Sun Tzu on The Art of War, by Lionel Giles (trans, ed)

With critical notes by Lionel Giles.

May, 1994  [Etext #132]

This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN.

                    SUN TZU ON THE ART OF WAR 


          Translated from the Chinese with Introduction 
                       and Critical Notes 


                       LIONEL GILES, M.A. 

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

                     First Published in 1910 


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


Preface to the PG Etext

     When Lionel Giles began his translation of Sun Tzu's ART OF 
WAR, the work was virtually unknown in Europe.  Its introduction 
to Europe began in 1782 when a French Jesuit Father living in 
China, Joseph Amiot, acquired a copy of it, and translated it 
into French.  It was not a good translation because, according to 
Dr. Giles, "[I]t contains a great deal that Sun Tzu did not 
write, and very little indeed of what he did." 
     The first translation into English was published in 1905 in 
Tokyo by Capt. E. F. Calthrop, R.F.A.  However, this translation 
is, in the words of Dr. Giles, "excessively bad."  He goes 
further in this criticism:  "It is not merely a question of 
downright blunders, from which none can hope to be wholly exempt.  
Omissions were frequent; hard passages were willfully distorted 
or slurred over.  Such offenses are less pardonable.  They would 
not be tolerated in any edition of a Latin or Greek classic, and 
a similar standard of honesty ought to be insisted upon in 
translations from Chinese."  In 1908 a new edition of Capt. 
Calthrop's translation was published in London.  It was an 
improvement on the first -- omissions filled up and numerous 
mistakes corrected -- but new errors were created in the process.  
Dr. Giles, in justifying his translation, wrote:  "It was not 
undertaken out of any inflated estimate of my own powers; but I 
could not help feeling that Sun Tzu deserved a better fate than 
had befallen him, and I knew that, at any rate, I could hardly 
fail to improve on the work of my predecessors." 
     Clearly, Dr. Giles' work established much of the groundwork 
for the work of later translators who published their own 
editions.  Of the later editions of the ART OF WAR I have 
examined;  two feature Giles' edited translation and notes,  the 
other two present the same basic information from the ancient 
Chinese commentators found in the Giles edition.  Of these four, 
Giles' 1910 edition is the most scholarly and presents the reader 
an incredible amount of information concerning Sun Tzu's text, 
much more than any other translation. 
     The Giles' edition of the ART OF WAR, as stated above, was a 
scholarly work.  Dr. Giles was a leading sinologue at the time 
and an assistant in the Department of Oriental Printed Books and 
Manuscripts in the British Museum.  Apparently he wanted to 
produce a definitive edition, superior to anything else that 
existed and perhaps something that would become a standard 
translation.  It was the best translation available for 50 years.  
But apparently there was not much interest in Sun Tzu in English-
speaking countries since the it took the start of the Second 
World War to renew interest in his work.  Several people 
published unsatisfactory English translations of Sun Tzu.  In 
1944,  Dr. Giles' translation was edited and published in the 
United States in a series of military science books.  But it 
wasn't until 1963 that a good English translation (by Samuel B. 
Griffith and still in print) was published that was an equal to 
Giles' translation.  While this translation is more lucid than 
Dr. Giles' translation, it lacks his copious notes that make his 
so interesting.
     Dr. Giles produced a work primarily intended for scholars of 
the Chinese civilization and language.  It contains the Chinese 
text of Sun Tzu, the English translation, and voluminous notes 
along with numerous footnotes.  Unfortunately, some of his notes 
and footnotes contain Chinese characters; some are completely 
Chinese.  Thus,  a conversion to a Latin alphabet etext was 
difficult.  I did the conversion in complete ignorance of Chinese 
(except for what I learned while doing the conversion).  Thus, I 
faced the difficult task of paraphrasing it while retaining as 
much of the important text as I could.  Every paraphrase 
represents a loss; thus I did what I could to retain as much of 
the text as possible.  Because the 1910 text contains a Chinese 
concordance, I was able to transliterate proper names, books, and 
the like at the risk of making the text more obscure.  However, 
the text, on the whole, is quite satisfactory for the casual 
reader, a transformation made possible by conversion to an etext.  
However, I come away from this task with the feeling of loss 
because I know that someone with a background in Chinese can do a 
better job than I did; any such attempt would be welcomed. 

                              Bob Sutton 


Sun Wu and his Book

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

       Sun Tzu Wu was a native of the Ch`i State.  His ART OF 
  WAR brought him to the notice of Ho Lu, [2] King of Wu.  Ho 
  Lu said to him:  "I have carefully perused your 13 chapters.  
  May I submit your theory of managing soldiers to a slight 
       Sun Tzu replied:  "You may."
       Ho Lu asked:  "May the test be applied to women?"
       The answer was again in the affirmative, so arrangements 
  were made to bring 180 ladies out of the Palace.  Sun Tzu 
  divided them into two companies, and placed one of the King's 
  favorite concubines at the head of each.  He then bade them 
  all take spears in their hands, and addressed them thus:   "I 
  presume you know the difference between front and back, right 
  hand and left hand?"
       The girls replied:  Yes.
       Sun Tzu went on:  "When I say "Eyes front,"  you must 
  look straight ahead.  When I say "Left turn," you must face 
  towards your left hand.  When I say "Right turn,"  you must 
  face towards your right hand.  When I say "About turn,"  you 
  must face right round towards your back."
       Again the girls assented.  The words of command having 
  been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes 
  in order to begin the drill.  Then, to the sound of drums, he 
  gave the order "Right turn."  But the girls only burst out 
  laughing.  Sun Tzu said:  "If words of command are not clear 
  and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then 
  the general is to blame."
       So he started drilling them again, and this time gave 
  the order "Left turn," whereupon the girls once more burst 
  into fits of laughter.  Sun Tzu:  "If words of command are 
  not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly 
  understood, the general is to blame.  But if his orders ARE 
  clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the 
  fault of their officers."
       So saying, he ordered the leaders of the two companies 
  to be beheaded.  Now the king of Wu was watching the scene 
  from the top of a raised pavilion; and when he saw that his 
  favorite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly 
  alarmed and hurriedly sent down the following message:   "We 
  are now quite satisfied as to our general's ability to handle 
  troops.  If We are bereft of these two concubines, our meat 
  and drink will lose their savor.  It is our wish that they 
  shall not be beheaded."
       Sun Tzu replied:  "Having once received His Majesty's 
  commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain 
  commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am 
  unable to accept."
       Accordingly,  he had the two leaders beheaded,  and 
  straightway installed the pair next in order as leaders in 
  their place.  When this had been done, the drum was sounded 
  for the drill once more; and the girls went through all the 
  evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching 
  ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect 
  accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound.  Then 
  Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying:  "Your soldiers, 
  Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for 
  your majesty's inspection.  They can be put to any use that 
  their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and 
  water, and they will not disobey."
       But the King replied:  "Let our general cease drilling 
  and return to camp.  As for us, We have no wish to come down 
  and inspect the troops."
       Thereupon Sun Tzu said:  "The King is only fond of 
  words, and cannot translate them into deeds." 
       After that, Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how 
  to handle an army, and finally appointed him general.  In the 
  west, he defeated the Ch`u State and forced his way into 
  Ying, the capital; to the north he put fear into the States 
  of Ch`i and Chin, and spread his fame abroad amongst the 
  feudal princes.  And Sun Tzu shared in the might of the King.

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

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

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

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

     It is obvious enough that Ssu-ma Ch`ien at least had no 
doubt about the reality of Sun Wu as an historical personage; and 
with one exception, to be noticed presently, he is by far the 
most important authority on the period in question.  It will not 
be necessary, therefore, to say much of such a work as the WU 
YUEH CH`UN CH`IU, which is supposed to have been written by Chao 
Yeh of the 1st century A.D.  The attribution is somewhat 
doubtful; but even if it were otherwise, his account would be of 
little value, based as it is on the SHIH CHI and expanded with 
romantic details.  The story of Sun Tzu will be found, for what 
it is worth, in chapter 2.  The only new points in it worth 
noting are:  (1)  Sun Tzu was first recommended to Ho Lu by Wu 
Tzu-hsu.  (2) He is called a native of Wu.  (3) He had previously 
lived a retired life, and his contemporaries were unaware of his 
     The following passage occurs in the Huai-nan Tzu:   "When 
sovereign and ministers show perversity of mind, it is impossible 
even for a Sun Tzu to encounter the foe."  Assuming that this 
work is genuine (and hitherto no doubt has been cast upon it), we 
have here the earliest direct reference for Sun Tzu, for Huai-nan 
Tzu died in 122 B.C., many years before the SHIH CHI was given to 
the world.
     Liu Hsiang (80-9 B.C.) says:  "The reason why Sun Tzu at the 
head of 30,000 men beat Ch`u with 200,000 is that the latter were 
     Teng Ming-shih informs us that the surname "Sun" was 
bestowed on Sun Wu's grandfather by Duke Ching of Ch`i [547-490 
B.C.].  Sun Wu's father Sun P`ing, rose to be a Minister of State 
in Ch`i, and Sun Wu himself, whose style was Ch`ang-ch`ing,  fled 
to Wu on account of the rebellion which was being fomented by the 
kindred of T`ien Pao.  He had three sons, of whom the second, 
named Ming, was the father of Sun Pin.  According to this account 
then, Pin was the grandson of Wu, which, considering that Sun 
Pin's victory over Wei was gained in 341 B.C., may be dismissed 
as chronological impossible.  Whence these data were obtained by 
Teng Ming-shih I do not know, but of course no reliance whatever 
can be placed in them.
     An interesting document which has survived from the close of 
the Han period is the short preface written by the Great Ts`ao 
Ts`ao, or Wei Wu Ti, for his edition of Sun Tzu.  I shall give it 
in full:  --

       I have heard that the ancients used bows and arrows to 
  their advantage. [10]  The SHU CHU mentions "the army" among 
  the "eight objects of government."  The I CHING says:  
  "'army' indicates firmness and justice;  the experienced 
  leader will have good fortune."  The SHIH CHING says:  "The 
  King rose majestic in his wrath, and he marshaled his 
  troops."  The Yellow Emperor, T`ang the Completer and Wu Wang 
  all used spears and battle-axes in order to succor their 
  generation.  The SSU-MA FA says:  "If one man slay another of 
  set purpose, he himself may rightfully be slain."  He who 
  relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he 
  who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish.  
  Instances of this are Fu Ch`ai [11] on the one hand and Yen 
  Wang on the other. [12]  In military matters, the Sage's rule 
  is normally to keep the peace, and to move his forces only 
  when occasion requires.  He will not use armed force unless 
  driven to it by necessity.
       Many books have I read on the subject of war and 
  fighting; but the work composed by Sun Wu is the profoundest 
  of them all.  [Sun Tzu was a native of the Ch`i state,  his 
  personal name was Wu.  He wrote the ART OF WAR in 13 chapters 
  for Ho Lu, King of Wu.  Its principles were tested on women, 
  and he was subsequently made a general.  He led an army 
  westwards,  crushed the Ch`u state and entered Ying the 
  capital.  In the north, he kept Ch`i and Chin in awe.  A 
  hundred years and more after his time, Sun Pin lived. He was 
  a descendant of Wu.] [13]  In his treatment of deliberation 
  and planning, the importance of rapidity in taking the field, 
  [14] clearness of conception, and depth of design,  Sun Tzu 
  stands beyond the reach of carping criticism.  My 
  contemporaries, however, have failed to grasp the full 
  meaning of his instructions, and while putting into practice 
  the smaller details in which his work abounds,  they have 
  overlooked its essential purport.  That is the motive which 
  has led me to outline a rough explanation of the whole.

     One thing to be noticed in the above is the explicit 
statement that the 13 chapters were specially composed for King 
Ho Lu.  This is supported by the internal evidence of I. ss. 15, 
in which it seems clear that some ruler is addressed.
     In the bibliographic section of the HAN SHU, there is an 
entry which has given rise to much discussion:  "The works of Sun 
Tzu of Wu in 82 P`IEN (or chapters), with diagrams in 9 CHUAN."  
It is evident that this cannot be merely the 13 chapters known to 
Ssu-ma Ch`ien,  or those we possess today.  Chang Shou-chieh 
refers to an edition of Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR of which the "13 
chapters" formed the first CHUAN, adding that there were two 
other CHUAN besides.  This has brought forth a theory, that the 
bulk of these 82 chapters consisted of other writings of Sun Tzu 
--  we should call them apocryphal -- similar to the WEN TA, of 
which a specimen dealing with the Nine Situations [15] is 
preserved in the T`UNG TIEN, and another in Ho Shin's commentary.  
It is suggested that before his interview with Ho Lu, Sun Tzu had 
only written the 13 chapters, but afterwards composed a sort of 
exegesis in the form of question and answer between himself and 
the King.  Pi I-hsun, the author of the SUN TZU HSU LU, backs 
this up with a quotation from the WU YUEH CH`UN CH`IU:  "The King 
of Wu summoned Sun Tzu, and asked him questions about the art of 
war.  Each time he set forth a chapter of his work, the King 
could not find words enough to praise him."  As he points out, if 
the whole work was expounded on the same scale as in the above-
mentioned fragments, the total number of chapters could not fail 
to be considerable.  Then the numerous other treatises attributed 
to Sun Tzu might be included.  The fact that the HAN CHIH 
mentions no work of Sun Tzu except the 82 P`IEN, whereas the Sui 
and T`ang bibliographies give the titles of others in addition to 
the "13 chapters," is good proof, Pi I-hsun thinks, that all of 
these were contained in the 82 P`IEN.  Without pinning our faith 
to the accuracy of details supplied by the WU YUEH CH`UN CH`IU, 
or admitting the genuineness of any of the treatises cited by Pi 
I-hsun,  we may see in this theory a probable solution of the 
mystery.  Between Ssu-ma Ch`ien and Pan Ku there was plenty of 
time for a luxuriant crop of forgeries to have grown up under the 
magic name of Sun Tzu, and the 82 P`IEN may very well represent a 
collected edition of these lumped together with the original 
work.  It is also possible, though less likely, that some of them 
existed in the time of the earlier historian and were purposely 
ignored by him. [16]
     Tu Mu's conjecture seems to be based on a passage which 
states:  "Wei Wu Ti strung together Sun Wu's Art of War," which 
in turn may have resulted from a misunderstanding of the final 
words of Ts`ao King's preface.  This, as Sun Hsing-yen points 
out, is only a modest way of saying that he made an explanatory 
paraphrase, or in other words, wrote a commentary on it.  On the 
whole, this theory has met with very little acceptance.  Thus,  
the SSU K`U CH`UAN SHU says:  "The mention of the 13 chapters in 
the SHIH CHI shows that they were in existence before the HAN 
CHIH, and that latter accretions are not to be considered part of 
the original work.  Tu Mu's assertion can certainly not be taken 
as proof."
     There is every reason to suppose, then, that the 13 chapters 
existed in the time of Ssu-ma Ch`ien practically as we have them 
now.  That the work was then well known he tells us in so many 
words.  "Sun Tzu's 13 Chapters and Wu Ch`i's Art of War are the 
two books that people commonly refer to on the subject of 
military matters.  Both of them are widely distributed, so I will 
not discuss them here."  But as we go further back, serious 
difficulties begin to arise.  The salient fact which has to be 
faced is that the TSO CHUAN, the greatest contemporary record, 
makes no mention whatsoever of Sun Wu, either as a general or as 
a writer.  It is natural, in view of this awkward circumstance, 
that many scholars should not only cast doubt on the story of Sun 
Wu as given in the SHIH CHI, but even show themselves frankly 
skeptical as to the existence of the man at all.  The most 
powerful presentment of this side of the case is to be found in 
the following disposition by Yeh Shui-hsin: [17] --

       It is stated in Ssu-ma Ch`ien's history that Sun Wu was 
  a native of the Ch`i State, and employed by Wu; and that in 
  the reign of Ho Lu he crushed Ch`u, entered Ying, and was a 
  great general.  But in Tso's Commentary no Sun Wu appears at 
  all.  It is true that Tso's Commentary need not contain 
  absolutely everything that other histories contain.  But Tso 
  has not omitted to mention vulgar plebeians and hireling 
  ruffians such as Ying K`ao-shu, [18] Ts`ao Kuei,  [19],  Chu 
  Chih-wu and Chuan She-chu [20].  In the case of Sun Wu, whose 
  fame and achievements were so brilliant, the omission is much 
  more glaring.  Again, details are given, in their due order, 
  about his contemporaries Wu Yuan and the Minister P`ei.  [21]  
  Is it credible that Sun Wu alone should have been passed 
       In point of literary style, Sun Tzu's work belongs to 
  the same school as KUAN TZU, [22] LIU T`AO, [23] and the YUEH 
  YU [24] and may have been the production of some private 
  scholar living towards the end of the "Spring and Autumn" or 
  the beginning of the "Warring States" period. [25]  The story 
  that his precepts were actually applied by the Wu State, is 
  merely the outcome of big talk on the part of his followers.
       From the flourishing period of the Chou dynasty [26] 
  down to the time of the "Spring and Autumn," all military 
  commanders were statesmen as well, and the class of 
  professional generals, for conducting external campaigns, did 
  not then exist.  It was not until the period of the "Six 
  States" [27] that this custom changed.  Now although Wu was 
  an uncivilized State, it is conceivable that Tso should have 
  left unrecorded the fact that Sun Wu was a great general and 
  yet held no civil office?  What we are told, therefore, about 
  Jang-chu [28] and Sun Wu, is not authentic matter,  but the 
  reckless fabrication of theorizing pundits.  The story of Ho 
  Lu's experiment on the women, in particular, is utterly 
  preposterous and incredible.

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

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

He also says: --

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     The sentence quoted above from VI. ss. 21 hardly strikes me 
as one that could have been written in the full flush of victory.  
It seems rather to imply that, for the moment at least, the tide 
had turned against Wu, and that she was getting the worst of the 
struggle.  Hence we may conclude that our treatise was not in 
existence in 505, before which date Yueh does not appear to have 
scored any notable success against Wu.  Ho Lu died in 496,  so 
that if the book was written for him, it must have been during 
the period 505-496, when there was a lull in the hostilities,  Wu 
having presumably exhausted by its supreme effort against Ch`u.  
On the other hand, if we choose to disregard the tradition 
connecting Sun Wu's name with Ho Lu, it might equally well have 
seen the light between 496 and 494, or possibly in the period 
482-473, when Yueh was once again becoming a very serious menace. 
[33]  We may feel fairly certain that the author, whoever he may 
have been, was not a man of any great eminence in his own day.  
On this point the negative testimony of the TSO CHUAN far 
outweighs any shred of authority still attaching to the SHIH CHI, 
if once its other facts are discredited.  Sun Hsing-yen, however, 
makes a feeble attempt to explain the omission of his name from 
the great commentary.  It was Wu Tzu-hsu, he says, who got all 
the credit of Sun Wu's exploits, because the latter  (being an 
alien) was not rewarded with an office in the State.
     How then did the Sun Tzu legend originate?  It may be that 
the growing celebrity of the book imparted by degrees a kind of 
factitious renown to its author.  It was felt to be only right 
and proper that one so well versed in the science of war should 
have solid achievements to his credit as well.  Now the capture 
of Ying was undoubtedly the greatest feat of arms in Ho Lu's 
reign;  it made a deep and lasting impression on all the 
surrounding states, and raised Wu to the short-lived zenith of 
her power.  Hence, what more natural, as time went on, than that 
the acknowledged master of strategy, Sun Wu, should be popularly 
identified with that campaign, at first perhaps only in the sense 
that his brain conceived and planned it; afterwards, that it was 
actually carried out by him in conjunction with Wu Yuan, [34]  Po 
P`ei and Fu Kai? 
     It is obvious that any attempt to reconstruct even the 
outline of Sun Tzu's life must be based almost wholly on 
conjecture.  With this necessary proviso, I should say that he 
probably entered the service of Wu about the time of Ho Lu's 
accession,  and gathered experience, though only in the capacity 
of a subordinate officer, during the intense military activity 
which marked the first half of the prince's reign. [35]   If he 
rose to be a general at all, he certainly was never on an equal 
footing with the three above mentioned.  He was doubtless present 
at the investment and occupation of Ying,  and witnessed Wu's 
sudden collapse in the following year.  Yueh's attack at this 
critical juncture, when her rival was embarrassed on every side, 
seems to have convinced him that this upstart kingdom was the 
great enemy against whom every effort would henceforth have to be 
directed.  Sun Wu was thus a well-seasoned warrior when he sat 
down to write his famous book, which according to my reckoning 
must have appeared towards the end, rather than the beginning of 
Ho Lu's reign.  The story of the women may possibly have grown 
out of some real incident occurring about the same time.  As we 
hear no more of Sun Wu after this from any source, he is hardly 
likely to have survived his patron or to have taken part in the 
death-struggle with Yueh, which began with the disaster at Tsui-
     If these inferences are approximately correct, there is a 
certain irony in the fate which decreed that China's most 
illustrious man of peace should be contemporary with her greatest 
writer on war.

The Text of Sun Tzu

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

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

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

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

     The three individuals here referred to had evidently been 
occupied on the text of Sun Tzu prior to Sun Hsing-yen's 
commission,  but we are left in doubt as to the work they really 
accomplished.  At any rate, the new edition,  when ultimately 
produced, appeared in the names of Sun Hsing-yen and only one co-
editor Wu Jen-shi.  They took the "original edition"  as their 
basis, and by careful comparison with older versions, as well as 
the extant commentaries and other sources of information such as 
the I SHUO,  succeeded in restoring a very large number of 
doubtful passages,  and turned out, on the whole, what must be 
accepted as the closes approximation we are ever likely to get to 
Sun Tzu's original work.  This is what will hereafter be 
denominated the "standard text."
     The copy which I have used belongs to a reissue dated 1877.  
it is in 6 PEN, forming part of a well-printed set of 23 early 
philosophical works in 83 PEN. [38]  It opens with a preface by 
Sun Hsing-yen (largely quoted in this introduction),  vindicating 
the traditional view of Sun Tzu's life and performances,  and 
summing up in remarkably concise fashion the evidence in its 
favor.  This is followed by Ts`ao Kung's preface to his edition, 
and the biography of Sun Tzu from the SHIH CHI, both translated 
above.  Then come, firstly, Cheng Yu-hsien's I SHUO,  [39]  with 
author's preface, and next, a short miscellany of historical and 
bibliographical information entitled SUN TZU HSU LU, compiled by 
Pi I-hsun.  As regards the body of the work,  each separate 
sentence is followed by a note on the text, if required, and then 
by the various commentaries appertaining to it,  arranged in 
chronological order.  These we shall now proceed to discuss 
briefly, one by one.

The Commentators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     11.  CHANG YU.  The list closes with a commentator of no 
great originality perhaps, but gifted with admirable powers of 
lucid exposition.  His commentator is based on that of Ts`ao 
Kung, whose terse sentences he contrives to expand and develop in 
masterly fashion.  Without Chang Yu, it is safe to say that much 
of Ts`ao Kung's commentary would have remained cloaked in its 
pristine obscurity and therefore valueless.  His work is not 
mentioned in the Sung history, the T`UNG K`AO, or the YU HAI, but 
it finds a niche in the T`UNG CHIH, which also names him as the 
author of the "Lives of Famous Generals." [46]
     It is rather remarkable that the last-named four should all 
have flourished within so short a space of time.  Ch`ao Kung-wu 
accounts for it by saying:  "During the early years of the Sung 
dynasty the Empire enjoyed a long spell of peace, and men ceased 
to practice the art of war.  but when [Chao] Yuan-hao's rebellion 
came [1038-42] and the frontier generals were defeated time after 
time,  the Court made strenuous inquiry for men skilled in war, 
and military topics became the vogue amongst all the high 
officials.  Hence it is that the commentators of Sun Tzu in our 
dynasty belong mainly to that period. [47]

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

Appreciations of Sun Tzu

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

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

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

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

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

Apologies for War

     Accustomed as we are to think of China as the greatest 
peace-loving nation on earth, we are in some danger of forgetting 
that her experience of war in all its phases has also been such 
as no modern State can parallel.  Her long military annals 
stretch back to a point at which they are lost in the mists of 
time.  She had built the Great Wall and was maintaining a huge 
standing army along her frontier centuries before the first Roman 
legionary was seen on the Danube.  What with the perpetual 
collisions of the ancient feudal States, the grim conflicts with 
Huns,  Turks and other invaders after the centralization of 
government,   the terrific upheavals which   accompanied   the 
overthrow of so many dynasties, besides the countless rebellions 
and minor disturbances that have flamed up and flickered out 
again one by one, it is hardly too much to say that the clash of 
arms has never ceased to resound in one portion or another of the 
     No less remarkable is the succession of illustrious captains 
to whom China can point with pride.  As in all countries,  the 
greatest are fond of emerging at the most fateful crises of her 
history.  Thus, Po Ch`i stands out conspicuous in the period when 
Ch`in was entering upon her final struggle with the remaining 
independent states.  The stormy years which followed the break-up 
of the Ch`in dynasty are illuminated by the transcendent genius 
of Han Hsin.  When the House of Han in turn is tottering to its 
fall,  the great and baleful figure of Ts`ao Ts`ao dominates the 
scene.  And in the establishment of the T`ang dynasty,one of the 
mightiest tasks achieved by man, the superhuman energy of Li 
Shih-min (afterwards the Emperor T`ai Tsung) was seconded by the 
brilliant strategy of Li Ching.  None of these generals need fear 
comparison with the greatest names in the military history of 
     In spite of all this, the great body of Chinese sentiment, 
from Lao Tzu downwards, and especially as reflected in the 
standard literature of Confucianism,  has been   consistently 
pacific and intensely opposed to militarism in any form.  It is 
such an uncommon thing to find any of the literati defending 
warfare on principle,  that I have thought it worth while to 
collect and translate a few passages in which the unorthodox view 
is upheld.  The following, by Ssu-ma Ch`ien, shows that for all 
his ardent admiration of Confucius, he was yet no advocate of 
peace at any price: --

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

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

       War may be defined as punishment, which is one of the 
  functions of government.  It was the profession of Chung Yu 
  and Jan Ch`iu, both disciples of Confucius.  Nowadays,  the 
  holding of trials and hearing of litigation, the imprisonment 
  of offenders and their execution by flogging in the market-
  place,  are all done by officials.  But the wielding of huge 
  armies, the throwing down of fortified cities, the hauling of 
  women and children into captivity, and the beheading of 
  traitors  --  this is also work which is done by officials.  
  The objects of the rack and of military weapons   are 
  essentially the same.  There is no intrinsic difference 
  between the punishment of flogging and cutting off heads in 
  war.  For the lesser infractions of law, which are easily 
  dealt with, only a small amount of force need be employed:  
  hence the use of military weapons and wholesale decapitation.  
  In both cases, however, the end in view is to get rid of 
  wicked people, and to give comfort and relief to the good....
       Chi-sun asked Jan Yu, saying:  "Have you, Sir,  acquired 
  your military aptitude by study, or is it innate?"   Jan Yu 
  replied:   "It has been acquired by study." [59]   "How can 
  that be so," said Chi-sun, "seeing that you are a disciple of 
  Confucius?"  "It is a fact," replied Jan Yu; "I was taught by 
  Confucius.  It is fitting that the great Sage should exercise 
  both civil and military functions, though to be sure my 
  instruction in the art of fighting has not yet gone very 
       Now,  who the author was of this rigid distinction 
  between the "civil" and the "military," and the limitation of 
  each to a separate sphere of action, or in what year of which 
  dynasty it was first introduced, is more than I can say.  
  But,  at any rate, it has come about that the members of the 
  governing class are quite afraid of enlarging on military 
  topics,  or do so only in a shamefaced manner.  If any are 
  bold enough to discuss the subject, they are at once set down 
  as eccentric individuals of coarse and brutal propensities.  
  This is an extraordinary instance in which,  through sheer 
  lack of reasoning, men unhappily lose sight of fundamental 
       When the Duke of Chou was minister under Ch`eng Wang, he 
  regulated ceremonies and made music, and venerated the arts 
  of scholarship and learning; yet when the barbarians of the 
  River Huai revolted, [60] he sallied forth and chastised 
  them.  When Confucius held office under the Duke of Lu, and a 
  meeting was convened at Chia-ku, [61] he said:  "If pacific 
  negotiations are in progress, warlike preparations should 
  have been made beforehand."  He rebuked and shamed the 
  Marquis of Ch`i, who cowered under him and dared not proceed 
  to violence.  How can it be said that these two great Sages 
  had no knowledge of military matters?

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

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

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

       Confucius said:  "I am unversed in military matters." 
  [65]  He also said:  "If I fight,  I conquer."   Confucius 
  ordered ceremonies and regulated music.  Now war constitutes 
  one of the five classes of State ceremonial, [66]  and must 
  not be treated as an independent branch of study.  Hence, the 
  words "I am unversed in" must be taken to mean that there are 
  things which even an inspired Teacher does not know.  Those 
  who have to lead an army and devise stratagems,  must learn 
  the art of war.  But if one can command the services of a 
  good general like Sun Tzu, who was employed by Wu Tzu-hsu, 
  there is no need to learn it oneself.  Hence the remark added 
  by Confucius:  "If I fight, I conquer."
       The men of the present day, however, willfully interpret 
  these words of Confucius in their narrowest sense, as though 
  he meant that books on the art of war were not worth reading.  
  With blind persistency, they adduce the example of Chao Kua, 
  who pored over his father's books to no purpose, [67]  as a 
  proof that all military theory is useless.  Again,  seeing 
  that books on war have to do with such things as opportunism 
  in designing plans, and the conversion of spies,  they hold 
  that the art is immoral and unworthy of a sage.  These people 
  ignore the fact that the studies of our scholars and the 
  civil administration of our officials also require steady 
  application and practice before efficiency is reached.  The 
  ancients were particularly chary of allowing mere novices to 
  botch their work. [68]  Weapons are baneful [69] and fighting 
  perilous;  and useless unless a general is in constant 
  practice, he ought not to hazard other men's lives in battle. 
  [70]  Hence it is essential that Sun Tzu's 13 chapters should 
  be studied.
      Hsiang Liang used to instruct his nephew Chi [71] in the 
  art of war.  Chi got a rough idea of the art in its general 
  bearings,  but would not pursue his studies to their proper 
  outcome,  the consequence being that he was finally defeated 
  and overthrown.  He did not realize that the tricks and 
  artifices of war are beyond verbal computation.  Duke Hsiang 
  of Sung and King Yen of Hsu were brought to destruction by 
  their misplaced humanity.  The treacherous and underhand 
  nature of war necessitates the use of guile and stratagem 
  suited to the occasion.  There is a case on record of 
  Confucius himself having violated an extorted oath, [72]  and 
  also of his having left the Sung State in disguise. [73]  Can 
  we then recklessly arraign Sun Tzu for disregarding truth and 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1.  SHI CHI, ch. 65.

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

3.  SHI CHI, ch. 130.

4.  The appellation of Nang Wa.

5.  SHI CHI, ch. 31.

6.  SHI CHI, ch. 25.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15.  See chap. XI.

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

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

18.  He hardly deserves to be bracketed with assassins.

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

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

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

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

23.  See infra, beginning of INTRODUCTION.

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

25.  About 480 B.C.

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

27.  In the 3rd century B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49.  See XI. ss. 58, note.

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

51.  SAN KUO CHIH, ch. 54.

52.  SUNG SHIH, ch. 365 ad init.

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

54.  Ch. 140.

55.  See IV. ss. 3.

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

57.  The TSO CHUAN.

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

59.  Cf. SHIH CHI, ch 47.

60.  See SHU CHING, preface ss. 55.

61.  See SHIH CHI, ch. 47.

62.  Lun Yu, XV. 1.

63.  I failed to trace this utterance.

64.  Supra.

65.  Supra.

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

67.  See XIII. ss. 11, note.

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

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

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

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

72.  SHIH CHI, ch. 47.

73.  SHIH CHI, ch. 38.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

     8.  EARTH comprises distances, great and small; danger and 
security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and 
     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 
     11.  These five heads should be familiar to every general:  
he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will 
     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 

     [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 
     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 

     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.

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



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

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

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

with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI,

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

the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment 
of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on 
chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of 
silver per day.  Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 
     2.  When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long 
in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will 
be damped.  If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your 
     3.  Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of 
the State will not be equal to the strain.
     4.  Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, 
your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains 
will spring up to take advantage of your extremity.  Then no man, 
however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must 
     5.  Thus,  though we have heard of stupid haste in war, 
cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

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

     6.  There is no instance of a country having benefited from 
prolonged warfare.
     7.  It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the 
evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of 
carrying it on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     12.  When their substance is drained away,  the peasantry 
will be afflicted by heavy exactions.
     13,  14.  With this loss of substance and exhaustion of 
strength,  the homes of the people will be stripped bare,  and 
three-tenths of their income will be dissipated;

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

while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, 
breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, 
protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to 
four-tenths of its total revenue.
     15.  Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the 
enemy.  One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to 
twenty of one's own, and likewise a single PICUL of his provender 
is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.

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

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

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

     17.  Therefore in chariot fighting,  when ten or more 
chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the 
first.  Our own flags should be substituted for those of the 
enemy,  and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with 
ours.  The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.
     18.  This is called, using the conquered foe to augment 
one's own 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 

     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 first."]

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

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

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

     [When he is already at full strength.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     [Straightway, without waiting for any further advantage.]

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

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

     9.  If equally matched, we can offer battle;

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

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

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

if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.
     10.  Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small 
force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.
     11.  Now the general is the bulwark of the State;  if the 
bulwark is complete at all points; the State will be strong;  if 
the bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.

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

     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 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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 
                    "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 

     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 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

     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 

     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 

     [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 

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

     [See supra, ss. 1.]

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

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

masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical 

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

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

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

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



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

     1.  Sun Tzu said:  Whoever is first in the field and awaits 
the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is 
second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive 
     2.  Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the 
enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

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

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

Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable 
     24.  Carefully compare the opposing army with your own,  so 
that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is 

     [Cf. IV. ss. 6.]

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

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

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

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

     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 

the four seasons make way for each other in turn.

     [Literally, "have no invariable seat."]

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     9.  If you march fifty LI in order to outmaneuver the enemy, 
you will lose the leader of your first division, and only half 
your force will reach the goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

your compactness that of the forest.

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

     18.  In raiding and plundering be like fire,

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

is immovability like a mountain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     21.  Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.

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

     22.  He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of 

     [See supra, SS. 3, 4.]

Such is the art of maneuvering.

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

     23.  The Book of Army Management says:

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

On the field of battle,

     [Implied, though not actually in the Chinese.]

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

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

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

     [Chuang Yu quotes a saying: "Equally guilty are those who 
advance against orders and those who retreat against orders."  Tu 
Mu tells a story in this connection of Wu Ch`i,  when he was 
fighting against the Ch`in State.  Before the battle had begun, 
one of his soldiers, a man of matchless daring, sallied forth by 
himself, captured two heads from the enemy, and returned to camp.  
Wu Ch`i had the man instantly executed,  whereupon an officer 
ventured to remonstrate, saying:  "This man was a good soldier, 
and ought not to have been beheaded."  Wu Ch`i replied:  "I fully 
believe he was a good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he 
acted without orders."]

This is the art of handling large masses of men.
     26.  In night-fighting, then, make much use of signal-fires 
and drums,  and in fighting by day, of flags and banners,  as a 
means of influencing the ears and eyes of your army.

     [Ch`en Hao alludes to Li Kuang-pi's night ride to Ho-yang at 
the head of 500 mounted men; they made such an imposing display 
with torches, that though the rebel leader Shih Ssu-ming had a 
large army, he did not dare to dispute their passage.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.

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

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

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

Do not press a desperate foe too hard.

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

     37.  Such is the art of warfare.

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

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


                   VIII.  VARIATION IN TACTICS

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

     1.   Sun Tzu said:   In war,  the general receives his 
commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates 
his forces.

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

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

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

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

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

armies which must be not attacked,

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

towns which must be besieged,

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

positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign 
which must not be obeyed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     8.  If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way, 
we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our 

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

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

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

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

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

and make trouble for them,

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

and keep them constantly engaged;

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

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

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

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

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

     (2)  cowardice, which leads to capture;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

     2.  Camp in high places,

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

facing the sun.

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

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

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

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

     [Li Ch`uan alludes to the great victory won by Han Hsin over 
Lung Chu at the Wei River.  Turning to the CH`IEN HAN SHU,  ch. 
34, fol. 6 verso, we find the battle described as follows:   "The 
two armies were drawn up on opposite sides of the river.  In the 
night,  Han Hsin ordered his men to take some ten thousand sacks 
filled with sand and construct a dam higher up.  Then,  leading 
half his army across, he attacked Lung Chu; but after a time, 
pretending to have failed in his attempt, he hastily withdrew to 
the other bank.  Lung Chu was much elated by this unlooked-for 
success, and exclaiming:  "I felt sure that Han Hsin was really a 
coward!" he pursued him and began crossing the river in his turn.  
Han Hsin now sent a party to cut open the sandbags,  thus 
releasing a great volume of water, which swept down and prevented 
the greater portion of Lung Chu's army from getting across.  He 
then turned upon the force which had been cut off,   and 
annihilated it, Lung Chu himself being amongst the slain.  The 
rest of the army, on the further bank, also scattered and fled in 
all directions.]

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

     [For fear of preventing his crossing.]

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

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

Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

which enabled the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four several 

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

     11.  All armies prefer high ground to low.

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

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

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

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

     [Chang Yu says:  "The dryness of the climate will prevent 
the outbreak of illness."]

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

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

confined places,

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

tangled thickets,

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


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

and crevasses,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.
     23.  When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the 
sign of chariots advancing; when the dust is low, but spread over 
a wide area, it betokens the approach of infantry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     27.  When there is much running about

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

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

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

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

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

Clamor by night betokens nervousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

too many punishments betray a condition of dire distress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a certain road to victory.

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

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

the gain will be mutual.

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

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



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

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

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

(2)  entangling ground;

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

(3)  temporizing ground;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and fighting will be to your disadvantage.

     13.  These six are the principles connected with Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     [See supra, ss. 13.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



     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 invader.]

     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 

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

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

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

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

     8.  Mountain forests,

     [Or simply "forests."]

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

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

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

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

On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your 

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

     13.  On serious ground, gather in plunder.

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

In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march.

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

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

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

     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 

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

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

Keep your army continually on the move,

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

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

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

Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength.

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

     24.  Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of 
fear.  If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm.  If 
they are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front.  If 
there is no help for it, they will fight hard.
     25.  Thus,  without waiting to be marshaled,  the soldiers 
will be constantly on the qui vive; without waiting to be asked, 
they will do your will;

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

without restrictions,  they will be faithful;  without giving 
orders, they can be trusted.
     26.  Prohibit the taking of omens,  and do away with 
superstitious doubts.  Then,  until death itself comes,   no 
calamity need be 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 

     [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." [1] ]

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

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

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

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

Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail;  strike 
at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its 
middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.
     30.  Asked if an army can be made to imitate the SHUAI-JAN,

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

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

     [Cf. VI. ss. 21.]

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

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

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

     [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 

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

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

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

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

     35.  It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus 
ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order.
     36.  He must be able to mystify his officers and men by 
false reports and appearances,

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

and thus keep them in total ignorance.

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

     37.  By altering his arrangements and changing his plans,

     [Wang Hsi thinks that this means not using the same 
stratagem 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 why."]

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

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

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

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

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

the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics;  and the 
fundamental laws of human nature:  these are things that must 
most certainly be studied.
     42.  When invading hostile territory, the general principle 
is,  that penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a 
short way means dispersion.

     [Cf. supra, ss. 20.]

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

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

When there are means of communication on all four sides,  the 
ground is one of intersecting highways.
     44.  When you penetrate deeply into a country, it is serious 
ground.  When you penetrate but a little way,  it is facile 
     45.  When you have the enemy's strongholds on your rear, and 
narrow passes in front, it is hemmed-in ground.  When there is no 
place of refuge at all, it is desperate ground.
     46.  Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my men 
with unity of purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

     [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, 

     52.  We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes 
until we are acquainted with their designs.  We are not fit to 
lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of 
the   country--its mountains and forests,  its pitfalls   and 
precipices,  its marshes and swamps.  We shall be unable to turn 
natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.

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

     53.  To be ignored of any one of the following four or five 
principles does not befit a warlike prince.
     54.  When a warlike prince attacks a powerful state,  his 
generalship shows itself in preventing the concentration of the 
enemy's forces.  He overawes his opponents, and their allies are 
prevented from joining against him.

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

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

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

Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow their 

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

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

When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell 
them nothing when the situation is gloomy.
     58.  Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; 
plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety.

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

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

     [Danger has a bracing effect.]

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

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

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

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

we shall succeed in the long run

     [Literally, "after a thousand LI."]

in killing the commander-in-chief.

     [Always a great point with the Chinese.]

     62.  This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer 
     63.  On the day that you take up your command,  block the 
frontier passes, destroy the official tallies,

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

and stop the passage of all emissaries.

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

     64.  Be stern in the council-chamber,

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

so that you may control the situation.

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

     65.  If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.
     66.  Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear,

     [Cf. supra, ss. 18.]

and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground.

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

     67.  Walk in the path defined by rule,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



     [Rather more than half the chapter (SS. 1-13) is devoted to 
the subject of fire, after which the author branches off into 
other 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! [1]  The only course open 
to us now is to make an assault by fire on the barbarians under 
cover of night,  when they will not be able to discern our 
numbers.  Profiting by their panic, we shall exterminate them 
completely;  this will cool the King's courage and cover us with 
glory,  besides ensuring the success of our mission.'   the 
officers all replied that it would be necessary to discuss the 
matter first with the Intendant.  Pan Ch`ao then fell into a 
passion:   'It is today,' he cried, 'that our fortunes must be 
decided!   The Intendant is only a humdrum civilian,  who on 
hearing of our project will certainly be afraid, and everything 
will be brought to light.  An inglorious death is no worthy fate 
for valiant warriors.'   All then agreed to do as he wished.  
Accordingly,  as soon as night came on, he and his little band 
quickly made their way to the barbarian camp.  A strong gale was 
blowing at the time.  Pan Ch`ao ordered ten of the party to take 
drums and hide behind the enemy's barracks, it being arranged 
that when they saw flames shoot up, they should begin drumming 
and yelling with all their might.  The rest of his men,  armed 
with bows and crossbows, he posted in ambuscade at the gate of 
the camp.  He then set fire to the place from the windward side, 
whereupon a deafening noise of drums and shouting arose on the 
front and rear of the Hsiung-nu, who rushed out pell-mell in 
frantic disorder.  Pan Ch`ao slew three of them with his own 
hand,  while his companions cut off the heads of the envoy and 
thirty of his suite.  The remainder, more than a hundred in all, 
perished in the flames.  On the following day,  Pan Ch`ao, 
divining his thoughts, said with uplifted hand:  'Although you 
did not go with us last night, I should not think, Sir, of taking 
sole credit for our exploit.'  This satisfied Kuo Hsun, and Pan 
Ch`ao,  having sent for Kuang, King of Shan-shan, showed him the 
head of the barbarian envoy.  The whole kingdom was seized with 
fear and trembling,  which Pan Ch`ao took steps to allay by 
issuing a public proclamation.  Then, taking the king's sons as 
hostage, he returned to make his report to Tou Ku."  HOU HAN SHU, 
ch. 47, ff. 1, 2.] ]

the second is to burn stores;

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

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

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

the material for raising fire should always be kept in 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 Cross-bar;

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

for these four are all days of rising wind.
     5.  In attacking with fire, one should be prepared to meet 
five possible developments:
     6.  (1) When fire breaks out inside to enemy's camp, respond 
at once with an attack from without.
     7.  (2)  If there is an outbreak of fire, but the enemy's 
soldiers remain quiet, bide your time and do not attack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     13.  Hence those who use fire as an aid to the attack show 
intelligence; those who use water as an aid to the attack gain an 
accession of strength.
     14.  By means of water, an enemy may be intercepted, but not 
robbed of all his belongings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     20.  Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be 
succeeded by content.
     21.  But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never 
come again into being;

     [The Wu State was destined to be a melancholy example of 
this 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]   "Unless you enter the tiger's lair, you cannot get hold of 
the tiger's cubs."



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nor by any deductive calculation.

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

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

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

     7.  Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five classes:  
(1)  Local spies;  (2) inward spies; (3)  converted spies;  (4) 
doomed spies; (5) surviving spies.
     8.  When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none can 
discover the secret system.  This is called "divine manipulation 
of the threads."  It is the sovereign's most precious faculty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     16.  They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and 

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

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

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

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

     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-

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

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

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

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

     24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving spy 
can be used on appointed occasions.
     25.  The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is 
knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, 
in the first instance, from the converted spy.

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

Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the 
utmost liberality.
     26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty

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

was due to I Chih

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

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

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

who had served under the Yin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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