Tao Te Ching

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Art of War 孙子兵法

By Sun Tzu
Trans: Denma Translation Group

Written over 2500 years ago and a serious influence on both Eastern and Western strategic thinking ever since, The Art of War was followed closely by Vietcong officers in winning their war and because of that became recommended reading for all US Military Intelligence staff. It remains required reading for the Soviet political-military complex. Mao Zedong closely followed it and plagiarized it in his Little Red Book. James Clavell wrote that if our political leaders had understood these concepts, America would not have gotten involved in the Viet Nam war, the Bay of Pigs, the Iran hostage debacle, and would not have lost the Korean war. He also thought the British Empire would not have fallen apart and both World Wars I and II would have been avoided. Beyond the political realm, these same skillful strategies show the way to victory in boardrooms, business conflicts, legal battles, sports and even the battle of the sexes.

Themes

Quotes from Art of War 孙子兵法

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

Chapters:

Themes: Deception

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“By reinforcing every part, he weakens every part.”

Chapters:

Themes: Less is More

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“Faced with chaos or conflict, the sage commander looks first to the largest reference point. No matter what ground he has been given, he always thinks bigger… he looks to the space around things.”

Chapters: 27. No Trace

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“Generals who advance with no thought of fame, who retreat with no fear of punishment, who think only of protecting their country and helping their king are the treasures of the realm.”

Chapters: 69. No Enemy

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“He plans secretly, moves surreptitiously, and foils the enemy's intentions... but his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom or credit for courage because the world at large knows nothing of them.”

Chapters: 43. Inscrutable

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“If the general is not victorious over his anger and sets them swarming like ants, one third of the officers and soldiers are killed”

Chapters:

Themes: Anger

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“In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Under no circumstances can it be neglected.”

Chapters:

Themes: Peace Strategy

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“In seeing victory, not going beyond what everyone knows is not skilled… One skilled at battle takes a stand in the ground of no defeat… Therefore, the victorious military is first victorious and after that does battle.”

Chapters: 60. Less is More

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“It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.”

Chapters:

Themes: Golden Rule

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“It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”

Chapters:

Themes: War

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“It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who an thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”

Chapters:

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“Know the other and know oneself,
Then victory is not in danger.
Know earth and know heaven,
Then victory can be complete.”

Chapters: 24. Unnecessary Baggage

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“Like stones thrown on eggs... Victory is gained by surprise.”

Chapters:

Themes: Victory

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“Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.”

Chapters:

Themes: Mistakes

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“One skilled at battle takes a stand in the ground of no defeat… the victorious military is first victorious and after than does battle… And so one who is skilled cultivates Tao and preserves method.”

Chapters: 60. Less is More

Themes: Failure Integrity

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“Pretend to be weak so that your opponent may grow arrogant.”

Chapters:

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“Projection can be as simple for the sage commander as confirming the projections that others present... Since the sage commander does not hold to a fixed position, the projection does not capture him and is not a threat.”

Chapters:

Themes: Projection

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“Protecting ourselves against defeat is in our own hands; the opportunity of defeating the enemy is in theirs.”

Chapters:

Themes: Enemy Power

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“The king only loves the words, he cannot make use of the reality.”

Chapters:

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“The most powerful form of deception is to create the existence of that which does not exist in order to create the nonexistence of that which exists.Thus he can hide in front of people's eyes”

Chapters:

Themes: Illusion

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“The sage commander moves beyond defeat by being victorious over his own aggression... the general who is not victorious over his anger brings destruction to his own troops as well as the enemy. Aggression gives the enemy something against which to fight. this mires the general in battle. The sage commander responds to aggression by creating space”

Chapters:

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“The value of time—being a little ahead of our opponent—has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the best calculations”

Chapters:

Themes: Time

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“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard”

Chapters:

Themes: Music

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“Therefore, 100 victories in 100 battles is not the most skillful. Subduing the other’s military without battle is the most skillful.”

Chapters: 66. Go Low

Themes: Skillful Means

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“Those who win success, think deeply before doing anything. Those who suffer failure, avoid contemplation and make few calculations beforehand.”

Chapters:

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“Trust in self interest, spread one’s awesomeness over the enemy... Victory can be known. It cannot be made… And so the superior military cuts down strategy. Its inferior cuts down alliances. Its inferior cuts down the military. The worst attacks walled cities.”

Chapters: 54. Planting Well
28. Turning Back

Themes: Strategy Victory

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“When ten to one, surround them.
when five to one, attack them.
When two to one, do battle with them.
When matched, then divide them.
When fewer, then defend against them.
When inadequate, then avoid them.”

Chapters:

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Quotes about Art of War 孙子兵法 (3 quotes)

“I believe The Art of War shows quite clearly how to take the initiative and combat the enemy—any enemy… Sun Tzu’s truths can equally show the way to victory in all kinds of ordinary business conflicts, boardroom battles, and in the day to day fight for survival we all endure—even in the battle of the sexes! It has been a constant companion to me… I would make it obligatory study… I believe, very much, that Sun Tzu’s knowledge is vital to our survival.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from The Art of War, 1983

Themes: Conflict Strategy

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“these sayings have been accepted and endorsed by all the greatest captains of Chinese history, they offer a combination of freshness and sincerity, acuteness and common sense, which quite excludes the idea that they were artificially concocted... their essence has been distilled from a large store of personal observation and experience.”

Lionel Giles 1875 – 1958 CE
Victorian "Taoist at heart"
from Art of War introduction

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“This is in The Art of War, however, you gentlemen did not notice it. Doesn’t The Art of War say ‘They will survive after being trapped in a fatal situation and will live on after being placed in a hopeless position?' Furthermore, I do not have well-trained officers. The circumstances were that I had to put them in a fatal situation and made every person fight for his life. If I had put them in a safe situation, they would have had already run away. How could they have been held and employed?”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians

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