XI. THE NINE SITUATIONS (original text)
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)
2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is
3. When he has penetrated into hostile territory, but to no great
distance, it is facile ground.
4. Ground the possession of which imports great advantage to either
side, is contentious ground.
5. Ground on which each side has liberty of movement is open
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 highways.
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
8. Mountain forests, rugged steeps, marshes and fens--all country
that is hard to traverse: this is difficult ground.
9. Ground which is reached through narrow gorges, and from which we
can only retire by tortuous paths, so that a small number of the
enemy would suffice to crush a large body of our men: this is
hemmed in ground.
10. Ground on which we can only be saved from destruction by
fighting without delay, is desperate ground.
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 march.
14. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground,
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
17. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move; when
otherwise, they stopped still.
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 your will."
19. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's
unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack
20. The following are the principles to be observed by an invading
force: The further you penetrate into a country, the greater will
be the solidarity of your troops, and thus the defenders will not
prevail against you.
21. Make forays in fertile country in order to supply your army
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
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
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 both.
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 reach.
33. How to make the best of both strong and weak--that is a
question involving the proper use of ground.
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 maintain order.
36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false
reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total
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
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 studied.
42. When invading hostile territory, the general principle is, that
penetrating deeply brings cohesion; penetrating but a short way
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 intersecting highways.
44. When you penetrate deeply into a country, it is serious ground.
When you penetrate but a little way, it is facile ground.
45. When you have the enemy's strongholds on your rear, and narrow
passes in front, it is hemmed-in ground. When there is no place of
refuge at all, it is desperate ground.
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
49. On serious ground, I would try to ensure a continuous stream of
supplies. On difficult ground, I would keep pushing on along the
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 lives.
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 prince.
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 against him.
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 for victory.
60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating
ourselves to the enemy's purpose.
61. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank, we shall succeed
in the long run in killing the commander-in-chief.
62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer
63. On the day that you take up your command, block the frontier
passes, destroy the official tallies, and stop the passage of all
64. Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control the
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 ground.
67. Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself to
the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle.
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