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1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war recognizes 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.
3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great distance, it is facile
4. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either side, is contentious
5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open ground.
6. Ground which forms the key to three contiguous
states, so that he who occupies it first has most of the
Empire at his command, is a ground of intersecting
7. When an army has penetrated into the heart of a hostile country, leaving a number of fortified
cities in its rear, it is serious ground.
8. Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and
fens--all country that is hard to traverse: this is
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
10. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by fighting without delay, is
11. On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious
ground, attack not.
12. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way. On the ground of intersecting highways, join
hands with your allies.
13. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the
14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight.
15. Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy's front
and rear; to prevent co-operation between his large and
small divisions; to hinder the good troops from rescuing the
bad, the officers from rallying their men.
16. When the enemy's men were united, they managed to keep them in disorder.
17. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move; when otherwise, they stopped
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, I should say: "Begin by seizing something
which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to
19. Rapidity is the essence of war: 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
21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply your army with food.
22. Carefully study the well-being of your men, and do not overtax them. Concentrate your
energy and hoard your strength. Keep your army continually
on the move, and devise unfathomable plans.
23. Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to
flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they
may not achieve. Officers and men alike will
put forth their uttermost strength.
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
hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there
is no help for it, they will fight hard.
25. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers will be constantly on the qui vive; without
waiting to be asked, they will do your will; without
restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving orders,
they can be trusted.
26. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death
itself comes, no calamity need be feared.
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.
28. On the day they are ordered out to battle, your soldiers may weep, those sitting up
bedewing their garments, and those lying down letting the
tears run down their cheeks. But let them once be
brought to bay, and they will display the courage of a Chu or a
29. The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan. Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is
found in the ChUng mountains. 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, and you will be attacked by head and tail
30. Asked if an army can be made to imitate the shuai-jan, I should answer, Yes. For the men of Wu
and the men of Yueh are enemies; 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.
31. Hence it is not enough to put one's trust in the tethering of horses, and the burying of
chariot wheels in the ground
32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must
33. How to make the best of both strong and weak--that is a question involving the proper use of
34. Thus the skillful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man,
willy-nilly, by the hand.
35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus
36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances, and thus keep
them in total ignorance.
37. By altering his arrangements and changing his plans, he keeps the enemy without definite
knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous
routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his
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. He carries his
men deep into hostile territory before he shows his
39. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking-pots; like a shepherd driving a flock of sheep, he
drives his men this way and that, and nothing knows
whither he is going.
40. To muster his host and bring it into danger:--this may be termed the business of the general.
41. The different measures suited to the nine varieties of ground; the expediency of
aggressive or defensive tactics; and the fundamental laws of
human nature: these are things that must most certainly be
42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle is, that penetrating deeply brings
cohesion; penetrating but a short way means
43. When you leave your own country behind, and take your army across neighborhood territory, you
find yourself on critical ground. When there are means
of communication on all four sides, the ground is one of
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
46. Therefore, on dispersive ground, I would inspire my men with unity of purpose. On facile
ground, I would see that there is close connection between all
parts of my army.
47. On contentious ground, I would hurry up my rear.
48. On open ground, I would keep a vigilant eye on my defenses. On ground of intersecting
highways, I would consolidate my alliances.
49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a continuous stream of supplies. On
difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along the road.
50. On hemmed-in ground, I would block any way of retreat. On desperate ground, I would
proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their
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.
52. We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring 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.
53. To be ignored of any one of the following four or five principles does not befit a warlike
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, and their allies are prevented from joining
55. Hence he does not strive to ally himself with all and sundry, nor does he foster the power of
other states. He carries out his own secret designs, keeping
his antagonists in awe. Thus he is able to
capture their cities and overthrow their kingdoms.
56. Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous
arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as
though you had to do with but a single man.
57. Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design. 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.
59. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm's way that is capable of striking a blow
60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy's
61. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank, we shall succeed in the long run in killing the
62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer cunning.
63. On the day that you take up your command, block the frontier passes, destroy the official
tallies, and stop the passage of all emissaries.
64. Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control the situation.
65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.
66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear, and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the
67. Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a
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.
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