Quotes by Sun Tzu
Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Sun Tzu. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.
Wikipedia Summary for Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu ( soon DZOO, soon SOO; Chinese: 孫子; pinyin: Sūnzǐ) was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking. His works focus much more on alternatives to battle, such as stratagem, delay, the use of spies and alternatives to war itself, the making and keeping of alliances, the uses of deceit, and a willingness to submit, at least temporarily, to more powerful foes. Sun Tzu is revered in Chinese and East Asian culture as a legendary historical and military figure. His birth name was Sun Wu (Chinese: 孫武) and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing (Chinese: 長卿). The name Sun Tzu by which he is best known in the Western World is an honorific which means "Master Sun".
Sun Tzu's historicity is uncertain. The Han dynasty historian Sima Qian and other traditional Chinese historians placed him as a minister to King Helü of Wu and dated his lifetime to 544–496 BC. Modern scholars accepting his historicity place the extant text of The Art of War in the later Warring States period based on its style of composition and its descriptions of warfare. Traditional accounts state that the general's descendant Sun Bin wrote a treatise on military tactics, also titled The Art of War. Since Sun Wu and Sun Bin were referred to as Sun Tzu in classical Chinese texts, some historians believed them identical, prior to the rediscovery of Sun Bin's treatise in 1972.
Sun Tzu's work has been praised and employed in East Asian warfare since its composition. During the twentieth century, The Art of War grew in popularity and saw practical use in Western society as well. It continues to influence many competitive endeavors in the world, including culture, politics, business and sports, as well as modern warfare.
In war, practice dissimulation and you will succeed.
So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.
So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.
There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.
If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.
So there are five ways of knowing who will win. Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious. Those who discern when to use many or few troops are victorious. Those whose upper and lower ranks have the same desire are victorious.
Engage people with what they expect, it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment that which they cannot anticipate.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war,
while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.
According to my assessment, even if you have many more troops than others, how can that help you to victory?
A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return.
A clever general... avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return. This is the art of studying moods. Disciplined and calm, he awaits the appearance of disorder and hubbub among the enemy. This is the art of retaining self-possession.
One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful, subduing the other's military without battle is the most skillful.
It is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.
When the leader is morally weak and his discipline not strict, when his instructions and guidance are not enlightened, when there are no consistent rules, neighboring rulers will take advantage of this.
All war is based on deception.
All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity. When near, make it appear that you are far away; when far away, that you are to lure him; feign disorder and strike him. When he concentrates, prepare against him; where he is strong, avoid him. Anger his general and confuse him. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.
When troops flee, are insubordinate, distressed, collapse in disorder or are routed, it is the fault of the general. None of these disasters can be attributed to natural causes.
The expert in battle seeks his victory from strategic advantage and does not demand it from his men.
The general is the protector of the state. If this protection is all-embracing, the state will surely be strong; if defective, the state will certainly be weak. A sovereign who obtains the right person prospers. One who fails to do so will be ruined.
Confirmation of the ground is of the greatest assistance in battle. Therefore, to estimate the enemy situation and to calculate distances and the degree of difficulty of the terrain so as to control victory are virtues of the superior general.
Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity.
Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.
Apparent confusion is a product of good order; apparent cowardice, of courage; apparent weakness, of strength.
So the principles of warfare are: Do not depend on the enemy not coming, but depend on our readiness against him. Do not depend on the enemy not attacking, but depend on our position that cannot be attacked.
The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambuscade. Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.
If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.
Generally, management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization. And to control many is the same as to control few. This is a matter of formations and signals.
If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless.
If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.
Therefore I say: know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.
With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy.
The leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.
Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.
It is imperative to contest all factions for complete victory, so the army is not garrisoned and the profit can be total. This is the law of strategic siege.
To ... not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.
If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy's position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy's position weak.
Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.
When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.
The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally; but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general.
Without harmony in the State, no military expedition can be undertaken; without harmony in the army, no battle array can be formed.
It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
Therefore the victories of good warriors are not noted for cleverness or bravery. Therefore their victories in battle are not flukes. Their victories are not flukes because they position themselves where they will surely win, prevailing over those wh.
To plan secretly, to move surreptitiously, to foil the enemy's intentions and balk his schemes, so that at last the day may be won without shedding a drop of blood.
Like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.
When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become, as it were, like rolling logs or stones... The energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height.
So it is that good warriors take their stance on ground where they cannot lose, and do not overlook conditions that make an opponent prone to defeat.
At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.
Against those skilled in attack, an enemy does not know where to defend; against the experts in defense, the enemy does not know where to attack.
War is a matter of vital importance to the state; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.
Use humility to make the enemy haughty. Tire them by flight. Cause division among them. When they are unprepared, attack and make your move when they do not expect it.
Those who would wage war, should first eliminate all domestic enemies before proceeding to attack the external foe.
To perceive victory when it is known to all is not really skilful... It does not take much strength to lift a hair, it does not take sharp eyes to see the sun and moon, it does not take sharp ears to hear the thunderclap.
Unless you know the mountains and the forests, the defiles and impasses, the lay of the marshes and swamps, you cannot maneuver with an armed force. Unless you use local guides, you cannot get the advantages of the land.
The tao is the way of humanity and justice; 'laws' are regulations and institutions. Those who excel in war first cultivate their own humanity and justice and maintain their laws and institution. By these means they make their governments invincible.
Factors in the art of warfare are: First, calculations; second, quantities; third, logistics; fourth, the balance of power; and fifth, the possibility of victory is based on the balance of power.
When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.
Do not press an enemy at bay. Prince Fu Ch'ai said: Wild beasts, when at bay, fight desperately. How much more is this true of men! If they know there is no alternative, they will fight to the death.
Those who do not know the conditions of mountains and forests, hazardous defiles, marshes and swamps, cannot conduct the march of an army. Those who do not use local guides are unable to obtain the advantages of the ground.
Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
When you do battle, even if you are winning, if you continue for a long time it will dull your forces and blunt you edge...If you keep your armies out in the field for a long time, your supplies will be insufficient. Transportation of provisions itself consumes 20 times the amount transported.
A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.
Those who do not know the plans of competitors cannot prepare alliances. Those who do not know the lay of the land cannot maneuver their forces. Those who do not use local guides cannot take advantage of the ground.
Thus, though I have heard of successful military operations that were clumsy but swift, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.
It is according to the shapes that I lay the plans for victory, but the multitude does not comprehend this. Although everyone can see the outward aspects, none understands the way in which I have created victory.
In war, numbers alone confer no advantage. Do not advance relying on sheer military power.
In war, numbers alone confer no advantage. Do not advance relying on sheer military power. It is sufficient to estimate the enemy situation correctly and to concentrate your strength to capture him. There is no more to it than this. He who lacks foresight and underestimates his enemy will surely be captured by him.
The crux of military operations lies in the pretense of accommodating one's self to the designs of the enemy.
It is a doctrine of war not to assume the enemy will not come, but rather to rely on one's readiness to meet him; not to presume that he will not attack, but rather to make one's self invincible.
With regard to ground of this nature, be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and carefully guard your line of supplies. Then you will be able to fight with advantage.
With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up.
A sovereign of high character and intelligence must be able to know the right man, should place the responsibility on him, and expect results.
When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.
Thus the skilful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand.
He who is not sage and wise, humane and just, cannot use secret agent.s. And he who is not delicate and subtle cannot get the truth out of them.
In warfare, first lay plans which will ensure victory, and then lead your army to battle; if you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured.
For the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man likes to show his courage in action, the covetous man is quick at seizing advantages, and the stupid man has no fear of death.
The successful person has unusual skill at dealing with conflict and ensuring the best outcome for all.
We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, to wit: (1) Accessible ground; (2) entangling ground; (3) temporising ground; (4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; (6) positions at a great distance from the enemy.
However desperate the situation and circumstances, don't despair. When there is everything to fear, be unafraid. When surrounded by dangers, fear none of them. When without resources, depend on resourcefulness. When surprised, take the enemy by surprise.
If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.
Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all.
In conflict, straightforward actions generally lead to engagement, surprising actions generally lead to victory.
If you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if you cling to your corner.
When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.
When the enemy is at ease, be able to weary him; when well fed, to starve him; when at rest, to make him move. Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.
He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.
He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.
If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage.
Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.
The dance of battle is always played to the same impatient rhythm. What begins in a surge of violent motion is always reduced to the perfectly still.
You can prevent your opponent from defeating you through defense, but you cannot defeat him without taking the offensive.
The skilful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man.
The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not be swayed by petty doubts.
Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.
In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.
The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.
In the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.
If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need to do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way.
Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.
What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.
Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.
If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away.
Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural causes, 1 but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1) Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganisation; (6) rout.
O divine art of subtlety and secrecy!
O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.
From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue.
Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss.
Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.
Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans, the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces, the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected.
The skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting.
The skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.
When a general, unable to estimate the enemy's strength, allows an inferior force to engage a larger one, or hurls a weak detachment against a powerful one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the front rank, the result must be rout.
When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.
The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.
These are the six ways of courting defeat -- neglect to estimate the enemy's strength; want of authority; defective training; unjustifiable anger; nonobservance of discipline; failure to use picked men.
It is the rule in war, if ten times the enemy's strength, surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, be able to divide them; if equal, engage them; if fewer, defend against them; if weaker, be able to avoid them.
The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands.
The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night.
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait, it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage.
When I have won a victory I do not repeat my tactics but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways.
He who knows things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, will win his battles. He who knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be defeated.
There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.
In warfare, there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent will succeed and win.
A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective.
To capture the enemy's entire army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a regiment, a company, or a squad is better than to destroy them. For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the supreme of excellence. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.
The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who know the conditions of the enemy.
To triumph in battle and be universally acclaimed 'Expert' is not the acme of skill, for to lift an autumn down requires no great strength; to distinguish between the sun and moon is no test of vision; to hear the thunderclap is no indication of acute hearing.
What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations. And therefore the general who understands war is the Minister of the people's fate and arbiter of the nation's destiny.
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