The Art of War (Sun)/Section IX

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The Art of War by Sun Tzu, translated by Lionel Giles
Section IX: The Army on the March

IX. 行軍篇

  1. 孫子曰凡處軍相敵絶山依谷

IX. The army on the march.

The contents of this interesting chapter are better indicated in §1 than by this heading.

1. Sun Tzŭ said: We come now to the question of encamping the army, and observing signs of the enemy.

The discussion of 處軍, as Chang Yü points out, extends from here down to 伏姦之所藏處也 (§§ 1–17), and 相敵 from that point down to 必謹察之 (§§ 18–39). The rest of the chapter consists of a few desultory remarks, chiefly on the subject of discipline.

Pass quickly over mountains,

For this use of , cf. infra, § 3. See also 荀子, ch. 1. fol. 2 (standard edition of 1876): 絶江河; Shih Chi, ch. 27 ad init.: 後六星絶漢.

and keep in the neighbourhood of valleys.

Tu Mu says that here = . The idea is, not to linger among barren uplands, but to keep close to supplies of water and grass. Capt. Calthrop translates “camp in valleys,” heedless of the very next sentence. Cf. Wu Tzŭ, ch. 3: 無當天竈 “Abide not in natural ovens,” i.e. 大谷之口 “the openings of large valleys.” Chang Yü tells the following anecdote: “武都羗 Wu-tu Ch‘iang was a robber captain in the time of the Later Han, and 馬援 Ma Yuan was sent to exterminate his gang. Ch‘iang having found a refuge in the hills, Ma Yuan made no attempt to force a battle, but seized all the favourable positions commanding supplies of water and forage. Ch‘iang was soon in such a desperate plight for want of provisions that he was forced to make a total surrender. He did not know the advantage of keeping in the neighbourhood of valleys.”

  1. 視生處高戰隆無登此處山之軍也
  2. 絶水必遠水
  3. 客絶水而來勿迎之於水內令半濟而擊之利
2. Camp in high places,

Not on high hills, but on knolls or hillocks elevated above the surrounding country.

facing the sun.

視生=面陽. Tu Mu takes this to mean “facing south,” and Ch‘ên Hao “facing east.” Cf. infra, §§ 11, 13.

Do not climb heights in order to fight.

is here simply equivalent to . The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read .

So much for mountain warfare.

After , the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan insert .

3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from it.

“In order to tempt the enemy to cross after you,” according to Ts‘ao Kung, and also, says Chang Yü, “in order not to be impeded in your evolutions.” The T‘ung Tien reads 敵若絶水 “If the enemy crosses a river,” etc. But in view of the next sentence, this is almost certainly an interpolation.

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.

The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read for , without change of meaning. Wu Tzŭ plagiarises this passage twice over: — ch. II ad fin., 涉水半渡可擊; ch. V, 敵若絶水半渡而擊. Li Ch‘üan alludes to the great victory won by Han Hsin over 龍且 Lung Chü at the Wei River. Turning to the Ch‘ien Han Shu, ch. 34, fol. 6 verso, we find the battle described as follows: “The two armies were drawn up on opposite sides of the river. In the night, Han Hsin ordered his men to take some ten thousand sacks filled with sand and construct a dam a little higher up. Then, leading half his army across, he attacked Lung Chü; but after a time, pretending to have failed in his attempt, he hastily withdrew to the other bank. Lung Chü was much elated by this unlooked-for success, and exclaiming: “I felt sure that Han Hsin was really a coward!” he pursued him and began crossing the river in his turn. Han Hsin now sent a party to cut open the sandbags, thus releasing a great volume of water, which swept down and prevented the greater portion of Lung Chü’s army from getting across. He then turned upon the force which had been cut off, and annihilated it, Lung Chü himself being amongst the slain. The rest of the army, on the further bank, also scattered and fled in all directions.”

  1. 欲戰者無附於水而迎客
  2. 視生處高無迎水流此處水上之軍也
5. If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet the invader near a river which he has to cross.

For fear of preventing his crossing. Capt. Calthrop makes the injunction ridiculous by omitting 欲戰者.

6. Moor your craft higher up than the enemy, and facing the sun.

See supra, § 2. The repetition of these words in connection with water is very awkward. Chang Yü has the note: 或岸邊爲陳或水上泊舟皆須面陽而居高 “Said either of troops marshalled on the river-bank, or of boats anchored in the stream itself; in either case it is essential to be higher than the enemy and facing the sun.” The other commentators are not at all explicit. One is much tempted to reject their explanation of 視生 altogether, and understand it simply as “seeking safety.” [Cf. 必生 in VIII. § 12, and infra, § 9.] It is true that this involves taking in an unusual, though not, I think, an impossible sense. Of course the earlier passage would then have to be translated in like manner.

Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy.

Tu Mu says: “As water flows downwards, we must not pitch our camp on the lower reaches of a river, for fear the enemy should open the sluices and sweep us away in a flood. This is implied above in the words 視生處高. Chu-ko Wu-hou has remarked that ‘in river warfare we must not advance against the stream,’ which is as much as to say that our fleet must not be anchored below that of the enemy, for then they would be able to take advantage of the current and make short work of us.” There is also the danger, noted by other commentators,that the enemy may throw poison on the water to be carried down to us. Capt. Calthrop’s first version was: “Do not cross rivers in the face of the stream” — a sapient piece of advice, which made one curious to know what the correct way of crossing rivers might be. He has now improved this into: “Do not fight when the enemy is between the army and the source of the river.”

So much for river warfare.

  1. 絶斥澤惟亟去無留
  2. 若交軍於斥澤之中必依水草而背衆樹此處斥澤之軍也
  3. 平陸處易而右背高前死後生此處平陸之軍也
7. In crossing salt-marshes, your sole concern should be to get over them quickly, without any delay.

Because of the lack of fresh water, the poor quality of the herbage, and last but not least, because they are low, flat, and exposed to attack.

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.

Li Ch‘üan remarks that the ground is less likely to be treacherous where there are trees, while Tu Yu says that they will serve to protect the rear. Capt. Calthrop, with a perfect genius for going wrong, says “in the neighbourhood of a marsh.” For the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan wrongly read , and the latter also has instead of .

So much for operations in salt-marshes.

9. In dry, level country, take up an easily accessible position

This is doubtless the force of , its opposite being . Thus, Tu Mu explains it as 坦易平穩之處 “ground that is smooth and firm,” and therefore adapted for cavalry; Chang Yü as 坦易無坎陷之處 “level ground, free from depressions and hollows.” He adds later on that although Sun Tzŭ is discussing flat country, there will nevertheless be slight elevations and hillocks.

with rising ground to your right and on your rear, The Yü Lan again reads for . Tu Mu quotes T‘ai Kung as saying: “An army should have a stream or a marsh on its left, and a hill or tumulus on its right.”

so that the danger may be in front, and safety lie behind.

Wang Hsi thinks that 後生 contradicts the saying 視生 in § 2, and therefore suspects a mistake in the text.

So much for campaigning in flat country.

  1. 凡此四軍之利黃帝之所以勝四帝也
  2. 凡軍喜高而惡下貴陽而賤陰
  3. 養生而處實軍無百疾是謂必勝

10. These are the four useful branches of military knowledge

Those, namely, concerned with (1) mountains, (2) rivers, (3) marshes, and (4) plains. Compare Napoleon’s “Military Maxims,” no. 1.

which enabled the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four several sovereigns.

Mei Yao-ch‘ên asks, with some plausibility, whether is not a mistake for “armies,” as nothing is known of Huang Ti having conquered four other Emperors. The Shih Chi (ch. I ad init.) speaks only of his victories over 炎帝 Yen Ti and 蚩尤 Ch‘ih Yu. In the 六韜 it is mentioned that he “fought seventy battles and pacified the Empire.” Ts‘ao Kung’s explanation is, that the Yellow Emperor was the first to institute the feudal system of vassal princes, each of whom (to the number of four) originally bore the title of Emperor. Li Ch‘üan tells us that the art of war originated under Huang Ti, who received it from his Minister 風后 Fêng Hou.

11. All armies prefer high ground to low

“High ground,” says Mei Yao-ch‘ên, “is not only more agreeable and salubrious, but more convenient from a military point of view; low ground is not only damp and unhealthy, but also disadvantageous for fighting.” The original text and the T‘u Shu have instead of .

and sunny places to dark.

12. If you are careful of your men,

Ts‘ao Kung says: 向水草可放牧養畜 “Make for fresh water and pasture, where you can turn out your animals to graze.” Andthe other commentators follow him, apparently taking as = . Cf. Mencius, V. 1. ix. 1, where 養牲者 means a cattle-keeper. But here 養生 surely has reference to the health of the troops. It is the title of Chuang Tzŭ’s third chapter, where it denotes moral rather than physical well-being.

and camp on hard ground, must mean dry and solid, as opposed to damp and marshy, ground. This is to be found as a rule in high places, so the commentators explain as practically equivalent to .

the army will be free from disease of every kind,

Chang Yü says: “The dryness of the climate will prevent the outbreak of illness.”

and this will spell victory.

  1. 邱陵隄防必處其陽而右背之此兵之利地之助也
  2. 上雨水沫至欲涉者待其定也
  3. 凡地有絶澗天井天牢天羅天陷天𨻶必亟去之勿近也
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 utilise 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.

The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan have a superfluous before .

15. Country in which there are precipitous cliffs with torrents running between

絶澗, explained by Mei Yao-ch‘ên as 前後險峻水橫其中.

deep natural hollows,

天井, explained as 四面峻坂澗壑所歸 “places enclosed on every side by steep banks, with pools of water at the bottom.”

confined places,天牢 “natural pens or prisons,” explained as 三面環絶易入難出 “places surrounded by precipices on three sides — easy to get into, but hard to get out of.”

tangled thickets,

天羅, explained as 草木蒙密鋒鏑莫施 “places covered with such dense undergrowth that spears cannot be used.”


天陷, explained as 卑下汙𣾈車騎不通 “low-lying places, so heavy with mud as to be impassible for chariots and horsemen.”

and crevasses,

天𨻶 is explained by Mei Yao-ch‘ên as 兩山相向洞道狹惡 “a narrow difficult way between beetling cliffs,” but Ts‘ao Kung says 山澗迫狹地形深數尺長數丈者, which seems to denote something on a much smaller scale. Tu Mu’s note is 地多溝坑坎陷木石 “ground covered with trees and rocks, and intersected by numerous ravines and pitfalls.” This is very vague, but Chia Lin explains it clearly enough as a defile or narrow pass: 兩邊險絶形狹長而數里, and Chang Yü takes much the same view. On the whole, the weight of the commentators certainly inclines to the rendering “defile”. But the ordinary meaning of 𨻶 (a crack or fissure) and the fact that 絶澗 above must be something in the nature of a defile, make me think that Sun Tzŭ is here speaking of crevasses. The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read for 𨻶, with the same meaning; the latter also has 大害 after 天郄 — a palpable gloss.

should be left with all possible speed and not approached.

  1. 吾遠之敵近之吾迎之敵背之
  2. 軍旁有險阻蔣潢井生葭葦小林蘙薈必謹覆索之此伏姦之所藏處也
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 his rear.

17. If in the neighbourhood of your camp

The original text has 軍行, but has been generally adopted as yielding much better sense.there should be any hilly country,

險阻 is 邱阜之地, according to Chang Yü.

ponds surrounded by aquatic grass, hollow basins filled with reeds,

The original text omits and , so that and join to make a pair: “ponds and basins.” This is plausible enough at first sight, but there are several objections to the reading: (1) is unlikely to have got into the text as a gloss on ; (2) it is easy to suppose, on the other hand, that and afterwards (to restore the balance of the sentence) were omitted by a copyist who jumped to the conclusion that and must go together; (3) the sense, when one comes to consider it, actually requires , for it is absurd to talk of pools and ponds as in themselves suitable places for an ambush; (4) Li Ching (571–649 A. D.) in his 兵法 “Art of War” has the words: 蔣潢蘙薈則必索其伏. This is evidently a reminiscence of Sun Tzŭ, so there can be little doubt that stood in the text at this early date. It may be added that the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan both have , and the latter also reads for .

or woods with thick undergrowth,

I read 小林 with the Yü Lan in preference to 山林, given in the original text, which is accepted by the commentators without question. The text of the T‘u Shu up to this point runs as follows: 潢井蒹葭林木蘙薈者.

they must be carefully routed out and searched; for these are places where men in ambush or insidious spies are likely to be lurking.

The original text omits , which has been restored from the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan. The T‘u Shu omits as well, making a substantive. On Chang Yü has the note: 又慮姦細潛隱覘我虛實聽我號令伏姦當爲兩事 “We must also be on our guard against traitors who may lie in close covert, secretly spying out our weaknesses and overhearing our instructions. Fu and chien are to be taken separately.”

  1. 敵近而靜者恃其險也
18. When the enemy is close at hand and remains quiet, he is relying on the natural strength of his position.Here begin Sun Tzŭ’s remarks on the reading of signs, much of which is so good that it could almost be included in a modern manual like Gen. Baden-Powell’s “Aids to Scouting.”

  1. 遠而挑戰者欲人之進也
  2. 其所居者易利也
  3. 衆樹動者來也衆草多障者疑也
19. When he keeps aloof and tries to provoke a battle, he is anxious for the other side to advance.

Probably because we are in a strong position from which he wishes to dislodge us. “If he came close up to us,” says Tu Mu, “and tried to force a battle, he would seem to despise us, and there would be less probability of our responding to the challenge.”

20. If his place of encampment is easy of access, he is tendering a bait.

is here the opposite of in § 18. The reading of the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan, 其所處者居易利也, is pretty obviously corrupt. The original text, which transposes and , may very possibly be right. Tu Mu tells us that there is yet another reading: 士爭其所居者易利也.

21. Movement amongst the trees of a forest shows that the enemy is advancing.

Ts‘ao Kung explains this as “felling trees to clear a passage,” and Chang Yü says: “Every army sends out scouts to climb high places and observe the enemy. If a scout sees that the trees of a forest are moving and shaking, he may know that they are being cut down to clear a passage for the enemy’s march.”

The appearance of a number of screens in the midst of thick grass means that the enemy wants to make us suspicious.

Whenever the meaning of a passage happens to be somewhat elusive, Capt. Calthrop seems to consider himself justified in giving free rein to the imagination. Thus, though his text is here identical with ours, he renders the above: “Broken branches and trodden grass, as of the passing of a large host, must be regarded with suspicion.” Tu Yu’s explanation, borrowed from Ts‘ao Kung, is as follows: “The presence of a number of screens or sheds in the midst of thick vegetation is a sure sign that the enemy has fled and, fearing pursuit, has constructed these hiding-places

in order to make us suspect an ambush.” It appears that these “screens” were hastily knotted together out of any long grass which the retreating enemy happened to come across.

  1. 鳥起者伏也獸駭者覆也
  2. 塵高而銳者車來也卑而廣者徒來也散而條達者樵採也少而往來者營軍也
22. The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambuscade.

Chang Yü’s explanation is doubtless right: “When birds that are flying along in a straight line suddenly shoot upwards, it means that soldiers are in ambush at the spot beneath.”

Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.

An example of fou4 in the meaning of “ambuscade” may be found in the Tso Chuan, 9th year: 君爲三覆以待之. In the present passage, however, it is to be distinguished from just above, in that it implies onward motion on the part of the attacking force. Thus, Li Ch‘üan defines it as 不意而至, and Tu Mu as 來襲我也.

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.

高而銳 “high and sharp,” or rising to a peak, is of course somewhat exaggerated as applied to dust. The commentators explain the phenomenon by saying that horses and chariots, being heavier than men, raise more dust, and also follow one another in the same wheel-track, whereas foot-soldiers would be marching in ranks, many abreast. According to Chang Yü, “every army on the march must have scouts (探候之人) some way in advance, who on sighting dust raised by the enemy, will gallop back and report it to the commander-in-chief.” Cf. Gen. Baden-Powell: “As you move along, say, in a hostile country, your eyes should be looking afar for the enemy or any signs of him: figures, dust rising, birds getting up, glitter of arms, etc.”[1]

When it branches out in different directions, it shows that parties have been sent to collect firewood.

There is some doubt about the reading 樵採. The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan have 薪採, and Li Ch‘üan proposes 薪來. A few clouds of dust moving to and fro signify that the army is encamping.

Chang Yü says: “In apportioning the defences for a cantonment, light horse will be sent out to survey the position and ascertain the weak and strong points all along its circumference. Hence the small quantity of dust and its motion.”

  1. 辭卑而益備者進也辭强而進驅者退也

24. Humble words and increased preparations are signs that the enemy is about to advance.

“As though they stood in great fear of us,” says Tu Mu. “Their object is to make us contemptuous and careless, after which they will attack us.” Chang Yü alludes to the story of 田單 T‘ien Tan of the Ch‘i State, who in 279 B.C. was hard-pressed in his defence of 卽墨 Chi-mo against the Yen forces, led by 騎劫 Ch‘i Chieh. In ch. 82 of the Shih Chi we read: “T‘ien Tan openly said: ‘My only fear is that the Yen army may cut off the noses of their Ch‘i prisoners and place them in the front rank to fight against us; that would be the undoing of our city.’ The other side being informed of this speech, at once acted on the suggestion; but those within the city were enraged at seeing their fellow-countrymen thus mutilated, and fearing only lest they should fall into the enemy’s hands, were nerved to defend themselves more obstinately than ever. Once again T‘ien Tan sent back converted spies who reported these words to the enemy: ‘What I dread most is that the men of Yen may dig up the ancestral tombs outside the town, and by inflicting this indignity on our forefathers cause us to become faint-hearted.’ Forthwith the besiegers dug up all the graves and burned the corpses lying in them. And the inhabitants of Chi-mo, witnessing the outrage from the city-walls, wept passionately and were all impatient to go out and fight, their fury being increased tenfold. T‘ien Tan knew then that his soldiers were ready for any enterprise. But instead of a sword, he himself took a mattock in his hands, and ordered others to be distributed amongst his best warriors, while the ranks were filled up with their wives and concubines. He then served out all the remaining rations and bade his men eat their fill. The regular soldiers were told to keep out of sight, and the walls were manned with the old and weaker men and with women. This done, envoys were despatched to the enemy’s camp to arrange terms of surrender, whereupon the Yen army began shouting for joy. T‘ien Tan also collected 20,000 ounces of silver from the people, and got the wealthy citizens of Chi-mo to send it to the Yen general with the prayer that, when the town capitulated, he would not allow their homes to be plundered or their women to be maltreated. Ch‘i Chieh, in high good humour, granted their prayer; but his army now became increasingly slack and careless. Meanwhile, T‘ien Tan got together a thousand oxen, decked them with pieces of red silk, painted their bodies, dragon-like, with coloured stripes, and fastened sharp blades on their horns and well-greased rushes on their tails. When night came on, he lighted the ends of the rushes, and drove the oxen through a number of holes which he had pierced in the walls, backing them up with a force of 5000 picked warriors. The animals, maddened with pain, dashed furiously into the enemy’s camp where they caused the utmost confusion and dismay; for their tails acted as torches, showing up the hideous pattern on their bodies, and the weapons on their horns killed or wounded any with whom they came into contact. In the meantime, the band of 5000 had crept up with gags in their mouths, and now threw themselves on the enemy. At the same moment a frightful din arose in the city itself, all those that remained behind making as much noise as possible by banging drums and hammering on bronze vessels, until heaven and earth were convulsed by the uproar. Terror-stricken, the Yen army fled in disorder, hotly pursued by the men of Ch‘i, who succeeded in slaying their general Ch‘i Chieh... The result of the battle was the ultimate recovery of some seventy cities which had belonged to the Ch‘i State.”

Violent language and driving forward as if to the attack are signs that he will retreat.

I follow the original text here, also adopted by the T‘u Shu. The standard text reads 辭詭而强進驅者退也 on the strength of Ts‘ao Kung’s commentary 詭詐也, which shows that his text included the word . Strong as this ground is, I do not think it can counterbalance the obvious superiority of the other reading in point of sense. not only provides no antithesis to , but makes the whole passage absurd; for if the language of the enemy is calculated to deceive, it cannot be known as deceitful at the time, and can therefore afford no “sign.” Moreover, the extra word in 强進驅者 (an awkward locution, by the way) spoils the parallelism with 益備者.

  1. 輕車先出居其側者陳也
  2. 無約而請和者謀也
25. When the light chariots

The same, according to Tu Yu, as the 馳車 of II. § 1.

come out first and take up a position on the wings, it is a sign that the enemy is forming for battle.

The T‘ung Tien omits .

26. Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot.

Tu Yu defines as 要約, and Li Ch‘üan as 質盟之約 “a treaty confirmed by oaths and hostages.” Wang Hsi and Chang Yü, on the other hand, simply say 無故 “without reason,” “on a frivolous pretext,” as though bore the rather unusual sense of “important.” Capt. Calthrop has “without consultation,” which is too loose.

  1. 奔走而陳兵者期也
  2. 半進半退者誘也
  3. 倚仗而立者飢也
  4. 汲而先飮者渴也
27. When there is much running about

Every man hastening to his proper place under his own regimental banner.

and the soldiers fall into rank,

I follow the T‘u Shu in omitting after . Tu Mu quotes the Chou Li, ch. xxix. fol. 31: 車驟徒趨及表乃止.

it means that the critical moment has come.

What Chia Lin calls 晷刻之期, as opposed to 尋常之期.

28. When some are seen advancing and some retreating, it is a lure.

Capt. Calthrop is hardly right in translating: “An advance, followed by sudden retirement.” It is rather a case of feigned confusion. As Tu Mu says: 僞爲雜亂不整之狀.

29. When the soldiers stand leaning on their spears, they are faint from want of food.

is here probably not a synonym for , but = “a weapon.” The original text has 杖而立者, which has been corrected from the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan.

30. If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst.

As Tu Mu remarks: 覩一人三軍可知也 “One may know the condition of a whole army from the behaviour of a single man.” The may mean either that they drink before drawing water for the army, or before they return to camp. Chang Yü takes the latter view. The T‘ung Tien has the faulty reading 汲役先飮者, and the Yü Lan, worse still, 汲設飮者.

  1. 見利而不進者勞也
  2. 鳥集者虛也夜呼者恐也
  3. 軍擾者將不重也旌旗動者亂也吏怒者倦也
  4. 粟馬肉食軍無懸缻不返其舍者窮宼也
31. If the enemy sees an advantage to be gained

Not necessarily “booty,” as Capt. Calthrop translates it. The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read 向人見利, etc.

and makes no effort to secure it, the soldiers are exhausted.

32. If birds gather on any spot, it is unoccupied.

A useful fact to bear in mind when, for instance, as Ch‘ên Hao says, the enemy has secretly abandoned his camp.

Clamour by night betokens nervousness.

Owing to false alarms; or, as Tu Mu explains it: 恐懼不安故夜呼以自壯也 “Fear makes men restless; so they fall to shouting at night in order to keep up their courage.” The T‘ung Tien inserts before .

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.

The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan omit .

If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary.

And therefore, as Capt. Calthrop says, slow to obey. Tu Yu understands the sentence differently: “If all the officers of an army are angry with their general, it means that they are broken with fatigue” [owing to the exertions which he has demanded from them].

34. When an army feeds its horses with grain and kills its cattle for food,

粟馬肉食 is expanded by Mei Yao-ch‘ên (following Tu Mu) into 給糧以𥞊乎馬殺畜以饗乎士, which is the sense I have given above. In the ordinary course of things, the men would be fed on grain and the horses chiefly on grass.

and when the men do not hang their cooking-potsThe T‘ung Tien reads , which is much the same as , and the Yü Lan , which is manifestly wrong.

over the camp-fires, showing that they will not return to their tents,

For , the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan both read .

you may know that they are determined to fight to the death.

For 窮宼, see VII. § 36. I may quote here the illustrative passage from the Hou Han Shu, ch. 71, given in abbreviated form by the P‘ei Wên Yün Fu: “The rebel 王國 Wang Kuo of Liang was besieging the town of 陳倉 Ch‘ên-ts‘ang, and 皇甫嵩 Huang-fu Sung, who was in supreme command, and 董卓 Tung Cho were sent out against him. The latter pressed for hasty measures, but Sung turned a deaf ear to his counsel. At last the rebels were utterly worn out, and began to throw down their weapons of their own accord. Sung was now for advancing to the attack, but Cho said: ‘It is a principle of war not to pursue desperate men and not to press a retreating host.’ Sung answered: ‘That does not apply here. What I am about to attack is a jaded army, not a retreating host; with disciplined troops I am falling on a disorganised multitude, not a band of desperate men.’ Thereupon he advanced to the attack unsupported by his colleague, and routed the enemy, Wang Kuo being slain.” The inferior reading of the T‘u Shu for § 34 is as follows: 殺馬肉食者軍無糧也懸缻不返其舍者窮宼也. The first clause strikes me as rather shallow for Sun Tzŭ, and it is hard to make anything of 懸缻 in the second without the negative. Capt. Calthrop, nothing daunted, set down in his first edition: “When they cast away their cooking-pots.” He now has: “When the cooking-pots are hung up on the wall.”

  1. 諄諄翕翕徐言入入者失衆也
35. The sight of men whispering together

諄諄 is well explained by Tu Mu as 乏氣聲促 “speaking with bated breath.”

in small knots

The Shuo Wên rather strangely defines by the word , but the Êrh Ya says “to join” or “contract,” which is undoubtedly its primary meaning. Chang Yü is right, then, in explaining it here by the word . The other commentators are very much at sea: Ts‘ao Kung says 失志貌, Tu Yu 不眞, Tu Mu 顚倒失次貌, Chia Lin 不安貌, Mei Yao-ch‘ên 曠職事, Wang Hsi 患其上.or speaking in subdued tones

入入 is said to be the same as 如如.

points to disaffection amongst the rank and file.

失衆 is equivalent to 失其衆心, the subject of course being “the general,” understood. In the original text, which seems to be followed by several commentators, the whole passage stands thus: 諄諄翕翕徐與人言者失衆也. Here it would be the general who is talking to his men, not the men amongst themselves. For , which is the chief stumbling-block in the way of this reading, the T‘u Shu gives the very plausible emendation 𧬈 (also read hsi, and defined by K‘ang Hsi as 疾言 “to speak fast”). But this is unnecessary if we keep to the standard text.

  1. 屢賞者窘也數罰者困也
  2. 先暴而後畏其衆者不精之至也
  3. 來委謝者欲休息也
36. Too frequent rewards signify that the enemy is at the end of his resources;

Because, when an army is hard pressed, as Tu Mu says, there is always a fear of mutiny, and lavish rewards are given to keep the men in good temper.

too many punishments betray a condition of dire distress.

Because in such case discipline becomes relaxed, and unwonted severity is necessary to keep the men to their duty.

37. To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at the enemy’s numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence.

I follow the interpretation of Ts‘ao Kung: 先輕敵後聞其衆則心惡之也, also adopted by Li Ch‘üan, Tu Mu and Chang Yü. Another possible meaning, set forth by Tu Yu, Chia Lin, Mei Yao-ch‘ên and Wang Hsi, is: “The general who is first tyrannical towards his men, and then in terror lest they should mutiny, etc.” This would connect the sentence with what went before about rewards and punishments. The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read “affection” instead of .

38. When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.

Tu Mu says: 所以委質來謝此乃勢已窮或有他故必欲休息也 “If the enemy open friendly relations by sending hostages, it is a sign that they are anxious for an armistice, either because their strength is exhausted or for some other reason.” But it hardly needs a Sun Tzŭ to draw such an obvious inference; and although Tu Mu is supported by Mei Yao-ch‘ên and Chang Yü, I cannot think that hostages are indicated by the word .

  1. 兵怒而相迎久而不合又不相去必謹察之
  2. 兵非益多也惟無武進足以倂力料敵取人而已
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.

Capt. Calthrop falls into a trap which often lurks in the word . He translates: “When both sides, eager for a fight, face each other for a considerable time, neither advancing nor retiring,” etc. Had he reflected a little, he would have seen that this is meaningless as addressed to a commander who has control over the movements of his own troops. 相迎, then, does not mean that the two armies go to meet each other, but simply that the other side comes up to us. Likewise with 相去. If this were not perfectly clear of itself, Mei Yao-ch‘ên’s paraphrase would make it so: 怒而來逆我, etc. As Ts‘ao Kung points out, a manœuvre of this sort may be only a ruse to gain time for an unexpected flank attack or the laying of an ambush.

40. If our troops are no more in number than the enemy, that is amply sufficient;

Wang Hsi’s paraphrase, partly borrowed from Ts‘ao Kung, is 權力均足矣. Another reading, adopted by Chia Lin and the T‘u Shu, is 兵非貴益多, which Capt. Calthrop renders, much too loosely: “Numbers are no certain mark of strength.”

it only means that no direct attack can be made.

Literally, “no martial advance.” That is to say, chêng” tactics and frontal attacks must be eschewed, and stratagem resorted to instead.

What we can do is simply to concentrate all our available strength, keep a close watch on the enemy, and obtain reinforcements.

This is an obscure sentence, and none of the commentators succeed in squeezing very good sense out of it. The difficulty lies chiefly in the words 取人, which have been taken in every possible way. I follow Li Ch‘üan, who appears to offer the simplest explanation: 惟得人者勝也 “Only the side that gets more men will win.” Ts‘ao Kung’s note, concise as usual to the verge of incomprehensibility, is 厮養足也. Fortunately we have Chang Yü to expound its meaning to us in language which is lucidity itself: 兵力既均又未見便雖未足剛進足以取人於厮養之中以并兵合力察敵而取勝不必假他兵以助己 “When the numbers are even, and no favourable opening presents itself, although we may not be strong enough to deliver a sustained attack, we can find additional recruits amongst our sutlers and camp-followers, and then, concentrating our forces and keeping a close watch on the enemy, contrive to snatch the victory. But we must avoid borrowing foreign soldiers to help us.” He then quotes from Wei Liao Tzŭ, ch. 3: 助卒名爲十萬其實不過數萬耳 “The nominal strength of mercenary troops may be 100,000, but their real value will be not more than half that figure.” According to this interpretation, 取人 means “to get recruits,” not from outside, but from the tag-rag and bobtail which follows in the wake of a large army. This does not sound a very soldierly suggestion, and I feel convinced that it is not what Sun Tzŭ meant. Chia Lin, on the other hand, takes the words in a different sense altogether, namely “to conquer the enemy” [cf. I. § 20]. But in that case they could hardly be followed by 而已. Better than this would be the rendering “to make isolated captures,” as opposed to 武進 “a general attack.”

  1. 夫惟無慮而易敵者必擒於人
  2. 卒未親附而罰之則不服不服則難用也卒已親附而罰不行則不可用也
41. He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.

The force of 夫惟 is not easy to appreciate. Ch‘én Hao says 殊無遠慮但輕敵者, thus referring to the second verb. He continues, quoting from the Tso Chuan: 蜂蠆有毒而况國乎則小敵亦不可輕 “If bees and scorpions carry poison, how much more will a hostile state! [僖公, XXII. 3.] Even a puny opponent, then, should not be treated with contempt.”

42. If soldiers are punished before they have grownattached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, they will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be useless.

This is wrongly translated by Capt. Calthrop: “If the troops know the general, but are not affected by his punishments, they are useless.”

  1. 故令之以文齊之以武是謂必取
  2. 令素行以教其民則民服令不素行以教其民則民不服
  3. 令素信著者與衆相得也
43. Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline.

and , according to Ts‘ao Kung, are here equivalent to and respectively. Compare our two uses of the word “civil.” 晏子 Yen Tzŭ [✝ B.C. 493] said of 司馬穰苴 Ssŭ-ma Jang-chü: 文能附衆武能威敵也 “His civil virtues endeared him to the people; his martial prowess kept his enemies in awe.” Cf. Wu Tzŭ, ch. 4 init.: 夫總文武者軍之將也兼剛柔者兵之事也 “The ideal commander unites culture with a warlike temper; the profession of arms requires a combination of hardness and tenderness.” Again I must find fault with Capt. Calthrop’s translation: “By humane treatment we obtain obedience; authority brings uniformity.”

This is a certain road to victory.

44. If in training soldiers commands are habitually enforced, the army will be well-disciplined; if not, its discipline will be bad.

The T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan read: 令素行以教其人者也令素行則人服令素不行則人不服.

45. If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed,

The original text has 令素行者. 令素 is certainly awkward without , but on the other hand it is clear that Tu Mu accepted the T‘ung Tien text, which is identical with ours. He says: “A general oughtin time of peace to show kindly confidence in his men and also make his authority respected, so that when they come to face the enemy, orders may be executed and discipline maintained, because they all trust and look up to him.” What Sun Tzŭ has said in § 44, however, would lead one rather to expect something like this: “If a general is always confident that his orders will be carried out,” etc. Hence I am tempted to think that he may have written 令素信行者. But this is perhaps too conjectural.

the gain will be mutual.

Chang Yü says: 上以信使民民以信服上是上下相得也 “The general has confidence in the men under his command, and the men are docile, having confidence in him. Thus the gain is mutual.” He quotes a pregnant sentence from Wei Liao Tzŭ, ch. 4: 令之之法小過無更小疑無中 “The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty doubts.” Vacillation and fussiness are the surest means of sapping the confidence of an army. Capt. Calthrop winds up the chapter with a final mistranslation of a more than usually heinous description: “Orders are always obeyed, if general and soldiers are in sympathy.” Besides inventing the latter half of the sentence, he has managed to invert protasis and apodosis.

  1. “Aids to Scouting,” p. 26.