XI. NINE VARIETIES OF GROUND
The words of Sun Tzu Wu the Master:
1. The art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground:
Distracting ground; disturbing ground; ground of contention; intersecting ground; path-ridden ground; deeply-involved ground; difficult ground; enclosed ground; death ground.
1.1 At all times, when the Prince fights in his own territory, it is called distracting ground. This and the following are so called because the men are continually thinking of, and slipping back to their homes.
1.2 That ground a short way inside the enemy’s border is called disturbing ground.
1.3 Ground giving advantage to whichever side is in possession, is called ground of contention.
1.4 Ground to which either side has access, is called intersecting ground.
1.5 Ground between three provinces first possession of which enables the peoples of the earth to be controlled, is called path-ridden ground.
1.6 The interior of the enemy’s country with many of his fortified towns in rear, is called deeply-involved ground.
1.7 Mountain and forest, precipices, ravines, marsh and swamp, all places where passage is hard, are called difficult ground.
1.8 A narrow entrance and winding outlet, where a small number can oppose a large force, is called enclosed ground.
1.9 That ground where delay means disaster, is called death ground.
1.10 Wherefore, do not fight on distracting ground; do not linger on disturbing ground.
1.11 If the enemy be in possession of disputed ground, do not attack.
1.12 In intersecting ground, do not interrupt the highways.
1.13 At the crossing of highways, cultivate intercourse.
1.14 When deeply involved, levy and store up the enemy’s property.
1.15 Quickly depart from difficult ground.
1.16 On enclosed ground, use stratagem.
1.17 On death ground, fight.
2. The skillful leaders of old were at pains to disconnect the enemy’s front and rear; they cut asunder small and large forces of the enemy; prevented mutual help between his officers and men; spread mistrust between high and low. They scattered the enemy, and prevented him from concentrating; if his soldiers were assembled, they were without unity.
3. If there be a chance of victory, move; if there be no chance of success, stand fast.
4. If I were asked how a powerful and united force of the enemy should be met, I would say: lay hands on what the enemy cherishes and he will conform to our desires.
5. In war, above all, speed sustains the spirit of the troops. Strike before the enemy is ready; and attack his unpreparedness from an unexpected quarter.
6. With regard to war in foreign lands, when strangers in a far country, the soldiers are united and are proof against defeat. Plunder fertile plains so that the army is fed; be careful of the health of the soldiers; do not tire them uselessly; unite their minds; store up strength; plan well and secretly. If there be no refuge the soldiers will not fly from death.
7. If there be no alternative but death, the soldiers exert themselves to the utmost.
8. In desperate places, soldiers lose the sense of fear.
9. If there be no place of refuge, there will be no wavering.
10. If deeply involved in the enemy’s country, there is unity.
11. If it be unavoidable, the soldiers will fight their hardest. Even without warnings they are vigilant; they comply without insistence; without stipulations they are tractable; without explicit instructions they will trust the general and obey him.
12. Prohibit the discussion of signs and omens, and remove the soldiers’ doubts; then to the moment of death they will be undistracted.
13. Riches are denied the soldiers, not because money is a bad thing; old age is forbidden them, but not because long life is evil. Hardships and danger are the proper lot of the soldier.
14. When the order for attack is given, the collars of those who are sitting may be wet with tears; tears may roll down the cheeks of those reclining; yet these men, in a desperate place, will fight with the courage of Chu and Kuei.
15. Soldiers should be used like the snakes on Mt. Chang; which, if you hit on the head, the tail will strike you; if you hit the tail, the head will strike you; if you strike its middle, head and tail will strike you together.
16. Should anyone ask me whether men can be made to move like these snakes, I say, yes. The men of Wu and Yueh hate each other; yet, if they cross a river in the same boat and a storm overtake them, they help each other like the two hands.
17. The horses may be tied, and the chariot wheels sunk in the mud; but that does not prevent flight.
18. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.
19. The best results from both the weak and strong are obtained by a proper use of the ground.
20. The skillful general can lead his army, as a man leads another by the hand, because he places it in a desperate position.
21. The general should be calm, inscrutable, just and prudent. He should keep his officers and men in ignorance of his plans, and inform no one of any changes or fresh departures. By changing his camps, and taking devious and unexpected routes, his plans cannot be guessed.
22. As one taking away the ladder from under those mounted upon the roof, so acts the general when his men are assembled to fight. He penetrates into the heart of the enemy’s country and then divulges his plans. He drives the army hither and thither like a flock of sheep, knowing not whither they go.
23. Therefore the general should assemble the armies, and place them in a desperate position.
24. The different natures of the Nine Grounds; the suiting of the means to the occasion; the hearts of men: these are things that must be studied.
25. When deep in the interior of a hostile country, there is cohesion; if only on the borders, there is distraction. To leave home and cross the borders is to be free from interference.
26. On distracting ground, unite the soldiers’ minds.
27. On disturbing ground, keep together.
28. On disputed ground, try to take the enemy in rear.
29. On intersecting ground, look well to the defenses.
30. On path-ridden ground, cultivate intercourse.
31. On deeply-involved ground be careful of supplies.
32. On difficult ground, do not linger.
33. On enclosed ground, close the path of escape.
34. On death ground, show the soldiers that there is no chance of survival.
35. It is the nature of soldiers to defend when surrounded, to fight with energy when compelled thereto, to pursue the enemy if he retreat.
36. He cannot treat with other rulers who knows not their ambitions.
37. He who knows not mountain and forest; cliffs; ravines; lakes and marshes; cannot conduct an army.
38. He who does not use guides, cannot take advantage of the ground.
39. He who has not a complete knowledge of the Nine Grounds, cannot gain military domination.
40. The great general, when attacking a powerful nation, prevents the enemy from concentrating his hosts.
41. He overawes the enemy so that other states cannot join against him.
42. He does not struggle for the favour of other states; nor is he careful of their rights. He has confidence in himself, and awes the enemy.
43. Therefore he easily takes the fortress, or reduces the country to subjection.
44. In the bestowal of rewards, or in his orders, he is not bound by ancient rule.
45. He manages his forces as though they were one man.
46. Orders should direct the soldiers; but while what is advantageous should be made known, what is disadvantageous should be concealed.
47. If the forces be plunged into danger, there is survival; from death ground there is retrieval; for the force in danger gains the victory.
48. Discover the enemy’s intentions by conforming to his movements. When these are discovered, then, with one stroke, the general may be killed, even though he be one hundred leagues distant.
49. When war is declared, close the barriers; destroy passports; prevent the passage of the enemy’s spies; conduct the business of the government with vigilance.
50. Take immediate advantage of the enemy’s weakness; discover what he most values, and plan to seize it.
51. Shape your plans according to rule, and the circumstances of the enemy.
52. At first behave with the discretion of a maiden; then, when the enemy gives an opening, dart in like a rabbit. The enemy cannot defend himself.