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    Chapter 5: Energy

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    1. Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same
    principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question
    of dividing up their numbers.

    [That is, cutting up the army into regiments, companies,
    etc., with subordinate officers in command of each. Tu Mu
    reminds us of Han Hsin's famous reply to the first Han Emperor,
    who once said to him: "How large an army do you think I could
    lead?" "Not more than 100,000 men, your Majesty." "And you?"
    asked the Emperor. "Oh!" he answered, "the more the better."]

    2. Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise
    different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a
    question of instituting signs and signals.
    3. To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt
    of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken - this is effected by
    maneuvers direct and indirect.

    [We now come to one of the most interesting parts of Sun
    Tzu's treatise, the discussion of the CHENG and the CH'I." As it
    is by no means easy to grasp the full significance of these two
    terms, or to render them consistently by good English
    equivalents; it may be as well to tabulate some of the
    commentators' remarks on the subject before proceeding further.
    Li Ch'uan: "Facing the enemy is CHENG, making lateral diversion
    is CH'I. Chia Lin: "In presence of the enemy, your troops
    should be arrayed in normal fashion, but in order to secure
    victory abnormal maneuvers must be employed." Mei Yao-ch'en:
    "CH'I is active, CHENG is passive; passivity means waiting for an
    opportunity, activity beings the victory itself." Ho Shih: "We
    must cause the enemy to regard our straightforward attack as one
    that is secretly designed, and vice versa; thus CHENG may also be
    CH'I, and CH'I may also be CHENG." He instances the famous
    exploit of Han Hsin, who when marching ostensibly against Lin-
    chin (now Chao-i in Shensi), suddenly threw a large force across
    the Yellow River in wooden tubs, utterly disconcerting his
    opponent. [Ch'ien Han Shu, ch. 3.] Here, we are told, the march
    on Lin-chin was CHENG, and the surprise maneuver was CH'I."
    Chang Yu gives the following summary of opinions on the words:
    "Military writers do not agree with regard to the meaning of CH'I
    and CHENG. Wei Liao Tzu [4th cent. B.C.] says: 'Direct warfare
    favors frontal attacks, indirect warfare attacks from the rear.'
    Ts'ao Kung says: 'Going straight out to join battle is a direct
    operation; appearing on the enemy's rear is an indirect
    maneuver.' Li Wei-kung [6th and 7th cent. A.D.] says: 'In war,
    to march straight ahead is CHENG; turning movements, on the other
    hand, are CH'I.' These writers simply regard CHENG as CHENG, and
    CH'I as CH'I; they do not note that the two are mutually
    interchangeable and run into each other like the two sides of a
    circle [see infra, ss. 11]. A comment on the T'ang Emperor T'ai
    Tsung goes to the root of the matter: 'A CH'I maneuver may be
    CHENG, if we make the enemy look upon it as CHENG; then our real
    attack will be CH'I, and vice versa. The whole secret lies in
    confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.'"
    To put it perhaps a little more clearly: any attack or other
    operation is CHENG, on which the enemy has had his attention
    fixed; whereas that is CH'I," which takes him by surprise or
    comes from an unexpected quarter. If the enemy perceives a
    movement which is meant to be CH'I," it immediately becomes

    4. That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone
    dashed against an egg - this is effected by the science of weak
    points and strong.
    5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for
    joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to
    secure victory.

    [Chang Yu says: "Steadily develop indirect tactics, either
    by pounding the enemy's flanks or falling on his rear." A
    brilliant example of "indirect tactics" which decided the
    fortunes of a campaign was Lord Roberts' night march round the
    Peiwar Kotal in the second Afghan war. [1]

    6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhausible
    as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams;
    like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four
    seasons, they pass away to return once more.

    [Tu Yu and Chang Yu understand this of the permutations of
    CH'I and CHENG." But at present Sun Tzu is not speaking of CHENG
    at all, unless, indeed, we suppose with Cheng Yu-hsien that a
    clause relating to it has fallen out of the text. Of course, as
    has already been pointed out, the two are so inextricably
    interwoven in all military operations, that they cannot really be
    considered apart. Here we simply have an expression, in
    figurative language, of the almost infinite resource of a great

    7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the
    combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can
    ever be heard.
    8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue,
    yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce
    more hues than can ever been seen.
    9 There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour,
    acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more
    flavors than can ever be tasted.
    10. In battle, there are not more than two methods of
    attack - the direct and the indirect; yet these two in
    combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.
    11. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in
    turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end.
    Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?
    12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which
    will even roll stones along in its course.
    13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of
    a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.

    [The Chinese here is tricky and a certain key word in the
    context it is used defies the best efforts of the translator. Tu
    Mu defines this word as "the measurement or estimation of
    distance." But this meaning does not quite fit the illustrative
    simile in ss. 15. Applying this definition to the falcon, it
    seems to me to denote that instinct of SELF RESTRAINT which keeps
    the bird from swooping on its quarry until the right moment,
    together with the power of judging when the right moment has
    arrived. The analogous quality in soldiers is the highly
    important one of being able to reserve their fire until the very
    instant at which it will be most effective. When the "Victory"
    went into action at Trafalgar at hardly more than drifting pace,
    she was for several minutes exposed to a storm of shot and shell
    before replying with a single gun. Nelson coolly waited until he
    was within close range, when the broadside he brought to bear
    worked fearful havoc on the enemy's nearest ships.]

    14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his
    onset, and prompt in his decision.

    [The word "decision" would have reference to the measurement
    of distance mentioned above, letting the enemy get near before
    striking. But I cannot help thinking that Sun Tzu meant to use
    the word in a figurative sense comparable to our own idiom "short
    and sharp." Cf. Wang Hsi's note, which after describing the
    falcon's mode of attack, proceeds: "This is just how the
    'psychological moment' should be seized in war."]

    15. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow;
    decision, to the releasing of a trigger.

    [None of the commentators seem to grasp the real point of
    the simile of energy and the force stored up in the bent cross-
    bow until released by the finger on the trigger.]

    16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be
    seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion
    and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be
    proof against defeat.

    [Mei Yao-ch'en says: "The subdivisions of the army having
    been previously fixed, and the various signals agreed upon, the
    separating and joining, the dispersing and collecting which will
    take place in the course of a battle, may give the appearance of
    disorder when no real disorder is possible. Your formation may
    be without head or tail, your dispositions all topsy-turvy, and
    yet a rout of your forces quite out of the question."]

    17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline,
    simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates

    [In order to make the translation intelligible, it is
    necessary to tone down the sharply paradoxical form of the
    original. Ts'ao Kung throws out a hint of the meaning in his
    brief note: "These things all serve to destroy formation and
    conceal one's condition." But Tu Mu is the first to put it quite
    plainly: "If you wish to feign confusion in order to lure the
    enemy on, you must first have perfect discipline; if you wish to
    display timidity in order to entrap the enemy, you must have
    extreme courage; if you wish to parade your weakness in order to
    make the enemy over-confident, you must have exceeding

    18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a
    question of subdivision;

    [See supra, ss. 1.]

    concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of
    latent energy;

    [The commentators strongly understand a certain Chinese word
    here differently than anywhere else in this chapter. Thus Tu Mu
    says: "seeing that we are favorably circumstanced and yet make
    no move, the enemy will believe that we are really afraid."]

    masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical

    [Chang Yu relates the following anecdote of Kao Tsu, the
    first Han Emperor: "Wishing to crush the Hsiung-nu, he sent out
    spies to report on their condition. But the Hsiung-nu,
    forewarned, carefully concealed all their able-bodied men and
    well-fed horses, and only allowed infirm soldiers and emaciated
    cattle to be seen. The result was that spies one and all
    recommended the Emperor to deliver his attack. Lou Ching alone
    opposed them, saying: "When two countries go to war, they are
    naturally inclined to make an ostentatious display of their
    strength. Yet our spies have seen nothing but old age and
    infirmity. This is surely some ruse on the part of the enemy,
    and it would be unwise for us to attack." The Emperor, however,
    disregarding this advice, fell into the trap and found himself
    surrounded at Po-teng."]

    19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the
    move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the
    enemy will act.

    [Ts'ao Kung's note is "Make a display of weakness and want."
    Tu Mu says: "If our force happens to be superior to the enemy's,
    weakness may be simulated in order to lure him on; but if
    inferior, he must be led to believe that we are strong, in order
    that he may keep off. In fact, all the enemy's movements should
    be determined by the signs that we choose to give him." Note the
    following anecdote of Sun Pin, a descendent of Sun Wu: In 341
    B.C., the Ch'i State being at war with Wei, sent T'ien Chi and
    Sun Pin against the general P'ang Chuan, who happened to be a
    deadly personal enemy of the later. Sun Pin said: "The Ch'i
    State has a reputation for cowardice, and therefore our adversary
    despises us. Let us turn this circumstance to account."
    Accordingly, when the army had crossed the border into Wei
    territory, he gave orders to show 100,000 fires on the first
    night, 50,000 on the next, and the night after only 20,000.
    P'ang Chuan pursued them hotly, saying to himself: "I knew these
    men of Ch'i were cowards: their numbers have already fallen away
    by more than half." In his retreat, Sun Pin came to a narrow
    defile, with he calculated that his pursuers would reach after
    dark. Here he had a tree stripped of its bark, and inscribed
    upon it the words: "Under this tree shall P'ang Chuan die."
    Then, as night began to fall, he placed a strong body of archers
    in ambush near by, with orders to shoot directly they saw a
    light. Later on, P'ang Chuan arrived at the spot, and noticing
    the tree, struck a light in order to read what was written on it.
    His body was immediately riddled by a volley of arrows, and his
    whole army thrown into confusion. [The above is Tu Mu's version
    of the story; the SHIH CHI, less dramatically but probably with
    more historical truth, makes P'ang Chuan cut his own throat with
    an exclamation of despair, after the rout of his army.] ]

    He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.

    20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then
    with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

    [With an emendation suggested by Li Ching, this then reads,
    "He lies in wait with the main body of his troops."]

    21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined
    energy, and does not require too much from individuals.

    [Tu Mu says: "He first of all considers the power of his
    army in the bulk; afterwards he takes individual talent into
    account, and uses each men according to his capabilities. He
    does not demand perfection from the untalented."]

    Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined
    22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men
    become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is
    the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level
    ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to
    a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.

    [Ts'au Kung calls this "the use of natural or inherent

    23. Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as
    the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands
    of feet in height. So much on the subject of energy.

    [The chief lesson of this chapter, in Tu Mu's opinion, is
    the paramount importance in war of rapid evolutions and sudden
    rushes. "Great results," he adds, "can thus be achieved with
    small forces."]

    [1] "Forty-one Years in India," chapter 46.
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