Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions.
絶地 is not one of the Nine Situations as given in the beginning of chap. XI, but occurs later on (ibid. § 43, q.v.). We may compare it with 重地 (XI. § 7). Chang Yü calls it a 危絶之地, situated across the frontier, in hostile territory. Li Ch‘üan says it is “country in which there are no springs or wells, flocks or herds, vegetables or firewood;” Chia Lin, “one of gorges, chasms and precipices, without a road by which to advance.”
In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem.
See XI. §§ 9, 14. Capt. Calthrop has “mountainous and wooded country,” which is a quite inadequate translation of 圍.
In desperate position, you must fight.
See XI. §§ 10, 14. Chang Yü has an important note here, which must be given in full. “From 圮地無舍,” he says, “down to this point, the Nine Variations are presented to us. The reason why only five are given is that the subject is treated en précis (舉其大略也). So in chap. XI, where he discusses the variations of tactics corresponding to the Nine Grounds, Sun Tzŭ mentions only six variations; there again. we have an abridgment. [I cannot understand what Chang Yü means by this statement. He can only be referring to §§ 11—14 or §§ 46—50 of chap. XI; but in both places all the nine grounds are discussed. Perhaps he is confusing these with the Six 地形 of chap. X.] All kinds of ground have corresponding military positions, and also a variation of tactics suitable to each (凡地有勢有變). In chap. XI, what we find enumerated first [§§ 2—10] are the situations; afterwards [§§ 11—14] the corresponding tactics. Now, how can we tell that the 九變 “Nine Variations” are simply the 九地之變 “variations of tactics corresponding to the Nine Grounds”? It is said further on [§ 5] that ‘the general who does not understand the nine variations of tactics may be well acquainted with the features of the country, yet he will not be able to turn his knowledge to practical account.’ Again, in chap. XI [§ 41] we read: ‘The different measures adapted to the nine varieties of ground (九地之變) and the expediency of aggressive or defensive tactics must be carefully examined.’ From a consideration of these passages the meaning is made clear. When later on the nine grounds are enumerated, Sun Tzŭ recurs to these nine variations. He wishes here to speak of the Five Advantages [see infra, § 6], so he begins by setting forth the Nine Variations. These are inseparably connected in practice, and therefore they are dealt with together.” The weak point of this argument is the suggestion that 五事 “five things” can stand as a 大畧, that is, an