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Art of War - Sun Tzu
Chapter 1 : Estimates
War is a matter of vital importance to the state; a matter
of life or death, the road either to survival or to ruin.
Hence, it is imperative that it be studied thoroughly.
Therefore, appraise it in terms of the five fundamental
factors and make comparisons of the various conditions of
the antagonistic sides in order to ascertain the results of
a war. The first of these factors is politics; the second,
weather; the third, terrain; the fourth, the commander; and
the fifth, doctrine. Politics means the thing which causes
the people to be in harmony with their ruler so that they
will follow him in disregard of their lives and without
fear of any danger. Weather signifies night and day, cold
and heat, fine days and rain, and change of seasons.
Terrain means distances, and refers to whether the ground
is traversed with ease or difficulty and to whether it is
open or constricted, and influences your chances of life or
death. The commander stands for the general's qualities of
wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.
Doctrine is to be understood as the organization of the
army, the gradations of rank among the officers, the
regulations of supply routes, and the provision of military
materials to the army.
These five fundamental factors are familiar to every
general. Those who master them win; those who do not are
defeated. Therefore, in laying plans, compare the following
seven elements, appraising them with the utmost care.
1.Which ruler is wise and more able? 2.Which commander is
more talented? 3.Which army obtains the advantages of
nature and the terrain? 4.In which army are regulations and
instructions better carried out? 5.Which troops are
stronger? 6.Which army has the better-trained officers and
men? 7.Which army administers rewards and punishments in a
more enlightened and correct way?
By means of these seven elements, I shall be able to
forecast which side will be victorious and which will be
The general who heeds my counsel is sure to win. Such a
general should be retained in command. One who ignores my
counsel is certain to be defeated. Such a one should be
Having paid attention to my counsel and plans, the general
must create a situation which will contribute to their
accomplishment. By "situation" I mean he should take the
field situation into consideration and act in accordance
with what is advantageous.
All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable
of attacking, feign incapacity; when active in moving
troops, feign inactivity. When near the enemy, make it seem
that you are far away; when far away, make it seem that you
are near. Hold out baits to lure the enemy. Strike the
enemy when he is in disorder. Prepare against the enemy
when he is secure at all points. Avoid the enemy for the
time being when he is stronger. If your opponent is of
choleric temper, try to irritate him. If he is arrogant,
try to encourage his egotism. If the enemy troops are well
prepared after reorganization, try to wear them down. If
they are united, try to sow dissension among them. Attack
the enemy where he is unprepared, and appear where you are
not expected. These are the keys to victory for a
strategist. It is not possible to formulate them in detail
Now, if the estimates made before a battle indicate
victory, it is because careful calculations show that your
conditions are more favorable than those of your enemy; if
they indicate defeat, it is because careful calculations
show that favorable conditions for a battle are fewer. With
more careful calculations, one can win; with less, one
cannot. How much less chance of victory has one who makes
no calculations at all! By this means, one can foresee the
outcome of a battle.
Chapter 2 : Waging War
In operations of war-when one thousand fast four-horse
chariots onethousand heavy chariots, and one thousand
mail-clad soldiers are required; when provisions are
transported for a thousand li; when thereare expenditures
at home and at the front, and stipends for entertainment of
envoys and advisers-the cost of materials such as glue and
lacquer, and of chariots and armor, will amount to one
thousand pieces of gold a day. One hundred thousand troops
may be dispatched only when this money is in hand.
A speedy victory is the main object in war. If this is long
in coming, weapons are blunted and morale depressed. If
troops are attacking cities, their strength will be
exhausted. When the army engages in protracted campaigns,
the resources of the state will fall short. When your
weapons are dulled and ardor dampened, your strength
exhausted and treasure spent, the chieftains of the
neighboring states will take advantage of your crisis to
act. In that case, no man, however wise, will be able to
avert the disastrous consequences that ensue. Thus, while
we have heard of stupid haste in war, we have not yet seen
a clever operation that was prolonged. for there has never
been a protracted war which benefited a country. Therefore,
those unable to understand the evils inherent in employing
troops are equally unable to understand the advantageous
ways of doing so.
Those adept in waging war do not require a second levy of
conscripts or more that two provisionings. They carry
military equipment from the homeland, but rely on the enemy
for provisions. Thus, the army is plentifully provided with
When a country is impoverished by military operations, it
is due to distant transportation; carrying supplies for
great distances renders the people destitute. Where troops
are gathered, prices go up. When prices rise, the wealth of
the people is drained away. When wealth is drained away,
the people will be afflicted with urgent and heavy
exactions. With this loss of wealth and exhaustion of
strength, the households in the country will be extremely
poor and seven-tenths of their wealth dissipated. As to
government expenditures, those due to broken-down chariots,
worn-out horses, armor and helmets, bows and arrows, spears
and shields, protective mantlets, draft oxen, and wagons
will amount to 60 percent of the total.
Hence, a wise general sees to it that his troops feed on
the enemy, for one zhong of the enemy's provisions is
equivalent to twenty of one's own and one shi of the
enemy's fodder to twenty shi of one's own.
In order to make the soldiers courageous in overcoming the
enemy, they must be roused to anger. In order to capture
more booty from the enemy, soldiers must have their
Therefore, in chariot fighting when more than ten chariots
are captured, reward those who take the first. Replace the
enemy's flags and banners with you own, mix the captured
chariots with yours, and mount them. Treat the prisoners of
war well, and care for them. This is called "winning a
battle and becoming stronger."
Hence, what is valued in war is victory, not prolonged
operations. And the general who understands how to employ
troops is the minister of the people's fate and arbiter of
the nation's destiny.
Chapter 3 : Offensive Strategy
Generally, in war the best policy is to take a state
intact; to ruin it is inferior to this. To capture the
enemy's entire army is better than to destroy it; to take
intact a regiment, a company, or a squad is better than to
destroy them. For to win one hundred victories in one
hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the
enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.
Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the
enemy's strategy. Next best is to disrupt his alliances by
diplomacy. The next best is to attack his army. And the
worst policy is to attack cities.Attack cities only when
there is no alternative because to prepare big shields and
wagons and make ready the necessary arms and equipment
require at least three months, and to pile up earthen ramps
against the walls requires an additional three months. The
general, unable to control his impatience, will order his
troops to swarm up the wall like ants, with the result that
one-third of them will be killed without taking the city.
Such is the calamity of attacking cities.
Thus, those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without
battle. They capture the enemy's cities without assaulting
them and overthrow his state without protracted operations.
Their aim is to take all under heaven intact by strategic
considerations. Thus, their troops are not worn out and
their gains will be complete. This is the art of offensive
Consequently, the art of using troops is this: When ten to
the enemy's one, surround him. When five times his
strength, attack him. If double his strength, divide him.
If equally matched, you may engage him with some good plan.
If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing. And if in
all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him, for a
small force is but booty for one more powerful if it fights
Now, the general is the assistant to the sovereign of the
state. If this assistance is all-embracing, the state will
surely be strong; if defective, the state will certainly be
Now, there are three ways in which a sovereign can bring
misfortune upon his army:
1.When ignorant that the army should not advance, to order
anadvance; or when ignorant that it should not retire, to
order a retirement. This is described as "hobbling the
army." 2.When ignorant of military affairs, to interfere in
their administration. This causes the officers to be
perplexed. 3.When ignorant of command problems, to
interfere with the direction of the fighting. This
engenders doubts in the minds of the officers.
If the army is confused and suspicious, neighboring rulers
will take advantage of this and cause trouble. This is what
is meant by: "A confused army leads to another's victory."
Thus, there are five points in which victory may be
1.He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be
victorious. 2.He who understands how to fight in accordance
with the strength of antagonistic forces will be
victorious. 3.He whose ranks are united in purpose will be
victorious. 4.He who is well prepared and lies in wait for
an enemy who is not well prepared will be victorious. 5.He
whose generals are able and not interfered with by the
sovereign will be victorious.
It is in these five matters that the way to victory is
Therefore, I say: Know your enemy and know yourself; in a
hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are
ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of
winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy
and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every
Chapter 4 : Dispositions
The skillful warriors in ancient times first made
themselves invincible and then awaited the enemy's moment
of vulnerability. Invincibility depends on oneself, but the
enemy' vulnerability on himself. It follows that those
skilled in war can make themselves invincible but cannot
cause an enemy to be certainly vulnerable. Therefore, it
can be said that, one may know how to win, but cannot
necessarily do so.
Defend yourself when you cannot defeat the enemy, and
attack the enemy when you can. One defends when his
strangth is inadequate; he attacks when it is abundant.
Those who are skilled in defense hide themselves as under
the nine-fold earth; those in attack flash forth as from
above the ninefold heavens. Thus, they are capable both of
protecting themselves and of gaining a complete victory.
To foresee a victory which the ordinary man can foresee is
not the acme of excellence. Neither is it if you triumph in
battle and are universally acclaimed "expert," for to lift
an autumn down requires no great strength, to distinguish
between the sun and moon is no test of vision, to hear the
thunderclap is no indication of acute hearing. In ancient
times, those called skilled in war conquered an enemy
easily conquered. And, therefore, the victories won by a
master of war gain him neither reputation for wisdom nor
merit for courage. For he wins his victories without
erring. Without erring he establishes the certainty of his
victory; he conquers an enemy already defeated. Therefore,
the skillful commander takes up a position in which he
cannot be defeated and misses no opportunity to overcome
him enemy. Thus, a victorious army always seeks battle
after his plans indicate that victory is possible under
them, whereas an army destined to defeat fights in the hope
of winning but without any planning. Those skilled in war
cultivate their policies and strictly adhere to the laws
and regulations. Thus, it is in their power to control
Now, the elements of the art of war are first, the
measurement of space; second, the estimation of quantities;
third, calculations; fourth, comparisons; and fifth,
chances of victory. Measurements of space are derived from
the ground. Quantities, comparisons from figures, and
victory from comparisons. Thus, a victorious army is as one
yi balanced against a grain, and a defeated army is as a
grain balanced against one yi.
It is because of disposition that a victorious general is
able to make his soldiers fight with the effect of pent-up
waters which, suddenly released, plunge into a bottomless
Chapter 5 : Posture of Army
Generally, management of a large force is the same as
management of a few men. It is a matter of organization.
And to direct a large force is the same as to direct a few
men. This is a matter of formations and signals. That the
army is certain to sustain the enemy's attack without
suffering defeat is due to operations of the extraordinary
and the normal forces. Troops thrown against the enemy as a
grindstone against eggs is an example of a solid acting
upon a void.
Generally, in battle, use the normal force to engage and
use the extraordinary forces to win. Now, the resources of
those skilled in the use of extraordinary forces are as
infinite as the heavens and earth, as inexhaustible as the
flow of the great rivers, for they end and recommence -
cyclical, as are the movements of the sun and moon. They
die away and are reborn - recurrent, as are the passing
seasons. The musical notes are the passing seasons. The
musical notes are only five in number, but their
combinations are so infinite that one cannot visualize them
all. The flavors are only five in number, but their blends
are so various that one cannot taste them all. In battle,
there are only the normal and extraordinary forces, but
their combinations are limitless; none can comprehend them
all. For these two forces are mutually reproductive. It is
like moving in an endless circle. Who can exhaust the
possibility of their combination?
When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its
momentum; when the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its
prey, it is because of timing. Thus, the momentum of one
skilled in war is overwhelming, and his attack precisely
timed. His potential is that of a fully drawn crossbow; his
timing, that of the release of the trigger.
In tumult and uproar, the battle seems chaotic, but there
must be no disorder in one's own troops. The battlefield
may seem in confusion and chaos, but one's array must be in
good order. That will be proof against defeat. Apparent
confusion is a product of good order; apparent cowardice,
of courage; apparent weakness, of strength. Order of
disorder depends on organization and direction; courage or
cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on
tactical dispositions. Thus, one who is skilled at making
the enemy move does so by creating a situation, according
to which the enemy will act. He entices the enemy with
something he is certain to want. He keeps the enemy on the
move by holding out bait and then attacks him with picked
Therefore, a skilled commander seeks victory from the
situation and does not demand it of his subordinates. He
selects suitable men and exploits the situation. He who
utilizes the situation uses his men in fighting as one
rolls logs or stones. Now, the nature of logs and stones is
that on stable ground they are static; on a slope, they
move. If square, they stop; if round, they roll. Thus, the
energy of troops skillfully commanded in battle may be
compared to the momentum of round boulders which roll down
from a mountain thousands of feet in height.
Chapter 6 : Void and Actuality
Generally, he who occupies the field of battle first and
awaits his enemy is at ease, and he who comes later to the
scene and rushes into the fight is weary. And, therefore,
those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle
and are not brought there by him. One able to make the
enemy come of his own accord does so by offering him some
advantage. And one able to stop him from coming does so by
preventing him. Thus, when the enemy is at ease, be able to
tire him, when well fed, to starve him, when at rest to
make him move.
Appear at places which he is unable to rescue; move swiftly
in a direction where you are least expected.
That you may march a thousand li without tiring yourself is
because you travel where there is no enemy. To be certain
to take what you attack is to attack a place the enemy does
not or cannot protect. To be certain to hold what you
defend is to defend a place the enemy dares not or is not
able to attack. Therefore, against those skilled in
attack, the enemy does not know where to defend, and
against the experts in defense, the enemy does not know
where to attack.
How subtle and insubstantial, that the expert leaves no
trace. How divinely mysterious, that he is inaudible. Thus,
he is master of his enemy's fate. His offensive will be
irresistible if he makes for his enemy's weak positions; he
cannot be overtaken when he withdraws if he moves swiftly.
When I wish o give battle, my enemy, even though protected
by high walls and deep moats, cannot help but engage me,
for I attack a position he must relieve. When I wish to
avoid battle, I may defend myself simply be drawing a line
on the ground; the enemy will be unable to attack me
because I divert him from going where he wishes.
If I am able to determine the enemy's dispositions while,
at the same time, I conceal my own, then I can concentrate
my forces and his must be divided. And if I concentrate
while he divides, I can use my entire strength to attack a
fraction of his. Therefore, I will be numerically superior.
Then, if I am able to use many to strike few at the
selected point, those I deal with will fall into hopeless
straits. The enemy must not know where I intend to give
battle. For if he does not know where I intend to give
battle, he must prepare in a great many places. And when he
prepares in a great many places, those I have to fight in
will be few. For if he prepares to the front, his rear will
be weak, and if to the rear, his front will be fragile. If
he strengthens his left, his right will be vulnerable, and
if his right, there will be few troops on his left. And
when he sends troops everywhere, he will be weak
everywhere. Numerical weakness comes from having to guard
against possible attacks; numerical strength from forcing
the enemy to make these preparations against us.
If one knows where and when a battle will be fought, his
troops can march a thousand li and meet on the field. But
if one knows neither the battleground nor the day of
battle, the left will be unable to aid the right and the
right will be unable to aid the left, and the van will be
unable to support the rear and the rear, the van. How much
more is this so when separated by several tens of li or,
indeed, be even a few! Although I estimate the troops of
Yue as many, of what benefit is this superiority with
respect to the outcome of war? Thus, I say that victory can
be achieved. For even if the enemy is numerically stronger,
I can prevent him from engaging.
Therefore, analyze the enemy's plans so that you will know
his shortcomings as strong points. Agitate him in order to
ascertain the pattern of his movement. Lure him out to
reveal his dispositions and ascertain his position. Launch
a probing attack in order to learn where his strength is
abundant and where deficient. The ultimate in disposing
one's troops is to conceal them without ascertainable
shape. Then the most penetrating spies cannot pry nor can
the wise lay plans against you. It is according to the
situations that plans are laid for victory, but the
multitude does not comprehend this. Although everyone can
see the outward aspects, none understands how the victory
is achieved. Therefore, when a victory is won, one's
tactics are not repeated. One should always respond to
circumstances in an infinite variety of ways.
Now, an army may be likened to water, for just as flowing
water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an
army should avoid strength and strike weakness. And as
water shapes its flow in accordance with the ground, so an
army manages its victory in accordance with the situation
of the enemy. And as water has no constant form, there are
in warfare no constant conditions. Thus, one able to win
the victory by modifying his tactics in accordance with the
enemy situation may be said to be divine. Of the five
elements [water, fire, metal, wood, and earth], none is
always predominant; of the four seasons, none lasts
forever; of the days, some are long and some short, and the
moon waxes and wanes. That is also the law of employing
Chapter 7 : Manuevering
Normally, in war, the general receives his commands from
the sovereign. During the process from assembling his
troops and mobilizing the people to blending the army into
a harmonious entity and encamping it, nothing is more
difficult than the art of maneuvering for advantageous
positions. What is difficult about it is to make the
devious route the most direct routeand divert the enemy by
enticing him with a bait. So doing, you may set out after
he does and arrive at the battlefield before him. One able
to do this shows the knowledge of the artifice of
Therefore, both advantage and danger are inherent in
maneuvering for an advantageous position. One who sets the
entire army in moriton with impediments to pursue an
advantageous position will not attain it. If he abandons
the camp and all the impediments to contend for advantage,
the stores will be lost. Thus, if one orders his men to
make forced marches without armor, stopping neithe day nor
night, covering double the usual distance at a stretch, and
doing a hundred li to wrest an advantage, it is probable
that the commanders will be captured. The stronger men will
arrive first and the feeble ones will struggle along
behind; so, if this method is used, only one-tenth of the
army will reach its destination. In a forced march of fifty
li, the commander of the van will probably fall, but half
the army will arrive. Ina forced march of thirty li, just
two-thirds will arrive. It follows that an army which lacks
heavy equipment, fodder, food, and stores will be lost.
One who is not acquainted with the designs of his neighbors
should not enter into aliances with them. Those who do not
know the conditions of mountains and forests, hazardous
defiles, marshes and swamps, cannot conduct the march of an
army. Those who do not use local guides are unable to
obtain the advantages of the ground. Now, war is based on
deception. Move when it is advantageous and create changes
in the situation by dispersal and concentration of
forces,. When campainging, be swift as the wind; in
leisurely marching, majestic as the forest; in raiding and
plundering, be fierce as fire; in standing, firm as the
mountains. When hiding, be as unfathomable as things behind
the clouds; when moving, fall like a thunderbolt. When you
plunder the countryside, divide your forces. When you
conquer territory, defend strategic points. Weigh the
situation before you move. He who knows the artifice of
diversion will be victorious. Such is the art of
Chapter 10: Terrain
Some terrain is easily passable, in some you get hung up,
some makes for a standoff, some is narrow, some is steep,
some is wide open.
When both sides can come and go, the terrain is said to be
easily passable. When the terrain is easily passable, take
up your position first, choosing the high and sunny side,
convenient to supply routes, for advantage in battle.
When you can go but have a hard time getting back, you are
said to be hung up. On this type of terrain, if the
opponent is unprepared, you will prevail if you go forth,
but if the enemy is prepared, if you go forth and do not
prevail you will have a hard time getting back, to your
When it is disadvantageous for either side to go forth, it
is called standoff terrain. On standoff terrain, even
though the opponent offers you an advantage, you do not go
for it -- you withdraw, inducing the enemy half out, and
then you attack, to your advantage.
On narrow terrain, if you are there first, you should fill
it up to await the opponent. If the opponent is there
first, do not pursue if the opponent fills the narrows.
Pursue if the opponent does not fill the narrows.
On steep terrain, if you are there first, you should occupy
the high and sunny side to await the opponent. If the
opponent is there first, withdraw from there and do not
On wide-open terrain, the force of momentum is equalized,
and it is hard to make a challenge, disadvantageous to
Understanding these six kinds of terrain is the highest
responsibility of the general, and it is imperative to
So among military forces there are those who rush, those
who tarry, those who fall, those who crumble, those who
riot, and those who get beaten. These are not natural
disasters, but faults of the generals.
Those who have equal momentum but strike ten with one are
in a rush. Those whose soldiers are strong but whose
officers are weak tarry. Those whose officers are strong
but whose soldiers are weak fall. When colonels are angry
and obstreperous, and fight on their own out of spite when
they meet opponents, and the generals do not know their
abilities, they crumble.
When the generals are weak and lack authority, instructions
are not clear, officers and soldiers lack consistency, and
they form battle lines every which way, this is riot. When
the generals cannot assess opponents, clash with much
greater numbers or more powerful forces, and do not sort
out the levels of skill among their own troops, these are
the ones who get beaten.
These six are ways to defeat. Understanding this is the
ultimate responsibility of the generals; they must be
The contour of the land is an aid to an army; sizing up
opponents to determine victory, assessing dangers and
distances, is the proper course of action for military
leaders. Those who do battle knowing these will win, those
who do battle without knowing these will lose.
Therefore, when the laws of war indicate certain victory it
is surely appropriate to do battle, even if the government
says there is to be no battle. If the laws of war do not
indicate victory, it is appropriate not to do battle, even
if the government orders war. Thus one advances without
seeking glory, retreats without avoiding blame, only
protecting people, to the benefit of the government as
well, thus rendering valuable service to the nation.
Look upon your soldiers as you do infants, and they
willingly go into deep valleys with you; look upon your
soldiers as beloved children, and they willingly die with
If you are so nice to them that you cannot employ them, so
kind to them that you cannot command them, so casual with
them that you cannot establish order, they are like spoiled
If you know your soldiers are capable of striking, but do
not know whether the enemy is invulnerable to a strike, you
have half a chance of winning. If you know the enemy is
vulnerable to a strike, but do not know if your soldiers
are incapable of making such a strike, you have half a
chance of winning. If you know the enemy is vulnerable to a
strike, and know your soldiers can make the strike, but do
not know if the lay of the land makes it unsuitable for
battle, you have half a chance of winning.
Therefore those who know martial arts do not wander when
they move, and do not become exhausted when they rise up.
So it is said that when you know yourself and others,
victory is not in danger; when you know sky and earth,
victory is inexhaustible.
Chapter 11: Nine Grounds
According to the rule of military operations, there are
nine kinds of grounds. Where local interests fight among
themselves on their own territory, this is called a ground
When you enter others' land but not deeply this is called
Land that would be advantageous to you if you got it and to
opponents if they got it is called ground of contention.
Land where you and others can come and go is called a
Land that is surrounded on three sides by competitors and
would give the first to get it access to all the people on
the continent is called intersecting ground.
When you enter deeply into others' land, past many cities
and towns, this is called heavy ground.
When you traverse mountain forests, steep defiles, marshes,
or any route difficult to travel, this is called bad
When the way in is narrow and the way out is circuitous, so
a small enemy force can strike you, even though your
When you will survive if you fight quickly and perish if
you do not, this is called dying ground.
So let there be not battle on a ground of dissolution, let
there be no stopping on light ground, let there be no
attack on a ground of contention, let there be no cutting
off of trafficked ground. On intersecting ground form
communications, on heavy ground plunder, on bad ground keep
going, on surrounded ground make plans, on dying ground
Those who are called the good militarists of old could make
opponents lose contact between front and back lines, lose
reliability between large and small groups, lose mutual
concern for the welfare of the different social classes
among them, lose mutual accommodation between the rulers
and the ruled, lose enlistments among the soldiers, lose
coherence within the armies. They went into action when it
was advantageous, stopped when it was not.
It may be asked, when a large, well-organized opponent is
about to come to you, how do you deal with it? The answer
is that you first take away what they like, and then they
will listen to you.
The condition of a military force is that its essential
factor is speed, taking advantage of others' failure to
catch up, going by routes they do not expect, attacking
where they are not on guard.
In general, the pattern of invasion is that invaders become
more intense the farther they enter alien territory, to the
point where the native rulership cannot overcome them.
Glean from rich fields, and the armies will have enough to
eat. Take care of your health and avoid stress, consolidate
your energy and build up your strength. maneuver your
troops and assess strategies so as to be unfathomable.
Put them in a spot where they have no place to go, and they
will die before fleeing. If they are to die there, what can
they not do? Warriors exert their full strength. When
warriors are in great danger, then they have no fear. When
there is nowhere to go they are firm, when they are deeply
involved they stick to it. If they have no choice, they
For this reason the soldiers are alert without being
drilled, enlist without being drafted, are friendly without
treaties, are trustworthy without commands.
Prohibit omens to get rid of doubt, and soldiers will never
leave you. If your soldiers have no extra goods, it is not
that they dislike material goods. If they have no more
life, it is not that they do not want to live long. On the
day the order to march goes out, the soldiers weep.
So a skillful military operation should be like a swift
snake that counters with its tail when someone strikes at
its head, counters with its head when someone strikes at
its tail, and counters with both head and tail when someone
strikes at its middle.
The question may be asked, can a military force be made to
be like this swift snake? The answer is that i can. Even
people who dislike each other, if in the same boat, will
help each other out in trouble.
Therefore, tethered horses and buried wheels are not
To even out bravery and make it uniform is the Tao of
organization. To be successful with both the hard and soft
is based on the pattern of the ground.
Therefore those skilled in military operations achieve
cooperation in a group so that directing the group is like
directing a single individual with no other choice.
The business of the general is quiet and secret, fair and
He can keep the soldiers unaware, make them ignorant.
He changes his actions and revises his plans, so that
people will not recognize them. He changes his abode and
goes by a circuitous route, so that people cannot
When a leader establishes a goal with the troops, he is
like one who climbs up to a high place and then tosses away
the ladder. When a leader enters deeply into enemy
territory with the troops, eh brings out their potential.
He has them burn the boats and destroy the pots, drives
them like sheep, none knowing where they are going.
To assemble armies and put them into dangerous situations
is the business of generals. Adaptations to different
grounds, advantages of contraction and expansion, patterns
of human feelings and conditions -- these must be
Generally, the way it is with invaders is that they unite
when deep in enemy territory but are prone to dissolve
while on the fringes. When you leave your country and cross
the border on a military operation, that is isolated
ground. When it is accessible from all directions, it is
trafficked ground. When penetration is deep, that is heavy
ground. When penetration is shallow, that is light ground.
When your back is to an impassable fastness and before you
are narrow straits, that is surrounded ground. When there
is nowhere to go, that is deadly ground.
So on a ground of dissolution, I would unify the minds of
the troops. On light ground, I would have them keep in
touch. On a ground of contention, I would have them follow
up quickly. On an intersecting ground, I would be careful
about defense. On a trafficked ground, I would make
alliances firm. On heavy ground, I would ensure continuous
supplies. On bad ground, I would urge them onward. On
surrounded ground, I would close up the gaps. On deadly
ground, I would indicate to them there is no surviving.
So the psychology of soldiers is to resist when surrounded,
fight when it cannot be avoided, and obey in extremes.
Therefore those who do not know the plans of competitors
cannot prepare alliances. Those who do not know the lay of
the land cannot maneuver their forces. Those who do not
use local guides cannot take advantage of the ground. The
military of an effective rulership must know all these
When the military of an effective rulership attacks a large
country, the people cannot unite. When its power overwhelms
opponents, alliances cannot come together.
Therefore if you do not compete for alliances anywhere, do
not foster authority anywhere, but just extend your
personal influence, threatening opponents, this makes town
and country vulnerable.
Give out rewards that are not in the rules, give out
directives that are not in the code.
Employ the entire armed forces like employing a single
person. Employ them with actual tasks, do not talk to them.
Motivate them with benefits, do not tell them about harm.
Confront them with annihilation, and they will then
survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will
then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able
to strive for victory.
So the task of a military operation is to accord
deceptively with the intentions of the enemy. If you
concentrate totally on the enemy, you can kill its military
leadership a thousand miles away. This is skillful
accomplishment of the task.
So on the day war is declared, borders are closed,
passports are torn up, and emissaries are not let through.
Matters are dealt with strictly at headquarters.
When opponents present openings, you should penetrate them
immediately. Get to what they want first, subtly anticipate
them. Maintain discipline and adapt to the enemy in order
ot determine the outcome of the war. Thus, at first you are
like a maiden, so the enemy opens his door; then you are
like a rabbit on the loose, so the enemy cannot keep you
Chapter 12: Fire Attack
There are five kinds of fire attack: burning people,
burning supplies, burning equipment, burning storehouses,
and burning weapons.
The use of fire must have a basis, and requires certain
tools. There are appropriate times for setting fires,
namely when the weather is dry and windy.
Generally, in fire attack it is imperative to follow up on
the crises caused by the fires. When fire is set inside an
enemy camp, then respond quickly from outside. If the
soldiers are calm when fire breaks out, wait -- do not
attack. When the fire reaches the height of its power,
follow up if possible, hold back if not.
When fire can be set out in the open, do not wait until it
can be set inside a camp -- set it when the time is right.
When fire is set upwind, do not attack downwind.
If it is windy during the day, the wind will stop at
Armies must know there are adaptations of the five kinds of
fire attack, and adhere to them scientifically.
So the use of fire to help an attack means clarity, the use
of water to help at attack means strength. Water can cut
off, but cannot plunder.
To win in battle or make a successful siege without
rewarding the meritorious is unlucky and earns the name of
stinginess. Therefore it is said that an enlightened
government considers this, an good military leadership
rewards merit. They do not mobilize when there is no
advantage, do not act when there is nothing to gain, do not
fight when there is no danger.
A government should not mobilize an army out of anger,
military leaders should not provoke war out of wrath. Act
when it is beneficial, desist if it is not. Anger can
revert to joy, wrath can revert to delight, but a nation
destroyed cannot be restored to existence, and the dead
cannot be restored to life. Therefore an enlightened
government is careful about this, a good military
leadership is alert to this. This is the way to secure a
nation and keep the armed forces whole.
Chapter 13: On The Use Of Spies
A major military operation is a severe drain on the nation,
and may be kept up for years in the struggle for one day's
victory. So to fail to know the conditions of opponents
because of reluctance to give rewards for intelligence is
extremely inhumane, uncharacteristic of a true military
leader, uncharacteristic of an assistant of the government,
uncharacteristic of a victorious chief. So what enables an
intelligent government and a wise military leadership to
overcome others and achieve extraordinary accomplishments
Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits,
cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by
calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who
know the conditions of the enemy.
There are five kinds of spy: The local spy, the inside spy,
the reverse spy, the dead spy, and the living spy. When the
five kinds of spies are all active, no one knows their
routes - this is called organizational genius, and is
valuable to the leadership.
Local spies are hired from among the people of a locality.
Inside spies are hired from among enemy officials. Reverse
spies are hired from among enemy spies. Dead spies transmit
false intelligence to enemy spies. Living spies come back
Therefore no one in the armed forces is treated as
familiarly as are spies, no one is given rewards as rich as
those given to spies, and no matter is more secret than
One cannot use spies without sagacity and knowledge, one
cannot use spies without humanity and justice, one cannot
get the truth from spies without subtlety. This is a very
delicate matter indeed. Spies are useful everywhere.
If an item of intelligence is heard before a spy reports
it, then both the spy and the one who told about it die.
Whenever you want to attack an army, besiege a city, or
kill a person, first you must know the identities of their
defending generals, their associates, their visitors, their
gatekeepers, and their chamberlains, so you have your spies
You must seek out enemy agents who have come to spy on you,
bribe them and induce them to stay with you, so you can use
them as reverse spies. By intelligence thus obtained, you
can find local spies and inside spies to employ. By
intelligence thus obtained, you can cause the
misinformation of dead spies to be conveyed to the enemy.
By intelligence thus obtained, you can get living spies to
work as planned.
It is essential for a leader to know about the five kinds
of espionage, and this knowledge depends on reverse spies,
so reverse spies must be treated well.
So only a brilliant ruler or a wise general who can use the
highly intelligent for espionage is sure of great success.
This is essential for military operations, and the armies
depend on this in their actions.
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"Sun Zi Bingfa" counts first
The beginning counts
The grandson said that, The soldier, important matter of the
country, dies lives the place, road of the life or death, cannot not
Therefore after it by five, the school counts, but rope its sentiment:
As soon as says that, two says the day, three says, four will say,
five will say the law
. Makes the people to on agreement also, may with it death, be
possible to live with it, the people are not crafty. The day, the
masculine and feminine elements, is cold
Hot weather, when system. High under, far and near, the danger
is easy, Guang Hsia, dies lives. The wisdom, the letter, the kernel,
will be brave
Is strict. The law, Qu Chih, the major road, the host uses.
Every this five, none who does not heard that, knows the victory, does
not know it
Extremely. Therefore the school counts, but rope its sentiment.
Said: The host 孰 is correct? 孰 having energy? World 孰? Law 孰
Ok? The soldier audiences 孰 are strong? The soldiers 孰
practice? The award and punishment 孰 is bright? I to this know the
victory and defeat.
Will listen to me to count, with must win, remains ﹔ Will not listen
to me to count, with will have to defeat, goes to it.
Counts the advantage to listen, is for it potential, assists besides.
The potential, but makes the power because of the advantage.
Soldier, 詭道. Therefore can show cannot, with shows does not use,
nearly shows far, far shows near. Advantage
But tempts it, randomly takes it, solid prepares it, strong
evades it, anger but 撓 it, inferior and arrogant it, is lost works
But leaves it, catches off guard, takes by surprise. Victory
of the this military commander, cannot first pass on.
The husband has not fought but 廟算 the victor, must calculate many
also ﹔ Has not fought but 廟算 extremely, must calculate few.
Calculates the victory, little does not calculate
Victory, much less incalculably! I by this view it, the
victory and defeat see.
"Sun Zi Bingfa" battles second
The grandson said that, Every resorts to arms the law, spreads
the vehicle thousand four-horse teams, changes the vehicle 千乘,
brings the armor ten ten thousand, great distance 饋糧, then inside
and outside expense
Using of the guest, 膠漆 the material, presenting of the
vehicle armor, the daily expense daughter, then ten ten thousand
teachers lift. It with fights also expensively
Victory, long time then the poor soldiers frustrate sharply,
attacks the city then the strength bends, long storm Shi Tsekuo uses
the insufficiency. The husband poor soldiers frustrate sharply, Qu
Then feudal lord while its shortcoming, although has the wise,
cannot be friendly after that. Therefore soldier Wen Chosu, has not
seen the skillful long time. Husband
The soldier long time but the country advantages, have not
had. Therefore does not know resorts to arms the evil, then cannot
know resorts to arms the advantage.
Friendly resorting to arms, service no longer nationality, grain not
three years ﹔ Uses to the country, because of grain to enemy,
therefore the armed force food may the foot.
The country poor Yu shihche far loses, far loses then common people
poor. Near shi Chekuei sells, expensively sells then the common people
use up, the wealth uses up is anxious to the earthen mound
Service. The strength bends, the wealth 殫, in area south of
Yellow River empty to family. Expense of the common people, ten goes
its seven ﹔ Expense of the government: The broken armed force the
Armor Zhou Shihnu, the halberd shield shades the scull, the
earthen mound cow large cart, ten goes its six.
Therefore 智將 service food Yu Ti. A food enemy clock, when my 20
clocks ﹔ ○ a pole stone, when my 20 stones.
Therefore killing the enemy, anger also ﹔ Takes advantage of the
enemy, goods. Therefore the vehicle war, results in the vehicle ten to
ride already on, enjoys it first, but
The flags, Che Tsaer rides it, dies friendly raises it, is
says the victory enemy to benefit strongly.
Therefore soldier expensive victory, inexpensive long time.
Old friend soldier, department of life people, host of the national
"Sun Zi Bingfa" the stratagem attacks third
The stratagem attacks
The grandson said that, Every resorts to arms the law, the
nation for on, the broken country is next ﹔ The entire armed forces
for on, the broken armed force are next ﹔ The entire travel is on,
The broken travel is next ﹔ All dies for on, broken dies is
next ﹔ The entire five for on, the broken five is next. Therefore is
ever-victorious, non- friendly it
Friendly also ﹔ Does not fight accuses falsely the soldier,
Therefore on the soldier reveals a plot, next cuts down the junction,
next cuts down the soldier, its 下攻 city. Attacks law of the city
for to have already. Repairs the scull ○ ○,
After has the instrument, in March but becomes, is apart from
○, after also in March but already. Extremely its indignation, but
蟻附 it, kills the gentleman for three minute
One, but the city pullers, this does not attack the disaster.
Therefore friendly resorting to arms, accuses falsely the soldier
antiwar but. Pulls out city of the person but
Must attacks also, country of the broken person but the non-
long time also, must by the entire struggle to the world, therefore
soldier not, but benefits may entire, this stratagem attacks it
Therefore resorts to arms the law, ten pieces encircle it, five pieces
attack it, doubles then 分之, the enemy can fight it, are few can
run away it, not if
Then can evade it. Therefore the young enemy is firm, the
Husband, country auxiliary. Auxiliary Zhou Tsekuo must be strong, the
auxiliary crack then the country must be weak.
Therefore Mr. therefore trouble Yu chunche three: Did not know the
armed force may not then say it to enter, did not know the armed force
may not draw back says it
Draws back, is for the nose rope armed force ﹔ Does not know
matter of the three services, but politics of the same three services,
then sergeant is puzzled ﹔ Does not know power of the three
But being appointed of the same three services, then sergeant
doubts. The three services already are puzzled also doubt, then the
feudal lord difficultly to, is says the chaotic armed force to direct
The old friend victory has five: The knowledge may fight with may not
the fighting victory, knows the audiences widowed customer to win,
about with wanting victory, by Yu
Treats the unexpectedness victory, will be able but Mr. not
the imperial victory. This five, the knowledge wins the road.
Therefore said that, Knows oneself and the other side, hundred fights
does not present ﹔ Does not know other but the friend, a win defeat
﹔ Does not know the other not friend, each war must
"Sun Zi Bingfa" armed force shape fourth
Armed force shape
The grandson said that, Clever in fighting past, first for may
not win, waits on the enemy to be possible to win. Cannot win in the
oneself, may win in the enemy. Therefore
Clever in fighting, can for not be possible to win, cannot
cause the enemy to have to be possible to win. Therefore said that,
The victory may know, but may not be. May not the victor
Defends also ﹔ But the victor, attacks. The rules are
insufficient, attack have -odd. Friendly defender, Tibet under nine
places ﹔ Friendly attacking
Moves above nine days. Therefore can protect oneself but the
Sees exceeds the numerous people to know, non- friendly friendliness
also ﹔ Defeats but the world to say friendly, non- friendly
friendliness. Therefore lifts the fall
For the multi- strength, does not see the livelihood is not
the clear vision, heard the thunder is not the clever ear. Ancient
so-called clever in fighting, wins to the easy victor
. Therefore clever in fighting victory also, non- wisdom name,
not brave merit. Therefore it defeats not too. Not too, its handles
must win, victory
Already defeated. Therefore clever in fighting, stands to the
invincible position, but does not lose defeat the enemy. Therefore
after the victory soldier first wins but seeks battle
After The defeated and dispersed soldiers first fight but
strive for victory. Friendly resorting to arms, cultivates oneself
according to religious doctrine to guarantee the law, therefore can
politics of for the victory or defeat.
Military tactics: As soon as says, two says the quantity, three says
the number, four says stated, five says the victory. Lives, a fresh
quantity, measures the fresh number,
The number lives stated that, calls the fresh victory.
Therefore victory soldier if to the yi calls 銖, the defeated and
dispersed soldiers if to 銖 call the yi.
War of people victor also, if definitely ponding to thousand 仞
"Sun Zi Bingfa" 兵勢 fifth
The grandson said that, Every governs the audiencesSource(s): 孩子讀英文版兵法