Chinese Philosophical Texts


1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Translations

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 1.  Samuel B. Griffith, tr., Sun Tzu: The Art of War (London: Oxford, 1963)
2.  Ralph D. Sawyer, tr., Sun Tzu: Art of War (Boulder: Westview, 1994)
3.  Roger T. Ames, tr., Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare (New York: Ballantine, 1993)

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Extracts

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 A.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 孫子曰:兵者,國之大事,死生之地,存亡之道,不可不察也。

孫子 sūn zǐ Master Sūn, putative author of the text
guó state; capital
big, great
shì service, affair; sacrifice; to serve
shēng to live; life; to be born; to produce; raw, unripe, uncultured
the earth; land, soil; place, position
cún to keep, to preserve; to exist, to survive
wáng to perish, to disappear
chá to investigate, to examine

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 B.
1. 兵者,詭道也。

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 2.  故能而示之不能,用而示之不用,近而示之遠,遠而示之近。

guǐ to cheat, to deceive; cunning, treachery; uncanny
néng can, able; ability, skill
shì to show, to demonstrate
yòng to use; to employ
jìn near; to approach
yuăn far, distant

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 C.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 1. 夫未戰而廟算勝者,得算多也。

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 2. 未戰而廟算不勝者,得算少也。

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 3. 多算勝,少算不勝,而況於無算乎!

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 4. 吾以此觀之,勝負見矣。

wèi negative particle, “not  yet” (see “Particles and Grammar”)
zhàn war; to make war
miào ancestral temple
suàn to count, to reckon; a counting stick; to plan
shèng to win, to excel; victory; to master (a task); place of natural beauty
duō many, a lot of, much
shăo few
kuàng moreover; how much more (less) so…; situation (see “Particles and Grammar”)
guān to observe, to regard; appearance
guàn a Taoist temple (“Observatory”)
to lose; beaten; to carry on the back, to sustain; to turn one’s back on, to be ungrateful; to owe
jiàn to see, to perceive; marker of passive voice (see “Particles and Grammar”)

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 D.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 1.孫子曰:凡用兵之法,全國為上,破國次之;全軍為上,破軍次之;全旅為上,破旅次之;全卒為上,破卒次之;全伍為上,破伍次之。

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 2. 是故百戰百勝,非善之善者也;不戰而屈人之兵,善之善者也。

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 3. 故上兵伐謀,其次伐交,其次伐兵,其下攻城。

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 4. 攻城之法,為不得已。

fán generally, whenever; common, ordinary; earthly, mortal (see “Particles and Grammar”)
pattern, model; method; law; to imitate
quán complete, intact; keep whole, maintain
shàng best; above, on top; to ascend
to break, to crush
the second, next; order, sequence; number of times
jūn army; military; soldiers
division, corps; travel; to travel
a group of a hundred; soldier; servant; to end, to die; finally
squad of five
băi one hundred; figurative large number
fēi negative particle, “it is not” (see “Particles and Grammar”)
shàn good, skillful; charitable
to bend; to submit; to suffer injustice; crooked, wrong
to attack; to chop, to cut; to boast; merit
third person possessive pronoun: “his, hers, its, their”
jiāo (here) alliance
xià worst; below, beneath; to descend
gōng to attack; to criticize; to specialize in
chéng city wall; city; to wall a city

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 E.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 1.故君之所以患於軍者三:不知軍之不可以進,而謂之進;不知軍之不可以退,而謂之退。

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 2. 是謂糜軍。

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 3. 不知三軍之事 ,而同三軍之政,則軍士惑矣。

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 4. 不知三軍之權, 而同三軍之任,則軍士疑矣。

suǒ particle that functions as a relative pronoun, translatable as “those whom, that which,” substituting for the object of a transitive verb; a place (see “Particles and Grammar”)
所以 suǒ yǐ means by which; reason for which (see “Particles and Grammar”)
huàn calamity, disaster; to worry about; to contract an illness
jìn to advance; to enter; to present; to introduce
退 tuì to withdraw, to retreat; to retire; to reject; to decline
a halter; to bridle, to restrain
三軍 三军 sān jūn “the three armies,” i.e., the entire army of one of the states of the Spring-and-Autumn Period (in contrast with the Zhou king, who had six armies)
tóng to standardize; same, identical; to share, to agree
zhèng regulations, rules, government
shì man of service, scholar, official, officer
jūn soldiers, officers
huò to doubt, to suspect; to delude, to confuse
quán stratagems; expedient; temporary; a balance; to weigh, to assess; measures, assessments
rèn appointment, office, duty; to employ, to entrust, to allow
to doubt, to suspect; suspicious, skeptical; mysterious

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 F.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 1. 故曰:知彼知己者,百戰不殆。

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 2. 不知彼而知己,一勝一負。

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 3. 不知彼,不知己,每戰必殆。

the other; he, him; that
self (do not confuse with 已   “stop; already”)
měi each time, whenever (see “Particles and Grammar”)

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 G.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 1.  凡戰者,以正合,以奇勝。

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 2.  故善出奇者,無窮如天地,不竭如江河。

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 3.  終而復始,日月是也。

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 4.  死而復生,四時是也。

zhèng to correct; correct, normative, straightforward
to come together; to unite
extraordinary; unusual; unexpected; marvelous
chū go/come out; to produce
qióng to exhaust; impoverished
to be like, to resemble; if; second person pronoun “you” (see “Particles and Grammar”)
tiān Heaven; the sky
天地 tiān dì Heaven and Earth, the cosmos, the universe
jié to drain, to dry up; to exhaust
jiāng a large river; the Yangtze
a large river; the Yellow River
zhōng to end; the end; death
again, repeatedly; to return; to restore; to avenge
shǐ to begin; beginning
日月 rì yuè the sun and the moon
shì this; right, correct; to regard as right (see “Particles and Grammar”)
四時 四时 sì shí the four seasons

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 H.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 1. 見勝不過衆人之所知,非善之善者也。

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 2. 戰勝而天下曰善,非善之善者也。

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 3. 故舉秋毫不為多力,見日月不為明目,聞雷霆不為聰耳。

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 4. 古之所謂善戰者,勝於易勝者也。

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 5. 故善戰者之勝也, 無智名,無勇功。

guò to pass over or by; surpass; indulge in; error, fault; past; excessive
不過 bú guò “not more than,” just
zhòng the masses; numerous; the public
天下 tiān xià “under Heaven,” the whole world, the civilized world
to lift; to start; to recommend; an action, deed
qiū autumn
háo fine hair; intensifier of negatives (see “Particles and Grammar”)
strength; strong
míng bright; enlightened; clear
wén to hear; to report
léi thunder
tíng lightning; violent thunder
cōng keen of hearing; intelligent
ěr ear
所謂 所谓 suǒ wèi those who were called (see “Particles and Grammar”)
easy; to change; to trade
zhì cunning, clever
míng name; reputation, fame
yǒng courage
gōng merit; achievement


39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 a.  Major Particles

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 1. 未 wèi

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 This is another negative particle, like 不 or 無. 未 is a temporal negative, which is translated by “not yet” or “never.”  Thus 未有仁而忘其親者也 “There has not yet (‘never’) been a benevolent person who forgot his or her parents (親 qīn),” or 臣未之聞 “I have never (‘not yet’) heard of this.”  Note in this sentence that after 未, as after several other negative particles, the usual order of the verb and the object is inverted, i.e., 未 + object + verb.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 2.  況 kuàng

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 As a particle, 況 is used to express the sense of “how much more so…” (in affirmative sentences) or “how much less so…” (in negative ones) as in “Even a professor of mathematics couldn’t understand this, how much less so a little boy,” or “Even I could carry this suitcase, how much more so somebody as strong as you.”  When used in this sense, 況 always follows the character 而, as in Extract C, Sentence #3, or the interrogative particle 何. The latter pattern is still used in modern Chinese. Sentences using this pattern often, though not always, end with the exclamatory/interrogatory particle 乎.  Thus 此人不能見之,而 (or 何) 況其子乎 “This man can’t see it, how much less his son!”

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 3. 見 jiàn

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 This character is primarily a verb meaning “to see,” “to go to see” or “to have an audience with.”  However, it can also be placed immediately before a verb, in which case it causes the verb to be read in the passive voice.  Thus 臣見殺於國 “The minister was killed in the capital.”  This character is also often used to represent the graph 現 xiàn (which only emerged later as a distinct form) “to appear, to emerge, to be visible; present; available.”  It may well have this meaning in Sentence #4 of Extract C, “.  .  . then victory and defeat become visible [or ‘apparent’].”

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 4.  凡 fán

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 This is one of several characters used in classical Chinese to express universality.  When it functions in this manner it serves to qualify entire phrases rather than individual nouns, as in 凡我同學之人 “all of us who study together.”  More commonly it appears in front of a phrase with the meaning “in all,” “in all cases of,” “whenever” or “in general.”  Thus 凡用兵之法 would mean “in all methods of using armies.”

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 5.  非 fēi

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 This is the negative copula with the sense of “is not,” as in a sentence “X 非 Y 也,” “X is not Y.”  In addition, 非 will sometimes, like 不, negate verbs, but with greater intensity.  This can usually be translated by “it is not (the case) that…” as in 非破其城 “It is not the case that we will destroy their city.”  This meaning also can be expressed by placing 非 at the beginning of a sentence, as in 非吾不能 “It is not that I am unable to (but .  .  .).”

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 In addition to its use as a negative copula, 非 also functions as a full word meaning “wrong” or “to blame, to criticize.”  In this sense, it was the antonym of 是, which meant “right” or “say that it is right.”  It is probably because of this antithesis that during the Han dynasty 是 began to be used as the copula “is” in opposition to the negative copula 非.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 6.  所 suŏ

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 This is one of the most important particles in classical and modern Chinese.  It generally precedes verbs and functions as a relative pronoun translatable as “those whom” or “that which.”  In this usage 所 will nominalize the verb that follows it, and the verb will also usually have a passive sense:  所破 “that which is broken,” 所攻 “that which is attacked,” 所知 “that which is known,” 所用之人 “the men who are employed,” etc.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 As an extension of the above usage, 所 figures in several common phrases, two of which appear in these extracts.  The first and most important is 所以.  As you will recall, 以 has two major meanings: “by means of” (followed immediately by a noun or noun phrase) and “in order to” (followed immediately by a verb or verb phrase).  From these two meanings derive the two definitions of 所以: 1) “means by which,” 2) “reason for which.”  Thus 人之所以不能知天之大 “the reason for which people cannot know the greatness of Heaven,” or 軍之所以百戰百勝 “the means by which an army wins all its battles.”

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 NOTE:  In modern Chinese 所以 means “therefore.”  It NEVER has this meaning in classical Chinese.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 A second common phrase using 所 is 所謂.  Since 謂 means “to call, to address,” 所謂 means “that which is called.”  In modern Chinese this often has the sense of the English “so-called,” i.e., it suggests that the name is not deserved, but in classical Chinese such a connotation is unusual.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 所 is also a noun meaning “place.”

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 7.  每 měi

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 This is a particle introducing a temporal phrase referring to all possible occasions: “each time,” “whenever.”  After a phrase introduced by 每 the main clause sometimes has 必 in the sense of “always,” or “invariably.”  It is not particularly common in classical Chinese.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 8.  如

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 This word has three primary uses in classical Chinese.  First, as in Extract G, Sentence #2, it means “to resemble,” “to be like,” “to be as good as.”  Second, it can mean “if” as in the Mencius’s sentence 王如知此,則不望 民之多於鄰國也 “If Your Majesty knows this, then he will not hope (望 wàng) that his people will be more numerous than those of neighboring (鄰 lín) states.”  The meaning of “if” may derive from the meaning of “to be like” through a sense such as “in a situation like = if.”  The 如 is not strictly necessary, and it may add a sense of remoteness to the condition: “In such a situation that Your Majesty understood,” i.e., “If Your Majesty were to understand . . .” The third sense of 如 is as the second-person pronoun “you,” or “your.”

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 如 figures in two important phrases that are very commonly used in classical Chinese.  First, the phrase “(A) 不如 B” means “(A) is not as good as B,” i.e., “it is better to B,” or “it is best to B.”  Thus 有勇不如出奇 “being courageous is not as good as producing extraordinary maneuvers,” or 如此則不如退兵 “If it’s like this, then it would be best to retreat.”  This is the most common way to recommend a course of action.  The second important phrase is 何如 “what is it like?” or “what would it be like?”  This is used when seeking advice.  The questioner describes a course of action or describes a situation and then asks 何如.  Thus 進軍,何如? “How would it be if we had the army advance?”

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 The character 若 ruò, which will appear later, has the same range of meanings and appears in the same phrases as 如.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 9.  是 shì

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 This character serves as a demonstrative particle like the English “this.”  It also means “right” or “correct,” and has the verbal sense of “to regard as correct.”  In its nominal and verbal senses it is the antonym of the character 非.  During the Han dynasty it gradually came to be employed as the copula “to be,” probably because of its opposition to 非, as explained above in Major Particles #5.  It appears in the phrases 是以 and 是故, both of which have the meaning “therefore” or “for this reason.”

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 10.  毫 háo

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 From its sense of “fine hair” this character came to represent the idea of “a tiny quantity.”  Used adverbially, it intensifies negative particles, like the English “not in the least” or “not in the slightest.”  Thus 毫不能 “is totally incapable of…” and 毫無 “does not have the slightest bit of…”, “is totally bereft of…”

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 b.  Grammar Notes

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 1.  Universals

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 There are a number of particles that can be employed in classical Chinese to express universality, of which three have appeared in the extracts: 皆, 凡, and 每.  The first two are particularly important.  In general, 皆 immediately follows and refers to the subject of the sentence.  Thus 民皆患戰 “The people all regard war as a calamity.”  凡, as noted above, generally is placed at the beginning of a phrase and modifies the entire phrase: 凡算於廟 “In all cases of making calculations in the ancestral temple…”

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 2.  Passive voice

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 In Chinese the verb itself is unmarked for voice, but this idea can be expressed syntactically by various means.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 Some normally transitive verbs used without an object may be interpreted in a passive sense, even though there is no overt marking for a passive construction: 吾之國攻 “Our capital was attacked.”

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 As noted above in Major Particles #3, the passive voice can also be indicated by the use of the character 見: 吾之國見攻 “Our capital was attacked.”  If the agent is mentioned, it is marked by the preposition 於 following the verb:  兵觀於王 “The troops were observed by the king.”

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 In the third and fourth centuries B.C. another passive sentence construction began to appear formed with the quasi-copula 為 plus a nominalized verb preceded by 所.  Thus the pattern is subject + 為 + X + 所  + verb, where X represents the agent that acts upon the subject: 吾草為馬所食 “My grass (草 căo) was eaten by the horses.”  (literally, “My grass was the that which was eaten of the horses.”)


76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 A.  Master Sūn said, “Warfare is the great service of the state, the place of life and death, the Way of preservation and destruction.  One cannot but examine it.”

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 The grammar actually indicates a translation concluding “ . . . that which must be examined.”  However, although the final phrase is identical in character count to the preceding ones, its structure is different due to the absence of the 之, and this encourages one to set it off rhetorically as a distinct sentence.  The sentence pattern “subject + 者 + predicate + 也” is extremely common for a definition or the naming of defining attributes.  This text begins with an assertion of the primacy of military matters.  Note the explicit contrast with the passage quoted in Extract F of the Lún yǔ which treated “weapons” as the least important of the three defining features of government.  The Sūnzĭ passage also takes the state as the measure of all things and makes life and death the marker of highest importance, again in contrast to the Lún yǔ.  The description of warfare as a 事 has religious overtones, for it could refer to a sacrificial ritual.  This is perhaps picked up by the talk of life and death, and of the “Way.”  The use of the character 察 identifies warfare as an intellectual discipline or activity.

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 B.  1. “Warfare is the Way of deceit.  2. Therefore, being able, show them [the enemy] that you are unable; using [a man or a plan], show them that you will not use [him or it]; being near, show them that you are far; being far, show them that you are near.”

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 1 This is another definition of warfare through one of its fundamental attributes, deceit.  Warfare as deception reiterates its intellectual character.  In Sentence #2 “deception” is defined through four parallel phrases built around 而示之 with opposites placed on either side.  Thus it is based on the systematic inversion of reality and the enemy’s perceptions.  The constant reiteration of the object pronoun 之 perhaps highlights the condition of the enemy as a manipulated object.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 C.  1. “Not yet having fought and calculations in the temple [indicating] victory, this means that you obtained a majority of counting sticks.  2. Not yet having fought and calculations in the temple [indicating] defeat, this means that you obtained a minority of counting sticks.  3. More sticks conquer, fewer sticks lose, how much worse to have no calculations! 4. When we look at it in this way, victory and defeat are visible/apparent.”

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 Once again warfare is treated as an intellectual activity.  Here the focus is on calculation and prior knowledge.  The location of this calculation in the temple picks up the theme of warfare as a 事, “service” in the religious sense, and probably marks these calculations as a substitute for divination, which earlier texts indicate was carried out prior to battle.  Here the author transfers the decisive moment away from the battle to a prior calculation that determines victory and defeat before combat takes place.  In Sentence #3 the phrase 無算 could mean “having no sticks,” but this would add nothing to the argument, since “no sticks” is merely a subset of “fewer sticks.” To translate “no calculations” makes it a strong assertion aimed at those who do not recognize the intellectual nature of warfare.

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 The grammar of Sentences #1 and #2 is again structured by the linkage of 者 and 也 to provide a definition.  The two sentences are exactly parallel, except for the addition of the verbal negative 不 in Sentence #2 and the replacement of 多 by its opposite 少.  The placement of the 不 immediately before the 勝 means that the latter is the verb, which shows that 算 is the subject and that 廟 modifies 算.  This use as a modifier of a character referring to a place thus indicates the place where the noun is performed: a “temple calculation.” In Sentence #3 the first two phrases are condensed reformulations of Sentences #1 and #2, formed by inverting their order and omitting particles. In Sentence #4 the final 見 was in this period used interchangeably with then-homophonous 現 xiàn “apparent, manifest.”

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 D.  1. Master Sūn said, “In all methods for employing troops, to keep an [enemy] state intact is best, to destroy the state is next best; to keep his army intact is best, to destroy his army is next best; to keep a division intact is best, to destroy a division is next best; to keep a regiment intact is best, to destroy a regiment is next best; to keep a squad intact is best, to destroy a squad is next best. 2. Therefore to win every battle is not the best of the best (crème de la crème); to not fight and cause the other’s troops to submit is the best of the best.  3. Therefore the highest warfare attacks his plans, the next attacks his alliances, the next attacks his army, and the lowest attacks his cities.  4. The method of attacking cities is [a case of] having no alternative.”

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 This passage is built almost entirely of four-character phrases.  Even the few phrases that have more than four characters are often four-characters phrases with an added particle: in Sentence #1 (凡) 用兵之法, in Sentence #2 (是故) 百戰百勝 and (非) 善之善者.  It develops the theme of Extract C on the secondary role of actual combat, which is held to be less important than intellectual operations.  The hierarchy of objects of attack once again asserts the intellectual nature of warfare, for as you move down the list you pass from the realm of ideas to that of an ever increasing materiality: strategies, alliances, troops, city walls.  There is nothing in the grammar of Sentence #1 that stipulates that the state, army, division, regiment, and squad in question are the enemy’s and not one’s own.  However, the use of the pattern 上 “best” versus 次 “next best” clearly indicates that this is the case.  Clearly to destroy one’s own state or army is a disaster, not a “second best” way of waging warfare.  Note that in Sentence #1 the recurring character 之 “it” always refers back to the subject of the preceding phrase.  In Sentence #2 note also the structure of the two parallel phrases following 是故: subject A + 非 “is not” + predicate (善之善者); subject B + identical predicate.  Thus “A is not [the predicate]; B is [the predicate].”  This is a very common pattern.

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 E.  1. “Therefore the means by which a ruler inflicts calamity upon his army are three: (i) Not recognizing that the army should not advance and telling it to advance, or not recognizing that the army should not retreat and telling it to retreat.  2. These are called ‘bridling the army.’  3. (ii) Not knowing the affairs of the army and standardizing its regulations, then the soldiers will be in doubt.  4. (iii) Not knowing the stratagems of the army and standardizing its appointments, then the soldiers will be suspicious.”

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 In Sentence #1 the subject—the entire nominalized phrase between 故 and 者—applies to both of the following two phrases, which serve as parallel predicates.  The two predicates are nearly identical, with only one character (進) replaced by its opposite (退).  Note how the use of the character 之 in these two predicates is clearly the marker of modification because it appears in mid-phrase and is not preceded by a verb.  Consequently the subsequent part of the phrase–不可以進/退–must be translated as a noun phrase modified by 軍: (literally) “the inappropriateness of the army’s advance/retreat.” The use of the “preposition” 於 in the subject preserves a rhythmic pattern in which all phrases consist of four or eight characters, and probably distinguishes the sense of the character 患 here from its more conventional meaning as a transitive verb “to treat as a calamity, to worry about.” In Sentence #2 note the graphic image of the bridle.  This sentence insists on the necessity of the general remaining independent in the field so that he can respond to whatever circumstances confront him.  Sentences #3 and #4 elaborate this theme in two parallel sentences.  In both cases, the phrase before 而 describes the ignorance of the ruler (as a background condition), while the phrase between 而 and 則 describes what the ruler insists on doing.  The Chinese commentators argue that the sense of the verb 同 in the two sentences is to try to impose the same regulations and policies in the army as in civil society.  This is possible, but the more explicit sense of the passage is that the ruler, in complete ignorance of the diverse and changing circumstances that confront the army, and the diverse and changing stratagems employed to confront those circumstances, seeks to impose standardized regulations and policies of employing people.  The 則 in both sentences indicates that what follows is the consequence of the ruler’s actions: “if .  .  .  then .  .  .”  The two “then” clauses mean the same thing, replacing the character 惑 with its synonym 疑 simply as a matter of style to avoid exact repetition.  This practice of inserting a synonym in the second of two parallel sentences to avoid absolute repetition is common in classical Chinese.  In all three of these “calamities,” the ruler is barred from interfering with an army on expedition.  Like the insistence on the propriety of deceit in military affairs, this passage portrays warfare as a zone in which the rules of civil society do not apply, or are inverted.

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 F.  1. Therefore they say, “One who knows the other [i.e., the enemy] and knows himself, in a hundred battles will never be in danger.  2. If he does not know the enemy but knows himself, for every victory he will suffer a defeat [i.e., win half his battles].  3. If he knows neither the enemy nor himself, in every battle he will be in peril.”

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 This is another argument stressing the intellectual character of warfare, in which results are the outcome of having or lacking specified forms of knowledge.  Again note the highly economical use of characters and the importance of rhythm.  Three situations are stipulated by sequentially adding the negative 不 to the recurring phrases 知彼 and 知己, and in each case the result, in the final phrase, is described in a four-character phrase.  The second and fourth characters in the result in Sentence #1 (戰 and 殆) repeat in Sentence #3, while Sentence #2 has an internal parallelism formed around the substitution of opposites (勝 and 負).  Only Sentence #2, where the knowledge of one element is contrasted with ignorance of the other, uses the particle 而.  The use of 殆 (“in peril”) in Sentence #3 is interesting, because some scholars translate the results in Sentences #1 and #3 to mean inevitable victory and invariable defeat, but the authors have specifically eschewed the standard 勝 and 負, even though these figure in the result in Sentence #2.  Knowledge can only avoid danger, without guaranteeing victory (a point made elsewhere in the text), while ignorance does not guarantee defeat, because an ignorant general might have the good fortune to meet an even more incompetent foe.  Intelligence cannot control all external circumstances, which will appear to the actors as good or bad luck, but it prevents the commander from being the pawn of fortune.

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 G.  1. “In all cases of warfare, one unites by means of the normative, but conquers through the extraordinary.  2. Therefore one who is skilled in producing the extraordinary, like Heaven and Earth is inexhaustible, and like the great rivers does not dry up.  3. Ending and beginning again, he is the sun and the moon.  4. Dying and coming back to life, he is the four seasons.”

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 Note the use of recurring rhythms to mark the breaks of phrases and give structure to the passage: In Sentence #1, 3:3:3; in Sentence #2, 5:5:5; in Sentence #3, 4:4; in Sentence #4, 4:4.  正 and 奇 form the single most important coordinate pair for the analysis of strategy.  They are discussed in Sanctioned Violence in Early China and elsewhere.  As noted in the vocabulary, the 正 is what is straightforward, normative and predictable, e.g., military regulations or a direct assault. The 奇 is what is extraordinary, and hence unexpected, e.g., the deceptions discussed in Extract B or a flanking assault.  However, as soon as the “extraordinary” is expected, it would become “straightforward,” while a “straightforward” action would then come as a surprise and be extraordinary.  That is why the skilled commander is inexhaustible and always able to begin anew.  The comparison of the skillful commander to Heaven and Earth or the four seasons is one of the places in the Sūnzĭ that assimilates combat to natural processes and the general to a spirit (神 shén).  It is precisely because he is not 正, i.e., not clearly defined with a fixed form and meaning, that he can be inexhaustible.  The capacity for constant change and movement, for which Heaven and rivers are standard images, is the sine qua non for mastering the world as commander or ruler.

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 The grammar of Sentences #3 and #4 is: pre-posed topic (the first four characters) + subject (日月/ 四時) + predicate [是, i.e. ‘this’] + 也, i.e., “as for [topic], the subject is this.”  Thus the literal translation of Sentence #3 would be “Ending and beginning again, this is the sun and moon [which disappear and then reappear],” and of Sentence #4 “Dying and coming back to life, this is the four seasons [which go through the annual cycle of birth and death].”  However, in the context of the passage these are clearly metaphorical elaborations of the inexhaustibility of the skillful commander, so I have translated the sentences as above.

92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0 H.  1. “To see a victory [after the fact] does not surpass the knowledge of the masses; it is not the best of the best.  2. When one fights and conquers and the whole world says, ‘Skillful!’ this is not the best of the best.  3. [Therefore] to lift the finest autumn hair does not constitute great strength; to see the sun and moon does not constitute keen eyesight; to hear thunder does not constitute sharp hearing.  4. Those in ancient times who were called skilled at warfare [were those who] conquered the easily conquered.  5. Therefore as for the victory of one skilled in warfare, it gains no reputation for cunning and no merit for bravery.”

93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 This is an elaborate working out of themes articulated in earlier passages, and it employs several phrases that were used above: “see victory,” “best of the best.” It elaborates such themes as warfare as (fore)knowledge, victory without battle, and the commander as the man of unique perception.  The invalidation of knowledge precisely because it is widely distributed is a standard and crucial trope of the period.  Sentences #1 and #2 are based on the simple recurring structure of object + 非 + predicate + 也, with the identical predicate in both sentences.  Interestingly, after saying twice what “the best of the best” is not, the author does not say what it is.  In Sentence #3 故 cannot be translated as “therefore,” because the next phrase is not a conclusion of the first two.  Sometimes 故 simply tacks together two sentences with no real logical force.  Here it is followed by three seven-character phrases which all divide into a three-character noun-phrase subject beginning with a verb, followed by a four-character predicate beginning with 不為 “does not play the role of, is not.”  Sentence #4 is another example of the structure “subject (marked by 者) + predicate + 也,” i.e., “[subject] is [predicate].”  The second 者 poses a problem, because its range is unclear.  It could nominalize the entire predicate—“those who conquered the easily conquered”–or just the characters following the preposition 於—“those who are easily conquered.”  The difference, which would entail either including or omitting the phrase in the translation in parentheses, is not significant.  In Sentence #5 the character 也 clearly marks a pre-posed topic because the 之 demonstrates that the recurrent noun phrase 善戰者 modifies 勝, so there is no way to treat the first part of the sentence as a version of the structure “[subject] is [predicate].”

Page 4

Source: https://web.stanford.edu/group/chinesetexts/cgi-bin/site/3-sunzi-%E5%AD%AB%E5%AD%90-bing-fa-%E5%85%B5%E6%B3%95-art-of-war/