Literary Notes - The Art of War

“Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat.” (Pg. 9)


“All warfare is based on deception.” (Pg. 9)

Page numbers correspond to the Barnes & Noble Classics Series version. Direct quotes are in quotations, while paraphrases are not.

“Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.” (Pgs. 11-12)

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” (Pg. 17)

“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 then expands this further and applies it to specific situations. (Pg. 19)


“Carefully compare the opposing army with you own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.” (Pg. 30)

“We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.” (Pg. 32)

“Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest. In raiding and plundering be like fire, in immovability like a mountain. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. (Pgs. 32-33)

“If a general shows confidence in his men but always insists on his orders being obeyed, the gain will be mutual.” (Pg. 41)

“Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.” (Pg. 48)

“Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design. When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them noting when the situation is gloomy.” (Pg. 53)

“If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.” (Pg. 53)