齊五 THE STRATAGEMS OF QI V
Su Qin Exercises his Persuasions on King Min of Qi
Su Qin exercised his persuasions on King Min of Qi, saying, "Your servant has heard that those who deploy their troops because they take pleasure in being preeminent within All-Under-Heaven will come to grief, and that those who make covenants because they take pleasure in fostering grudges will be left isolated. Those who attack only after being attacked maintain their reserves; those who eschew resentment meet with opportunities. This being so, when the wise pursue their affairs, they inevitably rely upon the momentum of the situation and work according to the spirit of the age. When you accumulate momentum, then the ten thousand things are yours to command; when you follow the impetus of the times, then you are the master of all your affairs. Conversely, those who do not rely upon the momentum of the situation and turn their backs on the spirit of the age, but are able to bring their affairs to a successful conclusion are few.
Now even if you have a sword like Gan Jiang or Mo Ye, without someone strong to wield it you will be unable to cut or injure anyone. Even with the sturdiest and sharpest arrows, if you do not have a bowstring or a trigger, then you will be able to kill no one from afar. It is not that the arrows have no points or that the sword is not sharp, so why is it? Because the momentum is not present. How do I know this is true? In the past, when the Zhao family raided Wey, their people slept in their chariots, and they travelled without rest. They fortified Gangping; eight of the gates to the Wey capital were blocked with earth and two were destroyed. Thus, Wey had the air of a doomed state. The Lord of Wey went barefoot to tell his troubles in Wei. The King of Wei put on his armour and strapped on his sword, to take advantage of the momentum of the situation, gathered up its remaining troops, and turned northwards, destroying Gangping and razing the suburbs of Zhongmu. Wey lacked the strength of Zhao, but Wey may be compared to an arrow and Wei to a bow. Wey recruited the strength of Wei and acquired land East of the Yellow River. The Zhao family was afraid, and Chu's partisans assisted them by attacking Wei, joining battle at Zhouxi, entering through the gates of Liang, resting their troops at Linzhong and watering their horses at the Yellow River. Zhao took advantage of the momentum of the situation, and raided Wei's lands North of the Yellow River, burning Jipu and destroying Huangcheng. Thus, Zhao and Wei did not originally desire the destruction of Gangping, the razing of Zhongmu, the fall of Huangcheng and the burning of Jipu; nevertheless, both states advanced, why was this? Wey understood the spirit of the age and relied upon its momentum. Those who manage states in the modern world are not like this. Their troops are weak, but they like to believe themselves equal to the strong. Their states are exhausted, but they court popular resentment. Their plans fail, and they cling to them. When their troops are weak they blame it on their underlings. When their lands shrink they still relish facing down larger enemies. When their enterprises fail they prolong the agony with trickery. They follow these six courses and seek hegemony, while moving ever further from achieving it.
Your servant has heard he who manages the state skilfully tracks the thoughts of his people and measures the capacity of his troops. Only then does he seek allies in All-Under-Heaven. Thus, in making agreements he does not cherish others' grudges and his strength will not be worn out by launching attacks on others' behalf. Thus he does not waste his troops or or deplete his power, and can to expand his territories and achieve his desires. In the past, when Qi joined Han and Wei, it was in order to attack Qin and Chu. The fight involved no great effort on Qi's part, and Qi arrogated less territory to itself than Han or Wei. Nevertheless, All-Under-Heaven blamed only Qi for it. Why was this? Because Qi had taken up a grudge belonging to Han and Wei, and everyone in All-Under-Heaven then mobilised their troops. Qi was fighting Yan and the Zhao family busy unifying Zhongshan with its own state; Qin and Chu were fighting Han and Wei relentlessly, and Song and Yue had committed all their troops to the fray. All of these ten states shared mutual enmities, and yet the one thing that could unite their minds was their attitude towards Qi. Why? Because it liked to foster grudges through its alliances, and to wear out its strength with its attacks.
"When large and strong states suffer misfortunes, it is inevitably because they have hegemonic ambitions. When small and weak states suffer calamities, it is inevitably because their strategists are seeking profit. These things put large states at risk and extinguish small states. For a large state, no strategy can match that of waiting to strike second and then attacking the unjust aggressor with even greater force. When you move second, you will be able to rely upon numerous treaties and well-conditioned troops, and, this being so, you will be able to use your manifold strengths to subdue a diminished enemy. Your troops will certainly prevail. If the way in which you pursue your affairs does not harden the hearts of the lords of All-Under-Heaven against you, then you will certainly profit. When large states proceed thus their fame grows inexorably, and hegemony is established with no effort. In the position of a small state, nothing is better than remaining quiescent and expecting little of the feudal lords. If you remain quiescent, then none of your neighbours will turn against you; if you expect little of the feudal lords, then you will never be betrayed by All-Under-Heaven. If those far away cannot betray you, and those nearby cannot oppose you, your food stockpiles will rot before you can use them and your armour will be motheaten before it is ever worn. If a small state follows this path, then without needing to pray to the ancestors it will grow prosperous, and without borrowing it will see itself become self-sufficient. Therefore I say that those who foster benevolence became kings, and those who establish justice became hegemons, while those who squander their troops are wiped out. How do I know this to be so? In the past, King Fuchai of Wu sought to use his state's size and strength to achieve pre-eminence in All-Under-Heaven, raiding Ying and occupying Yue. He led the feudal lords in person, but ended up dead with his state extinguished, eradicated by All-Under-Heaven. Why was this? It was because Fuchai had peace at home but plotted to become a hegemon. His state was large and strong and yet he took pleasure in creating trouble within All-Under-Heaven unprovoked. In the past, Lai and Ju enjoyed plotting; Chen and Cai enjoyed in deception. Ju relied upon Yue and was wiped out; Cai relied upon Jin and was extinguished. They may have been great liars at home, but they trusted the feudal lords abroad and met with calamity. From this perspective, one can see that the troubles of states strong and weak, large and small, can be foreseen from their past affairs.
It is said, 'When a thoroughbred grows old, any old nag could outrun it; if Meng Ben were already tired then a little girl could beat him." Neither the old nag nor little girl have tougher sinews or stronger bones than the thoroughbred or Meng Ben, so why is this? Because they have the resources available to the second-mover. Now the states of All-Under-Heaven lean on one another and so they have not yet wiped one another out. If you hold your men in reserve and move second, entrusting your grudges to others and executing anyone shows dishonesty, minimising your use of troops and using the pretext of morality when you do deploy them, then your hegemony over All-Under-Heaven is certain even if you do not move a single step. If you understand the reasoning of the feudal lords, examine the layout of their territories, make no close alliances, reinforce your position without exchanging hostages, and advance without rushing, then in all your joint enterprises you will encounter no betrayals and your exchanges of land will nourish no feuds, but rather they will help you grow stronger and augment your allies. How is this? Suffering the same conditions, you will share the profits whenever you dispatch troops. How do I know this to be so? In the past, Yan and Qi fought at Hengzhiqu. If Yan did not prevail, though it expended a hundred thousand men, it was because the partisans of the Hu were also raiding multiple Loufan counties in Yan, taking cattle and horses. The Hu had no formal relationship with Qi, and yet in their deployment of their troops they schemed together against Yan without having signed any treaties or exchanged any hostages. Nevertheless, when the circumstances arose, they hurried to one another's aid. Why was this? Because they were suffering under the same conditions, with the same profits to be gained from dispatching their troops. From this perspective, treaties born of shared circumstances are the most profitable, and by moving second, you can ensure that the feudal lords will hurry to your service.
Thus, when an enlightened sovereign and a watchful chancellor form a sincere will to attain hegemony, armed attack should not be their first recourse. War is an affliction for the state, and an expense for the capital and the regions. Those who begin by subjecting themselves to afflictions and expenses but are still able to make followers of the feudal lords are few. This is why war is an affliction: when officers hear that a war is coming, they transport their private wealth to supply the army markets, bringing food and drink to serve those destined to die. The carriages are broken up to cook the food and the oxen killed to provide a feast for the officers. Such is the conduct of an army on the march. Prayers go up among the people and their lord makes offerings; from the capital to the smallest counties altars are set up, and there is no city or district in which business does not cease, the better to serve the King. This is a strategy that will hollow out the state. On the day that follows the battle, the dead are laid out and the wounded propped up. The army that was sent out returns depleted, and there is weeping in the land, making the sovereign's heart ache. Funerals for the dead ruin their families, while those with open wounds exhaust their savings buying medicines. Those still uninjured return and drink in wasteful celebrations, so their costs are equal to those of the dead and wounded. Thus the people's expenses are such that ten years in the fields cannot compensate them. When the army is deployed, the spears and halberds snapped, the ring swords and bowstrings broken, the crossbows damaged, the chariots crashed, the horses worn out and the losses and thefts account for half of the total equipment. Of the arms and armour prepared from the private resources of the ruling house, the quantity hidden by the high-ranking officers and stolen by their servants and underlings is such that ten years in the fields cannot compensate for it. Those in All-Under-Heaven who thus repeatedly deplete their resources but are able to make followers of the feudal lords are few. When a city is attacked, the cost is borne by the hundred clans, who must repair the defences and raise assault towers, entire families toiling together, taking on the work of sappers though they have ceased receiving any pay. The officers are trapped within their earthworks and their generals never take off their armour. Anyone who can seize a city in just a few months is quick indeed; leaders run out of commands and subordinates abandon their manoeuvres. Thus, those who can bring down three cities and still defeat the enemy are few. Therefore I say, war should never be the first option. How do I know this to be so? In the past, Zhi Boyao attacked the Fan and Zhonghang families, killing their lords and extinguishing their states. He then moved west and encircled Jinyang, uniting two states to bring grief to one lord. Thus, his military capacities flourished, but even so, Bo Zhi ended up dead with his state exterminated, and All-Under-Heaven laughed. Why would you say this happened? Because his first recourse was to deploy his troops for an armed attack, he suffered misfortune though he had already exterminated two princes. In the past, Zhongshan mobilised all its troops and went out to meet Yan and Zhao. In the South they fought at Zhangzi and defeated the Zhao family; in the North they fought in Zhongshan and overcame Yan's army, killing its general. Zhongshan was a state of a thousand chariots, but was the equal of two states of ten thousand, winning battle after battle in the North. This showed its superior ability in deploying troops. Even so, the state was destined for extinction, with its Lord becoming a servant of Qi. Why was this? Because it was not parsimonious in its recourse to the scourge of war. From this point of view, its defeat in battle can be seen to be the result of its having precipitated affairs.
Nowadays, those who are called skilled in the use of troops are those who emerge victorious from a fight to the death or who defend their positions at all costs. All-Under-Heaven calls skilful those who can obtain and defend a state, which brings no benefits to the states themselves. Your servant has heard that the greater the battle you win, the more of your officers will die and the weaker your troops will grow. If you maintain your positions at all costs, the hundred clans will grow exhausted and the outlying districts will be left exposed. Your officers will die abroad while your people are afflicted at home and your border regions are left unprotected. This will bring Your Majesty no joy. Now an archery target has committed no offense against anyone, but it is easy to pick up a bow or a crossbow and shoot at it. Those who hit the target are contented while those who fail are embarrassed, no matter whether they are young or old, noble or humble, all feel the same way about it. Why is this? Because all hate to have others see them struggling. Nowadays states deplete themselves seeking victory in battle and defend their positions at all costs. Not only does this allow others to see that they are struggling, but by doing so they injure others, and - this being so - they will certainly attract the enmity of All-Under-Heaven. Your officers will grow exhausted and your state will be left exposed, while your enemies multiply; therefore an enlightened sovereign does not take up such a position. Frequent use of strong troops will weaken them, therefore a perceptive chancellor will not undertake such an affair. An enlightened sovereign and a perceptive chancellor will not move five troops but the feudal lords will follow; they use courteous words and impressive gifts arrive. Thus, when an enlightened sovereign goes to war, no troops are formed up but the enemy is defeated. No siege towers are built, but border walls fall. Without officials or citizens realising, the king's work is completed. When an enlightened sovereign pursues his affairs, he uses few resources, but as the days stretch out his profits increase. Therefore I say: if your troops move second, then you will soon be able to make servants of the feudal lords.
What your servant has heard is that the way to win in war is not by leading out troops. Even a million-man army can be overcome from within the palace. Even generals like Helü or Wu Qi may be captured without going out of doors. A city of a thousand zhang can be seized during an official banquet. Siege works of a hundred square chi can be broken down from your mat. Thus, before the last notes of the glasses, drums, flutes and zithers have died away, your land may have been expanded and your wishes fulfilled; before the laughter of the singers, dancers, the actors and dwarfs has ceased, the feudal lords may that same day arrive to pay homage to you. To call you the equal of heaven and earth would not then be sufficiently respectful, and control over all within the seas would not be excessive compensation. Therefore, one skilled in the work of a king succeeds by allowing All-Under-Heaven to work while he indulges himself, and causes All-Under-Heaven to sink into chaos while remaining calm himself. The feudal lords cannot bring off their schemes against him, so no misery can linger even a night within his state. How do I know this to be so? To create easeful order at home and chaotic striving within All-Under-Heaven, such is the path of a true king. When elite troops arrive he dismisses them with a wave of his hand, and when trouble arrives he hurries it away. Because he can ensures the failure of the feudal lords' schemes, no misery can linger even a night within his state. How do I know this to be so? In the past, the King of Wei's territories encompassed thousands of li of land, guarded by three hundred and sixty thousand troops. Relying on his strength he captured Handan and turned west to encircle Dingyang, bringing twelve feudal lords to the court of the Son of Heaven to plot against Qin in the West. The King of Qin was afraid; he could not sleep peacefully in his bed and his food no longer tasted sweet. He dispatched orders within his borders to prepare all fortresses for war, to be ready to defend the frontiers, and to appoint as generals officers who were willing to face death, awaiting the arrival of the Wei family. Wey Yang presented a strategy to the King of Qin, saying, 'The Wei family has achieved great things, and its orders are followed throughout All-Under-Heaven. Twelve of the feudal lords have followed them to pay homage in the court of the Son of Heaven, and there will certainly be more. Therefore, if Qin attempts to face down mighty Wei alone, I am afraid we will not be adequate to the task. Why not send your servant to seek an audience with the King of Wei? I beg permission to ensure Wei's collapse.' The King of Qin assented. Wey Yang went to see the King of Wei, and said, 'Your Majesty has achieved great things, and your orders are followed throughout All-Under-Heaven. Now of the twelve feudal lords who are following you, Song and Wey can be exempted, but Zou, Lu, Chen and Cai will definitely allow themselves to be whipped into line, but that is not enough to make you a king in All-Under-Heaven. There would be no better approach than to take Yan in the North and attack Qi in the East, then Zhao will certainly follow you. If you take Qin in the West and attack Chu in the South, then Han will definitely follow you. If you make up your mind to attack Qi or Chu, then you will create a common purpose within All-Under-Heaven and the completion of your hegemonic task is within sight. The best thing for Your Majesty would be to first proceed to put on the royal regalia, and - this being done - make plans against Qi and Chu.' The King of Wei was delighted by Wey Yang's speech, and expanded his palace, commissioning cinnabar-dyed royal robes and lifting the Dragon Flag and the Seven-Star Banner. Thus the King of Wei assumed the place of the Son of Heaven. In such circumstances, Qi and Chu were full of indignation. The feudal lords hurried to Qi's side and then Qi's partisans attacked Wei, killing Wei's Crown Prince and pushing back an army a hundred thousand strong. The King of Wei was terrified, and went bare-footed to demobilise his troops and bring them home, before going east to submit to Qi. It was only after this that All-Under-Heaven would let him go. The opportunity having occurred, the King of Qin was able - with his hands folded in his sleeves - to acquire territories West of the Yellow River, and avoid paying tribute to Wei. Thus, when Wey Yang first presented his plan to the King of Qin, the strategy was agreed upon before they got up from their mats, discussed further as they ate, and completed within the palace... And thus Wei's General was entrapped by Qi. No siege engines were deployed, and yet the lands West of the Yellow River were incorporated into Qin's own territories. This is what your servant means by overcoming from within the palace, capturing a general without going outdoors, seizing a city during a banquet, and breaking a siege from your mat."
 The commentaries suggest reading 子 for 秦 here, in which case it is not entirely clear which member of the Su family is being referenced.
 King Min of Qi (300–284 BC) was famously bad at managing his subordinates, and almost lost his state following an invasion by Yan. His own generals eventually turned upon him and one of them, Nao Chi, killed him.
 Gan Jiang was a celebrated swordsmith, who made a famous sword that was later named after him.
 Mo Ye was Gan Jiang's partner, and an equally celebrated swordsmith with a sword named after her.
 I.e. a bow or a crossbow.
 Reading 傳 for 傅 here, per the commentaries.
 Reading 剛平 for 割平, as in modern translations. Gangping was just outside the Wey capital of Puyang, and is in modern Neihuang County, Henan.
 It is not clear which Lord of Wey is indicated here.
 The correct reading of this sentence is not clear, but the general sense is.
 Marquis Wu of Wei (396 - 370 BC) was the second ruler of Wei as an independent state. At the time the leaders of Wei had not yet adopted royal titles.
 Yao suggests reading 砥 for 底 here.
 Handan is still called Handan, and is in Hebei. It was the capital of Zhao.
 The Taihang Mountains.
 Zhongmu was the former capital of Zhao, it is now Shancheng, in Henan.
 This may be intended to read 非有 for 非.
 Reading 力於 for 力, per the commentaries.
 It is not clear exactly where this was.
 The commentaries suggest 出於 for 出 here.
 It is not clear where this was.
 Reading 蒲 for 溝, per the commentaries. Jipu was near modern Puyang in Henan.
 Huangcheng seems to have been in modern Guan County, Shandong.
 Reading 隊 for 墜 here, per the commentaries.
 According to the commentaries, the 也 here may be superfluous.
 The commentaries suggest that the 秦 (Qin) here is superfluous.
 According to the commentaries, the 夫 here is superfluous.
 Reading 是 for 事, per the commentaries.
 Reading 敵 for 適, per the commentaries.
 The commentaries suggest that there may be a gap here.
 Reading 僅靜 for 僅靜, per the commentaries.
 The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence.
 King Fuchai of Wu. He became king in 495 BC and committed suicide following the annexation of his state by Yue in 473 BC.
 The commentaries suggest that the 強 here may be superfluous.
 Ying was the capital of Chu. It was to the North of modern Jingzhou, in Hubei.
 Lai was a non-Huaxia state in Shandong. It was annexed by Qi in 567 BC.
 Ju was another non-Huaxia state in Shandong. It was captured by Chu in 431 BC.
 Chen was in modern Henan, and was conquered by Chu in 479 BC.
 Cai was conquered by Chu repeatedly, but its name lived on until the Qin conquest.
 Reading 騏驥 for 麒驥, per the commentaries.
 Meng Ben was a famous strongman in Qin under King Wu.
 The commentaries suggest reading 力骨 for 骨力.
 The commentaries suggest reading 能 for 而 here.
 Reading 霸 for 亡 here, per the commentaries.
 Reading 燕、齊 for 齊、燕, per the commentaries.
 Also known as Hengqu, this was in modern Yuanqu County, Shanxi.
 Hu was a generic term for Northern horse nomads.
 The Loufan were a Xiongnu tribe, many of which served in the Zhao army.
 The commentaries suggest that the 何 here may be superfluous.
 The commentaries suggest that the 也 here is superfluous.
 Locals would be obliged to sell provisions to the army; they would not necessary get market prices.
 The commentaries suggest that 折轅 may be intended to read 析骸.
 The commentaries disagree on the precise reading of this sentence. This is a best guess attempt, based on the possible reading 露軍之道也.
 The commentaries suggest 屍 for 尸 here.
 Reading 鉉 for 弦, per the commentaries.
 Reading 宮 for 官, per the commentaries.
 The commentaries and modern translations disagree regarding the exact reading and interpretation of this section, and this is a best guess approach.
 Zhi Boyao or Zhi Bo was head of the Zhi clan, and the last Chancellor of Jin.
 The Fan family was a feudal clan that participated in the break-up of Jin. It was eventually wiped out by the others - among which Han, Wei and Zhao - who also put paid to Zhi Boyao and his family.
 The Zhonghang family was another feudal clan involved in the break-up of Jin.
 Jinyang was the capital of Jin, now Taiyuan in Shanxi.
 The commentaries suggest 併 for 兼 here, making no significant change to the meaning.
 Zhao Xiangzi (458 – 425 BC) who was the leader of the Zhao family during the Battle of Jinyang.
 The commentaries suggest reading 子之 for 子 here. It is not clear whether this is referring to the leaders of the Fan and Zhonghang families, or is intended to imply his attempted extermination of the Han and Wei clans.
 Reading 昔 for 日, per the commentaries.
 Zhangzi is still called Zhangzi, and is in Shanxi.
 The commentaries suggest reading 攻 for 敵 here, in which case it would read, "but attacked two states of ten thousand".
 Yao suggests reading 比 for 北 here.
 King Qieci of Zhongshan (309 - 298 BC) was forced to flee to Qi after multiple defeats by Zhao.
 The commentaries suggest reading 事矣 for 事 here.
 The conventional idea was to win by intimidation or diplomacy, per Sunzi.
 Modern translations disagree regarding the interpretation of this sentence. This follows Chinese versions.
 The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.
 The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.
 This may mean a five-man unit, or it may be a reference to one of various lists of five weapons used in ancient Chinese armies - one- and two-sided swords, halberds, spears, chariots, shields, arrows etc.
 The commentaries suggest that the 為 here may be superfluous.
 King Helü of Wu (514 - 496 BC) was wounded during a failed invasion of Yue and died after returning to Wu.
 Wu Qi was a celebrated strategist and author in Chu. He was assassinated in the Palace of Chu.
 Yao suggests that the 衽 and 之 here are superfluous.
 Reading 乏 for 之, per the commentaries.
 The commentaries suggest 然也 for 然 here.
 Yao suggests that 佚 here is superfluous.
 Yao suggests 而 for 則 here.
 Yao suggests 而移 for 則趨 here.
 Reading 也 for 矣, per the commentaries.
 King Hui of Wei (344 - 319 BC) succeeded Marquis Wu following a violent succession conflict during which Wei was almost conquered by Han and Zhao. He conducted several discussions with Mencius and exchanged territory with Han, making his state easier to defend.
 Reading 恃其 for 其 here, per the commentaries.
 Handan still exists and is in Hebei.
 Dingyang Commandery, centered on modern Yichuan County, Shaanxi.
 King Xian of Zhou (368–321 BC). His reign saw many of Zhou's vassals declaring themselves kings, and hence formalise their de facto independence.
 Duke Xiao of Qin (361–338 BC) worked with Shang Yang to enact legal and military reforms in Qin, and won several significant victories against neighbouring states.
 The commentaries disagree regarding the precise reading of this sentence, but the general sense is clear.
 Wey Yang, also known as Shang Yang, worked with Duke Xiao of Qin to reform Qin's government.
 It is not clear why these are excluded.
 Jiuyou was a constellation, and also referred to the streamers attached to military banners. The seven stars are a reference to the constellation Ursa Major, which remains an important symbol in traditional Chinese religion to this day.
 Crown Prince Shen of Wei was defeated, captured and executed at the Battle of Maling in 342 BC.
 The commentaries suggest reading 而受 for 受 here.
 In classical Chinese diplomacy, honour (德, de) and land were directly linked. A less powerful state under threat from a more powerful one would "pay respects" by bribing it with land to convince it to back off. Had Wey Yang not tricked Wei into stirring up resentments abroad, Qin would have been forced to offer Wei land to persuade it to relent.
 According to the commentaries, the 曰 here is superfluous.
 Pang Juan, a famous rival of Sun Bin, was killed during the Battle of Maling.
 The commentaries suggest reading 已入 for 入 here.