The Art of War (Sun)/Section VII

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Translated from the Chinese by Lionel Giles, M.A. (1910)

VII. 軍爭篇

  1. 孫子曰凡用兵之法將受命於君
  2. 合軍聚衆交和而舍

VII. Manœuvring.

The commentators, as well as the subsequent text, make it clear that this is the real meaning of 軍爭. Thus, Li Ch‘üan says that means 趨利 “marching rapidly to seize an advantage”; Wang Hsi says: 爭者爭利得利則勝 “‘Striving’ means striving for an advantage; this being obtained, victory will follow;” and Chang Yü: 兩軍相對而爭利也 “The two armies face to face, and each striving to obtain a tactical advantage over the other.” According to the latter commentator, then, the situation is analogous to that of two wrestlers manœuvring for a “hold,” before coming to actual grips. In any case, we must beware of translating by the word “fighting” or “battle,” as if it were equivalent to . Capt. Calthrop falls into this mistake.

1. Sun Tzŭ said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign.

For there is another reading , which Li Ch‘üan explains as 恭行天罰 “being the reverent instrument of Heaven’s chastisement.”

2. Having collected an army and concentrated his forces, he must blend and harmonise the different elements thereof before pitching his camp.

Ts‘ao Kung takes as referring to the 和門 or main gate of the military camp. This, Tu Mu tells us, was formed with a couple of flags hung across. [Cf. Chou Li, ch. xxvii. fol. 31 of the Imperial edition: 直旌門.] 交和 would then mean “setting up his 和門 opposite that of the enemy.” But Chia Lin’s explanation, which has been adoptedabove, is on the whole simpler and better. Chang Yü, while following Ts‘ao Kung, adds that the words may also be taken to mean “the establishment of harmony and confidence between the higher and lower ranks before venturing into the field;” and he quotes a saying of Wu Tzŭ (chap. 1 ad init): “Without harmony in the State, no military expedition can be undertaken; without harmony in the army, no battle array can be formed.” In the historical romance 東周列國, chap. 75, Sun Tzŭ himself is represented as saying to 伍員 Wu Yüan: 大凡行兵之法先除內患然後方可外征 “As a general rule, those who are waging war should get rid of all domestic troubles before proceeding to attack the external foe.” is defined as . It here conveys the notion of encamping after having taken the field.

  1. 莫難於軍爭軍爭之難者以迂爲直以患爲利
3. After that, comes tactical manœuvring, than which there is nothing more difficult.

I have departed slightly from the traditional interpretation of Ts‘ao Kung, who says: 從始受命至於交和軍爭難也 “From the time of receiving the sovereign’s instructions until our encampment over against the enemy, the tactics to be pursued are most difficult.” It seems to me that the 軍爭 tactics or manœuvres can hardly be said to begin until the army has sallied forth and encamped, and Ch‘ên Hao’s note gives colour to this view: “For levying, concentrating, harmonising and intrenching an army, there are plenty of old rules which will serve. The real difficulty comes when we engage in tactical operations.” Tu Yu also observes that “the great difficulty is to be beforehand with the enemy in seizing favourable positions.”

The difficulty of tactical manœuvring consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.

以迂爲直 is one of those highly condensed and somewhat enigmatical expressions of which Sun Tzŭ is so fond. This is how it is explained by Ts‘ao Kung: 示以遠速其道里先敵至也 “Make it appear that you are a long way off, then cover the distance rapidly and arrive on the scene before your opponent.” Tu Mu says: “Hoodwink the enemy, so that he may be remiss and leisurely while you are dashing along with the utmost speed.” Ho Shih gives a slightly different turn to the sentence: “Although you may have difficult ground to traverse and natural obstacles to encounter, this is a drawback whichcan be turned into actual advantage by celerity of movement.” Signal examples of this saying are afforded by the two famous passages across the Alps — that of Hannibal, which laid Italy at his mercy, and that of Napoleon two thousand years later, which resulted in the great victory of Marengo.

  1. 故迂其途而誘之以利後人發先人至此知迂直之計者也
4. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation. Chia Lin understands as the enemy’s line of march, thus: “If our adversary’s course is really a short one, and we can manage to divert him from it (迂之) either by simulating weakness or by holding out some small advantage, we shall be able to beat him in the race for good positions.” This is quite a defensible view, though not adopted by any other commentator. of course = , and and are to be taken as verbs. Tu Mu cites the famous march of 趙奢 Chao Shê in 270 B.C. to relieve the town of 閼與 O-yü, which was closely invested by a Ch‘in army. [It should be noted that the above is the correct pronunciation of 閼與, as given in the commentary on the Ch‘ien Han Shu, ch. 34. Giles’ dictionary gives “Yü-yü,” and Chavannes, I know not on what authority, prefers to write “Yen-yü.” The name is omitted altogether from Playfair’s “Cities and Towns.”] The King of Chao first consulted 廉頗 Lien P‘o on the advisability of attempting a relief, but the latter thought the distance too great, and the intervening country too rugged and difficult. His Majesty then turned to Chao Shê, who fully admitted the hazardous nature of the march, but finally said: “We shall be like two rats fighting in a hole — and the pluckier one will win!” So he left the capital with his army, but had only gone a distance of 30 li when he stopped and began throwing up intrenchments. For 28 days he continued strengthening his fortifications, and took care that spies should carry the intelligence to the enemy. The Ch‘in general was overjoyed, and attributed his adversary’s tardiness to the fact that the beleaguered city was in the Han State, and thus not actually part of Chao territory. But the spies had no sooner departed than Chao Shê began a forced march lasting for two days and one night, and arrived on the scene of action with such astonishing rapidity that he was able to occupy a commanding position on the 北山 “North hill” before the enemyhad got wind of his movements. A crushing defeat followed for the Ch‘in forces, who were obliged to raise the siege of O-yü in all haste and retreat across the border. [See 史記, chap. 81.]

  1. 故軍爭爲利衆爭爲危
  2. 舉軍而爭利則不及委軍而爭利則輜重捐
  3. 是故卷甲而趨日夜不處倍道兼行百里而爭利則擒三將軍
5. Manœuvring with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.

I here adopt the reading of the T‘ung Tien, Chêng Yu-hsien and the T‘u Shu, where appears to supply the exact nuance required in order to make sense. The standard text, on the other hand, in which is repeated, seems somewhat pointless. The commentators take it to mean that manœuvres may be profitable, or they may be dangerous: it all depends on the ability of the general. Capt. Calthrop translates 衆爭 “the wrangles of a multitude”!

6. If you set a fully equipped army in march in order to snatch an advantage, the chances are that you will be too late.

The original text has instead of ; but a verb is needed to balance .

On the other hand, to detach a flying column for the purpose involves the sacrifice of its baggage and stores.

委軍 is evidently unintelligible to the Chinese commentators, who paraphrase the sentence as though it began with 棄輜. Absolute tautology in the apodosis can then only be avoided by drawing an impossibly fine distinction between and . I submit my own rendering without much enthusiasm, being convinced that there is some deep-seated corruption in the text. On the whole, it is clear that Sun Tzŭ does not approve of a lengthy march being undertaken without supplies. Cf. infra, § 11.

7. Thus, if you order your men to roll up their buff-coats,

卷甲 does not mean “to discard one’s armour,” as Capt. Calthrop translates, but implies on the contrary that it is to be carried with you. Chang Yü says: 猶悉甲也 “This means, in full panoply.”and make forced marches without halting day or night, covering double the usual distance at a stretch,

The ordinary day’s march, according to Tu Mu, was 30 li; but on one occasion, when pursuing 劉備 Liu Pei, Ts‘ao Ts‘ao is said to have covered the incredible distance of 300 li within twenty-four hours.

doing a hundred li in order to wrest an advantage, the leaders of all your three divisions will fall into the hands of the enemy.

  1. 勁者先罷者後其法十一而至
  2. 五十里而爭利則蹶上將軍其法半至
  3. 三十里而爭利則三分之二至
8. The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will fall behind, and on this plan only one-tenth of your army will reach its destination.

For , see II. § 14. The moral is, as Ts‘ao Kung and others point out: Don’t march a hundred li to gain a tactical advantage, either with or without impedimenta. Manœuvres of this description should be confined to short distances. Stonewall Jackson said: “The hardships of forced marches are often more painful than the dangers of battle.” He did not often call upon his troops for extraordinary exertions. It was only when he intended a surprise, or when a rapid retreat was imperative, that he sacrificed everything to speed.[1]

9. If you march fifty li in order to outmanœuvre the enemy, you will lose the leader of your first division, and only half your force will reach the goal.

is explained as similar in meaning to : literally, “the leader of the first division will be torn away.” Cf. Tso Chuan, 19th year: 是謂蹶其本 “This is a case of [the falling tree] tearing up its roots.”

10. If you march thirty li with the same object, two-thirds of your army will arrive.

In the T‘ung Tien is added: 以是知軍爭之難 “From this we may know the difficulty of manœuvring.”

  1. 是故軍無輜重則亡無糧食則亡無委積則亡
  2. 故不知諸侯之謀者不能豫交
  3. 不知山林險阻沮澤之形者不能行軍
  4. 不用鄉導者不能得地利
11. We may take it then that an army without its baggage-train is lost; without provisions it is lost; without bases of supply it is lost.

委積 is explained by Tu Yu as 芻草之屬 “fodder and the like;” by Tu Mu and Chang Yü as 財貨 “goods in general;” and by Wang Hsi as 薪鹽蔬材之屬 “fuel, salt, foodstuffs, etc.” But I think what Sun Tzŭ meant was “stores accumulated in dépôts,” as distinguished from 輜重 and 糧食, the various impedimenta accompanying an army on its march. Cf. Chou Li, ch. xvi. fol. 10: 委人…斂薪芻凡疏材木材凡畜聚之物.

12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbours.

= . Li Ch‘üan understands it as “guard against,” which is hardly so good. An original interpretation of is given by Tu Mu, who says it stands for 交兵 or 合戰 “join in battle.”

13. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls

, defined as 坑塹 (Ts‘ao Kung) or 坑坎 (Chang Yü).

and precipices,

, defined as 一高一下.

its marshes

, defined as 水草漸洳者.

and swamps.

, defined as 衆水所歸而不流者.

14. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.

§§ 12–14 are repeated in chap. XI. § 52.

  1. 故兵以詐立以利動
  2. 以分合爲變者也
  3. 故其疾如風其徐如林
  4. 侵掠如火不動如山
15. In war, practise dissimulation, and you will succeed.

According to Tu Mu, stands for 立勝. Cf. I. § 18. In the tactics of Turenne, deception of the enemy, especially as to the numerical strength of his troops, took a very prominent position.[2]

Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained.

This is the interpretation of all the commentators except Wang Hsi, who has the brief note 誘之也 “Entice out the enemy” (by offering him some apparent advantage).

16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must be decided by circumstances.

17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind,

The simile is doubly appropriate, because the wind is not only swift but, as Mei Yao-ch‘ên points out, 無形跡 “invisible and leaves no tracks.”

your compactness that of the forest.

It is hardly possible to take here in its ordinary sense of “sedate,” as Tu Yu tries to do. Mêng Shih comes nearer the mark in his note 緩行須有行列 “When slowly marching, order and ranks must be preserved” — so as to guard against surprise attacks. But natural forests do not grow in rows, whereas they do generally possess the quality of density or compactness. I think then that Mei Yao-ch‘ên uses the right adjective in saying 如林之森然.

18. In raiding and plundering be like fire,

Cf. Shih Ching, IV. 3. iv. 6: 如火烈烈則莫我敢曷 “Fierce as a blazing fire which no man can check.”

in immovability like a mountain.

That is, when holding a position from which the enemy is trying to dislodge you, or perhaps, as Tu Yu says, when he is trying to entice you into a trap.

  1. 難知如陰動如雷霆
  2. 掠鄉分衆廓地分利
19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.

The original text has instead of . Cf. IV. § 7. Tu Yu quotes a saying of T‘ai Kung which has passed into a proverb: 疾雷不及掩耳疾電不及瞑目 “You cannot shut your ears to the thunder or your eyes to the lightning — so rapid are they.” Likewise, an attack should be made so quickly that it cannot be parried.

20. When you plunder a countryside, let the spoil be divided amongst your men;

The reading of Tu Yu, Chia Lin, and apparently Ts‘ao Kung, is 指向分衆, which is explained as referring to the subdivision of the army, mentioned in V. §§ 1, 2, by means of banners and flags, serving to point out () to each man the way he should go (). But this is very forced, and the ellipsis is too great, even for Sun Tzŭ. Luckily, the T‘ung Tien and Yü Lan have the variant , which not only suggests the true reading , but affords some clue to the way in which the corruption arose. Some early commentator having inserted as the sound of , the two may afterwards have been read as one character; and this being interchangeable with , must finally have disappeared altogether. Meanwhile, would have been altered to in order to make sense. As regards 分衆, I believe that Ho Shih alone has grasped the real meaning, the other commentators understanding it as “dividing the men into parties” to search for plunder. Sun Tzŭ wishes to lessen the abuses of indiscriminate plundering by insisting that all booty shall be thrown into a common stock, which may afterwards be fairly divided amongst all.

when you capture new territory, cut it up into allotments for the benefit of the soldiery.

That this is the meaning, may be gathered from Tu Mu’s note: 開土拓境則分割與有功者. The 三略 gives the same advice: 𫉬地裂之. means “to enlarge” or “extend” — at the expense of the enemy, understood. Cf. Shih Ching, III. 1. vii. 1: 憎其式廓 “hating all the great States.” Ch‘ên Hao also says 屯兵種蒔 “quarter your soldiers on the land, and let them sow and plantit.” It is by acting on this principle, and harvesting the lands they invaded, that the Chinese have succeeded in carrying out some of their most memorable and triumphant expeditions, such as that of 班超 Pan Ch‘ao who penetrated to the Caspian, and in more recent years, those of 福康安 Fu-k‘ang-an and 左宗棠 Tso Tsung-t‘ang.

  1. 懸權而動
  2. 先知迂直之計者勝此軍爭之法也
  3. 軍政曰言不相聞故爲金鼓視不相見故爲旌旗
21. Ponder and deliberate

Note that both these words, like the Chinese 懸權, are really metaphors derived from the use of scales.

before you make a move.

Chang Yü quotes 尉繚子 as saying that we must not break camp until we have gauged the resisting power of the enemy and the cleverness of the opposing general. Cf. the “seven comparisons” in I. § 13. Capt. Calthrop omits this sentence.

22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation.

See supra, §§ 3, 4.

Such is the art of manœuvring.

With these words, the chapter would naturally come to an end. But there now follows a long appendix in the shape of an extract from an earlier book on War, now lost, but apparently extant at the time when Sun Tzŭ wrote. The style of this fragment is not noticeably different from that of Sun Tzŭ himself, but no commentator raises a doubt as to its genuineness.

23. The Book of Army Management says:

It is perhaps significant that none of the earlier commentators give us any information about this work. Mei Yao-Ch‘ên calls it 軍之舊典 “an ancient military classic,” and Wang Hsi, 古軍書 “an old book on war.” Considering the enormous amount of fighting that had gone on for centuries before Sun Tzŭ’s time between the various kingdoms and principalities of China, it is not in itself improbable that a collection of military maxims should have been made and written down at some earlier period.

On the field of battle,

Implied, though not actually in the Chinese.

the spoken word does not carry far enough: hence the institution of gongs and drums.

I have retained the words 金鼓 of the original text, which recur in the next paragraph, in preference to the other reading 鼓鐸 “drums and bells,” which is found in the T‘ung Tien, Pei T‘ang Shu Ch‘ao and Yü Lan. is a bell with a clapper. See Lun Yü III. 24, Chou Li XXIX. 15, 29. of course would include both gongs and bells of every kind. The T‘u Shu inserts a after each .

Nor can ordinary objects be seen clearly enough: hence the institution of banners and flags.

  1. 夫金鼓旌旗者所以一民之耳目也
  2. 民既專一則勇者不得獨進怯者不得獨退此用衆之法也
24. Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means whereby the ears and eyes of the host

The original text, followed by the T‘u Shu, has for here and in the next two paragraphs. But, as we have seen, is generally used in Sun Tzŭ for the enemy.

may be focussed on one particular point.

Note the use of as a verb. Chang Yü says: 視聽均齊則雖百萬之衆進退如一矣 “If sight and hearing converge simultaneously on the same object, the evolutions of as many as a million soldiers will be like those of a single man”!

25. The host thus forming a single united body, it is impossible either for the brave to advance alone, or for the cowardly to retreat alone.

Chang Yü quotes a saying: 令不進而進與令不退而退厥罪惟均 “Equally guilty are those who advance against orders and those who retreat against orders.” Tu Mu tells a story in this connection of 吳起 Wu Ch‘i, when he was fighting against the Ch‘in State. Before the battle had begun, one of his soldiers, a man of matchless daring, sallied forth by himself, captured two heads from the enemy, andreturned to camp. Wu Ch‘i had the man instantly executed, whereupon an officer ventured to remonstrate, saying: “This man was a good soldier, and ought not to have been beheaded.” Wu Ch‘i replied: “I fully believe he was a good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he acted without orders.”

This is the art of handling large masses of men.

  1. 故夜戰多火鼓晝戰多旌旗所以變民之耳目也
  2. 故三軍可奪氣將軍可奪心
26. In night-fighting, then, make much use of signal-fires and drums, and in fighting by day, of flags and banners, as a means of influencing the ears and eyes of your army.

The T‘ung Tien has the bad variant 便 for . With regard to the latter word, I believe I have hit off the right meaning, the whole phrase being slightly elliptical for “influencing the movements of the army through their senses of sight and hearing.” Li Ch‘üan, Tu Mu and Chia Lin certainly seem to understand it thus. The other commentators, however, take (or ) as the enemy, and as equivalent to 變惑 or 變亂 “to perplex” or “confound.” This does not agree so well with what has gone before, though on the other hand it renders the transition to § 27 less abrupt. The whole question, I think, hinges on the alternative readings and . The latter would almost certainly denote the enemy. Ch‘ên Hao alludes to 李光弼 Li Kuang-pi’s night ride to 河陽 Ho-yang at the head of 500 mounted men; they made such an imposing display with torches, that though the rebel leader 史思明 Shih Ssŭ-ming had a large army, he did not dare to dispute their passage. [Ch‘ên Hao gives the date as 天寳末 A.D. 756; but according to the 新唐書 New T‘ang History, 列傳 61, it must have been later than this, probably 760.]

27. A whole army may be robbed of its spirit;

“In war,” says Chang Yü, “if a spirit of anger can be made to pervade all ranks of an army at one and the same time, its onset will be irresistible. Now the spirit of the enemy’s soldiers will be keenest when they have newly arrived on the scene, and it is therefore our cue not to fight at once, but to wait until their ardour and enthusiasm have worn off, and then strike. It is in this way that they may be robbed of their keen spirit.” Li Ch‘üan and others tell an anecdote (to be found in the Tso Chuan, 莊公 year 10, § 1) of 曹劌 Ts‘ao Kuei, a protégé of Duke Chuang of Lu. The latter State was attacked by Ch‘i, and the Duke was about to join battle at 長勺 Ch‘ang-cho, after the first roll of the enemy’s drums, when Ts‘ao said: “Not just yet.” Only after their drums had beaten for the third time, did he give the word for attack. Then they fought, and the men of Ch‘i were utterly defeated. Questioned afterwards by the Duke as to the meaning of his delay, Ts‘ao Kuei replied: “In battle, a courageous spirit is everything. Now the first roll of the drum tends to create this spirit, but with the second it is already on the wane, and after the third it is gone altogether. I attacked when their spirit was gone and ours was at its height. Hence our victory.” 吳子 (chap. 4) puts “spirit” first among the “four important influences” in war, and continues: 三軍之衆百萬之師張設輕重在於一人是謂氣機 “The value of a whole army — a mighty host of a million men — is dependent on one man alone: such is the influence of spirit!”

a commander-in-chief may be robbed of his presence of mind.

Capt. Calthrop goes woefully astray with “defeat his general’s ambition.” Chang Yü says: 心者將之所主也夫治亂勇怯皆主於心 “Presence of mind is the general’s most important asset. It is the quality which enables him to discipline disorder and to inspire courage into the panic-stricken.” The great general 李靖 Li Ching (A.D. 571–649) has a saying: 夫攻者不止攻其城擊其陳而已必有攻其心之術焉 “Attacking does not merely consist in assaulting walled cities or striking at an army in battle array; it must include the art of assailing the enemy’s mental equilibrium.” [問對, pt.


  1. 是故朝氣銳晝氣惰暮氣歸
  2. 故善用兵者避其銳氣擊其惰歸此治氣者也
28. Now a soldier’s spirit is keenest in the morning;

Always provided, I suppose, that he has had breakfast. At the battle of the Trebia, the Romans were foolishly allowed to fight fasting, whereas Hannibal’s men had breakfasted at their leisure. See Livy, XXI, liv. 8, lv. 1 and 8.

by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is bent only on returning to camp.

29. A clever general, therefore,The , which certainly seems to be wanted here, is omitted in the T‘u Shu.

avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return. This is the art of studying moods.

The T‘ung Tien, for reasons of 避諱 “avoidance of personal names of the reigning dynasty,” reads for in this and the two next paragraphs.

  1. 以治待亂以靜待譁此治心者也
  2. 以近待遠以佚待勞以飽待飢此治力者也
  3. 無要正正之旗勿擊堂堂之陳此治變者也
30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy: — this is the art of retaining self-possession.

31. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease

The T‘ung Tien has for . The two characters are practically synonymous, but according to the commentary, the latter is the form always used in Sun Tzŭ.

while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished: — this is the art of husbanding one’s strength.

32. To refrain from intercepting

is the reading of the original text. But the 兵書要訣 quotes the passage with yao1 (also meaning “to intercept”), and this is supported by the Pei T‘ang Shu Ch‘ao, the Yü Lan, and Wang Hsi’s text.

an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array:

For this translation of 堂堂, I can appeal to the authority of Tu Mu, who defines the phrase as 無懼. The other commentators mostly follow Ts‘ao Kung, who says , probably meaning “grand and imposing”. Li Ch‘üan, however, has 部分 “in subdivisions,” which is somewhat strange.

— this is the art of studying circumstances.

I have not attempted a uniform rendering of the four phrases 治氣, 治心, 治力 and 治變, though really bears the same meaning in each case. It is to be taken, I think, not in the sense of “to govern” or “control,” but rather, as K‘ang Hsi defines it, = 簡習 “to examine and practise,” hence “look after,” “keep a watchful eye upon.” We may find an example of this use in the Chou Li, XVIII. fol. 46: 治其大禮. Sun Tzŭ has not told us to control or restrain the quality which he calls , but only to observe the time at which it is strongest. As for , it is important to remember that in the present context it can only mean “presence of mind.” To speak of “controlling presence of mind” is absurd, and Capt. Calthrop’s “to have the heart under control” is hardly less so. The whole process recommended here is that of VI. § 2: 致人而不致於人.

  1. 故用兵之法高陵勿向背邱勿逆
  2. 佯北勿從銳卒勿攻
  3. 餌兵勿食歸師勿遏
33. It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill.

The Yü Lan reads for .

34. Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not attack soldiers whose temper is keen.

35. Do not swallow a bait offered by the enemy.

Li Ch‘üan and Tu Mu, with extraordinary inability to see a metaphor, take these words quite literally of food and drink that have been poisoned by the enemy. Ch‘ên Hao and Chang Yü carefully point out that the saying has a wider application. The T‘ung Tien reads “to covet” instead of . The similarity of the two characters sufficiently accounts for the mistake.

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.

The commentators explain this rather singular piece of advice by saying that a man whose heart is set on returning home will fight to the death against any attempt to bar his way, and is therefore too dangerous an opponent to be tackled. Chang Yü quotes the words of Han Hsin: 從思東歸之士何所不克 “Invincible is the soldier who hath his desire and returneth homewards.” A marvellous tale is told of

Ts‘ao Ts‘ao’s courage and resource in ch. 1 of the San Kuo Chih, 武帝紀: In 198 A.D., he was besieging 張繡 Chang Hsiu in Jang, when 劉表 Liu Piao sent reinforcements with a view to cutting off Ts‘ao’s retreat. The latter was obliged to draw off his troops, only to find himself hemmed in between two enemies, who were guarding each outlet of a narrow pass in which he had engaged himself. In this desperate plight Ts‘ao waited until nightfall, when he bored a tunnel into the mountain side and laid an ambush in it. Then he marched on with his baggage-train, and when it grew light, Chang Hsiu, finding that the bird had flown, pressed after him in hot pursuit. As soon as the whole army had passed by, the hidden troops fell on its rear, while Ts‘ao himself turned and met his pursuers in front, so that they were thrown into confusion and annihilated. Ts‘ao Ts‘ao said afterwards: 虜遏吾歸師而與吾死地戰吾是以知勝矣 “The brigands tried to check my army in its retreat and brought me to battle in a desperate position: hence I knew how to overcome them.”

  1. 圍師必闕窮宼勿迫
36. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free.

This does not mean that the enemy is to be allowed to escape. The object, as Tu Mu puts it, is 示以生路令無必死之心 “to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of despair.” Tu Mu adds pleasantly: 因而擊之 “After that, you may crush him.”

Do not press a desperate foe too hard.

For , the T‘u Shu reads “pursue.” Ch‘ên Hao quotes the saying: 鳥窮則搏獸窮則噬 “Birds and beasts when brought to bay will use their claws and teeth.” Chang Yü says: 敵若焚舟破釜決一戰則不可逼迫來 “If your adversary has burned his boats and destroyed his cooking-pots, and is ready to stake all on the issue of a battle, he must not be pushed to extremities.” The phrase 窮宼 doubtless originated with Sun Tzŭ. The P‘ei Wên Yün Fu gives four examples of its use, the earliest being from the Ch‘ien Han Shu, and I have found another in chap. 34 of the same work. Ho Shih illustrates the meaning by a story taken from the life of 符彥卿 Fu Yen-ch‘ing in ch. 251 of the 宋史. That general, together with his colleague 杜重威 Tu Chung-wei, was surrounded by a vastly superior army of Khitans in the year 945 A.D. The country was bare and desert-like, and the little Chinese force was soon in dire straits for want ofwater. The wells they bored ran dry, and the men were reduced to squeezing lumps of mud and sucking out the moisture. Their ranks thinned rapidly, until at last Fu Yen-ch‘ing exclained: “We are desperate men. Far better to die for our country than to go with fettered hands into captivity!” A strong gale happened to be blowing from the north-east and darkening the air with dense clouds of sandy dust. Tu Chung-wei was for waiting until this had abated before deciding on a final attack; but luckily another officer, 李守貞 Li Shou-chêng by name, was quicker to see an opportunity, and said: “They are many and we are few, but in the midst of this sandstorm our numbers will not be discernible; victory will go to the strenuous fighter, and the wind will be our best ally.” Accordingly, Fu Yen-ch‘ing made a sudden and wholly unexpected onslaught with his cavalry, routed the barbarians and succeeded in breaking through to safety. [Certain details in the above account have been added from the 歴代紀事年表, ch. 78.]

  1. 此用兵之法也
37. Such is the art of warfare. Chêng Yu-hsien in his 遺說 inserts after . I take it that these words conclude the extract from the 軍政 which began at § 23.

  1. See Col. Henderson, op. cit. vol. I. p. 426.
  2. For a number of maxims on this head, see “Marshal Turenne” (Longmans, 1907), p. 29.