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.
The beginning of this sentence does not balance properly with the next, though obviously intended to do so. The arrangement, moreover, is so awkward that I cannot help suspecting some corruption in the text. It never seems to occur to Chinese commentators that an emendation may be necessary for the sense, and we get no help from them here. Sun Tzŭ says that the cause of the people’s impoverishment is 遠輸; it is clear, therefore, that the words have reference to some system by which the husbandmen sent their contributions of corn to the army direct. But why should it fall on them to maintain an army in this way, except because the State or Government is too poor to do so? Assuming then that 貧 ought to stand first in the sentence in order to balance 近 (the fact that the two words rhyme is significant), and thus getting rid of 國之, we are still left with 於師, which latter word seems to me an obvious mistake for 國. “Poverty in the army” is an unlikely expression, especially as the general has just been warned not to encumber his army with a large quantity of supplies. If we suppose that 師 somehow got written here instead of 國 (a very simple supposition, as we have 師 in the next sentence), and that later on somebody, scenting a mistake, prefixed the gloss 國之 to 貧, without however erasing 於師, the whole muddle may be explained. My emended text would be 貧於國者, etc.
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.
近, that is, as Wang Hsi says, before the army has left its own territory. Ts‘ao Kung understands it of an army that has already crossed the frontier. Capt. Calthrop drops the 於, reading 近師者, but even so it is impossible to justify his translation “Repeated wars cause high prices.”
12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.