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Chapter 10: Terrain ch giles

Sunzi said: The six types of terrain are accessible, entangling, delaying, narrow, dangerous, and far.

When one can advance, and the other can approach, it is called accessible ground. On accessible ground, occupy the high, sunny places first, secure your supply lines, and you will have the advantage in battle. (Giles stresses that Tuyu also notes that "supply lines" can/should include communications)

When one can advance, but it is difficult to retreat, it is called entangling ground. (Note: I feel compelled to translate this sentence apparently entirely reversed from Giles: "Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called ENTANGLING." While reference points of coming and going can be indeterminate, the meaning, as I have translated it, seems to me, more coherent. I hope my subjectivity is not obscuring my understanding too much.) On entangling ground, if the the enemy is not prepared, then go forth and defeat him; but if he has prepared, and one advances without victory, then retreat will be difficult, and one's position will be disadvantageous.

When one's advance is disadvantageous, and the other's advance is also without advantage, it is called delaying ground. On delaying ground, even if the enemy offers advantage, one should not advance; to draw out the enemy, instead retreat: when the enemy is in the middle of advancing, he can be attacked with advantage.

On narrow grounds, occupy them first, prepare fully to await the enemy. If the enemy occupies them first, and he has prepared fully, then do not enter, but if he has not fully prepared, then enter.

On dangerous grounds, occupy them first, occupy the high, sunny places, and await the enemy. If the enemy occupies them first, to draw him out, instead retreat; do not attempt to follow him.

On far grounds, with equal forces, it is not easy to initiate battle, and battle will not be advantageous.

These six concerns are related to the earth; properly appointed generals can not neglect their study. Concerns regarding soldiers are flight, insubordination, defection, debasement, disorder, and mismanagement. Actually most of the chinese terms here are also so vague and/or disjointed from their modern meanings (走,馳,陷,崩,亂,北), that I only feel a little bad about taking such liberties with their translations and/or the English implications. Giles is not much help here either, though I do stick with him on the first 2: "flight, insubordination, collapse, ruin, disorganization, and rout". Fortunately, as usual Sunzi follows up with reasonably clear definitions. These six concerns are not natural disasters, but rather come from the general.

All else being equal, sending one to attack ten will result in flight. I am highly uncomfortable about translating 曰, the highly common classical way of saying "say", or perhaps "is called", as "result in" but I here follow Giles in assuming that that provides the most intuitive interpretation. Strong footmen and weak officers will lead to insubordination. Strong officers and weak footmen will lead to defection. When the officers are angry and disobedient, and out of hatred engage the enemy on their own initiative, before the general can assess the situation, it may be called debasement. When the general is not strict, and instructions are not clear, duties are not fixed, and deployments are criss-crossed, it is called disorder. When the general is unable to anticipate the enemy, sending a few against a mass, the weak to attack the strong, without a select vanguard, it is called mismanagement.

These six concerns lead to defeat; a properly appointed general must not fail to investigate them.

The shape of the ground is an aid to the soldier. That translation follows Giles interpretation of the line. However, his commentary at the beginning of this chapter clearly indicates that he sees no unity between the sections on terrain and the sections on soldiers. I can't help but wonder if this line couldn't also be translated: "Rely on the terrain as you rely on your soldiers". However, I am not confident enough to replace his interpretation.

Anticipating the enemy to insure victory, calculating danger and advantage, far and near, is the way of the superior general. Putting this knowledge to use in battle assures victory. Entering battle without knowledge will bring defeat.

If victory is certain, but the lord says not to fight, you must still fight. If battle will not lead to victory, but the lord says to fight, then still do not fight. One who advances without seeking fame, and retreats without fearing shame, who thinks only to protect the people, and serve his lord, is a treasure of the nation.

See the soldiers as your children and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; see them as your beloved sons, and they will be willing to die for you.

(However) generousity without authority, and loving but unable to command, unable to control disorder, as unto spoiled children, will be no use.

Knowing that our soldiers are ready to attack, but not knowing if the enemy can be attacked, goes only half way towards victory. Knowing that the enemy can be attacked, but not knowing that our soldiers are not ready to attack goes only half way to victory. Knowing that the enemy can be attacked, and that our soldiers are ready to attack, but not knowing that the terrain is unsuitable for battle, goes only half way to victory.

The experienced soldier, when he moves, is never lost, when rising never exhausted.

So it is said of old: know the other and know yourself so that victory will not be in doubt. Knowing your enemy and knowing yourself will prevent misconceived attempts. See the early sections where he notes that success can only be achieved through perceiving vulnerabilities provided by the enemy.

Know heaven and know earth, so that your victory will be complete! Understand the climate and the terrain to insure success.

Chapter 11: 9 Grounds ch giles

Sun Zi said: In the use of soldiers, there is scattering ground, shallow ground, contentious ground, joining ground, intersecting ground, deep ground, obstructed ground, restricted ground, and fatal ground. When princes fight for their own territory, it is scattering ground. Giles, citing Tu Mu, for support suggests that soldiers fighting close to home are more likely to desert; that raises an issue contrary to the typical stereotype of fighting more fiercely for one's homeland. My translation attempts to ambiguously include an implication of insubordinate princes. One might infer that the princes could be the opponents, but the passage also seems to follow a movement from closer and less dangerous to further and more dangerous. In fact, 諸侯:prince does often seem to have the adversarial sense. When men have not entered an area to any great distance, it is shallow ground. When both one and the other can gain some advantage, it is contentious ground. When one can go, or the other come, it is joining ground. Where the land joins the subjects of 3 princes, and he who arrives earliest can control them all, it is intersecting ground. The land where men have entered a great distance, with many cities and villages behind them, is deep ground. Mountains, forests, dangerous and difficult paths, impassable bogs, with difficult routes on all sides, is obstructed ground. Where one enters a confined area, and can only return with difficulty, so that a few of the other can fight against our multitudes, it is restricted ground. Where one fights madly for survival or else perishes, it is fatal ground.

Therefore, on scattering ground, do not fight; on shallow ground, do not stop; on contentious ground, do not initiate; on joining ground, avoid cutting off; on intersecting ground, join together; on deep ground, conquer; on obstructed ground, move on; on restricted ground, use ploys; on fatal ground; battle.

The superior leaders of old could insure that the enemy could not connect the front and the rear, that the many and few could not rely on each other, that the noble and vulgar could not save each other, that high and low could receive each other, that the fleeing soldiers could not gather together, and the obedient soldiers could not line up. When advantageous they acted; if not, they stopped.

Asking if a multitude of enemies with all their generals approaches, expect this kind of reply: first seize something they value, so that they will then listen.

Speed is the master of military situations, preying on others' lack of preparation. Using unexpected paths, attack without warning. When venturing forth, thus focus on advancing great distances. Understand men's limits, plunder abundant wilds to keep the armies well-fed. Carefully cultivate and do not overexert, amassing power, move strategically, and unpredictably.

When there is nowhere else to go, death must be faced. To avoid death, soldiers will fight with all their might. Whatever the danger, they will not be afraid. With nowhere to go, they will stand firm; so distantly advanced that they are trapped, then they have no choice but to battle. Thus, such soldiers are on guard without rest, are ready without being asked, are interconnected without arrangement, are dependable without commands. Prohibit omens and remove doubt, accepting the inevitability of death. When soldiers lack money, it's not because they despise property. When they lose their lives, it's not because they despise longevity. On the day of the battle order, tears will splash the chests of the officers and soldiers sitting, and run down the checks of those lying, but with no avenue of escape, they will show the courage of Zhu and Gui.

Thus, the superior use of soldiers is like the shuairan. The shuairan is a snake of Changshan. Attack its head, and its tail strikes; attack its tail, its head strikes; attack its middle, both head and tail strike. Would you ask if an army can be made like the shauiran? It can. The people of Wu and Yue loathe each other, but when crossing in the same boat, they encounter a strom, they help each other like left and right hands.

Therefore, just tying the horses and burying the wheels is insufficient. To establish unity and courage, it is a matter of governing. To gain both firm and flexible, it is a matter of terrain. Thus, the superior leader joins his soldiers as one, with no other option.

Matters of the general, silent and solitary, must be carefully regulated and able to deceive the eyes and ears of the officers and troops, so that they will not know. Changing his tactics, discarding his plans, he keeps them unaware. Changing his location, complicating his path, he keeps them from gaining any consideration.

The commander in his time is like one who climbing high kicks away the ladder. The commander deeply penetrating into the princes' land makes his opportunity. As driving a flock of sheep, driving them forward and back, they know not where. Gathering the multitudes of the armies, to send them into danger, this is called the business of the general.

The variations of the 9 grounds, the use of indirect force, the logic of people's emotions, all must be investigated. When venturing forth, depth is desirable; the shallow is scattering. Through countries, over boundaries, is cut-off ground. Where all sides are open is intersecting ground. Advancing great distances puts one on deep ground. Lesser distances are shallow ground. Back secured and narrows ahead is called restricted ground. When there is no where to go, it is fatal ground. On scattering ground, I will inspire unity; on shallow ground, I will rally troops; on contentious ground, I will hurry the rear; on joining ground, I would care for the defenses, and fortify the junctions; on intersecting ground, I would care for the fortifications; on deep ground, I would secure provisions; on obstructing ground, I would proceed through its routes; on restricted ground, I would establish watchposts; on fatal ground, I would acknowledge the imminence of death. Such is the spirit of soldiers: when surrounded to defend, without any choice, to fight, when overcome, to serve. Giles hammers home a point, with abundant citations from numerous commentators, that it is good to be on fatal ground because there soldiers will fight their hardest. I try to follow the silent pronouns in leaving the possible relations a little more ambiguous.

So he who does not know they plans of the princes, cannot prepare alliances with them. He who does not know the shape of the mountains and forests, dangers, obstacles, and marshes, cannot move his troops. Without using local guides, one cannot gain the advantage of terrain.

If even one of these 4-5 ? are not known, one will not be able to usurp the soldiers of a king. While Giles seems to interpret 霸王 "warlike prince" in the positive, I experiment with treating the phrase 霸王之兵 as VO. If you would usurp the soldiers of a king, attacking a great country, prevent him from massing his multitudes; increase threats to the enemy, so that they cannot come together. Don't fight with every ally; While Giles opts for the "strive for" meaning of 爭, I experiment with the alternative "fight with". nor cultivate everyone's power. Believe in the self's private interests, heap threats upon the enemy, and then you will be able to pluck his cities, and overthrow his country.

Bestow irregular rewards; Issue erratic commands. Deceive the multitudes, if you would unify them. In matters of treachery, do not let one word slip. In feigning harm, don't reveal the profit. Giles translates 犯 without any negative implication as "handle"; perhaps it once lacked that implication, but I try to adhere a bit to the modern implication of crime. Enter the field of death, then survive; trapped on fatal ground, then live. Again Giles and most of the commentators seem to to suggest that simply being hard-pressed is actually good, but the above juxtaposition (if my translation of 犯 is acceptable) could rather imply that it can be a useful deception. When the multitude is plunged into danger, then victory will be decided.

In matters of war, follow the intentions of the enemy, in the same direction for many miles until the general can be slain; this is called skillful success.

I again experiment with alternative interpretations: In establishing government, raze the outposts, fold the flags, refuse the emissaries, be strict in the council chamber, and carry out executions.

When the enemy surrenders, it is imperative to enter, secure his priorities, precise in timing, adhere to his laws, and bring the war to an end.

In the beginning, be like a maiden, so that the enemy will open the door; in the end, be like a fleeing hare, which the enemy cannot resist.