Art of War
Wu Ch’i

Samuel B. Griffith

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Art of War



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This work is included in an appendix to Griffith’s translation of The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Wu Ch’i was born about 430 BCE and executed in 381 BCE.

Art of War

translated by Samuel B. Griffith

Copyright © 1963 by Oxford University Press

Chapter I

Planning Operations against Other States

Section II

4. When the people know that the sovereign loves their lives and sorrows at their deaths to such an extent that he will face crisis together with them, the officers will consider it glorious to advance and die and shameful to save their lives by retreat.

Section IV

Wu Tzu said:

1. Generally in administering a country and controlling an army it is necessary to instruct the people by using Ritual and to encourage them with Righteousness so as to inculcate the sense of honour. Now if men’s sense of honour is great they will be able to campaign; if less, they will be able to defend. To win victory is easy; to preserve its fruits, difficult. And therefore it is said that when All-under-Heaven is at war, one who gains five victories suffers calamity; one who gains four is exhausted; one who gains three becomes Lord Protector; one who gains two, a King; one who gains one, the Emperor. Thus he who by countless victories has gained empire is unique, while those who have perished thereby are many.



Section VI

1. Marquis Wu asked: ‘I should like to know the way to make my battle formations certainly firm, my defence strong, and how in battle to be certain of winning.’

Wu Ch’i replied: ‘These things may be seen at once. How is it that you wish to hear of them? If Your Majesty can employ the worthy in high position, and those who are worthless in inferior position, then the array will be already firm. If people are secure in their farms and dwellings and friendly with their magistrates, then your defences are already strong. If the clans approve of their own sovereign and disapprove of others, then the battles are already won.’

2. The Marquis of Wu was once deliberating on state affairs and none of his ministers’ opinions was equal to his. He retired from the court looking pleased. Wu Ch’i advanced and said: ‘Anciently, King Chuang of Ch’u was deliberating on state affairs. None of his ministers’ opinions could equal his. He retired from the council looking worried. Lord Shen asked: “Why does the Sovereign look worried?” The King replied: “This humble one has heard that the world never lacks sages and that a country never lacks wise men. [...] Now I have no talent, and still my ministers cannot equal me. Ch’u is in danger.” ’




Chapter III

The Control of Troops

Section I

3. Marquis Wu asked: ‘What makes troops gain the victory?’

Wu Ch’i said: ‘It is proper discipline that enables them to win victories.’

The Marquis then asked: ‘Does it not lie in numerical strength?’

Wu Ch’i replied: ‘If laws and orders are not clear and rewards and punishments not reliable, troops will not stop at the sound of the bells nor advance at the roll of the drums and though there be a million of this sort, of what use are they? What is called discipline is that when encamped their conduct is proper; that when on the move the army is awe-inspiring, so that in advance it cannot be opposed, in retirement it cannot be pursued. In advance or retirement it is in good order, both right and left wings respond to the signals given by banners. Though cut off they can reform; though dispersed they retain their files. Wheter the position is secure or perilous the troops can be assembled and cannot be isolated. They can be used and not wearied. They can be thrown in any direction and none under Heaven can oppose them.’

Section II

2. Wu Ch’i said: ‘Now the field of battle is a land of standing corpses; those determined to die will live; those who hope to escape with their lives will die.

‘A general good at commanding troops is like one sitting in a leaking boat or lying under a burning roof. For there is no time for the wise to offer counsel nor the brave to be angry. All must come to grips with the enemy. And therefore it is said that of all the dangers in employing troops, timidity is the greatest and that the calamities which overtake an army arise from hesitation.’

Chapter IV

A Discussion of Generalship

Section I

1. Wu Ch’i said: ‘Now the commander of an army is one in whom civil and martial acumen are combined. To unite resolution with resilience is the business of war.

‘Usually when people discuss generals they consider only courage. Courage is but one of many qualities of generalship. Now a courageous man is certain to engage recklessly and without knowing the advantages. This will not do.

‘Now there are five matters to which a general must pay strict heed. The first of these is administration; the second, preparedness; the third, determination; the fourth, prudence; and the fifth, economy. Administration means to control many as he controls few. Preparedness means that when he marches forth from the gates he acts as if he perceives the enemy. Resolution means that when he approaches the enemy he does not worry about life. Purdence means that although he has conquered, he acts as if he were just beginning to fight. Economy means being sparing in laws and orders so that they are not vexatious.’

Chapter V

On Responding to Changing Conditions

Section II

1. Marquis Wu asked: ‘If a greatly superior enemy force attacks my inferior force, what remedy is there?’

Wu Ch’i replied: ‘If the ground is easy, avoid him; in a defile, encounter him. For it is said that when one attacks ten, no place is better than a defile; for ten to attack a hundred nothing is better than a precipitous place. When one thousand attack ten thousand, nothing is better than a mountain pass. Now if you have a small force and suddenly attack the enemy in a narrow road with gongs sounding and drums rolling, his host, however large, will be alarmed.

‘And therefore it is said that one employing large numbers seeks easy ground; one employing small numbers, constricted ground.’



Section VII

1. Marquis Wu asked: ‘Suppose I suddenly encounter the enemy in a flooded marsh. The chariot wheels sink in the muck and the shafts are submerged and water overwhelms both vehicles and horsemen. We are not equipped with boats and oars, and can neither advance nor retire. What then is to be done?’

Wu Ch’i replied: ‘This is called “water fighting”. Chariots and cavalry are of no use. You must keep them at one side. Ascend to a high place and survey the four directions. Surely then you can establish the extent of water and its depth. Then you may devise some unusual plan to conquer the enemy.’

Note (Hal’s):
Most of the chapter consists of responses to progressively more difficult problems posed by the Marquis. Here, the case in question is so awful it’s ridiculous. Wu Ch’i first names the situation, as though “water fighting” is yet another art he has mastered: a magnificent bluff! Note the paucity of actual advice.

— end note


Fakin’ it

Section X

‘Where the army encamps you must not cut down trees, destroy dwellings, take away crops, slaughter the domestic animals, or burn the granaries.

‘Thus you demonstrate to the people that you have no desire to oppress them. Those who wish to surrender should be allowed to do so, and permitted to live in peace.’

parallel quote

text checked (see note) Feb 2006

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