Sun Zi Introduction Table des matières – L'Art de la guerre

La stratégie chinoise ou comment s'informer, estimer, diviser, détourner, tromper, et vaincre « sans coup férir ». Tr. Amiot (fr) et Giles (en).

Sunzi V. 1.

Sun Tzu dit : Généralement, le commandement du grand nombre est le même que pour le petit nombre, ce n'est qu'une question d'organisation.


Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.1

1. That is, cutting up the army into regiments, companies, etc., with subordinate officers in command of each. Tu Mu reminds us of Han Hsin's famous reply to the first Han Emperor, who once said to him: "How large an army do you think I could lead?" "Not more than 100,000 men, your Majesty." "And you?" asked the Emperor. "Oh!" he answered, "the more the better."

Giles V.1.

Sunzi V. 2.

Contrôler le grand et le petit nombre n'est qu'une seule et même chose, ce n'est qu'une question de formation et de transmission des signaux. Ayez les noms de tous les officiers tant généraux que subalternes ; inscrivez-les dans un catalogue à part, avec la note des talents et de la capacité de chacun d'eux, afin de pouvoir les employer avec avantage lorsque l'occasion en sera venue. Faites en sorte que tous ceux que vous devez commander soient persuadés que votre principale attention est de les préserver de tout dommage.


Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.

Giles V.2.

Sunzi V. 3.

Les troupes que vous ferez avancer contre l'ennemi doivent être comme des pierres que vous lanceriez contre des œufs. De vous à l'ennemi, il ne doit y avoir d'autre différence que celle du fort au faible, du vide au plein. La certitude de subir l'attaque de l'ennemi sans subir une défaite est fonction de la combinaison entre l'utilisation directe et indirecte des forces.


To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken - this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.1

That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg - this is effected by the science of weak points and strong.

1. We now come to one of the most interesting parts of Sun Tzu's treatise, the discussion of the CHENG and the CH`I." As it is by no means easy to grasp the full significance of these two terms, or to render them consistently by good English equivalents; it may be as well to tabulate some of the commentators' remarks on the subject before proceeding further. Li Ch`uan: "Facing the enemy is CHENG, making lateral diversion is CH`I. Chia Lin: "In presence of the enemy, your troops should be arrayed in normal fashion, but in order to secure victory abnormal maneuvers must be employed." Mei Yao-ch`en: "CH`I is active, CHENG is passive; passivity means waiting for an opportunity, activity beings the victory itself." Ho Shih: "We must cause the enemy to regard our straightforward attack as one that is secretly designed, and vice versa; thus CHENG may also be CH`I, and CH`I may also be CHENG." He instances the famous exploit of Han Hsin, who when marching ostensibly against Lin- chin (now Chao-i in Shensi), suddenly threw a large force across the Yellow River in wooden tubs, utterly disconcerting his opponent. [Ch`ien Han Shu, ch. 3.] Here, we are told, the march on Lin-chin was CHENG, and the surprise maneuver was CH`I." Chang Yu gives the following summary of opinions on the words: "Military writers do not agree with regard to the meaning of CH`I and CHENG. Wei Liao Tzu [4th cent. B.C.] says: 'Direct warfare favors frontal attacks, indirect warfare attacks from the rear.' Ts`ao Kung says: 'Going straight out to join battle is a direct operation; appearing on the enemy's rear is an indirect maneuver.' Li Wei-kung [6th and 7th cent. A.D.] says: 'In war, to march straight ahead is CHENG; turning movements, on the other hand, are CH`I.' These writers simply regard CHENG as CHENG, and CH`I as CH`I; they do not note that the two are mutually interchangeable and run into each other like the two sides of a circle [see infra, ss. 11]. A comment on the T`ang Emperor T`ai Tsung goes to the root of the matter: 'A CH`I maneuver may be CHENG, if we make the enemy look upon it as CHENG; then our real attack will be CH`I, and vice versa. The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.'" To put it perhaps a little more clearly: any attack or other operation is CHENG, on which the enemy has had his attention fixed; whereas that is CH`I," which takes him by surprise or comes from an unexpected quarter. If the enemy perceives a movement which is meant to be CH`I," it immediately becomes CHENG."

Giles V.3,4.

Sunzi V. 4.

Usez généralement des forces directes pour engager la bataille, et des forces indirectes pour emporter la décision.


In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.1

1. Chang Yu says: "Steadily develop indirect tactics, either by pounding the enemy's flanks or falling on his rear." A brilliant example of "indirect tactics" which decided the fortunes of a campaign was Lord Roberts' night march round the Peiwar Kotal in the second Afghan war.

Giles V.5.

Sunzi V. 5.

Les ressources de ceux qui sont habiles dans l'utilisation des forces indirectes sont aussi infinies que celles des Cieux et de la Terre, et aussi inépuisables que le cours des grandes rivières. Attaquez à découvert, mais soyez vainqueur en secret. Voilà en peu de mots en quoi consiste l'habileté et toute la perfection même du gouvernement des troupes. Le grand jour et les ténèbres, l'apparent et le secret ; voilà tout l'art. Ceux qui le possèdent sont comparables au Ciel et à la Terre, dont les mouvements ne sont jamais sans effet : ils ressemblent aux fleuves et aux mers dont les eaux ne sauraient tarir. Fussent-ils plongés dans les ténèbres de la mort, ils peuvent revenir à la vie ; comme le soleil et la lune, ils ont le temps où il faut se montrer, et celui où il faut disparaître ; comme les quatre saisons, ils ont les variétés qui leur conviennent ; comme les cinq tons de la musique, comme les cinq couleurs, comme les cinq goûts, ils peuvent aller à l'infini. Car qui a jamais entendu tous les airs qui peuvent résulter de la différente combinaison des tons ? Qui a jamais vu tout ce que peuvent présenter les couleurs différemment nuancées ? Qui a jamais savouré tout ce que les goûts différemment tempérés peuvent offrir d'agréable ou de piquant ? On n'assigne cependant que cinq couleurs et cinq sortes de goût.

Dans l'art militaire, et dans le bon gouvernement des troupes, il n'y a certes que deux sortes de forces ; leurs combinaisons étant sans limites, personne ne peut toutes les comprendre.


Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhausible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.1

There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever been seen.

There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack - the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.

1. Tu Yu and Chang Yu understand this of the permutations of CH`I and CHENG." But at present Sun Tzu is not speaking of CHENG at all, unless, indeed, we suppose with Cheng Yu-hsien that a clause relating to it has fallen out of the text. Of course, as has already been pointed out, the two are so inextricably interwoven in all military operations, that they cannot really be considered apart. Here we simply have an expression, in figurative language, of the almost infinite resource of a great leader.

Giles V.6-10.

Sunzi V. 6.

Ces forces sont mutuellement productives et agissent entre elles. Ce serait dans la pratique une chaîne d'opérations dont on ne saurait voir le bout, tels ces anneaux multiples et entremêlés qu'il faut assembler pour former un annulaire, c'est comme une roue en mouvement qui n'a ni commencement ni fin. Dans l'art militaire, chaque opération particulière a des parties qui demandent le grand jour, et des parties qui veulent les ténèbres du secret. Vouloir les assigner, cela ne se peut ; les circonstances peuvent seules les faire connaître et les déterminer. On oppose les plus grands quartiers de rochers à des eaux rapides dont on veut resserrer le lit : on n'emploie que des filets faibles et déliés pour prendre les petits oiseaux. Cependant, le fleuve rompt quelquefois ses digues après les avoir minées peu à peu, et les oiseaux viennent à bout de briser les chaînes qui les retiennent, à force de se débattre.


The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?

Giles V.11.

Sunzi V. 7.

C'est par son élan que l'eau des torrents se heurte contre les rochers ; c'est sur la mesure de la distance que se règle le faucon pour briser le corps de sa proie. Ceux-là possèdent véritablement l'art de bien gouverner les troupes, qui ont su et qui savent rendre leur puissance formidable, qui ont acquis une autorité sans borne, qui ne se laissent abattre par aucun événement, quelque fâcheux qu'il puisse être ; qui ne font rien avec précipitation ; qui se conduisent, lors même qu'ils sont surpris, avec le sang-froid qu'ils ont ordinairement dans les actions méditées et dans les cas prévus longtemps auparavant, et qui agissent toujours dans tout ce qu'ils font avec cette promptitude qui n'est guère que le fruit de l'habileté, jointe à une longue expérience.


The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course.

The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.1

1. The Chinese here is tricky and a certain key word in the context it is used defies the best efforts of the translator. Tu Mu defines this word as "the measurement or estimation of distance." But this meaning does not quite fit the illustrative simile in ss. 15. Applying this definition to the falcon, it seems to me to denote that instinct of SELF RESTRAINT which keeps the bird from swooping on its quarry until the right moment, together with the power of judging when the right moment has arrived. The analogous quality in soldiers is the highly important one of being able to reserve their fire until the very instant at which it will be most effective. When the "Victory" went into action at Trafalgar at hardly more than drifting pace, she was for several minutes exposed to a storm of shot and shell before replying with a single gun. Nelson coolly waited until he was within close range, when the broadside he brought to bear worked fearful havoc on the enemy's nearest ships.

Giles V.12,13.

Sunzi V. 8.

Ainsi l'élan de celui qui est habile dans l'art de la guerre est irrésistible, et son attaque est réglée avec précision.


Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision.1

1. The word "decision" would have reference to the measurement of distance mentioned above, letting the enemy get near before striking. But I cannot help thinking that Sun Tzu meant to use the word in a figurative sense comparable to our own idiom "short and sharp." Cf. Wang Hsi's note, which after describing the falcon's mode of attack, proceeds: "This is just how the 'psychological moment' should be seized in war."

Giles V.14.

Sunzi V. 9.

Le potentiel de ces sortes de guerriers est comme celui de ces grands arcs totalement bandés, tout plie sous leurs coups, tout est renversé. Tels qu'un globe qui présente une égalité parfaite entre tous les points de sa surface, ils sont également forts partout ; partout leur résistance est la même.


Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.1

1. None of the commentators seem to grasp the real point of the simile of energy and the force stored up in the bent cross- bow until released by the finger on the trigger.

Giles V.15.

Sunzi V. 10.

Dans le fort de la mêlée et d'un désordre apparent, ils savent garder un ordre que rien ne saurait interrompre, ils font naître la force du sein même de la faiblesse, ils font sortir le courage et la valeur du milieu de la poltronnerie et de la pusillanimité.


Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.1

1. Mei Yao-ch`en says: "The subdivisions of the army having been previously fixed, and the various signals agreed upon, the separating and joining, the dispersing and collecting which will take place in the course of a battle, may give the appearance of disorder when no real disorder is possible. Your formation may be without head or tail, your dispositions all topsy-turvy, and yet a rout of your forces quite out of the question."

Giles V.16.

Sunzi V. 11.

Mais savoir garder un ordre merveilleux au milieu même du désordre, cela ne se peut sans avoir fait auparavant de profondes réflexions sur tous les événements qui peuvent arriver. Faire naître la force du sein même de la faiblesse, cela n'appartient qu'à ceux qui ont une puissance absolue et une autorité sans bornes (par le mot de puissance il ne faut pas entendre ici domination, mais cette faculté qui fait qu'on peut réduire en acte tout ce qu'on se propose). Savoir faire sortir le courage et la valeur du milieu de la poltronnerie et de la pusillanimité, c'est être héros soi-même, c'est être plus que héros, c'est être au-dessus des plus intrépides.


Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.1

1. In order to make the translation intelligible, it is necessary to tone down the sharply paradoxical form of the original. Ts`ao Kung throws out a hint of the meaning in his brief note: "These things all serve to destroy formation and conceal one's condition." But Tu Mu is the first to put it quite plainly: "If you wish to feign confusion in order to lure the enemy on, you must first have perfect discipline; if you wish to display timidity in order to entrap the enemy, you must have extreme courage; if you wish to parade your weakness in order to make the enemy over-confident, you must have exceeding strength."

Giles V.17.

Sunzi V. 12.

[Voir paragraphe précédent]


Hiding order beneath the cloak of disorder is simply a question of subdivision;1 concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy;2 masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions.3

1. See supra, ss. 1.
2. The commentators strongly understand a certain Chinese word here differently than anywhere else in this chapter. Thus Tu Mu says: "seeing that we are favorably circumstanced and yet make no move, the enemy will believe that we are really afraid."
3. Chang Yu relates the following anecdote of Kao Tsu, the first Han Emperor: "Wishing to crush the Hsiung-nu, he sent out spies to report on their condition. But the Hsiung-nu, forewarned, carefully concealed all their able-bodied men and well-fed horses, and only allowed infirm soldiers and emaciated cattle to be seen. The result was that spies one and all recommended the Emperor to deliver his attack. Lou Ching alone opposed them, saying: "When two countries go to war, they are naturally inclined to make an ostentatious display of their strength. Yet our spies have seen nothing but old age and infirmity. This is surely some ruse on the part of the enemy, and it would be unwise for us to attack." The Emperor, however, disregarding this advice, fell into the trap and found himself surrounded at Po-teng."

Giles V.18.

Sunzi V. 13.

Quelque grand, quelque merveilleux que tout cela paraisse, j'exige cependant quelque chose de plus encore de ceux qui gouvernent les troupes : c'est l'art de faire mouvoir à son gré les ennemis. Ceux qui le possèdent, cet art admirable, disposent de la contenance de leurs gens et de l'armée qu'ils commandent, de telle sorte qu'ils font venir l'ennemi toutes les fois qu'ils le jugent à propos ; ils savent faire des libéralités quand il convient, ils en font même à ceux qu'ils veulent vaincre : ils donnent à l'ennemi et l'ennemi reçoit, ils lui abandonnent et il vient prendre. Ils sont prêts à tout ; ils profitent de toutes les circonstances ; toujours méfiants ils font surveiller les subordonnés qu'ils emploient et, se méfiant d'eux-mêmes, ils ne négligent aucun moyen qui puisse leur être utile.


Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act.1 He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.

By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.2

1. Ts`ao Kung's note is "Make a display of weakness and want." Tu Mu says: "If our force happens to be superior to the enemy's, weakness may be simulated in order to lure him on; but if inferior, he must be led to believe that we are strong, in order that he may keep off. In fact, all the enemy's movements should be determined by the signs that we choose to give him." Note the following anecdote of Sun Pin, a descendent of Sun Wu: In 341 B.C., the Ch`i State being at war with Wei, sent T`ien Chi and Sun Pin against the general P`ang Chuan, who happened to be a deadly personal enemy of the later. Sun Pin said: "The Ch`i State has a reputation for cowardice, and therefore our adversary despises us. Let us turn this circumstance to account." Accordingly, when the army had crossed the border into Wei territory, he gave orders to show 100,000 fires on the first night, 50,000 on the next, and the night after only 20,000. P`ang Chuan pursued them hotly, saying to himself: "I knew these men of Ch`i were cowards: their numbers have already fallen away by more than half." In his retreat, Sun Pin came to a narrow defile, with he calculated that his pursuers would reach after dark. Here he had a tree stripped of its bark, and inscribed upon it the words: "Under this tree shall P`ang Chuan die." Then, as night began to fall, he placed a strong body of archers in ambush near by, with orders to shoot directly they saw a light. Later on, P`ang Chuan arrived at the spot, and noticing the tree, struck a light in order to read what was written on it. His body was immediately riddled by a volley of arrows, and his whole army thrown into confusion. [The above is Tu Mu's version of the story; the SHIH CHI, less dramatically but probably with more historical truth, makes P`ang Chuan cut his own throat with an exclamation of despair, after the rout of his army.]
2. With an emendation suggested by Li Ching, this then reads, "He lies in wait with the main body of his troops."

Giles V.19,20.

Sunzi V. 14.

Un commandant habile recherche la victoire dans la situation et ne l'exige pas de ses subordonnés.


The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals.1 Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.

1. Tu Mu says: "He first of all considers the power of his army in the bulk; afterwards he takes individual talent into account, and uses each men according to his capabilities. He does not demand perfection from the untalented."

Giles V.21.

Sunzi V. 15.

Ils regardent les hommes, contre lesquels ils doivent combattre, comme des pierres ou des pièces de bois qu'ils seraient chargés de faire rouler de haut en bas. La pierre et le bois n'ont aucun mouvement de leur nature ; s'ils sont une fois en repos, ils n'en sortent pas d'eux-mêmes, mais ils suivent le mouvement qu'on leur imprime ; s'ils sont carrés, ils s'arrêtent d'abord ; s'ils sont ronds, ils roulent jusqu'à ce qu'ils trouvent une résistance plus forte que la force qui leur était imprimée.


When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.1

1. Ts`au Kung calls this "the use of natural or inherent power."

Giles V.22.

Sunzi V. 16.

Faites en sorte que l'ennemi soit entre vos mains comme une pierre de figure ronde, que vous auriez à faire rouler d'une montagne qui aurait mille toises de haut : la force qui lui est imprimée est minime, les résultats sont énormes. C'est en cela qu'on reconnaîtra que vous avez de la puissance et de l'autorité.


Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height. So much on the subject of energy.1

1. The chief lesson of this chapter, in Tu Mu's opinion, is the paramount importance in war of rapid evolutions and sudden rushes. "Great results," he adds, "can thus be achieved with small forces."

Giles V.23.

Paysage chinois sur plateau (59)

L'Art de la guerre – Sun Zi V – Chinois off/on – Français/English
Alias Sun Tzu, Sun Wu, Sun Tse, Sunzi Bingfa, Souen Tseu, Souen Wou, 孫武.

Le Canon des Poèmes, Les Entretiens, La Grande Étude, Le Juste Milieu, Les Trois Caractères, Le Livre des Mutations, De la Voie et la Vertu, 300 poèmes Tang, L'Art de la guerre, Trente-six stratagèmes
Bienvenue, aide, notes, introduction, table.
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