Following is an interesting book written by Zhuge Liang ,a famous military adviser for the Shu empire during the Chinese Warring states era:
The Way of the General
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Military authority, directing the armed forces, is the matter of the authoritative power of the leading general.
If the general loses his authority and cannot control the power, he is like a dragon cast into a lake, he may seek the freedom of the high sea, but how can he get there?
There are five types of harm in decadence among national armed forces. First is the formation of factions that band together for character assassination, criticizing an vilifying the wise and the good. Second is luxury is uniforms.
Third is wild tales and confabulations about the supernatural.
Fourth is judgment based on private views, mobilizing groups for personal reasons.
Fifth is making secret alliances with enemies, watching for where the advantage may lie.
Nothing is harder to see into people’s natures. Though good and bad are different, their conditions and appearances are not always uniform.
There are some people who are nice enough but steal.
Some people are outwardly respectful while inwardly making fools of everyone.
Some people are brave on the outside yet cowardly on the inside.
Some people do their best but are not loyal.
Hard though it be to know people, there are ways.
Second is to exhaust all their arguments, to see how they change.
Third is to consult with them about strategy, to see how perceptive they are.
Fourth is to announce that there is trouble, to see how brave they are.
Fifth is to present them with the prospect of gain, to see how modest they are.
Sixth is to give them a task to do within a specific time, to see how trustworthy they are.
There are nine types of generals.
Those who are not arrogant because of their high status, who do not make much of their victories, who are wise but can humble themselves, who are strong but can be tolerant, are called courteous generals.
The capacities of commanders are not the same; some are greater, some are lesser.
There are eight kinds of decadence in generalship.
First is to be insatiably greedy.
Second is to be jealous and envious of the wise and able.
Third is to believe slanders and make friends with the treacherous.
Fourth is to assess others without assessing oneself.
Fifth is to be hesitant and indecisive.
Sixth is to be heavily addicted to wine and sex.
Seventh is to be a malicious liar with a cowardly heart.
Eighth is to talk wildly, without courtesy.
“Weapons are instruments of ill omen”; generalship is a dangerous job. Therefore if one is inflexible there will be breakdowns, and when the job is important there will be danger.
There are five skills and four desires involved in generalship.
1. Skill in knowing the disposition and power of enemies,
2. Skill in knowing the ways to advance and withdraw,
3. Skill in knowing how empty or how full countries are,
4. Skill in knowing nature’s timing and human affairs,
5. And skill in knowing the features of terrain.
1. Desire for the extraordinary and unexpected in strategy,
2. Desire for thoroughness in security,
3. Desire for calm among the masses,
4. And desire for unity of hearts and minds.
Generals should not be arrogant, for if they are arrogant they will become discourteous, and if they are discourteous people will become alienated from them. When people are alienated, they become rebellious.
Military preparedness is the greatest task of the nation. A small mistake can make a huge difference. When the force of momentum by which soldiers are killed and generals are captured can move with sudden rapidity, should we not be wary?
Soldiers without training cannot stand up to one out of a hundred opponents, yet they are sent out against a hundred each. This is why Confucius said, “To send people to war without teaching them is called abandoning them." It is also said, "Teach the people for the seven year, and they too can go to war.”
In military operation it may happen the scouts are not careful of their signal fires or there may be mistakes in calculation and consequent delays, infractions of rules, failure to respond to the time and situation, disorder in the ranks, callous and unreasonable demand made by superiors on their subordinates, pursuit of self-interest, lack of concern for the hungry and cool, tall tales and fortune telling, rabble rousing, confusing the officers, refusal of the mettlesome to submit to authority, contempt of superiors, or using supplies for personal enjoyment. These things corrupt the armed forces. When they are present, there is certain to be defeat.
Those who would be military leaders must have loyal hearts, eyes and ears, claws and fangs. Without people loyal to them, they are like someone walking at night, not knowing where to step. Without eyes and ears, they are as though in the dark, not knowing how to proceed. Without claws and fangs, they are like hungry men eating poisoned food, inevitably to die.
The loss of an army is always caused by underestimating an opponent and thus bringing on disaster. Therefore an army goes out in an orderly manner. If order is lost, that bodes ill.
1. Thoughtfulness, using secret agents for intelligence.
2. Organization, gathering news and watching carefully.
3. Courage, not being disturbed by the number of the enemy.
4. Modesty, thinking of justice and duty when seeing the opportunity for gain.
5. Impartiality, being egalitarian in matters of rewards and punishments.
6. Forbearance, being able to bear humiliation.
7. Magnanimity, being able to accept the masses.
8. Trustworthiness, so that there can be serious cooperation.
9. Respect, honoring the wise and able.
10. Clarity of mind, not listening to slander.
11. Reason, not forgetting past experience.
12. Human kindness, taking care of the soldiers.
13. Loyalty, devoting oneself to the nation.
14. Moderation, knowing to stop when you have enough of anything.
15. Planning, assessing yourself first, and then assessing others.
To overcome the intelligent by folly is contrary to the natural order of things; to overcome the foolish by intelligence is in accord with the natural order. To overcome the intelligent by intelligence, however, is a matter of opportunity
Good generals of ancient times had some overall principles:
1. Show people when to proceed and when to withdraw, and people will learn regulation.
2. Array them on the lines rightly and justly, and people will be orderly.
3. Show respect for them by your judgment, and people will be enthusiastic.
4. Motivate them with rewards and penalties, and people will be trusting.
Regulation, order, enthusiasm, and trust are the overall principles of generals, by which they are able to ensure victory in battle.
If you attack evils based on social trends, no one can rival you in dignity. If you settle victory based on the power of the people, no one can rival you in achievement.
When the wise and talented are in the higher positions and undesirables are in low positions, the armed forces are happy. When the soldiers are scared, if they talk to each other of valiant combat, look to each other on by rewards and penalties, these are signs of certain victory.
People’s lives depend on generals, as do success and failure, calamity and fortune, so if the rulership does not give them the power to reward and punish, this is like tying up a monkey and trying to make it cavort around, or like gluing someone’s eyes shut and asking him to distinguish colors.
Good general of ancient times took care of their people as one might take care of a beloved child. When there was difficulty they would face it first themselves, and when something was achieved they would defer to others. They would tearfully console the wounded and sorrowfully mourn the dead. They would sacrifice themselves to feed the hungry and remove their own garments to clothe the cold. They honored the wise and provided for their living; they rewarded and encouraged the brave. If generals can be like this, they can take over anywhere they go.
To operate, the armed forces need allies as consultants and assistants to the leadership.
When you plan for difficulty in times of ease, when you do the great while it is still small, when you use rewards first and penalties later, this is refinement in use of the military.
The art of certain victory, the mode of harmonizing with charges, is a matter of opportunity. Who but the perspicacious can deal with it? And of all avenues of seeing opportunity, none is greater than the unexpected.
Those who employed warriors skillfully in ancient times assessed their abilities in order to calculate the prospects of victory or defeat:
Who has the wise ruler?
Who has the more intelligent generals?
Who has the more able officers?
Whose food supplies are most abundant?
Whose soldiers are better trained?
Whose legions are more orderly?
Whose warhorses are swifter?
Whose formation and situation are more dangerous?
Whose clients and allies are smarter?
Whose neighbors are more frightened?
Whose has more food and money?
Whose citizenry is calmer?
When consider matters along these lines, structural strengths and weaknesses can be determined.
A scorpion will sting because it has poison; a soldier can be brave when he can rely on his equipment. Therefore when their weapons are sharp and their armor is strong, people will readily do battle. If armor is not strong, it is the same as baring one’s shoulders. if a bow cannot shoot far, it is the same as a close-range weapon. If a shot cannot hit the mark, it is the same as having no weapon. If a scout is not careful, it is the same as having no eyes. If a general is not brave in battle, it is the same as having no military leadership.
Skilled warriors of ancient times first found out the condition of their enemies and then made plans to deal with them. There is no doubt of success when you strike enemies under the following conditions:
Their fighting forces are stale.
Their supplies are exhausted.
Their populace is full of sorrow and bitterness.
Many people are physically ill.
They do not plan ahead.
Their equipment is in disrepair.
Their soldiers are not trained.
Reinforcement does not show up.
Night falls when they still have a long way to go.
Their soldiers are worn out.
Their generals are contemptuous and their officers are inconsiderate.
They neglect to make preparations.
They do not form battle lines as they advance.
When they do form battle lines, they are not stable.
They are disorderly when they travel over rough terrain.
There is discord between commanders and soldiers.
They become arrogant when they win a battle.
There is disorder in the ranks when they move their battle lines.
The soldiers are tired and prone to upset.
The army is supplied, but the people do not eat.
Each man moves on his own - some go ahead, some lag behind.
When opponents have the following qualities, however, withdraw and avoid them:
Superiors are considerate and subordinates are obedient.
Rewards are sure and punishments certain.
The forces are set out in an orderly fashion.
They give responsibility to the wise and employ the able.
The army is courteous and mannerly.
Their armor is strong and their weapons keen.
They have plenty of supplies and equipment.
Their government and education are substantial.
They are on good terms with all of their neighbors.
They are backed by great nations.
Some generals are brave and think lightly of death. Some are hasty and impulsive. Some are greedy and materialistic. Some are humane but lack endurance. Some are intelligent but timid. Some are intelligent but easygoing at heart
In military operations, order leads to victory. If rewards and penalties are unclear, if rules and regulations are unreliable, and if signals are not followed, even if you have an army of a million strong it is of no practical benefit.
Honor them with titles, present them with goods, and soldiers willingly come join you. Treat them courteously, inspire them with speeches, and soldiers willingly die. Give them nourishment and rest so that they do not become weary, make the code of rules uniform, and soldiers willingly obey. Lead them into battle personally, and soldiers will be brave. Record even a little good, reward even a little merit, and soldiers will be encouraged.
Sages follow the rules of heaven; the wise obey the laws of earth; the intelligent follow precedent. Harm comes to the arrogant; calamity visits the proud. Few people trust those who talk too much; few people feel indebted to the self-serving. Rewarding the unworthy causes alienation; punishing the innocent causes resentment. Those whose appreciation or anger are unpredictable perish.
Harmonizing people is essential in military operations. When people are in harmony, they will fight on their own initiative, without exhortation. If the officers and the soldiers are suspicious of one another, them warriors will not join up. If no heed is paid to the strategies of loyal, the small-minded people will backbite. When the sprouts of hypocrisy arise, even if you have the wisdom of the great warrior-kings of old, you will not be able to prevail over an ordinary man, much less a whole group of them. Therefore tradition says, “A military operation is like fire; if it is not stopped, it burns itself out.”
According to the code of generalship, generals do not say they are thirsty before the soldiers have drawn from the well; generals do not say they are hungry before the soldiers’ food is cooked; generals do not say they are cold before the soldiers’ fire are kindled; generals do not say they are hot before the soldiers’ canopies are drawn. Generals do not use fans in summer, do not wear leather (or fur) in winter, do not use umbrella in the rain. They do as everyone does.
When a nation is perilous and disordered, and the people are not secure in their homes, this is because the ruler has made the mistake of neglecting to find wise people
An observant and perceptive government is one that looks at subtle phenomena and listens to small voices. When phenomena are subtle they are not seen, and when voices are small they are not heard; therefore an enlightened leader looks closely at the subtle and listens for the importance of the small voice.
Rulers and Ministers
For rulers, generosity to subordinates is benevolence; for ministers, service of the government is duty. No one should serve the government with duplicity; ministers should not be given dubious policies.
Rulers are considered knowledgeable according to how much they have seen, and are considered capable according to how much they have heard.
Confucius said that an enlightened ruler does not worry about people not knowing him, he worries about not knowing people. He worries not about outsiders not knowing insiders, but about insiders not knowing outsiders. He worries not about subordinates not knowing superiors, but about superiors not knowing subordinates. He worries not about the lower classes not knowing the upper classes, but about the upper classes not knowing the lower classes.
When rulers adjudicate criminal cases and execute punishments, they worry that they may be unclear. The innocent may be punished while the guilty may be released. The powerful may arrogate to themselves alone the right to speak, while the powerless may have their rights infringed upon by those who bear grudges against them. Honesty may be distorted; those who are wronged may not get a chance to express themselves. The trustworthy may be suspected; the loyal may be attacked. These are all perversions, problems causing disaster and violence, aberrations causing calamity and chaos.
It is said that when official are severe in everything, no one knows where it will end. If they feed off the people so severely that people are hungry and impoverished, this produces disturbances and rebellion.
The official policy of making appointments should be to promote the upright and place them over the crooked. Governing a country is like governing the body,. The way to govern the body is to nurture the spirit; the way to govern a country is to promote the wise. Life is sought by nurturing the spirit; stability is sought by promoting the wise.
So public servants are to a nation as pillars are to a house; the pillars should not be slender; public servants should not be weak. When the pillars are slender the house collapses; when the public servants are weak the nation crumbles. Therefore the way to govern a nation is to promote the upright over the crooked; then the nation is secure.
For strong pillars you need straight trees; for wise public servants you need upright people. Straight trees are found in remote forests; upright people come from the humble masses. Therefore when rulers are going to make appointments they need to look in obscure places.
The official policy of evaluation and dismissal should be to promote the good and dismiss the bad. An enlightened leadership is aware of good and bad throughout the realm. not daring to overlook even minor officials and commoners, employing the wise and good, and dismissing the greedy and weak-minded.
There are five things that hurt the people:
1. There are local officials who use public office for personal benefit, taking improper advantage of their authority, holding weapons in one hand and people’s livelihood in the other, corrupting their offices, and bleeding the people.
2. There are cases where serious offenses are given light penalties; there is inequality before the law, and the innocents are subjected to punishment, even execution. Sometimes serious crimes are pardoned, the strong are supported, and the weak are oppressed. Harsh penalties are applied, unjustly torturing people to get at facts.
3. Sometimes there are officials who condone crime and vice, punishing those who protest against this, cutting off the avenue of appeal and hiding the truth, plundering and ruining lives, unjust and arbitrary.
4. Sometimes there are senior officials who repeatedly change department heads so as to monopolize the government administration, favoring their friends and relatives while treating those they dislike with unjust harshness, oppressive in their actions, prejudiced and unruly. They also use taxation to reap profit, enriching themselves and their families by exactions and fraud.
5. Sometimes local officials extensively tailor awards and fines, welfare projects, and general expenditures, arbitrarily determining prices and measures, with the result that people lose their jobs.
These five things are harmful to the people, and anyone who does any of these should be dismissed from the office.
“Weapon are instruments of ill omen, to be used only when it is unavoidable.” The proper course of military action is to establish strategy first, and then carry it out. Monitor the environment, observe the minds of the masses, practice the use of military equipment, clarity the principles of reward and punishment, watch the schemes of enemies, note the perils of the roads, distinguish safe and dangerous places, find out the conditions of the parties involves, and recognize when to proceed and when to withdraw. Follow the timing of opportunities, set up preparations for defense, strengthen your striking power, improve the abilities of your soldiers, map out decisive strategies, and consider life and death issues. Only after doing appointing military leaders and extending the power to capture enemies. This is the overall scheme of things in military matters.
A policy of rewards and penalties means rewarding the good and penalizing wrongdoers. Rewarding the good is to promote achievement; penalizing wrongdoers is to prevent treachery.
Generals hold authority over life and death. If they allow those who should live to be killed, or allow those who should be killed to live, or if they get angry without discernible reason, or their punishments and rewards are not clear, or commands are inconsistent, or they carry their private over into public life, this is dangerous for the nation.
Displeasure should not lead you to harm people who have done no wrong; pleasure should not lead you to go along with those who deserve to be executed.
Culture takes precedence; the military comes after. If you put victory first, you will surely get beaten later; if you start out with anger, you will surely regret it later. One day’s anger can destroy your whole life. Therefore a superior man is stern but not ferocious; he may get angry, but not furious; he may worry, but does not fear; he may rejoice, but not overjoyed.
A policy to quell disorder involves minimizing offices and combining duties, getting rid of embellishment in favor of substance.
A policy of instruction and direction means those above educate those below, not saying anything that is unlawful and not doing anything that is immoral, for what is done by those above is observed by those below.
A policy of thought and consideration means giving thought to what is near at hand and considering what is remote. As it is said, “If people do not consider what is remote, they will have trouble near at hand.” Therefore “educated people think without leaving their positions.” Thinking means correct strategy, consideration mean thinking of plans for eventualities. One is not to plan policy when it is not one’s place to do so, or consider the scheme of things that are none of one’s business.
Generals have five strengths and eight evils.
The five strengths are: noble behavior that can inspire the common people, social virtues that can elevate their reputations, trustworthiness and dutifulness in personal relationships, universal love encompassing all the people, and powerful action to succeed in their tasks.
In ancient times, when a nation was in trouble, the ruler would select a wise man and have hime fast for three days in quiet seclusion before going to the gate of the national shrine, where he would stand facing south. He then took a high courtier to present a ceremonial axe to the ruler, who in turn would pass it by the handle to the general, saying:
“The military leadership settles matters outside the borders,” and also directing him in these terms:
“Where you see the enemy to be empty, proceed; where you see the enemy to be full, stop.
“Do not look down on others because of your elevated rank.
“Do not oppose the common consensus with personal opinions.
“Do not turn from the loyal and trustworthy through the artifices of the skilled but treacherous.
“Do not sit down before the soldiers sit; do not eat before the soldiers eat.
“Bear the same cold and heat the soldiers do; share their toil as well as their case.
“Experience sweetness and bitterness just as the soldiers do; take the same risks that they do.
“Then the soldiers will exert themselves to the utmost, and it will be possible to destroy enemies.”
Having accepted these words, the general led the armed forces out through the city’s gate of ill omen.
The ruler, seeing the general off, knelt and said, “Advance and retreat are a matter of timing - military affairs are not directed by the ruler but by the general.” Therefore “There is no heaven above, no earth below, no adversary ahead, and no ruler behind.” Thus the intelligent think because of this; the mettlesome fight because of this.”
In military action, there are men who like to fight and enjoy battle, single-handedly taking on powerful opponents; gather them into one squad and call them “the warriors who repay the nation.
There are those who can shoot on horseback, swift as flight, hitting the mark every times; gather them into one squad and call them “the galloping warriors.”
Generalship requires one to follow nature, depend on timing, and rely on people in order to achieve victory.
In ancient times, those who governed well did not arm, and those who were armed well did not set up battle lines. Those who set up battle lines well did not fight, those who fought well did not lose, and those who lost well did not perish.
An ancient document says: “Those who are contemptuous of cultured people have no way to win people’s hearts completely; those who are contemptuous of common people have no way to get people to work as hard as they can.”
Click here and here for some interesting reads on Zhuge Liang.