Implications (故 gù, therefore), are used to find rules and reasoning.

Discussion of 故 (gù, therefore)

From our look at the word-for-word translation in Zieger, Sun Tzu’s Original Art of War, there appears to be an issue that needs to be clarified. Zieger says that this Chinese character in modern Chinese may indeed mean hence or therefore, but that in classical Chinese this word is much weaker and just means a comma, or at its best so. Therefore he omits gù in his translation.

If we read Zieger's translation of chapter 4, we think that the meaning of the text is less visible and it is more difficult to find the categories that we found for the mind map.

Our investigation and communication with our Chinese contacts lets us conclude this:

In Xizhou (1046BC - 771 BC), 故 is already taken as a cause-and-effect conjunction.

In bronze inscriptions researchers found four appearances of 故 that clearly refers to ‘therefore’, ‘hence,’ ‘so’. In ancient written classics that recorded Xizhou inscriptions, there are also two occurrences of gu that serves as the cause-and-effect conjunction.

Some researchers claim that sometimes 故 just refers to the next sentence, without a cause-and-effect indication. This occurs later, during the Qin and Han dynasty. This usage of 故 is also rare, while in the majority of cases gu serves as the cause-and-effect conjunction. Shi-gu (是故) indicates strong and clear cause-and-effect relation between two sentences, and this point is a common agreement among scholars in ancient Chinese studies.

Let us look at two examples of the usage of 故 (gù) in chapter 4, in the Giles translation.

There is a clear causal correlation with the paragraph before: To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

Later in this chapter there is the sentence To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength, in Chinese: 故舉秋毫不為多力. Here the use of 故 is much less directly related with the previous sentence, which states that there is no merit in easy victories.

Our conclusion is that interpreting the use 故 for causal reasoning will be mostly fine, while in some cases we do not understand well enough what was intended to be able to judge.

For more information, see the articles from Zhigang Mao and Cheng Zhang.

Survey of the occurrence of 故 in "The Art of War"

With help of the search facility of we could create the following table showing the frequency of occurrence of 故 in the book, adding up to a total of 102.

ch. Title nr. of 故
1 Start Planning 3
2 Waging War 8
3 Attack by Stratagem 9
4 Tactical Dispositions 10
5 Energy 6
6 Weak Points and Strong 14
7 Maneuvering 14
8 Variation in Tactics 5
9 The Army on the March 1
10 Terrain 7
11 The Nine Situations 13
12 The Attack by Fire 3
13 The Use of Spies 9

The stronger combination, 是故 (shi-gu) occurs 16 times. Looking at the first 6 chapters, our focus chapters for this study, the occurrence of 是故 coincides with some famous quotes:

A quick survey of the other chapters show a much less convincing pattern. Half of all occurrences (8) of 是故, appear in chapter 11, The Nine Situations. There are 4 more occurrences of 故 without 是 in this chapter. Why the text in this chapter contains so much more reasoning than the rest of the book would be an interesting subject of further study.