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Tactical Dispositions – xing pian di si

Apr. 1, 2015

Sun Zi’s Art of War was written by Sun Wu in the final year of the Spring and Autumn

Period (770BC – 476BC).

It is not only the oldest Chinese military work in existence but also the oldest book

of military theory in the world, well-known for a long time in the history of the

military academy in China and abroad.

Sun Zi’s Art of War has altogether 13 chapters. Both concise and comprehensive,

this book sum up the experience of ancient wars, bring to light the many laws of

war which are of universal significance.

Want to know why business people like it so much? Come and learn Sun Zi’s Art of

War with eChineseLearning’s professional teachers!

xínɡ piān dì sì
形     篇  第 四

sūnzi yuē:xī zhī shàn zhàn zhě,xiān wéi bù kě shènɡ,yǐ dài dí zhī kě
孙子   曰 :昔 之  善    战     者 ,  先   为  不  可   胜 ,   以 待 敌 之  可

shènɡ。bù kě shènɡ zài jǐ,kě shènɡ zài dí。ɡù shàn zhàn zhě,nénɡ wéi
胜 。     不  可  胜     在 己,可  胜     在  敌。故   善    战     者 ,  能    为

bù kě shènɡ , bù nénɡ shǐ dí zhī kě shènɡ 。 ɡù yuē : shènɡ kě zhī ,
不  可   胜 ,     不   能    使  敌 之  可   胜 。    故   曰 :    胜     可  知 ,

ér bù kě wéi 。
而 不 可  为 。

bù kě shènɡ zhě ,shǒu yě ; kě shènɡ zhě , ɡōnɡ yě 。 shǒu zé bù zú,
不 可    胜     者 ,   守    也 ; 可    胜     者 ,    攻    也 。   守   则 不  足 ,

ɡōnɡ zé yǒu yú 。 shàn shǒu zhě ,cánɡ yú jiǔ dì zhī xià ; shàn ɡōnɡ
攻     则   有  余 。  善     守     者 ,   藏   于  九 地 之  下 ;   善     攻

zhě , dònɡ yú jiǔ tiān zhī shànɡ , ɡù nénɡ zì bǎo ér quán shènɡ yě 。
者 ,     动    于  九  天  之   上 ,      故   能   自  保  而  全       胜    也 。

jiàn shènɡ bú ɡuò zhònɡ rén zhī suǒ zhī , fēi shàn zhī shàn zhě yě ;
见     胜     不   过    众      人   之   所  知 ,  非   善    之   善   者  也 ;

zhàn shènɡ ér tiān xià yuē shàn ,fēi shàn zhī shàn zhě yě 。ɡù jǔ
战       胜     而  天  下   曰    善   ,非   善   之   善     者  也 。故 举

qiū háo bù wéi duō lì , jiàn rì yuè bù wéi mù mínɡ,wén léi tínɡ bù
秋   毫   不  为   多  力 , 见  日 月  不   为  目   明 ,   闻   雷   霆  不

wéi cōnɡ ěr。
为    聪    耳 。

ɡǔ zhī suǒ wèi shàn zhàn zhě , shènɡ yú yì shènɡ zhě yě 。 ɡù shàn
古  之   所  谓    善    战     者 ,      胜   于 易   胜     者   也 。 故    善

zhàn zhě zhī shènɡ yě , wú zhì mínɡ , wú yǒnɡ ɡōnɡ , ɡù qí zhàn
战      者  之    胜     也 , 无   智   名 ,     无   勇     功 ,    故  其  战

shènɡ bú tè 。 bú tè zhě , qí suǒ cuò bì shènɡ , shènɡ yǐ bài zhě 。
胜       不  忒 。 不 忒 者 ,  其  所   措  必  胜 ,       胜     已  败  者 。

ɡù shàn zhàn zhě , lì yú bú bài zhī dì , ér bù shī dí zhī bài zhě 。
故  善     战     者 , 立 于 不  败  之 地 , 而 不 失  敌 之  败   者 。

shì ɡù shènɡ bīnɡ xiān shènɡ ér hòu qiú zhàn , bài bīnɡ xiān zhàn ér
是  故    胜     兵     先     胜     而  后   求   战 ,     败  兵    先    战    而

hòu qiú shènɡ 。 shàn yònɡ bīnɡ zhě , xiū dào ér bǎo fǎ , ɡù nénɡ
后     求    胜   。   善    用      兵     者 ,   修  道  而  保  法 ,  故   能

wéi shènɡ bài zhī zhènɡ 。
为     胜      败  之   政 。

bīnɡ fǎ : yì yuē dù , èr yuē liànɡ , sān yuē shù , sì yuē chēnɡ ,
兵    法 : 一 曰  度 , 二  曰    量 ,     三  曰   数 ,  四  曰    称 ,

wǔ yuē shènɡ 。 dì shēnɡ dù , dù shēnɡ liànɡ , liànɡ shēnɡ shù ,
五   曰     胜 。    地   生    度 ,   度    生     量 ,     量       生      数 ,

shù shēnɡ chēnɡ , chēnɡ shēnɡ shènɡ 。
数     生      称 ,         称        生       胜 。

ɡù shènɡ bīnɡ ruò yǐ yì chēnɡ zhū , bài bīnɡ ruò yǐ zhū chēnɡ yì 。
故   胜       兵    若 以 镒  称      铢 ,    败  兵    若 以  铢      称   镒 。

shènɡ zhě zhī zhàn mín yě , ruò jué jī shuǐ yú qiān rèn zhī xī zhě ,
胜       者   之   战    民    也 , 若   决 积 水  于   千   仞   之 溪 者 ,

xínɡ yě 。
形    也 。

Translation:(Translated from the Chinese version By LIONEL GILES, M.A.

(1910))

IV. TACTICAL DISPOSITIONS

1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the

possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating

the enemy.

2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the

opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but

cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to

do it.

5. Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat

the enemy means taking the offensive.

6. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking,

a superabundance of strength.

7. The general who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses

of the earth; he who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost

heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have ability to protect

ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.

8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is

not the acme of excellence.

9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the

whole Empire says, “Well done!”

10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of

great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear

the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.

11. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins,

but excels in winning with ease.

12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit

for courage.

13. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what

establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy

that is already defeated.

14. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes

defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.

15. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle

after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first

fights and afterwards looks for victory.

16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres

to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.

17. In respect of military method, we have, firstly, Measurement; secondly,

Estimation of quantity; thirdly, Calculation; fourthly, Balancing of

chances; fifthly, Victory.

18. Measurement owes its existence to Earth; Estimation of quantity to

Measurement; Calculation to Estimation of quantity; Balancing of chances

to Calculation; and Victory to Balancing of chances.

19. A victorious army opposed to a routed one, is as a pound’s weight placed

in the scale against a single grain.

20. The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters

into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.

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