ᐅ111+ Sun Tzu Quotes (Author of The Art of War)

"If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need to do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way." ~ Sun Tzu

"The best general is the one who never fights." ~ Sun Tzu

"Victory is the main object in war." ~ Sun Tzu

"Subjugating the enemy's army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence." ~ Sun Tzu

"The relative size of your force as against that of your adversary is by itself of no consequence. What controls is the relative size of your force at the point where you join in battle. You can strike with the few and be many if you strike your adversary in his gaps. Seek out places where the defense is not strict, the place not tightly guarded, the generals weak, the troops disorderly, the supplies are scarce and the forces are isolated." ~ Sun Tzu

"Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity." ~ Sun Tzu

"Spies are a most important element in water, because on them depends an army's ability to move." ~ Sun Tzu

"Therefore I say: know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril." ~ Sun Tzu

"Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move." ~ Sun Tzu

"The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few." ~ Sun Tzu

"Use humility to make the enemy haughty. Tire them by flight. Cause division among them. When they are unprepared, attack and make your move when they do not expect it." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is imperative to contest all factions for complete victory, so the army is not garrisoned and the profit can be total. This is the law of strategic siege." ~ Sun Tzu

"If soldiers are punished before they have grown attached to you, they will not prove submissive; and, unless submissive, then will be practically useless. If, when the soldiers have become attached to you, punishments are not enforced, they will still be unless." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results." ~ Sun Tzu

"Know thy self, know thy enemy." ~ Sun Tzu

"There are five kinds of incendiary attack: The first is called setting fire to personnel; the second, to stores; the third, to transport vehicles and equipment; the fourth, to munitions; the fifth, to supply installations...In all cases an army must understand the changes induced by the five kinds of incendiary attack, and make use of logistical calculations to address them." ~ Sun Tzu

"the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril." ~ Sun Tzu

"Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign." ~ Sun Tzu

"Against those skilled in attack, an enemy does not know where to defend; against the experts in defense, the enemy does not know where to attack." ~ Sun Tzu

"Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men." ~ Sun Tzu

"To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy." ~ Sun Tzu

"If this is long delayed, weapons are blunted and morale depressed." ~ Sun Tzu

"Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals." ~ Sun Tzu

"Should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is sufficient to estimate the enemy situation correctly and to concentrate your strength to capture him. There is no more to it than this. He who lacks foresight and underestimates his enemy will surely be captured by him." ~ Sun Tzu

"The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success." ~ Sun Tzu

"When he pretends to flee, do not pursue." ~ Sun Tzu

"Ponder and deliberate before you make your move. He will conquer who has learned the artifice of deviation. Such is the art of maneuvering." ~ Sun Tzu

"If I wish to engage, then the enemy, for all his high ramparts and deep moat, cannot avoid engagement; I attack that which he is obliged to rescue." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is the rule in war, if ten times the enemy's strength, surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, be able to divide them; if equal, engage them; if fewer, defend against them; if weaker, be able to avoid them." ~ Sun Tzu

"If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is death." ~ Sun Tzu

"Being unconquerable lies with yourself; being conquerable lies with your enemy." ~ Sun Tzu

"If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: "Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will." Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots." ~ Sun Tzu

"There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefitted." ~ Sun Tzu

"O divine art of subtlety and secrecy!" ~ Sun Tzu

"Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten times its size, the result will be the flight of the former." ~ Sun Tzu

"We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, to wit: (1) Accessible ground; (2) entangling ground; (3) temporising ground; (4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; (6) positions at a great distance from the enemy." ~ Sun Tzu

"The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution." ~ Sun Tzu

"The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy" ~ Sun Tzu

"The skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting." ~ Sun Tzu

"Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all." ~ Sun Tzu

"In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory." ~ Sun Tzu

"The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain." ~ Sun Tzu

"As water has no constant form, there are in war no constant conditions." ~ Sun Tzu

"If not in the interests of the state, do not act. If you cannot succeed, do not use troops. If you are not in danger, do not fight." ~ Sun Tzu

"Be the first to seize intersecting ground, that is ground which lies the intersections of borders or intersections of main thoroughfares of commerce and travel. Your occupation of it gives you access to all who border it and all who would covet it. On intersecting ground, if you establish alliances you are safe, if you lose alliances you are in peril." ~ Sun Tzu

"Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss." ~ Sun Tzu

"Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy's purpose." ~ Sun Tzu

"In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them." ~ Sun Tzu

"Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision; concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions." ~ Sun Tzu

"The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy." ~ Sun Tzu

"To capture an enemies army is better than to destroy it." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used." ~ Sun Tzu

"There is nothing more difficult than tactical maneuvering. The difficult consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation." ~ Sun Tzu

"Appraise war in terms of the fundamental factors. The first of these factors is moral influence." ~ Sun Tzu

"They [spies] cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straightforwardness." ~ Sun Tzu

"When the enemy's envoy's speak in humble terms, but continues his preparations, he will advance. When their language is deceptive but the enemy pretentiously advances, he will retreat. When the envoys speak in apologetic terms, he wishes a respite. When without a previous understanding the enemy asks for a truce, he is plotting. When the enemy sees an advantage but does not advance to seize it, he is fatigued." ~ Sun Tzu

"And therefore only the enlightened sovereign and the worthy general who are able to use the most intelligent people as agents are certain to achieve great things." ~ Sun Tzu

"On the field of battle, the spoken word does not carry far enough; hence the institution of gongs and drums... banners and flags. Gongs and drums, banners and flags, are means whereby the ears and eyes of the host may be focused on one particular point." ~ Sun Tzu

"The general must be the first in the toils and fatigues of the army. In the heat of summer he does not spread his parasol nor in the cold of winter don thick clothing. In dangerous places he must dismount and walk. He waits until the army's wells have been dug and only then drinks; until the army's food is cooked before he eats; until the army's fortifications have been completed, to shelter himself." ~ Sun Tzu

"Therefore the victories of good warriors are not noted for cleverness or bravery. Therefore their victories in battle are not flukes. Their victories are not flukes because they position themselves where they will surely win, prevailing over those wh." ~ Sun Tzu

"Rapidity is the essence of war." ~ Sun Tzu

"Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity; They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straightforwardness; Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports; Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of warfare; If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to whom the secret was told." ~ Sun Tzu

"When the thunderclap comes, there is no time to cover the ears." ~ Sun Tzu

"Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength." ~ Sun Tzu

"Without local guides, your enemy employs the land as a weapon against you." ~ Sun Tzu

"One whose troops repeatedly congregate in small groups here and there, whispering together, has lost the masses. One who frequently grants rewards is in deep distress. One who frequently imposes punishments is in great difficulty. One who is at first excessively brutal and then fears the masses is the pinnacle of stupidity." ~ Sun Tzu

"The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose." ~ Sun Tzu

"So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing." ~ Sun Tzu

"Quickness is the essence of the war." ~ Sun Tzu

"No nation has ever benefited from a prolonged war." ~ Sun Tzu

"Someone unfamiliar with the mountains and forests cannot advance [the team]. One who does not employ local guides cannot gain the advantage." ~ Sun Tzu

"So there are five ways of knowing who will win. Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious. Those who discern when to use many or few troops are victorious. Those whose upper and lower ranks have the same desire are victorious." ~ Sun Tzu

"If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away." ~ Sun Tzu

"All war is deception." ~ Sun Tzu

"The dance of battle is always played to the same impatient rhythm. What begins in a surge of violent motion is always reduced to the perfectly still." ~ Sun Tzu

"I will be able to forecast which side will be victorious and which defeated." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two." ~ Sun Tzu

"Thus, though I have heard of successful military operations that were clumsy but swift, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays." ~ Sun Tzu

"With regard to ground of this nature, be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and carefully guard your line of supplies. Then you will be able to fight with advantage." ~ Sun Tzu

"When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become, as it were, like rolling logs or stones... The energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height." ~ Sun Tzu

"Of all those in the army close to the commander none is more intimate than the secret agent; of all rewards none more liberal than those given to secret agents; of all matters none is more confidential than those relating to secret operations." ~ Sun Tzu

"If I determine the enemy's disposition of forces while I have no perceptible form, I can concentrate my forces while the enemy is fragmented. The pinnacle of military deployment approaches the formless: if it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it nor the wise make plans against it." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is according to the shapes that I lay the plans for victory, but the multitude does not comprehend this. Although everyone can see the outward aspects, none understands the way in which I have created victory." ~ Sun Tzu

"The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally" ~ Sun Tzu

"An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness." ~ Sun Tzu

"If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle" ~ Sun Tzu

"Do not press an enemy at bay. Prince Fu Ch'ai said: "Wild beasts, when at bay, fight desperately. How much more is this true of men! If they know there is no alternative, they will fight to the death." ~ Sun Tzu

"Should the enemy forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned." ~ Sun Tzu

"Apparent confusion is a product of good order; apparent cowardice, of courage; apparent weakness, of strength." ~ Sun Tzu

"Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports." ~ Sun Tzu

"If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy's position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy's position weak." ~ Sun Tzu

"If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler's bidding." ~ Sun Tzu

"All warfare is based on deception. There is no place where espionage is not used. Offer the enemy bait to lure him." ~ Sun Tzu

"So it is that good warriors take their stance on ground where they cannot lose, and do not overlook conditions that make an opponent prone to defeat." ~ Sun Tzu

"A wise general makes a point of foraging of the enemy." ~ Sun Tzu

"There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare." ~ Sun Tzu

"Hence that general is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skilful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack." ~ Sun Tzu

"If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst." ~ Sun Tzu

"Therefore a victorious army first wins and then seeks battle; a defeated army first battles and then seeks victory." ~ Sun Tzu

"For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards." ~ Sun Tzu

"If there is disturbance in the camp, the general's authority is weak. If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary." ~ Sun Tzu

"War is a matter of vital importance to the state; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied." ~ Sun Tzu

"When you do battle, even if you are winning, if you continue for a long time it will dull your forces and blunt you edge...If you keep your armies out in the field for a long time, your supplies will be insufficient. Transportation of provisions itself consumes 20 times the amount transported." ~ Sun Tzu

"The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat: - let such a one be dismissed!" ~ Sun Tzu

"When a general, unable to estimate the enemy's strength, allows an inferior force to engage a larger one, or hurls a weak detachment against a powerful one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the front rank, the result must be rout." ~ Sun Tzu

"Of all rewards none [is] more liberal than those given to secret agents." ~ Sun Tzu

"We cannot enter into alliance with neighbouring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country - its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides." ~ Sun Tzu

"Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge." ~ Sun Tzu

"And regulation entails organizational effectiveness, a chain of command, and a structure for logistical support." ~ Sun Tzu

"To perceive victory when it is known to all is not really skilful... It does not take much strength to lift a hair, it does not take sharp eyes to see the sun and moon, it does not take sharp ears to hear the thunderclap." ~ Sun Tzu

"He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious." ~ Sun Tzu

"If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near." ~ Sun Tzu

"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." ~ Sun Tzu

"To maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished." ~ Sun Tzu

"With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy." ~ Sun Tzu

"If I am able to determine the enemy's dispositions while at the same time I conceal my own, then I can concentrate and he must divide." ~ Sun Tzu

"Do not press an enemy at bay." ~ Sun Tzu

"Bestow rewards without respect to customary practice; publish orders without respect to precedent. Thus you may employ the entire army as you would one man." ~ Sun Tzu

"At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you." ~ Sun Tzu

"The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers." ~ Sun Tzu

"The proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause people's substance to be drained away. When their substance is drained away, they will be afflicted by heavy exactions. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and their incomes dissipated." ~ Sun Tzu

"When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce. If the enemy's troops march up angrily and remain facing ours for a long time without either joining battle or removing demands, the situation is one that requires great vigilance and circumspection. To begin by bluster, but afterward to take fright at the enemy's numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence." ~ Sun Tzu

"Getting people to fight by letting the force of momentum work is like rolling logs and rocks. Logs and rocks are still when in a secure place, but roll on an incline; they remain stationary if square, they roll if round. Therefore, when people are skillfully led into battle, the momentum is like that of round rocks rolling down a high mountain - this is force." ~ Sun Tzu

"He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength." ~ Sun Tzu

"If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage." ~ Sun Tzu

"He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total ignorance." ~ Sun Tzu

"All battles are won before they start." ~ Sun Tzu

"In warfare, first lay plans which will ensure victory, and then lead your army to battle; if you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured." ~ Sun Tzu

"He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign." ~ Sun Tzu

"The ultimate in disposing one's troops is to be without ascertainable shape. Then the most penetrating spies cannot pry in nor can the wise lay plans against you." ~ Sun Tzu

"Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous." ~ Sun Tzu

"The natural formation of the country is the soldier's best ally; but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general." ~ Sun Tzu

"When orders are consistently trustworthy and observed, the relationship of a commander with his troops is satisfactory." ~ Sun Tzu

"To perceive victory when it is known to all is not really skilful. Everyone calls victory in battle good, but it is not really good." ~ Sun Tzu

"If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers." ~ Sun Tzu

"Therefore, to estimate the enemy situation and to calculate distances and the degree of difficulty of the terrain so as to control victory are virtues of the superior general." ~ Sun Tzu

"Of all those in the army close to the commander, none is more intimate than the secret agent." ~ Sun Tzu

"In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more." ~ Sun Tzu

"Nothing is more difficult than the art of maneuver. What is difficult about maneuver is to make the devious route the most direct and to turn misfortune to advantage." ~ Sun Tzu

"The sovereign must have full knowledge of the activities of the five sorts of agents. This knowledge must come from the double agents, and therefore it is mandatory that they be treated with the utmost liberality." ~ Sun Tzu

"Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from natural causes, 1 but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are: (1) Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganisation; (6) rout." ~ Sun Tzu

"Generally in war the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this." ~ Sun Tzu

"When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped to go rolling down." ~ Sun Tzu

"These are six ways of courting defeat, which must be carefully noted by the general who has attained a responsible post." ~ Sun Tzu

"When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporising ground." ~ Sun Tzu

"The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambuscade. Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming." ~ Sun Tzu

"In executing an Artful Strategy: When ten times greater, surround them; When five times greater, attack them; When two times greater, scatter them. If the opponent is ready to challenge: When fewer in number, be ready to evade them; When unequal to the match, be ready to avoid them. Even when the smaller opponents have a strong position, the larger opponent will capture them." ~ Sun Tzu

"War is a matter of vital importance to the state." ~ Sun Tzu

"From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue." ~ Sun Tzu

"When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce." ~ Sun Tzu

"The one who figures on victory at headquarters before even doing battle is the one who has the most strategic factors on his side." ~ Sun Tzu