The Art of War (Sun)/Section VI

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VI. 虛實篇

  1. 孫子曰凡先處戰地而待敵者佚後處戰地而趨戰者勞
  2. 故善戰者致人而不致於人

VI. Weak points and strong.

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.


  1. 能使敵人自至者利之也能使敵不得至者害之也
  2. 故敵佚能勞之飽能飢之安能動之
  3. 出其所必趨趨其所不意
  4. 行千里而不勞者行於無人之地也
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 move.

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.


  1. 攻而必取者攻其所不守也守而必固者守其所不攻也
  2. 故善攻者敵不知其所守善守者敵不知其所攻
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.


  1. 微乎微乎至於無形神乎神乎至於無聲故能爲敵之司命
  2. 進而不可禦者衝其虛也退而不可追者速而不可及也
  3. 故我欲戰敵雖高壘深溝不得不與我戰者攻其所必救也
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 hands.

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.


  1. 我不欲戰劃地而守之敵不得與我戰者乖其所之也
  2. 故形人而我無形則我專而敵分
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 his way. 13. By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be divided.


  1. 我專爲一敵分爲十是以十共其一也則我衆而敵寡
  2. 能以衆擊寡者則吾之所與戰者約矣
  3. 吾所與戰之地不可知不可知則敵所備者多敵所備者多則吾所與戰者寡矣
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.


  1. 故備前則後寡備後則前寡備左則右寡備右則左寡無所不備則無所不寡
  2. 寡者備人者也衆者使人備己者也
  3. 故知戰之地知戰之日則可千里而會戰
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 be weak.

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.


  1. 不知戰地不知戰日則左不能救右右不能救左前不能救後後不能救前而況遠者數十里近者數里乎
  2. 以吾度之越人之兵雖多亦奚益於勝哉故曰勝可爲也
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.


  1. 敵雖衆可使無鬥故策之而知得失之計
  2. 作之而知動靜之理形之而知死生之地
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 success. 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.


  1. 角之而知有餘不足之處
  2. 故形兵之極至於無形無形則深閒不能窺智者不能謀
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.


  1. 因形而錯勝於衆衆不能知
  2. 人皆知我所以勝之形而莫知吾所以制勝之形
  3. 故其戰勝不復而應形於無窮
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.


  1. 夫兵形象水水之形避高而趨下
  2. 兵之形避實而擊虛
  3. 水因地而制流兵因敵而制勝
  4. 故兵無常勢水無常形
  5. 能因敵變化而取勝者謂之神
  6. 故五行無常勝四時無常位日有短長月有死生
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 is facing.

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.