Sun Tzu's the Art of War
A FOREWORD
 

Welcome to the web page dedicated to the english translation of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. This web site is intended for the enjoyment and benefit of all those who read. You don't need to be a master of strategy, a coporate big wig, nor a scholar to be able to appreciate this literary masterpiece.

Why should you bother with this particular translation when there are many others around? Simply, I believe this text is the most succinct and unskewed english translation; it is a great pleasure to read.

The bulk of this text is based on the first half of the book Sun Zi's The Art of War by Dr Han Hiong Tan (published in 2002 by HH Tan Medical P/L, ISBN 0958006709); also by the same author is The Wisdom of Lao Zi (ISBN 0958006725). You can buy a hard copy of the book from Dymocks Online here. It has been used with permission by the original author; any use of the following text should be accompanied by the relevant acknowledgements and copyright information.

Should you find any errors on this page or would like to provide feedback, please don't hesitate to send me an email.

I trust that your time spent here will be both productive and enjoyable.

Kind regards,

Alex Wang
B.Eng/B.Com Melb

E: wanga7@lycos.com
W: www.geocities.com/wangawanga7

 

 
MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR
  Caveat Emptor

Dear perspective readers,

I wish to issue categorically two caveats. Firstly, this is definitely not a get-rich-quick book and if you happen to enrich yourself after reading this, it is purely coincidental. The second caveat is that if you are looking for something extraordinary or cryptic, you will be very disappointed. The wisdom of Sun Tzu is just commonsense, pure and simple.

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy the book and use the strategic thinking expounded by Sun Tzu in you daily lives.

Dr Han Hiong Tan,
The Translator.

E: hanhiong@hotmail.com

 

 
DOCUMENT CONTENTS
 

1 Strategic Assessment
2 Waging War
3 Offensive Strategy
4 Array and Disposition
5 Strategic Momentum
6 Substantial and Insubstantial
7 Jockeying for Position
8 Indefinite Responses
9 Deployment
10 Terrain
11 Topographical Advantage
12 Incendiary Attack
13 Espionage

 

 
1 STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT
  Master Sun says:

Armament is the principal mission of a state as war is inevitable. The outcome of war usually determines the life and death of its subjects and the survival or demise of the nation. Hence it is imperative that the art of war should be carefully analysed and thoroughly studied.

Using a set of five criteria to compare and contrast the relative strength of both sides, one can usually assess the real situation and predict the consequences. The first is Dao, the second is climate, the third is terrain, the fourth is leadership and the fifth is institutional structure.

Dao refers to the moral rectitude of the ruler. Benevolent rule can unite the government and its people towards a common purpose. As their fates are so inextricably linked, people can be sent to fight any war and risk their lives without any equivocation.

As for the climatic factors, one needs to take into account the time of day, temperature and the prevailing seasonal conditions.

Regarding terrain, factors such as the land contours, its proximity or remoteness from the battlefield, the presence of precipice or level ground, a narrow pass or expansive route, as well as blind alleys or thoroughfare for easy retreat should all be carefully considered.

All generals possess different qualities. Leadership qualities such as wisdom, trustworthiness, benevolence, bravery and stewardship are important winning attributes.

Institutional structure refers to the hierarchical organization of the army, the power and duties of the officers and the logistics of supply.

Virtually every commander has heard of these five factors. But only those who genuinely understand them are able to use them in their strategic planning will be victorious; those who are not conversant with them will inevitably be defeated.

Therefore, to appraise the relative strength of two sides based on these five criteria and hence predict the outcome, one should ask the following questions:

Which ruler better follows the way of the Dao?
Which commander is more capable overall?
To which side does the climatic and terrestrial factors favour?
Which organisational structure is more superior both in theory and in practice?
Which side is numerically superior?
Whose army is better trained?
Which side bestows reward and metes out punishment more consistently?

From the answers, I can foretell which side will win in battle.

When a commander has accepted my strategic philosophy and utilizes it to formulate a strategic plan, he will be victorious in any conflict; and you should retain his service. He who does not take heed will be defeated in the battle and you must not use him.

Once you have formulated a strategic plan after carefully considering the pros and cons, you must implement it immediately. Establishing favourable arrays and configurations will gain you the positional advantage; this will tangibly assist you in waging war. This positional advantage is derived from the knowledge that certain formations will inherent benefits in terms of flexibility and expediency.

The art of war (devising a successful military strategy) is the art of deceit. Therefore, when you have the capacity to fight you should feign impotence; when you are poised to strike, you should act as if you are unprepared. When your real target is close by, you should appear to aim for a distant one; and when the intended target is far away you should feint for something nearby.

Allure your enemies with some easy pickings to lead them into the ideal spot for an ambush; create disorder and mayhem before you attack them. If the enemy is powerful, consolidate your position and make preparations for defence. When the odds are overwhelmingly against you, avoid the conflict by running away.

If the enemies are belligerent, provoke them; if the foes are humble and meek, embold them, when they are idle and restful, harass them. When they are united, sow discord by spreading malicious rumours. Attack where you enemy is unprepared, and make your move when it is not expected.

These are the tactics of a commensurate strategist but these should not be telegraphed in advance.

During the assessment and planning phase at the ancestral temple, if the tally of the overall score is in your favour, winning is virtually assured. If the comparison is adverse, you will lose. Favourable scores will bring about victory and unfavourable scores will result in defeat. Disaster will befall those who do not bother to assess the situation!

From my vantage point, I can clearly see the odds of winning or losing.

 
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2 WAGING WAR
  Master Sun says:

Strategically speaking, to mobilise one hundred thousand troops you require at least one thousand chariots each drawn by four horses, one thousand heavy wagons fully loaded with ordnance together with one hundred thousand armoured soldiers and sufficient provisions to feed them as they march over one thousand miles. The cost of the campaign at the front and at home (including diplomatic missions and materials for maintenance and replacement of ordnance, chariots and armoury) will amount to approximately one thousand teals of gold in a single day.

In waging a war one must always attempt to score a swift victory. Protracted battles will frustrate the soldiers and diminish their morale. Besieging a fortified city will sap an army’s strength to exhaustion. Sending an army on a long expedition will bankrupt the country. Exhausted and demoralised troops coupled with depleted national resources presents an opportunity for neighbouring feudal warlords to attack you as you are now most vulnerable. Even if you have the most able commander, he will not be able to avert the disastrous consequences under such circumstances.

Thus, I have learnt that although an incompetent commander will try to score a quick victory, I am yet to witness a clever commander who deliberately prolongs a war. To engage in an interminable war and simultaneously bring benefit to the nation is not possible. Therefore, if one does not anticipate all the pitfalls of war, in particular the problems of protracted conflict, then one would not appreciate the benefits of military expediency and a swift victory.

The accomplished commander neither needs to repeat conscription nor requires continuous logistical support from home. He will bring with him all the necessary personnel and ordnance and obtain all provisions from his enemy’s territories. Consequently, he should continue to enjoy an abundance of food and supplies.

A nation becomes impoverished because of military expedition and the attendant cost of transportation of supplies to distant destinations.

To give logistical support to a remote army is very expensive and the burden falls squarely upon the subjects. Furthermore, those who live near where the army is stationed will experience an inflation of goods and services. Inflation impoverishes them to such an extent that soon they will be unable to pay the war levy. Externally the military expeditions sap the strength of the nation, while internally its people become destitute. The people lose seven-tenths of their savings while the bulk of the national budget is squandered in the ravages of war: damaged chariots, maimed horses, broken armoury and weaponry as well as slaughtered oxen and ruined heavy wagons. As much as sixty percent of the national expenditure is lost in this manner.

Therefore, the wise commander plunders foods and provisions from the enemy. A given amount of supplies obtained from the enemy is equivalent to twenty times the same quantity transported from the home base. Similarly, it requires twenty-fold the amount of food delivered from the home to replace from home to replace what is required locally.

Help to maintain their rage and the soldiers will kill the enemy; give them a share of the loot and they will steal and plunder. In a battle involving chariots, if more than ten chariots have been captured, the one who seized the first chariot should be richly rewarded. You should then replace the enemy’s flag with one of your own and expand the chariot unit. The captives should be treated kindly and absorbed into the ranks. This is the way of winning the battle and expanding your force at the same time.

In waging war, swift victory is the best outcome and protracted war is the most undesirable.

Therefore, the commander who is well-versed in military strategy holds the fate of the people and the destiny of the country in his hands.

 
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3 OFFENSIVE STRATEGY
  Master Sun says:

Strategically speaking, it is better to annex a country without the use of force rather than devastate that country and then occupy it. It is equally preferable to capture an entire army than to annihilate it. Similarly, capturing en masse the regiments, battalions, companies, platoons or squads is far better than destroying them. The acme of excellence belongs not to the one who fights and wins every battle but to the one who conquers without even waging a war.

Therefore, the best policy is to thwart your opponent’s plans by superior strategy, the second best is to weaken the enemy’s alliance by the use of skilful diplomacy, the third option is to resort to military operations and the last is to besiege a fortress.

To attack a fortified city is a last resort, to be used only when there is no other alternative. It will take at least three months to prepare and manufacture the huge shields, armoured personnel vehicles and other weaponry and equipment. It will require a further three months to amass and build mounds as a platform for attack. If the commander cannot maintain his composure and recklessly orders the storming of the fortress, the casualties will amount to about one-third and the fortress will still remain unassailable. This is the sort of catastrophe that can emanate from such desperate action.

Therefore the adept commander will subdue the enemy without going to war, occupy the fortress without launching an attack and overthrow the enemy’s regime without an extended conflict. In the pursuit of dominance and annexation the most important concern is the preservation of your forces. You not only have to achieve total victory but also ensure that your own troops remain intact. This is the principle of strategic attack.

With regards to strategy, surround the enemy when you outnumber them tenfold. Attack the enemy when your forces are fivefold theirs; engage the enemy when you have twice their number. When the numbers are equal you should try to divide and disperse the enemy forces; when you are outnumbered you must switch to a defensive posture. If the situation becomes indefensible, you should attempt to evade the enemy. A defensive force that may be invincible against a small army will invariably succumb to a larger and more formidable one.

Strictly speaking, the commander is the protector of the state. When this protection is comprehensive, the nation will be strong and when it is not, the state will be weak and vulnerable.

There are three ways in which the ruler can wreak havoc upon his own army. Firstly, by not having a good grasp at the prevailing circumstances, he orders an attack or retreat when the real situation demands otherwise. This action cripples the army. Secondly, by being ignorant of the complexity of military internal affairs, he recklessly interferes with the administration. This causes confusion within the rank and file. Thirdly, by not knowing the importance of military expediency, he intervenes in the assignment of military forces. This will beget uncertainty and distrust. Once your own army is confused, invasion from neighbouring states becomes dangerously imminent. This is the classic case of sowing discord among your own army and giving away the advantage to your enemy.

There are five important keys to victory:
1 Knowing when to fight and when not to fight;
2 Maximising tactical advantage in deployment according to the numerical strength of the army;
3 Possessing the capacity to seamlessly unite the commander and his troops with one heart and one mind;
4 Maintaining a state of alertness and having plans for all eventualities; and
5 Having an able commander who has received carte blanche from his ruler.

These are the five winning ways.

Hence if you know yourself and understand your opponent you will never put your victory in jeopardy in any conflict. If you know yourself but not your opponent, the odds are even. Knowing neither oneself not the opponent, one will be in constant danger of losing the battle.

 
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4 ARRAY AND DISPOSITION
  Master Sun says:

In antiquity, the able commander first established a situation of invincibility and waited for the enemy to expose his weaknesses so that he could then pounce on and comprehensively defeat his force. Invincibility depends on oneself, whereas vulnerability is the undoing of the opponent. Therefore the able commander can only make himself invincible, but cannot actively bring about the vulnerability of the enemy.

In summary:
Victory can be forecast with a high degree of certainty, but it cannot be compulsorily acquired.

Invincibility is established because you are proficient at defence; victory is possible because you are adept at attacking. Not having sufficient force to launch an attack, you should settle for defence; when your force is formidable and overwhelming, you should attack. Hence, one who is adept at defence will conceal his force in the deepest recesses underground and the one who is adept at attacking will strike from stratospheric heights with lightning speed. As such he will ensure both his own safety as well as total victory.

The ability to foresee victory as proficiently as an ordinary militarist’s does not represent the pinnacle of excellence. Nor does receiving universal acclaim for winning a war present the ultimate achievement. It is as much to say that to lift a single hair is no sign of great strength, to be able to see the sun or the moon is no test of eagle eyesight, or to hear thunder is no mark of keen hearing.

The able commander of antiquity won the war with ease. As a consequence the able commander’s victory was so unremarkable; and he was not renowned for his wisdom or his courage. His victory was unerringly assured. This means that the measured he had taken would definitely result in victory because he prevailed over an enemy that has already lost.

Hence the commander first creates and maintains his own invincibility. He will not miss any opportunity to defeat the vulnerable enemy. Therefore, the victor creates the conditions for victory before he enters the fray; the vanquished fights first and then tries to work out how to win the battle. The able commander follows the way of the Dao to boost army morale and uphold the rules and regulations. This is why he is able to decisively determine the outcome of war.

The five important considerations in warfare are as follows:

1 The size of the nation’s states
2 The quantity of materials, provisions and equipment
3 The size of the army
4 The comparative strength of both sides
5 The predicted outcome

The size of the country will determine the availability of military logistical supplies, and the capacity of the logistical supplies will restrict the number of troops, which can be deployed. The relative strength of both sides can now be compared and determined. Finally, by taking into account all these factors, assigning the appropriate weightings and making a careful comparative study, one can accurately forecast the result.

The victor’s advantages outweigh the opponent’s by a factor 756 to 1 and the reverse is true for the vanquished. The victorious army overwhelms its victim in such a awesome manner, as powerful as water gushing through a burst dam from a height of 8000 feet, plunging down at thundering speed. Tactical superiority is a display of brutally raw power par excellence.

 
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5 STRATEGIC MOMENTUM
  Mast Sun says:

Managing a large group is no different to managing a small one is the organisation is sound; fighting with a large army is no different to fighting with a small one as long as the chain of command is effective.

Therefore, with the proper use of direct (zheng) and indirect (chi) stratagems, a battalon could be subjected to attacks from all directions and yet remain unvanquished. On the other hand, the appropriate use of substantial and insubstantial tactics will render your attack as formidable and overwhelming as rocks smash eggs.

In war, direct tactics are employed in engagement; but it is the use of indirect tactics (deceptive and unexpected moves) that lead to a victory. Therefore, the commander who is adept tat surprise tactics will have access to schemes, which are as boundless as the universe and as inexhaustible as a river’s flow. This never-ending cycle is akin to the rising and the setting of the sun or the waxing and waning of the moon. Similarly, in the case of four seasons, each one follows the other in succession.

There are but five basic notes in music, five basic hues in colour and five basic tastes in food; yet the combination and permutation of notes, hues and tastes respectively will produce more varieties than one can every hear, see or taste.

Though there are only two types of tactical attacks, direct and indirect, which can be used in war, the interchanging of these tactics produces endless combinations. The alternate use of direct and indirect tactics can be likened to a ring which no beginning and no end – an infinity of permutations.

The power of the rapids that lifts and rolls the rocks is attributable to the momentum; the ferocious attack of the falcon that devastates its victim is due to the suddenness of its strike. Therefore the adept warrior maximises his advantage by utilising momentum and rapid action. The potential energy he creates is due to the tension in a fully drawn bow and the power of the sudden strike is due to the kinetic energy generated from its release.

In a battle involving large battalions and multiple skirmishes, the commander should maintain sang-froid in this state of confusion and chaos. Similarly, in an environment of ever-changing formations and configurations, he should deploy his troops in a circular array so that he can instantaneously respond to each set of circumstances with alacrity and remain insuperable.

It is from the well-organised troops that the ability to feign chaos arises. It is from the courageous regiment that cowardice can be simulated. It is from the strong and powerful army that weakness can be feigned.

Order and chaos are dependent on organisational skill; bravery and cowardice are contingent upon strategic deployments; strength and weakness are related to configuration and formation.

Therefore, the adept warrior who is capable of initiating the enemy will either create a deception to precipitate his enemy into unnecessary action or offer a gambit, which his enemy simply cannot refuse. In short, he provides the enemy with some apparent advantage to lure him into a deadly trap: an ambush by his overwhelming force.

The adept warrior relies upon the inherent potential of strategic configurations for citory rather than upon the efforts of individuals. As such, be is able to select the right person to maximise the use of potential.

Utilising strategic potential in the deployment of troops is akin to setting logs and boulders rolling. The tendency of the logs and boulders is to remain still on level ground but to keep rolling down a slope. Square objects quickly come to a halt but round ones will continue to roll. In the case of the victor, the momentum unleashed from capitalising on strategic potential coupled with the skilful deployment of troops is like setting huge round boulders tolling down a mountainous slops of great height. The force generated by such momentum is truly awesome.

 
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6 SUBSTANTIAL AND INSUBSTANTIAL
  Master Sun says:

Generally speaking, the army, which arrives at the battlefield early, is restful and ready to pounce; and the one that arrives later is compelled to enter into a fray, feeling weary and exhausted. Therefore, the adept warrior would initiate action rather than being initiated.

To encourage the enemy to voluntarily come to your chosen destination, you must lure him with some perceptible advantage; to prevent the enemy from attacking certain targets, you must deter him with severe repercussions.

Thus, when the enemy is rested, stir him; when the enemy is well fed, starve him; when the enemy is contented, unsettle him. Attack where the enemy must proceed to meet the challenge, and make a move when he is not expecting it.

The reason why you can travel a thousand li without feeling fatigue is because you traverse over uncontested territory. Victory is assured when you strike because the target you have chosen is either vulnerable or undefended. Your defence is invulnerable because you have chosen a site that can be made impregnable to the enemy, so that he will not dare to attack.

Therefore, when confronted by a general skilled at offensive manoeuvres, his enemy does not know how to mount an effective defence; when faced by a commander proficient in defence, his enemy does not know where to attack. The art is so subtle and obscure, it leaves no trace; it is so mysterious and incomprehensible, it conceals all portents. This is why the adept commander becomes the arbiter of his enemy’s fate.

His advance cannot he stopped because he directs his attack at the most vulnerable area. He cannot be pursued because he bolts so rapidly that his retreat becomes unreachable.

Therefore, if I want to engage the enemy, even if he is safely housed in the strongest fortress surrounded by the deepest moat, he must come out and fight me. I go for the strategic spot where he must come to wrestle. If I decide not to fight, even though I only draw a line on the ground, the enemy will not cross it. I have created enough mayhem to stop him from proceeding.

Therefore, if I can force my enemy to adopt a certain formation while I remain uncommitted, I will have an obvious advantage: my force is totally consolidated while his will be dispersed. My force remains an integral whole while his forces are splintered into tenths. By attacking with a force ten times more than the enemy’s, I will enjoy an overwhelming superiority in number. The end result is that I will face a much smaller enemy force, in comparison, in any conflict.

Where I choose to fight the battle is unbeknownst to the enemy; thus he will have to make numerous contingency plans. By making more plans and preparations, he will have fewer troops available to engage me in any single conflict.

If he concentrates his force mainly on the front, the back will be deficient; if he focuses on the back then the front will be vulnerable; if he strengthens the left then his right will inevitably be weaker, and vice versa. Trying to prepare for every contingency will mean dividing the force so many times such that all aspects of defence will become vulnerable.

He who has to prepare for all eventualities will dilute his own military might. In contrast, by forcing the enemy to disperse his force to counter all threats, you make your force numerically strong in comparison.

Thus, knowing the time and place of the coming battle will enable you to fight a war, one thousand li away. However, if one does not know these, one will not be able to coordinate the force in such a manner that the left flank protects the right and the right reciprocates, or the front protects the back and vice versa. To fight an effective battle ranging from a few li to tens of li away without coordination would be virtually impossible.

From my analysis, although the army of Yue was numerically superior, it did not contribute to scoring a victory. Hence, it is possible to score victory against a larger army, so long as you can prevent his full force from entering into the fray.

Therefore, you should make a critical analysis of the enemy’s plan to discover his strengths and weaknesses. You should make a few manoeuvres to test the patterns of his response and set up a tentative array and disposition to detect any topographical vulnerability. Finally, you should initiate probing excursions to ascertain which aspects of his defence are inadequate.

Thus the mastery of military manoeuvring is to leave no trace for your opponent to presage. As my manoeuvring has no fixed form or predictable response, even the spy who has reached my inner sanctum will not be able to discover my true intent. Nor would the wiliest opponent to able counter-measures against me.

Even though I display my victorious tactics for all to see, none could appreciate its intricacies. While everyone will know which disposition leads to the final victory, none could understand how I have come to such a decision. Hence, the victorious tactics can never be repeated, as different circumstances require a different set of responses. Tactical responses are infinite.

The nature of an effective military tactics is like the flow of water. Water runs away from the higher ground and gravitates to the lower; the essence of sound military tactics is to avoid the invincible and attack the vulnerable. Water follows the contour to chart its course while consummate military tacticians capitalise upon the enemy’s mistakes and weaknesses to achieve victory.

As such, sound military tactics has no fixed array or disposition, just like water, which his constantly changing its shape. The ability to respond continually to changing enemy’s tactics and achieve a final victory is truly marvellous.

Nothing is constant or absolute: as with the five elements, no single element can claim supremacy over the rest. As with the four seasons, each comes and goes in turn. Some days are long and some are short; similarly, the moon waxes and wanes in a cyclic fashion.

 
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7 JOCKEYING FOR POSITION
  Master Sun says:

In war, having received orders from the king, the commander begins to conscript soldiers to form an army and to mobilise his troops to fight the enemy on the front line. Throughout this process, the greatest challenge is to gain strategic advantage by the use of tactical maneuovres.

The aim is to convert a tortuous route into a direct path and to transform adversity into advantage. If you can make your enemy proceed in a circuitous way by offering some bait, you will arrive at the battlefield first, even though you set out later. This is an example of using tortuous and direct strategies.

Troop manoeuvring to gain strategic advantage is a double-edged sword. The commander must be cognisant of the benefits and pitfalls of manoeuvring to gain strategic advantage. If you deploy a fully equipped army, you may not reach the destination in time. On the other hand, leaving behind the entire heavy equipment and supplies in order to expedite mobilisation you could lose all this valuable ordnance.

However, if you stow away the armour and march day and night on the double to cover one hundred li for strategic advantage, only the very fit and strong men (which usually comprises around one-tenth of the force) will arrive first and the rest will trail behind. As a consequence, some of your pioneering commanders will be captured in the ensuing conflict.

If the march is only for a distant fifty li in a day, only half of the army will arrive in time, and the commanders of the vanguard could still be harmed or captured. Similarly, travelling over a distance of thirty li in a single, only two-thirds of the army will arrive as planned.

It must be remembered that an army without any heavy equipment will be defeated in the battle. Without food, the army cannot survive. Without sufficient military supplies, the army will soon perish.

If you do not know the intent of the neighbouring warlords, you will not be able to form an alliance. If you do not know the topographical features of the area, such as forests, the difficult passes and swamps, you will not be able to advance your troops. Without the help of a local guide, you will not be able to take full advantage of the terrain.

In warfare, deception is employed to establish an unassailable position, movement is made to gain strategic advantage and division or consolidation of forces is used in response to changing circumstances.

Therefore, in advance, it should be as swift as the whirlwind. In a slow march, it should be as majestic as a swaying forest. In plundering, it should be as raging as bushfire. In defence, it should be as inert as a mountain. In camouflage, it should be as obscure as darkness. And finally, in attack it should be as unpredictably sudden as the thunderbolt.

After plundering the villages, share the loots with your soldiers. After capturing extra territories, divide it into different strategic regions to reward the officers.

Consider everything carefully before you make a move. In order to be victorious, you must understand thoroughly the use of tortuous and direct approaches. This is the principle of troop manoeuvring.

The manual of military training remarks:
"Verbal communication is impossible in the battlefield; that is why gongs and drums are used. Similarly, small visual cues are generally ineffectual; that is why huge flags and pennants are employed."

So, for skirmishes at night, gongs and drums are used. Flags and pennants are utilised during the day. These not only send messages to the ears and eyes of the soldiers, but also unify them into a well coordinated force. By working in unison, neither the brave can advance faster nor the timid can beat the retreat. This is the proper way of directing a large army in the battlefield.

You can devastate the morale of the entire enemy just as you can destroy the confidence of the general. It is generally known that in the initial phase of war, the morale is extremely high. Thenceforth, it diminishes as the war drags on. Eventually, as the war becomes protracted, the morale is at its lowest ebb as many soldiers are yearning to return home.

So the wise commander will not confront the enemy when his morale is very high but will launch an attack when the enemy’s morale is flagging or at its nadir. This is the right way to handle morale in warfare.

To manage the psychological aspect of war, you should use your well-disciplined army to confront the disorganised enemy’s troops and deploy your well-rested troops to pit against the panicky enemy.

You should arrive at the battlefield first to wait for the enemy coming from afar. You should keep your force calm and restful before doing battle with the rattled and exhausted enemy. And you should make sure that your troops are well fed before fighting against your starving opponents. These are the proper manners of preserving and exercising your military might.

Do not intercept a powerful army when its banners and pennants are in good arrays, and do not attack the mighty army when its formation is orderly. This is the way of dealing with expediency and strategic response.

Therefore, in war, do not launch an ascending attack head-on against the enemy who holds the high ground. Do not engage the enemy when he makes a descending attack from high ground. Lure him to level ground to do battle.

Do not pursue the enemy when he makes a strategic retreat. Do not attack his elite troops. Do not swallow his bait. Do not attempt to block the force that is retreating homeward. In surrounding the enemy, always leave a breach for them to escape. And finally do not indulge in hot pursuit when the enemy is desperately trying to get away. These are the basic principles in conducting a war.

 
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8 INDEFINITE RESPONSES
  Master Sun says:

Normally, in the conduct of war, the general must first receive the mandate from the sovereign to gather conscripts and form an army.

In conducting a military campaign, there are several rules to which he has to strictly adhere.

He should not encamp in treacherous areas like thick forests, narrow passes and marshy ground, in which the army could be easily bogged down.

He must not venture into the focal ground, a hub of several converging roads, without tacit support from allied feudal warlords.

He must not linger at desolate ground, which is uninhabitable.

He must always by ready to implement a contingency plan when traversing encircled ground.

When trapped in fatal ground, he is in an irredeemable position. He must order his army to fight resolutely to the bitter end.

There are paths that he must not travel.
There are armies, which he should not attack.
There are fortified cities, which he should not besiege.
There are territories the he should not contest.
There are certain orders from the king that he should not obey.

Therefore, the general who knows how to respond appropriately to ever-changing circumstances is truly adept in the art of war.

The general who has not fully mastered the art of extemporaneous responses may know the terrain like the back of his hand, but will not be able to exploit this to his full advantage.

In conducting a military campaign the general who does not have the knack of impromptu responses but understands all the geographic advantage will not be able to fully capitalise on the situation and bring out the full potential of his army.

Therefore during any strategic planning, the wise general always considers carefully the pros and cons. In any given situation, when the advantages are taken into account, he should be able to capitalise on them to accomplish the mission. Conversely, when he examines the disadvantages, he must come up with appropriate remedial actions to avert a disaster.

Hence, to oppress the rivalling warlords, you intimidate them with severe reprisal. To exhaust their patience, you harass them continually with endless problems. And finally to move them to where you want them to be, you lure them with inducements.

Therefore in defence, you are not banking on the enemy not turning up, but rather relying solely upon your own preparedness. Similarly, you are not betting on him not launching an attack, but rather depending entirely on your own invincibility.

There are five defective traits in a commander:

1 If the commander possesses suicidal bravery but lacks sound strategic thinking he will be mortally wounded.
2 If the commander is irresolute and cowardly, he will be easily captured.
3 If the commander is temperamental and impulsive, he could be provoked into taking reckless action and be defeated.
4 If the commander is scrupulously incorruptible and thin-skinned, he could be hurt by slander and made to lose his cool. As a consequence he could be lured from his impregnable fortress to fight a pointless battle in the open.
5 If the commander overindulges and excessively dotes on his troops, he could be made to respond to every move so as to prevent needless casualties, but at the expense of losing the war.

These five points are the shortcomings of some commanders and will result in calamities in military campaigns.

The destruction of the army and the slaying of the commander could certainly be due to any one of these five fatal flaws. Hence, these must be carefully studied and analysed.

 
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9 DEPLOYMENT
  Master Sun says:

There are certain principles you need to follow regarding encampment and reconnaissance.

When traversing mountains, you should proceed along the valleys. You should chose a high and sunny ground for encampment. Do not mount an ascending attack head-on against an enemy entrenched on high ground. These are the rules concerning deployment in mountainous regions.

Once your army has crossed the river you must march on and encamp far away from the shore. When your enemy is traversing the river do not engage him in the water. You must wait till half his force has reached the shore while the other half is still in the crossing before you launch the strike. This is the most opportune time to strike and it confers a clear advantage to you. When your real intention is to fight the battle near the shore, you should not be seen at the vicinity because this will dissuade the enemy from crossing the river.

With regard to encampment you must choose a high ground facing the sun and try to avoid the low ground facing river flow. These are the rules pertaining to the deployment near rivers.

While passing through salty marshes and swampy grounds, you must move quickly. When you encounter the enemy in such areas you must try to stay near the reeds and have your rear shielded by the forest. This is the appropriate positioning in marshland.

If you station your main force on level ground in an open field, your ancillary forces should occupy the higher ground at the flanks and back. In this configuration, you are confronting the danger head on while the rear is well protected. This is the way to position the army in the plains.

The advantages gained from the strategic posturing in these four different situations are the main reasons why the Yellow Emperor fought and successfully subjugated the other four emperors at that time.

In general, commanders like to encamp on high ground rather than the humid low ground; they prefer sunny areas to the dusky locations. In such localities, the army will be rested and there will be ample supplies of provisions. Furthermore, high and sunny areas are more conducive to good health and the army is less likely to be inflicted by diseases. These are important factors that contribute to subsequent victory.

Regarding encampment at a hilly location, you must choose the sunny aspect and your main force must be flanked by ancillary forces as well as shielded by the hills at the back. These actions fully capitalise upon the contours of the landscape and provide you the positional advantage in waging a war.

When deluge comes as a result of torrential rain upstream, you must not try to wade through the water until the flash floods have settled.

When you reach the dangerous terrain such as steep gorges, defiles, boxed-in recesses, and other treacherous terrain you should move away quickly and try to avoid entering there. While you try to stay away from these types of terrain at all costs, you should try to force the enemy into these predicaments. The only time you advance towards such terrain is to compel the enemy to back towards it.

When your encampment is at the vicinity of a ravine, marshes, forested hills and thick undergrowth, you should comb these areas because these are the places where enemy troops or spies normally hide.

Therefore, if the enemy is nearby and yet makes no attempt to attack you, it is because he has utilised the natural advantage of the topography and switched into a defensive mode. However, when the enemy is far away but makes overture to challenge you, it is because he is trying to lure you to move towards him.

There must be some hidden agenda if the enemy purposely stations his troops on a flat plain rather than some protective geographical location.

When the landscape of a forest changes, it signals that the enemy is preparing for an attack.

If the enemy is erecting numerous straw men and establishing obstacles in his camp, he is trying to create illusions so that he can retreat safely.

When the birds suddenly take flight, you know that an ambush is being set up.

Similarly, when startled animals begin a stampede, you know that the enemy is mounting a sneak attack.

A thick cloud of dust moving quickly is a sign that the chariot attack has commenced. A low level dust cloud is created by the foot soldiers marching. When the dust cloud is scattered and widespread, this is the sign that the soldiers have been sent to gather firewood. When the dust cloud is sparse but occurs very frequently it is the telltale sign that the enemy is engaging in reconnaissance activity.

Sending emissaries to speak humbly and subserviently, but also furiously reinforcing his defence is a sign that the enemy is trying to mount a surprise attack. Sending emissaries to speak belligerently and simultaneously making aggressive postures is a sign that the enemy is desperately preparing for a retreat.

When the enemy appears with chariots on both flanks, he is setting up an array to initiate a battle.

If without reason the enemy comes to sue for peace, he must have a hidden agenda, usually a diabolical plot.

When the enemy moves to and fro but maintains the same array, he is waiting for reinforcement.

If he is only making tentative moves and refusing to advance, he is trying to lure you into initiating an attack.

Leaning on the armoury for physical support is a sign that the enemy is very hungry.

If soldiers are sent to dig wells and begin to drink the water on site, you know that the enemy is running out of water.

Seeing a window of opportunity but refusing to take full advantage of it is a sign that the enemy is totally exhausted.

When the birds flock and gather at a campsite, it is because the camp is empty.

When the soldiers howl and cry at night it is because they are stricken with fear.

When the army is in turmoil and disarray, it is because the commander is incapable of enforcing stern discipline.

When the flags and pennants are at sixes and sevens, it is because military discipline has broken down.

When the officers become irritable and edgy, it is because they are physically exhausted.

When the enemy feeds the horses with grain, kills the herd to feed the troops, keeps all the cooking utensils and makes no preparation to go back to the camp, this is because the enemy has reached the end of the line. And he is determined to start an all-out war.

When the commander does not issue orders with stern authority but speaks to the subordinates softly and cautiously, he has lost the respect and confidence of his troops.
When the commander repeatedly gives rewards, it is because the troops are rebellious. When the commander repeatedly metes out punishments, it is because the discipline of the troops has broken down.

To employ heavy-handed measures to discipline the troops and then back down for fear of insubordination is a sign of a very foolish commander.

When the enemy's envoy comes with conciliatory tones and gestures to negotiate for a peace settlement, it is because his troops are totally exhausted and are badly in need of a rest.

When the infuriated enemy races to meet your challenge but refuses to fight or retreat, you should keep him under very close surveillance.

When the enemy moves to and fro but maintains the same array, he is waiting for reinforcement.

If he is only making tentative moves and refusing to advance, he is trying to lure you into initiating an attack.

Leaning on the armoury for physical support is a sign that the enemy is very hungry.

If soldiers are sent to dig wells and begin to drink the water on site, you know that the enemy is running out of water.

Seeing a window if opportunity but refusing to take full advantage of it is a sign that the enemy is totally exhausted.

When the birds flock and gather at a campsite, it is because the camp is empty.

When the soldiers howl and cry at night it is because they are stricken with fear.

When the army is in turmoil and disarray, it is because the commander is incapable of enforcing stern discipline.

When the flags and pennants are at sixes and sevens, it is because military discipline has broken down.

When the officers become irritable and edgy, it is because they are physically exhausted.

When the enemy feeds the horses with grain, kills the herd to feed the troops, keeps all the cooking utensils and makes no preparation to go back to the camp, this is because the enemy has reached the end of the line. And he is determined to start an all-out war.

When the commander does not issue orders with stern authority but speaks to the subordinates softly and cautiously, he has lost the respect and confidence of his troops.

When the commander repeatedly gives rewards, it is because the troops are rebellious. When the commander repeatedly metes out punishments, it is because the discipline of the troops has broken down.

To employ heavy-handed measures to discipline the troops and then back down for fear of insubordination is a sign of a very foolish commander.

When the enemy's envoy comes with conciliatory tones and gestures to negotiate for a peace settlement, it is because his troops are totally exhausted and are badly in need of a rest.

When the infuriated enemy races to meet your challenge but refuses to fight or retreat, you should keep him under very close surveillance.

In war, it is not all a matter of numerical superiority. If you are neither fighting a war of attrition nor launching a direct frontal attack, then numerical superiority is not a crucial winning factor. The alternative way is to first carefully analyse your enemy's intent and strategy and then consolidate your forces and strike against the enemy's most vulnerable target.

The commander who lacks strategic thinking and planning but simply advances his troops to engage the enemy in a frontal attack will be captured.
If you have not earned the complete trust and loyalty from the soldiers and begin to mete out punishments, they will feel resentful. Thus these soldiers cannot be used effectively in war.

If you have already earned the complete trust and loyalty from the soldiers but you failed to maintain a strict discipline; they too cannot be used as an effective fighting force.

Therefore to earn their loyalty, trust and compliance you must be kind to them. To mould them into a well-trained fighting force, you must enforce strict discipline. Working with kindness and strict discipline, you can mould your troops into a victorious force.

If the troops are taught to follow orders and rules are regularly enforced, then all soldiers will become obedient. If rules are not enforced, even though the troops are taught to follow orders, they will not comply.

The commander who regularly enforces strict discipline will not only establish credibility and respect among his soldiers but also manage to unite his troops into a cohesive and formidable force. The commander who leads this disciplined and united force will invariably defeat the enemy.

 
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10 TERRAIN
  Master Sun says:

There are six different types of terrain: tong (accessible), gua (entrapping), zhi (hostile), ai (restrictive), xian (hazardous) and yuan (distal).

Tong is the freely accessible ground where both you and your enemy can come and go at will. In this type of terrain, you must occupy the high, sunny ground first and make sure that your supply line is totally secure. This will confer great advantage to you when you do battle with your enemy.

Terrain that is easy to reach but difficult to retreat from is called gua, or entrapping terrain. In such a situation, of you strike while your enemy is unprepared, you should win. However, of you engage the enemy who is fully prepared, it will not only jeopardise your victory but also make your retreat difficult. And you could be placed in an unenviable predicament.

Terrain that disadvantages both you and your enemy is called zhi, or hostile terrain. Even of the enemy lures you to fight on this ground you should not be enticed. Instead, you should move away to induce the enemy to pursue you. As the enemy in his pursuit moves halfway into the zhi area, you should then turn back and launch an assault. This is the most opportune time for you to counter-attack.

The terrain that has a stricture such as a narrow pass is called ai, or restrictive terrain. You should arrive before the enemy and garrison the narrow pass. If the enemy reaches there first and controls the narrow pass, you should not go there. However, of the enemy has not yet seized control of the narrow pass, you can still advance there and try to gain control of this strategic point.

If you arrive at the hazardous terrain (area that poses difficulty for rapid deployment of troops such as mountainous area, for example.) first, you should occupy the high, sunny ground and wait for the enemy. If the enemy arrives before you and occupies this strategic position, you must not engage the enemy. Instead you should retreat to lure the enemy away to fight somewhere else. You should not oblige your enemy by allowing him to choose the battleground.

If the contour of the battlefield favours neither side and you are farther away from the battleground than your enemy, you should not challenge the enemy. Any battle that ensues will not be favourable to you because coming from far away your troops will be physically tired and mentally exhausted.

These are the six important aspects with regard to managing and capitalising topography and the responsibility lies squarely on the general. He should study thoroughly the art of utilising topography and use it to his advantage.

In military conflicts, there are six major disasters that can happen to the army. These are flight, insubordination, entrapment, collapses, chaos and rout. These are not natural disasters but are caused by the failings of the commander.

If both sides have the same topographical advantage, the army who attacks the other that has ten fold in numerical strength will lose and as a result the vanquished will have to take flight.

In the situation where the officers are weak but the soldiers are impertinent and disobedient, the failure to win in the battlefield is due to poor discipline and insubordination.

If the officers are overbearing and the soldiers are poorly trained, they will be compelled to fight against all odds and thus they will be trapped.

When the cranky general unfairly enrages the platoon and company commanders, they will become resentful. Hence, they can be easily provoked by the enemy and will unilaterally enter into the fray against all odds. As a consequence, they will suffer a comprehensive defeat - a total collapse.

Chaos and confusion are created by the following factors: the commanders are weak and unable to enforce discipline, rules and regulations are not clearly established, both the officers and soldiers are intransigent and finally the army formation is in a state of disarray.

Defeat is inevitable when the general cannot fathom the strength and weakness of the enemy or devise an effective strategy. Thus he will use his numerically inferior force to frontally assault the stronger enemy. He will use his weak force to attack the enemy's elite force. He even fails to establish a strong elite force to spearhead the attack. Hence, he will be defeated in any conflict.

These are the six factors, which bring about the defeat in the battle. The responsibility lies squarely on the general and he should study these aspects of warfare very carefully.
Terrain can play an important role in augmenting the military campaign. To size the enemy up, to take into account the topographic factors and then to devise a plan to achieve victory are the tasks of the consummate commander. Therefore, he who understands and capitalises on the topographic features will win, and he who does not will lose.

Therefore, when you know that your military strategy will almost certainly bring about victory and yet your sovereign orders you not to fight, you should ignore the order and proceed to score the victory. If you know that winning is practically impossible, then you should not fight even of you are explicitly ordered to do so by the sovereign.

Therefore, you ,do not advance for the sake of merely winning fame and honour. When you decide to retreat, you are not fearful of being blamed for cowardice. Your actions are based upon the preservation of your troops and the paramount interests of the sovereign. Thus, you deserve to be treated as the living national treasure.

If you treat the ,soldiers like you treat your own infants, they would voluntarily follow you to the treacherous defiles without any hesitation. If you treat the soldiers like you treat your own sons, they would willingly join you to fight to the death without any misgiving.

However, of you overindulge in them and yet they cannot follow your command, or of the soldiers behave badly and refuse to accept disciplinary actions, then they are like spoilt brats and cannot be used in any battle.

If you only understand that your own troops are capable of winning but fail to know that the enemy is powerful and invincible, then the odds of victory are even. If you know that the enemy is vulnerable but fail to know that your own troops are not capable of mounting a formidable assault, the odds of winning are again even. Knowing that the enemy is vulnerable and also that your own troops are capable of winning but failing to realise that the topographical features are not conducive to fighting such a battle, the odds of winning again are even'.

Therefore, the commander who is well versed in military strategy would plan his strategy without equivocation and would attack resolutely without ever getting into a quandary. Therefore, of you know yourself and understand your enemy, you will not be in danger of losing the war. However, of you take advantage of the climatic and topographical factors, then your victory is completely assured.

 
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11 TOPOGRAPHICAL ADVANTAGE
  Master Sun says:

In conducting the military campaign, you should be familiar with nine types of terrain, which play important roles in warfare. These are known as the dispersed (san), marginal (qing), contestable (zheng), open (jiao), focal (qu), critical (zhong), treacherous (pi), encircled (wei), and fatal (si) terrain.

When the local warlord fights the battle in his own regional area. The area is called the dispersed battleground (san).

When the battleground is in another warlord's territory, but not too far from the border, this is called a marginal terrain (Ong).

Whoever arrives first and controls the strategic point of the area will have the advantage in war. This place is a contestable ground (zheng).

Battleground where both opposing armies can come and go freely is called an open terrain (jiao).

Territory, which covers three regions belonging to various warlords, is called a focal terrain (qu). It is advantageous to reach there first, but establishing alliances with the neighbouring warlords is of paramount importance.

After penetrating deeply into enemy territory and traversing many cities, you reach a critical terrain (zhong).

Area, which has many natural obstacles such as thick jungles, ravines or marshlands, will undoubtedly impede mobilisation. It is called the treacherous ground (pi).

Terrain where the entry point is narrow and the retreat route is long and tortuous and it is possible for a small force to encircle and overcome a larger force is called an encircled terrain (wei).

A battleground where the chance of survival depends on a decisive, all-out battle, and failure to do so will lead to total annihilation, is called the fatal ground (si).

Do not fight in a dispersed ground.
In a marginal terrain, do not linger.
Do not mount an attack in a contestable area.
In an open terrain you have to make sure that you force is fully cohesive.
In a focal region, you have to rely on strategic alliances.
In a critical region, abundant food supplies become the crucial surviving factor, so raiding and plundering to stock up provisions is the order of the day.
In a treacherous terrain, you should try to leave the area as soon as possible.
In an encircled ground, you should have contingency plans for all eventualities.


In fatal ground, you must start an all-out war to get out as soon as possible.

In antiquity, the skilful militarist was able to wreak havoc among the enemy's force. He could compel the enemy's vanguard and rearguard to become disjointed and force his enemy's main and ancillary forces to become uncoordinated. He could also render the enemy's elite force unable to support the weaker forces and create discord between the enemy's officers and soldiers. He could prevent the enemy's soldiers from reuniting once they were scattered and even of the soldiers managed to regroup, they would be in a shambles.

Move only when there is a definite advantage to be gained. You should not make a move of there is nothing to gain.

What would you do when the enemy sends a strong and well-trained force against you? If you get at what he treasures most and capture it, then he will submit to you willingly.

The essence of a successful attack is expeditiousness. You strike so swiftly that the enemy has no time to mount an effective defence. You traverse the path that he is not expecting and attack where it is undefended.

The general principle for invading troops is that the deeper your forces penetrate into the enemy's territory the more determined your troops become, and hence

the enemy is less likely to repel your juggernaut. To plunder food and supplies from your enemy is to ensure that your forces have ample provisions. Furthermore, it is imperative to preserve your military might and boost army's morale as well as keeping the troops well rested. Plan your strategy carefully so that your enemy will not be able to predict your next move.

When the force is trapped in an irredeemable position, where there is absolutely no escape route, every soldier would fight to the bitter end to avoid defeat. Under such circumstances, the officers and soldiers become undaunted by the thought of death and are compelled to do their utmost, hoping to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

When the army ends up in a hopeless situation, the soldiers become totally fearless. Having no way out, the soldiers become totally united. Trapped inside a critical territory, the troops become more cohesive; and finally when there is no other alternative, they simply have to fight ferociously for their survival.

Therefore, without being instructed, the soldiers will become vigilant; without being demanded, they will give their best; without being urged, they will be united; and without being told, they will become disciplined.

By banning all superstitious practices and dispelling all doubts, you can lead your force to fight to the death unreservedly.
To ensure that there is no wealth left is not a sign that you suddenly dislike wealth. To tell your soldiers that they are doomed is not a signal that you do not treasure life. These are measures taken to reinforce their determination to fight to the death.

Minutes before the final battle, soldiers become emotional and tearful. Those who are sitting down wet their garments with their tears, and those who are lying down wet their cheeks. It is the spontaneous manifestation of poignant bravery when they realise that there is no way out other than to fight to the death. Their courage mirrors that of Zhuan Zhu and Cao Gui of ancient times.

Therefore, the military manoeuvring of the adept commander is akin to that of a particular snake, found at Changshan. The species of this snake is known as 'Shuairan': When the snake is struck at the head, it will counter-attack with its tail. When it is hit at the tail, it will retaliate with its head. However, of it is attacked at the middle, it will counter-strike with both its head and tail simultaneously.

If you ask whether it is possible for anyone to use the same tactics in war as this snake uses in its defence, the answer is in the affirmative.

In the past, the people from two different states, Wu and Yue, hated one another intensely. However, of you put them in the same boat in a big storm, they would be forced to help each other to weather the storm as naturally as one's left hand assisting one's right.

Therefore, tethering the horses in a row and burying the wheels of the chariots would not be a reliable way to strengthen the resolve of the soldiers so that they will fight to the death. To foster a disciplined and courageous fighting force is through proper military training under a good commander. Whether the army is strong or weak, you can still capitalise on the topographical features to enhance the military might. Therefore, the adept commander could co-ordinate the whole operation seamlessly, as easily as taking a person's hand and manipulating him at will.

The mark of good generalship is to handle the daily affairs in a calm and collected manner, to treat the troops honestly and to enforce strict discipline.

It is important to keep your own troops unaware of your strategic plans. You should make administrative changes and alter your tactics, so that no one can predict what your final tactics is. You should change the tactics regarding encampment and modify your approach to engagement so that no one can fathom your real intent.

On the day of reckoning, you should put your troops in a situation where retreat is impossible: like making a person climb up onto the roof and then taking away the ladder. Bringing your troops deep into enemy territory is akin to releasing an arrow from the bow - there is definitely no return. Especially after burning the boats and breaking all the cooking utensils, the fully committed army can be led like a flock of sheep to anywhere you desire.

To put the troops in an irredeemable position - so that they become united and could fight fearlessly to achieve victory - is solely the responsibility of the general. However, employing specific contingency plans for different types of terrain, alternating defensive and offensive measures according to the prevailing conditions and predicting your enemy's response based on the understanding of human nature are crucial factors in winning a war. The general should study all these carefully.

The rules in warfare pertaining to the invading force is that the deeper the penetration into enemy territory the more determined your troops are in fighting the war. Sending the troops deep into foreign territory is to put them on a fatal ground, where they are irretrievably trapped and there is only one option left - to fight for their own survival.

In focal ground, traffic can come from all directions. When your troops invade deeply into hostile territory, they enter a critical ground. However, if the penetration is only at the border this is known as a marginal ground. If the back is protected by natural terrain but a narrow pass restricts the front, this is an encircled ground. If the area concerned restricts the movement of troops so severely that retreat is practically impossible, this is fatal ground.

Therefore, in a dispersed ground, you have to unite the force.
In a marginal region, you have to make sure that the troops are not cut-off by the enemy.
In a contestable ground, you must attack the enemy swiftly before he has time to establish a strong defensive position at a strategic spot.
In an open terrain, you must pay painstaking attention to defence.
In focal ground, you must consolidate your alliances.
In critical ground, your top priority is to make sure that supply lines are secured.
In the treacherous ground, you should move away as quickly as possible.
In encircled ground, of you voluntarily block the escaped route, you would make your troops more determined to fight ferociously to achieve victory.
In fatal ground, you should convince your troops that there is no other way to survive other than to fight like there is no tomorrow.

These are normal reactions of the soldiers: when they are surrounded, they put up a strong resistance; when given no other alternative, they will fight ferociously; and when they are in a quandary, they become obedient and united.

Therefore, of you do not know the intention of the warlords you will not be able to form a strategic alliance. If you do not know the geographical features of the region, you will not be able to deploy your troops.

If you do not use the local guide, you will not be able to capitalise on the topographical advantages in war.

If you do not fully master the art of responding to all contingencies, you will not be able to establish a force suitable for a hegemon. The power of a hegemon is so immense that when his troops invade a bigger nation, he could cause division among the people of the invaded country. When he applies pressure on his enemy, it is impossible for that enemy to form a strategic alliance with other states.

Therefore, a hegemon does not need to compete with others to form alliances nor should he need to enhance his military might by signing military pacts with other warlords. He relies on his own strategic plan and imposes his authority upon his enemy at will. By the sheer force of his reputation, he can conquer other countries and take over their fortresses at his whim.

A hegemon is so authoritative that he is able to use unorthodox methods in dishing out rewards and issuing orders. His troops are trained simply to follow orders unreservedly. Hence, he manages the whole army in such a co-ordinated manner as of he is managing a single person.

You should order the troops to carry out their missions without revealing the overall strategy that underpins the campaign. You should tell the troops the advantage of a particular manoeuvre but should not reveal its pitfalls. You have to first put the troops in an irredeemable position before you can make them fight ferociously for their survival and score victory.

Once the troops realise they are in dire straits, they will automatically unite into a cohesive and determined fighting force. Consequently, they become the pivotal factor in deciding the outcome of the war.

In the application of military strategy, you must first carefully fathom the intention of the enemy and devise countermeasures to prevail upon your adversary. Once you have detected the enemy's vulnerability, you should concentrate your force, strike immediately and kill the enemy commander. It is possible to achieve all these even of the battle is fought one thousand li away. This is an example of using subtle and ingenious methods to achieve incredible feats.

Just prior to a decisive battle, you should close the city gate, impose a curfew and set up checkpoints to stop any diplomatic personnel from moving freely. These measures ensure that no vital military information will be leaked.

When your strategic planning is carefully discussed and formulated at the ancestral temple, it should be kept confidential. As soon as the Achilles' heel of the enemy is exposed, you should pounce on it immediately.

You must attack where the enemy treasures most and therefore he is forced to defend. Do not fix a date with your enemy for a decisive battle. You should not follow any rigid rules in devising your strategic plan. Instead, you should focus on outmanoeuvring your opponent at every turn of events. Therefore, before you make your move, you remain as quiet and reserved as a young lady. Once there is a window of opportunity, you pounce on it as suddenly as a fleeing hare. Consequently, your enemy will be caught flat-footed and can only put up a token resistance.

 
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12 INCENDIARY ATTACK
  Master Sun says:

Incendiary attacks can be arbitrarily classified into five types based on intended targets. These targets are personnel, provisions, equipment, warehouses and supply routes.

To initiate an incendiary attack, you first must fulfil certain prerequisite conditions. You must always keep the necessary equipment at hand. To start a fire you need to choose the appropriate season and time of the day. The opportune time is during the dry and windy seasons.

To begin an incendiary attack, you must tailor your modus operandi according to the chosen targets and the prevailing conditions. If you start a fire inside an enemy's camp, you should simultaneously make plans to attack from outside the camp. When the fire has started and the enemy's army remains calm and unperturbed, you must not initiate the attack. Instead, you simply wait. Wait for the fire to rage and turn into conflagration; and of chaos and pandemonium ensue, you then launch your attack. Otherwise, do not attack.

However, of you want to start the fire from outside, you do not need to have an infiltrator inside the enemy's camp. Timing is the only important factor.

When you start the fire windward, you should not attack from the leeward. In daytime the wind usually lasts longer, while the night wind usually dies down sooner. The military strategist should not only be well versed with the five types of incendiary attacks, but should also be fully aware of the correct timing for such an attack to happen. Using this knowledge, he could then make preparations against any likely incendiary attack initiating from his enemy.

Therefore, he who can use incendiary attacks is sagacious. He who can use water to inundate the enemy's troops and disperse them into smaller groups is powerful. Water can isolate the troops but it cannot incinerate supplies and equipment.

Winning the war and occupying territories but failing to achieve the military objectives does not constitute a victory. It is a futile effort and could possibly plunge the army into a quagmire. Therefore, the enlightened sovereign should clearly enunciate the military objectives in the planning phase so that the consummate general could try to realise these objectives.

Unless there is a clear benefit for you, do not move. Unless you know that you are going to win, do not start the military campaign. Unless you are put in a dangerous situation, do not fight an all-out war.

The sovereign should not order an expedition simply out of fury; the general should not initiate an attack solely out of rage. Move only when there is an obvious advantage to you. Resist from making any movement when the outcome is going to be unfavourable. Anger can be mitigated and replaced by joy and happiness. Similarly, satisfaction and gratification can supersede rage. However, the obliteration of a nation cannot be reversed and the dead cannot be resurrected. Therefore, the enlightened sovereign thinks carefully before committing his troops to fight a war and the adept general maintains constant vigilance against such rash action. Discretion is the binding principle with regard to the preservation of the nation and its army.

 
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13 ESPIONAGE
  Master Sun says:

As a rule, when deploying one hundred thousand strong army to wage war one thousand miles away, the cost to the people and the expenditure by the treasury will come to about a thousand taels of gold a day.

The turmoil created will affect the country both internally and externally. Seven hundred thousand households conscripted to assist in supplies and logistical manoeuvres not only have to give up their usual occupations but also have to work to the point of exhaustion.

The confrontation against the enemy could be for many years before the day of reckoning - an attempt to score a decisive victory in one single day.
If the commander fails to obtain valuable information through espionage because he is too mean and stingy to give away money, ranks and honours, he has wantonly committed gross inhumanity towards his own troops. He is therefore not a good commander to his troops, not a competent minister to his sovereign and is not the crucial factor in obtaining victory.

The reason why an enlightened sovereign or a great general consistently wins military campaigns and achieves deeds beyond ordinary militarists' is that he has acquired vital intelligence concerning the enemy well in advance.

This foreknowledge cannot be obtained from the spirits, it cannot be acquired from deduction based on past events and it also cannot be sought through astrological observation. It can only come from human beings, spies who possess sensitive information.
There are five categories of spies: local, internal, converted, dispensable and surviving. The masterly use of all these spies in such a way so as to keep your enemy totally unaware of what you know is indeed remarkably subtle. He who possesses this extraordinary skill is a great asset to the sovereign.

By recruiting natives to be local spies, you can obtain intimate knowledge of the local conditions.

By recruiting enemy officials to be internal spies, you will be able to obtain vital intelligence.

Converting enemy spies to work as double agents for you obviously would give you tremendous advantages.
The use of dispensable spies is to spread false information inside the enemy terrain. It is a very perilous task, and the spies are in constant danger of losing their lives.

The surviving spy is the mole you have planted in enemy territory. He will bring back vital information upon his return.

Therefore in the army establishment, no one is closer to the commander than his spies and no reward is more lavish than that given to these intelligence agents. Of all military matters, none is more clandestine than espionage. Only the very sagacious general can cultivate spies and only the benevolent and generous commander can employ these agents. And only the very shrewd commander can extract the relevant information from his spies.

The art of espionage is very subtle and its use is limitless in warfare. If the espionage activity was discovered before the mission has been accomplished, then the spies involved and all their associates must be exterminated.

Whether the objective is to attack a certain army, to besiege a fortress, or to assassinate a commander, it is imperative to obtain detailed knowledge of the commander and his staffs - including his confidante, messenger, gatekeepers and guards. Spies should be sent for this particular mission. In addition, they should find out who are the spies that the enemy has sent to spy on you. You can then try to recruit and convert them to be your double agents.

It is through obtaining pertinent information from these double agents that you can effectively use the local and internal spies to gather other valuable information, employ the dispensable spies to spread misinformation and bring the surviving spies back with valuable insight as scheduled.

The sovereign should be made fully aware of the significance of all these different spies, especially in regard to the crucial role played by the double agents. Therefore, the double agent should be treated most lavishly. Yi Zhi who had previously lived under Xia dynasty played a pivotal role in toppling Xia and helped to establish Shan dynasty. Similarly, Lu Ya who was a subject of Yin dynasty, assisted Lord Wen to topple Yin and found the Zhou dynasty.

Invariably, by utilising capable and perspicacious spies, the enlightened sovereign and the consummate commanders are able to accomplish great tasks. Gathering intelligence is crucial in any war because every tactical move in war depends on it for a successful outcome.

 
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Sun Tzu's the Art of War