Sun Tzu on the Art of War
The Oldest Military Treatise in
Translated from the Chinese
By Lionel Giles, M.A. (1910)
22 de maio de 2002
LAYING PLANS 5
WAGING WAR 7
ATTACK BY STRATAGEM 9
TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS 11
WEAK POINTS AND STRONG 15
VARIATION IN TACTICS 23
THE ARMY ON THE MARCH 25
THE NINE SITUATIONS 33
THE ATTACK BY FIRE 39
THE USE OF SPIES 41
This is the basic text of Sun Tzu on the Art of War. It was extracted from Mr.
Giles’ complete work as titled above. The commentary itself, which, of course
includes this work embedded within it, has been released as suntzu10.txt (or
suntzu10.zip). This is being released only as an adjunct to that work, which
contains a wealth of commentary upon this text.
1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.
2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it
is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
3. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into
account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions
obtaining in the field.
4. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander;
(5) Method and discipline.
5. 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
6. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
7. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open
ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
8. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence,
courage and strictness.
9. 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.
10. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them
will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
11. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military
conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:–
(a) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(b) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(c) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(d) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(e) Which army is stronger?
(f) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(g) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
12. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.
13. 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!
14. While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful
circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.
15. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.
16. All warfare is based on deception.
17. 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
18. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
19. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior
strength, evade him.
20. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be
weak, that he may grow arrogant.
21. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate
22. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
23. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
24. 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.
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 men.
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 prolonged warfare.
7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can
thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supplywagons 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 needs.
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 away.
12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by
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 fourtenths of its total revenue.
14. 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
15. 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
16. 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
17. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.
18. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
19. 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.
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
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 more.
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 field.
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
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 force.
11. Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is complete
at all points; the State will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State
will be weak.
12. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:
(a) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of
the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.
(b) 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 minds.
(c) 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.
13. 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.
14. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
(a) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
(b) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior
(c) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout
all its ranks.
(d) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
(e) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by
15. 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 battle.
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
2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
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
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 complete.
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
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
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 the enemy.
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 success.
17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly, Measurement; secondly,
Estimation of quantity; thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of chances; fifthly, Victory.
18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances to
Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.
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
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
4. That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an
egg–this is effected by the science of weak points and strong.
5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
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
7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these
five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.
8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and
black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been
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
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
12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones
along in its course.
13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which
enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his
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 defeat.
17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.
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 it.
20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of
picked men he lies in wait for him.
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 fourcornered, 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.
WEAK POINTS AND
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 exhausted.
2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does
not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.
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
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
10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make for the
enemy’s weak points; you may retire and be safe from pursuit if your
movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.
11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even
though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we
need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.
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
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 few.
15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our
opponents will be in dire straits.
16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the
enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different
points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few.
17. For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should
he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his
left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere
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 fight.
20. But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing will be impotent
to succor the right, the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van
unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van. How much more
so if the furthest portions of the army are anything under a hundred LI
apart, and even the nearest are separated by several LI!
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
23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him
to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.
24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may
know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.
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 evolved.
28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your
methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.
29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs
away from high places and hastens downwards.
30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
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
32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are
no constant conditions.
33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby
succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.
34. The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) are not always equally
predominant; 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 his camp.
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 gain.
4. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of
the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before
him, shows knowledge of the artifice of DEVIATION.
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
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 enemy.
8. The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will fall behind, and on
this plan only one-tenth of your army will reach its destination.
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
11. We may take it then that an army without its baggage-train is lost; without
provisions it is lost; without bases of supply it is lost.
12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of
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 succeed.
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 move.
22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation. Such is the art of
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 point.
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
30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub
amongst the enemy:–this is the art of retaining self-possession.
31. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease
while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy
is famished:–this is the art of husbanding one’s strength.
32. To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order,
to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array:–
this is the art of studying 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.
VARIATION IN TACTICS
1. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his forces
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 not be besieged, positions which must not be
contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.
4. The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany
variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops.
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 schemes.
9. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to
seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.
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
12. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general:
(a) Recklessness, which leads to destruction;
(b) cowardice, which leads to capture;
(c) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults;
(d) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame;
(e) 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
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
THE ARMY ON THE
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 it.
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 warfare.
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
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 country.
10. These are the four useful branches of military knowledge which enabled
the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four several sovereigns.
11. All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark.
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 victory.
13. When you come to a hill or a bank, occupy the sunny side, with the slope
on your right rear. Thus you will at once act for the benefit of your soldiers
and utilize the natural advantages of the ground.
14. When, in consequence of heavy rains up-country, a river which you wish
to ford is swollen and flecked with foam, you must wait until it subsides.
15. Country in which there are precipitous cliffs with torrents running between, deep natural hollows, confined places, tangled thickets, quagmires
and crevasses, should be left with all possible speed and not approached.
16. While we keep away from such places, we should get the enemy to approach them; while we face them, we should let the enemy have them on
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 suspicious.
22. The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambuscade. Startled
beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.
23. When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the sign of chariots advancing; when the dust is low, but spread over a wide area, it betokens
the approach of infantry. When it branches out in different directions, it
shows that parties have been sent to collect firewood. A few clouds of
dust moving to and fro signify that the army is encamping.
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 battle.
26. Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot.
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
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
33. If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak. If the
banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are
angry, it means that the men are weary.
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 file.
36. Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at the end of his resources;
too many punishments betray a condition of dire distress.
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 circumspection.
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 useless.
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
44. If in training soldiers commands are habitually enforced, the army will be
well-disciplined; if not, its discipline will be bad.
45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders
being obeyed, the gain will be mutual.
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
2. Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible.
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 will ensue.
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 advantage.
8. With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be
strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy.
9. Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if
the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned.
10. With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait
for him to come up.
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 them.
14. Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural
causes, but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1)
Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganization; (6)
15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten
times its size, the result will be the flight of the former.
16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak,
the result is insubordination. 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 not 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 post.
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 bidding.
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 kingdom.
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 purpose.
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
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
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
30. Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once
he has broken camp, he is never at a loss.
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.
THE NINE SITUATIONS
1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground:
(a) Dispersive ground;
(b) facile ground;
(c) contentious ground;
(d) open ground;
(e) ground of intersecting highways;
(f) serious ground;
(g) difficult ground;
(h) hemmed-in ground;
(i) desperate ground.
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
5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground.
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
7. When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving
a number of fortified cities in its rear, it is serious ground.
8. Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and fens–all country that is
hard to traverse: this is difficult ground.
9. Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we can
only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the enemy would
suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed in ground.
10. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting
without delay, is desperate ground.
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 allies.
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 ground, fight.
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
19. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
20. The following are the principles to be observed by an invading force: The
further you penetrate into a country, the greater will be the solidarity of
your troops, and thus the defenders will not prevail against you.
21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply your army with food.
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 plans.
23. Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they
will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they
may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost
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 feared.
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 longevity.
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 Kuei.
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
30. Asked if an army can be made to imitate the shuai-jan, I should answer,
Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are
crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come
to each other’s assistance just as the left hand helps the right.
31. Hence it is not enough to put one’s trust in the tethering of horses, and
the burying of chariot wheels in the ground
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 hand.
35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright
and just, and thus maintain order.
36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total ignorance.
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 purpose.
38. At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries
his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand.
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 studied.
42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle is, that penetrating
deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short way means dispersion.
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 ground.
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 rear.
48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my defenses. On ground