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Quotes from "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu

Updated on October 4, 2008

A leader leads by example not by force.

風 Swift as the wind

林 Quiet as the forest

火 Conquer like the fire

山 Steady as the mountain

To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

All warfare is based on deception.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

If your opponent is of choleric temperament, seek to irritate him.

Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.

To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape.

Management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization.

There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled 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 imperilled in every single battle.

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.

One defends when his strength is inadaquate, he attacks when it is abundant

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

A skilled commander seeks victory from the situation and does not demand it of his subordinates.

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

When the enemy is at ease, be able to weary him; when well fed, to starve him; when at rest, to make him move. Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.

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.

A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective.

The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities... It is best to win without fighting

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.

When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.

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.

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

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.

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.

The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.

Subtle and insubstantial, the expert leaves no trace; divinely mysterious, he is inaudible. Thus he is master of his enemy's fate.

Too frequent rewards indicate that the general is at the end of his resources; too frequent punishments that he is in acute distress.

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


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    It is is balanced to succeed through all wind and fire.........

  • profile image

    Mr Death 

    7 years ago

    Okay that girl in the last part freak me out lol :D

  • profile image

    Hugh Kramer 

    7 years ago

    Great Hub . . . I was just looking for some related stuff and stumbled across this. . . I haven't set one up yet but Im going to link to yours on my blog

  • profile image

    Yoh Jalil 

    8 years ago

    "To know your enemy you must become your enemy" Brilliant, very useful.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    "Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across" was said by Scipio not Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu said something similar "To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape."

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 

    9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    Back for a second comment after seeing RGraf over here. I believe the Hub Gods lead us to the exact thing we need to read at the right time. I'm going through a literal legal battle with a family member right now. This is GREAT to remember. Thank you for posting these quotes. MM

  • RGraf profile image

    Rebecca Graf 

    9 years ago from Wisconsin

    Many good gems in this. Thank you.

  • JPSO138 profile image


    9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

    Yes, the book is indeed great. Somehow it has become the bible of great men. I was able to read the book and remembered some of the quotes you have written.

  • St.James profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

    Thank you very much Mighty Mom. I hope your son gets much of Sun Tzu's writings. How many centuries have passed since the first time Sun Tzu spoke these strategies? How often can these teachings be applied still today?

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 

    9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    Very apt for a variety of battles in life. I recently bought this book for my teenaged son.

    Love the photo at the end, too! Kudos, St. James!!! MM

  • St.James profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

    Thank you LinJingJing! I hope you enjoyed reading it.

  • linjingjing profile image


    9 years ago

    Quotes from The Art of War by Sun Tzu

    This article is very helpful to me

  • St.James profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

    Thank you

  • linjingjing profile image


    9 years ago

    Quotes from The Art of War by Sun Tzu

    Funny article

  • Philosophy n' me profile image

    Philosophy n' me 

    9 years ago from Chicago IL.

    being a true admirer of war myself I have a great apreciation for this hub. Unfortunatly I can not say I have read the book but thank you for this peek inside and for reviving my love human complexity in war.... P.S. thank you for tha fam mail :)

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    it amazing when you think about it that any book has been passed on for thounds of years

    it is truly a realvent classic

  • LondonGirl profile image


    9 years ago from London

    My other half is dead keen on this book as well, he's always quoting from it.


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