The Art of War (Sun)/Section II
II. Waging war.
Ts‘ao Kung has the note: 欲戰必先算其費務 “He who wishes to fight must first count the cost,” which prepares us for the discovery that the subject of the chapter is not what we might expect from the title, but is primarily a consideration of ways and means.
1. Sun Tzŭ 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,
The 馳車 were lightly built and, according to Chang Yü, used for the attack; the 革車 were heavier, and designed for purposes of defence. Li Ch‘üan, it is true, says that the latter were light, but this seems hardly probable. Capt. Calthrop translates “chariots” and “supply wagons” respectively, but is not supported by any commentator. It is interesting to note the analogies between early Chinese warfare and that of the Homeric Greeks. In each case, the war-chariot was the important factor, forming as it did the nucleus round which was grouped a certain number of foot-soldiers. With regard to the numbers given here, we are informed that each swift chariot was accompanied by 75 footmen, and each heavy chariot by 25 footmen, so that the whole army would be divided up into a thousand battalions, each consisting of two chariots and a hundred men.
with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li,
2.78 modern li go to a mile. The length may have varied slightly since Sun Tzŭ’s time.
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 armour, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day.
則, which follows 糧 in the textus receptus, is important as indicating the apodosis. In the text adopted by Capt. Calthrop it is omitted, so that he is led to give this meaningless translation of the opening sentence: “Now the requirements of War are such that we need 1,000 chariots,” etc. The second 費, which is redundant, is omitted in the Yü Lan. 千金, like 千里 above, is meant to suggest a large but indefinite number. As the Chinese have never possessed gold coins, it is incorrect to translate it “1000 pieces of gold.”
Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.Capt. Calthrop adds: “You have the instruments of victory,” which he seems to get from the first five characters of the next sentence.
||2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, the men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped.
The Yü Lan omits 勝; but though 勝久 is certainly a bold phrase, it is more likely to be right than not. Both in this place and in § 4, the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read 頓 (in the sense of “to injure”) instead of 鈍.
If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.
As synonyms to 屈 are given 盡, 殫, 窮 and 困.
3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.久暴師 means literally, “If there is long exposure of the army.” Of 暴 in this sense K‘ang Hsi cites an instance from the biography of 竇融 Tou Jung in the Hou Han Shu, where the commentary defines it by 露. Cf. also the following from the 戰國策: 將軍久暴露於外 “General, you have long been exposed to all weathers.”
||4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour 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.
Following Tu Yu, I understand 善 in the sense of “to make good,” i.e. to mend. But Tu Mu and Ho Shih explain it as “to make good plans” — for the future.
5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.This concise and difficult sentence is not well explained by any of the commentators. Ts‘ao Kung, Li Ch‘üan, Mêng Shih, Tu Yu, Tu Mu and Mei Yao-ch‘ên have notes to the effect that a general, though naturally stupid, may nevertheless conquer through sheer force of rapidity. Ho Shih says: “Haste may be stupid, but at any rate it saves expenditure of energy and treasure; protracted operations may be very clever, but they bring calamity in their train.” Wang Hsi evades the difficulty by remarking: “Lengthy operations mean an army growing old, wealth being expended, an empty exchequer and distress among the people; true cleverness insures against the occurrence of such calamities.” Chang Yü says: “So long as victory can be attained, stupid haste is preferable to clever dilatoriness.” Now Sun Tzŭ says nothing whatever, except possibly by implication, about ill-considered haste being better than ingenious but lengthy operations. What he does say is something much more guarded, namely that, while speed may sometimes be injudicious, tardiness can never be anything but foolish — if only because it means impoverishment to the nation. Capt. Calthrop indulges his imagination with the following: “Therefore it is acknowledged that war cannot be too short in duration. But though conducted with the utmost art, if long continuing, misfortunes do always appear.” It is hardly worth while to note the total disappearance of 拙速 in this precious concoction. In considering the point raised here by Sun Tzŭ, the classic example of Fabius Cunctator will inevitably occur to the mind. That general deliberately measured the endurance of Rome against that of Hannibal’s isolated army, because it seemed to him that the latter was more likely to suffer from a long campaign in a strange country. But it is quite a moot question whether his tactics would have proved successful in the long run. Their reversal, it is true, led to Cannae; but this only establishes a negative presumption in their favour.
||6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
The Yü Lan has 圖 instead of 國 — evidently the mistake of a scribe.
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.
That is, with rapidity. Only one who knows the disastrous effects of a long war can realise the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close. Only two commentators seem to favour this interpretation, but it fits well into the logic of the context, whereas the rendering, “He who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits,” is distinctly pointless.
8. The skilful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-waggons loaded more than twice.
Once war is declared, he will not waste precious time in waiting for reinforcements, nor will he turn his army back for fresh supplies, but crosses the enemy’s frontier without delay. This may seem an audacious policy to recommend, but with all great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Napoleon Buonaparte, the value of time — that is, being a little ahead of your opponent — has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the nicest calculations with regard to commissariat. 籍 is used in the sense of 賦. The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan have the inferior reading 藉. The commentators explain 不三載 by saying that the waggons are loaded once before passing the frontier, and that the army is met by a further consignment of supplies on the homeward march. the Yü Lan, however, reads 再 here as well.
9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.用, “things to be used,” in the widest sense. It includes all the impedimenta of an army, apart from provisions.
||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 近於師 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 then 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.Cf. Mencius VII. 2. xiv. 2, where 丘民 has the same meaning as 丘役. 丘 was an ancient measure of land. The full table, as given by 司馬法, may not be out of place here: 6 尺 = 1 步; 100 步 = 1 畝; 100 畝 = 1 夫; 3 夫 = 1 屋; 3 屋 = 1 井; 4 井 = 1 邑; 4 邑 = 1 丘; 4 丘 = 1 甸. According to the Chou Li, there were nine husbandmen to a 井, which would assign to each man the goodly allowance of 100 畝 (of which 6.6 now go to an acre). What the values of these measures were in Sun Tzŭ’s time is not known with any certainty. The lineal 尺, however, is supposed to have been about 20 cm. 急 may include levies of men, as well as other exactions.
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 incomes will be dissipated;
The Yü Lan omits 財殫. I would propose the emended reading 力屈則中, etc. In view of the fact that we have 財竭 in the two preceding paragraphs, it seems probable that 財 is a scribe’s mistake for 則, 殫 having been added afterwards to make sense. 中原內虛於家, literally: “Within the middle plains there is emptiness in the homes.” For 中原 cf. Shih Ching II. 3. vi 3 and II. 5. ii 3. With regard to 十去其七, Tu Mu says: 家業十耗其七也, and Wang Hsi: 民費大半矣; that is, the people are mulcted not of 3, but of 7, of their income. But this is hardly to be extracted from our text. Ho Shih has a characteristic tag: 國以民爲本民以食爲天居人上者宜乎重惜 “The people being regarded as the essential part of the State, and food as the people’s heaven, is it not right that those in authority should value and be careful of both?”
while Government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantlets, draught-oxen and heavy waggons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.The Yü Lan has several various readings here, the more important of which are 疲 for the less common 罷 (read p‘i2), 干 for 蔽, and 兵牛 for 丘牛, which latter, if right, must mean “oxen from the country districts” (cf. supra, § 12). For the meaning of 櫓, see note on III, § 4. Capt. Calthrop omits to translate 丘牛大車.
15. 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 own store.
Because twenty cartloads will be consumed in the process of transporting one cartload to the front. According to Ts‘ao Kung, a 鍾 = 6 斛 4 㪷, or 64 㪷, but according to Mêng Shih, 10 斛 make a 鍾. The 石 picul consisted of 70 斤 catties (Tu Mu and others say 120). 𦮼秆, literally, “beanstalks and straw.”
16. 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 rewards.
These are two difficult sentences, which I have translated in accordance with Mei Yao-ch‘ên’s paraphrase. We may incontinently reject Capt. Calthrop’s extraordinary translation of the first: “Wantonly to kill and destroy the enemy must be forbidden.” Ts‘ao Kung quotes a jingle current in his day: 軍無財士不來軍無賞士不往. Tu Mu says: “Rewards are necessary in order to make the soldiers see the advantage of beating the enemy; thus, when you capture spoils from the enemy, they must be used as rewards, so that all your men may have a keen desire to fight, each on his own account. Chang Yü takes 利 as the direct object of 取, which is not so good.
17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first.
Capt. Calthrop’s rendering is: “They who are the first to lay their hands on more than ten of the enemy’s chariots, should be encouraged.” We should have expected the gallant captain to see that such Samson-like prowess deserved something more substantial than mere encouragement. T. omits 故, and has 以上 in place of the more archaic 已上.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 and kept.
||18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.
19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
As Ho Shih remarks: 兵不可玩武不可黷 “War is not a thing to be trifled with.” Sun Tzŭ here reiterates the main lesson which this chapter is intended to enforce.
20. 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.In the original text, there is a 生 before the 民.