This is a translation of Chapter 3 of The Art of War by Sunzi. No English sources were used.
- It is best to conquer a state whole rather than breaking it.
- It is best to conquer an army whole rather than breaking it.
- It is best to conquer a regiment whole rather than breaking it.
- It is better to conquer a company whole rather than breaking it.
- It is better to conquer a squad whole rather than breaking it.
A hundred victories in as many battles is imperfect perfection.
To defeat an enemy without a fight is perfect perfection
- The best use of soldiers is to dispatch plans,
- followed by dispatching ambassadors,
- followed by dispatching troops,
- followed by attacking cities.
Attack cities reluctantly.
Furbish your mortuary tools. In three months, dig a grave. Then dig another grave three months after that.
A general who grows impatient, angers and storms a city will kill one third of the attacking force and fail to take the city.
The perfect general
- subdues the enemy without battle,
- draws enemies out of cities to be attacked,
- destroys people quickly,
- utilizes every attack under the sun.
Total benefit without halt, this is the strategem of war.
If you outnumber the enemy
- 10× surround
- 5× attack
- 2× divide
- 1× engage, if possible
- <1× run, if possible
- ≪1× escape, if possible
A small stubborn force will be captured by a large enemy.
The general complements the country. If the complement is whole then the country will be mighty. If the complement is chinked then the country will be weak.
There are three obstructions to commanding armies:
If you do not know the army cannot advance then the army will not advance at your command. If you do not know the army cannot retreat then the army cannot retreat at your command. This is called a "tied up" army.
If you do not know the three armies and their command structure then soldiers will be confused.
If you contradict the commands already issued by officers then they will be hesitant.
If your army is confused and hesitant then your feudal lords will rebel against you. This is called a "self-defeating army".
There are five things you must know in advance to ensure victory:
- If you understand the conditions you can fight or cannot fight, then you are capable of victory.
- If you understand how to flexibly employ the many and the few, then you are capable of victory.
- If the whole army is of one heart, then you are capable of victory.
- If, prepared, you attack an unprepared enemy, then you are capable of victory.
- If the regent does not meddle with the general, then you are capable of victory.
These five conditions, know the Dao of victory.
Know the other, know yourself, one hundred battles, zero defeats.
Know not the other or know not yourself, one victory, one defeat.
Know not the other, know not yourself, every battle, requisite defeat.
"知彼" is often translated "know your enemy". The word for enemy is "敌". Sunzi uses it frequently. If Sunzi wanted to say "know [your] enemy" then he would write "知敌". Instead he writes "知彼". The pronoun "彼" means "that which is not you".
The phrase "three armies" 三军 used to refer to the upper, middle and lower army. Today, the phrase refers to the Army, Navy and Air Force. ↩︎