Sunzi’s《Methods of War》- War

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


孙子曰:凡用兵之法,驰车千驷,革车千乘,带甲十万,千里馈粮,内外之费,宾客之用,胶漆之材,车甲之奉,日费千金,然后十万之师举矣。

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.

其用战也胜,久则钝兵挫锐,攻城则力屈,久暴师则国用不足。

A long war is an ex­pen­sive war.

夫钝兵挫锐,屈力殚货,则诸侯乘其弊而起,虽有智者,不能善其后矣。

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

故兵闻拙速,未睹巧之久也。夫兵久而国利者,未之有也。

There is no such thing as a benefi­cial pro­tracted war.

故不尽知用兵之害者,则不能尽知用兵之利也。

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

善用兵者,役不再籍,粮不三载,取用于国,因粮于敌,故军食可足也。

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.

国之贫于师者远输,远输则百姓贫;

Re­sup­ply­ing an army over long dis­tances im­pov­er­ishes a coun­try.

近师者贵卖,贵卖则百姓财竭,财竭则急于丘役。

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

力屈财殚,中原内虚于家,百姓之费,十去其七;

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

公家之费,破军罢马,甲胄矢弩,戟楯蔽橹,丘牛大车,十去其六。

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

故智将务食于敌,食敌一钟,当吾二十钟;萁秆一石,当吾二十石。

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.

故杀敌者,怒也;取敌之利者,货也。车战得车十乘以上,赏其先得者,而更其旌旗,车杂而乘之,卒善而养之,是谓胜敌而益强。

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.

故兵贵胜,不贵久。故知兵之将,生民之司命,国家安危之主也。

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.