The Art of War by Sun Tzu (孙子兵法)

It is important to master the art of war. It is governed by 5 factors. (1) Moral Law: The ability of the leader to make others follow him at all costs. (2) Heaven: night and day, cold and heat, seasons etc. (3) Earth: distances, open ground and narrow passes. (4) The Commander: virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence etc. (5) Method and Discipline: Marshalling the army; delegation of duties; maintenance of supplies and roads. Those who master all will win the war. All warfare is based on deception. Modify one’s plans along the way. Pick at the opponent’s weaknesses. Perform the unexpected. Plan before attacking.

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. – Sun Tzu

It is costly to raise an army. Ensure that resources are adequate. Do not delay attacking for too long. No one has benefitted from prolonged warfare. Steal food from the enemy so that you have enough food to eat as well. Maintaining an army is difficult as common people will suffer due to lack of resources and higher prices. Government revenue will need to fund the war. Forage on the enemy’s resources. Your army must see the rewards of defeating the enemy.

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. – Sun Tzu

Break their resistance without fighting. Besieging walled cities is the last option. A siege often fails. To occupy without fighting is attacking by stratagem. If the General is weak, the State is weak. There are 3 ways to bring down an army. 1) Commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. 2) Attempt to govern an army in the same way as a kingdom. 3) Using the soldiers and army without any tactics or military principles.

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. 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. – Sun Tzu

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 battle. – Sun Tzu

Secure yourself against defeat. Whether you can defeat the enemy is out of your hands. One must have defensive tactics as well. Use the terrain to help your defense. Win by making no mistakes. Enter a position where you are unable to be defeated. Seek battle only after the victory has been won. Cultivate the moral law and adhere to method and discipline. 1) Measurement; 2) Estimation of quantity; 3) Calculation; 4) Balancing of chances; 5) Victory.

Direct method can be joined to join battle. However, indirect methods will be needed too. Combination of different core methods can yield many variations. Quality of decision making is crucial. Appear to be weak. This actually postulates strength. Keep the enemy on the move. Learn to hold out baits. Utilize combined energy from your army.

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. – Sun Tzu

Impose your will on the enemy. Remove the enemy’s food supply. Appear at places where they must hasten to defend. Attack at places which are undefended. Be invisible and inaudible, as much as possible. Distract them by throwing something odd and unaccountable. Divide the enemy. Form a single united body. Never disclose your fighting spot as the enemy will be forced to deploy their soldiers in multiple locations. Discover the enemies’ plans and the likelihood of success. Force him to reveal themselves. Compare the opposing army with your own. Conceal your dispositions and your tactics. Vary your tactics once you have won. Strike at weak places. There are no constant conditions in war.

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

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. – Sun Tzu

Blend and harmonize the different elements. This is the hardest part of war. Entice the enemy out. Maneuver with an army. Detach a flying column for the purpose of getting an advantage. An army without its baggage, provisions are lost. Be familiar with the enemy terrain. Use local guides to help you. Think before you act. Learn the artifice of deviation. In night fighting, use signal-fires and drums. In the day, use flags and banners. The soldier is most active in the day. Attack the enemy when they are in a sluggish mood.

Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must be decided by circumstances. Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest. In raiding and plundering be like fire, is immovability like a mountain. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. – Sun Tzu

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. – Sun Tzu

It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill. Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not attack soldiers whose temper is keen. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. – Sun Tzu

Do not linger in isolated positions and combine with your allies. Know the variation of tactics. Learn to vary your plans. Always look to seize an advantage. Make the hostile enemy chiefs busy and cause them trouble. There are 5 faults which may affect a general: 1) Recklessness; 2) Cowardice; 3) A Hasty Temper; 4) Delicacy of honor; 5) Over-solicitude for his men.

Pass quickly over mountains. Camp in high places. After crossing a river, get far away from it. Attack the enemy at a river crossing. Always face the sun. Try to attack and then be able to retreat on high ground. On a hill, occupy the sunny side. In heavy rain, wait for the flood or rain to subside first. In countries with steep cliffs and fast torrents, avoid it. Search your own hilly land to look out for enemy presence. When birds are flying, it might indicate an imminent attack. When dust is rising, chariots are advancing. When enemy forces advance and retreat, it could be a lure. If soldiers lean on their spears, they are tired. If those sent to collect water drink it first, the army is suffering from thirst. Look out for disturbances in the camp. If the enemy kills their cattle for food, they are going to fight to the death. If you see small groups of soldiers talking, they might be dissatisfied. Do not underestimate the opponent. If you punish soldiers before they become attached to you, they are practically useless. Treat them with humanity, then use iron discipline.

If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, they will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless. – Sun Tzu

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. – Sun Tzu

Take the sunny spots first. Entangling means it can be abandoned but it is hard to re-occupy. Temporizing ground means no one will gain by making the first move. For narrow passes, strongly garrison it and wait for the enemy to come. For precipitous heights, occupy it and wait for the enemy to come up. Flight occurs when the opposing enemy is too large. The natural formation is a country’s best ally. Regard your soldiers as your children.

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. – Sun Tzu

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. – Sun Tzu

1) Dispersive ground; 2) facile ground; 3) contentious ground; 4) open ground; 5) ground of intersecting highways; 6) serious ground; 7) difficult ground; 8) hemmed-in ground; 9) desperate ground. When fighting in your own territory, it is dispersive ground. Fight not.. If penetrate short distances into enemy territory, it is facile ground. Halt not. If there are great advantages to both sides, it is contentious ground. Attack not. If both sides have liberty of movement, it is open ground. If ground forms key to three contiguous states, it is a ground of intersecting highways. Do not block enemy’s way and form allies. If the enemy leaves a number of fortified cities at its rear, it is serious ground. Gather in plunder. Forests, steep slopes etc are difficult ground. Keep steadily on the march. Narrow gorges, where retreating is very difficult, is known as hemmed in ground. Resort to stratagem. If only fighting can save you from destruction, it is desperate ground. Fight. Prefer the large and small divisions from combining. Study the well-being of your men. Do away with superstitious doubt. Set a standard of courage where all must reach. The General must maintain order. Study the fundamental laws of nature. Penetrate the enemy in a deep way. Only enter alliances if you know their designs. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself. Tell them nothing in a bad situation. Accommodate yourself to the enemy’s purpose. Hang on the enemy’s flank.

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

There are five ways of attacking with fire. The fire 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 enemy. You need to have the means available. Keep the material for raising fire. When the weather is dry and windy, this is the best time. Intercept the enemy’s access to water. Develop a spirit of enterprise. Move only when you see an advantage. Make a forward move. Make a forward move if it’s to your advantage. Approach with caution.

Do not remain ignorant of the enemy’s condition. Foreknowledge is the key. This can be achieved by the use of spies. (1) Local spies; (2) Inward spies; (3) Converted spies; (4) Doomed spies; (5) Surviving spies. Intimate relations must be maintained with your spies. They need intuitive sagacity. They need to be treated kindly. It is necessary to find out the key names of the enemies. Capture enemies’ spies and convert them for our own use. The converted spy must be treated with utmost liberality.

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 move. – Sun Tzu

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5 thoughts on “The Art of War by Sun Tzu (孙子兵法)

  1. Pingback: How yesterday looks like today… | AingealiciaWrites

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