sun tzu quotes

40+ Best Sun Tzu Quotes on the Art of War and Victory

Sun Tzu was a military strategist and general in ancient China who is best known for his book The Art of War. There is little to no biographical information on Sun Tzu. It is said that he lived around 500 B.C. but The Art of War was written during the later stages of the Warring States Period (the division of China), from 481 to 221 BCE. 

Sun Tzu’s teachings in The Art of War focused on military strategy and how it can be looked at as a supreme art. In this book, divided into 13 chapters, he covers all aspects of war, strategy, and victory, including how to prepare for an attack, fighting and using strategy to defeat one’s opponent through tactics of deception and the enemy’s unpreparedness, secret operations, and more. While it might seem as if he glorified war, that is not the case. Sun Tzu’s principles and philosophy in The Art of War just raised points about the vital importance of tactics and military thinking, and how to properly attack and defeat an opponent

Sun Tzu has plenty of wisdom on warfare. Enjoy these Sun Tzu quotes of all things related to war, victory, the enemy, and everything in between: 

Sun Tzu quotes

Sun Tzu Quotes About Strategy And Tactics

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

“The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not be swayed by petty doubts.”

Sun Tzu Quotes About War And Victory  

“Quickness is the essence of the war.”

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

“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’.”

“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

“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.”

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

“Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.”

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy‘s resistance without fighting.” 

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”

Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

“One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.”

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

“The wise warrior avoids the battle.”

“Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.”

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy‘s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”

“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”

“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”

“Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.”

Sun Tzu Quotes About The Enemy 

“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.”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”

“When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.”

“To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.”

“Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”

Supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.”

“Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and is not moved by him.”

“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.“

“Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder and crush him.”

“Be where your enemy is not.”

“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

“Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.”

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January Nelson is a writer, editor, dreamer, and occasional exotic dancer and a collective pen name. Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

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