Friday, February 12, 2010

The Tao of Victory by Sun Tzu

One who knows when he can fight, and when he cannot fight,
will be victorious.

One who recognizes how to employ large and small numbers
will be victorious.

One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires
will be victorious.

One who, fully prepared, awaits the unprepared
will be victorious.

One whose general is capable and
not interfered with by the ruler
will be victorious.

These five are the Way to know victory.
 ---- ---- ----
Thus it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself
will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.

One who does not know the enemy but knows himself
will sometimes be victorious and sometimes meet with defeat.

One who knows neither the enemy nor himself
will invariably be defeated in every engagement.

from The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.
6th Century B.C.
the end of Chapter 3: Planning Offensives
Trans. Ralph D. Sawyer.

Illustration below: French planning map for Breisach (anonymous, 1743)
Garwood & Voigt Books and Fine Prints/ War of Austrian Succession--


Christopher said...

"One whose upper and lower ranks have the same desires will be victorious." This seems to be the greatest challenge in modern society.

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
I was thinking the Exact same thing as I was typing it out.

Sun Tzu implies a lot about the discipline of the upper ranks in his work. It is the upper rank that has to really work on forbearance and control, so as not to be too far removed from those they lead.

The camel and the eye of the needle.

Thanks for writing in!

Ann T.

Bob G. said...

Never hurts to keep good old Sun Tzu handy...believe me.

"All warfare is based on deception"

I try to use the teachings, especially where I live.
I'd like to think that give me an advantage.

We can all learn from this book, and apply it not ONLY to warfare, but many other facets of life itself, as long as we understand the philosophical concepts behind the writings.

Excellent post.

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob G.,
Every time I go to this book I learn something new. I bought a bargain copy, one I could write in without 'ruining' the book.

Now I look at some of my old marginalia and realize I didn't fully get it the first time.

And as you say, to apply it properly!

Ann T.

Edith Bunker said...

I'm sure that it's no accident that the Reciprocity and Sun Tzu posts compliment one another so perfectly, beautifully done.
I haven't read "The Art of War" since undergrad when it was forced, I think it's time for a more leisurely reading.

The Observer said...

Ann T

I think I need to read this; any tips on editions or translations?

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
I asked a professor I met from National Defense University who was interested in classical Greek military studies.

He said he had a colleague with Ralph Sawyer's translation, stuck with bookmarks and margin notes about the deeper meaning of terms based on Chinese ideograms. That was good enough for me.

The Sawyer I have cost $5.98 hardback in the bargain section of B&N bookstore. I know also that Thomas Cleary is considered a wonderful translator. The James Clavell version has a great forward but I don't think the text is the best.

It's a great read.

Mrs. Bunker, Thank You!
Happy Reading to you Both,

Ann T.