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100 Sun Tzu's The Art of War
VOLUME TWO

Potential

Part 27

Sun Tzu said: Managing a big army is in principle the same as managing a small one: it is a matter of organization. Directing a large army is the same as directing a small troop: it is a matter of strict and impartial command. What makes the whole army under attack not suffer defeat is a matter of adopting normal and special tactics. Troops thrown against the enemy like a grindstone against eggs is a matter of staying clear of the enemy's main forces and striking at his weak points.

Part 28


During a war, the general should adopt the normal way of confronting the enemy, while using special tactics to take the enemy by surprise. He who is adept in such tactics can apply them in ways as infinite as heaven and earth and as the never-ending flow of river. They terminate, but soon begin again, like the sun and moon in motion; they die away, but then they regenerate like the seasons in sequence. There are only five musical notes, but their varied combinations bring about melodies more pleasing and wonderful than ever heard. There are only five basic colours, but their variations and blending produce colours more beautiful and splendid than ever seen. There are only five cardinal tastes, but their mixture yields flavours more delicious and savoury than ever tasted*.
Similarly military formations are not more than the application of special and normal tactics, but their variations and combinations will give rise to an infinite series of manoeuvres. Both special and normal tactics are interdependent and mutually reproductive like a cyclical movement that has neither a beginning nor an end. Who can know its infinitude?

* In ancient China, the people considered that there were five musical notes, namely: gong, shang, jue, zhi and yu; five basic colours, namely: blue, yellow, red, white and black; and five cardinal tastes, namely: sour, salty, pungent, bitter and sweet.

Part 29


A torrent that flows swiftly can float heavy boulders. It is because of the strong momentum of the water. A hawk that flies as quickly as it strikes can destroy its prey. It is because of the timeliness and speediness of its strike.
Similarly, a general who is skilled in war can exploit his own vantage position and launch a swift and sharp attack. His potential is like a crossbow that is fully drawn, and his swiftness is like a shaft that is shot off.

Part 30


In the tumult of battle your army should stay calm. In the chaos of war, where there is no sense of direction, your men should appear to be milling about in circles but remain invulnerable.

Part 31


Disorder comes from order, cowardice stems from courage, and weakness is born of strength. Order or disorder depends on organization, courage or cowardice on circumstances, strength or weakness on dispositions.

Part 32


Therefore, he who is adept at moving the enemy about can put on a deceitful appearance, according to which the enemy will act. He can lure the enemy with something profitable, which the enemy is certain to take. He can drive the enemy about with small advantages and awaits the enemy in strength.

Part 33


The general who is skilled in war always capitalizes on the situation of war and never makes excessive demand on his subordinates. Therefore such a general can select the right men and fully exploit the favourable situation. He who skilled in exploiting the situation directs his men in battles like rolling logs or rocks. The nature of logs or rocks is that they will remain unmoved if the ground is flat; they will roll forward if the ground is slanting, if they are square, they Will stop there; if they are round, they will roll forward.
Thus, the force of the skilful general is just like the momentum of a round rock rolling down a mountain of ten thousand feet high. This is the meaning of potential.
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