17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.
In order to make the translation intelligible, it is necessary to tone down the sharply paradoxical form of the original. Ts‘ao Kung throws out a hint of the 皆毀形匿情也 “These things all serve to destroy formation and conceal one’s condition.” But Tu Mu is the first to put it quite plainly: “If you wish to feign confusion in order to lure the enemy on, you must first have perfect discipline; if you wish to display timidity in order to entrap the enemy, you must have extreme courage; if you wish to parade your weakness in order to make the enemy over-confident, you must have exceeding strength.” in his brief note:
18. Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision;
See supra, § 1.
concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy;
It is passing strange that the commentators should understand 埶 here as “circumstances” — a totally different sense from that which it has previously borne in the chapter. Thus Tu Mu says: 見有利之勢而不動敵人以我爲實怯也 “seeing that we are favourably circumstanced and yet make no move, the enemy will believe that we are really afraid.”
masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions.
Chang Yü relates the following anecdote of Kao Tsu, the first Han Emperor: “Wishing to crush the Hsiung-nu, he sent out spies to report on their condition. But the Hsiung-nu, forewarned, carefully concealed all their able-bodied men and well-fed horses, and only allowed infirm soldiers and emaciated cattle to be seen. The result was that the spies and all recommended the Emperor to deliver his attack. 婁敬 Lou Ching alone opposed them, saying “When two countries go to war, they are naturally inclined to make an ostentatious display of their strength. Yet our spies have seen nothing but old age and infirmity. This is surely some ruse on the part of the enemy, and it would be unwise for us to attack.” The Emperor, however, disregarding this advice, fell into the trap and found himself surrounded at 白登 Po-têng.”