The Art of War (Sun)/Section XII

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XII. 火攻篇

  1. 孫子曰凡火攻有五一曰火人二曰火積三曰火輜四曰火庫五曰火隊

XII. The attack by fire.

1. Sun Tzu said: There are five ways of attacking with fire. The first is to burn soldiers in their camp; the second is to burn stores; the third is to burn baggage trains; the fourth is to burn arsenals and magazines; the fifth is to hurl dropping fire amongst the enemy.



  1. 行火必有因煙火必素具
  2. 發火有時起火有日
2. In order to carry out an attack, we must have means available. The material for raising fire should always be kept in readiness. 3. There is a proper season for making attacks with fire, and special days for starting a conflagration.


  1. 時者天之燥也日者宿在箕壁翼軫也凡此四宿者風起之日也
  2. 凡火攻必因五火之變而應之
  3. 火發於內則早應之於外
4. The proper season is when the weather is very dry; the special days are those when the moon is in the constellations of the Sieve, the Wall, the Wing or the Cross-bar; for these four are all days of rising wind.

5. In attacking with fire, one should be prepared to meet five possible developments:

6. (1) When fire breaks out inside to enemy's camp, respond at once with an attack from without.


  1. 火發而其兵靜者待而勿攻
  2. 極其火力可從而從之不可從而止
  3. 火可發於外無待於內以時發之
7. (2) If there is an outbreak of fire, but the enemy's soldiers remain quiet, bide your time and do not attack.

8. (3) When the force of the flames has reached its height, follow it up with an attack, if that is practicable; if not, stay where you are.

9. (4) If it is possible to make an assault with fire from without, do not wait for it to break out within, but deliver your attack at a favourable moment.


  1. 火發上風無攻下風
  2. 晝風久夜風止
  3. 凡軍必知有五火之變以數守之
10. (5) When you start a fire, be to windward of it. Do not attack from the leeward.

11. A wind that rises in the daytime lasts long, but a night breeze soon falls.

12. In every army, the five developments connected with fire must be known, the movements of the stars calculated, and a watch kept for the proper days.


  1. 故以火佐攻者明以水佐攻者强
  2. 水可以絶不可以奪
13. Hence those who use fire as an aid to the attack show intelligence; those who use water as an aid to the attack gain an accession of strength. 14. By means of water, an enemy may be intercepted, but not robbed of all his belongings.


  1. 夫戰勝攻取而不修其功者凶命曰費留
  2. 故曰明主慮之良將修之
15. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation. 16. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.


  1. 非利不動非得不用非危不戰
  2. 主不可以怒而興師將不可以慍而致戰
  3. 合於利而動不合於利而止
17. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

18. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.

19. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.


  1. 怒可以復喜愠可以復悅
  2. 亡國不可以復存死者不可以復生
  3. 故明君愼之良將警之此安國全軍之道也
20. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.

21. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

22. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.