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    Chapter 13: The Use of Spies

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    1. Sun Tzu said: Raising a host of a hundred thousand men
    and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the
    people and a drain on the resources of the State. The daily
    expenditure will amount to a thousand ounces of silver.

    [Cf. II. ss. ss. 1, 13, 14.]

    There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men will drop
    down exhausted on the highways.

    [Cf. TAO TE CHING, ch. 30: "Where troops have been
    quartered, brambles and thorns spring up. Chang Yu has the note:
    "We may be reminded of the saying: 'On serious ground, gather in
    plunder.' Why then should carriage and transportation cause
    exhaustion on the highways?--The answer is, that not victuals
    alone, but all sorts of munitions of war have to be conveyed to
    the army. Besides, the injunction to 'forage on the enemy' only
    means that when an army is deeply engaged in hostile territory,
    scarcity of food must be provided against. Hence, without being
    solely dependent on the enemy for corn, we must forage in order
    that there may be an uninterrupted flow of supplies. Then,
    again, there are places like salt deserts where provisions being
    unobtainable, supplies from home cannot be dispensed with."]

    As many as seven hundred thousand families will be impeded in
    their labor.

    [Mei Yao-ch'en says: "Men will be lacking at the plough-
    tail." The allusion is to the system of dividing land into nine
    parts, each consisting of about 15 acres, the plot in the center
    being cultivated on behalf of the State by the tenants of the
    other eight. It was here also, so Tu Mu tells us, that their
    cottages were built and a well sunk, to be used by all in common.
    [See II. ss. 12, note.] In time of war, one of the families had
    to serve in the army, while the other seven contributed to its
    support. Thus, by a levy of 100,000 men (reckoning one able-
    bodied soldier to each family) the husbandry of 700,000 families
    would be affected.]

    2. Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving
    for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so,
    to remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because
    one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors
    and emoluments,

    ["For spies" is of course the meaning, though it would spoil
    the effect of this curiously elaborate exordium if spies were
    actually mentioned at this point.]

    is the height of inhumanity.

    [Sun Tzu's agreement is certainly ingenious. He begins by
    adverting to the frightful misery and vast expenditure of blood
    and treasure which war always brings in its train. Now, unless
    you are kept informed of the enemy's condition, and are ready to
    strike at the right moment, a war may drag on for years. The
    only way to get this information is to employ spies, and it is
    impossible to obtain trustworthy spies unless they are properly
    paid for their services. But it is surely false economy to
    grudge a comparatively trifling amount for this purpose, when
    every day that the war lasts eats up an incalculably greater sum.
    This grievous burden falls on the shoulders of the poor, and
    hence Sun Tzu concludes that to neglect the use of spies is
    nothing less than a crime against humanity.]

    3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help
    to his sovereign, no master of victory.

    [This idea, that the true object of war is peace, has its
    root in the national temperament of the Chinese. Even so far
    back as 597 B.C., these memorable words were uttered by Prince
    Chuang of the Ch'u State: "The [Chinese] character for 'prowess'
    is made up of [the characters for] 'to stay' and 'a spear'
    (cessation of hostilities). Military prowess is seen in the
    repression of cruelty, the calling in of weapons, the
    preservation of the appointment of Heaven, the firm establishment
    of merit, the bestowal of happiness on the people, putting
    harmony between the princes, the diffusion of wealth."]

    4. Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good
    general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the
    reach of ordinary men, is FOREKNOWLEDGE.

    [That is, knowledge of the enemy's dispositions, and what he
    means to do.]

    5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits;
    it cannot be obtained inductively from experience,

    [Tu Mu's note is: "[knowledge of the enemy] cannot be
    gained by reasoning from other analogous cases."]

    nor by any deductive calculation.

    [Li Ch'uan says: "Quantities like length, breadth,
    distance and magnitude, are susceptible of exact mathematical
    determination; human actions cannot be so calculated."]

    6. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be
    obtained from other men.

    [Mei Yao-ch'en has rather an interesting note: "Knowledge
    of the spirit-world is to be obtained by divination; information
    in natural science may be sought by inductive reasoning; the laws
    of the universe can be verified by mathematical calculation: but
    the dispositions of an enemy are ascertainable through spies and
    spies alone."]

    7. Hence the use of spies, of whom there are five classes:
    (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) converted spies; (4)
    doomed spies; (5) surviving spies.
    8. When these five kinds of spy are all at work, none can
    discover the secret system. This is called "divine manipulation
    of the threads." It is the sovereign's most precious faculty.

    [Cromwell, one of the greatest and most practical of all
    cavalry leaders, had officers styled 'scout masters,' whose
    business it was to collect all possible information regarding the
    enemy, through scouts and spies, etc., and much of his success in
    war was traceable to the previous knowledge of the enemy's moves
    thus gained." [1] ]

    9. Having LOCAL SPIES means employing the services of the
    inhabitants of a district.

    [Tu Mu says: "In the enemy's country, win people over by
    kind treatment, and use them as spies."]

    10. Having INWARD SPIES, making use of officials of the

    [Tu Mu enumerates the following classes as likely to do good
    service in this respect: "Worthy men who have been degraded from
    office, criminals who have undergone punishment; also, favorite
    concubines who are greedy for gold, men who are aggrieved at
    being in subordinate positions, or who have been passed over in
    the distribution of posts, others who are anxious that their side
    should be defeated in order that they may have a chance of
    displaying their ability and talents, fickle turncoats who always
    want to have a foot in each boat. Officials of these several
    kinds," he continues, "should be secretly approached and bound to
    one's interests by means of rich presents. In this way you will
    be able to find out the state of affairs in the enemy's country,
    ascertain the plans that are being formed against you, and
    moreover disturb the harmony and create a breach between the
    sovereign and his ministers." The necessity for extreme caution,
    however, in dealing with "inward spies," appears from an
    historical incident related by Ho Shih: "Lo Shang, Governor of
    I-Chou, sent his general Wei Po to attack the rebel Li Hsiung of
    Shu in his stronghold at P'i. After each side had experienced a
    number of victories and defeats, Li Hsiung had recourse to the
    services of a certain P'o-t'ai, a native of Wu-tu. He began to
    have him whipped until the blood came, and then sent him off to
    Lo Shang, whom he was to delude by offering to cooperate with him
    from inside the city, and to give a fire signal at the right
    moment for making a general assault. Lo Shang, confiding in
    these promises, march out all his best troops, and placed Wei Po
    and others at their head with orders to attack at P'o-t'ai's
    bidding. Meanwhile, Li Hsiung's general, Li Hsiang, had prepared
    an ambuscade on their line of march; and P'o-t'ai, having reared
    long scaling-ladders against the city walls, now lighted the
    beacon-fire. Wei Po's men raced up on seeing the signal and
    began climbing the ladders as fast as they could, while others
    were drawn up by ropes lowered from above. More than a hundred
    of Lo Shang's soldiers entered the city in this way, every one of
    whom was forthwith beheaded. Li Hsiung then charged with all his
    forces, both inside and outside the city, and routed the enemy
    completely." [This happened in 303 A.D. I do not know where Ho
    Shih got the story from. It is not given in the biography of Li
    Hsiung or that of his father Li T'e, CHIN SHU, ch. 120, 121.]

    11. Having CONVERTED SPIES, getting hold of the enemy's
    spies and using them for our own purposes.

    [By means of heavy bribes and liberal promises detaching
    them from the enemy's service, and inducing them to carry back
    false information as well as to spy in turn on their own
    countrymen. On the other hand, Hsiao Shih-hsien says that we
    pretend not to have detected him, but contrive to let him carry
    away a false impression of what is going on. Several of the
    commentators accept this as an alternative definition; but that
    it is not what Sun Tzu meant is conclusively proved by his
    subsequent remarks about treating the converted spy generously
    (ss. 21 sqq.). Ho Shih notes three occasions on which converted
    spies were used with conspicuous success: (1) by T'ien Tan in
    his defense of Chi-mo (see supra, p. 90); (2) by Chao She on his
    march to O-yu (see p. 57); and by the wily Fan Chu in 260 B.C.,
    when Lien P'o was conducting a defensive campaign against Ch'in.
    The King of Chao strongly disapproved of Lien P'o's cautious and
    dilatory methods, which had been unable to avert a series of
    minor disasters, and therefore lent a ready ear to the reports of
    his spies, who had secretly gone over to the enemy and were
    already in Fan Chu's pay. They said: "The only thing which
    causes Ch'in anxiety is lest Chao Kua should be made general.
    Lien P'o they consider an easy opponent, who is sure to be
    vanquished in the long run." Now this Chao Kua was a sun of the
    famous Chao She. From his boyhood, he had been wholly engrossed
    in the study of war and military matters, until at last he came
    to believe that there was no commander in the whole Empire who
    could stand against him. His father was much disquieted by this
    overweening conceit, and the flippancy with which he spoke of
    such a serious thing as war, and solemnly declared that if ever
    Kua was appointed general, he would bring ruin on the armies of
    Chao. This was the man who, in spite of earnest protests from
    his own mother and the veteran statesman Lin Hsiang-ju, was now
    sent to succeed Lien P'o. Needless to say, he proved no match
    for the redoubtable Po Ch'i and the great military power of
    Ch'in. He fell into a trap by which his army was divided into
    two and his communications cut; and after a desperate resistance
    lasting 46 days, during which the famished soldiers devoured one
    another, he was himself killed by an arrow, and his whole force,
    amounting, it is said, to 400,000 men, ruthlessly put to the

    12. Having DOOMED SPIES, doing certain things openly for
    purposes of deception, and allowing our spies to know of them and
    report them to the enemy.

    [Tu Yu gives the best exposition of the meaning: "We
    ostentatiously do thing calculated to deceive our own spies, who
    must be led to believe that they have been unwittingly disclosed.
    Then, when these spies are captured in the enemy's lines, they
    will make an entirely false report, and the enemy will take
    measures accordingly, only to find that we do something quite
    different. The spies will thereupon be put to death." As an
    example of doomed spies, Ho Shih mentions the prisoners released
    by Pan Ch'ao in his campaign against Yarkand. (See p. 132.) He
    also refers to T'ang Chien, who in 630 A.D. was sent by T'ai
    Tsung to lull the Turkish Kahn Chieh-li into fancied security,
    until Li Ching was able to deliver a crushing blow against him.
    Chang Yu says that the Turks revenged themselves by killing T'ang
    Chien, but this is a mistake, for we read in both the old and the
    New T'ang History (ch. 58, fol. 2 and ch. 89, fol. 8
    respectively) that he escaped and lived on until 656. Li I-chi
    played a somewhat similar part in 203 B.C., when sent by the King
    of Han to open peaceful negotiations with Ch'i. He has certainly
    more claim to be described a "doomed spy", for the king of Ch'i,
    being subsequently attacked without warning by Han Hsin, and
    infuriated by what he considered the treachery of Li I-chi,
    ordered the unfortunate envoy to be boiled alive.]

    13. SURVIVING SPIES, finally, are those who bring back news
    from the enemy's camp.

    [This is the ordinary class of spies, properly so called,
    forming a regular part of the army. Tu Mu says: "Your surviving
    spy must be a man of keen intellect, though in outward appearance
    a fool; of shabby exterior, but with a will of iron. He must be
    active, robust, endowed with physical strength and courage;
    thoroughly accustomed to all sorts of dirty work, able to endure
    hunger and cold, and to put up with shame and ignominy." Ho Shih
    tells the following story of Ta'hsi Wu of the Sui dynasty: "When
    he was governor of Eastern Ch'in, Shen-wu of Ch'i made a hostile
    movement upon Sha-yuan. The Emperor T'ai Tsu [? Kao Tsu] sent
    Ta-hsi Wu to spy upon the enemy. He was accompanied by two other
    men. All three were on horseback and wore the enemy's uniform.
    When it was dark, they dismounted a few hundred feet away from
    the enemy's camp and stealthily crept up to listen, until they
    succeeded in catching the passwords used in the army. Then they
    got on their horses again and boldly passed through the camp
    under the guise of night-watchmen; and more than once, happening
    to come across a soldier who was committing some breach of
    discipline, they actually stopped to give the culprit a sound
    cudgeling! Thus they managed to return with the fullest possible
    information about the enemy's dispositions, and received warm
    commendation from the Emperor, who in consequence of their report
    was able to inflict a severe defeat on his adversary."]

    14. Hence it is that which none in the whole army are more
    intimate relations to be maintained than with spies.

    [Tu Mu and Mei Yao-ch'en point out that the spy is
    privileged to enter even the general's private sleeping-tent.]

    None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business
    should greater secrecy be preserved.

    [Tu Mu gives a graphic touch: all communication with spies
    should be carried "mouth-to-ear." The following remarks on spies
    may be quoted from Turenne, who made perhaps larger use of them
    than any previous commander: "Spies are attached to those who
    give them most, he who pays them ill is never served. They
    should never be known to anybody; nor should they know one
    another. When they propose anything very material, secure their
    persons, or have in your possession their wives and children as
    hostages for their fidelity. Never communicate anything to them
    but what is absolutely necessary that they should know. [2] ]

    15. Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain
    intuitive sagacity.

    [Mei Yao-ch'en says: "In order to use them, one must know
    fact from falsehood, and be able to discriminate between honesty
    and double-dealing." Wang Hsi in a different interpretation
    thinks more along the lines of "intuitive perception" and
    "practical intelligence." Tu Mu strangely refers these
    attributes to the spies themselves: "Before using spies we must
    assure ourselves as to their integrity of character and the
    extent of their experience and skill." But he continues: "A
    brazen face and a crafty disposition are more dangerous than
    mountains or rivers; it takes a man of genius to penetrate such."
    So that we are left in some doubt as to his real opinion on the

    16. They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and

    [Chang Yu says: "When you have attracted them by
    substantial offers, you must treat them with absolute sincerity;
    then they will work for you with all their might."]

    17. Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make
    certain of the truth of their reports.

    [Mei Yao-ch'en says: "Be on your guard against the
    possibility of spies going over to the service of the enemy."]

    18. Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind
    of business.

    [Cf. VI. ss. 9.]

    19. If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before
    the time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man
    to whom the secret was told.

    [Word for word, the translation here is: "If spy matters
    are heard before [our plans] are carried out," etc. Sun Tzu's
    main point in this passage is: Whereas you kill the spy himself
    "as a punishment for letting out the secret," the object of
    killing the other man is only, as Ch'en Hao puts it, "to stop his
    mouth" and prevent news leaking any further. If it had already
    been repeated to others, this object would not be gained. Either
    way, Sun Tzu lays himself open to the charge of inhumanity,
    though Tu Mu tries to defend him by saying that the man deserves
    to be put to death, for the spy would certainly not have told the
    secret unless the other had been at pains to worm it out of

    20. Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a
    city, or to assassinate an individual, it is always necessary to
    begin by finding out the names of the attendants, the aides-de-

    [Literally "visitors", is equivalent, as Tu Yu says, to
    "those whose duty it is to keep the general supplied with
    information," which naturally necessitates frequent interviews
    with him.]

    and door-keepers and sentries of the general in command. Our
    spies must be commissioned to ascertain these.

    [As the first step, no doubt towards finding out if any of
    these important functionaries can be won over by bribery.]

    21. The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us must be
    sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed.
    Thus they will become converted spies and available for our
    22. It is through the information brought by the converted
    spy that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward

    [Tu Yu says: "through conversion of the enemy's spies we
    learn the enemy's condition." And Chang Yu says: "We must tempt
    the converted spy into our service, because it is he that knows
    which of the local inhabitants are greedy of gain, and which of
    the officials are open to corruption."]

    23. It is owing to his information, again, that we can
    cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.

    [Chang Yu says, "because the converted spy knows how the
    enemy can best be deceived."]

    24. Lastly, it is by his information that the surviving spy
    can be used on appointed occasions.
    25. The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is
    knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived,
    in the first instance, from the converted spy.

    [As explained in ss. 22-24. He not only brings information
    himself, but makes it possible to use the other kinds of spy to

    Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the
    utmost liberality.
    26. Of old, the rise of the Yin dynasty

    [Sun Tzu means the Shang dynasty, founded in 1766 B.C. Its
    name was changed to Yin by P'an Keng in 1401.

    was due to I Chih

    [Better known as I Yin, the famous general and statesman
    who took part in Ch'eng T'ang's campaign against Chieh Kuei.]

    who had served under the Hsia. Likewise, the rise of the Chou
    dynasty was due to Lu Ya

    [Lu Shang rose to high office under the tyrant Chou Hsin,
    whom he afterwards helped to overthrow. Popularly known as T'ai
    Kung, a title bestowed on him by Wen Wang, he is said to have
    composed a treatise on war, erroneously identified with the
    LIU T'AO.]

    who had served under the Yin.

    [There is less precision in the Chinese than I have thought
    it well to introduce into my translation, and the commentaries on
    the passage are by no means explicit. But, having regard to the
    context, we can hardly doubt that Sun Tzu is holding up I Chih
    and Lu Ya as illustrious examples of the converted spy, or
    something closely analogous. His suggestion is, that the Hsia
    and Yin dynasties were upset owing to the intimate knowledge of
    their weaknesses and shortcoming which these former ministers
    were able to impart to the other side. Mei Yao-ch'en appears to
    resent any such aspersion on these historic names: "I Yin and Lu
    Ya," he says, "were not rebels against the Government. Hsia
    could not employ the former, hence Yin employed him. Yin could
    not employ the latter, hence Hou employed him. Their great
    achievements were all for the good of the people." Ho Shih is
    also indignant: "How should two divinely inspired men such as I
    and Lu have acted as common spies? Sun Tzu's mention of them
    simply means that the proper use of the five classes of spies is
    a matter which requires men of the highest mental caliber like I
    and Lu, whose wisdom and capacity qualified them for the task.
    The above words only emphasize this point." Ho Shih believes
    then that the two heroes are mentioned on account of their
    supposed skill in the use of spies. But this is very weak.]

    27. Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise
    general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for
    purposes of spying and thereby they achieve great results.

    [Tu Mu closes with a note of warning: "Just as water, which
    carries a boat from bank to bank, may also be the means of
    sinking it, so reliance on spies, while production of great
    results, is oft-times the cause of utter destruction."]

    Spies are a most important element in water, because on them
    depends an army's ability to move.

    [Chia Lin says that an army without spies is like a man with
    ears or eyes.]

    [1] "Aids to Scouting," p. 2.

    [2] "Marshal Turenne," p. 311.
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