it equaled 20 oz. only. But Li Ch`uan of the
T`ang dynasty here gives the same figure as Chu Hsi.]

20. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of
pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.



1. Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same
principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question
of dividing up their numbers.

[That is, cutting up the army into regiments, companies, etc.,
with subordinate officers in command of each. Tu Mu reminds us
of Han Hsin's famous reply to the first Han Emperor, who once
said to him: "How large an army do you think I could lead?" "Not
more than 100,000 men, your Majesty." "And you?" asked the
Emperor. "Oh!" he answered, "the more the better."]

2. Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise
different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a
question of instituting signs and signals.

3. To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the
enemy's attack and remain unshaken - this is effected by
maneuvers direct and indirect.

[We now come to one of the most interesting parts of Sun Tzu's
treatise, the discussion of the CHENG and the CH`I." As it is by
no means easy to grasp the full significance of these two terms,
or to render them consistently by good English equivalents; it
may be as well to tabulate some of the commentators' remarks on
the subject before proceeding further. Li Ch`uan: "Facing the
enemy is CHENG, making lateral diversion is CH`I. Chia Lin: "In
presence of the enemy, your troops should be arrayed in normal
fashion, but in order to secure victory abnormal maneuvers must
be employed." Mei Yao-ch`en: "CH`I is active, CHENG is passive;
passivity means waiting for an opportunity, activity beings the
victory itself." Ho Shih: "We must cause the enemy to regard our
straightforward attack as one that is secretly designed, and
vice versa; thus CHENG may also be CH`I, and CH`I may also be
CHENG." He instances the famous exploit of Han Hsin, who when
marching ostensibly against Lin- chin (now Chao-i in Shensi),
suddenly threw a large force across the Yellow River in wooden
tubs, utterly disconcerting his opponent. [Ch`ien Han Shu, ch.
3.] Here, we are told, the march on Lin-chin was CHENG, and the
surprise maneuver was CH`I." Chang Yu gives the following
summary of opinions on the words: "Military writers do not agree
with regard to the meaning of CH`I and CHENG. Wei Liao Tzu [4th
cent. B.C.] says: 'Direct warfare favors frontal attacks,
indirect warfare attacks from the rear.' Ts`ao Kung says: 'Going
straight out to join battle is a direct operation; appearing on
the enemy's rear is an indirect maneuver.' Li Wei-kung [6th and
7th cent. A.D.] says: 'In war, to march straight ahead is CHENG;
turning movements, on the other hand, are CH`I.' These writers
simply regard CHENG as CHENG, and CH`I as CH`I; they do not note
that the two are mutually interchangeable and run into each
other like the two sides of a circle [see infra, ss. 11]. A
comment on the T`ang Emperor T`ai Tsung goes to the root of the
matter: 'A CH`I maneuver may be CHENG, if we make the enemy look
upon it as CHENG; then our real attack will be CH`I, and vice
versa. The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he
cannot fathom our real intent.'" To put it perhaps a little more
clearly: any attack or other operation is CHENG, on which the
enemy has had his attention fixed; whereas that is CH`I," which
takes him by surprise or comes from an unexpected quarter. If
the enemy perceives a movement which is meant to be CH`I," it
immediately becomes CHENG."]

4. That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed
against an egg - this is effected by the science of weak points
and strong.

5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining
battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure

[Chang Yu says: "Steadily develop indirect tactics, either by
pounding the enemy's flanks or falling on his rear." A brilliant
example of "indirect tactics" which decided the fortunes of a
campaign was Lord Roberts' night march round the Peiwar Kotal in
the second Afghan war. [1]

6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhausible as
Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams;
like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four
seasons, they pass away to return once more.

[Tu Yu and Chang Yu understand this of the permutations of CH`I
and CHENG." But at present Sun Tzu is not speaking of CHENG at
all, unless, indeed, we suppose with Cheng Yu-hsien that a
clause relating to it has fallen out of the text. Of course, as
has already been pointed out, the two are so inextricably
interwoven in all military operations, that they cannot really
be considered apart. Here we simply have an expression, in
figurative language, of the almost infinite resource of a great

7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the
combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can
ever be heard.

8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow,
red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more
hues than can ever been seen.

9 There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid,
salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more
flavors than can ever be tasted.

10. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack -
the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give
rise to an endless series of maneuvers.

11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn.
It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end. Who
can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?

12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will
even roll stones along in its course.

13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a
falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.

[The Chinese here is tricky and a certain key word in the
context it is used defies the best efforts of the translator. Tu
Mu defines this word as "the measurement or estimation of
distance." But this meaning does not quite fit the illustrative
simile in ss. 15. Applying this definition to the falcon, it
seems to me to denote that instinct of SELF RESTRAINT which
keeps the bird from swooping on its quarry until the right
moment, together with the power of judging when the right moment
has arrived. The analogous quality in soldiers is the highly
important one of being able to reserve their fire until the very
instant at which it will be most effective. When the "Victory"
went into action at Trafalgar at hardly more than drifting pace,
she was for several minutes exposed to a storm of shot and shell
before replying with a single gun. Nelson coolly waited until he
was within close range, when the broadside he brought to bear
worked fearful havoc on the enemy's nearest ships.]

14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset,
and prompt in his decision.

[The word "decision" would have reference to the measurement of
distance mentioned above, letting the enemy get near before
striking. But I cannot help thinking that Sun Tzu meant to use
the word in a figurative sense comparable to our own idiom
"short and sharp." Cf. Wang Hsi's note, which after describing
the falcon's mode of attack, proceeds: "This is just how the
'psychological moment' should be seized in war."]

15. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow;
decision, to the releasing of a trigger.

[None of the commentators seem to grasp the real point of the
simile of energy and the force stored up in the bent cross- bow
until released by the finger on the trigger.]

16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming
disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and
chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be
proof against defeat.

[Mei Yao-ch`en says: "The subdivisions of the army having been
previously fixed, and the various signals agreed upon, the
separating and joining, the dispersing and collecting which will
take place in the course of a battle, may give the appearance of
disorder when no real disorder is possible. Your formation may
be without head or tail, your dispositions all topsy-turvy, and
yet a rout of your forces quite out of the question."]

17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated
fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.

[In order to make the translation intelligible, it is necessary
to tone down the sharply paradoxical form of the original. Ts`ao
Kung throws out a hint of the meaning in his brief note: "These
things all serve to destroy formation and conceal one's
condition." But Tu Mu is the first to put it quite plainly: "If
you wish to feign confusion in order to lure the enemy on, you
must first have perfect discipline; if you wish to display
timidity in order to entrap the enemy, you must have extreme
courage; if you wish to parade your weakness in order to make
the enemy over-confident, you must have exceeding strength."]

18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a
question of subdivision;

[See supra, ss. 1.]

concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund
of latent energy;

[The commentators strongly understand a certain Chinese word
here differently than anywhere else in this chapter. Thus Tu Mu
says: "seeing that we are favorably circumstanced and yet make
no move, the enemy will believe that we are really afraid."]

masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical

[Chang Yu relates the following anecdote of Kao Tsu, the first
Han Emperor: "Wishing to crush the Hsiung-nu, he sent out spies
to report on their condition. But the Hsiung-nu, forewarned,
carefully concealed all their able-bodied men and well-fed
horses, and only allowed infirm soldiers and emaciated cattle to
be seen. The result was that spies one and all recommended the
Emperor to deliver his attack. Lou Ching alone opposed them,
saying: "When two countries go to war, they are naturally
inclined to make an ostentatious display of their strength. Yet
our spies have seen nothing but old age and infirmity. This is
surely some ruse on the part of the enemy, and it would be
unwise for us to attack." The Emperor, however, disregarding
this advice, fell into the trap and found himself surrounded at

19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move
maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy
will act.

[Ts`ao Kung's note is "Make a display of weakness and want." Tu
Mu says: "If our force happens to be superior to the enemy's,
weakness may be simulated in order to lure him on; but if
inferior, he must be led to believe that we are strong, in order
that he may keep off. In fact, all the enemy's movements should
be determined by the signs that we choose to give him." Note the
following anecdote of Sun Pin, a descendent of Sun Wu: In 341
B.C., the Ch`i State being at war with Wei, sent T`ien Chi and
Sun Pin against the general P`ang Chuan, who happened to be a
deadly personal enemy of the later. Sun Pin said: "The Ch`i
State has a reputation for cowardice, and therefore our
adversary despises us. Let us turn this circumstance to
account." Accordingly, when the army had crossed the border into
Wei territory, he gave orders to show 100,000 fires on the first
night, 50,000 on the next, and the night after only 20,000.
P`ang Chuan pursued them hotly, saying to himself: "I knew these
men of Ch`i were cowards: their numbers have already fallen away
by more than half." In his retreat, Sun Pin came to a narrow
defile, with he calculated that his pursuers would reach after
dark. Here he had a tree stripped of its bark, and inscribed
upon it the words: "Under this tree shall P`ang Chuan die."
Then, as night began to fall, he placed a strong body of archers
in ambush near by, with orders to shoot directly they saw a
light. Later on, P`ang Chuan arrived at the spot, and noticing
the tree, struck a light in order to read what was written on
it. His body was immediately riddled by a volley of arrows, and
his whole army thrown into confusion. [The above is Tu Mu's
version of the story; the SHIH CHI, less dramatically but
probably with more historical truth, makes P`ang Chuan cut his
own throat with an exclamation of despair, after the rout of his
army.] ]

He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.

20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a
body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

[With an emendation suggested by Li Ching, this then reads, "He
lies in wait with the main body of his troops."]

21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy,
and does not require too much from individuals.

[Tu Mu says: "He first of all considers the power of his army in
the bulk; afterwards he takes individual talent into account,
and uses each men according to his capabilities. He does not
demand perfection from the untalented."]

Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined

22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as
it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature
of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to
move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill,
but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.

[Ts`au Kung calls this "the use of natural or inherent power."]

23. Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as the
momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of
feet in height. So much on the subject of energy.

[The chief lesson of this chapter, in Tu Mu's opinion, is the
paramount importance in war of rapid evolutions and sudden
rushes. "Great results," he adds, "can thus be achieved with
small forces."]

[1] "Forty-one Years in India," chapter 46.



[Chang Yu attempts to explain the sequence of chapters as
follows: "Chapter IV, on Tactical Dispositions, treated of the
offensive and the defensive; chapter V, on Energy, dealt with
direct and indirect methods. The good general acquaints himself
first with the theory of attack and defense, and then turns his
attention to direct and indirect methods. He studies the art of
varying and combining these two methods before proceeding to the
subject of weak and strong points. For the use of direct or
indirect methods arises out of attack and defense, and the
perception of weak and strong points depends again on the above
methods. Hence the present chapter comes immediately after the
chapter on Energy."]

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the
coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is
second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy,
but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

[One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms
or fights not at all. [1] ]

3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to
approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, he can
make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

[In the first case, he will entice him with a bait; in the
second, he will strike at some important point which the enemy
will have to defend.]

4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him;

[This passage may be cited as evidence against Mei Yao- Ch`en's
interpretation of I. ss. 23.]

if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly
encamped, he can force him to move.

5. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march
swiftly to places where you are not expected.

6. An army may march great distances without distress, if it
marches through country where the enemy is not.

[Ts`ao Kung sums up very well: "Emerge from the void [q.d. like
"a bolt from the blue"], strike at vulnerable points, shun
places that are defended, attack in unexpected quarters."]

7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only
attack places which are undefended.

[Wang Hsi explains "undefended places" as "weak points; that is
to say, where the general is lacking in capacity, or the
soldiers in spirit; where the walls are not strong enough, or
the precautions not strict enough; where relief comes too late,
or provisions are too scanty, or the defenders are variance
amongst themselves."]

You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold
positions that cannot be attacked.

[I.e., where there are none of the weak points mentioned above.
There is rather a nice point involved in the interpretation of
this later clause. Tu Mu, Ch`en Hao, and Mei Yao-ch`en assume
the meaning to be: "In order to make your defense quite safe,
you must defend EVEN those places that are not likely to be
attacked;" and Tu Mu adds: "How much more, then, those that will
be attacked." Taken thus, however, the clause balances less well
with the preceding--always a consideration in the highly
antithetical style which is natural to the Chinese. Chang Yu,
therefore, seems to come nearer the mark in saying: "He who is
skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of
heaven [see IV. ss. 7], making it impossible for the enemy to
guard against him. This being so, the places that I shall attack
are precisely those that the enemy cannot defend.... He who is
skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the
earth, making it impossible for the enemy to estimate his
whereabouts. This being so, the places that I shall hold are
precisely those that the enemy cannot attack."]

8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does
not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose
opponent does not know what to attack.

[An aphorism which puts the whole art of war in a nutshell.]

9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to
be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the
enemy's fate in our hands.

[Literally, "without form or sound," but it is said of course
with reference to the enemy.]

10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make
for the enemy's weak points; you may retire and be safe from
pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an
engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and
a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he
will be obliged to relieve.

[Tu Mu says: "If the enemy is the invading party, we can cut his
line of communications and occupy the roads by which he will
have to return; if we are the invaders, we may direct our attack
against the sovereign himself." It is clear that Sun Tzu, unlike
certain generals in the late Boer war, was no believer in
frontal attacks.]

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from
engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely
traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something
odd and unaccountable in his way.

[This extremely concise expression is intelligibly paraphrased
by Chia Lin: "even though we have constructed neither wall nor
ditch." Li Ch`uan says: "we puzzle him by strange and unusual
dispositions;" and Tu Mu finally clinches the meaning by three
illustrative anecdotes--one of Chu-ko Liang, who when occupying
Yang-p`ing and about to be attacked by Ssu-ma I, suddenly struck
his colors, stopped the beating of the drums, and flung open the
city gates, showing only a few men engaged in sweeping and
sprinkling the ground. This unexpected proceeding had the
intended effect; for Ssu-ma I, suspecting an ambush, actually
drew off his army and retreated. What Sun Tzu is advocating
here, therefore, is nothing more nor less than the timely use of

13. By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining
invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while
the enemy's must be divided.

[The conclusion is perhaps not very obvious, but Chang Yu (after
Mei Yao-ch`en) rightly explains it thus: "If the enemy's
dispositions are visible, we can make for him in one body;
whereas, our own dispositions being kept secret, the enemy will
be obliged to divide his forces in order to guard against attack
from every quarter."]

14. We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split
up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against
separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to
the enemy's few.

15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a
superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known;
for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible
attack at several different points;

[Sheridan once explained the reason of General Grant's victories
by saying that "while his opponents were kept fully employed
wondering what he was going to do, HE was thinking most of what
he was going to do himself."]

and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the
numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be
proportionately few. 17. For should the enemy strengthen his
van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he
will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will
weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken
his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will
everywhere be weak.

[In Frederick the Great's INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS GENERALS we read:
"A defensive war is apt to betray us into too frequent
detachment. Those generals who have had but little experience
attempt to protect every point, while those who are better
acquainted with their profession, having only the capital object
in view, guard against a decisive blow, and acquiesce in small
misfortunes to avoid greater."]

18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against
possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our
adversary to make these preparations against us.

[The highest generalship, in Col. Henderson's words, is "to
compel the enemy to disperse his army, and then to concentrate
superior force against each fraction in turn."]

19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may
concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight.

[What Sun Tzu evidently has in mind is that nice calculation of
distances and that masterly employment of strategy which enable
a general to divide his army for the purpose of a long and rapid
march, and afterwards to effect a junction at precisely the
right spot and the right hour in order to confront the enemy in
overwhelming strength. Among many such successful junctions
which military history records, one of the most dramatic and
decisive was the appearance of Blucher just at the critical
moment on the field of Waterloo.]

20. But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing
will be impotent to succor the right, the right equally impotent
to succor the left, the van unable to relieve the rear, or the
rear to support the van. How much more so if the furthest
portions of the army are anything under a hundred LI apart, and
even the nearest are separated by several LI!

[The Chinese of this last sentence is a little lacking in
precision, but the mental picture we are required to draw is
probably that of an army advancing towards a given rendezvous in
separate columns, each of which has orders to be there on a
fixed date. If the general allows the various detachments to
proceed at haphazard, without precise instructions as to the
time and place of meeting, the enemy will be able to annihilate
the army in detail. Chang Yu's note may be worth quoting here:
"If we do not know the place where our opponents mean to
concentrate or the day on which they will join battle, our unity
will be forfeited through our preparations for defense, and the
positions we hold will be insecure. Suddenly happening upon a
powerful foe, we shall be brought to battle in a flurried
condition, and no mutual support will be possible between wings,
vanguard or rear, especially if there is any great distance
between the foremost and hindmost divisions of the army."]

21. Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed
our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the
matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.

[Alas for these brave words! The long feud between the two
states ended in 473 B.C. with the total defeat of Wu by Kou
Chien and its incorporation in Yueh. This was doubtless long
after Sun Tzu's death. With his present assertion compare IV.
ss. 4. Chang Yu is the only one to point out the seeming
discrepancy, which he thus goes on to explain: "In the chapter
on Tactical Dispositions it is said, 'One may KNOW how to
conquer without being able to DO it,' whereas here we have the
statement that 'victory' can be achieved.' The explanation is,
that in the former chapter, where the offensive and defensive
are under discussion, it is said that if the enemy is fully
prepared, one cannot make certain of beating him. But the
present passage refers particularly to the soldiers of Yueh who,
according to Sun Tzu's calculations, will be kept in ignorance
of the time and place of the impending struggle. That is why he
says here that victory can be achieved."]

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him
from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the
likelihood of their success.

[An alternative reading offered by Chia Lin is: "Know beforehand
all plans conducive to our success and to the enemy's failure."

23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or

[Chang Yu tells us that by noting the joy or anger shown by the
enemy on being thus disturbed, we shall be able to conclude
whether his policy is to lie low or the reverse. He instances
the action of Cho-ku Liang, who sent the scornful present of a
woman's head-dress to Ssu-ma I, in order to goad him out of his
Fabian tactics.]

Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that
you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is

[Cf. IV. ss. 6.]

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can
attain is to conceal them;

[The piquancy of the paradox evaporates in translation.
Concealment is perhaps not so much actual invisibility (see
supra ss. 9) as "showing no sign" of what you mean to do, of the
plans that are formed in your brain.]

conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying
of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest

[Tu Mu explains: "Though the enemy may have clever and capable
officers, they will not be able to lay any plans against us."]

26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's own
tactics--that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.

27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none
can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

[I.e., everybody can see superficially how a battle is won; what
they cannot see is the long series of plans and combinations
which has preceded the battle.]

28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory,
but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of

[As Wang Hsi sagely remarks: "There is but one root- principle
underlying victory, but the tactics which lead up to it are
infinite in number." With this compare Col. Henderson: "The
rules of strategy are few and simple. They may be learned in a
week. They may be taught by familiar illustrations or a dozen
diagrams. But such knowledge will no more teach a man to lead an
army like Napoleon than a knowledge of grammar will teach him to
write like Gibbon."]

29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its
natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.

30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike
at what is weak.

[Like water, taking the line of least resistance.]

31. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the
ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in
relation to the foe whom he is facing.

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in
warfare there are no constant conditions.

33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent
and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven- born

34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) are not
always equally predominant;

[That is, as Wang Hsi says: "they predominate alternately."]

the four seasons make way for each other in turn.

[Literally, "have no invariable seat."]

There are short days and long; the moon has its periods of
waning and waxing.

[Cf. V. ss. 6. The purport of the passage is simply to
illustrate the want of fixity in war by the changes constantly
taking place in Nature. The comparison is not very happy,
however, because the regularity of the phenomena which Sun Tzu
mentions is by no means paralleled in war.]

[1] See Col. Henderson's biography of Stonewall Jackson, 1902
ed., vol. II, p. 490.



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

[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

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

doing a hundred LI in order to wrest an advantage, the leaders
of all your three divisions will fall into the hands of the

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 TORN

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

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 deviation.

[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 genuineness.]

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

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

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.



[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 troops.

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

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 on.]

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 schemes.

[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

[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

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.



[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 sun.

[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 us.]

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 right."]

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 knowledge

[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

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 march."]

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 State."]

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 battle.

26. Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a

[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

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

[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

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

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

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.



[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 called

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

[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) rout.

15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against
another ten times its size, the result will be the FLIGHT of the

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

[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 battles."]

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

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

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



1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war recognizes nine varieties of
ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3)
contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) ground of intersecting
highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8)
hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground.

2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is
dispersive ground.

[So called because the soldiers, being near to their homes and
anxious to see their wives and children, are likely to seize the
opportunity afforded by a battle and scatter in every direction.
"In their advance," observes Tu Mu, "they will lack the valor of
desperation, and when they retreat, they will find harbors of

3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no
great distance, it is facile ground.

[Li Ch`uan and Ho Shih say "because of the facility for
retreating," and the other commentators give similar
explanations. Tu Mu remarks: "When your army has crossed the
border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make
it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home."]

4. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to
either side, is contentious ground.

[Tu Mu defines the ground as ground "to be contended for." Ts`ao
Kung says: "ground on which the few and the weak can defeat the
many and the strong," such as "the neck of a pass," instanced by
Li Ch`uan. Thus, Thermopylae was of this classification because
the possession of it, even for a few days only, meant holding
the entire invading army in check and thus gaining invaluable
time. Cf. Wu Tzu, ch. V. ad init.: "For those who have to fight
in the ratio of one to ten, there is nothing better than a
narrow pass." When Lu Kuang was returning from his triumphant
expedition to Turkestan in 385 A.D., and had got as far as I-ho,
laden with spoils, Liang Hsi, administrator of Liang-chou,
taking advantage of the death of Fu Chien, King of Ch`in,
plotted against him and was for barring his way into the
province. Yang Han, governor of Kao-ch`ang, counseled him,
saying: "Lu Kuang is fresh from his victories in the west, and
his soldiers are vigorous and mettlesome. If we oppose him in
the shifting sands of the desert, we shall be no match for him,
and we must therefore try a different plan. Let us hasten to
occupy the defile at the mouth of the Kao-wu pass, thus cutting
him off from supplies of water, and when his troops are
prostrated with thirst, we can dictate our own terms without
moving. Or if you think that the pass I mention is too far off,
we could make a stand against him at the I-wu pass, which is
nearer. The cunning and resource of Tzu-fang himself would be
expended in vain against the enormous strength of these two
positions." Liang Hsi, refusing to act on this advice, was
overwhelmed and swept away by the invader.]

5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open

[There are various interpretations of the Chinese adjective for
this type of ground. Ts`ao Kung says it means "ground covered
with a network of roads," like a chessboard. Ho Shih suggested:
"ground on which intercommunication is easy."]

6. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states,

[Ts`au Kung defines this as: "Our country adjoining the enemy's
and a third country conterminous with both." Meng Shih instances
the small principality of Cheng, which was bounded on the
north-east by Ch`i, on the west by Chin, and on the south by

so that he who occupies it first has most of the Empire at his

[The belligerent who holds this dominating position can
constrain most of them to become his allies.]

is a ground of intersecting highways.

7. When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile
country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is
serious ground.

[Wang Hsi explains the name by saying that "when an army has
reached such a point, its situation is serious."]

8. Mountain forests,

[Or simply "forests."]

rugged steeps, marshes and fens--all country that is hard to
traverse: this is difficult ground.

9. Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which
we can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of
the enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this
is hemmed in ground. 10. Ground on which we can only be saved
from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.

[The situation, as pictured by Ts`ao Kung, is very similar to
the "hemmed-in ground" except that here escape is no longer
possible: "A lofty mountain in front, a large river behind,
advance impossible, retreat blocked." Ch`en Hao says: "to be on
'desperate ground' is like sitting in a leaking boat or
crouching in a burning house." Tu Mu quotes from Li Ching a
vivid description of the plight of an army thus entrapped:
"Suppose an army invading hostile territory without the aid of
local guides: -- it falls into a fatal snare and is at the
enemy's mercy. A ravine on the left, a mountain on the right, a
pathway so perilous that the horses have to be roped together
and the chariots carried in slings, no passage open in front,
retreat cut off behind, no choice but to proceed in single file.
Then, before there is time to range our soldiers in order of
battle, the enemy is overwhelming strength suddenly appears on
the scene. Advancing, we can nowhere take a breathing-space;
retreating, we have no haven of refuge. We seek a pitched
battle, but in vain; yet standing on the defensive, none of us
has a moment's respite. If we simply maintain our ground, whole
days and months will crawl by; the moment we make a move, we
have to sustain the enemy's attacks on front and rear. The
country is wild, destitute of water and plants; the army is
lacking in the necessaries of life, the horses are jaded and the
men worn-out, all the resources of strength and skill
unavailing, the pass so narrow that a single man defending it
can check the onset of ten thousand; all means of offense in the
hands of the enemy, all points of vantage already forfeited by
ourselves:--in this terrible plight, even though we had the most
valiant soldiers and the keenest of weapons, how could they be
employed with the slightest effect?" Students of Greek history
may be reminded of the awful close to the Sicilian expedition,
and the agony of the Athenians under Nicias and Demonsthenes.
[See Thucydides, VII. 78 sqq.].]

11. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile
ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not.

[But rather let all your energies be bent on occupying the
advantageous position first. So Ts`ao Kung. Li Ch`uan and
others, however, suppose the meaning to be that the enemy has
already forestalled us, sot that it would be sheer madness to
attack. In the SUN TZU HSU LU, when the King of Wu inquires what
should be done in this case, Sun Tzu replies: "The rule with
regard to contentious ground is that those in possession have
the advantage over the other side. If a position of this kind is
secured first by the enemy, beware of attacking him. Lure him
away by pretending to flee--show your banners and sound your
drums--make a dash for other places that he cannot afford to
lose--trail brushwood and raise a dust--confound his ears and
eyes--detach a body of your best troops, and place it secretly
in ambuscade. Then your opponent will sally forth to the

12. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way.

[Because the attempt would be futile, and would expose the
blocking force itself to serious risks. There are two
interpretations available here. I follow that of Chang Yu. The
other is indicated in Ts`ao Kung's brief note: "Draw closer
together"--i.e., see that a portion of your own army is not cut

On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your

[Or perhaps, "form alliances with neighboring states."]

13. On serious ground, gather in plunder.

[On this, Li Ch`uan has the following delicious note: "When an
army penetrates far into the enemy's country, care must be taken
not to alienate the people by unjust treatment. Follow the
example of the Han Emperor Kao Tsu, whose march into Ch`in
territory was marked by no violation of women or looting of
valuables. [Nota bene: this was in 207 B.C., and may well cause
us to blush for the Christian armies that entered Peking in 1900
A.D.] Thus he won the hearts of all. In the present passage,
then, I think that the true reading must be, not 'plunder,' but
'do not plunder.'" Alas, I fear that in this instance the worthy
commentator's feelings outran his judgment. Tu Mu, at least, has
no such illusions. He says: "When encamped on 'serious ground,'
there being no inducement as yet to advance further, and no
possibility of retreat, one ought to take measures for a
protracted resistance by bringing in provisions from all sides,
and keep a close watch on the enemy."]

In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march.

[Or, in the words of VIII. ss. 2, "do not encamp.]

14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem.

[Ts`au Kung says: "Try the effect of some unusual artifice;" and
Tu Yu amplifies this by saying: "In such a position, some scheme
must be devised which will suit the circumstances, and if we can
succeed in deluding the enemy, the peril may be escaped." This
is exactly what happened on the famous occasion when Hannibal
was hemmed in among the mountains on the road to Casilinum, and
to all appearances entrapped by the dictator Fabius. The
stratagem which Hannibal devised to baffle his foes was
remarkably like that which T`ien Tan had also employed with
success exactly 62 years before. [See IX. ss. 24, note.] When
night came on, bundles of twigs were fastened to the horns of
some 2000 oxen and set on fire, the terrified animals being then
quickly driven along the mountain side towards the passes which
were beset by the enemy. The strange spectacle of these rapidly
moving lights so alarmed and discomfited the Romans that they
withdrew from their position, and Hannibal's army passed safely
through the defile. [See Polybius, III. 93, 94; Livy, XXII. 16

On desperate ground, fight.

[For, as Chia Lin remarks: "if you fight with all your might,
there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if you
cling to your corner."]

15. Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to
drive a wedge between the enemy's front and rear;

[More literally, "cause the front and rear to lose touch with
each other."]

to prevent co-operation between his large and small divisions;
to hinder the good troops from rescuing the bad, the officers
from rallying their men.

16. When the enemy's men were united, they managed to keep them
in disorder.

17. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move;
when otherwise, they stopped still.

[Mei Yao-ch`en connects this with the foregoing: "Having
succeeded in thus dislocating the enemy, they would push forward
in order to secure any advantage to be gained; if there was no
advantage to be gained, they would remain where they were."]

18. If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in
orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I
should say: "Begin by seizing something which your opponent
holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will."

[Opinions differ as to what Sun Tzu had in mind. Ts`ao Kung
thinks it is "some strategical advantage on which the enemy is
depending." Tu Mu says: "The three things which an enemy is
anxious to do, and on the accomplishment of which his success
depends, are: (1) to capture our favorable positions; (2) to
ravage our cultivated land; (3) to guard his own
communications." Our object then must be to thwart his plans in
these three directions and thus render him helpless. [Cf. III.
ss. 3.] By boldly seizing the initiative in this way, you at
once throw the other side on the defensive.]

19. Rapidity is the essence of war:

[According to Tu Mu, "this is a summary of leading principles in
warfare," and he adds: "These are the profoundest truths of
military science, and the chief business of the general." The
following anecdotes, told by Ho Shih, shows the importance
attached to speed by two of China's greatest generals. In 227
A.D., Meng Ta, governor of Hsin-ch`eng under the Wei Emperor Wen
Ti, was meditating defection to the House of Shu, and had
entered into correspondence with Chu-ko Liang, Prime Minister of
that State. The Wei general Ssu-ma I was then military governor
of Wan, and getting wind of Meng Ta's treachery, he at once set
off with an army to anticipate his revolt, having previously
cajoled him by a specious message of friendly import. Ssu-ma's
officers came to him and said: "If Meng Ta has leagued himself
with Wu and Shu, the matter should be thoroughly investigated
before we make a move." Ssu-ma I replied: "Meng Ta is an
unprincipled man, and we ought to go and punish him at once,
while he is still wavering and before he has thrown off the
mask." Then, by a series of forced marches, be brought his army
under the walls of Hsin-ch`eng with in a space of eight days.
Now Meng Ta had previously said in a letter to Chu-ko Liang:
"Wan is 1200 LI from here. When the news of my revolt reaches
Ssu-ma I, he will at once inform his imperial master, but it
will be a whole month before any steps can be taken, and by that
time my city will be well fortified. Besides, Ssu-ma I is sure
not to come himself, and the generals that will be sent against
us are not worth troubling about." The next letter, however, was
filled with consternation: "Though only eight days have passed
since I threw off my allegiance, an army is already at the
city-gates. What miraculous rapidity is this!" A fortnight
later, Hsin- ch`eng had fallen and Meng Ta had lost his head.
[See CHIN SHU, ch. 1, f. 3.] In 621 A.D., Li Ching was sent from
K`uei-chou in Ssu-ch`uan to reduce the successful rebel Hsiao
Hsien, who had set up as Emperor at the modern Ching-chou Fu in
Hupeh. It was autumn, and the Yangtsze being then in flood,
Hsiao Hsien never dreamt that his adversary would venture to
come down through the gorges, and consequently made no
preparations. But Li Ching embarked his army without loss of
time, and was just about to start when the other generals
implored him to postpone his departure until the river was in a
less dangerous state for navigation. Li Ching replied: "To the
soldier, overwhelming speed is of paramount importance, and he
must never miss opportunities. Now is the time to strike, before
Hsiao Hsien even knows that we have got an army together. If we
seize the present moment when the river is in flood, we shall
appear before his capital with startling suddenness, like the
thunder which is heard before you have time to stop your ears
against it. [See VII. ss. 19, note.] This is the great principle
in war. Even if he gets to know of our approach, he will have to
levy his soldiers in such a hurry that they will not be fit to
oppose us. Thus the full fruits of victory will be ours." All
came about as he predicted, and Hsiao Hsien was obliged to
surrender, nobly stipulating that his people should be spared
and he alone suffer the penalty of death.]

take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by
unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.

20. The following are the principles to be observed by an
invading force: The further you penetrate into a country, the
greater will be the solidarity of your troops, and thus the
defenders will not prevail against you.

21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply your army
with food.

[Cf. supra, ss. 13. Li Ch`uan does not venture on a note here.]

22. Carefully study the well-being of your men,

[For "well-being", Wang Hsi means, "Pet them, humor them, give
them plenty of food and drink, and look after them generally."]

and do not overtax them. Concentrate your energy and hoard your

[Ch`en recalls the line of action adopted in 224 B.C. by the
famous general Wang Chien, whose military genius largely
contributed to the success of the First Emperor. He had invaded
the Ch`u State, where a universal levy was made to oppose him.
But, being doubtful of the temper of his troops, he declined all
invitations to fight and remained strictly on the defensive. In
vain did the Ch`u general try to force a battle: day after day
Wang Chien kept inside his walls and would not come out, but
devoted his whole time and energy to winning the affection and
confidence of his men. He took care that they should be well
fed, sharing his own meals with them, provided facilities for
bathing, and employed every method of judicious indulgence to
weld them into a loyal and homogenous body. After some time had
elapsed, he told off certain persons to find out how the men
were amusing themselves. The answer was, that they were
contending with one another in putting the weight and
long-jumping. When Wang Chien heard that they were engaged in
these athletic pursuits, he knew that their spirits had been
strung up to the required pitch and that they were now ready for
fighting. By this time the Ch`u army, after repeating their
challenge again and again, had marched away eastwards in
disgust. The Ch`in general immediately broke up his camp and
followed them, and in the battle that ensued they were routed
with great slaughter. Shortly afterwards, the whole of Ch`u was
conquered by Ch`in, and the king Fu-ch`u led into captivity.]

Keep your army continually on the move,

[In order that the enemy may never know exactly where you are.
It has struck me, however, that the true reading might be "link
your army together."]

and devise unfathomable plans.

23. Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no
escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face
death, there is nothing they may not achieve.

[Chang Yu quotes his favorite Wei Liao Tzu (ch. 3): "If one man
were to run amok with a sword in the market-place, and everybody
else tried to get our of his way, I should not allow that this
man alone had courage and that all the rest were contemptible
cowards. The truth is, that a desperado and a man who sets some
value on his life do not meet on even terms."]

Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength.

[Chang Yu says: "If they are in an awkward place together, they
will surely exert their united strength to get out of it."]

24. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear.
If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they
are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If
there is no help for it, they will fight hard.

25. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers will be
constantly on the qui vive; without waiting to be asked, they
will do your will;

[Literally, "without asking, you will get."]

without restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving
orders, they can be trusted.

26. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious
doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be

[The superstitious, "bound in to saucy doubts and fears,"
degenerate into cowards and "die many times before their
deaths." Tu Mu quotes Huang Shih-kung: "'Spells and incantations
should be strictly forbidden, and no officer allowed to inquire
by divination into the fortunes of an army, for fear the
soldiers' minds should be seriously perturbed.' The meaning is,"
he continues, "that if all doubts and scruples are discarded,
your men will never falter in their resolution until they die."]

27. If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not
because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not
unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to

[Chang Yu has the best note on this passage: "Wealth and long
life are things for which all men have a natural inclination.
Hence, if they burn or fling away valuables, and sacrifice their
own lives, it is not that they dislike them, but simply that
they have no choice." Sun Tzu is slyly insinuating that, as
soldiers are but human, it is for the general to see that
temptations to shirk fighting and grow rich are not thrown in
their way.]

28. On the day they are ordered out to battle, your soldiers may

[The word in the Chinese is "snivel." This is taken to indicate
more genuine grief than tears alone.]

those sitting up bedewing their garments, and those lying down
letting the tears run down their cheeks.

[Not because they are afraid, but because, as Ts`ao Kung says,
"all have embraced the firm resolution to do or die." We may
remember that the heroes of the Iliad were equally childlike in
showing their emotion. Chang Yu alludes to the mournful parting
at the I River between Ching K`o and his friends, when the
former was sent to attempt the life of the King of Ch`in
(afterwards First Emperor) in 227 B.C. The tears of all flowed
down like rain as he bade them farewell and uttered the
following lines: "The shrill blast is blowing, Chilly the burn;
Your champion is going--Not to return." [1] ]

But let them once be brought to bay, and they will display the
courage of a Chu or a Kuei.

[Chu was the personal name of Chuan Chu, a native of the Wu
State and contemporary with Sun Tzu himself, who was employed by
Kung-tzu Kuang, better known as Ho Lu Wang, to assassinate his
sovereign Wang Liao with a dagger which he secreted in the belly
of a fish served up at a banquet. He succeeded in his attempt,
but was immediately hacked to pieced by the king's bodyguard.
This was in 515 B.C. The other hero referred to, Ts`ao Kuei (or
Ts`ao Mo), performed the exploit which has made his name famous
166 years earlier, in 681 B.C. Lu had been thrice defeated by
Ch`i, and was just about to conclude a treaty surrendering a
large slice of territory, when Ts`ao Kuei suddenly seized Huan
Kung, the Duke of Ch`i, as he stood on the altar steps and held
a dagger against his chest. None of the duke's retainers dared
to move a muscle, and Ts`ao Kuei proceeded to demand full
restitution, declaring the Lu was being unjustly treated because
she was a smaller and a weaker state. Huan Kung, in peril of his
life, was obliged to consent, whereupon Ts`ao Kuei flung away
his dagger and quietly resumed his place amid the terrified
assemblage without having so much as changed color. As was to be
expected, the Duke wanted afterwards to repudiate the bargain,
but his wise old counselor Kuan Chung pointed out to him the
impolicy of breaking his word, and the upshot was that this bold
stroke regained for Lu the whole of what she had lost in three
pitched battles.]

29. The skillful tactician may be likened to the SHUAI-JAN. Now
the SHUAI-JAN is a snake that is found in the Ch`ang mountains.

["Shuai-jan" means "suddenly" or "rapidly," and the snake in
question was doubtless so called owing to the rapidity of its
movements. Through this passage, the term in the Chinese has now
come to be used in the sense of "military maneuvers."]

Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike
at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its
middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.

30. Asked if an army can be made to imitate the SHUAI-JAN,

[That is, as Mei Yao-ch`en says, "Is it possible to make the
front and rear of an army each swiftly responsive to attack on
the other, just as though they were part of a single living

I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are

[Cf. VI. ss. 21.]

yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught
by a storm, they will come to each other's assistance just as
the left hand helps the right.

[The meaning is: If two enemies will help each other in a time
of common peril, how much more should two parts of the same
army, bound together as they are by every tie of interest and
fellow-feeling. Yet it is notorious that many a campaign has
been ruined through lack of cooperation, especially in the case
of allied armies.]

31. Hence it is not enough to put one's trust in the tethering
of horses, and the burying of chariot wheels in the ground

[These quaint devices to prevent one's army from running away
recall the Athenian hero Sophanes, who carried the anchor with
him at the battle of Plataea, by means of which he fastened
himself firmly to one spot. [See Herodotus, IX. 74.] It is not
enough, says Sun Tzu, to render flight impossible by such
mechanical means. You will not succeed unless your men have
tenacity and unity of purpose, and, above all, a spirit of
sympathetic cooperation. This is the lesson which can be learned
from the SHUAI-JAN.]

32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one
standard of courage which all must reach.

[Literally, "level the courage [of all] as though [it were that
of] one." If the ideal army is to form a single organic whole,
then it follows that the resolution and spirit of its component
parts must be of the same quality, or at any rate must not fall
below a certain standard. Wellington's seemingly ungrateful
description of his army at Waterloo as "the worst he had ever
commanded" meant no more than that it was deficient in this
important particular--unity of spirit and courage. Had he not
foreseen the Belgian defections and carefully kept those troops
in the background, he would almost certainly have lost the day.]

33. How to make the best of both strong and weak--that is a
question involving the proper use of ground.

[Mei Yao-ch`en's paraphrase is: "The way to eliminate the
differences of strong and weak and to make both serviceable is
to utilize accidental features of the ground." Less reliable
troops, if posted in strong positions, will hold out as long as
better troops on more exposed terrain. The advantage of position
neutralizes the inferiority in stamina and courage. Col.
Henderson says: "With all respect to the text books, and to the
ordinary tactical teaching, I am inclined to think that the
study of ground is often overlooked, and that by no means
sufficient importance is attached to the selection of
positions... and to the immense advantages that are to be
derived, whether you are defending or attacking, from the proper
utilization of natural features." [2] ]

34. Thus the skillful general conducts his army just as though
he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand.

[Tu Mu says: "The simile has reference to the ease with which he
does it."]

35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure
secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order.

36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false
reports and appearances,

[Literally, "to deceive their eyes and ears."]

and thus keep them in total ignorance.

[Ts`ao Kung gives us one of his excellent apophthegms: "The
troops must not be allowed to share your schemes in the
beginning; they may only rejoice with you over their happy
outcome." "To mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy," is one
of the first principles in war, as had been frequently pointed
out. But how about the other process--the mystification of one's
own men? Those who may think that Sun Tzu is over-emphatic on
this point would do well to read Col. Henderson's remarks on
Stonewall Jackson's Valley campaign: "The infinite pains," he
says, "with which Jackson sought to conceal, even from his most
trusted staff officers, his movements, his intentions, and his
thoughts, a commander less thorough would have pronounced
useless"--etc. etc. [3] In the year 88 A.D., as we read in ch.
47 of the HOU HAN SHU, "Pan Ch`ao took the field with 25,000 men
from Khotan and other Central Asian states with the object of
crushing Yarkand. The King of Kutcha replied by dispatching his
chief commander to succor the place with an army drawn from the
kingdoms of Wen-su, Ku-mo, and Wei-t`ou, totaling 50,000 men.
Pan Ch`ao summoned his officers and also the King of Khotan to a
council of war, and said: 'Our forces are now outnumbered and
unable to make head against the enemy. The best plan, then, is
for us to separate and disperse, each in a different direction.
The King of Khotan will march away by the easterly route, and I
will then return myself towards the west. Let us wait until the
evening drum has sounded and then start.' Pan Ch`ao now secretly
released the prisoners whom he had taken alive, and the King of
Kutcha was thus informed of his plans. Much elated by the news,
the latter set off at once at the head of 10,000 horsemen to bar
Pan Ch`ao's retreat in the west, while the King of Wen-su rode
eastward with 8000 horse in order to intercept the King of
Khotan. As soon as Pan Ch`ao knew that the two chieftains had
gone, he called his divisions together, got them well in hand,
and at cock-crow hurled them against the army of Yarkand, as it
lay encamped. The barbarians, panic-stricken, fled in confusion,
and were closely pursued by Pan Ch`ao. Over 5000 heads were
brought back as trophies, besides immense spoils in the shape of
horses and cattle and valuables of every description. Yarkand
then capitulating, Kutcha and the other kingdoms drew off their
respective forces. From that time forward, Pan Ch`ao's prestige
completely overawed the countries of the west." In this case, we
see that the Chinese general not only kept his own officers in
ignorance of his real plans, but actually took the bold step of
dividing his army in order to deceive the enemy.]

37. By altering his arrangements and changing his plans,

[Wang Hsi thinks that this means not using the same stratagem

he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge.

[Chang Yu, in a quotation from another work, says: "The axiom,
that war is based on deception, does not apply only to deception
of the enemy. You must deceive even your own soldiers. Make them
follow you, but without letting them know why."]

By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents
the enemy from anticipating his purpose. 38. At the critical
moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a
height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries his
men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand.

[Literally, "releases the spring" (see V. ss. 15), that is,
takes some decisive step which makes it impossible for the army
to return--like Hsiang Yu, who sunk his ships after crossing a
river. Ch`en Hao, followed by Chia Lin, understands the words
less well as "puts forth every artifice at his command."]

39. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking-pots; like a
shepherd driving a flock of sheep, he drives his men this way
and that, and nothing knows whither he is going.

[Tu Mu says: "The army is only cognizant of orders to advance or
retreat; it is ignorant of the ulterior ends of attacking and

40. To muster his host and bring it into danger:--this may be
termed the business of the general.

[Sun Tzu means that after mobilization there should be no delay
in aiming a blow at the enemy's heart. Note how he returns again
and again to this point. Among the warring states of ancient
China, desertion was no doubt a much more present fear and
serious evil than it is in the armies of today.]

41. The different measures suited to the nine varieties of

[Chang Yu says: "One must not be hide-bound in interpreting the
rules for the nine varieties of ground.]

the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics; and the
fundamental laws of human nature: these are things that must
most certainly be studied.

42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle is,
that penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short
way means dispersion.

[Cf. supra, ss. 20.]

43. When you leave your own country behind, and take your army
across neighborhood territory, you find yourself on critical

[This "ground" is curiously mentioned in VIII. ss. 2, but it
does not figure among the Nine Situations or the Six Calamities
in chap. X. One's first impulse would be to translate it distant
ground," but this, if we can trust the commentators, is
precisely what is not meant here. Mei Yao-ch`en says it is "a
position not far enough advanced to be called 'facile,' and not
near enough to home to be 'dispersive,' but something between
the two." Wang Hsi says: "It is ground separated from home by an
interjacent state, whose territory we have had to cross in order
to reach it. Hence, it is incumbent on us to settle our business
there quickly." He adds that this position is of rare
occurrence, which is the reason why it is not included among the
Nine Situations.]

When there are means of communication on all four sides, the
ground is one of intersecting highways.

44. When you penetrate deeply into a country, it is serious
ground. When you penetrate but a little way, it is facile

45. When you have the enemy's strongholds on your rear, and
narrow passes in front, it is hemmed-in ground. When there is no
place of refuge at all, it is desperate ground.

46. Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my men with
unity of purpose.

[This end, according to Tu Mu, is best attained by remaining on
the defensive, and avoiding battle. Cf. supra, ss. 11.]

On facile ground, I would see that there is close connection
between all parts of my army.

[As Tu Mu says, the object is to guard against two possible
contingencies: "(1) the desertion of our own troops; (2) a
sudden attack on the part of the enemy." Cf. VII. ss. 17. Mei
Yao-ch`en says: "On the march, the regiments should be in close
touch; in an encampment, there should be continuity between the

47. On contentious ground, I would hurry up my rear.

[This is Ts`ao Kung's interpretation. Chang Yu adopts it,
saying: "We must quickly bring up our rear, so that head and
tail may both reach the goal." That is, they must not be allowed
to straggle up a long way apart. Mei Yao-ch`en offers another
equally plausible explanation: "Supposing the enemy has not yet
reached the coveted position, and we are behind him, we should
advance with all speed in order to dispute its possession."
Ch`en Hao, on the other hand, assuming that the enemy has had
time to select his own ground, quotes VI. ss. 1, where Sun Tzu
warns us against coming exhausted to the attack. His own idea of
the situation is rather vaguely expressed: "If there is a
favorable position lying in front of you, detach a picked body
of troops to occupy it, then if the enemy, relying on their
numbers, come up to make a fight for it, you may fall quickly on
their rear with your main body, and victory will be assured." It
was thus, he adds, that Chao She beat the army of Ch`in. (See p.

48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my defenses.
On ground of intersecting highways, I would consolidate my

49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a continuous stream
of supplies.

[The commentators take this as referring to forage and plunder,
not, as one might expect, to an unbroken communication with a
home base.]

On difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along the road.

50. On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of retreat.

[Meng Shih says: "To make it seem that I meant to defend the
position, whereas my real intention is to burst suddenly through
the enemy's lines." Mei Yao-ch`en says: "in order to make my
soldiers fight with desperation." Wang Hsi says, "fearing lest
my men be tempted to run away." Tu Mu points out that this is
the converse of VII. ss. 36, where it is the enemy who is
surrounded. In 532 A.D., Kao Huan, afterwards Emperor and
canonized as Shen-wu, was surrounded by a great army under Erh-
chu Chao and others. His own force was comparatively small,
consisting only of 2000 horse and something under 30,000 foot.
The lines of investment had not been drawn very closely
together, gaps being left at certain points. But Kao Huan,
instead of trying to escape, actually made a shift to block all
the remaining outlets himself by driving into them a number of
oxen and donkeys roped together. As soon as his officers and men
saw that there was nothing for it but to conquer or die, their
spirits rose to an extraordinary pitch of exaltation, and they
charged with such desperate ferocity that the opposing ranks
broke and crumbled under their onslaught.]

On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the
hopelessness of saving their lives.

Tu Yu says: "Burn your baggage and impedimenta, throw away your
stores and provisions, choke up the wells, destroy your
cooking-stoves, and make it plain to your men that they cannot
survive, but must fight to the death." Mei Yao-ch`en says: "The
only chance of life lies in giving up all hope of it." This
concludes what Sun Tzu has to say about "grounds" and the
"variations" corresponding to them. Reviewing the passages which
bear on this important subject, we cannot fail to be struck by
the desultory and unmethodical fashion in which it is treated.
Sun Tzu begins abruptly in VIII. ss. 2 to enumerate "variations"
before touching on "grounds" at all, but only mentions five,
namely nos. 7, 5, 8 and 9 of the subsequent list, and one that
is not included in it. A few varieties of ground are dealt with
in the earlier portion of chap. IX, and then chap. X sets forth
six new grounds, with six variations of plan to match. None of
these is mentioned again, though the first is hardly to be
distinguished from ground no. 4 in the next chapter. At last, in
chap. XI, we come to the Nine Grounds par excellence,
immediately followed by the variations. This takes us down to
ss. 14. In SS. 43-45, fresh definitions are provided for nos. 5,
6, 2, 8 and 9 (in the order given), as well as for the tenth
ground noticed in chap. VIII; and finally, the nine variations
are enumerated once more from beginning to end, all, with the
exception of 5, 6 and 7, being different from those previously
given. Though it is impossible to account for the present state
of Sun Tzu's text, a few suggestive facts maybe brought into
prominence: (1) Chap. VIII, according to the title, should deal
with nine variations, whereas only five appear. (2) It is an
abnormally short chapter. (3) Chap. XI is entitled The Nine
Grounds. Several of these are defined twice over, besides which
there are two distinct lists of the corresponding variations.
(4) The length of the chapter is disproportionate, being double
that of any other except IX. I do not propose to draw any
inferences from these facts, beyond the general conclusion that
Sun Tzu's work cannot have come down to us in the shape in which
it left his hands: chap. VIII is obviously defective and
probably out of place, while XI seems to contain matter that has
either been added by a later hand or ought to appear elsewhere.]

51. For it is the soldier's disposition to offer an obstinate
resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help
himself, and to obey promptly when he has fallen into danger.

[Chang Yu alludes to the conduct of Pan Ch`ao's devoted
followers in 73 A.D. The story runs thus in the HOU HAN SHU, ch.
47: "When Pan Ch`ao arrived at Shan-shan, Kuang, the King of the
country, received him at first with great politeness and
respect; but shortly afterwards his behavior underwent a sudden
change, and he became remiss and negligent. Pan Ch`ao spoke
about this to the officers of his suite: 'Have you noticed,' he
said, 'that Kuang's polite intentions are on the wane? This must
signify that envoys have come from the Northern barbarians, and
that consequently he is in a state of indecision, not knowing
with which side to throw in his lot. That surely is the reason.
The truly wise man, we are told, can perceive things before they
have come to pass; how much more, then, those that are already
manifest!' Thereupon he called one of the natives who had been
assigned to his service, and set a trap for him, saying: 'Where
are those envoys from the Hsiung-nu who arrived some day ago?'
The man was so taken aback that between surprise and fear he
presently blurted out the whole truth. Pan Ch`ao, keeping his
informant carefully under lock and key, then summoned a general
gathering of his officers, thirty-six in all, and began drinking
with them. When the wine had mounted into their heads a little,
he tried to rouse their spirit still further by addressing them
thus: 'Gentlemen, here we are in the heart of an isolated
region, anxious to achieve riches and honor by some great
exploit. Now it happens that an ambassador from the Hsiung-no
arrived in this kingdom only a few days ago, and the result is
that the respectful courtesy extended towards us by our royal
host has disappeared. Should this envoy prevail upon him to
seize our party and hand us over to the Hsiung-no, our bones
will become food for the wolves of the desert. What are we to
do?' With one accord, the officers replied: 'Standing as we do
in peril of our lives, we will follow our commander through life
and death.' For the sequel of this adventure, see chap. XII. ss.
1, note.]

52. We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes until
we are acquainted with their designs. 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. We shall be unable to turn natural
advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.

[These three sentences are repeated from VII. SS. 12-14 -- in
order to emphasize their importance, the commentators seem to
think. I prefer to regard them as interpolated here in order to
form an antecedent to the following words. With regard to local
guides, Sun Tzu might have added that there is always the risk
of going wrong, either through their treachery or some
misunderstanding such as Livy records (XXII. 13): Hannibal, we
are told, ordered a guide to lead him into the neighborhood of
Casinum, where there was an important pass to be occupied; but
his Carthaginian accent, unsuited to the pronunciation of Latin
names, caused the guide to understand Casilinum instead of
Casinum, and turning from his proper route, he took the army in
that direction, the mistake not being discovered until they had
almost arrived.]

53. To be ignored of any one of the following four or five
principles does not befit a warlike prince.

54. When a warlike prince attacks a powerful state, his
generalship shows itself in preventing the concentration of the
enemy's forces. He overawes his opponents, and their allies are
prevented from joining against him.

[Mei Tao-ch`en constructs one of the chains of reasoning that
are so much affected by the Chinese: "In attacking a powerful
state, if you can divide her forces, you will have a superiority
in strength; if you have a superiority in strength, you will
overawe the enemy; if you overawe the enemy, the neighboring
states will be frightened; and if the neighboring states are
frightened, the enemy's allies will be prevented from joining
her." The following gives a stronger meaning: "If the great
state has once been defeated (before she has had time to summon
her allies), then the lesser states will hold aloof and refrain
from massing their forces." Ch`en Hao and Chang Yu take the
sentence in quite another way. The former says: "Powerful though
a prince may be, if he attacks a large state, he will be unable
to raise enough troops, and must rely to some extent on external
aid; if he dispenses with this, and with overweening confidence
in his own strength, simply tries to intimidate the enemy, he
will surely be defeated." Chang Yu puts his view thus: "If we
recklessly attack a large state, our own people will be
discontented and hang back. But if (as will then be the case)
our display of military force is inferior by half to that of the
enemy, the other chieftains will take fright and refuse to join

55. Hence he does not strive to ally himself with all and
sundry, nor does he foster the power of other states. He carries
out his own secret designs, keeping his antagonists in awe.

[The train of thought, as said by Li Ch`uan, appears to be this:
Secure against a combination of his enemies, "he can afford to
reject entangling alliances and simply pursue his own secret
designs, his prestige enable him to dispense with external

Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow their

[This paragraph, though written many years before the Ch`in
State became a serious menace, is not a bad summary of the
policy by which the famous Six Chancellors gradually paved the
way for her final triumph under Shih Huang Ti. Chang Yu,
following up his previous note, thinks that Sun Tzu is
condemning this attitude of cold-blooded selfishness and haughty

56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule,

[Wu Tzu (ch. 3) less wisely says: "Let advance be richly
rewarded and retreat be heavily punished."]

issue orders

[Literally, "hang" or post up."]

without regard to previous arrangements;

["In order to prevent treachery," says Wang Hsi. The general
meaning is made clear by Ts`ao Kung's quotation from the SSU-MA
FA: "Give instructions only on sighting the enemy; give rewards
when you see deserving deeds." Ts`ao Kung's paraphrase: "The
final instructions you give to your army should not correspond
with those that have been previously posted up." Chang Yu
simplifies this into "your arrangements should not be divulged
beforehand." And Chia Lin says: "there should be no fixity in
your rules and arrangements." Not only is there danger in
letting your plans be known, but war often necessitates the
entire reversal of them at the last moment.]

and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to
do with but a single man.

[Cf. supra, ss. 34.]

57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them
know your design.

[Literally, "do not tell them words;" i.e. do not give your
reasons for any order. Lord Mansfield once told a junior
colleague to "give no reasons" for his decisions, and the maxim
is even more applicable to a general than to a judge.]

When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell
them nothing when the situation is gloomy.

58. Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge
it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety.

[These words of Sun Tzu were once quoted by Han Hsin in
explanation of the tactics he employed in one of his most
brilliant battles, already alluded to on p. 28. In 204 B.C., he
was sent against the army of Chao, and halted ten miles from the
mouth of the Ching-hsing pass, where the enemy had mustered in
full force. Here, at midnight, he detached a body of 2000 light
cavalry, every man of which was furnished with a red flag. Their
instructions were to make their way through narrow defiles and
keep a secret watch on the enemy. "When the men of Chao see me
in full flight," Han Hsin said, "they will abandon their
fortifications and give chase. This must be the sign for you to
rush in, pluck down the Chao standards and set up the red
banners of Han in their stead." Turning then to his other
officers, he remarked: "Our adversary holds a strong position,
and is not likely to come out and attack us until he sees the
standard and drums of the commander-in-chief, for fear I should
turn back and escape through the mountains." So saying, he first
of all sent out a division consisting of 10,000 men, and ordered
them to form in line of battle with their backs to the River Ti.
Seeing this maneuver, the whole army of Chao broke into loud
laughter. By this time it was broad daylight, and Han Hsin,
displaying the generalissimo's flag, marched out of the pass
with drums beating, and was immediately engaged by the enemy. A
great battle followed, lasting for some time; until at length
Han Hsin and his colleague Chang Ni, leaving drums and banner on
the field, fled to the division on the river bank, where another
fierce battle was raging. The enemy rushed out to pursue them
and to secure the trophies, thus denuding their ramparts of men;
but the two generals succeeded in joining the other army, which
was fighting with the utmost desperation. The time had now come
for the 2000 horsemen to play their part. As soon as they saw
the men of Chao following up their advantage, they galloped
behind the deserted walls, tore up the enemy's flags and
replaced them by those of Han. When the Chao army looked back
from the pursuit, the sight of these red flags struck them with
terror. Convinced that the Hans had got in and overpowered their
king, they broke up in wild disorder, every effort of their
leader to stay the panic being in vain. Then the Han army fell
on them from both sides and completed the rout, killing a number
and capturing the rest, amongst whom was King Ya himself....
After the battle, some of Han Hsin's officers came to him and
said: "In the ART OF WAR we are told to have a hill or tumulus
on the right rear, and a river or marsh on the left front. [This
appears to be a blend of Sun Tzu and T`ai Kung. See IX ss. 9,
and note.] You, on the contrary, ordered us to draw up our
troops with the river at our back. Under these conditions, how
did you manage to gain the victory?" The general replied: "I
fear you gentlemen have not studied the Art of War with
sufficient care. Is it not written there: 'Plunge your army into
desperate straits and it will come off in safety; place it in
deadly peril and it will survive'? Had I taken the usual course,
I should never have been able to bring my colleague round. What
says the Military Classic--'Swoop down on the market-place and
drive the men off to fight.' [This passage does not occur in the
present text of Sun Tzu.] If I had not placed my troops in a
position where they were obliged to fight for their lives, but
had allowed each man to follow his own discretion, there would
have been a general debandade, and it would have been impossible
to do anything with them." The officers admitted the force of
his argument, and said: "These are higher tactics than we should
have been capable of." [See CH`IEN HAN SHU, ch. 34, ff. 4, 5.] ]

59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm's way
that is capable of striking a blow for victory.

[Danger has a bracing effect.]

60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating
ourselves to the enemy's purpose.

[Ts`ao Kung says: "Feign stupidity"--by an appearance of
yielding and falling in with the enemy's wishes. Chang Yu's note
makes the meaning clear: "If the enemy shows an inclination to
advance, lure him on to do so; if he is anxious to retreat,
delay on purpose that he may carry out his intention." The
object is to make him remiss and contemptuous before we deliver
our attack.]

61. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank,

[I understand the first four words to mean "accompanying the
enemy in one direction." Ts`ao Kung says: "unite the soldiers
and make for the enemy." But such a violent displacement of
characters is quite indefensible.]

we shall succeed in the long run

[Literally, "after a thousand LI."]

in killing the commander-in-chief.

[Always a great point with the Chinese.]

62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer

63. On the day that you take up your command, block the frontier
passes, destroy the official tallies,

[These were tablets of bamboo or wood, one half of which was
issued as a permit or passport by the official in charge of a
gate. Cf. the "border-warden" of LUN YU III. 24, who may have
had similar duties. When this half was returned to him, within a
fixed period, he was authorized to open the gate and let the
traveler through.]

and stop the passage of all emissaries.

[Either to or from the enemy's country.]

64. Be stern in the council-chamber,

[Show no weakness, and insist on your plans being ratified by
the sovereign.]

so that you may control the situation.

[Mei Yao-ch`en understands the whole sentence to mean: Take the
strictest precautions to ensure secrecy in your deliberations.]

65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.

66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear,

[Cf. supra, ss. 18.]

and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground.

[Ch`en Hao`s explanation: "If I manage to seize a favorable
position, but the enemy does not appear on the scene, the
advantage thus obtained cannot be turned to any practical
account. He who intends therefore, to occupy a position of
importance to the enemy, must begin by making an artful
appointment, so to speak, with his antagonist, and cajole him
into going there as well." Mei Yao-ch`en explains that this
"artful appointment" is to be made through the medium of the
enemy's own spies, who will carry back just the amount of
information that we choose to give them. Then, having cunningly
disclosed our intentions, "we must manage, though starting after
the enemy, to arrive before him (VII. ss. 4). We must start
after him in order to ensure his marching thither; we must
arrive before him in order to capture the place without trouble.
Taken thus, the present passage lends some support to Mei
Yao-ch`en's interpretation of ss. 47.]

67. Walk in the path defined by rule,

[Chia Lin says: "Victory is the only thing that matters, and
this cannot be achieved by adhering to conventional canons." It
is unfortunate that this variant rests on very slight authority,
for the sense yielded is certainly much more satisfactory.
Napoleon, as we know, according to the veterans of the old
school whom he defeated, won his battles by violating every
accepted canon of warfare.]

and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a
decisive battle.

[Tu Mu says: "Conform to the enemy's tactics until a favorable
opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that
shall prove decisive."]

68. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the
enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a
running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose

[As the hare is noted for its extreme timidity, the comparison
hardly appears felicitous. But of course Sun Tzu was thinking
only of its speed. The words have been taken to mean: You must
flee from the enemy as quickly as an escaping hare; but this is
rightly rejected by Tu Mu.]

[1] Giles' Biographical Dictionary, no. 399.

[2] "The Science of War," p. 333.

[3] "Stonewall Jackson," vol. I, p. 421.



[Rather more than half the chapter (SS. 1-13) is devoted to the
subject of fire, after which the author branches off into other

1. Sun Tzu said: There are five ways of attacking with fire. The
first is to burn soldiers in their camp;

[So Tu Mu. Li Ch`uan says: "Set fire to the camp, and kill the
soldiers" (when they try to escape from the flames). Pan Ch`ao,
sent on a diplomatic mission to the King of Shan-shan [see XI.
ss. 51, note], found himself placed in extreme peril by the
unexpected arrival of an envoy from the Hsiung-nu [the mortal
enemies of the Chinese]. In consultation with his officers, he
exclaimed: "Never venture, never win! [1] The only course open
to us now is to make an assault by fire on the barbarians under
cover of night, when they will not be able to discern our
numbers. Profiting by their panic, we shall exterminate them
completely; this will cool the King's courage and cover us with
glory, besides ensuring the success of our mission.' the
officers all replied that it would be necessary to discuss the
matter first with the Intendant. Pan Ch`ao then fell into a
passion: 'It is today,' he cried, 'that our fortunes must be
decided! The Intendant is only a humdrum civilian, who on
hearing of our project will certainly be afraid, and everything
will be brought to light. An inglorious death is no worthy fate
for valiant warriors.' All then agreed to do as he wished.
Accordingly, as soon as night came on, he and his little band
quickly made their way to the barbarian camp. A strong gale was
blowing at the time. Pan Ch`ao ordered ten of the party to take
drums and hide behind the enemy's barracks, it being arranged
that when they saw flames shoot up, they should begin drumming
and yelling with all their might. The rest of his men, armed
with bows and crossbows, he posted in ambuscade at the gate of
the camp. He then set fire to the place from the windward side,
whereupon a deafening noise of drums and shouting arose on the
front and rear of the Hsiung-nu, who rushed out pell-mell in
frantic disorder. Pan Ch`ao slew three of them with his own
hand, while his companions cut off the heads of the envoy and
thirty of his suite. The remainder, more than a hundred in all,
perished in the flames. On the following day, Pan Ch`ao,
divining his thoughts, said with uplifted hand: 'Although you
did not go with us last night, I should not think, Sir, of
taking sole credit for our exploit.' This satisfied Kuo Hsun,
and Pan Ch`ao, having sent for Kuang, King of Shan-shan, showed
him the head of the barbarian envoy. The whole kingdom was
seized with fear and trembling, which Pan Ch`ao took steps to
allay by issuing a public proclamation. Then, taking the king's
sons as hostage, he returned to make his report to Tou Ku." HOU
HAN SHU, ch. 47, ff. 1, 2.] ]

the second is to burn stores;

[Tu Mu says: "Provisions, fuel and fodder." In order to subdue
the rebellious population of Kiangnan, Kao Keng recommended Wen
Ti of the Sui dynasty to make periodical raids and burn their
stores of grain, a policy which in the long run proved entirely

the third is to burn baggage trains;

[An example given is the destruction of Yuan Shao`s wagons and
impedimenta by Ts`ao Ts`ao in 200 A.D.]

the fourth is to burn arsenals and magazines;

[Tu Mu says that the things contained in "arsenals" and
"magazines" are the same. He specifies weapons and other
implements, bullion and clothing. Cf. VII. ss. 11.]

the fifth is to hurl dropping fire amongst the enemy.

[Tu Yu says in the T`UNG TIEN: "To drop fire into the enemy's
camp. The method by which this may be done is to set the tips of
arrows alight by dipping them into a brazier, and then shoot
them from powerful crossbows into the enemy's lines."]

2. In order to carry out an attack, we must have means

[T`sao Kung thinks that "traitors in the enemy's camp" are
referred to. But Ch`en Hao is more likely to be right in saying:
"We must have favorable circumstances in general, not merely
traitors to help us." Chia Lin says: "We must avail ourselves of
wind and dry weather."]

the material for raising fire should always be kept in

[Tu Mu suggests as material for making fire: "dry vegetable
matter, reeds, brushwood, straw, grease, oil, etc." Here we have
the material cause. Chang Yu says: "vessels for hoarding fire,
stuff for lighting fires."]

3. There is a proper season for making attacks with fire, and
special days for starting a conflagration.

4. The proper season is when the weather is very dry; the
special days are those when the moon is in the constellations of
the Sieve, the Wall, the Wing or the Cross-bar;

[These are, respectively, the 7th, 14th, 27th, and 28th of the
Twenty-eight Stellar Mansions, corresponding roughly to
Sagittarius, Pegasus, Crater and Corvus.]

for these four are all days of rising wind.

5. In attacking with fire, one should be prepared to meet five
possible developments:

6. (1) When fire breaks out inside to enemy's camp, respond at
once with an attack from without.

7. (2) If there is an outbreak of fire, but the enemy's soldiers
remain quiet, bide your time and do not attack.

[The prime object of attacking with fire is to throw the enemy
into confusion. If this effect is not produced, it means that
the enemy is ready to receive us. Hence the necessity for

8. (3) When the force of the flames has reached its height,
follow it up with an attack, if that is practicable; if not,
stay where you are.

[Ts`ao Kung says: "If you see a possible way, advance; but if
you find the difficulties too great, retire."]

9. (4) If it is possible to make an assault with fire from
without, do not wait for it to break out within, but deliver
your attack at a favorable moment.

[Tu Mu says that the previous paragraphs had reference to the
fire breaking out (either accidentally, we may suppose, or by
the agency of incendiaries) inside the enemy's camp. "But," he
continues, "if the enemy is settled in a waste place littered
with quantities of grass, or if he has pitched his camp in a
position which can be burnt out, we must carry our fire against
him at any seasonable opportunity, and not await on in hopes of
an outbreak occurring within, for fear our opponents should
themselves burn up the surrounding vegetation, and thus render
our own attempts fruitless." The famous Li Ling once baffled the
leader of the Hsiung-nu in this way. The latter, taking
advantage of a favorable wind, tried to set fire to the Chinese
general's camp, but found that every scrap of combustible
vegetation in the neighborhood had already been burnt down. On
the other hand, Po-ts`ai, a general of the Yellow Turban rebels,
was badly defeated in 184 A.D. through his neglect of this
simple precaution. "At the head of a large army he was besieging
Ch`ang-she, which was held by Huang-fu Sung. The garrison was
very small, and a general feeling of nervousness pervaded the
ranks; so Huang-fu Sung called his officers together and said:
"In war, there are various indirect methods of attack, and
numbers do not count for everything. [The commentator here
quotes Sun Tzu, V. SS. 5, 6 and 10.] Now the rebels have pitched
their camp in the midst of thick grass which will easily burn
when the wind blows. If we set fire to it at night, they will be
thrown into a panic, and we can make a sortie and attack them on
all sides at once, thus emulating the achievement of T`ien Tan.'
[See p. 90.] That same evening, a strong breeze sprang up; so
Huang-fu Sung instructed his soldiers to bind reeds together
into torches and mount guard on the city walls, after which he
sent out a band of daring men, who stealthily made their way
through the lines and started the fire with loud shouts and
yells. Simultaneously, a glare of light shot up from the city
walls, and Huang-fu Sung, sounding his drums, led a rapid
charge, which threw the rebels into confusion and put them to
headlong flight." [HOU HAN SHU, ch. 71.] ]

10. (5) When you start a fire, be to windward of it. Do not
attack from the leeward.

[Chang Yu, following Tu Yu, says: "When you make a fire, the
enemy will retreat away from it; if you oppose his retreat and
attack him then, he will fight desperately, which will not
conduce to your success." A rather more obvious explanation is
given by Tu Mu: "If the wind is in the east, begin burning to
the east of the enemy, and follow up the attack yourself from
that side. If you start the fire on the east side, and then
attack from the west, you will suffer in the same way as your

11. A wind that rises in the daytime lasts long, but a night
breeze soon falls.

[Cf. Lao Tzu's saying: "A violent wind does not last the space
of a morning." (TAO TE CHING, chap. 23.) Mei Yao-ch`en and Wang
Hsi say: "A day breeze dies down at nightfall, and a night
breeze at daybreak. This is what happens as a general rule." The
phenomenon observed may be correct enough, but how this sense is
to be obtained is not apparent.]

12. In every army, the five developments connected with fire
must be known, the movements of the stars calculated, and a
watch kept for the proper days.

[Tu Mu says: "We must make calculations as to the paths of the
stars, and watch for the days on which wind will rise, before
making our attack with fire." Chang Yu seems to interpret the
text differently: "We must not only know how to assail our
opponents with fire, but also be on our guard against similar
attacks from them."]

13. Hence those who use fire as an aid to the attack show
intelligence; those who use water as an aid to the attack gain
an accession of strength.

14. By means of water, an enemy may be intercepted, but not
robbed of all his belongings.

[Ts`ao Kung's note is: "We can merely obstruct the enemy's road
or divide his army, but not sweep away all his accumulated
stores." Water can do useful service, but it lacks the terrible
destructive power of fire. This is the reason, Chang Yu
concludes, why the former is dismissed in a couple of sentences,
whereas the attack by fire is discussed in detail. Wu Tzu (ch.
4) speaks thus of the two elements: "If an army is encamped on
low-lying marshy ground, from which the water cannot run off,
and where the rainfall is heavy, it may be submerged by a flood.
If an army is encamped in wild marsh lands thickly overgrown
with weeds and brambles, and visited by frequent gales, it may
be exterminated by fire."]

15. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and
succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of
enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general

[This is one of the most perplexing passages in Sun Tzu. Ts`ao
Kung says: "Rewards for good service should not be deferred a
single day." And Tu Mu: "If you do not take opportunity to
advance and reward the deserving, your subordinates will not
carry out your commands, and disaster will ensue." For several
reasons, however, and in spite of the formidable array of
scholars on the other side, I prefer the interpretation
suggested by Mei Yao-ch`en alone, whose words I will quote:
"Those who want to make sure of succeeding in their battles and
assaults must seize the favorable moments when they come and not
shrink on occasion from heroic measures: that is to say, they
must resort to such means of attack of fire, water and the like.
What they must not do, and what will prove fatal, is to sit
still and simply hold to the advantages they have got."]

16. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well
ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.

[Tu Mu quotes the following from the SAN LUEH, ch. 2: "The
warlike prince controls his soldiers by his authority, kits them
together by good faith, and by rewards makes them serviceable.
If faith decays, there will be disruption; if rewards are
deficient, commands will not be respected."]

17. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops
unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the
position is critical.

[Sun Tzu may at times appear to be over-cautious, but he never
goes so far in that direction as the remarkable passage in the
TAO TE CHING, ch. 69. "I dare not take the initiative, but
prefer to act on the defensive; I dare not advance an inch, but
prefer to retreat a foot."]

18. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify
his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of

19. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not,
stay where you are.

[This is repeated from XI. ss. 17. Here I feel convinced that it
is an interpolation, for it is evident that ss. 20 ought to
follow immediately on ss. 18.]

20. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be
succeeded by content.

21. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come
again into being;

[The Wu State was destined to be a melancholy example of this

nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

22. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general
full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and
an army intact.

[1] "Unless you enter the tiger's lair, you cannot get hold of
the tiger's cubs."



1. Sun Tzu said: Raising a host of a hundred thousand men and
marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people
and a drain on the resources of the State. The daily expenditure
will amount to a thousand ounces of silver.

[Cf. II. ss. ss. 1, 13, 14.]

There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men will drop
down exhausted on the highways.

[Cf. TAO TE CHING, ch. 30: "Where troops have been quartered,
brambles and thorns spring up. Chang Yu has the note: "We may be
reminded of the saying: 'On serious ground, gather in plunder.'
Why then should carriage and transportation cause exhaustion on
the highways?--The answer is, that not victuals alone, but all
sorts of munitions of war have to be conveyed to the army.
Besides, the injunction to 'forage on the enemy' only means that
when an army is deeply engaged in hostile territory, scarcity of
food must be provided against. Hence, without being solely
dependent on the enemy for corn, we must forage in order that
there may be an uninterrupted flow of supplies. Then, again,
there are places like salt deserts where provisions being
unobtainable, supplies from home cannot be dispensed with."]

As many as seven hundred thousand families will be impeded in
their labor.

[Mei Yao-ch`en says: "Men will be lacking at the plough- tail."
The allusion is to the system of dividing land into nine parts,
each consisting of about 15 acres, the plot in the center being
cultivated on behalf of the State by the tenants of the other
eight. It was here also, so Tu Mu tells us, that their cottages
were built and a well sunk, to be used by all in common. [See
II. ss. 12, note.] In time of war, one of the families had to
serve in the army, while the other seven contributed to its
support. Thus, by a levy of 100,000 men (reckoning one able-
bodied soldier to each family) the husbandry of 700,000 families
would be affected.]

2. Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for
the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to
remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because one
grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and

["For spies" is of course the meaning, though it would spoil the
effect of this curiously elaborate exordium if spies were
actually mentioned at this point.]

is the height of inhumanity.

[Sun Tzu's agreement is certainly ingenious. He begins by
adverting to the frightful misery and vast expenditure of blood
and treasure which war always brings in its train. Now, unless
you are kept informed of the enemy's condition, and are ready to
strike at the right moment, a war may drag on for years. The
only way to get this information is to employ spies, and it is
impossible to obtain trustworthy spies unless they are properly
paid for their services. But it is surely false economy to
grudge a comparatively trifling amount for this purpose, when
every day that the war lasts eats up an incalculably greater
sum. This grievous burden falls on the shoulders of the poor,
and hence Sun Tzu concludes that to neglect the use of spies is
nothing less than a crime against humanity.]

3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his
sovereign, no master of victory.

[This idea, that the true object of war is peace, has its root
in the national temperament of the Chinese. Even so far back as
597 B.C., these memorable words were uttered by Prince Chuang of
the Ch`u State: "The [Chinese] character for 'prowess' is made
up of [the characters for] 'to stay' and 'a spear' (cessation of
hostilities). Military prowess is seen in the repression of
cruelty, the calling in of weapons, the preservation of the
appointment of Heaven, the firm establishment of merit, the
bestowal of happiness on the people, putting harmony between the
princes, the diffusion of wealth."]

4. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to
strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of
ordinary men, is FOREKNOWLEDGE.

[That is, knowledge of the enemy's dispositions, and what he
means to do.]

5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it
cannot be obtained inductively from experience,

[Tu Mu's note is: "[knowledge of the enemy] cannot be gained by
reasoning from other analogous cases."]

nor by any deductive calculation.

[Li Ch`uan says: "Quantities like length, breadth, distance and
magnitude, are susceptible of exact mathematical determination;
human actions cannot be so calculated."]

6. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained
from other men.

[Mei Yao-ch`en has rather an interesting note: "Knowledge of the
spirit-world is to be obtained by divination; information in
natural science may be sought by inductive reasoning; the laws
of the universe can be verified by mathematical calculation: but
the dispositions of an enemy are ascertainable through spies and
spies alone."]

7. Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five classes: (1)
Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) converted spies; (4) doomed
spies; (5) surviving spies.

8. When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none can
discover the secret system. This is called "divine manipulation
of the threads." It is the sovereign's most precious faculty.

[Cromwell, one of the greatest and most practical of all cavalry
leaders, had officers styled 'scout masters,' whose business it
was to collect all possible information regarding the enemy,
through scouts and spies, etc., and much of his success in war
was traceable to the previous knowledge of the enemy's moves
thus gained." [1] ]

9. Having LOCAL SPIES means employing the services of the
inhabitants of a district.

[Tu Mu says: "In the enemy's country, win people over by kind
treatment, and use them as spies."]

10. Having INWARD SPIES, making use of officials of the enemy.

[Tu Mu enumerates the following classes as likely to do good
service in this respect: "Worthy men who have been degraded from
office, criminals who have undergone punishment; also, favorite
concubines who are greedy for gold, men who are aggrieved at
being in subordinate positions, or who have been passed over in
the distribution of posts, others who are anxious that their
side should be defeated in order that they may have a chance of
displaying their ability and talents, fickle turncoats who
always want to have a foot in each boat. Officials of these
several kinds," he continues, "should be secretly approached and
bound to one's interests by means of rich presents. In this way
you will be able to find out the state of affairs in the enemy's
country, ascertain the plans that are being formed against you,
and moreover disturb the harmony and create a breach between the
sovereign and his ministers." The necessity for extreme caution,
however, in dealing with "inward spies," appears from an
historical incident related by Ho Shih: "Lo Shang, Governor of
I-Chou, sent his general Wei Po to attack the rebel Li Hsiung of
Shu in his stronghold at P`i. After each side had experienced a
number of victories and defeats, Li Hsiung had recourse to the
services of a certain P`o-t`ai, a native of Wu-tu. He began to
have him whipped until the blood came, and then sent him off to
Lo Shang, whom he was to delude by offering to cooperate with
him from inside the city, and to give a fire signal at the right
moment for making a general assault. Lo Shang, confiding in
these promises, march out all his best troops, and placed Wei Po
and others at their head with orders to attack at P`o-t`ai's
bidding. Meanwhile, Li Hsiung's general, Li Hsiang, had prepared
an ambuscade on their line of march; and P`o-t`ai, having reared
long scaling-ladders against the city walls, now lighted the
beacon-fire. Wei Po's men raced up on seeing the signal and
began climbing the ladders as fast as they could, while others
were drawn up by ropes lowered from above. More than a hundred
of Lo Shang's soldiers entered the city in this way, every one
of whom was forthwith beheaded. Li Hsiung then charged with all
his forces, both inside and outside the city, and routed the
enemy completely." [This happened in 303 A.D. I do not know
where Ho Shih got the story from. It is not given in the
biography of Li Hsiung or that of his father Li T`e, CHIN SHU,
ch. 120, 121.]

11. Having CONVERTED SPIES, getting hold of the enemy's spies
and using them for our own purposes.

[By means of heavy bribes and liberal promises detaching them
from the enemy's service, and inducing them to carry back false
information as well as to spy in turn on their own countrymen.
On the other hand, Hsiao Shih-hsien says that we pretend not to
have detected him, but contrive to let him carry away a false
impression of what is going on. Several of the commentators
accept this as an alternative definition; but that it is not
what Sun Tzu meant is conclusively proved by his subsequent
remarks about treating the converted spy generously (ss. 21
sqq.). Ho Shih notes three occasions on which converted spies
were used with conspicuous success: (1) by T`ien Tan in his
defense of Chi-mo (see supra, p. 90); (2) by Chao She on his
march to O-yu (see p. 57); and by the wily Fan Chu in 260 B.C.,
when Lien P`o was conducting a defensive campaign against Ch`in.
The King of Chao strongly disapproved of Lien P`o's cautious and
dilatory methods, which had been unable to avert a series of
minor disasters, and therefore lent a ready ear to the reports
of his spies, who had secretly gone over to the enemy and were
already in Fan Chu's pay. They said: "The only thing which
causes Ch`in anxiety is lest Chao Kua should be made general.
Lien P`o they consider an easy opponent, who is sure to be
vanquished in the long run." Now this Chao Kua was a sun of the
famous Chao She. From his boyhood, he had been wholly engrossed
in the study of war and military matters, until at last he came
to believe that there was no commander in the whole Empire who
could stand against him. His father was much disquieted by this
overweening conceit, and the flippancy with which he spoke of
such a serious thing as war, and solemnly declared that if ever
Kua was appointed general, he would bring ruin on the armies of
Chao. This was the man who, in spite of earnest protests from
his own mother and the veteran statesman Lin Hsiang-ju, was now
sent to succeed Lien P`o. Needless to say, he proved no match
for the redoubtable Po Ch`i and the great military power of
Ch`in. He fell into a trap by which his army was divided into
two and his communications cut; and after a desperate resistance
lasting 46 days, during which the famished soldiers devoured one
another, he was himself killed by an arrow, and his whole force,
amounting, it is said, to 400,000 men, ruthlessly put to the

12. Having DOOMED SPIES, doing certain things openly for
purposes of deception, and allowing our spies to know of them
and report them to the enemy.

[Tu Yu gives the best exposition of the meaning: "We
ostentatiously do thing calculated to deceive our own spies, who
must be led to believe that they have been unwittingly
disclosed. Then, when these spies are captured in the enemy's
lines, they will make an entirely false report, and the enemy
will take measures accordingly, only to find that we do
something quite different. The spies will thereupon be put to
death." As an example of doomed spies, Ho Shih mentions the
prisoners released by Pan Ch`ao in his campaign against Yarkand.
(See p. 132.) He also refers to T`ang Chien, who in 630 A.D. was
sent by T`ai Tsung to lull the Turkish Kahn Chieh-li into
fancied security, until Li Ching was able to deliver a crushing
blow against him. Chang Yu says that the Turks revenged
themselves by killing T`ang Chien, but this is a mistake, for we
read in both the old and the New T`ang History (ch. 58, fol. 2
and ch. 89, fol. 8 respectively) that he escaped and lived on
until 656. Li I-chi played a somewhat similar part in 203 B.C.,
when sent by the King of Han to open peaceful negotiations with
Ch`i. He has certainly more claim to be described a "doomed
spy", for the king of Ch`i, being subsequently attacked without
warning by Han Hsin, and infuriated by what he considered the
treachery of Li I-chi, ordered the unfortunate envoy to be
boiled alive.]

13. SURVIVING SPIES, finally, are those who bring back news from
the enemy's camp.

[This is the ordinary class of spies, properly so called,
forming a regular part of the army. Tu Mu says: "Your surviving
spy must be a man of keen intellect, though in outward
appearance a fool; of shabby exterior, but with a will of iron.
He must be active, robust, endowed with physical strength and
courage; thoroughly accustomed to all sorts of dirty work, able
to endure hunger and cold, and to put up with shame and
ignominy." Ho Shih tells the following story of Ta`hsi Wu of the
Sui dynasty: "When he was governor of Eastern Ch`in, Shen-wu of
Ch`i made a hostile movement upon Sha-yuan. The Emperor T`ai Tsu
[? Kao Tsu] sent Ta-hsi Wu to spy upon the enemy. He was
accompanied by two other men. All three were on horseback and
wore the enemy's uniform. When it was dark, they dismounted a
few hundred feet away from the enemy's camp and stealthily crept
up to listen, until they succeeded in catching the passwords
used in the army. Then they got on their horses again and boldly
passed through the camp under the guise of night-watchmen; and
more than once, happening to come across a soldier who was
committing some breach of discipline, they actually stopped to
give the culprit a sound cudgeling! Thus they managed to return
with the fullest possible information about the enemy's
dispositions, and received warm commendation from the Emperor,
who in consequence of their report was able to inflict a severe
defeat on his adversary."]

14. Hence it is that which none in the whole army are more
intimate relations to be maintained than with spies.

[Tu Mu and Mei Yao-ch`en point out that the spy is privileged to
enter even the general's private sleeping-tent.]

None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business
should greater secrecy be preserved.

[Tu Mu gives a graphic touch: all communication with spies
should be carried "mouth-to-ear." The following remarks on spies
may be quoted from Turenne, who made perhaps larger use of them
than any previous commander: "Spies are attached to those who
give them most, he who pays them ill is never served. They
should never be known to anybody; nor should they know one
another. When they propose anything very material, secure their
persons, or have in your possession their wives and children as
hostages for their fidelity. Never communicate anything to them
but what is absolutely necessary that they should know. [2] ]

15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain
intuitive sagacity.

[Mei Yao-ch`en says: "In order to use them, one must know fact
from falsehood, and be able to discriminate between honesty and
double-dealing." Wang Hsi in a different interpretation thinks
more along the lines of "intuitive perception" and "practical
intelligence." Tu Mu strangely refers these attributes to the
spies themselves: "Before using spies we must assure ourselves
as to their integrity of character and the extent of their
experience and skill." But he continues: "A brazen face and a
crafty disposition are more dangerous than mountains or rivers;
it takes a man of genius to penetrate such." So that we are left
in some doubt as to his real opinion on the passage."]

16. They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and

[Chang Yu says: "When you have attracted them by substantial
offers, you must treat them with absolute sincerity; then they
will work for you with all their might."]

17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of
the truth of their reports.

[Mei Yao-ch`en says: "Be on your guard against the possibility
of spies going over to the service of the enemy."]

18. Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of

[Cf. VI. ss. 9.]

19. If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the
time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to
whom the secret was told.

[Word for word, the translation here is: "If spy matters are
heard before [our plans] are carried out," etc. Sun Tzu's main
point in this passage is: Whereas you kill the spy himself "as a
punishment for letting out the secret," the object of killing
the other man is only, as Ch`en Hao puts it, "to stop his mouth"
and prevent news leaking any further. If it had already been
repeated to others, this object would not be gained. Either way,
Sun Tzu lays himself open to the charge of inhumanity, though Tu
Mu tries to defend him by saying that the man deserves to be put
to death, for the spy would certainly not have told the secret
unless the other had been at pains to worm it out of him."]

20. Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a city, or
to assassinate an individual, it is always necessary to begin by
finding out the names of the attendants, the aides-de- camp,

[Literally "visitors", is equivalent, as Tu Yu says, to "those
whose duty it is to keep the general supplied with information,"
which naturally necessitates frequent interviews with him.]

and door-keepers and sentries of the general in command. Our
spies must be commissioned to ascertain these.

[As the first step, no doubt towards finding out if any of these
important functionaries can be won over by bribery.]

21. The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us must be sought
out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus
they will become converted spies and available for our service.

22. It is through the information brought by the converted spy
that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies.

[Tu Yu says: "through conversion of the enemy's spies we learn
the enemy's condition." And Chang Yu says: "We must tempt the
converted spy into our service, because it is he that knows
which of the local inhabitants are greedy of gain, and which of
the officials are open to corruption."]

23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the
doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.

[Chang Yu says, "because the converted spy knows how the enemy
can best be deceived."]

24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving spy can
be used on appointed occasions. 

25. The end and aim of spying in
all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this
knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the
converted spy.

[As explained in ss. 22-24. He not only brings information
himself, but makes it possible to use the other kinds of spy to

Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the
utmost liberality.

26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty

[Sun Tzu means the Shang dynasty, founded in 1766 B.C. Its name
was changed to Yin by P`an Keng in 1401.

was due to I Chih

[Better known as I Yin, the famous general and statesman who
took part in Ch`eng T`ang's campaign against Chieh Kuei.]

who had served under the Hsia. Likewise, the rise of the Chou
dynasty was due to Lu Ya

[Lu Shang rose to high office under the tyrant Chou Hsin, whom
he afterwards helped to overthrow. Popularly known as T`ai Kung,
a title bestowed on him by Wen Wang, he is said to have composed
a treatise on war, erroneously identified with the LIU T`AO.]

who had served under the Yin.

[There is less precision in the Chinese than I have thought it
well to introduce into my translation, and the commentaries on
the passage are by no means explicit. But, having regard to the
context, we can hardly doubt that Sun Tzu is holding up I Chih
and Lu Ya as illustrious examples of the converted spy, or
something closely analogous. His suggestion is, that the Hsia
and Yin dynasties were upset owing to the intimate knowledge of
their weaknesses and shortcoming which these former ministers
were able to impart to the other side. Mei Yao-ch`en appears to
resent any such aspersion on these historic names: "I Yin and Lu
Ya," he says, "were not rebels against the Government. Hsia
could not employ the former, hence Yin employed him. Yin could
not employ the latter, hence Hou employed him. Their great
achievements were all for the good of the people." Ho Shih is
also indignant: "How should two divinely inspired men such as I
and Lu have acted as common spies? Sun Tzu's mention of them
simply means that the proper use of the five classes of spies is
a matter which requires men of the highest mental caliber like I
and Lu, whose wisdom and capacity qualified them for the task.
The above words only emphasize this point." Ho Shih believes
then that the two heroes are mentioned on account of their
supposed skill in the use of spies. But this is very weak.]

27. Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general
who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes
of spying and thereby they achieve great results.

[Tu Mu closes with a note of warning: "Just as water, which
carries a boat from bank to bank, may also be the means of
sinking it, so reliance on spies, while production of great
results, is oft-times the cause of utter destruction."]

Spies are a most important element in water, because on them
depends an army's ability to move.

[Chia Lin says that an army without spies is like a man with
ears or eyes.]

[1] "Aids to Scouting," p. 2.

[2] "Marshal Turenne," p. 311.

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