The Art of War
By Sun Tzu
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The Art of War
By Sun Tzu
Translated by Lionel Giles
I. Laying Plans
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
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.
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.
7. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times
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.
10. By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling
of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the
officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army,
and the control of military expenditure.
11. These five heads should be familiar to every general:
he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will
12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine
the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in
13. (1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral
law? (2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie
the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline
most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side
are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the
greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
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!
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.
18. All warfare is based on deception.
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.
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.
23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces
are united, separate 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. 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.
II. Waging War
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, with provisions enough to carry
them a thousand li, 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 strength.
3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of
the State will not be equal to the strain.
4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped,
your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will
spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise,
will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness
has never been seen associated with long delays.
6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from
7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the
evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying
8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither
are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.
9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on
the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its
10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be
maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an
army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished.
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
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; 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.
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.
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
19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not
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.
III. Attack by Stratagem
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.
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.
3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's
plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces;
the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; 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. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various
implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of
mounds over against the walls will take three months
5. The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch
his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third
of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the
disastrous effects of a siege.
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
7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of
the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete.
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; if twice as numerous,
to divide our army into two.
9. If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly
inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; 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
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.
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
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
15. (3) By employing the officers of his army without discrimination,
through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances.
This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
16. But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble
is sure to come from the other feudal princes. This is simply bringing
anarchy into the army, and flinging victory away.
17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for
victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
(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.
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.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every
IV. Tactical Dispositions
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
3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against
defeat, 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.
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; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth
from the topmost heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have ability
to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is
8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the
common herd is not the acme of excellence.
9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and
conquer and the whole Empire says, "Well done!"
10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength;
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.
11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who
not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for
wisdom nor credit for courage.
13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. 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
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.
16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and
strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control
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
19. A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a pound's
weight placed in the scale against a single grain.
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.
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.
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
5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining
battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure
6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible
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.
7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations
of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be
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
14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset,
and prompt in his decision.
15. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow;
decision, to the releasing of a 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
17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated
fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates
18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply
a question of subdivision; concealing courage under a show of timidity
presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is
to be effected by tactical dispositions.
19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the
move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will
act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at
20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then
with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.
21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined
energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability
to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.
22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become
as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a
log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on
a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped,
to go rolling down.
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.
VI. Weak Points and Strong
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
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.
4. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; 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.
7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you
only attack places which are undefended.You can ensure the safety of your
defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.
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.
9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we
learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; 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
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.
13. By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining
invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's
must be divided.
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
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; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions,
the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately
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.
18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against
possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to
make these preparations against us.
19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle,
we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to
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
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.
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.
23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or
inactivity. 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
25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you
can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions, and you will
be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of
the wisest brains.
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
28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one
victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of
29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its
natural course runs away from high places and hastens
30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to
strike at what is weak.
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
34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth)
are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make way for each
other in turn. There are short days and long; the moon has its periods
of waning and waxing.
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
3. After that, comes tactical maneuvering, than which there
is nothing more difficult. The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists
in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into
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
5. Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined
multitude, most dangerous.
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.
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, doing a hundred LI in order to wrest an advantage,
the leaders of all your three divisions will fall into the hands of the
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
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.
10. If you march thirty LI with the same object, two-thirds
of your army will arrive.
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
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.
15. In war, practice dissimulation, and you will
16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must
be decided by circumstances.
17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness
that of the forest.
18. In raiding and plundering be like fire, is immovability
like a mountain.
19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and
when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
20. When you plunder a countryside, let the spoil be divided
amongst your men; when you capture new territory, cut it up into allotments
for the benefit of the soldiery.
21. Ponder and deliberate before you make a
22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation.
Such is the art of maneuvering.
23. The Book of Army Management says: On the field of battle,
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
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.
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.
27. A whole army may be robbed of its spirit; a commander-in-chief
may be robbed of his presence of mind.
28. Now a soldier's spirit is keenest in the morning; 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
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
32. To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners
are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm
and confident array:--this is the art of studying circumstances.
33. It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against
the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill.
34. Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not
attack soldiers whose temper is keen.
35. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere
with an army that is returning home.
36. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do
not press a desperate foe too hard.
37. Such is the art of warfare.
VIII. Variation in Tactics
1. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands
from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his
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. In hemmed-in situations, you must resort
to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight.
3. There are roads which must not be followed, armies which
must be not attacked, towns which must be besieged, positions which must
not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be
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.
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.
7. Hence in the wise leader's plans, considerations of advantage
and of disadvantage will be blended together.
8. If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way,
we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our
9. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we
are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from
10. Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on them;
and make trouble for them, and keep them constantly engaged; hold out specious
allurements, and make them rush to any given point.
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; (2) cowardice, which leads
to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a
delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for
his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.
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.
IX. The Army on the March
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.
2. Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights
in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare.
3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from
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.
5. If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet
the invader near a river which he has to cross.
6. Moor your craft higher up than the enemy, and facing
the sun. Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy. So much for river
7. In crossing salt-marshes, your sole concern should be
to get over them quickly, without any delay.
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. 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, so that the danger may
be in front, and safety lie behind. So much for campaigning in flat
10. These are the four useful branches of military knowledge
which enabled the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four several
11. All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places
12. If you are careful of your men, and camp on hard ground,
the army will be free from disease of every kind, and this will spell
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
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, confined places, tangled thickets,
quagmires and crevasses, should be left with all possible speed and not
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.
18. When the enemy is close at hand and remains quiet, he
is relying on the natural strength of his position.
19. When he keeps aloof and tries to provoke a battle, he
is anxious for the other side to advance.
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. The appearance of a number of screens in the midst
of thick grass means that the enemy wants to make us
22. The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an
ambuscade. Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is
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. 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
24. Humble words and increased preparations are signs that
the enemy is about to advance. 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
27. When there is much running about 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.
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. 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
34. When an army feeds its horses with grain and kills its
cattle for food, 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.
35. The sight of men whispering together in small knots
or speaking in subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and
36. Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at the
end of his resources; too many punishments betray a condition of dire
37. To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at
the enemy's numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence.
38. When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths,
it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.
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
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.
What we can do is simply to concentrate all our available strength, keep
a close watch on the enemy, and obtain reinforcements.
41. He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his
opponents is sure to be captured by them.
42. If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached
to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will
be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you,
punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless.
43. Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance
with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. 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
45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always
insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be
1. Sun Tzu said: We may distinguish six kinds of terrain,
to wit: (1) Accessible ground; (2) entangling ground; (3) temporizing
ground; (4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; (6) positions at a
great distance from the enemy.
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. 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
6. When the position is such that neither side will gain
by making the first move, it is called temporizing ground.
7. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should
offer us an attractive bait, 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
8. With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them
first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the
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
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.
11. If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow
him, but retreat and try to entice him away.
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, and fighting will be to your disadvantage.
13. These six are the principles connected with Earth. The
general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study
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) rout.
15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled
against another ten times its size, the result will be the flight of the
16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers
too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong
and the common soldiers too weak, the result is 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.
18. When the general is weak and without authority; when
his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixes duties assigned
to officers and men, 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.
20. These are six ways of courting defeat, which must be
carefully noted by the general who has attained a responsible
21. The natural formation of the country is the soldier's
best ally; 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
24. The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats
without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country
and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
XI. The Nine Situations
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
2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it
is dispersive ground.
3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to
no great distance, it is facile ground.
4. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage
to either side, is contentious ground.
5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is
6. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states,
so that he who occupies it first has most of the Empire at his command,
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
8. Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and fens--all
country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult
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
10. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction
by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.
11. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile
ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not.
12. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way.
On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your
13. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground,
keep steadily on the march.
14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate
15. Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how
to drive a wedge between the enemy's front and rear; 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.
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."
19. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the
enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded
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.
22. Carefully study the well-being of your men, and do not
overtax them. Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength. Keep your
army continually on the move, and devise unfathomable
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. Officers and men alike will put
forth their uttermost strength.
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; 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
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
28. On the day they are ordered out to battle, your soldiers
may weep, those sitting up bedewing their garments, and those lying down
letting the tears run down their cheeks. But let them once be brought
to bay, and they will display the courage of a Chu or a
29. The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan.
Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the ChUng mountains. 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,
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
31. Hence it is not enough to put one's trust in the tethering
of horses, and the burying of chariot wheels in the
32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up
one standard of courage which all must reach.
33. How to make the best of both strong and weak--that is
a question involving the proper use of ground.
34. Thus the skillful general conducts his army just as
though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the
35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus
ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain
36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false
reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total
37. By altering his arrangements and changing his plans,
he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge. By shifting his camp and
taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his
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
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.
40. To muster his host and bring it into danger:--this may
be termed the business of the general.
41. The different measures suited to 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
42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle
is, that penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short way
43. When you leave your own country behind, and take your
army across neighborhood territory, you find yourself on critical ground.
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. On facile ground, I would see that there is
close connection between all parts of my army.
47. On contentious ground, I would hurry up my
48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my defenses.
On ground of intersecting highways, I would consolidate my
49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a continuous
stream of supplies. On difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along
50. On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of retreat.
On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness
of saving their lives.
51. For it is the soldier's disposition to offer an obstinate
resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help himself,
and to obey promptly when he has fallen into danger.
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.
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.
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. Thus he is able to
capture their cities and overthrow their kingdoms.
56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders
without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle
a whole army as though you had to do with but a single
57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let
them know your design. 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
59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm's
way that is capable of striking a blow for victory.
60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating
ourselves to the enemy's purpose.
61. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank, we shall
succeed in the long run in killing the commander-in-chief.
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, and stop the passage of
64. Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control
65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush
66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear,
and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground.
67. Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself
to the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle.
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
XII. The Attack by Fire
1. Sun Tzu said: There are five ways of attacking with
fire. The first is to burn soldiers in their camp; the second is to burn
stores; the third is to burn baggage trains; the fourth is to burn arsenals
and magazines; the fifth is to hurl dropping fire amongst the
2. In order to carry out an attack, we must have means available.
The material for raising fire should always be kept in
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; for these four are all days of rising
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.
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
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.
10. (5) When you start a fire, be to windward of it. Do
not attack from the leeward.
11. A wind that rises in the daytime lasts long, but a night
breeze soon falls.
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.
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
14. By means of water, an enemy may be intercepted, but
not robbed of all his belongings.
15. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles
and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise;
for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.
16. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans
well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.
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
18. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to
gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of
19. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if
not, stay where you are.
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; nor can the dead ever be brought back to
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.
XIII. The Use of Spies
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. There will be commotion at home and abroad,
and men will drop down exhausted on the highways. As many as seven hundred
thousand families will be impeded in their labor.
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, is the height of
3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help
to his sovereign, no master of victory.
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.
5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits;
it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive
6. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained
from other men.
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.
9. Having local spies means employing the services of the
inhabitants of a district.
10. Having inward spies, making use of officials of the
11. Having converted spies, getting hold of the enemy's
spies and using them for our own purposes.
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.
13. Surviving spies, finally, are those who bring back news
from the enemy's camp.
14. Hence it is that which none in the whole army are more
intimate relations to be maintained than with spies. None should be more
liberally rewarded. In no other business should greater secrecy be
15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain
16. They cannot be properly managed without benevolence
17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain
of the truth of their reports.
18. Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind
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.
20. Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a city,
or to assassinate an individual, it is always necessary to begin by finding
out the names of the attendants, the aides-de-camp, and door-keepers and
sentries of the general in command. Our spies must be commissioned to
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
23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause
the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.
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. Hence it is essential that the
converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality.
26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty was due to I Chih
who had served under the Hsia. Likewise, the rise of the Chou dynasty
was due to Lu Ya who had served under the Yin.
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. Spies are a most important
element in water, because on them depends an army's ability to