Page:Sun Tzu on The art of war.djvu/51

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xlix
Introduction

that books on war have to do with such things as opportunism in designing plans, and the conversion of spies, they hold that the art is immoral and unworthy of a sage. These people ignore the fact that the studies of our scholars and the civil administration of our officials also require steady application and practice before efficiency is reached. The ancients were particularly chary of allowing mere novices to botch their work.[1] Weapons are baneful[2] and fighting perilous; and unless a general is in constant practice, he ought not to hazard other men’s lives in battle.[3] Hence it is essential that Sun Tzŭ’s 13 chapters should be studied.[4] Hsiang Liang used to instruct his nephew Chi[5] in the art of war. Chi got a rough idea of the art in its general bearings, but would not pursue his studies to their proper outcome, the consequence being that he was finally defeated and overthrown. He did not realise that the tricks and artifices of war are beyond verbal computation. Duke Hsiang of Sung[6] and King Yen of Hsü[7] were brought to destruction by their misplaced humanity. The treacherous and underhand nature of war necessitates the use of guile and stratagem suited to the occasion. There is a case on record of Confucius himself having violated an extorted oath,[8] and also of his having left the Sung State in disguise.[9] Can we then recklessly arraign Sun Tzŭ for disregarding truth and honesty?[10]


  1. This is a rather obscure allusion to Tso Chuan, 襄公, XXXI. 4, where Tsü-ch‘an says: 子有美錦不使人學製焉 “If you have a piece of beautiful brocade, you will not employ a mere learner to make it up.”
  2. Cf. Tao Tê Ching, ch. 31: 兵者不祥之器.
  3. Sun Hsing-yen might have quoted Confucius again. See Lun Yü, XIII. 29, 30.
  4. 今世泥孔子之言以爲兵書不足觀又泥趙括徒能讀父書之言以爲成法不足用又見兵書有權謀有反間以爲非聖人之法皆不知吾儒之學者吏之治事可習而能然古人猶有學製之懼兵凶戰危將不素習未可以人命爲嘗試則十三篇之不可不觀也.
  5. Better known as Hsiang Yü [B.C. 233—202].
  6. The third among the 五伯 (or ) enumerated on p. 141. For the incident referred to, see Tso Chuan, 僖公, XXII. 4.
  7. See supra, p. xvi, note 4.
  8. Shih Chi, ch. 47, f. 7 ro
  9. Ibid., ch. 38, f. 8 vo
  10. 項梁教籍兵法籍略知其意不肯竟學卒以傾覆不知兵法之弊可勝言哉宋襄徐偃仁而