XI. The nine situations.
Li Ch‘üan is not quite right in calling these 勝敵之地. As we shall see, some of them are highly disadvantageous from the military point of view. Wang Hsi more correctly says: 用兵之地利害有九也 “There are nine military situations, good and bad.” One would like to distinguish the 九地 from the six 地形 of chap. X by saying that the latter refer to the natural formation or geographical features of the country, while the 九地 have more to do with the condition of the army, being 地勢 “situations” as opposed to “grounds.” But it is soon found impossible to carry out the distinction. Both are cross-divisions, for,among the 地形 we have “temporising ground” side by side with “narrow passes,” while in the present chapter there is even greater confusion.
1. Sun Tzu said that the art of war recognizes nine varieties of ground: (1) Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5) ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8) hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground.
2. When a chieftain is fighting in his own territory, it is dispersive ground.
So called because the soldiers, being near to their homes and anxious to see their wives and children, are likely to seize the opportunity afforded by a battle and scatter in every direction. “In their advance.” observes Tu Mu, “they will lack the valour of desperation, and when they retreat, they will find harbours of refuge.” The 者, which appears in the T‘u Shu, seems to have been accidentally omitted in my edition of the standard text.