The Art of War, by Lionel Giles, , at sacred-texts.com
1. Sun Tzŭ said: We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, to wit: (1) Accessible ground; 2 (2) entangling ground; 3 (3) temporising ground; 4 (4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; 5 (6) positions at a great distance from the enemy. 6
2. Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible. 1
3. With regard to ground of this nature, 2 be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, 3 and carefully guard your line of supplies. 4
Then you will be able to fight with advantage. 5
4. Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called entangling. 1
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. 2
6. When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporising ground. 3
7. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait, 4 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. 5
8. With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, 1 let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy. 2
9. Should the enemy 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. 3
11. If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away. 1
12. If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, 2 it is not easy to provoke a battle, 3 and fighting will be to your disadvantage.
13. These six are the principles connected with Earth. 4 The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study them. 5
14. Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural causes, 1 but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1) Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganisation; (6) rout. 2
15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten times its size, the result will be the flight of the former. 3
16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. 4
[paragraph continues] When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse. 1
17. When the higher officers 2 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. 3
18. When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; 1 when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, 2 and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganisation.
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 a rout. 3
20. These are six ways of courting defeat, 1 which must be carefully noted by the general who has attained a responsible post. 2
21. The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally; 3 but a power of estimating the adversary, 4 of controlling the forces of victory, 5 and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, 6
constitutes the test of a great general. 1
22. He who knows these things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, will win his battles. He who knows them not, nor practises them, will surely be defeated.
2 3. 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 bidding. 2
24. The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, 1 whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, 2 is the jewel of the kingdom. 3
25. Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. 4
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: 1 then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose. 2
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. 3
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. 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. 2
30. Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss 3
31. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; 4
if you know Heaven and know Earth, 1 you may make your victory complete. 2
100:1 Only about a third of the chapter, comprising §§ 1–13, deals with #, the subject being more fully treated in ch. XI. The "six calamities" are discussed in §§ 14–20, and the rest of the chapter is again a mere string of desultory remarks, though not less interesting, perhaps, on that account.
100:2 Mei Yao-ch‘ên says: "plentifully provided with roads and means of communication."
100:3 The same commentator says: # "Net-like country, venturing into which you become entangled."
100:4 Tu Yu explains # as #. This meaning is still retained in modern phrases such as #, # "stave off," "delay." I do not know why Capt. Calthrop calls # "suspended ground," unless he is confusing it with #.
100:5 The root idea in # is narrowness; in #, steepness.
100:6 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.
101:1 Generally speaking, # "level country" is meant. Cf. IX. § 9: #.
101:2 The T‘ung Tien reads #.
101:3 See IX. § 2. The T‘ung Tien reads #.
101:4 A curious use of # as a verb, if our text is right. The general meaning is doubtless, as Tu Yu says,# "not to allow the enemy to cut your communications." Tu Mu, who was not a soldier and can hardly have had any practical experience of fighting, goes more into detail and speaks of protecting me line of communications by a wall (#), or enclosing it by embankments on each side (#)! In view of Napoleon's dictum, "the secret of war lies in the communications," * we could wish that Sun Tzŭ had done more than skirt the edge of this important subject here and in I. § 10, VII. § 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 duellist 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 he an ordinary failure, but will entail the ruin or the surrender of his whole army." **
101:5 Omitted by Capt. Calthrop.
101:* See "Pensées de Napoléon Ier," no. 47.
101:** "The Science of War," chap. 2.
102:1 Capt. Calthrop is wrong in translating #, "retreat from it."
102:2 # (an example of litotes) is paraphrased by Mei Yao-ch‘ên as #, "you will receive a check."
102:3 # "Each side finds it inconvenient to move, and the situation remains at a deadlock" (Tu Yu).
102:4 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. Here again # is used as a verb, but this time in a different sense: "to hold out an advantage to."
102:5 Mei Yao-ch‘ên paraphrases the passage in a curious jingle, the scheme of rhymes being abcbdd: #
103:1 Capt. Calthrop says: "Defiles, make haste to occupy." But this is a conditional clause, answering to # in the next paragraph.
103:2 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." The commentators make a great pother about the precise meaning of #, which to the foreign reader seems to present no difficulty whatever.
103:3 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. § 2]. Chang Yü 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 nightfall 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 p. 14 unnecessary questions.' [See Chiu T‘ang Shu, ch. 84, fol. 12 r°., and Hsin T‘ang Shu ch. 108, fol. 5 v°.] From this it may be seen," Chang Yü continues, "that high and sunny places are advantageous not only for fighting, but also because they are immune from disastrous floods."
104:1 The turning-point of # Li Shih-min's campaign in 621 A.D. against the two rebels, # Tou Chien-tê, King of # Hsia, and # Wang Shih-ch‘ung, Prince of # Chêng, was his seizure of the heights of # Wu-lao, in spite of which Tou Chien-tê persisted in his attempt to relieve his ally in Lo-yang, was defeated and taken prisoner. [See Chiu T‘ang Shu, ch. 2, fol. 5 v°., and also ch. 54.]
104:2 The T‘ung Tien reads #.
104:3 Ts‘ao Kung says that # means # "challenging the enemy." But the enemy being far away, that plainly involves, as Tu Yu says, # "going to meet him." The point of course is, that we must not think of undertaking a long and wearisome march, at the end of which # "we should be exhausted and our adversary fresh and keen."
104:4 Or perhaps, "the principles relating to ground." See, however, I. § 8.
104:5 Capt. Calthrop omits #. Out of the foregoing six #, it will be noticed that nos. 3 and 6 have really no reference to the configuration of the country, and that only 4 and 5 can be said to convey any definite geographical idea.
105:1 The T‘u Shu reads #.
105:2 I take exception to Capt. Calthrop's rendering of # and # as "distress" and "disorganisation," respectively.
105:3 Cf. III. § 10. The general's fault here is that of # "not calculating the enemy's strength." It is obvious that # cannot have the same force as in § 12, where it was equivalent to #. I should not be inclined, however, to limit it, with Chang Yü, to # "the wisdom and valour of the general and the sharpness of the weapons." As Li Ch‘üan very justly remarks, # "Given a decided advantage in position, or the help of some stratagem such as a flank attack or an ambuscade, it would be quite possible [to fight in the ratio of one to ten]."
105:4 # "laxity"—the metaphor being taken from an unstrung bow. Capt. Calthrop's "relaxation" is not good, on account of its ambiguity. Tu Mu cites the unhappy case of # T‘ien Pu [Hsin Tang 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, p. 106 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.
106:1 Ts‘ao Kung says: # "The officers are energetic and want to press on, the common soldiers are feeble and suddenly collapse." Note that # is to be taken literally of physical weakness, whereas in the former clause it is figurative. Li Ch‘üan makes # equivalent to #, and Tu Mu explains it as # "stumbling into a death-trap."
106:2 #, according to Ts‘ao Kung, are the # "generals of inferior rank." But Li Ch‘üan, Ch‘ên Hao and Wang Hsi take the term as simply convertible with # or #.
106:3 Ts‘ao Kung makes #, understood, the subject of #, which seems rather far-fetched. Wang Hsi's note is: # "This means, the general is angry without just 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." He takes #, therefore, in the sense of #; but I think that Ch‘en Hao is right in his paraphrase # "they don't care if it be possible or no." My interpretation of the whole passage is that of Mei Yao-ch‘ên and Chang Yü. Tu Mu gives a long extract from the Tso Chuan, #, XII. 3, showing how the great battle of # Pi [597 B.C.] was lost for the Chin State through the contumacy of # Hsien Hu and the resentful spite of # Wei I and # Chao Chan. Chang Yü also alludes to the mutinous conduct of # Luan Yen [ibid. #, XIV. 3].
107:1 Wei Liao Tzŭ (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, italicising 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." * Assuming that clear instructions beget confidence, this is very much what Wei Liao Tzŭ (loc. cit.) goes on to say: #. Cf. also Wu Tzŭ ch. 3: # "the most fatal defect in a military leader is diffidence; the worst calamities that befall an army arise from hesitation."
107:2 # "Neither officers nor men have any regular routine" [Tu Mu].
107:3 Chang Yü paraphrases the latter part of the sentence #, and continues: # "Whenever there is fighting to be done, the keenest spirits should be p. 108 appointed to serve in the front ranks, both in order to strengthen the resolution of our own men and to demoralise the enemy." Cf. the primi ordines of Caesar ("De Bello Gallico," V. 28, 44 et al.). There seems little to distinguish # from # in § 15, except that # is a more forcible word.
107:* "Aids to Scouting," p. xii.
108:1 Ch‘ên Hao makes them out to be: (1) # "neglect to estimate the enemy's strength;" (2) # "want of authority;" (3) # "defective training;" (4) # "unjustifiable anger;" (5) # "non-observance of discipline;" (6) # "failure to use picked men."
108:2 See supra, § 53.
108:3 Chia Lin's text has the reading # for #. Ch‘ên Hao says: # "The advantages of weather and season are not equal to those connected with ground."
108:4 The insertion of a "but" is necessary to show the connection of thought here. A general should always utilise, but never rely wholly on natural advantages of terrain.
108:5 # is one of those condensed expressions which mean so much in Chinese, and so little in an English translation. What it seems to imply is complete mastery of the situation from the beginning.
108:6 The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read #. I am decidedly puzzled by Capt. Calthrop's translation: "an eye for steepness, command and distances." Where did he find the word which I have put in italics?
109:1 A somewhat free translation of #. As Chang Yü remarks, these are # "the essentials of soldiering," ground being only a helpful accessory.
109:2 Cf. VIII. § 3 fin. Huang Shih-kung of the Chin dynasty, who is said to have been the patron of # Chang Liang and to have written the #, 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 Yü also quotes the saying: # "Decrees of the Son of Heaven do not penetrate the walls of a camp." Napoleon, who has been accused of allowing his generals too little independence of action, speaks in the same sense: "Un général en chef n’est pas à couvert de ses fautes à la guerre par un ordre de son souverain ou du ministre, quand celui qui le donne est éloigné du champ d’opération, et qu’il connaît mal, ou ne connaît pas du tout le dernier état des choses." *
109:* "Maximes de Guerre," no. 72.
110:1 It was Wellington, I think, who said that the hardest thing of all for a soldier is to retreat.
110:2 #, which is omitted by the T‘u Shu, is said by Ch‘ên Hao to be equivalent to #. If it had to be separately translated, it would be something like our word "accrue."
110:3 A noble presentment, 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."
110:4 Cf. I. § 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‘üan mentions # the Viscount of Ch‘u, who invaded the small state of # Hsiao during the winter. # The Duke of Shên said to him: "Many of p. 111 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. [Tso Chuan, #, XII. 5] # Chang Yü alludes to the same passage, saying: #.
111:1 Capt. Calthrop has got these three clauses quite wrong. The last he translates: "overindulgence may produce disorder."
111:2 Cf. IX. § 42. We read in the #, pt. 2: # "Injury comes out of kindness." 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 # Lü Mêng was occupying the town of a # 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. La Mêng 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. [San Kuo Chih, ch. 54, f. 13 r°. & v°.].
111:3 That is, as Ts‘ao Kong says, "the issue in this case is uncertain."
112:1 Cf. III. § 13 (1).
112:2 I may take this opportunity of pointing out the rather nice distinction in meaning between # and #. The latter is simply "to attack" without any further implication, whereas # is a stronger word which in nine cases out of ten means "to attack with expectation of victory," "to fall upon," as we should say, or even "to crush." On the other hand, # is not quite synonymous with #, which is mostly used of operations on a larger scale, as of one State making war on another, often with the added idea of invasion. #, finally, has special reference to the subjugation of rebels. See Mencius, VII. 2. ii. 2.
112:3 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 Yü, "so that when he does move, he makes no mistakes." Another reading substitutes # for # and # for #. The latter variant only is adopted by the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan. Note that # here means "at the end of his mental resources."
112:4 p. 113 Capt. Calthrop makes the saying end here, which cannot be justified.
113:1 # and # are transposed for the sake of the jingle between # and #. The original text, however, has #, and the correction has been made from the T‘ung Tien.
113:2 As opposed to #, above. The original text has #, the corruption being perhaps due to the occurrence of # in the preceding sentence. Here, however # would not be synonymous with #, but equivalent to # "inexhaustible," "beyond computation." Cf. V. § 11. The T‘ung Tien has again supplied the true reading. Li Ch‘üan sums up as follows: # "Given a knowledge of three things—the affairs of man, the seasons of heaven and the natural advantages of earth—, victory will invariably crown your battles."