The Art of War (Sun)/Section XIII

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XIII. 用間篇

  1. 孫子曰凡興師十萬出兵千里百姓之費公家之奉日費千金內外騷動怠於道路不得操事者七十萬家

XIII. The use of spies.

1. Sun Tzu said: Raising a host of a hundred thousand men and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people and a drain on the resources of the State. The daily expenditure will amount to a thousand ounces of silver. There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men will drop down exhausted on the highways. As many as seven hundred thousand families will be impeded in their labor.


  1. 相守數年以爭一日之勝而愛爵祿百金不知敵之情者不仁之至也
2. Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity.


  1. 非人之將也非主之佐也非勝之主也
3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory.


  1. 故明君賢將所以動而勝人成功出於衆者先知也
  2. 先知者不可取於鬼神不可象於事不可驗於度
  3. 必取於人知敵之情者也
4. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.

5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation.

6. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men.


  1. 故用間有五有鄉間有內間有反間有死間有生間
  2. 五間俱起莫知其道是謂神紀人君之寶也
  3. 鄉間者因其鄉人而用之
7. Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five classes: (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) converted spies; (4) doomed spies; (5) surviving spies.

8. When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none can discover the secret system. This is called “divine manipulation of the threads.” It is the sovereign's most precious faculty.

9. Having local spies means employing the services of the inhabitants of a district.


  1. 內間者因其官人而用之
10. Having inward spies, making use of officials of the enemy.


  1. 反間者因其敵間而用之
11. Having converted spies, getting hold of the enemy's spies and using them for our own purposes.


  1. 死間者爲誑事於外令吾間知之而傳於敵
  2. 生間者反報也
12. Having doomed spies, doing certain things openly for purposes of deception, and allowing our spies to know of them and report them to the enemy. 13. Surviving spies, finally, are those who bring back news from the enemy's camp.


  1. 故三軍之親莫親於間賞莫厚於間事莫密於間
14. Hence it is that which none in the whole army are more intimate relations to be maintained than with spies. None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business should greater secrecy be preserved.


  1. 非聖智不能用間
15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity.


  1. 非仁義不能使間
  2. 非微妙不能得間之實
  3. 微哉微哉無所不用間也
  4. 間事未發而先聞者間與所告者皆死
16. They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straightforwardness.

17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports.

18. Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of business.


19. If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to whom the secret was told.


  1. 凡軍之所欲擊城之所欲攻人之所欲殺必先知其守將左右謁者門者舍人之姓名令吾間必索知之
20. Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a city, or to assassinate an individual, it is always necessary to begin by finding out the names of the attendants, the aides-de-camp, and door-keepers and sentries of the general in command. Our spies must be commissioned to ascertain these.


  1. 必索敵人之間來間我者因而利之導而舍之故反間可得而用也
  2. 因是而知之故鄉間內間可得而使也
  3. 因是而知之故死間爲誑事可使告敵
  4. 因是而知之故生間有使如期
21. The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become converted spies and available for our service.

22. It is through the information brought by the converted spy that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies.

23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.

24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving spy can be used on appointed occasions.


  1. 五間之事主必知之知之必在於反間故反間不可不厚也
  2. 昔殷之興也伊摯在夏周之興也呂牙在殷
25. The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality. 26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty was due to I Chih who had served under the Hsia. Likewise, the rise of the Chou dynasty was due to Lu Ya who had served under the Yin.


  1. 故惟明君賢將能以上智爲間者必成大功此兵之要三軍之所恃而動也
27. Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. Spies are a most important element in water, because on them depends an army's ability to move.