says that the good tactician plays with his adversary as a cat plays with a mouse, first feigning weakness and immobility, and then suddenly pouncing upon him.
23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
This is probably the meaning, though Mei Yao-ch‘ên has the note: 以我之佚待彼之勞 “while we are taking our ease, wait for the enemy to tire himself out.” The Yü Lan has 引而勞之 “Lure him on and tire him out.” This would seem also to have been Ts‘ao Kung's text, judging by his comment 以利勞之.
If his forces are united, separate them.
Less plausible is the interpretation favoured by most of the commentators: “If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them.”
24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
25. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
This seems to be the way in which Ts‘ao Kung understood the passage, and is perhaps the best sense to be got out of the text as it stands. Most of the commentators give the following explanation: “It is impossible to lay down rules for warfare before you come into touch with the enemy.” This would be very plausible if it did not ignore 此, which unmistakably refers to the maxims which Sun Tzŭ has been laying down. It is possible, of course, that 此 may be a later interpolation, in which case the sentence would practically mean “Success in warfare cannot be taught.” As an alternative, however, I would venture to suggest that a second 不 may have fallen out after 可, so that we get: “These maxims for succeeding in war are the first that ought to be imparted.”
26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple where the battle is fought.