III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM (original text)
1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all
is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and
destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an
army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment
or a company entire than to destroy them.
2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme
excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's
resistance without fighting.
3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's
plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's
forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the
field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled
4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be
avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various
implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling
up of mounds over against the walls will take three months
5. The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his
men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that
one-third of his men are slain, while the town still remains
untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege.
6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without
any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to
them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the
7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the
Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be
complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.
8. It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one,
to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as
numerous, to divide our army into two.
9. If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in
numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we
can flee from him.
10. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force,
in the end it must be captured by the larger force.
11. Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is
complete at all points; the State will be strong; if the bulwark is
defective, the State will be weak.
12. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon
13. (1) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being
ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling
14. (2) By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he
administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which
obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier's
15. (3) By employing the officers of his army without
discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of
adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the
16. But when the army is restless and distrustful, trouble is sure
to come from the other feudal princes. This is simply bringing
anarchy into the army, and flinging victory away.
17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials for
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior
(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit
throughout all its ranks.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy
(5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered
with by the sovereign.
18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you
need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself
but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a
defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.