Sun Tzu

The Art Of War


[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 

[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 seasons. 

[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 phenomena.] 

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 expected.

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.


[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 

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 strength.

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 pointless.]

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 impoverished.

[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 

[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 

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 strength.

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

[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 respectively.]

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 plans; 

[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 

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 siege.

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

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 complete.

[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 mistake."]

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 

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 orders.]

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 minds.

[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 discrimination,

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

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 

(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 

[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 

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

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

3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat,

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

but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

[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 

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 victory.

[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 chances.

[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 

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 

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 victory.

[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. <2>

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 leader.]

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 

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 

[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 

[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 dispositions.

[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 Po-teng."]

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 energy.

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."]


[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 

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 exhausted.

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. <3>]

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 

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 

[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;

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

and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.

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 enemy.

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 "bluff."]

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 

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 inactivity.

[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 spots.

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

[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 brains.

[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 circumstances.

[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 

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 captain.

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

[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. 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 

[I have departed slightly from the traditional interpretation of Ts`ao Kung, who 
says: "From the time of receiving the sovereign's instructions until our 
encampment over against the enemy, the tactics to be pursued are most 
difficult." It seems to me that the tactics or maneuvers can hardly be said to 
begin until the army has sallied forth and encamped, and Ch`ien Hao's note gives 
color to this view: "For levying, concentrating, harmonizing and entrenching an 
army, there are plenty of old rules which will serve. The real difficulty comes 
when we engage in tactical operations." Tu Yu also observes that "the great 
difficulty is to be beforehand with the enemy in seizing favorable position."]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

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

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

8. The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will fall behind, and on 
this plan only one-tenth of your army will reach its destination.

[The moral is, as Ts`ao Kung and others point out: Don't march a hundred LI to 
gain a tactical advantage, either with or without impedimenta. Maneuvers of this 
description should be confined to short distances. Stonewall Jackson said: "The 
hardships of forced marches are often more painful than the dangers of battle." 
He did not often call upon his troops for extraordinary exertions. It was only 
when he intended a surprise, or when a rapid retreat was imperative, that he 
sacrificed everything for speed. <4>]

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 AWAY."]

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

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

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. <5> ]

16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must be decided by 

17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind,

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

your compactness that of the forest.

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

18. In raiding and plundering be like fire,

[Cf. SHIH CHING, IV. 3. iv. 6: "Fierce as a blazing fire which no man can 

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 all.]

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

[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 point.

[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 

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 

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

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

by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is bent only on 
returning to camp.

29. A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but 
attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return. This is the art of 
studying moods.

30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst 
the enemy:--this is the art of retaining self-possession.

31. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease 
while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is 
famished:--this is the art of husbanding one's strength.

32. To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to 
refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array:--this is 
the art of studying circumstances.

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 

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.

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

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

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

Do not press a desperate foe too hard.

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

37. Such is the art of warfare.


[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 

[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 strength."]

towns which must not 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." <6>]

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 mind?"]

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

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

and keep them constantly engaged;

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

hold out specious allurements, and make them rush to any given point.

[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 direction."]

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 

(2) cowardice, which leads to capture;

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

(3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;

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

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

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

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

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

13. These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous to the conduct of 

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.


[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 valleys."]

2. Camp in high places,

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

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 warfare.

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 sovereigns.

[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 

and this will spell victory.

13. When you come to a hill or a bank, occupy the sunny side, with the slope on 
your right rear. Thus you will at once act for the benefit of your soldiers and 
utilize the natural advantages of the ground.

14. When, in consequence of heavy rains up-country, a river which you wish to 
ford is swollen and flecked with foam, you must wait until it subsides.

15. Country in which there are precipitous cliffs with torrents running between, 
deep natural hollows,

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

confined places,

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

tangled thickets,

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


[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 

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 challenge."]

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 ambuscade.

[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." <7>]

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 motion."]

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

["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 

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 plot.

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

27. When there is much running about

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

and the soldiers fall into rank, it means that the critical moment has come.

28. When some are seen advancing and some retreating, it is a lure.

29. When the soldiers stand leaning on their spears, they are faint from want of 

30. If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army 
is suffering from thirst.

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

31. If the enemy sees an advantage to be gained and makes no effort to secure 
it, the soldiers are exhausted.

32. If birds gather on any spot, it is unoccupied.

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

Clamor by night betokens nervousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

35. The sight of men whispering together in small knots or speaking in subdued 
tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and file.

36. Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at the end of his resources;

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

too many punishments betray a condition of dire distress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[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 discipline.

[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 


[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 

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

(2) entangling ground;

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

(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 ACCESSIBLE.

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," <8> 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." <9>

Then you will be able to fight with advantage.

4. Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called ENTANGLING.

5. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth 
and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to 
defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue.

6. When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first 
move, it is called TEMPORIZING ground.

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

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

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

it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the 
enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our 
attack with advantage.

8. With regard to NARROW PASSES, if you can occupy them first, let them be 
strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy.

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

9. Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if the 
pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned.

10. With regard to PRECIPITOUS HEIGHTS, if you are beforehand with your 
adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him 
to come up.

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

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

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

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

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

and fighting will be to your disadvantage.

13. These six are the principles connected with Earth.

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

The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study them.

14. Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural 
causes, but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1) 
Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganization; (6) 

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

16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the 

[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 

[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." <10> 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 hesitation."]

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

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

and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter 

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 

[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 post.

[See supra, ss. 13.]

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

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

but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, 
and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the 
test of a great general.

22. He who knows these things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, 
will win his battles. He who knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be 

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 bidding.

[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 

[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 

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 

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 uncertain."]

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 

[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. 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 refuge."]

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 

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

[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 Ch`u.]

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

[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 rescue."]

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 off.]

On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies.

[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 17.]

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 strength.

[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 

[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 

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

[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 longevity.

[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 weep,

[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." <11>]

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 body?"]

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

[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." <12>]

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 

[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. <13> 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 twice.]

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 

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 conquering."]

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 ground;

[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 ground.

[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 ground.

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 

[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. 57.)]

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

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 us."]

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 friendships."]

Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow their kingdoms.

[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 isolation.]

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 

[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 cunning.

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 

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 

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 you.

[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.]


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

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! <14> 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 successful.]

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 

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

[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 readiness.

[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 

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

for these four are all days of rising wind.

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

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 caution.]

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 

[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 enemy."]

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 

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 

[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 stagnation.

[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 pique.

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. 

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 saying.]

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. 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 emoluments,

["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 

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 

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 

[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 sword.]

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 

[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. <15> ]

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 straightforwardness.

[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 

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 business.

[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 

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 advantage.]

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

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> "Words on Wellington," by Sir. W. Fraser.

<2> "Forty-one Years in India," chapter 46.

<3> See Col. Henderson's biography of Stonewall Jackson, 1902 ed., vol. II, p. 

<4> See Col. Henderson, op. cit. vol. I. p. 426.

<5> For a number of maxims on this head, see "Marshal Turenne" (Longmans, 1907), 
p. 29.

<6> "Marshal Turenne," p. 50.

<7> "Aids to Scouting," p. 26.

<8> See "Pensees de Napoleon 1er," no. 47.

<9> "The Science of War," chap. 2.

<10> "Aids to Scouting," p. xii.

<11> Giles' Biographical Dictionary, no. 399.

<12> "The Science of War," p. 333.

<13> "Stonewall Jackson," vol. I, p. 421.

<14> "Unless you enter the tiger's lair, you cannot get hold of the tiger's 

<15> -