c. 1700 BCE – 1045 BCE
Written by Jiang Taigong (姜太公). He is the military advisor to King Wen and King Wu, helping them to defeat the fatuous Shang Dynasty’s last king, King Zhou, to establish the Zhou Dynasty.
1. Civil Teaching
2. Military Teaching
3. Dragon Teaching
4. Tiger Teaching
5. Leopart Teaching
6. Hound Teaching
KING WEN’S TEACHER
King Wen intended to go hunting. So the Historical Records Scribe performed a divination. The Scribe reported:” While hunting on the north bank of Wei River, you will get a great catch. It is not a dragon, nor a tiger or a bear. According to the signs divined, you will find someone of the calibre of duke or marquis, a teacher bestow to you by Heaven. If employ him, you will flourish and your later generations will benefit as well.
King Wen asked:” Do the signs really signify this?” The Scribe replied:” My ancestor, when performing divination for Sage Emperor Shun obtained a comparable indications. And Emperor Shun then found Yao Tao to assist him.”
King Wen then observed a vegetarian diet for three days to purify himself, then mounted onto his hunting chariot. Driving his hunting horses, he went to the northern bank of Wei River. There he saw Tai Gong sitting on the grass fishing. King Wen went forward and greeted him courteously and then asked:” Do you take pleasure in fishing?”
Tai Gong said:” Man of true worth takes pleasure in realising his ambitions; the common man takes pleasure in doing his best for his affairs. My fishing is very much like it.”
King Wen inquired further,” What do you mean it is like it?”
Tai Gong mentioned:” Fishing is like attracting talents, there are three authorities to consider. Authority to bestow salary, authority to decide life and death, authority to appoint offices. All who fish, will always wish to catch something. Its nature is deep and from it, much greater principles can be discerned from it.”
Fishing, Nation, and Attracting Talents
King Wen said:” I would like to hear about these greater principles.”
Tai Gong said:” When the source is deep, water flows endlessly. When the water flows endlessly, fish spawn there. This is nature. When the roots of the trees are deep, the tree is tall. When the tree is tall, fruits are produced. This is nature. When men of true worth have views in common, they will come together. When they are drawn together, accomplishments can be achieved. This is nature. Speech and response are merely adornment of inner emotions. Speaking about the truth is the best. What I am about to say is all the truth without adornment, will you find it abhorrent?”
King Wen said:” Only a man of true benevolence can accept corrections and remonstrance. What makes you think I will be? Please continue.”
Tai Gong continued:” When the fishing line is thin and the bait is glittering, only small fish will bite. When the line is thicker and bait is fragrant, medium sized fish will bite. When the line is thick and the bait is generous, large fish will bite. When the fish take the bait, they will be caught on the line. When men take salary, they will submit to their ruler. When you catch with bait, the fish can be killed. When you give remuneration, men can be made to exhaust their capabilities for you. If you regard families, as the basic foundation of state, the state is yours. If you use the state as your base to conquer the kingdom, you can conquer the kingdom.”
Shang Dynasty, Zhou Dynasty
“Flourishing and florid, for many generations, the Shang Dynasty has gathered so much wealth but in the end they will be scattered. Silent and still, the Zhou Dynasty’s future will be bright, so bright it can shine in all directions. Subtle and mysterious, that is how the Sage attract the hearts of the people through his virtues.. Wondrous and joyful, the plans of the Sage through which everyone seeks and gets what they want, while he establish measures that will achieve their hearts and trusts.”
Gaining The Kingdom and Populace
King Wen asked:”How shall we establish the measures so that all under Heaven will give their allegiance?”
Tai Gong said:”All under Heaven is not the domain of one person, but the domain for all those under Heaven. Anyone who shares profit with all the people under Heaven will gain the kingdom. Anyone who monopolise the profits will lose the kingdom. Heaven has its four seasons and the Earth, its resources. Being capable of sharing these with populace is truly benevolent. Whoever has true benevolence, all under Heaven will pledge allegiance to him. Sparing the people from death, eliminating hardships, relieving misfortunes, saving people from dangers, these are virtues. Whoever has true virtues, all under Heaven will pledge allegiance to him. Sharing weals and woes, likes and disliekes with the populace, that is
righteousness. Where there is righteouness, people will go. In general, people hate death and take pleasure in life. They welcome virtues and chase profits. The The ability to help people gain profits is the Way. Whoever walks the Way, all under Heaven will pledge allegiance to him.”
King Wen bowed and said:”True wisdom. Do I dare not acccept Heaven’s edict and mandate.” He invited Tai Gong to the chariot and returned with him, establishing him as his teacher.
Fullness And Emptiness
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”The world is replete with an array of states. Some are full, others are empty, some are ordered and others in chaos. How does it come to this? Is it that the moral qualities of the rulers are not the same? Or is it because of the changes and transformation of the Heaven that naturally cause it to be?”
Tai Gong answered:”If the ruler lack moral character, then the state will be in danger and the populace will be in chaos. When the ruler has strong moral character, then the state will be secure and peaceful and the populace is well-ordered. Fortune and misfortune of the state depends on the ruler, not with the changes of Heaven.”
King Wen requested:”May I hear more about the Sages of antiquity.”
Tai Gong said:”Emperor Yao when he is governing the kingdom, people refer him as a worthy ruler.”
King Wen asked:”What was his administration like?”
Tai Gong answered:”When Yao was king of the world, he did not adorn himself with gold, silver, pearls and jade. He did not wear brocaded, embroidered, elegantly decorated clothes. He did not collect strange, odd, rare or unusual things. He did not treasure items of amusement nor listen to licentious music. He did not whitewash the walls around the palace or the buildings nor decoratively carve the beams, square and round rafters, and pillar. Hedid no even trim the reeds that grew all about his courtyard. He used a deerskin robe to wrad off the cold while simple clothes to cover his body. He at coarse millet and unpolished grains and thick soup from rough vegetables. He did not through imposition of labor service, disrupt the people’s seasons for agriculture and sericulture. He reduced his desires and constrained his will, and handle affairs with minimal intervention.”
“He honored the positions of the officials who were loyal, upright and upheld the laws and made generous the salaries of those who are of high integrity, scrupulous and loved people. He love and respected those among the people who were filial and compassionate, and he comforted and encouraged those who exhausted their strength in agriculture and sericulture. He distinguishes the evil and virtuous by honoring the virtuous, he promote fairness and erect laws and measures to prohibit evil and artifice.”
“Among those he hated, if anyone had merit, he would still reward him. Among those he loved, if anyone is guilty of wrongdoing, he would punish them. He takes care of the widows, widowers, orphans and solitary elderly and gave aid to families who had suffered misfortune.”
“As for himself, what he alloted to himself is extremely meager, the taxes and services he required of people is extremely few. Thus the whole populace was prosperous and happy and did not have the appearance of suffering from hunger and cold. The populace revered him as if he were the sun and moon and gave their allegiance to him as if he were their parents”
King Wen commented:”Great is the Worthy and virtuous ruler!”
Affairs Of State
King Wen said to Tai Gong:” I would like to learn about the affair of administering the state. If I want to have the ruler honored and the people settled, how should I proceed?”
Tai Gong said:” Just love the people.”
King Wen asked:” How does one love the people?”
Tai Gong said:” Enrich them, do not harm them. Help them to produce products and services, do not destroy them. Protect their lives, do not slay them. Grant, do not take away. Give them happiness, do not create suffering to them. Make them happy, do not cause them to be angry.”
King Wen asked:” May I dare ask you to explain the reason for these?”
Tai Gong replied:” When the people do not lose their fundamental production position in the society, you have profited them. When the farmers do what is required for each season, you have help them to produce. When you reduce punishments and fines, you give them life. When you impose light taxes, you have grant them. When you keep your palaces, mansions, terraces and pavilions few, you give them happiness. When officials are pure and neither irritating nor troublesome, you make them happy.”
“But when the people lose their fundamental production position in the society, you harm them. When the farmers are not able to adhere to agricultural seasons, you destroy them. When they are innocent but you punish them, you slay them. When you impose heavy taxes, you take from them. When you construct numerous palaces, mansions, terraces and pavilions, thereby wearing out the people’s strength, you make it bitter for them. When officials are corrupt, irritating and troublesome, you anger them.”
“Thus one who excels at administering a state governs the people as parents govern their beloved children or as an older brother acts towards his beloved younger brother. When they see their hunger and cold, they are troubled for them. When they see their labors and suffering, they grieve for them.”
“Rewards and punishments should be implemented as if being imposed upon yourself. Taxes should be imposed as if taking from yourself. This is the way to love the people.”
Great Forms Of Propriety
Forms Of Propriety Between A Ruler And Officials
King Wen asked Tai Gong:” What is the proper form of propriety between ruler and officials?”
Tai Gong answered:” As a ruler, he should understand the situation his officials and populace is facing. As officials and people, they should be submissive. For the ruler to understand his officials and populace, he should draw himself nearer to them. For the officials and people to be submissive, they should not hide anything from the ruler.”
“As a ruler, he should show his beneficence. As officials, they should give their best in their official duties. The ruler’s beneficence should be all encompassing like the Heaven. The official’s effort in their duties should be as solid as the Earth. One Heaven, one Earth, that is how the great forms of propriety is formed.”
Disposition Of Ruler
King Wen asked:” How should the ruler act in his position?”
Tai Gong answered:” He should be composed, dignified and quiet. His softness and self-constrained should be established first. He should discuss with officials and not be stubborn. He should be humble and just when treating people and running affairs.”
Listening To Opinions
King Wen asked:” How should the ruler listen to affairs?”
Tai Gong replied:” He should not accept or reject opinions carelessly. Accepting opinions without careful consideration makes the ruler looks indecisive. Rejecting opinions without careful consideration will close off all access to opinions. The ruler should be like high mountain, when look up to, its height cannot be perceived. The ruler should be like an deep abyss, its depth cannot be fathomed. Being enlightened, composed and just, that is the pinnacle.”
King Wen asked:”What should the ruler’s wisdom be like?”
Tai Gong replied:” The eyes’s value lies in clarity. The ear’s value lies in sharpness. The mind’s value lies in the wisdom within. If you use the eyes of all those under heaven to see, there is nothing you will not see. If you use the ears of all those under heaven to hear, there is nothing you will not hear. If you use the minds of all those under heaven to think, there are no details you will not consider. Just like the spokes converging on the hub of a wheel, your clarity will not be obfuscated.”
Lessons From Sages
King Wen was lying in bed, seriously ill. He summoned Tai Gong and the Crown Prince Fa1 to his side. “Sigh, Heaven is about to abandom me. Zhou’s state affairs will soon be entrusted to you. Today, I hope you, my teacher, discuss some great principles that I can pass down to my future generations.”
Tai Gong said:”King, what would you like to ask?”
King Wen asked:”May I hear about former Sages, how they fell, how they rise?”
Tai Gong said:” If one sees good but is dilatory in doing it, if opportunity arise but no action taken, if you know something is wrong but never sanction it, these are the three situations that caused the Sages to fall. If one is soft and quiet when treating himself, dignified and respectful when treating others, strong yet genial when handling things, tolerant and resolute when opportunities arise, these are the three principles that caused Sage to rise. Thus when righteousness overcomes covetous, the state will flourish. When covetous overcomes righteousness, the state will demise. Cautiousness overcomes dilatoriness, it is good for the state. Dilatoriness overcomes cautiousness, the state is destroyed”
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”How does the ruler of the state, the leader of his people, come to lose his position?”
Tai Gong answered:”He is not cautious about whom he associates with. The ruler should note the six characteristics when selecting capable men and three ‘treasures’ of the state.”
King Wen enquired:”What are the six characteristics?”
Tai Gong listed:”First is benevolence, second is righteousness, third is loyalty, fourth is trustworthiness, fifth is courage, sixth is strategising. These are the six characteristics to look out for when selecting capable men.”
King Wen asked:”How does one go about selecting men base on these criteria?”
Tai Gong said:”Make them rich and observe whether they commit offenses. Put him in high position and see if he becomes arrogant. Entrust him with office and see if he stays. Make him solve a problem and see if he will conceal anything. Put them in the way of danger and see if he is afraid. Task him to manage emergency and see if he is able to handle it well.”
“If he is rich but does not commit offenses, then he is benevolent. If he is in high position but does not become arrogant, then he is righteous. Entrust him with office and he stays, then he is loyal. If he solves the problem without concealing anything, he is trustworthy. If he is in danger and is not afraid, then he is courageous. Task him to manage emergency and he handles well, he is capable of making plans and strategising. The ruler cannot entrust the three ‘treasures’ to other people, otherwise he will lose his awesomeness.”
King Wen asked:”What are the three ‘treasures’?”
Tai Gong replied:”Agriculture, Production and Commerce are refered as the three ‘treasure’. Gathering the farmers into districts, and grains will be plentiful. Gathering the artisans into districts, and tools will be sufficient. Gathering the merchants together and material goods will be sufficient.”
“Each of the three ‘treasures’ are setted in their places, the populace will not worry. There will not be chaos in each district and also no confusion in among clans. The officials should not be wealthier than the ruler. No cities should be larger than the state capital. When the six characteristics are conserved the ruler will flourish. When the three ‘treasures’ are complete, the state is secure.
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”How does one preserve the state’s territory?”
Tai Gong said:”Do not estrange your relatives. Do not neglect the masses. Be concillatory and solicitous towards nearby states and control all that is under you. Do not loan the authority of state to other men. If you loan the authority of state to other men, then you will lose your authority. Do not hurt those of lower position to benefit those of higher position. Do not abandon the fundamental to save those that are inconsequential. When the sun is at midday, you should dry things. If you grasp a knife, you must cut. If you hold an axe, you must attack.”
“If at the height of the day, you do not dry things in the sun, this is termed losing the opportunity. If you grasp a knife but do not cut anything, you will lose the moment for profits. If you hold an axe and do not attack, enemies will attack instead.”
“If trickling streams are not blocked, they will become great rivers. If you do not extinguish the smallest flames, there is nothing much you can do when it turns into great flames. If you do not eliminate the two-leaf sapling, you might have to use the axe to remove it in future.”
“For this reason, the ruler must focus on developing wealth within his state. Without material wealth, he has nothing with which to spread beneficence or to bring his relatives together. If he estranges his relatives it will be harmful. If he loses the common people, he will be defeated. “
“Do not loan sharp weapons to other men. If you loan sharp weapons to other men, you will be hurt by them and will not live out your allotted span of years.”
King Wen said:”What do you mean by benevolence and righteousness?”
Tai Gong replied:”Respect the common people, unite your relatives. If you repect the commone people, they will be in harmony. And if you unite your relatives, they will be happy. This is the way to implement the essential cords of benevolence and righteousness.”
“Do not allow other men to snatch away your awesomeness. Rely on your wisdom, follow the norm. Those that submit and accord with you, treat them generously and virtuously. Those that oppose you, break with force. If you respect the people and trust, the state will be peaceful and populace submissive.”
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”How does one preserve the state?”
Tai Gong answered:”You should observe a vegetarian fast, for I am about to speak to you about the essential principles of Heaven and Earth, what the four seasons produce, the Way of true humanity and sagacity and the nature of the people’s impulses.”
King Wen observed a vegetarian regime for seven days, then facing the north, bowed twice and requested instruction.
Tai Gong said:”Heaven gives birth to the four seasons, Earth produce the myriad of things. Under Heaven, there are the people, and the Sage acts as their shepherd. The nature of Spring is birth and the myriad of things begin to flourish. The nature of summer is growth and myriad of things mature. The nature of autumn is gathering, and myriad of things are full. The nature of winter is storing away and myriad of things are still. When they are full, they are stored away; after they are stored away, they again revive. No one knows where it ends, no one knows where it begins. The Sage accords with it and models things base on it. Thus when the realm is well ordered, his benevolence and sagacity are hidden. When the realm is in turbulence, his benevolence and sagacity flourish. This is the Way.”
“In his position between Heaven and Earth, the Sage authority is vast and substantial. He govern the people with the norm, the people will be at peace. But when the people are agitated, it creates impulses. When
impulses stir, conflict arises, and there will be a fight for authority. The Sage will gather forces and power in the dark, and when the opportunity rises, comes out. If someone ventures to be the first leader to rid the former authority, all under Heaven will unite with him. When things return to normal, do not continue to advance and contend, do not withdraw and yield. If you can preserve the state in this fashion, you will share the splendor of Heaven and Earth.”
Honoring The Worthy
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”Among those I rule, who should be elevated, who should be placed in inferior positions? Who should be selected for employment, who to cast aside? What affairs should be banned and what affairs need control?”
Tai Gong said:”Elevate the worthy and place the unworthy in inferior positions. Choose the sincere and trustworthy, eliminate the deceptive and artful. Prohibit violence and chaos, stop extravagance and ease.
Accordingly, one who exercises kingship over the people recognizes the ‘six hazards’ and ‘seven harms’.”
King Wen said:“I would like to know more about them.”
Tai Gong said:”For the ‘six hazards’:
“First, if your subordinates build large palaces and mansions, pools and terraces and amble about enjoying the pleasures of scenery and female musicians, it will ‘injure’ the King’s virtue.”
“Second, when the people are not engaged in agriculture and sericulture but instead give rein to their tempers and loitering about, disdaining and transgressing the laws and prohibitions, not following the instructions of the officials, it harms the King’s influence.”
“Third, when officials form cliques and parties – obfuscating the worthy and wise, obstructing the ruler from feeling the pulse of the state – it ‘injures’ the King’s authority.”
“Fourth, when scholars are contrary-minded and conspicuously display ‘high moral standards’ – taking such behavior to be powerful expression of their disposition – and have private relationships with other feudal lords – slighting their own ruler – it ‘injures’ the King’s awesomeness.”
“Fifth, when subordinates disdain titles and positions, are contemptuous of the administrators, and are ashamed to face hardship for their ruler, it ‘injures’ the motivation of meritorious subordinates.”
“Sixth, when the strong clans encroach on others – seizing what they want, insulting and ridiculing the poor and weak – it ‘injures’ the work of the common people.”
“The seven harms:”
“First, men without wisdom or strategic planning ability are generously rewarded and honored with rank. Therefore, the strong and courageous who regard war lightly take their chances in the battlefield. The King must be careful not to employ them as generals.”
“Second, they have reputation but lack substance. What they say and their stand is constantly changing. They conceal the good and spread the bad. They are always seeking short-cuts. The King should be careful not to make plans with them.”
“Third, they make their appearance simple, wear ugly clothes, spouting no regard for office in order to seek fame, and talk about non-desire in order to gain profit. They are ‘fakes’ and the King should be careful not to bring them near.”
“Fourth, they wear strange caps and belts and their clothes are very elaborate. They listen widely to the disputations of others and speak speciously about unrealistic ideas, displaying them as a sort of personal adornment. They dwell in poverty and live in tranquility, deprecating the customs of the world. They are cunning people and the King should be careful not to favor them.”
“Fifth, with slander, obsequiousness and pandering, they seek office and rank. They are reckless, treating death lightly, out of their greed for salary and positions. They are not concerned with major affairs but move solely out of avarice. With lofty talk and specious discussion, they please the ruler. The King should be careful not to employ them.”
“Sixth, they have buildings elaborately carved and inlaid. They promote artifice and flowery adornment, in turn interrupting agriculture. You must inhibit them.”
“Seventh, they con people, practice sorcery and witchcraft, advance unorthodox ways and circulate inauspicious sayings, befuddling good people. The King must stop them.”
“Now when the people do not give their best, they are not our people. If the officers are not sincere and trustworthy, they are not our officers. If the ministers do not offer their loyalty, they are not our ministers. If the officials neither of high integrity nor love the people, they are not our officials. If the chancellor cannot enrich the state and strengthen the army, harmonize yin and yang, and ensure security for the ruler of the state with ten thousand chariots – and moreover properly control the ministers, set names and realities, make clear rewards and punishments, and give pleasure to the people – he is not our chancellor.”
“Now the Way of the King is like that of a dragon’s head. He dwells in the heights and look out far. He sees deeply and listens carefully. He displays his form but conceal his nature. He is like the heights of the Heaven, which cannot be perceived. He is like the depth of an abyss, which cannot be fathomed. Thus if he should get angry but does not, evil subordinates will rise. If he should execute but does not, chaos will appear. If strategic military power is not exercised, enemy states will grow strong.”
King Wen said:”Excellent!”
Promoting The Worthy
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”How does it happen that a ruler exert himself to advance the Worthy but unable to obtain any results from such efforts and in fact, the world grows increasingly chaotic, even to the point that he is endangered or perished?”
Tai Gong answered:”If one advances the Worthy but does not employ them, this is attaining the ‘advancing the Worthy’ on the exterior but lacking the substance of ‘advancing the Worthy’.’”
King Wen asked:”Where is the error then?”
Tai Gong said:”The error lies in wanting to employ men who are popularly praised rather than obtaining true Worthies.”
“How is that so?” King Wen asked.
Tai Gong replied:”If the ruler takes those that the world commonly praises as being Worthies and those that the world condemn as being worthless, then those in the larger cliques will advance and those in the smaller ones will go off. If such situation persist, groups of evil individuals will associate together to obscure the Worthy. Loyal
Subordinates will die even though they are innocent. And perverse subordinates will obtain rank and position through fake reputation. In this way, as chaos continues to perpetuate in the world, the state cannot avoid danger and destruction.”
King Wen asked:”How does one advance the Worthy?”
Tai Gong replied:”Your general and chancellor should divide the responsibility, each of them selecting men based on the names of the positions. In accord with the name of the position, they will assess the substance required. In selecting men, they will evaluate their abilities, making the reality of their talents match the name of the position. When the name matches the reality, you will have realized the Tao for advancing the Worthy.”
Rewards And Punishment
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”Rewards are the means to preserve the encouragement of the good, punishments the means to display the rectification of evil. By rewarding one man, I want to stimulate a hundred, by punishing one man, rectify multitude. How can I do it?”
Tai Gong replied:”In general, in employing rewards, one values credibility; in employing punishments one values certainty. When rewards is certain to be meted out and punishments inevitable wherever the eyes sees and the ears hears, then even where they do not see or hear there is no one who will not be transformed in their secrecy. Since the ruler’s sincerity extends to Heaven and Earth and penetrates to the spirits, how much the more so to men?”
Unity Of Troops
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”What is the correct way of using troops?”
Tai Gong said:”In general, of all principles of using troops, nothing surpasses unity. The unified can move like one entity, can depart like one entity. The Yellow Emperor said:’Unification approaches the correct way of using troops and touches on the pinnacle of using troops.’ Its employment lies in the seizing opportunity; its manifestation lies in the disposition; its success lies with the ruler. Thus the Kings from
antiquity termed weapons evil implements, and only when they had no alternatives, they employed them.”
“Today the Shang Emperor knows about existence, but not about perishing. He knows pleasure but not disaster. Now existence does not lie in existence, but in thinking about perishing. Pleasure does not lie in pleasure but in contemplating disaster. Now that you have already pondered the source of such changes, why do you trouble yourself about the future flow of events?”
Deceptions To Gain The Upper Hand
King Wu said:”Suppose two armies encounter each other. The enemy cannot come forward, and we cannot go forward. Each side goes about establishing fortifications and defenses without daring to be the first to attack. If I want to launch a sudden attack but lack advantage, what should I do?”
Tai Gong said:”Make an outward display of confusion while actually being well-ordered. Show an appearance of hunger while actually being well-fed. Make an outward display of lacking fighting spirit but rally and maintain the morale high. Have some troops come together, others split up; some assemble, others scatter to create an outward display of indiscipline. Make secret plans, keep you intentions secret. Raise the height of fortifications, and conceal your elite troops for ambush purposes. If the officers are silent, not making any sounds, the enemy will not know our preparations. The we can implement ‘Feign an attack in the east and attack in the west’.”
King Wu said:”If the enemy knows my true situation and has thorough knowledge of my plans, what should I do?”
Tai Gong said:”The technique for military conquest is to carefully investigate the enemy’s intentions and quickly take advantage of them, launching a sudden attack where unexpected.”
When To Start A War
King Wen, in the capital of Feng, summoned Tai Gong:”Alas! The Shang King is extremely perverse, judging the innocent guilty and having them executed. I would like to assist the people, how shall I proceed?”
Tai Gong replied:”You should cultivate your virtue and moral, submit to the guidance of Worthy men, extend beneficence to the people, and through this extension to make an observation of the ground sentiments. If sentiments at its worst, you cannot initiate the movement to revolt. If there are chaos in the society, your planning cannot precede them. Only when there are chaos and misfortune from nature and society, and only then can you make plans. You must look at the Shang King’s public performance, and his behaviour when not under the public eye, and only then will you know his mind. You must look at his external activities and moreover his internal ones, and only then will you know his thoughts. You must observe who he distances himself away from and who he get close to, and only then will you know his emotions.”
Uniting The Whole State
“If you implement the Way, the Way can be attained. If you take the correct action, the result can be attained. If you set up the proper forms of policies and systems, they can be set up and implemented easily. If you fight to be strong, the strong can be conquered. If you can attain complete victory without fighting, without the great army suffering any losses, you will have penetrated even the realm of ghosts and spirits. How marvelous! How subtle!”
“If you suffer the same illness as other people and you will aid each other; if you have the same ambitions you will assist each other to complete; the same hatreds and assist each other; and the same likes and seek them together. As such, without any armored soldiers you will win; without any battering rams, you will have attacked, without moats and ditches, you will have defended.”
Governing The State
“The wise acts unwise; the greatest plans act as though not planned at all(secrecy); the greatest courage is not courage alone; the greatest gain is not to profit his own. If you profit all under you, all will be open themselves to you, accepting you. If you harm all under you, all under you will be closed from you. All under Heaven is not the property of one man but of all under Heaven. If you want all under Heaven, it is as if pursuing some wild animal, and then all under Heaven will want a piece of meat. It is similar to you and all under you riding in the same boat to cross over the water, after completing the crossing you will all have profited. However, if you fail to make the crossing, then you will all suffer the harm. If you act as if you’re all on the same vessel, the empire will be open to your aim and none will be closed to you.”
“He who does not take from the people, takes the people. He who does not take from the state, takes the state. He who does not take from anything under Heaven, will take all under Heaven. He who does not take from the people, the people will profit. He who does not take from the states, states will profit. He who does not take from all under Heaven, all under Heaven will profit. Thus such actions lies in it cannot be seen; such affairs lie in it cannot be heard; and victory lies in what cannot be known. How marvelous! How subtle!”
“When an eagle is about to attack, it will fly low and draw in its wings. When a fierce wild cat is about to strike, it will lay back its ears and crouch down low. When the Sage is about to move, he will display a stupid countenance.”
“Now there is the case of Shang, where the people confuse and suspicious of each other. Mixed up and extravagant, the Shang Emperor indulgence in pleasure and sex is boundless. This is a sign of a doomed state. I have observed their fields – weeds and grass overwhelm the crops itself. I have observed their people – the perverse and crooked overcome the straight and upright. I have observed their officials – they are violent, perverse, inhumane and evil. They overthrow the laws and make chaos of the punishments. People from all ranks have not awakened to this state of affairs. It is time for their state to perish.”
“When the sun appears, the myriad of things is all illuminated. When great righteousness appears, the myriad of things will all profit. When the great army appears, the myriad of things will all submit. Great is the virtue of the Sage! Listening by himself, seeing by himself, this is his pleasure!”
How A Sage Governs
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”What does the Sage govern?”
Tai Gong said:”What worries does he have? What constraints? The myriad things will realize their positions naturally. What constraints, what worries? The myriad things all flourish naturally. No one should realize the transforming influence of government similar to no one realizes the effects of the passing of time. The Sage takes actionless action, and the myriad of things are transformed. What is exhausted? When things reach the end, they return again to the beginning. Relaxed and complacent he turns about seeking it. Seeking it, he gains it and cannot but store it. Having already stored it, he cannot but implement it. Having already implemented it, he does not turn about and make it clear that he did so. Now because Heaven and Earth need not let everyone know how it works, they are forever able to give birth to the myriad things. The Sage does not pronounce what it doing and he is able to attain glorious name.”
3 Greats Of Governance
“The Sages of antiquity assembled people together as families, assembled families to compose states, and assembled states to constitute the realm of all under Heaven. They divided the realm and enfeoffed worthy men to administer the states. They officially designated this order the ‘Great Order’.”
“They promulgated the government’s instructions and accorded with the people’s customs. They transformed the multitude of ‘crooked’ behaviour into ‘straight’, changing their form and appearance. Although the customs of various states were not the same, they all took pleasure in their respective places. The people loved their rulers, so they termed this transformation as the ‘Great settlement’.”
“Ah, the Sage concentrates on educating and transforming without notice, they Worthy focuses on rectifying themselves, using themselves as example. The stupid man cannot be transform others not rectify himself, therefore he contends with other men. When the ruler creates too much rules, punishment becomes numerous. When punishment is numerous, the people are troubled. When the people are troubled, they leave and wander off. No one, of whatever position, can be settled in his life, and generations on end have no rest, this they termed the ‘Great Loss’.”
Governing The Populace
“The people of the world are like flowing water. If you obstruct it, it will stop. If you open a way, it will flow. If it is quiet, it will be clear. How spiritual! When the Sages sees the beginning, he knows the end.”
King Wen asked:”How does one be at harmony with them?”
Tai Gong said:”Heaven has its constant forms, the people have their normal lives. If you work together with them, then the relationship will be tranquil. The pinnacle is to accord with them, the next-highest is to transform them. When the people are transformed and follow their government, then affairs can be completed even when no actions are taken. The people are enriched even if no one gives them. This is the virtue of the Sage.”
King Wen said:”What you have said accords with what I embrace. From dawn to night, I will think about it, never forgetting it, employing it as our constant principle.”
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”What are the methods of civil offense?”
Tai Gong replied:”There are twelve methods of civil offense.”
First, accord with what he likes in order to accommodate his wishes. This will feed his arrogance and invariably mount some perverse affair. We can then use the situation to our advantage and be able to eliminate him.
Second, be close with those he loves in order to fragment his awesomeness. When men have two different inclinations, their loyalty invariably declines. When his court no longer has any loyal ministers, the state will inevitably be endangered.
Third, covertly bribe his assistants, fostering a deep relationship with them. While they stand in his court physically, their thoughts and inclinations will be directed outside it. The state will certainly suffer harm.
Fourth, assist him in his licentiousness and indulgence in music in order to dissipate his will. Present him generous gifts of pearls and jade, ply him with beautiful women. Speak deferentially, listen respectfully, follow his commands, and accord with him in everything. He will never imagine you might be in conflict with him and unleash his treacherous ways.
Fifth, treat his loyal officials generously, but reduce your gifts to the ruler. When the ruler comes as emissary, delay him and do not listen to him. When he eventually dispatches other men, treat them with sincerity, embrace and trust them. The ruler will then again feel you are in harmony with him. If you manage to treat his formerly loyal officials very generously, his state can then be plotted against.
Sixth, make secret alliances with his favored ministers, sow discord between the ruler and his officials that are not in court. Make his talented people assist other enemy states. Get other enemy states to encroach upon his territory. Few states in such situation have survived.
Seventh, if you want to get his trust, you must offer generous gifts. To gather in his assistants, loyal associates and loved ones, you must secretly show them the gains, they can realize by colluding with you. Have them slight their work and then their preparation will be futile.
Eighth, present him with great treasures, and make plans with him. When the plans are successful and profit him, he will have faith in you because of the profits. This is what is termed ‘being closely embraced’. The result of being closely embraced is that he will inevitably be used by us. When someone rules a state but is externally controlled, his territory will inevitably be defeated.
Ninth, honor him with praise. Do nothing that will cause him personal discomfort. Display the proper respect accruing to a great power, and you will certainly be trusted. Magnify his honor; be the first to gloriously praise him, humbly embellishing him as a Sage. Then his state will suffer great losses.
Tenth, be submissive so that he will trust you, and thereby learn about his true situation. Accept his ideas and respond to his affairs as if you were twins. Once you have learned everything, subtly control him. Thus when the ultimate day arrives, it will seem as if Heaven wants him destroyed.
Eleventh, block up his channels of information. Among his subordinates, there is no one who does not value rank and wealth nor hate danger and misfortune. Secretly express great respect towards them, and gradually bestow valuable gifts in order to gather the outstanding talents.
Accumulate your own resources until they become very substantial, but put up an external appearance of shortage. Covertly bring in wise knights, and entrust them with planning great strategy. Attract courageous generals, and augment their spirit. Even when they are more sufficiently rich and honored, constantly add to their riches. When your faction has been fully established, you will have attained the objective referred to as blocking his information channels. If someone has a state but his information channels are blocked, how can he be considered as having the state?
Twelfth, support his dissolute officials in order to confuse him. Introduce beautiful women and licentious sounds in order to befuddle him. Send him outstanding dogs and horses in order to tire him (through hunting). From time to time, allow him great power in order to entice him to greater arrogance. Then investigate the signs and plot with the world against him.
When these twelve methods are fully employed, they will become a military weapon, Thus when, as it is said, one all indications and signs. Once the proper signs are already visible, attack him.
According Wiithii The People
King Wen asked Tai Gong:”What should one do so that he can govern the populace?”
Tai Gong said:”When your greatness overspreads the populace, only then will you be able to encompass it. When your trustworthiness has overspread populace, only then will you be able to make covenants with it. When your
benevolence has overspread populace, only then will you be able to embrace it. When your grace has overspread populace, only then can you preserve it. When your authority covers the populace, only then will you be able not to lose it. Govern without doubt, similar to the revolutions of heaven or the changes of the seasons, nothing can change them. Only when these six are complete will you be able to establish governance over populace.
Accordingly, one who profits populace will find populace open to him,. One who harms populace will find populace closed to him. If one gives life to populace, populace will regard him as virtuous. If one kills populace, populace will want to get rid of him. If one accords to populace, populace will be accessible to him; if one impoverishes populace, populace will regard him as their enemy. One who gives peace to populace, populace will rely on; one who endangers populace, populace will view as a disaster. Populace is not the realm of one man. Only one who run it according to the Way can dwell in the position of authority.”
King Wu inquired of Tai Gong: I want to attain our aim of overthrowing the Shang, but I have three doubts. I am afraid that our strength will be inadequate to attack the strong, unable to estrange his close supporters within the court and unable to cause disunity between Shang and his people. What should I do?
Tai Gong replied: Accord with the situation, be very cautious in making plans, and employ your material resources. Now in order to attack the strong, you must nurture their arrogance, and increase them to make them even more extended. What is too arrogant will certainly fall; what is too extended must have deficiencies. Attack the strong through growing his arrogance. Cause estrangement of his favored officials by using their favorites, and cause disharmony with his people by means of people.
Now in the way of planning, thoroughness and secrecy are treasured. You should become involved with him in numerous affairs and ply him with temptations of profit. Conflict will then surely rise.
If you want to cause his close supporters to become estranged from him, you must do it by using what he favor – making gifts to those he favors, giving them what they want. Tempt them with what they find profitable, use them to sow discord between ruler and close supporters, and causing the close supporters to be unable to attain their ambitions. Those who covet profits will extremely happy at the prospects, and they will continue seeding doubts among the close supporters and the ruler.
Now without doubt the Way for attacking is to first obfuscate the king’s clarity and then attack his army, destroying his greatness and eliminating the misfortune of the people. Debauch him with beautiful women, entice him with profit. Nurture him with (food) flavors and provide him with the company of female musicians. Then after you have caused his subordinates to become estranged from him, you must cause the people to grow distant from him while never letting him know of your plans. Appear to support him and draw him into your trap. Do not let him become aware of what is happening, for only then can you plan be successful.
When bestowing your beneficence on the people, you cannot begrudge the expenses. People are similar to cows and horses. Frequently make gifts of food and clothing and follow up by loving them.
The mind is the means to open knowledge; knowledge is the means to open up the source of wealth; and wealth is the means to open up the people. Gaining allegiance of the people is the way to attract worthy men. When one is enlightened by sagely advisers, he can govern all under Heaven.
King Wu asked Tai Gong: “When the king commands the army he must have ‘legs and arms’ [top assistants] and ‘feather and wings’ [aides] to bring about his awesomeness and spiritual-ness how should this be done?”
Tai Gong said: “Whenever one mobilizes the army, the commanding general should be the one giving orders. He must have an understanding of all aspects, not depending on one technique alone. In accord with their abilities, assign duties – each one taking charge of what they are good at, constantly changing and transforming the duties assign with the times, to create the essential principles and order. Thus the general has seventy two assistants in order to respond to the events that happened. Prepare the number according to the method, being careful that they know its orders and principles. When you have all the different abilities and various skills, then the myriad of affairs will be complete.”
King Wu asked:”May I ask about numbers?”
Tai Gong said:”Trusted aide, one: in charge of advising about secret plans for responding to sudden events; observe the signs from Heaven so as to eliminate sudden change; exercising general supervision over all planning; and protecting and preserving the lives of the people.
Advisors, five: responsible for preparing measures of security and against danger; anticipating the unforeseen; evaluating performance and ability of generals; announce rewards and punishments; appointing ranks to officers; make difficult decision; and determining what is advisable and what is not.
Astrologers, three: undertaking responsibility for the stars and calendar; observing the weather; predicting auspicious days and times; investigating signs and phenomena; verifying disasters and abnormalities; and knowing Heaven’s mind with regard to the moment for completing or abandonment.
Topographers, three: in charge of gathering information on the terrains that the army will pass by; precipitous and easy passages, both near and far; and water and dry land, mountains and defiles, so as not to lose the advantages of terrain.
Military Strategists, nine: responsible for discussing divergent views; analyzing the probable success or failure of various operations; selecting the weapons and training men in their use; and identifying those who violate the ordinances.
Supply officers, four: responsible for calculating the requirements for food and water; preparing the food stocks and supplies and transporting the provisions along the route; and supplying the fives grains so as to ensure that the army will not suffer any hardship or shortage.
Guerilla Officers, four: responsible for picking men of talent and strength; disbursing weapons and armor; for setting up attacks that strike like thunder so that the enemy does not know where they come from.
Signal officers, three: responsible for the pennants and drums, for clearly signaling to the eyes and ears; for creating deceptive signs and seals to issue false designation and orders; and for stealthily and hastily moving back and forth, going in and out like spirits.
‘Limbs and Arms’ [Capable Assistants], four: responsible for undertaking heavy duties and handling difficult tasks; for the repair and maintenance of ditches and moats; and for keeping the walls and ramparts in order to defend against and repel the enemy.
Liaison officers, two: responsible for gathering what has been lost and supplementing what is in error; receiving honored guests; holding discussions and talks; mitigating disasters; and resolving difficulties.
Officers of Authority, three: responsible for implementing the unorthodox and deceptive; for establishing the different and unusual, things that people do not recognize; and for putting into effect, inexhaustible transformations.
Information Gatherer, seven: responsible for going about everywhere, listening to what people are saying; and observing the officers all directions and gather information on army’s true situations.
‘Claws and Teeth’, five: responsible for raising awesomeness; for stimulating and encouraging the Army, causing them to risk danger and attack the enemy’s elite troops without ever having any doubts or second thoughts.
‘Feathers and Wings’, four: responsible for flourishing the name and fame of the army; for shaking distant lands with its image; and for moving all within the four borders in order to weaken the enemy’s spirit.
Roving officers, eight: responsible for spying put enemy’s spies; manipulating enemy’s populace emotions; and observing the enemy’s thoughts. Basically they performs the function of spies.
Mediums, two: responsible for spreading slander and falsehoods and for calling on ghosts and spirits in order to confuse the minds of the populace.
Medical Officers, three: in charge of the medicines; managing blade wounds; and curing the various illnesses.
Accountants, two: responsible for accounting for the provisions and foodstuff within the Three Armies’ encampments and ramparts; for the fiscal materials employed; and for receipts and disbursements.
Discussion Of Generals
King Wu asked Tai Gong: What should a general be?
Tai Gong replied: Generals should have five important characteristics and should not have ten flawed characters.
King Wu asked: Can you please elaborate?
Tai Gong elaborated: What we refer to the five important characteristics are courage, wisdom, benevolence, trustworthiness and loyalty. If he is courageous, he cannot be overwhelmed. If he is wise, he cannot be forced into turmoil. If he is benevolent, he will love his men. If he is trustworthy, he will not be deceitful. If he is loyal, he will always have interest on the state.
What are referred to as the ten flawed characters are as follows: being courageous and treating death lightly; being hasty and impatient; being greedy and lust for gains; being benevolent but unable to inflict suffering; being wise but afraid; being trustworthy and liking to trust others; being unscrupulous and incorruptible but not loving men; being wise but indecisive; being resolute and self-reliant; being fearful and very dependent on people.
One who is courageous and treats death lightly can be antagonized and destroyed. One who is hasty and impatient can be destroyed by dragging the war. One who is greedy and loves profit can be bribed. One who is benevolent but unable to inflict suffering can be worn down. One who is wise but fearful can be threatened.
One who is trustworthy and likes to trust others can be deceived. One who is scrupulous and incorruptible can be insulted. One who is wise but indecisive can carry surprise attack against him. One who is resolute and self-reliant can use words to pay obeisance to him. One who is fearful and likes to entrust responsibility to others can be tricked.
Thus ‘War is of vital importance to the state, it is a matter of survival or extinction.’ The fate of the state lies in the hands of the general. ‘The general is the pillar of the state,’ thus the position is what all former kings all valued. Thus in commissioning a general, you cannot but carefully evaluate and investigate his characters.
Thus it is said that two armies will not be victorious, nor will both be defeated. When the army ventures out beyond the borders, before they have been out ten days – even if a state has not perished – one army will certainly have been destroyed and the general killed.
King Wu exclaimed: Marvelous!
King Wu asked Tai Gong: If a king wants to raise an army, how should he go about selecting and generals and determining qualifications?
Tai Gong said: There are fifteen cases where a general’s external appearance and internal character are not coherent. These are:
- He appears to be a gentleman but is actually immoral.
- He seems kind-hearted but is a thief.
- His countenance is reverent and respectful, but his heart is insolent
- Externally he is incorruptible and circumspect, but he lacks respect.
- He appears perceptive and sharp but lacks such talent.
- He appears profound but lacks all sincerity.
- He appears adept at planning but is indecisive.
- He appears to be decisive and daring but is incapable.
- He appears guileless but is not trustworthy.
- He appears confused and disoriented but on the contrary is loyal and substantial.
- He appears to engage in specious discourse but is a man of merit and achievement.
- He appears courageous but is afraid.
- He seems severe and remote but on the contrary easily befriends men.
- He appears forbidding but on the contrary is quiet and sincere.
- He who appears weak and insubstantial, yet when dispatched outside the state there is nothing he does not accomplish, no mission that he does not execute successfully.
Those who the world disdains, the Sage values. Ordinary men cannot see through them; only great wisdom can discern them out. This is because the general’s external appearance and internal character do not visibly cohere.
King Wu asked: How does one know this?
Tai Gong replied: There are eight forms of tests by which you may know it. First, question them and observe the details of their reply. Second, verbally confound and perplex them and observe how they react. Third, send a spy out to test his loyalty. Fourth, clearly and explicitly question them what you already know to see his character. Fifth, appoint them to positions of financial responsibility to observe their honesty. Sixth, test them with beautiful women to observe their uprightness and character.
Seventh, confront them with difficulties to observe their courage. Eighth, get them drunk to observe their conduct. When all eight have been fully explored, then their character, values and morals can be distinguished.
King Wu asked Tai Gong: What is the process of appointing the commanding general?
Tai Gong said:”When the state encounters danger, the ruler should avoid the Main Hall, summon the general and charge him as follows: ‘The security or endangerment of the state all lie with the army’s commanding general. At present such-and-such state does not act properly submissive. I would like you to lead the army forth to respond to it.’ “
After the general has received his mandate, command the Grand Scribe to bore the sacred tortoise shell to divine an auspicious day. Thereafter, to prepare for the chosen day, observe a vegetarian regime for three days, and then go to the ancestral temple to hand over the.
After the ruler has entered the gate to the temple, he stands facing the west. The general enters the temple gate and stands facing north. The ruler personally takes the head of Axe of Authority, saying: ‘From this to Heaven above, will be controlled by the General of the Army.’ Then taking the handle of Axe of Authority, he hand it to the general, saying: ‘From this to the depths below, will be controlled by the General of the Army. When you see weaknesses in the enemy, you should advance; when you see that they are strong, you should halt. Do not assume that having the numerical advantage, we can treat the enemy lightly. Do not commit yourself to die just because you have received a heavy responsibility. Do not, because you are honored, regard other men as lowly. Do not be self opinionated and contravene the masses. Do not take verbal facility to be a sign of certainty. When officers have not yet been seated, do not sit. When the officers have not yet eaten, do not eat. You should share hardship with them. If you behave in this way the officers and masses will certainly exhaust their strength in fighting to the death.’
After the general have received his mandate, he bows and responds to the ruler: ‘I have heard that a country cannot follow the commands of another state’s government, while an army in the field cannot follow central government control. A general with two minds cannot properly serve his ruler; general in doubt cannot respond to the enemy. I have already received my mandate and taken sole control of the awesome power of Axe of Authority. I do not dare return alive. I would like to request that you condescend to grant complete and sole command to me. If you do not permit it, I dare not accept the post of the commanding general.’ The king then grants it, and the general formally takes his leaves and departs.
Military matters are not determined by the ruler’s commands; they all proceed from the commanding general. When the commanding general approaches an enemy and decides to engage in battle, he is not of two minds. In this way, there is no Heaven above, no Earth below, no enemy in front and no ruler to the rear. For this reason, the wise make plans for him, the courageous fight for him. Their fighting spirit soars to the sky; they are swift like galloping steeds. Even before the blades clash, the enemy surrenders submissively.
War is won outside the borders of the state, but the general’s merit is established within it. Officials are promoted and receive the highest rewards; the populace rejoices; and the general credited. For this reason, natural systems will run smoothly; the grains will grow abundantly; and the whole state will be secure and peaceful.
King Wu said: Excellent!
King Wu asked:”How does the general create and establish his awesomeness? How can he be enlightened? How can he make his prohibitions effective and get his orders implemented?”
Tai Gong said:”The general create awesomeness by punishing the higher authority or ranks, and become enlightened by rewarding the lower ranking. Prohibitions and laws are made effective by implementing punishments carefully. Therefore if by executing one man can impact the whole army, kill him. If by rewarding one man the masses will be pleased, reward him. In executing, effect is greater when performed on the high ranking; in rewarding, effect is greater when bestowed onto low ranking. When you kill the powerful and the honored, it shows that punishment is not limited to low ranking only. When rewards extend down to the cowherds, grooms, and stablemen, it shows that rewards are not limited to high ranking only. When punishments reach the highest rank and rewards penetrate to the lowest rank, then your awesomeness has been affected and established.”
Motivating The Army
King Wu asked Tai Gong:” When we attack, I want the soldiers to contend with each other to scale the wall first, and compete with each other to be in the forefront when we fight in the field. When they hear the sounds of the gongs to retreat they will be angry, when they hear the sounds of the drums to advance, they will be happy. How can we accomplish this?”
Tai Gong said:”A general has three techniques for attaining victory.”
King Wu asked:”May I ask what they are?”
Tai Gong said:”If in winter, the general does not wear a fur robe, in summer, does not carry a fan, and in rain does not set up a canopy, he is called a ‘general of propriety.’ Unless the general himself submits to these observances, he will not have the means to know the cold and warmth of officers and soldiers.
If, when they advance into ravines and obstacles or encounter muddy terrain, the general always takes the first steps and lead the army, he is termed a ‘general of action.’ If general does not personally set an example through action, he has no means to know the labors and hardships of the officers and soldiers.
If only after the men are settled in their encampment does the general retire; only after all the cooks have finished their cooking does he go in to eat; and if the army does not light up, he also does not light up, he is termed as a ‘general who can control desires.’ Unless the general himself practices controlling his desires, he has no way to know the hunger and satiety of the officers and troops.
The general shares heat and cold, labor and suffering, hunger and satiety with the officers and men. Therefore, when the soldiers hear the sound of the drum, they are happy, and when they hear the sound of the gong, they are angry. When attacking at high wall or crossing a deep lake, under a hail of arrows and stones, the officers will compete to be the first to scale the wall. When the blades clash, the officers will compete to be the first to go forward.
It is not because they like death and take pleasure in being wounded, but because the general knows their feelings of heat and cold, hunger and satiety, and clearly displays his knowledge of their labor and suffering.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”If we lead the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords and the army suddenly suffer some delay or require urgent action – perhaps a situation to our advantage or one to our disadvantage – and I want to communicate between those nearby and those afar, respond to the situation from the central government, in order to meet the needs of the army – how should we do it?”
Tai Gong said:”The ruler and his generals have a system of secret tallies, altogether consisting of eight types.”
“There is a tally signifying a great victory over the enemy, one foot long.
There is a tally for destroying the enemy’s army and killing their general, nine inches long.
There is a tally for capturing enemy’s cities, eight inches long.
There is a tally for driving the enemy back and reporting deep penetration, seven inches long.
There is a tally to alert the army to prepare for stalwart defensive measures, six inches long.
There is a tally that request for supplies and additional soldiers, five inches long.
There is a tally signifying the army’s defeat and the general’s death, four inches long.
There is a tally signifying the army’s defeat and injuries to the army, three inches long.”
“For those who bring in the information late, or if the information from the tally should leak out, execute all those who heard and told about it. These eight tallies which only the ruler and general should secretly know, provide a technique for covert communication that will not allow outsiders to know the true situation. Thus, even though the enemy has the sagacious wisdom of a Sage, no one will comprehend their significance.”
King Wu said:”Excellent!”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”The army has been lead deep into the territory of the feudal lords and the commanding general wants implement changes and make complicated plans. These matters are quite complex and the simple tally is not adequate to clearly express them, As they are separated by some distance, verbal communication cannot get through. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”Whenever you have secret affairs and major considerations, letters should be employed rather than tallies. The ruler sends a letter to the general; the general uses a letter to query the ruler. The letters are composed ‘as one unit and then divided. They are sent out in three parts, with only one person knowing the contents’. ‘Divided’ means it is separated into three parts. ‘Sent out in three parts, with only one person knowing’ means there are three messengers, each carrying one part; and when the three are put together, only then does one know the contents. This is then refer to as a ‘secret letter’. Even if the enemy has sagacious wisdom, they will not be able to recognize the contents.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”What is the Way of aggressive warfare?”
Tai Gong replied:”Army’s attacking disposition should change in accord with the enemy’s movements. And changes coming from the confrontation between the two armies. Unorthodox and orthodox tactics are produced from inexhaustible resources of the mind. Thus the greatest affairs are not discussed, and employment of troops is not spoken about. Moreover, words which discuss ultimate affairs are not not to be discussed openly. The employment of troops is not so definitive as to be visible. They go suddenly, they come suddenly. Only when someone who can exercise sole control over the army, without being governed by other men, is a military weapon.”
“If your plans are heard about, the enemy will make counterplans. If you are perceived, they will plot against you. If your objectives are known, they will put you in difficulty. If you are fathomed, they will endanger you.”
“Thus one who excels in warfare has already won before the deployment of forces. One who excels at eliminating the misfortunes of the people manages them before they appear. Conquering the enemy, being victorious by being formless. The superior fighter has won before engaging in battle. Thus one who fights and attains victory in using blades is not a good general. One who makes preparation after the battle has been lost is not a superior sage. One whose skill is the same as the masses is not a superior artisan.”
“In military affairs, nothing is more important than certain victory. In employing the army, nothing is more important than obscurity and silence. In movement, nothing is more important than the unexpected. In planning, nothing is more important than not being knowable. To be the first to gain victory, initially display some weakness to the enemy and only afterward do battle. Then your effort will be half, but the achievement will be doubled.”
“The Sage observes signs from the movements of Heaven and Earth and knows its principles. He observes the movement of the sun and the moon and understand their seasonal activity. He follows the cycles of day and night, taken them as his constant. All things have life and death in accord with the principles of Heaven and Earth. Thus it is said that if one fights before understanding the situation, even if he is more numerous, he will certainly be defeated.”
“One who excels at warfare will await events in the situation without making any movement. When he sees he can be victorious, he will arise; if he sees he cannot be victorious, he will desist. Thus it is said that he does not have any fear, he does not vacillate. Of the many harms that can beset an army, indecision is the greatest. Of disasters that can befall an army, none surpasses doubt.”
“One who excels in warfare will not lose an advantage when he perceives it or be doubtful when he meets the opportunity. One who loses an advantage or lags behind the time for action will, on the contrary, suffer from disaster. Thus the wise follow the time and do not lose an advantage; the skilful are decisive and have no doubts. He strikes like a sudden clap of thunder, which does not give time to cover ears; strike like a flash of lightning, which does not give time to close the eyes. Advance as is suddenly startled; employ your troops as if deranged. Those who oppose you will be destroyed; those who come near will perish. Who can defend against such an attack?”
“Now when matters are not discussed and general preserves their secrecy, he is superior. When things are not manifest but he discerns them, he is wise. Thus if superior and wise, no enemies will act against him in the field, nor will any state stand against him.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:” In general, what are the most essential in the art of employing the army?”
Tai Gong replied:”The ancients who excelled at warfare does not mean he excel in waging war above Heaven, nor they waging war below Earth. Their success and defeat in all cases proceeded from their spirit like disposition. Those how attained it flourish; those who lost it perished.
Now when our two armies, opposing each other, have deployed their armored soldiers and established their battle arrays, releasing some of your troops to create chaos in the ranks is the means by which to fabricate deceptive changes.
Deep Grass and dense growth are the means by which to effect a concealed escape.
Valleys with streams and treacherous ravines are the means by which to stop chariots and defend against cavalry.
Narrow passes and mountains forests are the means by which a few can attack a large force.
Marshy depressions and secluded dark areas are the means by which to conceal your appearance.
Deploying on clear, open ground without any concealment is the means by which to fight with strength and courage.
Being as swift as flying arrow, attacking as suddenly as the release of a crossbow are the ways by which to destroy brilliant plans.
Setting up ingenious ambushes and preparing indirect troops, stretching out distant formations to deceive and entice the enemy are the means by which to destroy the enemy’s army and capture its general.
Dividing your troops are the means by which by attack their circular formations and destroy their square ones.
Taking advantage of their fright and fear is the means by which one can attack ten.
Taking advantage of their exhaustion and encamping at dusk are the means by which ten can attack one hundred.
Unorthodox technical skills are the means by which to cross deep waters and ford across rivers.
Strong crossbows and long weapons are the means by which to fight across water.
Distant observation posts and far-off scouts, explosive haste and feigned retreats are the means by which to force the surrender of walled fortifications and compel the submission of towns.
Drumming and advance and setting up a great tumult are the means by which to implement unorthodox plans.
Attacking during high winds and heavy rain are the means by which to strike the front and seize the rear.
Disguising some men as enemy emissaries is the means by which to sever supply lines.
Forging enemy commands and orders and wearing the same clothes as the enemy are the means by which to be prepared for retreat.
Warfare which is invariably in accord with righteousness is the means by which to incite masses and be victorious over the enemy.
Honored ranks and generous rewards are the means by which to encourage obeying orders.
Severe punishments and heavy fines are the means by which to force the weary and indolent to advance.
Happiness and anger, bestowing and taking away, civil and martial measures, at times slowly, at others rapidly – all these are the means by which to order and harmonize the army, to govern and unify subordinates.
Occupying high ground is the means by which to be alert and assume a defensive posture.
Holding defiles and narrows is the means by which to be solidly entrenched defensively.
Mountain forests and dense growth are the means by which to come and go silently.
Deep moats, high ramparts, and large reserves of supplies are the means by which to fight a prolong wall.
Thus it is said, ‘One who does not know how to plan for aggressive warfare cannot be spoken with about the enemy. One who cannot divide and move his troops about cannot be spoken with about unorthodox strategies. One who does not have deep understanding of both order and chaos cannot be spoken with about changes.’
Accordingly it is said:’If the general is not benevolent, then the army will not be close to or support him. If the general is not courageous, then the army will not be fierce. If the general is not wise, then the army will be in doubts. If the general is not perspicacious, then the army will be confounded. If the general is not quick-witted and acute, then the army will lose the opportunity. If the general is not constantly alert,
the army will be weak in defense. If the general is not strong and forceful, then the army will fail in their duty.’
Thus the general is the Master of Fate. The army is ordered because of him, and they are disordered because of him as well. If one obtains someone who is worthy to serve as general, the army will be strong and the state will prosper. If one does not obtain a worthy as general, the army will be weak and state will perish.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”From the sound of the pitch pipes, can we know the fluctuations of the army, foretell victory and defeat?”
Tai Gong said:”Your question is profound indeed! Now there are twelve pipes, with five major notes: Gong, Shang, Jiao, Zheng and Yu. These are basic, orthodox sounds, unchanged for over thousands of generations. The spirits of the five notes is similar to the five elements. Metal, wood, water, fire and earth – each according to their conquest relationship, can be employed to counteract each other – the five notes can be used to know more about the enemy.
In antiquity, during the period of the Three Sage Emperors, they use the nature of vacuity and non-action to govern the hard and strong. They didn’t have characters for writing; everything proceeded from in accordance to the behavior of the five elements. The behavior of the five elements is in accordance to Heaven and Earth. The division into the six jia is a realization of marvelous and subtle spirit.
Their method was, when the day had been clear and calm – without any clouds, wind or rain – to send light cavalry out in the middle of the night, to approach the enemy’s fortifications. Stopping about nine hundred paces away, they would all lift their pipes to their ears and then yell out to startle the enemy. There would be a very small, subtle sound that would respond in the pitch pipes.
If the Jiao note responded among the pipes, then we should attack from the west. If the Zhengnote responded in the pipes, then we should attack from the north. If the Shang note responded in the pipes, then we should attack from the south. If the Yu note responded in the pipes, then we should attack its center. If none of the notes responded, it is Gong, then we should attack from the east.
These signs of the five notes are evidence to assist in the conquest, the subtle moments of success and defeat.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
Tai Gong continued:”These subtle, mysterious notes all have external indications.”
“How can we know them?” King Wu asked.
Tai Gong replied:”When the enemy has been startled into movement, listen for them. If you hear the sound of the drums, then it is the Jiao. If you see the flash of lights from a fire, then it isZheng. If you hear the sounds of metals, that of spears and halberds, then it is Shang If you hear the sound of people sighing, it is Yu. If all is silent, without any sound, then it is Gong. These five are signs of sound and appearance.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Before engaging in battle I want to first know the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, to foresee indications of victory or defeat. How can this be done?”
Tai Gong replied:”Indications of victor or defeat will be first manifest in their spirit. The enlightened general will investigate them, for they will be evidenced in their behavior. Clearly observe the enemy’s coming and going, advancing and withdrawing. Investigate his movements and periods at rest, whether they speak about portents, what the officers and troops are talking about. If the army is exhilarated and the officers and troops fear the laws; respect the general’s commands; rejoice with each other in destroying the enemy; proud of each other’s courage and ferocity; and praise each other for their awesomeness and martial demeanor – these are indications of a strong enemy.
If the army startled a number of times, the officers and troops no longer maintaining good order; they terrify each other with stories about the enemy’s strength; they speak to each other about the disadvantages; they anxiously listening and talking to each other; they talk incessantly of ill omen, spreading doubts and confusing each other; they fear neither laws nor orders and do not regard their general seriously – these are indications of weakness.
When the armies are well ordered; strong fortified defence – with deep moats and high ramparts – and they enjoy the advantages of high winds and heavy rain; the army is untroubled; the signal flags and pennants point to the front; the sound of the gongs and bells crisp and clear; and the sound of the small and large drums clearly rises – these are indications of having obtained spiritual, assistance, foretelling a great victory.
When their formations are not solid; their flags and pennants confused and entangled with each other; they go contrary to the advantages of the high wind and heavy rain; their officers and troops are terrified; and their morale low while they are not unified; their war horses have been frightened and run off, their military chariots have broken axles; the sound of their gongs and bells sinks down and is murky; the sound of their drums is dull and not rousing – these are indications foretelling a great defeat.
In general, when you attack city walls or surround towns, if the color of the city’s aura is liked dead ashes, the city can be slaughtered. If the city’s aura drifts out to the north, the city can be conquered. If the city’s aura goes out and drifts to the west, the city can be forced to surrender. If the aura goes out and drifts to the south, it cannot be taken. If the city’s aura goes out and drifts to the east, the city cannot be attacked. If the city’s aura goes out and drifts back in, the city’s ruler has already fled. If the city’s aura goes out and overspreads our army, the soldiers will surely fall ill. If the city’s aura goes out and just rises up without any direction, the army will have to be employed for a long time. If, when you attacked a walled city or surrounded a town for more than ten days without thunder or rain, you must hastily abandon it, for the city must have a source of great assistance.
Those are the means by which to know that you can attack and then go on to mount the attack, or that you should not attack and therefore stop.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”The empire has achieved peace and is settled, and the state is not engaged in any conflict, can we dispense with maintaining the implements of war? Can we forego preparing for defense?”
Tai Gong replied:”The implements for offense and defense are fully found in ordinary human activity. Digging sticks serve as chevaux-de-frise, obstacles to movement. Oxen and horse-pulled wagons can be used in the encampment and as covering shields. The different hoes can be used as spears and spear tipped halberds. Raincoats of straw and large umbrellas serve as armor and protective shields. Large hoes, spades, axes, saws, mortars and pestles are tools for attacking walls. Oxen and horses are the means to transport provisions. Chickens and dogs serve as lookouts. The cloth that women weave serves as flags and pennants.
The method that the men use for leveling the fields is the same for attacking walls. The skill needed in spring to cut down grass and thickets is the same as needed for fighting against chariots and cavalry. The weeding method used in summer is the same as used in battle against foot soldiers. The grain harvested and the firewood cut in the fall will be provisions for the military. In the winter, well filled granaries and storehouses will ensure a solid defense.
The units formed in the fields and villages will provide the tallies and good faith that bind the men together. The villages have officials and the offices have chiefs, similar to a army having a general who can lead. The villages have walls surrounding them, which are not crossed; they provide the basis for the division into platoons. The transportation of grain and cutting of hay provide for the state storehouses and armories. The skills used in repairing the inner and outer walls in the spring and fall, can be used to build ramparts and fortifications.
Thus the tools and skills for employing the military are completely found in ordinary human activity. One who is good at governing a state will take them from ordinary human affairs. Then they must be made to accord with the good management of poultry, to the opening up of wild lands, and the settling of the people where they dwell. The husband has a number of acres that he farms, the wife a measured amount of material to weave – this is the way to enrich the state and strengthen the army.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”When the king mobilizes the armies, are there any rules for determining the army’s equipment, such as the implements for attack and defense, including type and quantity?”
Tai Gong said:”A great question, my king! The implements for attack and defense each have their own categories. These implements will affect the effectiveness of the army. The source of awesomeness of the army.”
King Wu said:”I would like to hear about them.”
Tai Gong replied:”As for the basic numbers when employing the army, if commanding ten thousand armed soldiers the rules for the various types of equipment and their employment are as follows.
Thirty-six Large Charging Chariots, with teams of skilled officers, strong crossbowmen, spear bearers, and halberdiers – for each side of the large chariots Altogether twenty four people in each chariots. The chariots have eight-foot wheels. On it, pennants and drums are set up. According to the art of war, such chariots are referred to as ‘Shaking Fear’. They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat strong enemies.
Seventy-two Large Flank Chariots equipped with teams of skilled officers, strong crossbowmen, spear bearers, and halberdiers comprise the flanks. They have five-foot wheels and winch-powered linked crossbows which fire multiple arrows for self-protection. They are used to penetrate solid formations and defeat strong enemies.
One hundred and forty-four Flank Supporting Small Chariots equipped with winch-powered linked crossbows to fire multiple arrows for self-protection. They have deer wheels and are used to penetrate solid formations and defeat strong enemies.
Thirty-six Crossbow Large Chariots equipped with skilled officers, strong crossbowmen, spear bearers, and halberdiers comprising the flanks, with ‘flying duck’ and ‘lightning’s shadow’ arrows for self protection. ‘Flying duck’ arrows have red shafts and white feathers, with bronze arrowheads. ‘Lightning’s shadow’ arrows have green shafts and red feathers, with iron heads. In the daytime, they display pennants of red silk six feet long by six inches wide, called ‘Blinding Light’. At nigh,
they hang pennants of white silk, also six feet long by six inches wide, called ‘Meteors’. They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat infantry and cavalry.
Thirty-six Great Attack Chariots. Carrying Praying Mantis Martial Warriors, they can attack both horizontal and vertical formations and can defeat the enemy.
Light Chariots for repelling mounted invaders, also called ‘Lightning Chariots’. The art of war refers to them as mounting ‘thunder attacks’. They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat both infantry and cavalry that are attacking at night.
One hundred and sixty Spear and Halberd Chariots, for repelling night invaders from the fore. Each carries three Praying Mantis Martial Knights. The art of war refers to them as mounting ‘thunder attacks’. They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat both infantry and cavalry.
Iron truncheons with large square heads weighting twelve catties, and shafts more than five feet long, twelve hundred of them. Also termed ‘Heaven’s Truncheon’. The Great Handle Fu Ax with an eight-inch blade weighing eight catties, and shaft more than five feet long, twelve hundred of them. Also termed ‘Heaven’s Ax’. Also the Iron Square Head Pounder, weighing eight catties, with a shaft of more than five feet, twelve hundred. Also termed ‘Heaven Pounder’. They are used to defeat infantry and hordes of mounted invaders. The Flying Hook, eight inches long. The curve of the hook is five inches long, the shaft is more than six feet long. Twelve hundred of them. They are thrown into the masses of soldiers to hook the soldiers.
To defend the army, deploy chariots equipped with wooden Praying Mantises and sword blades. Each chariots is twenty feet across, altogether twenty of them. On open, level ground the infantry can use them to defeat chariots and cavalry.
Wooden caltrops which stick out of the ground about two feet five inches, one hundred twenty. They are employed to defeat infantry and cavalry, to urgently press the attack against invaders, and to intercept their flight.
Short-axle Quick-turning Spear and Halberd Chariots, one hundred and twenty of them. They were employed by Yellow Emperor to vanquish Chi You. They are used to defeat both infantry and cavalry, to urgently press the attack against the invaders, and to intercept their flight.
For narrow roads and small bypaths, set out iron caltrops eight inches wide, having hooks four inches high and shafts of more than six feet, twelve hundred. They are for defeating retreating cavalry.
If, in darkness of night, the enemy should suddenly press an attack and the there are bound to be clashes, stretch out a ground net and spread out two arrow headed caltrops connected together with ‘weaving women’ – type caltrops on both sides.The points of the blades should be about two feet apart. Twelve thousand sets.
For fighting in wild expanses and in the middle of tall grass, there is the square-shank, arrow-shaped spear, twelve hundred of them. The method for deploying these spears is to have them stick out of the ground one foot five inches. They are used to defeat infantry and cavalry, to urgently press the attack against invaders and to intercept their flight.
In narrow roads and small bypaths, and constricted terrains, set out iron chains, one hundred twenty of them, to defeat infantry and cavalry, urgently press the attack against the invaders, and intercept their flight.
For protection and defense of the gates to fortifications, there are small mobile shields with spear and halberd tips affixed, twelve of them and winch-drive, multiple arrow crossbows for self-protection.
For the protection of the army, there are Heaven’s Net and Tiger’s Drop, linked together with chains, one hundred twenty of them. One array is fifteen feet wide and eight feet tall. For chariots with Tiger’s Drop and sword blades affixed, the array is fifteen feet wide and eight feet tall. Five hundred and twenty of them.
For crossing over moats and ditches, there is the Flying Bridge. One section is fifteen feet wide and more than twenty feet long. Eight of them. On top, there are swivel winches to extend them by linked chains.
For crossing over large bodies of water, there is the Flying River, eight of them. They are fifteen feet wide and more than twenty feet long and are extended by linked chains.
There is also the Heavenly Float with Iron Praying Mantis, rectangular inside, circular outside, four feet or more in diameter, equipped with winches. Thirty-two of them. When the Heavenly Floats are used to deploy the Flying River to cross a large lake, they are referred to as ‘Heaven’s Huang’ and also termed as ‘Heaven’s Boat’.
When in mountain forests or occupying the wilds, connect the Tiger’s Drops to make a fenced encampment. Employ iron chains, length of more than twenty fee, twelve hundred sets. Also employ large ropes with rings, girth of four inches, length of more than forty feet, six hundred; midsized ropes with rings, girth of two inches, length of forty feet or more, two hundred sets; and small braided cords with rings, length of twenty feet or more, twelve thousands.
Wooden canopies for covering the heavy chariots, called ‘Heaven’s Rain’, which fit together along serrated seams, each four feet wide and more than four feet long, one for each chariot. They are erected by using small iron posts.
For cutting trees, there is the Heavenly Ax, which weighs eight catties. Its handle is more than three feet long. Three hundreds of them. Also the mattock with a blade six inches wide and a shaft more than five feet long, three hundred.
Copper rams for pounding, more than five feet long, three hundred.
Eagle claws with square shafts, iron handles, and shafts more than seven feet long, three hundred.
Square-shafted iron pitchforks with handles more than seven feet long, three hundred.
Square-shafted double-pronged iron pitchforks with shafts more than seven feet long, three hundred.
Large sickles for cutting grass and light trees with shafts more than seven feet long, three hundred.
Great oar-shaped blades, weight of eight catties with shafts more than six feet long, three hundred.
Iron stakes with rings affixed at top, more than three feet long, three hundred.
Large hammers for pounding posts, weight of five catties, handles more than two feet long, on hundred twenty.
Armored soldiers, ten thousand. Strong crossbowmen, six thousand. Halberdiers with shields, two thousand. Spearmen with shields, two thousand. Skilled men to repair offensive weapons and sharpen them, three hundred.
These then are the general numbers required for each category when raising an army.”
King Wu said:”I accept your instructions.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”In employing the army, there are the Heavenly Formation, the Earthly Formation and the Human Formation. What are these?”
Tai Gong replied:”When you accord your formation to celestial objects like the sun and moon, the stars, the planets and the handle of the Big Dipper – one on the left, one on the right, one in front and one to the rear – this is referred to as the Heavenly Formation.
When you accord your formations to the hills and mounds, rivers and streams giving you advantage at the front, rear, left and right, this is referred to as the Earthly Formation.
When you create your formation according to the type of chariots and horses, the strategies that you are using, this is referred to as the Human Formation.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”If the enemy surrounds us, severing both our advance and retreat, breaking off our supply lines, what should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”These are the most distressed troops in the world! If you employ them explosively, you will be victorious; if you are slow to employ them, you will be defeated. In this situation, if you deploy your troops into ‘Four Martial Assault Formation’. Use your military chariots and valiant cavalry to assault and startle their army, and attack them with haste. Then you can thrust across them.”
King Wu asked:”After we have broken out of the encirclement, if we want to take advantage of it to gain victory, what should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”The Left Army should assault to the left and the Right Army should assault to the right. But do not get entangled in protracted fighting with the enemy over any one road. The Central Army should
alternately attack from the front and attack the rear. Even though the enemy is more numerous, their general can be driven off.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led our troops deep into the territory of the feudal lords where the enemy unites from all quarters and surrounds us, cutting off our road back home and severing our supply lines. The enemy is numerous and extremely well-provisioned, and gained the terrain advantage. We want get out – how can we?”
Tai Gong said:”In the matter of effecting a certain escape, your equipment is the key while courageous fighting is foremost. If you investigate and learn where in the enemy’s formation weakly defended, the places where there are no men, you can then effect a certain escape.
Order your generals and officers to carry the black pennants and take up the implements of war. Require the soldiers to put wooden gags into their mouths. Then move out at night. Men of courage, strength and swiftness, who will risk danger, should occupy the front to level enemy’s fortifications and open a passage for the army. Skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen should compose an ambushing force which will remain in the rear. Your weak soldiers, chariots and cavalry should occupy the middle. When deployment is complete, slowly advance, being very cautious not to startle or frighten the enemy. Have the Large Charging Chariots defend the front and rear and the Large Flank Great Chariots protect the left and right flanks.
If the enemy should be startled, have your courageous, strong risk-takers fervently attack and advance. The weaker troops, chariots and cavalry should bring up the rear. Your skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen should conceal themselves in ambush. If you determine that the enemy is in pursuit, the men lying in ambush should swiftly attack their rear. Make your fires and drums numerous to confuse the enemy, and attack as if coming out of the very ground or dropping from Heaven above. If the army fight courageously no one will be able to withstand us!”
King Wu said:”In front of us lies a large body of water, or broad moat, or deep water hole which we want to cross. However, we do not have equipments such as boats and oars. The enemy has fortifications and ramparts which limit our army’s advance and block off our retreat. Patrols are constantly watchful; passes are fully defended. Their chariots and cavalry press us in front; their fighters attacking us from the rear. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”Large bodies of water, broad moats and deep water holes are usually not defended by the enemy. If they are able to defended them, their troops will certainly be few. In such situations, you should use the Flying River with winches and also Heaven’s Huang to cross the army over. Our courageous, strong, skilled soldiers should move where we indicate, rushing into the enemy, breaking up his formations, all fighting to the death.
First of all, burn the supply wagons and provision, and clearly inform the men that those who fight courageously will live, while cowards will die. After they have broken out and crossed the bridges, order the rear elements to set a great conflagration visible from afar. The troops moving forth must take advantage of the cover afforded by grass, trees, hillocks and ravines ready to spring an ambush. The enemy’s chariots and cavalry will certainly not dare to pursue them too far. Using the flames as a marker, the first to go out should be ordered to proceed as far as the flame and then stop to reform into ‘Four Martial Assault Formation’. In this way, the army will be fervent and sharp and fight courageously, and no one will be able to withstand us.”
King Wu said:”Excellent!”
Planning For The Army
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we encounter deep streams or water in large valleys, ravines and defiles. Our army have not yet fully forded them when Heaven lets loose a torrent, resulting in a sudden flood surge. The rear can not maintain contact with the front portion. We don’t have equipment to cross the river and the supply has been cut off. I want to finish crossing, to keep the army from becoming bogged down. What should I do?”
Tai Gong said:“If the leader of the army and commander of the masses does not first establish his plans, the proper equipment will not be prepared. If his instructions are not precise and trusted, the officers and men will not be trained. Under such conditions, they cannot comprise a conquerors army.
In general, when the army is involved in a major campaign, everyone should be trained to use the equipment. For attacking a city wall or surrounding a town, there are armored assault chariots, overlook carts, and battering rams, while for seeing inside the walls, there are the ‘cloud ladders’ and ‘flying towers’. If advance of the army is stopped, then there are
Large Charging Chariots, for defending both front and rear. For severing roads and blocking streets, there are the skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen who control the two flanks. If you are encamping or building fortifications, there are the Heaven’s Net, the Martial Drop, the chevaux-King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we encounter deep streams or water in large valleys, ravines and defiles. Our army have not yet fully forded them when Heaven lets loose a torrent, resulting in a sudden flood surge. The rear can not maintain contact with the front portion. We don’t have equipment to cross the river and the supply has been cut off. I want to finish crossing, to keep the army from becoming bogged down. What should I do?”
Tai Gong said:“If the leader of the army and commander of the masses does not first establish his plans, the proper equipment will not be prepared. If his instructions are not precise and trusted, the officers and men will not be trained. Under such conditions, they cannot comprise a conquerors army.
In general, when the army is involved in a major campaign, everyone should be trained to use the equipment. For attacking a city wall or surrounding a town, there are armored assault chariots, overlook carts, and battering rams, while for seeing inside the walls, there are the ‘cloud ladders’ and ‘flying towers’. If advance of the army is stopped, then there are Large Charging Chariots, for defending both front and rear. For severing roads and blocking streets, there are the skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen who control the two flanks. If you are encamping or building fortifications, there are the Heaven’s Net, the Martial Drop, the chevaux-de-frise, and the caltrops.
In the daytime, climb the cloud ladder and look off into the distance. Set up five colored pennants and flags. At night, set out ten thousand fire-cloud torches, beat the thunder drums, strike the war drums and bells, and blow the sharp sounding whistles.
For crossing over moats and ditches, there are the Flying Bridges with mounted winches and cogs. For crossing large bodies of water, there are boats called Heaven’s Huang and Flying River. For going against the waves and up current, there are the rafts and the rope pulled River Severance. When the equipment to be used by the army is fully prepared, what worries will the commander-in-chief have?”
De-frise, and the caltrops
In the daytime, climb the cloud ladder and look off into the distance. Set up five colored pennants and flags. At night, set out ten thousand fire-cloud torches, beat the thunder drums, strike the war drums and bells, and blow the sharp sounding whistles.
For crossing over moats and ditches, there are the Flying Bridges with mounted winches and cogs. For crossing large bodies of water, there are boats called Heaven’s Huang and Flying River. For going against the waves and up current, there are the rafts and the rope pulled River Severance. When the equipment to be used by the army is fully prepared, what worries will the commander-in-chief have?”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Both the enemy and our army have reached the border where we are in a standoff. They can approach, and we can also advance. Both deployments are solid and stable; neither side dares to move first. We want to go forth and attack them, but they can also come forward as well. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”Divide the army into sections. Have our advance troops deepen the moats and increase the height of the ramparts, but none of the soldiers should go forth. Array the flags and pennants, beat the leather war drums, and complete all the defensive measure. Order our rear army to stockpile supplies and foodstuffs without causing the enemy to know our intentions. Then send forth our elite troops to secretly launch a sudden attack at their rear, striking where they do not expect it, attacking where they are not prepared. Since the enemy does not know our real situation, they will not advance.”
King Wu asked:”Suppose the enemy knows our real situation and has fathomed our plans. If we move, they will be able to know what we are up to. Thus they send forth their elite troops, concealed in the deep grass, to ambush us on the narrow roads. What should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”Every day have the vanguard go forth and instigate skirmishes with them in order to psychologically wear them out. Have our older and weaker soldiers to drag brushwood to stir up the dust, beat the drums and shot, and move back and forth – some going to the left, some to the right, never getting closer than a hundred paces from the enemy, to create an illusion that we have a large army. Their general will certainly become mentally fatigued, and their troops will become fearful. In this situation, the enemy will not dare come forward. Then our advancing troops will sometime continue forward to attack their interior, other
times their exterior. With our army all fervently engaging in battle, the enemy shall certainly be defeated.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led our troops deep into the territory of the feudal lords and are confronting the enemy. The two deployments, encamp across each other, are equal in numbers and strength, and neither dares to move first. I want to cause the enemy’s general to become terrified; their officers and men to become dispirited; their battle array to become weak; their reserve army wants to run off; and those deployed in front are shaken. I want to beat the drums, set up a clamor, and take advantage of it to attack and cause the enemy to run off. How can we do it?”
Tai Gong said:”In this case, send our troops out about ten li from the enemy’s rear and have them conceal themselves on both flanks. Send your chariots and cavalry out about one hundred li and have them assume positions to cut across both enemy’s front and rear. Multiply the number of flags and pennants, and increase the number of gongs and drums. When the battle starts, beat the drums, set up a clamor and have your men all rise up together. The enemy’s general will surely be afraid and his army will be terrified. Large and small groups cannot come to each other’s rescue; upper and lower ranks cannot help each other; and the enemy will definitely be defeated.”
King Wu asked:”Suppose the enemy has gained terrain advantage thus we cannot conceal troops on the flanks and moreover our chariots and cavalry have no way to cross behind them and assume positions to cut the enemy’s front and the rear. The enemy anticipates my plans and makes preemptive preparations. Our officers and soldiers are dispirited, our generals are terrified. If we engage in battle, we will not be victorious. What then?”
Tai Gong replied:”An interesting question. In this case, five days before engaging in battle, dispatch distant patrols to observe their activities and analyze their forward movement in order to prepare an ambush and await them. We must meet the enemy on ‘death’ ground’. Spread our flags and pennants out over great distance, disperse our arrays and formations. We must race forward to meet the enemy. After the battle has started, make a sudden retreat, beating the gongs to signal it. Withdraw about three li, beyond the ambush, then turn about and attack. Your concealed troops should simultaneously arise. Some should penetrate the flanks; others attack their vanguard and rear guard positions. If the army fervently engages in battle, the enemy will certainly run off.”
Gongs And Drums
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we are confronting the enemy. The weather has been either extremely hot or very cold, and it has been raining incessantly day and night for ten days. The ditches and ramparts are all collapsing; defiles and barricades are unguarded; our patrols have become negligent; and the officers and men are not alert. Suppose the enemy comes at night, and our army is unprepared while the upper and lower ranks are confused and disordered. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”In general, for the army, alertness makes for solidity, laziness results in defeat. Order our guards on the ramparts to unceasingly challenge everyone. Have all those bearing the signal flags, both inside and outside encampment, watch each other, responding to each other’s order with countersigns, but do not allow them to make any noise. All efforts should be externally oriented.
Three thousand men should comprise a detachment. Instruct and constrain them with warning, requiring each of them to exercise vigilance at his post. If the enemy approaches, when they see our state of readiness and alertness, they will certainly turn around. As a result, their strength will become exhausted and their spirits dejected. At that moment, send forth our elite troops to follow and attack them.”
King Wu asked:”The enemy, knowing we are following him, conceals elite troops in ambush while pretending to continue to retreat. When we reach the ambush, their troops turn back and attack us, some attacking our front, others our rear, whiles some press towards our fortifications. Our army are terrified, and in confusion fall out of formation and leave their assigned positions. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”Divide into three forces, then follow and pursue them, but do not cross beyond their ambush. When all three forces have arrived, some should attack the front and rear, while others should penetrate the two flanks. Make your command clear. Fervently attack, advancing forward, and the enemy will certainly be defeated.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where, confronting them, we have each assumed defensive position. The enemy has severed our supply routes and
occupied positions cutting across both our front and rear. If I want to engage them in battle, we cannot win; but if I want to maintain our position, we cannot hold out for long. What should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”In general, when you venture deep beyond the enemy’s borders, you must investigate the configuration and strategic advantages of the terrain and concentrate on seeking out terrain advantages. Rely on mountains, forests, ravines, rivers, streams, woods, and trees to create a secure defense. Carefully guard passes and bridges and moreover be certain you know the advantages of terrain conveyed by the various cities, towns, hills, and funeral mounds. In this way, the army will be solidly entrenched. The enemy will not be able to sever our supply routes, nor be able to occupy positions cutting across our front and rear.”
King Wu asked:”Suppose after our army has passed through a large forest or across a broad marsh and are on flat, accessible terrain, due to some miscommunication, our allies are not here and the enemy suddenly falls upon us. If we engage them in battle, we cannot win; if we assume a defensive position, it will not be secure. The enemy has outflanked us on both sides and occupied positions cutting across our front and rear. The army is terrified. What should be done?”
Tai Gong replied:”Now the rule for commanding an army is always to first dispatch scouts forward so that when you are two hundred li from the enemy, you will already know their position. If the terrain is not to our advantage, then use the Large Charging Chariots to serve as a cover and advance. Also establish two rear guard armies to the rear. The distance between the main forces and the rear guard armies can be as far as one hundred li away, or as near as fifty li away. Thus when the alarm sounded or an urgent situation arises, both front and rear will know about it, and the army will always be able to complete their deployment into solid formation, never suffering any destruction or harm.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
Occupying Enemy Territory
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose, being victorious in battle, we have deeply penetrated the enemy’s territory and occupy his land. However, large walled cities remain that cannot be subjugated, while their second army holds the defiles and ravines, standing off against us. We want to attack the cities and besiege the towns, but I am afraid that their second army will suddenly appear and strike us. If their forces inside and outside unite in this fashion, they will oppose us from both within and without.
Our army will be in chaos; the upper and lower ranks will be terrified. What should be done?”
Tai Gong said:”In general, when attacking cities and besieging towns, the chariots and cavalry must be kept at a distance. The encamped and defensive units must be on constant alert in order to obstruct the enemy both within and without. When inhabitants have their food cut off – those outside being unable to transport anything in to them – those within the city walls will be afraid, and their general will certainly surrender.”
King Wu said:”Suppose that when the supplies inside the city are cut off – external forces being unable to transport anything in – those in the city clandestinely concoct secret plans, and then sally forth at night, throwing all their forces forward. Some of their chariots, cavalry and elite troops assault us from within; others attack from without. The officers and troops are confused, the army defeated in chaos. What should be done?”
Tai Gong said:”In this case, you should divide your forces into three armies. Be careful to evaluate the terrain’s configuration and then strategically emplace them. You must know in detail the location of the enemy’s second army as well as his large cities and other fortifications. Leave them a passage in order to entice them to flee. Pay attention to the defense of the escape passage. The enemy will be afraid, and if they do not enter the mountains or the forests, they will return to the large towns or run off to join the second army. Use our chariots and cavalry to attack the front [of escaping troops]; do not allow them to escape. Since those remaining in the city will think that the first to go out have a direct escape route, their well-trained troops and skilled officers will certainly move forth, with the old and weak remaining. Do not engage in battle. Just sever their supply routes, surround and guard them, and you will certainly outlast them.
Do not set fire to what the people have accumulated; do not destroy their palaces or houses, nor cut down trees at gravesites and altars. Do not kill those who surrender nor slay your captives. Instead, show them benevolence and righteousness, extend your generosity to them. Announce to the people that the fault lies in only the ruler. In this way, the entire city will then submit.”
“Excellent,” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led our troops deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we encounter deep grass and heavy growth which surround our army on all sides. The army has traveled several hundred li; men and horses are exhausted and have halted to rest. Taking advantage of the extremely dry weather and a strong wind, the enemy ignites fires upwind from us. Their chariots, cavalry and elite forces are concealed in ambush to our rear. The army becomes terrified, scatter in confusion and run off. What can be done?”
Tai Gong said:”Under such circumstances, use the cloud ladders and flying towers to look far out to the left and right, to carefully investigate front and rear. When you see the fires arise, then set fires in front of our own forces spreading them out over the area. Also set fires to the rear. If the enemy comes, withdraw the army and take up entrenched positions on the blackened earth to await their assault. In the same way, if you see flames arise to the rear, you must move far away. If we occupy the blackened ground with our strong crossbowmen and skilled soldiers protecting the left and right flanks, we can also set fires to the front and rear. In this way, the enemy will not be able to harm us.”
King Wu asked:”Suppose the enemy has set fires to the left and right and also to the front and rear. Smoke covers our army, while his main forces appear from over the blackened ground. What should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”In this case, assuming you have prepared a burnt section of the ground, go into ‘Four Martial Assault Formation’ and have strong crossbowmen cover the flanks. This method will not bring victory, but will also not end in defeat.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”How can I know whether the enemy’s fortifications are empty or full, whether they are coming or going?”
Tai Gong said:”A general must know the ways of heaven, the advantages of terrain and human affairs. You should mount high and look out far in order to see the enemy’s changes and movements. Observe his fortifications, and then you will know whether they are empty or full. Observe his officers and troops and then you will know whether they are coming or going.”
King Wu asked:”How will I know it?”
Tai Gong said:”Listen to see if his drums are silent, if his bells make no sound. Look to see whether there are many birds flying above the fortifications, if they were not startled into flight. If there are no dust clouds overhead, you will certainly know the enemy has tricked you with dummies.
If enemy forces precipitously go off – but not very far – and then return before assuming proper formation, they are rushing their officers and men too quickly. When they act too quickly, the forward and rear are unable to maintain good order. When they cannot maintain good order, the entire battle disposition will be in chaos. In such circumstances, quickly dispatch troops to attack them. Even if you use a small number to strike a large force, they will certainly be defeated.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led our troops deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we encounter a large forest which we share with the enemy in a standoff. If we assume a defensive posture, I want it to be solid, or if we fight, to be victorious. How should we proceed?”
Tai Gong said:”Have our army divide into the ‘Four Martial Assault Formation’. Have the troops placed at a strategic position and station the archers and crossbowmen outside, with those carrying spear-tipped halberds and shields inside. Cut down and clear away the grass and trees, and extensively broaden the passages in order to facilitate our movement in the battle site. Set our pennants and flags out on high and carefully maneuver the army without letting the enemy know our true situation. This is referred to as ‘Forest Warfare’.
The method of Forest Warfare is to form the spear bearers and halberdiers into groups. If the woods are not dense, cavalry can be used in support. Battle chariots will occupy the front. When there is opportunity, they will fight; when not opportune, they will desist. When there are numerous ravines and defiles in the forest, you must deploy your forces in the ‘Four Martial Assault Formation’ in order to be prepared both front and rear. If the army attacks swiftly, even though the enemy is numerous, they can be driven off. The men should fight and rest in turn, each with their section. This is the main outline of Forest Warfare.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords until we are opposed by the enemy’s assault forces. The enemy is numerous while we are few. The enemy is strong, while we are weak. The enemy approaches at night – some attacking the left, others the right. The whole army is shaken. We want to be victorious if we choose to attack or solid if we choose to maintain a defensive posture. How should we act?”
Tai Gong said:”In this situation, we refer to them as ‘Shaking Invaders’. It is more advantageous to go out and fight; you cannot be defensive. Select skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen, together with chariots and cavalry to comprise the left and right flanks. Then swiftly striking his forward forces and quickly attacking his rear as well. Some should strike the exterior, others the interior. Their troops will certainly be confused, their generals afraid.”
King Wu asked:”Suppose the enemy has blocked off our forward units some distance away and is pressing an attack on our rear. He has broken up our elite troops and cut off our skilled soldiers. Our interior and exterior forces cannot communicate with each other. The army is in chaos, all running off in defeat. The officers and troops have lost their will to fight, the generals and commanders have no desire to defend themselves. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”Illustrious is your question, my King! You should make your commands clear and be careful about your orders. You should have your courageous, crack troops who are willing to confront danger sally forth – each man carrying a torch and two men to a drum. You must know the enemy’s location then strike both the interior and exterior. When our secret signals have been communicated, order them to extinguish the torches and stop beating all drums. The interior and exterior should respond to each other, each according to the appropriate time. When our army fervently attacks, the enemy will certainly be defeated and vanquished.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we suddenly encounter a martial and numerically superior enemy. If his martial chariots and valiant cavalry move to and attack our left and right flanks, and our army becomes so shaken, that their flight is unstoppable, what should I do?”
Tai Gong replied:”In this situation, you have what is termed as a ‘defeated army’. Those who are skillful in employing their forces will manage a victory. Those who are not will perish.”
King Wu asked:”What can one do?”
Tai Gong replied:”Have our most skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen, together with our martial chariots and valiant cavalry, conceal themselves on both sides of the retreat route, about three li ahead and behind our main force. When the enemy pursues us, launch a simultaneous chariot and cavalry assault from both sides. In such circumstances, the enemy will be thrown into confusion and our fleeing soldiers will stop by themselves.”
King Wu continued asking:”Suppose the enemy’s chariots and cavalry are squarely opposite ours, but the enemy is numerous while we are few, the enemy strong while we are weak. Their approach is disciplined and spirited and our formations are unable to withstand them. What should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”Select our skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen, and have them lie in ambush on both sides, while the chariots and cavalry deploy into a solid formation and assume position. When the enemy passes our concealed forces, the crossbowmen should fire en masse into their flanks. The chariots, cavalry, and skilled soldiers should then urgently attack their army – some striking the front, others striking the rear. Even if the enemy is numerous, they will certainly flee.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
Crow And Cloud Formations In Mountains
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we encounter high mountains with large, flat rock outcroppings on top, of which are numerous peaks, all devoid of grass and trees. We are surrounded on all sides by the enemy. Our army is afraid, the officers and troops are confused. I want to be solid if we are to defend our position and victorious if we choose to fight. What should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”Whenever the army occupies a mountain, they are trapped on high by the enemy. When they hold the land below the mountain, they are imprisoned by the forces above them. If you have already occupied the top of the mountain, you must prepare the Crow and Cloud Formation. The Crow and Cloud Formation should be prepared on both the yin and yang sides of the mountain. Some will encamp on the yin side; others will encamp on the yang side. Those that occupy the yang side must prepare against attacks from the yin side. Thos that occupy the yin side must prepare against attack from the yang side. Those occupying the left side of the mountain must prepare against the right side. Those on the right, against the left. Wherever the enemy can ascend the mountain, your troops should establish defense lines. If there are roads passing through the valley, sever them with your war chariots. Set your flags and pennants up high for easier communication. Be cautious in commanding the army; do not allow the enemy to know your true situation. This is referred to as a ‘Mountain City.’
After your lines have been set, you officers and troops deployed, rules and orders already issued, and tactics – both orthodox and unorthodox – already planned, deploy your assault formation at the outer perimeter of the mountain, and have them occupy advantageous positions. Thereafter, have your chariots and cavalry into the Crow and Cloud Formation. When your army fervently attacks the enemy, even though the latter are numerous, their generals can be captured.”
Crow And Cloud Formations In Marshes
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we are confronting the enemy across a river. The enemy is well equipped and numerous; we are impoverished and few. If we cross the water to attack, we will not be able to advance; while if we want to outlast them, our supplies are too few. We are encamped on infertile ground. There are no towns in any direction and moreover no grass or trees. There is nothing the army can plunder, while the oxen and horses have neither fodder nor a place to graze. What should we do?”
Tai Gong said:”The whole army is unprepared; the oxen and horses have nothing to eat; the officers and troops have no supplies. In this situation, seek opportunity to trick the enemy and quickly get away, setting up ambushes to your rear.”
King Wu said:”The enemy cannot be deceived. My officers and troops are confused. The enemy has occupied positions cutting across both our front and rear. Our army is defeated and in flight. What then?”
Tai Gong replied:”When you are searching for an escape route, gold and jade are necessary. You must obtain intelligence from the enemy’s emissaries. You must obtain the intelligence with great cautions and details.
King Wu asked:”Suppose the enemy knows I have laid ambushes, so their main army is unwilling to cross the river. The general of their second army then breaks off some units and dispatches them to ford the river. My army is shaken. What should I do?”
Tai Gong said:”In this situation, divide your troops into assault formations, and have them occupy advantageous positions. Wait until all the enemy’s troops have emerged, and then spring your concealed troops, rapidly striking their rear. Have you strong crossbowmen on both sides shoot into their left and right flanks. Have your chariots and cavalry go into the Crow and Cloud Formation, arraying them against their front and rear. Then your army should vehemently press the attack. When the enemy sees us engaged in battle, their main force will certainly ford the river and advance. Then spring the ambushing forces, urgently striking their rear. The chariots and cavalry should assault the left and right. Even though the enemy is numerous, they can be driven off.
In general, the most important thing in employing your troops is that when the enemy approaches to engage in battle, you must deploy your assault formations and have them improve their positions. Thereafter, divide your chariots and cavalry into the Crow and Cloud Formation. This is the ‘indirect’ in employing your troops. What is referred to as the Crow and Cloud Formation is like the crows dispersing and the clouds forming together. Their changes and transformation are endless.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
Few And Many
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”If I want to attack a large number with only a few, attack the strong with the weak, what should I do?”
Tai Gong said:”If you want to attack a large number with only a few, you must do it at sunset, setting an ambush in tall grass, pressing them on a narrow road. To attack the strong with the weak, you must obtain the support of a great state and assistance of neighboring states.”
King Wu asked:”We do not have any terrains with tall grass, and moreover there are no narrow roads. The enemy has already arrived; we cannot wait until sunset. I do not have the support of any great state or the assistance of neighboring states. What then?”
Tai Gong said:”You should set out specious formations and false enticement to lure and confuse their general, to redirect his path so that he will be forced to pass tall grass. Make his route long so you can arrange have your engagement at sunset. When his advance units have not yet finished crossing the water, his rear units have not yet reached the encampment, release our concealed troops, vehemently striking his right and left flanks, while your chariots and cavalry stir chaos among his forward and rear units. Even if the enemy is numerous, they will certainly flee.
To serve the ruler of a great state, to gain the submission of the officers of neighboring states, make gifts generous and speak deferentially. In this fashion, you will obtain the support of a great state and assistance of neighboring states.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”Suppose we have led the army deep into the territory of the feudal lords where we encounter the enemy in the midst of a steep valley. I have mountains on our left and water body on the right, while the enemy has the mountains on their right and water body on their left. Both of us divide the valley in our standoff. If we want to be solid if I choose to defend or be victorious if I choose to attack, how should I proceed?”
Tai Gong said:”If you occupy the left side of a mountain, you must urgently prepare against an attack from the right side. If you occupy the right side of a mountain, then you should urgently prepare against an attack from the left. If the valley has a large river but you do not have boats and oars, then you should use the Heaven’s Huang to cross the whole army over. Those that have crossed should widen the road considerably in order to improve your fighting position. Use the Martial Charge Chariots to cover the front and rear; deploy your strong crossbowmen into ranks to solidify all your lines and formations. Employ Martial Charge Chariots to block off all the intersecting roads and entrances to the valley. Set your flags out on high ground. Such posture is referred to as a ‘Chariot Citadel’.
In general, the method for valley warfare is for the Martial Charge Chariots to be in the forefront and the Large Covered Chariots to act as a protection. Your skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen should cover the left and right flanks. Three thousand men will comprise one detachment, which must be deployed in the assault formation, seeking advantageous position. Then the Left Army should advance at the left, the Right Army at the right, and the Center Army to the front – all three armies attacking and advancing together. Those that have already fought should return to their detachment’s original positions, the units fighting and resting in succession until you have won.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
Dispersing And Assembling
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”If the king, leading the army, has dispersed the army to several locations and the commanding general wants to have them reassemble at a specific time for battle, how should he use rules, rewards and punishments to achieve it?”
Tai Gong answered:”In general, the way to employ the military, the masses of the whole army, will always be subjected to making changes between dividing and reuniting. The commanding general should first set the place and day for battle, then issue full directives and particulars to the generals and commanders setting the time, indicating whether to attack cities or besiege towns, and where each should assemble. He should clearly instruct them about the day for battle and time. The commanding general should then establish his encampment, array his battle lines, put up a gnomon at the official gate, clear the road and wait. When all the generals and commanders have arrived, compare their arrival with the designated time. Those who arrived before the appointed time should be rewarded. Thos who arrived afterward should be executed. In this way, both the near and distant will race to assemble and the whole army will arrive together, uniting their strength to engage in battle.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”In general, when employing the army, it is essential to have military chariots, courageous cavalry, and elite troops as vanguards, and then use a perceived opportunity to strike the enemy. In which situations can we strike?”
Tai Gong answered:”Anyone who wants to launch a strike should carefully monitor and look for fourteen changes (situations) in the enemy. When any of these changes becomes visible, attack, for the enemy will certainly be defeated.”
King Wu asked:”May I know what are the fourteen changes?”
Tai Gong said:”When the enemy has begun to assemble they can be attacked.
When the men and horses have not yet been fed, they can be attacked.
When the seasonal and weather conditions are not advantageous to them, they can be attacked.
When they have not secured advantageous terrain, they can be attacked.
When they are fleeing, they can be attacked.
When they are not vigilant, they can be attacked.
When they are tired and exhausted, they can be attacked.
When the general is absent from the officers and troops, they can be attacked.
When they are traversing long roads, they can be attacked.
When they are fording the river, they can be attacked.
When the troops have not had any leisure time, they can be attacked.
When they encounter the difficulty of precipitous ravines or are on narrow roads, they can be attacked.
When their battle array is in disorder, they can be attacked.
When they are afraid, they can be attacked.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:” What is the way to select warriors?”
Tai Gong replied:”Within the army, there will be men with great courage and strength who are willing to die and may even take pleasure in suffering wounds. They should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors who Risks the Blade’.
Those who have very fierce disposition, who are robust and courageous, strong and explosive, should be assembled together and called ’Warriors who Penetrate the Lines’.
Those who are extraordinary in appearance, bear long swords and advance with measured tread in good order should be assembled together and called ‘Courageous Elite Warriors’.
Those who can straighten iron hooks, have great strength, and can go into enemy’s line and smash gongs and drums and destroy flags and pennants, should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors of Courage and Strength’.
Those who can scale heights and cover great distances, who are light-footed and excel at running should be assembled together and called ‘Invading Warriors’.
Those who, while serving the ruler, lost their authority and want to gain merit again, should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors who Fight to Death’.
Those who are relatives of slain generals, the sons or brothers of generals, who want to avenge their deaths, should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors who See Death Lightly’.
Adopted sons, slaves or former prisoners-of-war, who want to cover up their pasts and achieve fame, should be assembled together and called the ‘Incited Dispirited’.
Those who are lowly, poor and angry, who want to satisfy their desires, should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors Committed to Death’.
Those who have been imprisoned and then spared corporal punishment, who want to escape from their shame, should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors Fortunate to be Used’.
Those who combine skill and technique, who can bear heavy responsibilities, should be assembled together and called ‘Warriors Awaiting Orders’.
These are the army’s selected warriors and one should pay great attention to the selection process.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”When we have assembled the masses to form the army and want to have the officers and men be assimilated with the way of combat. How should we proceed?”
Tai Gong said:”For leading the whole army, you must have the gongs and drums by which to order and assemble the officers and masses. The generals should clearly instruct the commanders and officers, explaining the order repeatedly, thereby teaching them the use of weapons, mobilization, and stopping, all to be in accord with the movement of flags and signal pennants.
Thus when teaching the commanders and officers, strive to have individuals complete his study of combat instructions and have them extend their study to ten men. Ten men who have completed their study of combat instructions will extend them to a hundred. And from a hundred who have completed their study, they extend it to a thousand. And from a thousand extend to ten thousand, and from these ten thousand extend to the whole army.
When all have completed their study of combat, have the whole army practice together. In this fashion, you will be able to realize a Great Army and establish your awesomeness throughout the realm.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”When chariots and infantry engage in battle, one chariot is equivalent to how many infantrymen? How many infantrymen are equivalent to one chariot? When cavalry and infantry engage in battle, one cavalryman is equivalent to how many infantrymen? How many infantrymen are equivalent to one cavalryman? When chariots and cavalry engage in battle, one chariot is equivalent to how many cavalrymen? How many cavalrymen are equivalent to one chariot?”
Tai Gong replied:”Chariots are the wings of the army, the means to penetrate solid formations, to press strong enemies and to cut off their flight. Cavalry are the army’s fleet observers, the means to pursue a defeated army, to sever supply lines and to strike roving forces.
Thus when chariots and cavalry are not engaged in battle with the enemy, one cavalryman is not able to equal one foot soldier. However, after the masses of the army have been arrayed in opposition to the enemy, when fighting on easy terrain, the rule is that one chariot is equivalent to eighty infantrymen, and eighty infantrymen equal to one chariot. One cavalryman is equivalent to eight infantrymen; eight infantrymen is equivalent to one cavalryman. One chariot is equivalent to ten cavalrymen; ten cavalrymen is equivalent to one chariot.
The rule for fighting on difficult terrain is that one chariot is equivalent to forty infantrymen, and forty infantrymen are equivalent to one chariot. One cavalryman is equivalent to four infantrymen; four
infantrymen are equivalent to one cavalrymen. One chariot is equivalent six cavalrymen; six cavalrymen is equivalent to one chariot.
Now chariots and cavalry are the army’s strong weapons. Ten chariots can defeat one thousand men; one hundred chariots can defeat then thousand men. Ten cavalrymen can drive off one hundred men, and one hundred cavalrymen can drive off one thousand men. These are the approximate numbers.”
King Wu asked:”What are the numbers for chariot and cavalry officers and their transformation?”
Tai Gong replied:”For the chariots – a leader for five chariots, a captain for ten, a commander for fifty and a general for one hundred.
For battle on easy terrain five chariots comprise one line. The lines are forty paces apart, the chariots from left to right should be ten paces apart, with detachments sixty paces apart. On difficult terrain the chariots must follow the roads, with ten comprising a company and twenty a regiment. Front to rear spacing should be twenty paces, left to right six paces, with detachments thirty-six paces apart. If they venture of the road more than two li in any direction, they should return to the original road.
As for the number of officers in the cavalry: a leader for five men; a captain for ten; a commander for one hundred; a general for two hundred.
The rule for fighting on easy terrain: Five cavalrymen will form one line, and front to back their lines should be separated by twenty paces, left to right four paces, with fifty paces between detachments.
On difficult terrain, the rule is front to back, ten paces; left to right, two paces; between detachments, twenty-five paces. Thirty cavalrymen comprise a company; sixty form a regiment. For ten cavalrymen, there is a captain. In action, they should not move out of the range of one hundred paces, after which they should circle back and return to their original positions.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”How does one select warriors for chariots?”
Tai Gong said:”The rule for selecting warriors for chariots is to pick men under forty years of age, seven feet five inches or taller, whose running ability is such that they can pursue a galloping horse, race up to it, mount it and ride it forward and back, left and right, up and down, all around. They should be able to quickly furl up the flags and pennants and have the strength to fully draw an eight-picul crossbow. They should practice shooting front and back, left and right, until thoroughly skilled. They are termed ‘Martial Chariot Warriors’. You cannot but be generous to them.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”How does one select warriors for the cavalry?”
Tai Gong said:”The rule of selecting cavalry warriors is to take those under forty, who are at least seven feet five inches tall, strong and quick, who surpass the average. Men who, while racing a horse, can fully draw a bow and shoot. Men who can gallop forward and back, left and right and all around, both advancing and withdrawing. Men who, while racing a horse, can jump over moats and ditches, ascend hills and mounds, gallop through narrow confines, cross large water bodies, and race into a strong enemy, causing chaos among their masses. They are called the ‘Martial Cavalry Warriors’. You cannot but be generous to them.”
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”What about battle chariots?”
Tai Gong replied:”The infantry’s value comes from knowing changes and movement; the chariot’s value comes from knowing the terrain’s configuration; the cavalry values comes from discover the unknown short-cuts and side roads. Thus these three armies bear the same name, but their employment differs.
In general, in chariot battles, there are ten types of situations on which demise is likely and eight on which victory can be achieved.”
King Wu asked:”What are the ten fatal situations like?”
Tai Gong replied:”If after advancing, there is no way to withdraw, this is a fatal terrain for chariots.
Passing beyond narrow defiles, to pursue the enemy some distance, this is terrain which will exhaust the chariots.
When the land in front makes advancing easy, while that to the rear is treacherous, this is terrain that will entrap the chariots.
Penetrating into narrow and obstructed areas from which escape will be difficult, this is terrain on which the chariots may be cut off.
If the land is collapsing, sinking, and marshy, with black mud sticking to everything, this is terrain which will ‘labor’ the chariots.
To the left is precipitous while to the right is easy, with high mounds and sharp hills. This is terrain contrary to the use of chariots.
Luxuriant grass runs through the field, and there are deep, watery channels throughout. This is terrain which thwarts the use of chariots.
When the chariots are few in number, the land easy, and one is outnumbered by enemy infantry, this is terrain on which the chariots may be defeated.
To the rear are water filled ravines and ditches, to the left deep water and to the right steep hills. This is terrain on which chariots are destroyed.
It has been raining day and night for more than ten days without stopping. The roads have collapsed so that it not possible to advance or to escape to the rear. This is the terrain that will sink the chariots.
These ten are deadly terrain for chariots. Thus they are the means by which the stupid general will be captured and the wise general will be able to escape.”
King Wu asked:”What about eight conditions of terrain that result in victory?”
Tai Gong replied:”When the enemy’s ranks – front and rear – are not yet settled, strike into them.
When their flags and pennants are in chaos, their men and horses frequently shifting about, then strike into them.
When some of their officers and troops advance while others retreat; when some move to the left, others to the right, then strike into them.
When their battle array is not yet solid, while their officers and troops are looking around at each other, strike them.
When in advancing, they appear full of doubts, and in withdrawing they are fearful, strike them.
When the enemy’s whole army are suddenly frightened, all of them rising up in great confusion, strike into them.
When you are fighting on easy terrain and twilight has not ended, strike into them.
When, after traveling far, at dusk they are camping and their whole army are terrified, strike into them.
These eight situations constitute conditions in which the chariots will be victorious.
If the general is clear about these ten fatal situations and eight situations where victory is possible, then even if the enemy surrounds him on all sides – attacking with one thousand chariots and ten thousand cavalry from the front and the flanks – he will invariably be victorious.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.
Cavalry In Battle
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”How should we employ the cavalry in battle?”
Tai Gong responded:”For the cavalry, there are ten situations that can produce victory and nine that will result in defeat.”
King Wu asked:”What are the ten situations that can produce victory?”
Tai Gong replied:”When the enemy first arrives and their lines and deployment are not yet settled, the front and rear not yet united, then strike into their forward cavalry, attack the left and right flanks. The enemy will certainly flee.
When the enemy’s lines and deployment are well-ordered and solid, while their officers and troops want to fight, our cavalry should outflank them but not go far off. Some should race away, some race forward. Their speed should be like the wind, their explosiveness like thunder, so that the daylight becomes as murky as dusk. Change our flags and pennants several times; also change our uniforms. Then their army can be conquered.
When the enemy’s lines and deployment are not solid, while their officers and troops will not fight, press upon them both front and rear, make sudden thrusts on their left and right. Outflank and strike them, and the enemy will certainly be afraid.
When, at sunset, the enemy wants to return to camp and their army are terrified, if we can outflank them on both sides, urgently strike their rear, pressing them to the entrance of their fortifications, not allowing them to go in. The enemy will certainly be defeated.
When the enemy, lacking the advantages of ravines and defiles for securing their defenses, penetrate deeply into their territory and sever their supply lines, they will certainly be hungry.
When the land is level and easy and we see enemy cavalry approaching from all four sides, if we have our chariots and cavalry strike into them, they will certainly become disordered.
When the enemy runs off in flight, their officers and troops scattered and in chaos, if some of our cavalry outflank them both on sides while others obstruct them to the front and rear, their general can be captured.
When at dusk the enemy is turning back while his soldiers are extremely numerous, his lines and deployment will certainly become disordered. We should have our cavalry form platoons of ten and regiments of hundred, group the chariots into squads of five and companies of ten, and set out a great many flags and pennants intermixed with strong crossbowmen. Some should strike their two flanks, others cut off the front and rear, and then the enemy’s general can be taken prisoner. These are the ten situations in which the cavalry can be victorious.”
King Wu asked:”What about the nine situations which produce defeat?”
Tai Gong said:”Whenever the cavalry penetrates the ranks of the enemy but does not destroy their formation so that the enemy feigns flight, only to turn their chariots and cavalry about to strike our rear – this is a situation in which the cavalry will be defeated.
When we pursue a fleeing enemy into confined ground, ranging far into their territory without stopping, until they ambush both our flanks and sever our rear – this is a situation in which the cavalry will be encircled.
When we go forward but there is no road back, we enter but there is no way out, this is referred to as ‘Heaven Trap’, ‘Earthly Cave’. This is fatal terrain for the cavalry.
When the way by which we enter is constricted but the way out is distant; their weak forces can attack our strong ones; and their few can attack our many – this is terrain on which the cavalry will be exterminated.
When there are great mountain torrents, deep valleys, tall luxuriant grass, forests and trees – these are conditions which will exhaust the cavalry.
When there is water on the left and right, while ahead are large hills, and to the rear high mountains, and the army are fighting between the bodies of water while the enemy occupies both the interior and exterior ground – this is terrain that means great difficulty for the cavalry.
When the enemy has cut off our supply lines, and if we advance, we will not have any route by which to return – this is troublesome terrain for the cavalry.
When we are sinking into marshy ground while advancing and retreating must both be through quagmires – this is a terrain that will labor the cavalry.
When on the left, there are deep water sluices, and on the right, there are gullies and hillocks, but the ground appears level – good terrain for advancing, retreating, and enticing an enemy – this terrain is a pitfall for the cavalry.
These nine comprise fatal terrain for cavalry, the means by which the enlightened general will keep the enemy far off and escape and the ignorant general will be entrapped and defeated.”
Infantry In Battle
King Wu asked Tai Gong:”What about when infantry engage in battle with chariots and cavalry?”
Tai Gong replied:”When infantry engage in battle with chariots and cavalry, they must rely on hills and mounds, ravines and defiles. The long weapons and strong crossbow should occupy the fore; the short weapons and weak crossbow should occupy the rear, firing and resting in turn. Even if large numbers of the enemy’s chariots and cavalry should arrive, they must maintain a solid formation and fight intensely while skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen prepare against attacks from the rear.”
King Wu said:”Suppose there are no hills or mounds, ravines or defiles. The enemy arrives, and it is both numerous and martial. Their chariots and cavalry outflank us on both sides, and they are making sudden thrusts against our front and rear positions. Our army are terrified and fleeing in chaotic defeat. What should we do?”
Tai Gong replied:”Order our officers and troops to set up the chevaux-de-frise and wooden caltrops, arraying the oxen and horses into units, and place in their midst, and have them established a four sided martial assault formation. When you see the enemy’s chariots and cavalry are about to advance, our men should evenly spread out the chevaux-de-frise and caltrops and dig ditches at the back of it. Making them five feet deep and wide. It is called the ‘Cage of Fate’.
Chariots should be arrayed as ramparts and pushed forward and back. Whenever they stop, set then up as fortifications. Our skilled soldiers and strong crossbowmen should defend the left and right flanks. Afterward, order our army to fervently fight without respite.”
“Excellent!” said King Wu.