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? The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course.
The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.
Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.
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. 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 it. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him. 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. 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. 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 said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.
Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him. 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. 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. Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected. An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not.
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. 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. 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. 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.
If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. 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.
By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be divided. We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy's few. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.
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 few. 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. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight.
But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing will be impotent to succor the right, the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van. How much more so if the furthest portions of the army are anything under a hundred LI apart, and even the nearest are separated by several LI! 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. 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. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity.
Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient. 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. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's own tactics--that is what the multitude cannot comprehend. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. 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.
Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain. 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. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign. Having collected an army and concentrated his forces, he must blend and harmonize the different elements thereof before pitching his camp.
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 gain. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of DEVIATION.
Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous. 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. 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 enemy.
The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will fall behind, and on this plan only one-tenth of your army will reach its destination. 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. If you march thirty LI with the same object, two-thirds of your army will arrive.
The Art of War : The Oldest Military Treatise in the World (1910)
We may take it then that an army without its baggage-train is lost; without provisions it is lost; without bases of supply it is lost. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors. 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 advantage to account unless we make use of local guides. In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed. 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. 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.
Ponder and deliberate before you make a move. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation. Such is the art of maneuvering. 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. The answer, I fear, must be in the negative. There is still one grave, if not fatal, objection to the chronology involved in the story as told in the SHIH CHI, which, so far as I am aware, nobody has yet pointed out. There are two passages in Sun Tzu in which he alludes to contemporary affairs.
The first in in VI. I say then that victory can be achieved. The other is in XI.
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For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other's assistance just as the left hand helps the right. These two paragraphs are extremely valuable as evidence of the date of composition. They assign the work to the period of the struggle between Wu and Yueh. So much has been observed by Pi I-hsun. As we have seen above, the first positive date given in connection with Sun Wu is B. He is then spoken of as a general, acting as confidential adviser to Ho Lu, so that his alleged introduction to that monarch had already taken place, and of course the 13 chapters must have been written earlier still.
At this point, a table of dates may be found useful. This is the first war between the two states. Decisive battle of Po-chu, and capture of Ying. Ho Lu is killed. Death of Wu Tzu-hsu. The sentence quoted above from VI. It seems rather to imply that, for the moment at least, the tide had turned against Wu, and that she was getting the worst of the struggle. Hence we may conclude that our treatise was not in existence in , before which date Yueh does not appear to have scored any notable success against Wu. On the other hand, if we choose to disregard the tradition connecting Sun Wu's name with Ho Lu, it might equally well have seen the light between and , or possibly in the period , when Yueh was once again becoming a very serious menace.
Sun Hsing-yen, however, makes a feeble attempt to explain the omission of his name from the great commentary. It was Wu Tzu-hsu, he says, who got all the credit of Sun Wu's exploits, because the latter being an alien was not rewarded with an office in the State. How then did the Sun Tzu legend originate?
It may be that the growing celebrity of the book imparted by degrees a kind of factitious renown to its author. It was felt to be only right and proper that one so well versed in the science of war should have solid achievements to his credit as well.
Now the capture of Ying was undoubtedly the greatest feat of arms in Ho Lu's reign; it made a deep and lasting impression on all the surrounding states, and raised Wu to the short-lived zenith of her power. It is obvious that any attempt to reconstruct even the outline of Sun Tzu's life must be based almost wholly on conjecture. With this necessary proviso, I should say that he probably entered the service of Wu about the time of Ho Lu's accession, and gathered experience, though only in the capacity of a subordinate officer, during the intense military activity which marked the first half of the prince's reign.
He was doubtless present at the investment and occupation of Ying, and witnessed Wu's sudden collapse in the following year.
gold: The Art of War by Sun Tzu 1
Yueh's attack at this critical juncture, when her rival was embarrassed on every side, seems to have convinced him that this upstart kingdom was the great enemy against whom every effort would henceforth have to be directed. Sun Wu was thus a well-seasoned warrior when he sat down to write his famous book, which according to my reckoning must have appeared towards the end, rather than the beginning of Ho Lu's reign.
The story of the women may possibly have grown out of some real incident occurring about the same time. As we hear no more of Sun Wu after this from any source, he is hardly likely to have survived his patron or to have taken part in the death-struggle with Yueh, which began with the disaster at Tsui- li.
If these inferences are approximately correct, there is a certain irony in the fate which decreed that China's most illustrious man of peace should be contemporary with her greatest writer on war. We have his word for it that they were widely circulated in his day, and can only regret that he refrained from discussing them on that account. Thus it came about that Wei Wu was the first to write a commentary on it.
And the Chinese printed in Capt. Calthrop's first edition is evidently a similar version which has filtered through Japanese channels. This is what Sun Hsing-yen designates as the "original edition or text " -- a rather misleading name, for it cannot by any means claim to set before us the text of Sun Tzu in its pristine purity. In both the complete text is to be found, though split up into fragments, intermixed with other matter, and scattered piecemeal over a number of different sections.
Yet the idea of utilizing them does not seem to have occurred to anyone until Sun Hsing-yen, acting under Government instructions, undertook a thorough recension of the text. It happened that Wu Nien-hu, the Governor Pi Kua, and Hsi, a graduate of the second degree, had all devoted themselves to this study, probably surpassing me therein.
Accordingly, I have had the whole work cut on blocks as a textbook for military men. The three individuals here referred to had evidently been occupied on the text of Sun Tzu prior to Sun Hsing-yen's commission, but we are left in doubt as to the work they really accomplished. At any rate, the new edition, when ultimately produced, appeared in the names of Sun Hsing-yen and only one co- editor Wu Jen-shi. They took the "original edition" as their basis, and by careful comparison with older versions, as well as the extant commentaries and other sources of information such as the I SHUO, succeeded in restoring a very large number of doubtful passages, and turned out, on the whole, what must be accepted as the closes approximation we are ever likely to get to Sun Tzu's original work.
This is what will hereafter be denominated the "standard text. As regards the body of the work, each separate sentence is followed by a note on the text, if required, and then by the various commentaries appertaining to it, arranged in chronological order. These we shall now proceed to discuss briefly, one by one. The Commentators Sun Tzu can boast an exceptionally long distinguished roll of commentators, which would do honor to any classic. Ou-yang Hsiu remarks on this fact, though he wrote before the tale was complete, and rather ingeniously explains it by saying that the artifices of war, being inexhaustible, must therefore be susceptible of treatment in a great variety of ways.
It is recorded that whenever a council of war was held by Wei on the eve of a far-reaching campaign, he had all his calculations ready; those generals who made use of them did not lose one battle in ten; those who ran counter to them in any particular saw their armies incontinently beaten and put to flight. Sometimes, indeed, owing to extreme compression, they are scarcely intelligible and stand no less in need of a commentary than the text itself. The commentary which has come down to us under this name is comparatively meager, and nothing about the author is known. Even his personal name has not been recorded.
One of his works has been in constant use down to the present day. His notes are mostly short and to the point, and he frequently illustrates his remarks by anecdotes from Chinese history. His notes, therefore, are well worth attention. They are very copious, and replete with historical parallels.
The gist of Sun Tzu's work is thus summarized by him: "Practice benevolence and justice, but on the other hand make full use of artifice and measures of expediency. His commentary, though not lacking in merit, must rank below those of his predecessors. It is of somewhat scanty texture, and in point of quality, too, perhaps the least valuable of the eleven. His commentary was published with a laudatory preface by the great Ou-yang Hsiu, from which we may cull the following: -- Later scholars have misread Sun Tzu, distorting his words and trying to make them square with their own one-sided views.
Thus, though commentators have not been lacking, only a few have proved equal to the task. My friend Sheng-yu has not fallen into this mistake. In attempting to provide a critical commentary for Sun Tzu's work, he does not lose sight of the fact that these sayings were intended for states engaged in internecine warfare; that the author is not concerned with the military conditions prevailing under the sovereigns of the three ancient dynasties,  nor with the nine punitive measures prescribed to the Minister of War.
Whether the subject be marching an army, or handling soldiers, or estimating the enemy, or controlling the forces of victory, it is always systematically treated; the sayings are bound together in strict logical sequence, though this has been obscured by commentators who have probably failed to grasp their meaning. In his own commentary, Mei Sheng-yu has brushed aside all the obstinate prejudices of these critics, and has tried to bring out the true meaning of Sun Tzu himself.
In this way, the clouds of confusion have been dispersed and the sayings made clear. I am convinced that the present work deserves to be handed down side by side with the three great commentaries; and for a great deal that they find in the sayings, coming generations will have constant reason to thank my friend Sheng-yu. The list closes with a commentator of no great originality perhaps, but gifted with admirable powers of lucid exposition. Hence it is that the commentators of Sun Tzu in our dynasty belong mainly to that period.
Appreciations of Sun Tzu Sun Tzu has exercised a potent fascination over the minds of some of China's greatest men. Among the famous generals who are known to have studied his pages with enthusiasm may be mentioned Han Hsin d. The following short passage by him is preserved in the YU HAI:  -- Sun Wu's saying, that in war one cannot make certain of conquering,  is very different indeed from what other books tell us.
The following is an extract from the "Impartial Judgments in the Garden of Literature" by Cheng Hou: -- Sun Tzu's 13 chapters are not only the staple and base of all military men's training, but also compel the most careful attention of scholars and men of letters. His sayings are terse yet elegant, simple yet profound, perspicuous and eminently practical. Chu Hsi, commenting on this, fully admits the first part of the criticism, although he dislikes the audacious comparison with the venerated classical works.
Language of this sort, he says, "encourages a ruler's bent towards unrelenting warfare and reckless militarism. Her long military annals stretch back to a point at which they are lost in the mists of time. She had built the Great Wall and was maintaining a huge standing army along her frontier centuries before the first Roman legionary was seen on the Danube. What with the perpetual collisions of the ancient feudal States, the grim conflicts with Huns, Turks and other invaders after the centralization of government, the terrific upheavals which accompanied the overthrow of so many dynasties, besides the countless rebellions and minor disturbances that have flamed up and flickered out again one by one, it is hardly too much to say that the clash of arms has never ceased to resound in one portion or another of the Empire.
No less remarkable is the succession of illustrious captains to whom China can point with pride. As in all countries, the greatest are fond of emerging at the most fateful crises of her history. None of these generals need fear comparison with the greatest names in the military history of Europe. In spite of all this, the great body of Chinese sentiment, from Lao Tzu downwards, and especially as reflected in the standard literature of Confucianism, has been consistently pacific and intensely opposed to militarism in any form. It is such an uncommon thing to find any of the literati defending warfare on principle, that I have thought it worth while to collect and translate a few passages in which the unorthodox view is upheld.
Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked. How much more so will man, who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger!
THE ART OF WAR
When he is pleased, a feeling of affection springs up within him; when angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play. That is the natural law which governs his being What then shall be said of those scholars of our time, blind to all great issues, and without any appreciation of relative values, who can only bark out their stale formulas about "virtue" and "civilization," condemning the use of military weapons?
They will surely bring our country to impotence and dishonor and the loss of her rightful heritage; or, at the very least, they will bring about invasion and rebellion, sacrifice of territory and general enfeeblement. Yet they obstinately refuse to modify the position they have taken up.
The truth is that, just as in the family the teacher must not spare the rod, and punishments cannot be dispensed with in the State, so military chastisement can never be allowed to fall into abeyance in the Empire. All one can say is that this power will be exercised wisely by some, foolishly by others, and that among those who bear arms some will be loyal and others rebellious. Nowadays, the holding of trials and hearing of litigation, the imprisonment of offenders and their execution by flogging in the market- place, are all done by officials. But the wielding of huge armies, the throwing down of fortified cities, the hauling of women and children into captivity, and the beheading of traitors -- this is also work which is done by officials.
The objects of the rack and of military weapons are essentially the same. There is no intrinsic difference between the punishment of flogging and cutting off heads in war. For the lesser infractions of law, which are easily dealt with, only a small amount of force need be employed: hence the use of military weapons and wholesale decapitation.
In both cases, however, the end in view is to get rid of wicked people, and to give comfort and relief to the good Chi-sun asked Jan Yu, saying: "Have you, Sir, acquired your military aptitude by study, or is it innate? It is fitting that the great Sage should exercise both civil and military functions, though to be sure my instruction in the art of fighting has not yet gone very far.
But, at any rate, it has come about that the members of the governing class are quite afraid of enlarging on military topics, or do so only in a shamefaced manner. If any are bold enough to discuss the subject, they are at once set down as eccentric individuals of coarse and brutal propensities. This is an extraordinary instance in which, through sheer lack of reasoning, men unhappily lose sight of fundamental principles.
When Confucius held office under the Duke of Lu, and a meeting was convened at Chia-ku,  he said: "If pacific negotiations are in progress, warlike preparations should have been made beforehand. How can it be said that these two great Sages had no knowledge of military matters? We have seen that the great Chu Hsi held Sun Tzu in high esteem. He also appeals to the authority of the Classics: -- Our Master Confucius, answering Duke Ling of Wei, said: "I have never studied matters connected with armies and battalions.
Again, when the inhabitants of Pi revolted, the ordered his officers to attack them, whereupon they were defeated and fled in confusion. He once uttered the words: "If I fight, I conquer. We can only say that he did not specially choose matters connected with armies and fighting to be the subject of his teaching.
Sun Hsing-yen, the editor of Sun Tzu, writes in similar strain: -- Confucius said: "I am unversed in military matters. Now war constitutes one of the five classes of State ceremonial,  and must not be treated as an independent branch of study. Hence, the words "I am unversed in" must be taken to mean that there are things which even an inspired Teacher does not know.
Those who have to lead an army and devise stratagems, must learn the art of war. But if one can command the services of a good general like Sun Tzu, who was employed by Wu Tzu-hsu, there is no need to learn it oneself. Hence the remark added by Confucius: "If I fight, I conquer. With blind persistency, they adduce the example of Chao Kua, who pored over his father's books to no purpose,  as a proof that all military theory is useless. Again, seeing that books on war have to do with such things as opportunism in designing plans, and the conversion of spies, they hold that the art is immoral and unworthy of a sage.
These people ignore the fact that the studies of our scholars and the civil administration of our officials also require steady application and practice before efficiency is reached. The ancients were particularly chary of allowing mere novices to botch their work. Hsiang Liang used to instruct his nephew Chi  in the art of war.
Chi got a rough idea of the art in its general bearings, but would not pursue his studies to their proper outcome, the consequence being that he was finally defeated and overthrown. He did not realize that the tricks and artifices of war are beyond verbal computation. The treacherous and underhand nature of war necessitates the use of guile and stratagem suited to the occasion. There is a case on record of Confucius himself having violated an extorted oath,  and also of his having left the Sung State in disguise. Bibliography The following are the oldest Chinese treatises on war, after Sun Tzu.
A genuine work. Wrongly attributed to Ssu-ma Jang-chu of the 6th century B. Its date, however, must be early, as the customs of the three ancient dynasties are constantly to be met within its pages. Lu Te-ming A. Attributed to Wei Liao 4th cent. The work appears to have been originally in 31 chapters, whereas the text we possess contains only Its matter is sound enough in the main, though the strategical devices differ considerably from those of the Warring States period. It is been furnished with a commentary by the well-known Sung philosopher Chang Tsai.
Attributed to Huang-shih Kung, a legendary personage who is said to have bestowed it on Chang Liang d. Sun Tzu on the art of war : the oldest military treatise in the world. Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video. You can view this on the NLA website. Login Register. New search User lists Site feedback Ask a librarian Help. Advanced search Search history.
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