Sun Tzu on The Art of War (Part 2)
The Molossian Naval Academy


The Sun-tzu Art of War

Translation and Commentary by Lionel Giles



Index to the Translation




Title Page

01 ~ Laying Plans

02 ~ Waging War

03 ~ Attack by Stratagem

04 ~ Tactical Dispositions

05 ~ Energy

06 ~ Weak Points and Strong


07 ~ Maneuvering

08 ~ Variation in Tactics

09 ~ The Army on the March

10 ~ Terrain

11 ~ The Nine Situations

12 ~ The Attack by Fire

13 ~ The Use of Spies



04. TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS




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

     1.  Sun Tzu said:  The good fighters of old first put
themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for
an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
     2.  To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own
hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by
the enemy 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 whereabouts."]

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

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

Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect ourselves; on the
other, a victory that is complete.
     8.  To see victory only when it is within the ken of the
common herd is not the acme of excellence.

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

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

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

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

     ["Autumn" hair" is explained as the fur of a hare, which is
finest in autumn, when it begins to grow afresh.  The phrase is a
very common one in Chinese writers.]
to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the
noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.

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

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

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

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

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

     13.  He wins his battles by making no mistakes.

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

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory,
for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
     14.  Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position
which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for
defeating the enemy.

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

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

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

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

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

[Go to Index]

05. ENERGY




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

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

     2.  Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise
different from fighting with a small one:   it is merely a
question of instituting signs and signals.
     3.  To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt
of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken - this is effected by
maneuvers direct and indirect.

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

     4.  That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone
dashed against an egg - this is effected by the science of weak
points and strong.
     5.  In all fighting, the direct method may be used for
joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to
secure 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. [1]

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

     [Tu Yu and Chang Yu understand this of the permutations of
CH`I and CHENG."  But at present Sun Tzu is not speaking of CHENG
at all,  unless, indeed, we suppose with Cheng Yu-hsien that a
clause relating to it has fallen out of the text.  Of course,  as
has already been pointed out, the two are so inextricably
interwoven in all military operations, that they cannot really be
considered apart.  Here we simply have an expression,   in
figurative language, of the almost infinite resource of a great
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 maneuvers.
     11.  The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in
turn.  It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end.
Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?
     12.  The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which
will even roll stones along in its course.
     13.  The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of
a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
     [The Chinese here is tricky and a certain key word in the
context it is used defies the best efforts of the translator.  Tu
Mu defines this word as "the measurement or estimation of
distance."  But this meaning does not quite fit the illustrative
simile in ss. 15.  Applying this definition to the falcon,  it
seems to me to denote that instinct of SELF RESTRAINT which keeps
the bird from swooping on its quarry until the right moment,
together with the power of judging when the right moment has
arrived.  The analogous quality in soldiers is the highly
important one of being able to reserve their fire until the very
instant at which it will be most effective.  When the  "Victory"
went into action at Trafalgar at hardly more than drifting pace,
she was for several minutes exposed to a storm of shot and shell
before replying with a single gun.  Nelson coolly waited until he
was within close range, when the broadside he brought to bear
worked fearful havoc on the enemy's nearest ships.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     [See supra, ss. 1.]

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

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

masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical
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."]


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

[Go to Index]

06. WEAK POINTS AND STRONG




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

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

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

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

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

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

if well supplied with food, he can starve him out;  if quietly
encamped, he can force him to move.
     5.  Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend;
march swiftly to places where you are not expected.
     6.  An army may march great distances without distress,  if
it marches through country where the enemy is not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     9.  O divine art of subtlety and secrecy!  Through you we
learn to be invisible, through you inaudible;
     [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 quarter."]

     14.  We can form a single united body, while the enemy must
split up into fractions.  Hence there will be a whole pitted
against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be
many to the enemy's few.
     15.  And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force
with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.
     16.  The spot where we intend to fight must not be made
known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible
attack at several different points;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     20.  But if neither time nor place be known, then the left
wing will be impotent to succor the right,  the right equally
impotent to succor the left, the van unable to relieve the rear,
or the rear to support the van.  How much more so if the furthest
portions of the army are anything under a hundred LI apart,  and
even the nearest are separated by several LI!
     [The Chinese of this last sentence is a little lacking in
precision,  but the mental picture we are required to draw is
probably that of an army advancing towards a given rendezvous in
separate columns, each of which has orders to be there on a fixed
date.  If the general allows the various detachments to proceed
at haphazard,  without precise instructions as to the time and
place of meeting, the enemy will be able to annihilate the army
in detail.  Chang Yu's note may be worth quoting here:  "If we do
not know the place where our opponents mean to concentrate or the
day on which they will join battle, our unity will be forfeited
through our preparations for defense, and the positions we hold
will be insecure.  Suddenly happening upon a powerful foe,  we
shall be brought to battle in a flurried condition, and no mutual
support will be possible between wings,  vanguard or rear,
especially if there is any great distance between the foremost
and hindmost divisions of the army."]

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

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

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

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

     23.  Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or
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 facing.
     32.  Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape,  so
in warfare there are no constant conditions.
     33.  He who can modify his tactics in relation to his
opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-
born captain.
     34.  The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) are
not always equally predominant;

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

the four seasons make way for each other in turn.

     [Literally, "have no invariable seat."]

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

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


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

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