Sunzi’s《Methods of War》- War

This is a trans­la­tion of Chap­ter 2 of The Art of War by Sunzi.


The or­di­nary meth­ods of war de­mand:

  • 1,000 teams of 4 horses each,

  • 1,000 wag­ons,

  • 100,000 shields,

  • pro­vi­sions to march 1,000 miles,

  • do­mes­tic and for­eign ex­penses,

  • hos­pi­tal­ity for guests,

  • con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als for siege weapons,

  • ar­mored ve­hi­cles,

  • salaries

…and an army of 100,000 sol­diers.


A long war is an ex­pen­sive war.


An ex­pen­sive war will cause your vas­sals to rebel against you.


There is no such thing as a benefi­cial pro­tracted war.


If you do not un­der­stand the costs of war then you do not know which wars are worth­while to fight.


Do not con­script troops more than once. Do not re­sup­ply your army with grain more than twice. Take what you need from the en­emy. The en­emy has am­ple grain and an army of troops.


Re­sup­ply­ing an army over long dis­tances im­pov­er­ishes a coun­try.


Prices soar in wartime. Levy­ing the peas­antry un­der such cir­cum­stances will im­pov­er­ish them while ex­tract­ing only forced la­bor.


The cen­tral plains will go un­farmed. Seven tenths of the peas­antry’s la­bor will be wasted.


Sup­ply­ing an army out of the pub­lic purse slows the army down. Horses sicken. Shields split. Oxen tire. Six tenths is wasted.


The wise gen­eral eats the en­emy’s food. A cap­tured bowl of en­emy food is worth twenty bowls of your own. A cap­tured ton of en­emy grain is worth twenty tons of your own.


Let your troops kill the en­emy in anger, plun­der the en­emy in greed. A cap­tured en­emy com­bat ve­hi­cle is worth no fewer than ten of your own. Re­ward your first sol­dier to cap­ture one. Re­place its flag. Mix it in among your own.

A good sol­dier steals vic­tory from the en­emy.


A valuable vic­tory is a quick vic­tory. A gen­eral who, un­der­stand­ing this, is­sues or­ders to the peo­ple—there­upon is the fate of a state de­ter­mined.