The Art of War (Sun)/Section XI
XI. The nine situations.
Li Ch‘üan is not quite right in calling these 勝敵之地. As we shall see, some of them are highly disadvantageous from the military point of view. Wang Hsi more correctly says: 用兵之地利害有九也 “There are nine military situations, good and bad.” One would like to distinguish the 九地 from the six 地形 of chap. X by saying that the latter refer to the natural formation or geographical features of the country, while the 九地 have more to do with the condition of the army, being 地勢 “situations” as opposed to “grounds.” But it is soon found impossible to carry out the distinction. Both are cross-divisions, for among the 地形 we have “temporising ground” side by side with “narrow passes,” while in the present chapter there is even greater confusion.
1. Sun Tzŭ said: The art of war recognises nine varieties of ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8) hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground.
2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground.So called because the soldiers, being near to their homes and anxious to see their wives and children, are likely to seize the opportunity afforded by a battle and scatter in every direction. “In their advance,” observes Tu Mu, “they will lack the valour of desperation, and when they retreat, they will find harbours of refuge.” The 者, which appears in the T‘u Shu, seems to have been accidentally omitted in my edition of the standard text.
||3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile ground.
Li Ch‘üan and Ho Shih say 輕於退也 “because of the facility for retreating,” and the other commentators give similar explanations. Tu Mu remarks: 師出越境必焚舟梁示民無返顧之心 “When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.” I do not think that “disturbing ground,” Capt. Calthrop’s rendering of 輕地, has anything to justify it. If an idiomatic translation is out of the question, one should at least attempt to be literal.
4. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious ground.I must apologise for using this word in a sense not known to the dictionary, i.e. “to be contended for” — Tu Mu’s 必爭之地. Ts‘ao Kung says: 可以少勝衆弱勝强 “ground on which the few and the weak can defeat the many and the strong,” such as 阨喉 “the neck of a pass,” instanced by Li Ch‘üan. Thus, Thermopylae was a 爭地, because the possession of it, even for a few days only, meant holding the entire invading army in check and thus gaining invaluable time. Cf. Wu Tzŭ, ch. V. ad init.: 以一擊十莫善於阨 “For those who have to fight in the ratio of one to ten, there is nothing better than a narrow pass.” When 呂光 Lü Kuang was returning from his triumphant expedition to Turkestan in 385 A.D., and had got as far as 宜禾 I-ho, laden with spoils, 梁熙 Liang Hsi, administrator of 涼州 Liang-chou, taking advantage of the death of Fu Chien, King of Ch‘in, plotted against him and was for barring his way into the province. 楊翰 Yang Han, governor of 高昌 Kao-ch‘ang, counselled him, saying: “Lü Kuang is fresh from his victories in the west, and his soldiers are vigorous and mettlesome. If we oppose him in the shifting sands of the desert, we shall be no match for him, and we must therefore try a different plan. Let us hasten to occupy the defile at the mouth of the 高梧 Kao-wu pass, thus cutting him off from supplies of water, and when his troops are prostrated with thirst, we can dictate our own terms without moving. Or if you think that the pass I mention is too far off, we could make a stand against him at the 伊吾 I-wu pass, which isnearer. The cunning and resource of 子房 Tzŭ-fang himself [i.e. 張良] would be expended in vain against the enormous strength of these two positions.” Liang Hsi, refusing to act on this advice, was overwhelmed and swept away by the invader. [See 晉書, ch. 122, fol. 3 ro, and 歴代紀事年表, ch. 43, fol. 26.]
||5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground.
This is only a makeshift translation of 交, which according to Ts‘ao Kung stands for 交錯 “ground covered with a network of roads,” like a chess-board. Another interpretation, suggested by Ho Shih, is 交通 “ground on which intercommunication is easy.” In either case, it must evidently be 平原 “flat country,” and therefore 不可杜絶 “cannot be blocked.” Cf. 通形, X. § 2.
6. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous states,
我與敵相當而旁有他國也 “Our country adjoining the enemy’s and a third country conterminous with both.” [Ts‘ao Kung.] Mêng Shih instances the small principality of 鄭 Chêng, which was bounded on the north-east by 齊 Ch‘i, on the west by 晉 Chin, and on the south by 楚 Ch‘u.
so that he who occupies it first has most of the Empire at his command,
天下 of course stands for the loose confederacy of states into which China was divided under the Chou dynasty. The belligerent who holds this dominating position can constrain most of them to become his allies. See infra, § 48. 衆 appears at first sight to be “the masses” or “population” of the Empire, but it is more probably, as Tu Yu says, 諸侯之衆.
is ground of intersecting highways.Capt. Calthrop’s “path-ridden ground” might stand well enough for 交地 above, but it does not bring out the force of 衢地, which clearly denotes the central position where important highways meet.
||7. When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified cities in its rear,
After 多, the T‘ung Tien intercalates the gloss 難以返.
it is serious ground.
Wang Hsi explains the name by saying that 兵至此者事勢重也 “when an army has reached such a point, its situation is serious.” Li Ch‘üan instances (1) the victorious march of 樂毅 Yo I into the capital of Ch‘i in 284 B.C., and (2) the attack on Ch‘u, six years later, by the Ch‘in general 白起 Po Ch‘i.
8. Mountain forests,
Or simply, “forests.” I follow the T‘u Shu in omitting the 行 before 山林, given in the standard text, which is not only otiose but spoils the rhythm of the sentence.
rugged steeps, marshes and fens — all country that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground.
圮 p‘i3 (to be distinguished from 圯 i4) is defined by K‘ang Hsi (after the Shuo Wên) as 毁 “to destroy.” Hence Chia Lin explains 圮地 as ground 經水所毀 “that has been ruined by water passing over it,” and Tu Yu simply as 沮洳之地 “swampy ground.” But Ch‘ên Hao says that the word is specially applied to deep hollows—what Chu-ko Liang, he tells us, used to designate by the expressive term 地獄 “earth-hells.” Compare the 天井 of IX. § 15.
9. Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is hemmed-in ground.10. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is desperate ground.The situation, as pictured by Ts‘ao Kung, is very similar to the 圍地, except that here escape is no longer possible: 前有高山後有大水進則不得退則有礙 “A lofty mountain in front, a large river behind, advance impossible, retreat blocked.” Ch‘ên Hao says: 人在死地如坐漏船伏燒屋 “to be on ‘desperate ground’, is like sitting in a leaking boat or crouching in a burning house.” Tu Mu quotes from Li Ching a vivid description of the plight of an army thus entrapped: “Suppose an army invading hostile territory without the aid of local guides: — it falls into a fatal snare and is at the enemy’s mercy. A ravine on the left, a mountain on the right, a pathway so perilous that the horses have to be roped together and the chariots carried in slings, no passage open in front, retreat cut off behind, no choice but to proceed in single file (鴈行魚貫之嚴). Then, before there is time to range our soldiers in order of battle, the enemy in overwhelming strength suddenly appears on the scene. Advancing, we can nowhere take a breathing-space; retreating, we have no haven of refuge. We seek a pitched battle, but in vain; yet standing on the defensive, none of us has a moment’s respite. If we simply maintain our ground, whole days and months will crawl by; the moment we make a move, we have to sustain the enemy’s attacks on front and rear. The country is wild, destitute of water and plants; the army is lacking in the necessaries of life, the horses are jaded and the men worn-out, all the resources of strength and skill unavailing, the pass so narrow that a single man defending it can check the onset of ten thousand; all means of offence in the hands of the enemy, all points of vantage already forfeited by ourselves:—in this terrible plight, even though we had the most valiant soldiers and the keenest of weapons, how could they be employed with the slightest effect?” Students of Greek history may be reminded of the awful close to the Sicilian expedition, and the agony of the Athenians under Nicias and Demosthenes. [See Thucydides, VII. 78 sqq.].
||11. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. But rather let all your energies be bent on occupying the advantageous position first. So Ts‘ao Kung. Li Ch‘üan and others, however, suppose the meaning to be that the enemy has already forestalled us, so that it would be sheer madness to attack. In the 孫子敘錄, when the King of Wu inquires what should be done in this case, Sun Tzŭ replies: “The rule with regard to contentious ground is that those in possession have the advantage over the other side. If a position of this kind issecured first by the enemy, beware of attacking him. Lure him away by pretending to flee — show your banners and sound your drums—make a dash for other places that he cannot afford to lose — trail brushwood and raise a dust — confound his ears and eyes — detach a body of your best troops, and place it secretly in ambuscade. Then your opponent will sally forth to the rescue.”|
||12. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy’s way.
Because the attempt would be futile, and would expose the blocking force itself to serious risks. There are two interpretations of 無絶. I follow that of Chang Yü (不可以兵阻絶其路). The other is indicated in Ts‘ao Kung’s brief note: 相及屬也 “Draw closer together” — i.e., see that a portion of your own army is not cut off. Wang Hsi points out that 交地 is only another name for the 通地 “accessible ground” of X. § 2, and says that the advice here given is simply a variation of 利糧道 “keep a sharp eye on the line of supplies,” be careful that your communications are not cut. The T‘ung Tien reads 無相絶.
On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies.
Or perhaps, “form alliances with neighbouring states.” Thus Ts‘ao Kung has: 結諸侯也. Capt. Calthrop’s “cultivate intercourse” is much too timid and vague. The original text reads 交合.
13. On serious ground, gather in plunder.
On this, Li Ch‘üan has the following delicious note: 深入敵境不可 非義失人心如漢高祖入秦無犯婦女無取寳貨得人心也此筌以掠字爲無掠字 “When an army penetrates far into the enemy’s country, care must be taken not to alienate the people by unjust treatment. Follow the example of the Han Emperor Kao Tsu, whose march into Ch‘in territory was marked by no violation of women or looting of valuables. [Nota bene: this was in 207 B.C., and may well cause us to blush for the Christian armies that entered Peking in 1900 A.D.] Thus he won the hearts of all. In the present passage, then, I think that the true reading must be, not 掠 ‘plunder’, but 無掠 ‘do not plunder’.” Alas, I fear that in this instance the worthy commentator’s feelings outran his judgment. Tu Mu,at least, has no such illusions. He says: “When encamped on ‘serious ground,’ there being no inducement as yet to advance further, and no possibility of retreat, one ought to take measures for a protracted resistance by bringing in provisions from all sides, and keep a close watch on the enemy.” Cf. also II. § 9: 因糧於敵.
In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march.Or, in the words of VIII. §2, 無舍 “do not encamp.”
||14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem.
Ts‘ao Kung says: 發奇謀 “Try the effect of some unusual artifice;” and Tu Yu amplifies this by saying: 居此則當權謀詐譎可以免難 “In such a position, some scheme must be devised which will suit the circumstances, and if we can succeed in deluding the enemy, the peril may be escaped.” This is exactly what happened on the famous occasion when Hannibal was hemmed in among the mountains on the road to Casilinum, and to all appearances entrapped by the Dictator Fabius. The stratagem which Hannibal devised to baffle his foes was remarkably like that which T‘ien Tan had also employed with success exactly 62 years before. [See IX. § 24, note.] When night came on, bundles of twigs were fastened to the horns of some 2000 oxen and set on fire, the terrified animals being then quickly driven along the mountain side towards the passes which were beset by the enemy. The strange spectacle of these rapidly moving lights so alarmed and discomfited the Romans that they withdrew from their position, and Hannibal’s army passed safely through the defile. [See Polybius, III. 93, 94; Livy, XXII. 16, 17.]
On desperate ground, fight.
For, as Chia Lin remarks: 力戰或生守隅則死 “if you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; whereas death is certain if you cling to your corner.”
15. Those who were called skilful leaders of old
所謂 is omitted in the T‘u Shu text.
knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy’s front and rear;
More literally, “cause the front and rear to lose touch with each other.” to prevent co-operation between his large and small divisions; to hinder the good troops from rescuing the bad,
I doubt if 貴賤 can mean “officers and men,” as Capt. Calthrop translates. This is wanted for 上下.
the officers from rallying their men.The reading 扶, derived from the Yü Lan, must be considered very doubtful. The original text has 救 and the T‘u Shu 收.
||16. When the enemy’s men were scattered, they prevented them from concentrating;
Capt. Calthrop translates 卒離 “they scattered the enemy,” which cannot be right.
even when their forces were united, they managed to keep them in disorder.
Mei Yao-ch‘ên’s note makes the sense plain: 或已離而不能合或雖合而不能齊. All these clauses, of course, down to 不齊, are dependent on 使 in § 15.
17. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move; when otherwise, they stopped still.
Mei Yao-ch‘ên connects this with the foregoing: 然能使敵若此當須有利則動無利則止 “Having succeeded in thus dislocating the enemy, they would push forward in order to secure any advantage to be gained; if there was no advantage to be gained, they would remain where they were.”
18. If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack,
敢問 is like 或問, introducing a supposed question.I should say: “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.”Opinions differ as to what Sun Tzŭ had in mind. Ts‘ao Kung thinks it is 其所恃之利 “some strategical advantage on which the enemy is depending.” Tu Mu says: 據我便地畧我田野利其糧道斯三者敵人之所愛惜倚恃者也 “The three things which an enemy is anxious to do, and on the accomplishment of which his success depends, are: (1) to capture our favourable positions; (2) to ravage our cultivated land; (3) to guard his own communications.” Our object then must be to thwart his plans in these three directions and thus render him helpless. [Cf. III. § 3.] But this exegesis unduly strains the meaning of 奪 and 愛, and I agree with Ch‘ên Hao, who says that 所愛 does not refer only to strategical advantages, but is any person or thing that may happen to be of importance to the enemy. By boldly seizing the initiative in this way, you at once throw the other side on the defensive.
||19. Rapidity is the essence of war:
兵之情 means “the conditions of war,” not, as Capt. Calthrop says, “the spirit of the troops.” According to Tu Mu, 此統言兵之情狀 “this is a summary of leading principles in warfare,” and he adds: 此乃兵之深情將之至事也 “These are the profoundest truths of military science, and the chief business of the general.” The following anecdotes, told by Ho Shih, show the importance attached to speed by two of China’s greatest generals. In 227 A.D., 孟達 Mêng Ta, governor of 新城 Hsin-ch‘êng under the Wei Emperor Wên Ti, was meditating defection to the House of Shu, and had entered into correspondence with Chu-ko Liang, Prime Minister of that State. The Wei general Ssŭ-ma I was then military governor of 宛 Wan, and getting wind of Mêng Ta’s treachery, he at once set off with an army to anticipate his revolt, having previously cajoled him by a specious message of friendly import. Ssŭ-ma’s officers came to him and said: “If Mêng Ta has leagued himself with Wu and Shu, the matter should be thoroughly investigated before we make a move.” Ssŭ-ma I replied: “Mêng Ta is an unprincipled man, and we ought to go and punish him at once, while he is still wavering and before he has thrown off the mask.” Then, by a series of forced marches, he brought his army under the walls of Hsin-ch‘êng within the space of eight days. Now Mêng Ta had previously said in a letter to Chu-ko Liang: “Wan is 1200 li from here. When the news of my revolt reaches Ssŭ-ma I, he will at once inform his Imperial Master, but it will be a whole month before any steps can be taken, and by thattime my city will be well fortified. Besides, Ssŭ-ma I is sure not to come himself, and the generals that will be sent against us are not worth troubling about.” The next letter, however, was filled with consternation: “Though only eight days have passed since I threw off my allegiance, an army is already at the city-gates. What miraculous rapidity is this!” A fortnight later, Hsin-ch‘êng had fallen and Mêng Ta had lost his head. [See Chin Shu, ch. 1, f. 3.] In 621 A.D., Li Ching was sent from 夔州 K‘uei-chou in Ssŭ-ch‘uan to reduce the successful rebel 蕭銑 Hsiao Hsien, who had set up as Emperor at the modern 荊州 Ching-chou Fu In Hupeh. It was autumn, and the Yangtsze being then in flood, Hsiao Hsien never dreamt that his adversary would venture to come down through the gorges, and consequently made no preparations. But Li Ching embarked his army without loss of time, and was just about to start when the other generals implored him to postpone his departure until the river was in a less dangerous state for navigation. Li Ching replied: “To the soldier, overwhelming speed is of paramount importance, and he must never miss opportunities. Now is the time to strike, before Hsiao Hsien even knows that we have got an army together. If we seize the present moment when the river is in flood, we shall appear before his capital with startling suddenness, like the thunder which is heard before you have time to stop your ears against it. [See VII, § 19, note.] This is the great principle in war. Even if he gets to know of our approach, he will have to levy his soldiers in such a hurry that they will not be fit to oppose us. Thus the full fruits of victory will be ours.” All came about as he predicted, and Hsiao Hsien was obliged to surrender, nobly stipulating that his people should be spared and he alone suffer the penalty of death. [See Hsin T‘ang Shu, ch. 93, f. 1 vo.]take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
||20. The following are the principles to be observed by an invading force: The further you penetrate into a country, the greater will be the solidarity of your troops, and thus the defenders will not prevail against you.
21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply your army with food.
Cf. supra, § 13. Li Ch‘üan does not venture on a note here.
22. Carefully study the well-being of your men,謹養, according to Wang Hsi, means: 撫循飮食周謹之 “Pet them, humour them, give them plenty of food and drink, and look after them generally.”
and do not overtax them. Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength.
Tu Mu explains these words in a rhyming couplet: 氣全力盛一發取勝; and Ch‘ên recalls the line of action adopted in 224 B.C. by the famous general 王翦 Wang Chien, whose military genius largely contributed to the success of the First Emperor. He had invaded the Ch‘u State, where a universal levy was made to oppose him. But, being doubtful of the temper of his troops, he declined all invitations to fight and remained strictly on the defensive. In vain did the Ch‘u general try to force a battle: day after day Wang Chien kept inside his walls and would not come out, but devoted his whole time and energy to winning the affection and confidence of his men. He took care that they should be well fed, sharing his own meals with them, provided facilities for bathing, and employed every method of judicious indulgence to weld them into a loyal and homogeneous body. After some time had elapsed, he told off certain persons to find out how the men were amusing themselves. The answer was, that they were contending with one another in putting the weight and long-jumping (投石超距). When Wang Chien heard that they were engaged in these athletic pursuits, he knew that their spirits had been strung up to the required pitch and that they were now ready for fighting. By this time the Ch‘u army, after repeating their challenge again and again, had marched away eastwards in disgust. The Ch‘in general immediately broke up his camp and followed them, and in the battle that ensued they were routed with great slaughter. Shortly afterwards, the whole of Ch‘u was conquered by Ch‘in, and the king 負芻 Fu-ch‘u led into captivity. [See Shih Chi, ch. 73, f. 5 ro. It should be noted that, 楚 being a taboo character under the Ch‘in dynasty, the name figures as 荆 throughout.]
Keep your army continually on the move,
In order that the enemy may never know exactly where you are. It has struck me, however, that the true reading might be, not 運兵, but 連兵 “link your army together” [cf. supra § 46, 吾將使之屬], which would be more in keeping with 併氣積力, Capt. Calthrop cuts the Gordian knot by omitting the words altogether.
and devise unfathomable plans.Ch‘ang Yü’s paraphrase is: 常爲不可測度之計.
||23. Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight.
Cf. Nicias’ speech to the Athenians: Τό τε ξύμπαν γνῶτε, ὦ ἄνδρες στρατιῶται, ἀναγκαῖόν τε ὂν ὑμῖν ἀνδράσιν ἀγαθοῖς γίγνεσθαι ὡς μὴ ὄντος χωρίου ἐγγὺς ὅποι ἂν μαλακισθέντες σωθείητε, etc. [Thuc. VII. 77. vii.]
If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
死 by itself constitutes the protasis, and 焉 is the interrogative = 安. Capt. Calthrop makes the protasis end with 得: “If there be no alternative but death.” But I do not see how this is to be got out of the Chinese. Chang Yü gives a clear paraphrase: 士卒死戰安不得志, and quotes his favourite Wei Liao Tzŭ (ch. 3): 一夫仗劎擊於市萬人無不避之者臣謂非一人之獨勇萬人皆不肖也何則必死與必生固不侔也 “If one man were to run amok with a sword in the market-place, and everybody else tried to get out of his way, I should not allow that this man alone had courage and that all the rest were contemptible cowards. The truth is, that a desperado and a man who sets some value on his life do not meet on even terms.”
Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength.
士人 appears to stand for the more usual 士卒. Chang Yü says: 同在難地安得不共竭其力 “If they are in an awkward place together, they will surely exert their united strength to get out of it.”
24. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in the heart of a hostile country, they will show a stubborn front.
Capt. Calthrop weakly says: “there is unity,” as though the text were 則專, as in § 20. But 拘 introduces quite a new idea—that of tenacity — which Ts‘ao Kung tries to explain by the word 縛 “to bind fast.”If there is no help for it, they will fight hard.
||25. Thus, without waiting to be marshalled, the soldiers will be constantly on the qui vive;
Tu Mu says: 不待修整而自戒懼. Capt. Calthrop wrongly translates 不修 “without warnings.”
without waiting to be asked, they will do your will;
Literally, “without asking, you will get.” Chang Yü’s paraphrase is: 不求索而得情意.
without restrictions, they will be faithful;
Chang Yü says: 不約束而親上.
without giving orders, they can be trusted.
This last clause is very similar in sense to the one preceding, except that 親 indicates the soldiers’ attachment to their leader, and 信 the leader’s attitude towards them. I rather doubt if 信 can mean “they will have confidence in their leader,” as the commentary seems to indicate. That way, the sense is not nearly so good. On the other hand, it is just possible that here, as in VIII. § 8 and infra, § 55, 信 may = 申: “without orders, they will carry out [their leader’s plans].” The whole of this paragraph, of course, has reference to “desperate ground.”
26. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts.
祥 is amplified by Ts‘ao Kung into 妖祥之言, and 疑 into 疑惑之計. Cf. the Ssŭ-ma Fa, ch. 3: 滅厲祥.
Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.
The superstitious, “bound in to saucy doubts and fears,” degenerate into cowards and “die many times before their deaths.” Tu Mu quotes Huang Shih-kung: 禁巫祝不得爲吏士卜問軍之吉凶恐亂軍士之心 “‘Spells and incantations should be strictly forbidden, and no officer allowed to inquire by divination into the fortunes of an army, for fear the soldier’s minds should be seriously perturbed.’ The meaning is,” he continues, “that if all doubts and scruples arediscarded, your men will never falter in their resolution until they die.” The reading of the standard text is 無所之 “there will be no refuge,” which does not fit in well here. I therefore prefer to adopt the variant 災, which evidently stood in Li Ch‘üan’s text.
||27. If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.
Chang Yü has the best note on this passage: 貨與壽人之所愛也所以燒擲財寳割棄性命者非憎惡之也不得已也 “Wealth and long life are things for which all men have a natural inclination. Hence, if they burn or fling away valuables, and sacrifice their own lives, it is not that they dislike them, but simply that they have no choice.” Sun Tzŭ is slyly insinuating that, as soldiers are but human, it is for the general to see that temptations to shirk fighting and grow rich are not thrown in their way. Capt. Calthrop, mistaking 惡 for the adjective, has: “not because money is a bad thing ... not because long life is evil.”
28. On the day they are ordered out to battle, your soldiers may weep,
The word in the Chinese is 涕 “snivel.” This is taken to indicate more genuine grief than tears alone.
those sitting up bedewing their garments, and those lying down letting the tears run down their cheeks.
Not because they are afraid, but because, as Ts‘ao Kung says, 皆持必死之計 “all have embraced the firm resolution to do or die.” We may remember that the heroes of the Iliad were equally childlike in showing their emotion. Chang Yü alludes to the mournful parting at the 易 I River between 荆軻 Ching K‘o and his friends, when the former was sent to attempt the life of the King of Ch‘in (afterwards First Emperor) in 227 B.C. The tears of all flowed down like rain as he bade them farewell and uttered the following lines: 風蕭蕭兮、易水寒、壯士一去兮、不復還 “The shrill blast is blowing, Chilly the burn; Your champion is going — Not to return."
But let them once be brought to bay, and they will display the courage of a Chu or a Kuei.諸 was the personal name of 專諸 Chuan Chu, a native of the Wu State and contemporary with Sun Tzŭ himself, who was employed by 公子光 Kung-tzŭ Kuang, better known as Ho Lü Wang, to assassinate his sovereign 王僚 Wang Liao with a dagger which he secreted in the belly of a fish served up at a banquet. He succeeded in his attempt, but was immediately hacked to pieces by the king’s bodyguard. This was in 515 B.C. The other hero referred to, 曹劌 Ts‘ao Kuei (or Ts‘ao 沫 Mo), performed the exploit which has made his name famous 166 years earlier, in 681 B.C. Lu had been thrice defeated by Ch‘i, and was just about to conclude a treaty surrendering a large slice of territory, when Ts‘ao Kuei suddenly seized 桓公 Huan Kung, the Duke of Ch‘i, as he stood on the altar steps and held a dagger against his chest. None of the Duke’s retainers dared to move a muscle, and Ts‘ao Kuei proceeded to demand full restitution, declaring that Lu was being unjustly treated because she was a smaller and weaker state. Huan Kung, in peril of his life, was obliged to consent, whereupon Ts‘ao Kuei flung away his dagger and quietly resumed his place amid the terrified assemblage without having so much as changed colour. As was to be expected, the Duke wanted afterwards to repudiate the bargain, but his wise old counsellor 管仲 Kuan Chung pointed out to him the impolicy of breaking his word, and the upshot was that this bold stroke regained for Lu the whole of what she had lost in three pitched battles. [For another anecdote of Ts‘ao Kuei see VII. § 27, note; and for the biographies of these three bravos, Ts‘ao, Chuan and Ching, see Shih Chi ch. 86.]
||29. The skilful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan. Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the Ch‘ang mountains.
率然 means “suddenly” or “rapidly,” and the snake in question was doubtless so called owing to the rapidity of its movements. Through this passage, the term has now come to be used in the sense of “military manœuvres.” The 常山 have apparently not been identified.Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle,
Another reading in the Yü Lan for 中 is 腹 “belly.”and you will be attacked by head and tail both.
||30. Asked if an army can be made to imitate the shuai-jan,
That is, as Mei Yao-ch‘ên says, 可使兵首尾率然相應如一體乎 “Is it possible to make the front and rear of an army each swiftly responsive to attack on the other, just as though they were parts of a single living body?”
I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yüeh are enemies;
Cf. VI. § 21.
yet if they are crossing a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each other’s assistance just as the left hand helps the right.
The meaning is: If two enemies will help each other in a time of common peril, how much more should two parts of the same army, bound together as they are by every tie of interest and fellow-feeling. Yet it is notorious that many a campaign has been ruined through lack of co-operation, especially in the case of allied armies.
31. Hence it is not enough to put one’s trust in the tethering of horses,
方 is said here to be equivalent to 縛.
and the burying of chariot wheels in the ground.These quaint devices to prevent one’s army from running away recall the Athenian hero Sôphanes, who carried an anchor with him at the battle of Plataea, by means of which he fastened himself firmly to one spot. [See Herodotus, IX. 74.] It is not enough, says Sun Tzŭ, to render flight impossible by such mechanical means. You will not succeed unlessyour men have tenacity and unity of purpose, and, above all, a spirit of sympathetic co-operation. This is the lesson which can be learned from the shuai-jan.
||32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.
Literally, “level the courage [of all] as though [it were that of] one.” If the ideal army is to form a single organic whole, then it follows that the resolution and spirit of its component parts must be of the same quality, or at any rate must not fall below a certain standard. Wellington’s seemingly ungrateful description of his army at Waterloo as “the worst he had ever commanded” meant no more than that it was deficient in this important particular — unity of spirit and courage. Had he not foreseen the Belgian defections and carefully kept those troops in the background, he would almost certainly have lost the day.
33. How to make the best of both strong and weak — that is a question involving the proper use of ground.
This is rather a hard sentence on the first reading, but the key to it will be found, firstly, in the pause after 得, and next, in the meaning of 得 itself. The best equivalent for this that I can think of is the German “zur Geltung kommen.” Mei Yao-ch‘ên’s paraphrase is: 兵無强弱皆得用者是因地之勢也 “The way to eliminate the differences of strong and weak and to make both serviceable is to utilise accidental features of the ground.” Less reliable troops, if posted in strong positions, will hold out as long as better troops on more exposed terrain. The advantage of position neutralises the inferiority in stamina and courage. Col. Henderson says: “With all respect to the text books, and to ordinary tactical teaching, I am inclined to think that the study of ground is often overlooked, and that by no means sufficient importance is attached to the selection of positions ... and to the immense advantages that are to be derived, whether you are defending or attacking, from the proper utilisation of natural features.”34. Thus the skilful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand.Tu Mu says: 喩易也 “The simile has reference to the ease with which he does it.” 不得已 means that he makes it impossible for his troops to do otherwise than obey. Chang Yü quotes a jingle, to be found in Wu Tzŭ, ch. 4: 將之所揮、莫不從移、將之所指、莫不前死.
||35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order.
靜 seems to combine the meanings “noiseless” and “imperturbable,” both of which attributes would of course conduce to secrecy. Tu Mu explains 幽 as 幽深難測 “deep and inscrutable,” and 正 as 平正無偏 “fair and unbiassed.” Mei Yao-ch‘ên alone among the commentators takes 治 in the sense of 自治 “self-controlled.” 幽 and 治 are causally connected with 靜 and 正 respectively. This is not brought out at all in Capt. Calthrop’s rendering: “The general should be calm, inscrutable, just and prudent.” The last adjective, moreover, can in no sense be said to represent 治.
36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances,
Literally, “to deceive their eyes and ears”— 愚 being here used as a verb in the sense of 誤.
and thus keep them in total ignorance.Ts‘ao Kung gives us one of his excellent apophthegms: 民可與樂成不可與慮始 “The troops must not be allowed to share your schemes in the beginning; they may only rejoice with you over their happy outcome.” “To mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy,” is one of the first principles in war, as has been frequently pointed out. But how about the other process — the mystification of one’s own men? Those who may think that Sun Tzŭ is over-emphatic on this point would do well to read Col. Henderson’s remarks on Stonewall Jackson’s Valley campaign: “The infinite pains,” he says, “with which Jackson sought to conceal, even from his most trusted staff officers, his movements, his intentions, and his thoughts, a commander less thorough would have pronounced useless” — etc. etc.In the year 88 A.D., as we read in ch. 47of the Hou Han Shu, “Pan Ch‘ao took the field with 25,000 men from Khotan and other Central Asian states with the object of crushing Yarkand. The King of Kutcha replied by dispatching his chief commander to succour the place with an army drawn from the kingdoms of Wên-su, Ku-mo and Wei-t‘ou, totalling 50,000 men. Pan Ch‘ao summoned his officers and also the King of Khotan to a council of war, and said: ‘Our forces are now outnumbered and unable to make head against the enemy. The best plan, then, is for us to separate and disperse, each in a different direction. The King of Khotan will march away by the easterly route, and I will then return myself towards the west. Let us wait until the evening drum has sounded and then start.’ Pan Ch‘ao now secretly released the prisoners whom he had taken alive, and the King of Kutcha was thus informed of his plans. Much elated by the news, the latter set off at once at the head of 10,000 horsemen to bar Pan Ch‘ao’s retreat in the west, while the King of Wên-su rode eastwards with 8000 horse in order to intercept the King of Khotan. As soon as Pan Ch‘ao knew that the two chieftains had gone, he called his divisions together, got them well in hand, and at cock-crow hurled them against the army of Yarkand, as it lay encamped. The barbarians, panic-stricken, fled in confusion, and were closely pursued by Pan Ch‘ao. Over 5000 heads were brought back as trophies, besides immense spoils in the shape of horses and cattle and valuables of every description. Yarkand then capitulating, Kutcha and the other kingdoms drew off their respective forces. From that time forward, Pan Ch‘ao’s prestige completely overawed the countries of the west.” In this case, we see that the Chinese general not only kept his own officers in ignorance of his real plans, but actually took the bold step of dividing his army in order to deceive the enemy.
||37. By altering his arrangements and changing his plans,
Wang Hsi thinks that this means, not using the same stratagem twice. He says: 已行之事已施之謀當革易之不可再之.
he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge.
Note that 人 denotes the enemy, as opposed to the 士卒 of § 36. Capt. Calthrop, not perceiving this, joins the two paragraphs into one. Chang Yü quotes 太白山人 as saying: 兵貴詭道者非止詭敵也抑詭我 士卒使由而不使知之也 “The axiom, that war is based on deception, does not apply only to deception of the enemy. You must deceive even your own soldiers. Make them follow you, but without letting them know why.”By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose.Wang Hsi paraphrases 易其居 as 處易者 “camp on easy ground,” and Chang Yü follows him, saying: 其居則去險而就易. But this is an utterly untenable view. For 迂其途, cf. VII. 4. Chia Lin, retaining his old interpretation of those words, is now obliged to explain 易其居 as “cause the enemy to shift his camp,” which is awkward in the extreme.
||38. At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him.
I must candidly confess that I do not understand the syntax of 帥與之期, though the meaning is fairly plain. The difficulty has evidently been felt, for Tu Mu tells us that one text omits 期如. It is more likely, however, that a couple of characters have dropped out.
He carries his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand.
發其機 literally, “releases the spring” (see V. § 15), that is, takes some decisive step which makes it impossible for the army to return — like 項羽 Hsiang Yü, who sunk his ships after crossing a river. Ch‘ên Hao, followed by Chia Lin, understands the words less well as 發其心機 “puts forth every artifice at his command.” But 機 in this derived sense occurs nowhere else in Sun Tzŭ.
39. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking-pots;
Omitted in the T‘u Shu.
like a shepherd driving a flock of sheep, he drives his men this way and that, and none knows whither he is going.The T‘u Shu inserts another 驅 after 羊. Tu Mu says: 三軍但知進 退之命不知攻取之端也 “The army is only cognisant of orders to advance or retreat; it is ignorant of the ulterior ends of attacking and conquering.”
||40. To muster his host and bring it into danger: — this may be termed the business of the general.
Sun Tzŭ means that after mobilisation there should be no delay in aiming a blow at the enemy’s heart. With 投之於險 cf. supra, § 23: 投之無所往. Note how he returns again and again to this point. Among the warring states of ancient China, desertion was no doubt a much more present fear and serious evil than it is in the armies of to-day.
41. The different measures suited to the nine varieties of ground;
Chang Yü says: 九地之法不可拘泥 “One must not be hide-bound in interpreting the rules for the nine varieties of ground.
the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics;
The use of 屈伸 “contraction and expansion” may be illustrated by the saying 屈以求伸, which almost exactly corresponds to the French “il faut reculer pour mieux sauter.” Capt. Calthrop, more suo, avoids a real translation and has: “the suiting of the means to the occasion.”
and the fundamental laws of human nature: these are things that must most certainly be studied.
42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle is, that penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short way means dispersion.
Cf. supra, § 20.
43. When you leave your own country behind, and take your army across neighbouring territory,
Chang Yü’s paraphrase is 而用師者.
you find yourself on critical ground.This “ground” is cursorily mentioned in VIII. § 2, but it does not figure among the Nine 地 of this chapter or the Six 地形 in chap. X. One’s first impulse would be to translate it “distant ground” (絶域 is commonly used in the sense of “distant lands”), but this, if we can trust the commentators, is precisely what is not meant here. Mei Yao-ch‘ên says it is 進不及輕退不及散在二地之間也 “a position not far enough advanced to be called ‘facile,’ and not near enough to home to be called ‘dispersive,’ but something between the two.” That, of course, does not explain the name 絶, which seems to imply that the general has severed his communications and temporarily cut himself off from his base. Thus, Wang Hsi says: “It is ground separated from home by an interjacent state, whose territory we have had to cross in order to reach it. Hence it is incumbent on us to settle our business there quickly.” He adds that this position is of rare occurrence, which is the reason why it is not included among the 九地. Capt. Calthrop gives but a poor rendering of this sentence: “To leave home and cross the borders is to be free from interference.”
When there are means of communication
The T‘u Shu reads 通 for 達.
on all four sides, the ground is one of intersecting highways.From 四達 down to the end of § 45, we have some of the definitions of the early part of the chapter repeated in slightly different language. Capt. Calthrop omits these altogether.
||44. When you penetrate deeply into a country, it is serious ground. When you penetrate but a little way, it is facile ground.
45. When you have the enemy’s strongholds on your rear, and narrow passes in front, it is hemmed-in ground. When there is no place of refuge at all, it is desperate ground.
固 = 險固.
46. Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my men with unity of purpose.This end, according to Tu Mu, is best attained by remaining on the defensive, and avoiding battle. Cf. supra, § 11.
On facile ground, I would see that there is close connection between all parts of my army.The T‘ung Tien has 其 instead of 之. The present reading is supported by the 遺說 of Chêng Yu-hsien. As Tu Mu says, the object is to guard against two possible contingencies: 一者備其逃逸二者恐 其敵至 “(1) the desertion of our own troops; (2) a sudden attack on the part of the enemy.” Cf. VII. § 17: 其徐如林. Mei Yao-ch‘ên says: 行則隊校相繼止則營壘聯屬 “On the march, the regiments should be in close touch; in an encampment, there should be continuity between the fortifications.” He seems to have forgotten, by the way, what Sun Tzŭ says above: 輕地則無止.
||47. On contentious ground, I would hurry up my rear. This is Ts‘ao Kung’s interpretation. Chang Yü adopts it, saying: 當疾進其後使首尾俱至 “We must quickly bring up our rear, so that head and tail may both reach the goal.” That is, they must not be allowed to straggle up a long way apart. Mei Yao-ch‘ên offers another equally plausible explanation: 敵未至其地我若在後則當疾趨以爭之 “Supposing the enemy has not yet reached the coveted position, and we are behind him, we should advance with all speed in order to dispute its possession.” 其 would thus denote the enemy, 後 being the preposition, and 趨 would retain its usual intransitive sense. Cf. VII. § 4: 後人發先人至. Ch‘ên Hao, on the other hand, assuming that the enemy has had time select his own ground, quotes VI. § 1, where Sun Tzŭ warns us against coming exhausted to the attack. His own idea of the situation is rather vaguely expressed: 若地利在前先 分精銳以據之彼若恃衆來爭我以大衆趨其後無不尅者 “If there is a favourable position lying in front of you, detach a picked body of troops to occupy it; then if the enemy, relying on their numbers, come up to make a fight for it, you may fall quickly their rear with your main body, and victory will be assured.” It was thus, he adds, that Chao Shê beat the army of Ch‘in. [See p. 57.] Li Ch‘üan would read 多 for 趨, it is not easy to see why.|
||48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my defences.
As Wang Hsi says, 懼襲我也 “fearing a surprise attack.” The T‘ung Tien reads here 固其結 (see next sentence).
On ground of intersecting highways, I would consolidate my alliances.
The T‘ung Tien reads 謹其市, which Tu Yu explains as “watching the market towns,” 變事之端 “the hotbeds of revolution.” Capt. Calthrop translates 固其結 by the same words as 合交 in § 12: “cultivate intercourse.”
49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a continuous stream of supplies.
The commentators take this as referring to forage and plunder, not, as one might expect, to an unbroken communication with a home base. One text, indeed, gives the reading 掠其食. Cf. § 13. Capt. Calthrop’s “be careful of supplies” fails to render the force of 繼.
On difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along the road.
Capt. Calthrop’s “do not linger” cannot be called a translation, but only a paraphrase of the paraphrase offered by Ts‘ao Kung: 疾過去也 “Pass away from it in all haste.”
50. On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of retreat.
意欲突圍示以守固 “To make it seem that I mean to defend the position, whereas my real intention is to burst suddenly through the enemy’s lines” [Mêng Shih]; 使士卒必死戰也 “in order to make my soldiers fight with desperation” [Mei Yao-ch‘ên]; 懼人有走心 “fearing lest my men be tempted to run away” [Wang Hsi]. Tu Mu points out that this is the converse of VII. § 36, where it is the enemy who is surrounded. In 532 A.D., 高歡 Kao Huan, afterwards Emperor and canonised as 神武 Shên-wu, was surrounded by a greatarmy under 爾朱兆 Êrh-chu Chao and others. His own force was comparatively small, consisting only of 2000 horse and something under 30,000 foot. The lines of investment had not been drawn very closely together, gaps being left at certain points. But Kao Huan, instead of trying to escape, actually made a shift to block all the remaining outlets himself by driving into them a number of oxen and donkeys roped together. As soon as his officers and men saw that there was nothing for it but to conquer or die, their spirits rose to an extraordinary pitch of exaltation, and they charged with such desperate ferocity that the opposing ranks broke and crumbled under their onslaught. [See Tu Mu’s commentary, and 北齊書 ch. 1, fol. 6.]
On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives.Tu Yu says: 焚輜重棄糧食塞井夷竈示之無活必殊死戰也 “Burn your baggage and impedimenta, throw away your stores and provisions, choke up the wells, destroy your cooking-stoves, and make it plain to your men that they cannot survive, but must fight to the death.” Mei Yao-ch‘ên says epigrammatically: 必死可生 “The only chance of life lies in giving up all hope of it.” This concludes what Sun Tzŭ has to say about “grounds” and the “variations” corresponding to them. Reviewing the passages which bear on this important subject, we cannot fail to be struck by the desultory and unmethodical fashion in which it is treated. Sun Tzŭ begins abruptly in VIII. § 2 to enumerate “variations” before touching on “grounds” at all, but only mentions five, namely nos. 7, 5, 8 and 9 of the subsequent list, and one that is not included in it. A few varieties of ground are dealt with in the earlier portion of chap. IX, and then chap. X sets forth six new grounds, with six variations of plan to match. None of these is mentioned again, though the first is hardly to be distinguished from ground no. 4 in the next chapter. At last, in chap. XI, we come to the Nine Grounds par excellence, immediately followed by the variations. This takes us down to § 14. In §§ 43–45, fresh definitions are provided for nos. 5, 6, 2, 8 and 9 (in the order given), as well as for the tenth ground noticed in chap VIII; and finally, the nine variations are enumerated once more from beginning to end, all, with the exception of 5, 6 and 7, being different from those previously given. Though it is impossible to account for the present state of Sun Tzŭ’s text, a few suggestive facts may be brought into prominence: (1) Chap. VIII, according to the title, should deal with nine variations, whereas only five appear. (2) It is an abnormally short chapter. (3) Chap. XI is entitled The Nine Grounds. Several these are defined twice over, besides which there are two distinct lists of the corresponding variations. (4) The length of the chapter is disproportionate, being double that of any other except IX. I do not propose
||51. For it is the soldier’s disposition to offer an obstinate resistance when surrounded, to fight hard when he cannot help himself, and to obey promptly when he has fallen into danger.
過則從 is rendered by Capt. Calthrop: “to pursue the enemy if he retreat.” But 過 cannot mean “to retreat.” Its primary sense is to pass over, hence to go too far, to exceed or to err. Here, however, the word has lost all implication of censure, and appears to mean “to pass the boundary line dividing safety from danger,” or, as Chang Yü puts it, 深陷于危難之地 “to be deeply involved in a perilous position.” The latter commentator alludes to the conduct of Pan Ch‘ao’s devoted followers in 73 A.D. The story runs thus in the Hou Han Shu, ch. 47, fol. 1 vo: “When Pan Ch‘ao arrived at 鄯善 Shan-shan, 廣 Kuang, the King of the country, received him at first with great politeness and respect; but shortly afterwards his behaviour underwent a sudden change, and he became remiss and negligent. Pan Ch‘ao spoke about this to the officers of his suite: ‘Have you not noticed,’ he said, ‘that Kuang’s polite intentions are on the wane? This must signify that envoys have come from the Northern barbarians, and that consequently he is in a state of indecision, not knowing with which side to throw in his lot. That surely is the reason. The truly wise man, we are told, can perceive things before they have come to pass; how much more, then, those that are already manifest!’ Thereupon he called one of the natives who had been assigned to his service, and set a trap for him, saying: ‘Where are those envoys from the Hsiung-nu who arrived some days ago?’ The man was so taken aback that between surprise and fear he presently blurted out the whole truth. Pan Ch‘ao, keeping his informant carefully under lock and key, then summoned a general gathering of his officers, thirty-six in all, and began drinking with them. When the wine had mounted into their heads a little, he tried to rouse their spirit still further by addressing them thus: ‘Gentlemen, here we are in the heart of an isolated region, anxious to achieve riches and honour by some great exploit. Now it happens that an ambassador from the Hsiung-nu arrived in this kingdom only a few days ago, and the result is that the respectful courtesy extended towards us by our royal host has disappeared. Should this envoy prevail upon him to seize our party and hand us over to the Hsiung-nu,our bones will become food for the wolves of the desert. What are we to do?’ With one accord, the officers replied: ‘Standing as we do in peril of our lives, we will follow our commander through life and death’ (今在危亡之地死生從司馬).” For the sequel of this adventure, see chap. XII. § 1, note.
||52. We cannot enter into alliance with neighbouring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. 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 and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.
These three sentences are repeated from VII. §§ 12–14 — in order to emphasise their importance, the commentators seem to think. I prefer to regard them as interpolated here in order to form an antecedent to the following words. With regard to local guides, Sun Tzŭ might have added that there is always the risk of going wrong, either through their treachery or some misunderstanding such as Livy records (XXII. 13): Hannibal, we are told, ordered a guide to lead him into the neighbourhood of Casinum, where there was an important pass to be occupied; but his Carthaginian accent, unsuited to the pronunciation of Latin names, caused the guide to understand Casilinum instead of Casinum, and turning from his proper route, he took the army in that direction, the mistake not being discovered until they had almost arrived.
53. To be ignorant of any one of the following four or five principles
Referring, I think, to what is contained in §§ 54, 55. Ts‘ao Kung, thinking perhaps of the 五利 in VIII. § 6, takes them to be 九地之 利害 “the advantages and disadvantages attendant on the nine varieties of ground.” The T‘u Shu reads 此五者.
does not befit a warlike prince.霸王, “one who rules by force,” was a term specially used for those princes who established their hegemony over other feudal states. Thefamous 五霸 of the 7th century B.C. were (1) 齊桓公 Duke Huan of Ch‘i (2) 晉文公 Duke Wên of Chin, (3) 宋襄公 Duke Hsiang of Sung, (4) 楚莊王 Prince Chuang of Ch‘u, (5) 秦穆公 Duke Mu of Ch‘in. Their reigns covered the period 685–591 B.C.
||54. When a warlike prince attacks a powerful state, his generalship shows itself in preventing the concentration of the enemy’s forces. He overawes his opponents,
Here and in the next sentence, the Yü Lan inserts 家 after 敵.
and their allies are prevented from joining against him.
Mei Yao-ch‘ên constructs one of the chains of reasoning that are so much affected by the Chinese: “In attacking a powerful state, if you can divide her forces, you will have a superiority in strength; if you have a superiority in strength, you will overawe the enemy; if you overawe the enemy, the neighbouring states will be frightened; and if the neighbouring states are frightened, the enemy’s allies will be prevented from joining her.” The following gives a stronger meaning to 威加: 若大國一敗則小國離而不聚矣 “If the great state has once been defeated (before she has had time to summon her allies), then the lesser states will hold aloof and refrain from massing their forces.” Ch‘ên Hao and Chang Yü take the sentence in quite another way. The former says: “Powerful though a prince may be, if he attacks a large state, he will be unable to raise enough troops, and must rely to some extent on external aid; if he dispenses with this, and with overweening confidence in his own strength, simply tries to intimidate the enemy, he will surely be defeated.” Chang Yü puts his view thus: “If we recklessly attack a large state, our own people will be discontented and hang back. But if (as will then be the case) our display of military force is inferior by half to that of the enemy, the other chieftains will take fright and refuse to join us.” According to this interpretation, 其 would refer, not to the 大國, but to the 霸王 himself.
55. Hence he does not strive
For 爭 the Yü Lan reads 事.to ally himself with all and sundry,
天下, as in § 6, stands for 諸侯 “the feudal princes,” or the states ruled by them.
nor does he foster the power of other states. He carries out his own secret designs,
For 信 (read shên1) in the meaning of 伸, cf. VIII. § 8. The commentators are unanimous on this point, and we must therefore beware of translating 信己之私 by “secretly self-confident” or the like. Capt. Calthrop (omitting 之私) has: “he has confidence in himself.”
keeping his antagonists in awe.
The train of thought appears to be this: Secure against a combination of his enemies, 能絶天下之交惟得伸己之私志威而無外交者 “he can afford to reject entangling alliances and simply pursue his own secret designs, his prestige enabling him to dispense with external friendships.” (Li Ch‘üan.)
Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow their kingdoms.This paragraph, though written many years before the Ch‘in State became a serious menace, is not a bad summary of the policy by which the famous Six Chancellors gradually paved the way for her final triumph under Shih Huang Ti. Chang Yü, following up his previous note, thinks that Sun Tzŭ is condemning this attitude of cold-blooded selfishness and haughty isolation. He again refers 其 to the warlike prince, thus making it appear that in the end he is bound to succumb.
||56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule,
Wu Tzŭ (ch. 3) less wisely says: 進有重賞退有重刑 “Let advance be richly rewarded and retreat be heavily punished.”
懸, literally, “hang” or “post up.”
without regard to previous arrangements;
杜姦媮 “In order to prevent treachery,” says Wang Hsi. The general meaning is made clear by Ts‘ao Kung’s quotation from theSsŭ-ma Fa: 見敵作誓瞻功作賞 “Give instructions only on sighting the enemy; give rewards only when you see deserving deeds.” 無政, however, presents some difficulty. Ts‘ao Kung’s paraphrase, 軍法令不應預施懸也, I take to mean: “The final instructions you give to your army should not correspond with those that have been previously posted up.” Chang Yü simplifies this into 政不預告 “your arrangements should not be divulged beforehand.” And Chia Lin says: 不守常法常政 “there should be no fixity in your rules and arrangements.” Not only is there danger in letting your plans be known, but war often necessitates the entire reversal of them at the last moment.
and you will be able to handle a whole army
犯, according to Ts‘ao Kung, is here equal to 用. The exact meaning is brought out more clearly in the next paragraph.
as though you had to do with but a single man.Cf. supra, § 34.
||57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design.
Literally, “do not tell them words;” i.e. do not give your reasons for any order. Lord Mansfield once told a junior colleague to “give no reasons” for his decisions, and the maxim is even more applicable to a general than to a judge. Capt. Calthrop translates this sentence with beautiful simplicity: “Orders should direct the soldiers.” That is all.
When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.
58. Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety.Compare the paradoxical saying 亡者存之基死者生之木. These words of Sun Tzŭ were once quoted by Han Hsin in explanation of the tactics he employed in one of his most brilliant battles, already alluded to on p. 28, In 204 B.C., he was sent against the army of Chao, and halted ten miles from the mouth of the 井陘 Ching-hsing pass, where the enemy had mustered in full force. Here, at midnight, he detached a body of 2000 light cavalry, every man of which was furnishedwith a red flag. Their instructions were to make their way through narrow defiles and keep a secret watch on the enemy. “When the men of Chao see me in full flight,” Han Hsin said, “they will abandon their fortifications and give chase. This must be the sign for you to rush in, pluck down the Chao standards and set up the red banners of 漢 Han in their stead.” Turning then to his other officers, he remarked: “Our adversary holds a strong position, and is not likely to come out and attack us until he sees the standard and drums of the commander-in-chief, for fear I should turn back and escape through the mountains.” So saying, he first of all sent out a division consisting of 10,000 men, and ordered them to form in line of battle with their backs to the River 泜 Ti. Seeing this manœuvre, the whole army of Chao broke into loud laughter. By this time it was broad daylight, and Han Hsin, displaying the generalissimo’s flag, marched out of the pass with drums beating, and was immediately engaged by the enemy. A great battle followed, lasting for some time; until at length Han Hsin and his colleague 張耳 Chang Ni, leaving drums and banner on the field, fled to the division on the river bank, where another fierce battle was raging. The enemy rushed out to pursue them and to secure the trophies, thus denuding their ramparts of men; but the two generals succeeded in joining the other army, which was fighting with the utmost desperation. The time had now come for the 2000 horsemen to play their part. As soon as they saw the men of Chao following up their advantage, they galloped behind the deserted walls, tore up the enemy’s flags and replaced them by those of Han. When the Chao army turned back from the pursuit, the sight of these red flags struck them with terror. Convinced that the Hans had got in and overpowered their king, they broke up in wild disorder, every effort of their leader to stay the panic being in vain. Then the Han army fell on them from both sides and completed the rout, killing a great number and capturing the rest, amongst whom was King 歇 Ya himself.... After the battle, some of Han Hsin’s officers came to him and said: “In the Art of War we are told to have a hill or tumulus on the right rear, and a river or marsh on the left front. [This appears to be a blend of Sun Tzŭ and T‘ai Kung. See IX. § 9, and note.] You, on the contrary, ordered us to draw up our troops with the river at our back. Under these conditions, how did you manage to gain the victory?” The general replied: “I fear you gentlemen have not studied the Art of War with sufficient care. Is it not written there: ‘Plunge your army into desperate straits and it will come off in safety; place it in deadly peril and it will survive’? Had I taken the usual course, I should never have been able to bring my colleagues round. What says the Military Classic (經)?—‘swoop down on the market-place and drive the men off to fight’ (毆市人而戰之). [This passage does not occur in the present text of Sun Tzŭ.] If I had not placed my troops in a position where
||59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm’s way that it is capable of striking a blow for victory.
Danger has a bracing effect.
60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.
Ts‘ao Kung says: 佯愚也 “Feign stupidity” — by an appearance of yielding and falling in with the enemy’s wishes. Chang Yü’s note makes the meaning clear: “If the enemy shows an inclination to advance, lure him on to do so; if he is anxious to retreat, delay on purpose that he may carry out his intention.” The object is to make him remiss and contemptuous before we deliver our attack.
61. By persistently hanging on the enemy’s flank,
I understand the first four words to mean “accompanying the enemy in one direction.” Ts‘ao Kung says: 幷兵向敵 “unite the soldiers and make for the enemy.” But such a violent displacement of characters is quite indefensible. Mei Yao-ch‘ên is the only commentator who seems to have grasped the meaning: 隨敵一向然後發伏 出奇. The T‘u Shu reads 并力.
we shall succeed in the long run
Literally, “after a thousand li.”
in killing the commander-in-chief.
Always a great point with the Chinese.
62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer cunning.The T‘u Shu has 是謂巧於成事, and yet another reading,mentioned by Ts‘ao Kung, is 巧攻成事. Capt. Calthrop omits this sentence, after having thus translated the two preceding: “Discover the enemy’s intentions by conforming to his movements. When these are discovered, then, with one stroke, the general may be killed, even though he be one hundred leagues distant.”
||63. On the day that you take up your command,
政舉 does not mean “when war is declared,” as Capt. Calthrop says, nor yet exactly, as Ts‘ao Kung paraphrases it, 謀定 “when your plans are fixed,” when you have mapped out your campaign. The phrase is not given in the P‘ei Wên Yün Fu. There being no causal connection discoverable between this and the preceding sentence, 是故 must perforce be left untranslated.
block the frontier passes,
夷 is explained by Mei Yao-ch‘ên as 滅塞.
destroy the official tallies,
The locus classicus for these tallies is Chou Li, XIV. fol. 40 (Imperial edition): 門關用符節貨賄星璽節道路用旌節. The generic term thus appears to be 節, 符 being the special kind used at city-gates and on the frontier. They were tablets of bamboo or wood, one half of which was issued as a permit or passport by the official in charge of a gate (司門 or 司關. Cf. the 封人 “border-warden” of Lun Yü III. 24, who may have had similar duties.) When this half was returned to him, within a fixed period, he was authorised to open the gate and let the traveller through.
and stop the passage of all emissaries.
Either to or from the enemy’s country.
64. Be stern in the council-chamber,
Show no weakness, and insist on your plans being ratified by the sovereign. 廊廟 indicates a hall or temple in the Palace. Cf. I. § 26. It is not clear if other officers would be present. Hardly anything can be made of 勵, the reading of the standard text, so I have adopted Tu Mu’s conjecture 厲, which appears in the T‘u Shu.
so that you may control the situation.Ts‘ao Kung explains 誅 by 治, and Ho Shih by 責成. Another reading is 謀, and Mei Yao-ch‘ên, adopting this, understands the whole sentence to mean: Take the strictest precautions to ensure secrecy in your deliberations. Capt. Calthrop glides rather too smoothly over the rough places. His translation is: “conduct the business of the government with vigilance.”
||65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.
This looks a very simple sentence, yet Ts‘ao Kung is the only commentator who takes it as I have done. Mêng Shih, followed by Mei Yao-ch‘ên and Chang Yü, defines 開闔 as 間者 “spies,” and makes 入 an active verb: “If spies come from the enemy, we must quickly let them in.” But I cannot find that the words 開闔 have this meaning anywhere else. On the other hand, they may be taken as two verbs, 或開或闔, expressing the enemy’s indecision whether to advance or retreat, that being the best moment to attack him. [Cf. Tao Tê Ching, chap. X: 天門開闔能爲雌乎; also Li Chi, 曲禮, I. ii. 25.] It is not easy to choose between this and Ts‘ao Kung’s explanation; the fact that 敵人開戸 occurs shortly afterwards, in § 68, might be adduced in support of either. 必 must be understood in the sense of 宜 or 當. The only way to avoid this is to put 開闔 between commas and translate: “If we leave a door open, the enemy is sure to rush in.”
66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear,
Cf. supra, § 18.
and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground.Capt. Calthrop hardly attempts to translate this difficult paragraph, but invents the following instead: “Discover what he most values, and plan to seize it.” Ch‘ên Hao’s explanation, however, is clear enough: 我若先奪便地而敵不至雖有其利亦奚用之是以欲取 其愛惜之處必先微與敵人相期誤之使必至 “If I manage to seize a favourable position, but the enemy does not appear on the scene, the advantage thus obtained cannot be turned to any practical account. He who intends, therefore, to occupy a position of importance to the enemy, must begin by making an artful appointment,so to speak, with his antagonist, and cajole him into going there as well.” Mei Yao-ch‘ên explains that this “artful appointment” is to be made through the medium of the enemy’s own spies, who will carry back just the amount of information that we choose to give them. Then, having cunningly disclosed our intentions, 我後人發先人至 “we must manage, though starting after the enemy, to arrive before him” (VII. § 4). We must start after him in order to ensure his marching thither; we must arrive before him in order to capture the place without trouble. Taken thus, the present passage lends some support to Mei Yao-ch‘ên’s interpretation of § 47.
||67. Walk in the path defined by rule,
墨 stands 繩墨 “a marking-line,” hence a rule of conduct. See Mencius VII. 1. xli. 2. Ts‘ao Kung explains it by the similar metaphor 規矩 “square and compasses.” The baldness of the sentiment rather inclines me to favour the reading 剗 adopted by Chia Lin in place of 踐, which yields an exactly opposite sense, namely: “Discard hard and fast rules.” Chia Lin says: 惟勝是利不可守以繩墨而爲 “Victory is the only thing that matters, and this cannot be achieved by adhering to conventional canons.” It is unfortunate that this variant rests on very slight authority, for the sense yielded is certainly much more satisfactory. Napoleon, as we know, according to the veterans of the old school whom he defeated, won his battles by violating every accepted canon of warfare.
and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle.
The last four words of the Chinese are omitted by Capt. Calthrop. Tu Mu says: 隨敵人之形若有可乘之勢則出而決戰 “Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favourable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.”68. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.As the hare is noted for its extreme timidity, the comparison hardly appears felicitous. But of course Sun Tzŭ was thinking only of its speed. The words have been taken to mean: You must flee from the enemy as quickly as an escaping hare; but this is rightly rejected by Tu Mu. Capt. Calthrop is wrong in translating 兎 “rabbit.” Rabbits are not indigenous to China, and were certainly not known there in the 6th century B.C. The last sixteen characters evidently form a sort of four-line jingle. Chap. X, it may be remembered, closed in similar fashion.
- Giles’ Biographical Dictionary, no. 399.
- “The Science of War,” p. 333.
- "Stonewall Jackson," vol. I, p. 421.
- See Giles’ Dictionary, no. 9817.