Sun Tzu, personal name, Sun Wu flourished 5th century BC, was a Chinese general, writer, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Tzu is credited as the writer of The Art of War, a powerful work of military technique that has both East and Western Asian philosophy and military perspective.
Sun Tzu’s works focused more on alternatives to battles including stratagem delay, alternatives to war itself, and the use of spies. Additionally, he focused on making and keeping alliances temporarily, use of deceit, and being willing to submit to the more powerful foes.
In his book, The Art of War is a guide to tactics and strategy for rulers and commanders. It also discusses several maneuvers and the effects of terrain on the outcome of the war. Tzu means Master Sun. Sun Tzu’s work continues to influence modern warfare, politics, sports, business, and culture. Below are his quotes that teach you how to empower yourself and courageously fight your enemies.
Sun Tzu Quotes
1. “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”– Sun Tzu
2. “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”– Sun Tzu
3. “If fighting is sure to result in victory, than 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
4. “The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”– Sun Tzu
5. “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”– Sun Tzu
6. “When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”– Sun Tzu
7. “What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”– Sun Tzu
8. “When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteoousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”– Sun Tzu
9. “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.”– Sun Tzu
10. “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”– Sun Tzu
11. “Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.”– Sun Tzu
12. “When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”– Sun Tzu
13. “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”– Sun Tzu
14. “Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”– Sun Tzu
15. “Bravery without forethought, causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent, must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain.”– Sun Tzu
16. “If you fight with all your might, there is a chance of life; where as death is certain if you cling to your corner.”– Sun Tzu
17. “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”– Sun Tzu
18. “Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.”– Sun Tzu
19. “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”– Sun Tzu
20. “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”– Sun Tzu
21. “Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.”– Sun Tzu
22. “Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.”– Sun Tzu
23. “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.”– Sun Tzu
24. “Order or disorder depends on organisation; courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.”– Sun Tzu
25. “To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.”– Sun Tzu
26. “He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.’– Sun Tzu
27. “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.”– Sun Tzu
28. “Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move.”– Sun Tzu
29. “Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.”– Sun Tzu
30. “For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.”– Sun Tzu
31. “Like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.”– Sun Tzu
32. “He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish.”– Sun Tzu
33. “Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.”– Sun Tzu
34. “Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favorable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.”– Sun Tzu
35. “Do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat.”– Sun Tzu
36. “Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.”– Sun Tzu
37. “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”– Sun Tzu
38. “When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.”– Sun Tzu
39. “When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”– Sun Tzu
40. “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”– Sun Tzu
41. “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.”– Sun Tzu
42. “When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.”– Sun Tzu
43. “If you are near the enemy, make him believe you are far from him. If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are now.”– Sun Tzu
44. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is noise before defeat.”– Sun Tzu
45. “There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.”– Sun Tzu
46. “licited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any.”– Sun Tzu
47. “The best military policy is to attack strategies; the next to attack alliances; the next to attack soldiers.”– Sun Tzu
48. “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.”– Sun Tzu
49. “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”– Sun Tzu
50. “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”– Sun Tzu
51. “When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”– Sun Tzu
52. “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”– Sun Tzu
53. “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”– Sun Tzu
54. “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”– Sun Tzu
55. “When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.”– Sun Tzu
56. “It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.”– Sun Tzu
57. “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.”– Sun Tzu
58. “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”– Sun Tzu
59. “Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and you know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”– Sun Tzu
60. “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”– Sun Tzu
61. “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”– Sun Tzu
62. “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”– Sun Tzu
63. “Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”– Sun Tzu
Related: Quotes from the 48 Laws of Power
Video: Sun Tzu | The Art of War
The Art of War. by Sun Tzu is an ancient Chinese military text composed of thirteen chapters, that are devoted to the strategic and tactical aspects of warfare. The Art of War explains in detail how we must behave in battle, and, more importantly: how to win. What makes a strong army? In what manner should we approach the enemy on ‘enclosed terrain’? And how should we use spies to garner information, or to spread ‘fake news’?
Aside from specific tips on combat, the Art of War has a profound philosophical side to it. Sun Tzu argues that war shouldn’t be taken lightly, that the highest form of warfare is defeating the enemy without fighting, and that being ‘still’ and ‘inscrutable’ is the business of a general. He emphasizes the use of intelligence over brute force and teaches us how to win battles the smart way.
The beauty of the Art of War is that its wisdom can be applied to our modern lives as well; even in times of peace, when we don’t have to deal with bloodshed, but rather with work, sports, and daily conflicts in general.
This video explores the wisdom of Sun Tzu’s work – definitely worth a watch.
Related: The Fiercest Warrior Quotes
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, philosopher, and military strategist who lived in the Autumn and Spring period. He is credited for having had a tremendous impact on Eastern and Western philosophy.
Due to his seminal nature of work, Tzu is regarded as the greatest war strategist and leader to have ever existed. The above quotes will make you emerge a victor in your daily battles.
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