Sun Tzu: The Art of War

🏷  Chinese interlinear · text   —   by Gerry · Sep 2022 · 10140 words

The book Art of War by Sun Tzu may or may not be an encrypted text. I assume it is, but unlike many other ancient text, the literal contents are not obvious nonsense or mysticist gobbledygook. Rather, it’s well done, and realistically describes wars as decided by budgets, logistics & deceit, instead of telling fairytales of divine fate & heroism. The text is still suspicious though in that it never gives any details or examples, but only unspecific lists of things that are “important”. These would be of little use for any concrete planning. However, these lists can easily be reinterpreted as encrypted advice to cheat one’s own subjects through theatrical hoaxes. The text would then have a double-meaning, but would be valuable in both meanings.

Introduction

Sun Tzu’s Art of War兵法 bīngfǎ “way of armies” in Chinese — is not suited to make a case for encryption. If you want to get clear evidence that ancient Chinese texts were encrypted, you can instead look at Confucius or Xu Guangqi. Both are pretty obvious.

For Sun Tzu’s text, it’s not so obvious. On the surface, it’s refreshingly realistic. It doesn’t question the motives behind wars, and it doesn’t condemn them as the horrible evil that they are. But otherwise, it paints a relatively blunt picture of wars, much as they unfold in reality. Most people today would agree that an actual war is generally not won by heroism, but mostly by sheer superiority, and that in addition bureaucratic measures like strategic planning, logistics & financing are important, like the text says. Sun Tzu even officially acknowledges the usage of spycraft & deception, though of course only towards the enemy, not one’s own subjects as it happens in reality.

Still, the text is suspicous, and there is also evidence that it may be encrypted in subtle ways:

Overall, Art of War is still a very intelligent & educational text. For common readers, who may have the silly idea that wars would be romantic or heroic, it lays out in detail the opposite. For military experts, it is probably still a valuable source as to which topics may be important for wars & armies, but without any detailed advice concerning those topics.

However, the Art of War is not the brilliant work of some strategic genius that it’s made to be. It does not offer any specific strategies for winning a war. Much of the text is generic. And many strange wordings are still hinting at an encrypted second message, though it’s better hidden than in other texts. I have only analyzed a small part of it, but I am sure that more evidence can be found in the rest. Read for yourself, and make up your own mind.

How to read this

A protective screen is a must.

Sun Tzu’s book is called 兵法 bīngfǎ. bīng means “soldiers”, but it could easily be a pun with bǐng “hiding”. The same character in the pronunciation píng also means “shield” & “screen”. In Sunzi’s time the pronunciation could even have been identical. Other than that, there’s no confirmation that the text is really about war: The terms to describe this war are not very specific (“great national affairs”, “life & death”), and could easily have been chosen for the encryption puns.

The Art of War 1.1.a

Encrypted: Sun Tzu says: A protective / screen / [for] hiding, [of] a wrapping the great appearance [??], [of] resembling the multitudes these situations, [of] harboring deception the path, not can [one] not [i.e. one must] investigate [it].

Official: Sun Tzu says: Soldiers, [of] nations the great affairs, [of] death [and] life these situations, [of] surviving [or] perishing the path, not can [one] not [i.e. one must] investigate [it].

Sun Tzu
孫子 sūnzǐ: Sun Tzu
sun zi   孫子
孫子 sūnzǐ: Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu

says:
yuē: say
yue  
yuē: say
says:

A protective / screen / [for] hiding,
bǐng: hide, suppress; píng: protect, shield, screen
bing  
bīng: soldiers
Soldiers,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

[of] a wrapping
guǒ: bind, wrap
guo  
guó: nation, country
[of] nations

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

the great
: great
da shi  
: great
the great

appearance [??],
shì: power, potential, outward appearance
shi  
shì: affair
affairs,

[of] resembling
: seem, appear, resemble
si  
: die
[of] death

the multitudes
shēn: crowd, multitude
sheng  
shēng: life, live
[and] life

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

these situations,
: place, field, situation
di  
: place, field, situation
these situations,

[of] harboring
cún: cherish, harbor
cun  
cún: exist, survive
[of] surviving

deception
wǎng: deceive, hide truth
wang  
wáng: lose, die
[or] perishing

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

the path,
dào: way, path
dao  
dào: way, path
the path,

not
: not
bu  
: not
not

can [one]
: can, may
ke  
: can, may
can [one]

not [i.e. one must]
: not
bu  
: not
not [i.e. one must]

investigate [it].
chá: examine, inspect, investigate
cha  
chá: examine, inspect, investigate
investigate [it].

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.1.a

Cover, personality, status, speech, method

The text now lists the 5 most important “things” to consider: Principles, weather, location, generals, and laws. For me, those wouldn’t be the first to come mind. What about budgets, weapons, technology, fortifications, defense, recruitment, training, intel, scouting, timing? For promoted famous authors like Sun Tzu, its often claimed that their works seem so banal, or so weird, because we simply don’t understand their genius. But if you read this text carefully, you’ll find little genius, but often generic phrases. And those could very easily be encryption keywords for something else, as I show here.

The Art of War 1.2.a

Encrypted: The old scripture it uses five things, [to] account [for] it with [one’s] schemes, when asking [about] [one’s] [cover-up?] situation: The first is said [to be] the cover [in general], the second is said [to be] [one’s] innate / nature [personality?], the third is said [to be] the [role’s?] status / position, the fourth is said [to be] the speech [of it], the fifth is said [to be] the method / [of] emulation [??].

Official: The old scripture it uses five things, [to] account [for] it with [one’s] planning, when asking [about] [one’s] [military?] situation: The first is said [to be] [moral] principles, the second is said [to be] the seasons, the third is said [to be] the land, the fourth is said [to be] the commanders, the fifth is said [to be] the laws / rules [??].

The old
: old
gu  
: old
The old

scripture
jīng: scripture
jing  
jīng: scripture
scripture

it
zhī: it
zhi  
zhī: it
it

uses
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
uses

five
: five
wu  
: five
five

things,
shì: thing
shi  
shì: thing
things,

[to] account [for]
jiào: check, compare
jiao  
jiào: check, compare
[to] account [for]

it
zhī: it
zhi  
zhī: it
it

with
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
with

[one’s] schemes,
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
ji  
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
[one’s] planning,

when
ér: but, yet, then
er  
ér: but, yet, then
when

asking [about]
suǒ: search, ask, demand
suo  
suǒ: search, ask, demand
asking [about]

[one’s]
: his, its
qi  
: his, its
[one’s]

[cover-up?] situation:
qíng: situation
qing  
qíng: situation
[military?] situation:

The first
: one
yi  
: one
The first

is said [to be]
yue say:
yue  
yue say:
is said [to be]

the cover [in general],
dào: cover, shroud, canopy; dào: cover, envelop
dao  
dào: way, path, principle
[moral] principles,

the second
èr: two
er  
èr: two
the second

is said [to be]
yue say:
yue  
yue say:
is said [to be]

[one’s] innate / nature [personality?],
tiān: nature, natural, innate
tian  
tiān: sky, weather, season
the seasons,

the third
sān: three
san  
sān: three
the third

is said [to be]
yue say:
yue  
yue say:
is said [to be]

the [role’s?] status / position,
: status, situation, position
di  
: ground, land, locality
the land,

the fourth
: four
si  
: four
the fourth

is said [to be]
yue say:
yue  
yue say:
is said [to be]

the speech [of it],
jiǎng: speak, speech
jiang  
jiàng: general, command, lead
the commanders,

the fifth
: five
wu  
: five
the fifth

is said [to be]
yue say:
yue  
yue say:
is said [to be]

the method / [of] emulation [??].
: imitate, emulate, method, way
fa  
: law, rule, method
the laws / rules [??].

The Art of War 1.2.a

Covers cause people to agree with their ruler.

Now here’s a real nugget: The text says you just have to make people agree with ther ruler, and then it doesn’t matter to them if they live or die! The text doesn’t say that you should use this carefully, and only for noble causes. The thing that’s supposed to make people agree with just anything is dào “principles”, but that could easily be a codeword for dào “cover”. I suspect that this is the main pun behind Daoism.

The Art of War 1.3.a

Encrypted: [As for] covers [in general], [they] cause the people with their ruler [to] agree, [whether] may [it be] with [that] they die, [whether] may [it be] with [that] they live, yet [they do] not disobey [??] a [convincing?] falsehood [??].

Official: [Moral] principles, [they] cause the people with their ruler [to] agree, [whether] may [it be] with [that] they die, [whether] may [it be] with [that] they live, yet [they do] not fear [any] danger.

[As for] covers [in general],
dào: cover, shroud, canopy; dào: cover, envelop
dao  
dào: way, path, principle
[Moral] principles,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

[they] cause
lìng: make, cause
ling  
lìng: make, cause
[they] cause

the people
mín: people
min  
mín: people
the people

with
: and, with
yu  
: and, with
with

their ruler
shàng: emperor, superior
shang  
shàng: emperor, superior
their ruler

[to] agree,
同意 tóngyì: agree, consent
tong yi   同意
同意 tóngyì: agree, consent
[to] agree,

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

[whether] may
: can, may
ke  
: can, may
[whether] may

[it be] with
: with
yu  
: with
[it be] with

[that] they
zhī: him, them
zhi  
zhī: him, them
[that] they

die,
: die
si  
: die
die,

[whether] may
: can, may
ke  
: can, may
[whether] may

[it be] with
: with
yu  
: with
[it be] with

[that] they
zhī: him, them
zhi  
zhī: him, them
[that] they

live,
shēng: life, live
sheng  
shēng: life, live
live,

yet
ér: but, yet
er  
ér: but, yet
yet

[they do] not
: not
bu  
: not
[they do] not

disobey [??]
wéi: disobey
wei  
wèi: fear
fear

a [convincing?] falsehood [??].
wěi: false, fake; wèi: exaggerate, falsehood
wei  
wēi: danger
[any] danger.

The Art of War 1.3.a

Hiding or feigning? Sinister or easy?

The text now lists considerations for each of the 5 important “things”. But again, there are only very few words that have to do with war, and those few could easily be codewords. An important pun is 陰陽 yīnyáng “cloudy & sunny” with 陰佯 yīnyáng “hiding vs. feigning”. It’s the Yin & Yang pun.

The Art of War 1.3.b

Encrypted: [As for one’s] innate / nature [personality?], hiding or feigning, keeping the mouth shut or narrating, the deception [must] be decided [by it].

Official: [As for] the seasons, [that is] cloudy and sunny [weather], cold and heat, the seasons control [it].

[As for one’s] innate / nature [personality?],
tiān: nature, natural, innate
tian  
tiān: sky, weather, season
[As for] the seasons,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

hiding
yīn: hidden
yin  
yīn: cloudy, shady, Yin
[that is] cloudy

or feigning,
yáng: feign, pretend; yàng: appearance
yang  
yáng: sun, Yang
and sunny [weather],

keeping the mouth shut
hán: keep in the mouth, contain inside
han  
hán: cold
cold

or narrating,
shù: state, tell, narrate; shū: unfold
shu  
shǔ: heat
and heat,

the deception
shì: hide, cover up, conceal, deceive
shi  
shí: time, season
the seasons

[must] be decided [by it].
zhì: restrict, limit, decide
zhi  
zhì: system, regulate, control
control [it].

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.3.b

The Art of War 1.3.c

Encrypted: [As for] [the role’s?] status / position, [it can be] distanced or close [to the people], sinister or easy [towards the people], enlarged [or] [more] limited, a [mere] semblance [or] [one’s real] life.

Official: [As for] the land, [that is] far [and] near, dangerous [and] easy [terrain], wide [or] narrow, [chances of] death [and] life.

[As for] [the role’s?] status / position,
: status, situation, position
di  
: ground, land, locality
[As for] the land,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

[it can be] distanced
yuǎn: far, distant
yuan  
yuǎn: far, distant
[that is] far

or close [to the people],
jìn: near, close
jin  
jìn: near, close
[and] near,

sinister
xiǎn: sinister, vicious
xian  
xiǎn: rugged, danger, dangerous
dangerous

or easy [towards the people],
: easy
yi  
: easy
[and] easy [terrain],

enlarged
guǎng: expand, enlarge
guang  
guǎng: wide
wide

[or] [more] limited,
xiá: narrow-minded, limited
xia  
xiá: narrow
[or] narrow,

a [mere] semblance
: seem, appear, resemble
si  
: die
[chances of] death

[or] [one’s real] life.
shēng: innate, natural, born with
sheng  
shēng: life, live
[and] life.

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.3.c

The Art of War 1.3.d

Encrypted: [As for one’s] speech, [one can] express trustworthiness and virtue, employing [only] speech.

Official: [As for] the commander, [he stands for] wisdom, trust, virtue, bravery, strictness.

[As for one’s] speech,
jiǎng: speak, speech
jiang  
jiàng: general, command, lead
[As for] the commander,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

[one can] express
zhì: present, convey, express
zhi  
zhì: wisdom, knowledge
[he stands for] wisdom,

trustworthiness
xìn: truthful, trust, believe
xin  
xìn: truthful, trust, believe
trust,

and virtue,
rén: virtue, benevolence
ren  
rén: virtue, benevolence
virtue,

employing
yòng: use, employ
yong  
yǒng: brave
bravery,

[only] speech.
yán: words, speech, say, talk
yan  
yán: stern, strict
strictness.

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.3.d

The Art of War 1.3.e

Encrypted: [As for] the method / [of] emulation [??], [there are?] bent / not straight [indirect??] and straightforward [ones?], [it is about how to] control the cover, and [the] main [methods?] [to] employ.

Official: [As for] the laws / rules [??], [they are about] [punishing??] wrongdoing [???] and regulating [the army??], [maintaining??] public roads, and [of] the host [??] [the] expenses.

[As for] the method / [of] emulation [??],
: imitate, emulate, method, way
fa  
: law, rule, method
[As for] the laws / rules [??],

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

[there are?] bent / not straight [indirect??]
: bent, crooked, twisted, not straight
qu  
: wrong, not right
[they are about] [punishing??] wrongdoing [???]

and straightforward [ones?],
zhí: directly, straight, straightforward
zhi  
zhì: system, regulate, control
and regulating [the army??],

[it is about how to] control
guǎn: control, manage
guan  
guān: public, official
[maintaining??] public

the cover,
dào: cover, shroud, canopy; dào: cover, envelop
dao  
dào: way, path, principle
roads,

and [the] main [methods?]
zhǔ: main, master, lead, command
zhu  
zhǔ: main, major, command, host
and [of] the host [??]

[to] employ.
yòng: use, employ, usefulness
yong  
yòng: expenses, outlay
[the] expenses.

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.3.e

The Art of War 1.3.f

Encrypted: All these five [things], [there] will be no one [who has] not heard [of them]. Knowing them this person [will have] success. Not knowing [them] this person [will] not [have] success.

Official: All these five [things], [there] will be no one [who has] not heard [of them]. Knowing them this person [will have] victory. Not knowing [them] this person [will] not [have] victory.

All
fán: every, all
fan  
fán: every, all
All

these
: this, these
ci  
: this, these
these

five
:
wu  
:
five

[things],
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
[things],

[there] will be
jiāng: shall, will, use
jiang  
jiāng: shall, will, use
[there] will be

no one
: do not, there is none who
mo  
: do not, there is none who
no one

[who has] not
: not
bu  
: not
[who has] not

heard [of them].
wén: hear, news
wen  
wén: hear, news
heard [of them].

Knowing
zhī: know
zhi  
zhī: know
Knowing

them
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them

this person
zhě: one who
zhe  
zhě: one who
this person

[will have] success.
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
[will have] victory.

Not
: not
bu  
: not
Not

knowing [them]
zhī: know
zhi  
zhī: know
knowing [them]

this person
zhě: one who
zhe  
zhě: one who
this person

[will] not
:
bu  
:
[will] not

[have] success.
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
[have] victory.

The Art of War 1.3.f

Which curtain has the better cover?

The text now lists comparisons for each of the 5 important “things”. But again, everything is extremely generic: Which one is “more effective”, “stronger”, “clearer”. In a real war scenario, this text would not be any help at all!

The Art of War 1.4.a

Encrypted: Therefore, [when] feigning this [successfully] with a ruse / scheme, then inquire [of it] [with] this reasoning.

Official: Therefore, [when] comparing this [victorious vs. not] by the [military?] planning, then inquire [of it] [with] this reasoning.

Therefore,
: cause, therefore, reason
gu  
: cause, therefore, reason
Therefore,

[when] feigning
jiǎo: pretend, feign
jiao  
jiào: check, compare
[when] comparing

this [successfully]
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
this [victorious vs. not]

with
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
by

a ruse / scheme,
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
ji  
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
the [military?] planning,

then
ér: but, yet
er  
ér: but, yet
then

inquire [of it]
suǒ: search, ask, inquire
suo  
suǒ: search, ask, inquire
inquire [of it]

[with] this
: he, it
qi  
: he, it
[with] this

reasoning.
qíng: situation, reason
qing  
qíng: situation, reason
reasoning.

The Art of War 1.4.a

The Art of War 1.4.b

Encrypted: [It is] said: [Of two] curtains / screens [??], which [one] has the [better] cover?

Official: [It is] said: [Of two] rulers, which [one] has [moral] principles [on his side]?

[It is] said:
yuē: say
yue  
yuē: say
[It is] said:

[Of two] curtains / screens [??],
chú: curtain, screen
zhu  
zhǔ: master, emperor
[Of two] rulers,

which [one]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [one]

has
yǒu: have
you  
yǒu: have
has

the [better] cover?
dào: cover, shroud, canopy; dào: cover, envelop
dao  
dào: way, path, principle
[moral] principles [on his side]?

The Art of War 1.4.b

The Art of War 1.4.c

Encrypted: [Of the ways of] speech, which [one] has [more] capability?

Official: [Of the] generals, which [one] has [more] ability?

[Of the ways of] speech,
jiǎng: speak, speech
jiang  
jiàng: general, command, lead
[Of the] generals,

which [one]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [one]

has
yǒu: have
you  
yǒu: have
has

[more] capability?
néng: can, able, ability, capability
neng  
néng: can, able, ability, capability
[more] ability?

The Art of War 1.4.c

The Art of War 1.4.d

Encrypted: [Of] the nature [personality] [and] [the role’s?] status / position, which [one] [is more] suitable?

Official: [Of the] seasons and locations, which [one] [is more] suitable?

[Of] the nature [personality]
tiān: nature, natural, innate
tian  
tiān: sky, weather, season
[Of the] seasons

[and] [the role’s?] status / position,
: status, situation, position
di  
: ground, land, locality
and locations,

which [one]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [one]

[is more] suitable?
: obtain, get, suitable
de  
: obtain, get, suitable
[is more] suitable?

The Art of War 1.4.d

The Art of War 1.4.e

Encrypted: [Of] the methods / [of] emulation [??] [their] effectiveness, which [one] [is more] effective?

Official: [Of how] the laws / rules [??] are commanded [enforced], which [one] [is more] effective?

[Of] the methods / [of] emulation [??]
: imitate, emulate, method, way
fa  
: law, rule, method
[Of how] the laws / rules [??]

[their] effectiveness,
líng: effective, spirit
ling  
lìng: cause, command, order, directive
are commanded [enforced],

which [one]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [one]

[is more] effective?
xíng: capable, competent, effective
xing  
xíng: capable, competent, effective
[is more] effective?

The Art of War 1.4.e

The Art of War 1.4.f

Encrypted: [Of the] protective / screen / [for] hiding [for] the multitudes, which [one] [is more] powerful?

Official: [Of the] soldiers [their] multitude, which [one] [is] stronger?

[Of the] protective / screen / [for] hiding
bǐng: hide, suppress; píng: protect, shield, screen
bing  
bīng: soldiers
[Of the] soldiers

[for] the multitudes,
zhòng: many, crowd, multitude
zhong  
zhòng: many, crowd, multitude
[their] multitude,

which [one]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [one]

[is more] powerful?
qiáng: strong, powerful
qiang  
qiáng: strong, powerful
[is] stronger?

The Art of War 1.4.f

Which role-players are better trained?

The title of Sun Tzu’s book is bīng “troops”. But here, the text suddenly uses shì for “soldiers”, perhaps because that also means “specialist”. It could also be a pun with shì “role-player”, or both. A similar pun occurs in The Art of War 2.1.

The Art of War 1.4.g

Encrypted: [Of] the decorating / role-playing / specialist [??] servants, which [ones] are [more] trained?

Official: [Of] the soldier privates, which [ones] are [more] trained?

[Of] the decorating / role-playing / specialist [??]
shì: cover up, decorate, deceive, play a role
shi  
shì: soldier, specialist worker, skilled person
[Of] the soldier

servants,
: soldier, servant, private
zu  
: soldier, servant, private
privates,

which [ones]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [ones]

are [more] trained?
liàn: practice, train, drill
lian  
liàn: practice, train, drill
are [more] trained?

The Art of War 1.4.g

The Art of War 1.4.h

Encrypted: [Of] the views / visuals [???] [of] the wrapper [veil], which [one] is clearer?

Official: [Of] reward [and] punishment, which [one] is clearer?

[Of] the views / visuals [???]
shǎng: admire view, enjoy sight, appreciate visuals
shang  
shǎng: bestow, award, reward
[Of] reward

[of] the wrapper [veil],
: wrap, kerchief, headscarf
fa  
: punish
[and] punishment,

which [one]
shú: who, which
shu  
shú: who, which
which [one]

is clearer?
míng: bright, clear
ming  
míng: bright, clear
is clearer?

The Art of War 1.4.h

Compare in advance.

No punnery needed here, because war isn’t mentioned with a single word. The advice to “judge beforehand” can be applied to anything.

The Art of War 1.4.i

Encrypted: I use these [to beforehand] know success [or] failure. [Those] leaders [who] listen [to] my schemes [and] use them, will [have] victory. Keep them! [Those] leaders [who do] not listen [to] my schemes [and do not] use them, will fail. Remove them!

Official: I use these [to beforehand] know victory [or] defeat. [Those] generals [who] listen [to] my plans [and] use them, will [have] victory. Keep them! [Those] generals [who do] not listen [to] my plans [and do not] use them, will [be] defeated. Remove them!

I
: I, my
wu  
: I, my
I

use
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
use

these
: this, these
ci  
: this, these
these

[to beforehand] know
zhī: know
zhi  
zhī: know
[to beforehand] know

success
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
victory

[or] failure.
: lose, defeated
fu  
: lose, defeated
[or] defeat.

 
: (final particle)
yi  
: (final particle)
 

[Those] leaders
jiàng: general, command, lead
jiang  
jiàng: general, command, lead
[Those] generals

[who] listen
tīng: listen, hear
ting  
tīng: listen, hear
[who] listen

[to] my
: I, my
wu  
: I, my
[to] my

schemes
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
ji  
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
plans

[and] use
yòng: use
yong  
yòng: use
[and] use

them,
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them,

will [have]
: must, will
bi  
: must, will
will [have]

victory.
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
victory.

Keep
liú: remain, keep
liu  
liú: remain, keep
Keep

them!
zhī: him, it, them
zhi   之;
zhī: him, it, them
them!

[Those] leaders
jiàng: general, command, lead
jiang  
jiàng: general, command, lead
[Those] generals

[who do] not
: not
bu  
: not
[who do] not

listen
tīng: listen, hear
ting  
tīng: listen, hear
listen

[to] my
: I, my
wu  
: I, my
[to] my

schemes
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
ji  
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
plans

[and do not] use
yòng: use
yong  
yòng: use
[and do not] use

them,
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them,

will
: must, will
bi  
: must, will
will [be]

fail.
bài: defeat, lose, fail
bai  
bài: defeat, lose, fail
defeated.

Remove
: go, send, remove
qu  
: go, send, remove
Remove

them!
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them!

The Art of War 1.4.i

Adapt to the situation.

No punnery needed here, because war isn’t mentioned with a single word.

The Art of War 1.5.a

Encrypted: [When from these] schemes [you want to] profit by listening [to them], then for this situation / condition, use [also] [for] assisting [you] [in] this [anything] else. The situations / conditions, for benefiting [one must] yet decide [and] adapt [to them].

Official: [When from these] plans [you want to] profit by listening [to them], then for this situation / condition, use [also] [for] assisting [you] [in] this [anything] else. The situations / conditions, for benefiting [one must] yet decide [and] adapt [to them].

[When from these] schemes
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
ji  
: count, plan, ruse, scheme
[When from these] plans

[you want to] profit
: benefit, profit
li  
: benefit, profit
[you want to] profit

by
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
by

listening [to them],
tīng: listen, hear
ting  
tīng: listen, hear
listening [to them],

then
nǎi: then, only
nai  
nǎi: then, only
then

for
wèi: because of, for, to
wei  
wèi: because of, for, to
for

this
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
this

situation / condition,
shì: situation, conditions
shi  
shì: situation, conditions
situation / condition,

use [also]
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
use [also]

[for] assisting [you]
zuǒ: assist, aide
zuo  
zuǒ: assist, aide
[for] assisting [you]

[in] this
: he, it
qi  
: he, it
[in] this

[anything] else.
wài: out, other, other than
wai   外;
wài: out, other, other than
[anything] else.

The situations / conditions,
shì: situation, conditions
shi  
shì: situation, conditions
The situations / conditions,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

for
yīn: cause, because
yin  
yīn: cause, because
for

benefiting
: benefit, profit
li  
: benefit, profit
benefiting

[one must] yet
ér: and, but, yet
er  
ér: and, but, yet
[one must] yet

decide
zhì: control, plan, decide
zhi  
zhì: control, plan, decide
decide

[and] adapt [to them].
quán: weigh, expediency, adaptability
quan  
quán: weigh, expediency, adaptability
[and] adapt [to them].

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.5.a

All protective screens are deception.

The official text says here: “war is deception”. For our rulers as they really are, everything is a deception. The only necessary pun is again of bīng “soldiers” with bǐng “hiding”. The rest of the meaning is implicit: The text doesn’t say anywhere against whom all these schemes are to be used, so they could be anyone, even one’s subjects.

The Art of War 1.6.a

Encrypted: A protective / screen / [for] hiding, [is of] deception a path. Therefore [when you have] power, then show it [as if you do] not [have] power. [When] using [your power], then show it [as if] not using [it]. [Of a mere] perception / reflection [??], yet show it [as] the original [truth??]. [Of] the original [truth??], yet show it [as a mere] perception / reflection [??].

Official: [A war with] soldiers, [is of] craftiness / trickery a path. Therefore [when you have] capabilities, then show it [as if you do] not [have these] capabilities. [When] using [your forces], then show it [as if] not using [them]. [When being] near, then show it [as if you are] far. [When being] far, then show it [as if you are] near.

A protective / screen / [for] hiding,
bǐng: hide, suppress; píng: protect, shield, screen
bing  
bīng: soldiers
[A war with] soldiers,

 
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
 

[is of] deception
guǐ: sly, crafty, tricky, deceitful
gui  
guǐ: sly, crafty, tricky, deceitful
[is of] craftiness / trickery

a path.
dào: way, path, method
dao  
dào: way, path, method
a path.

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

Therefore
: cause, therefore, reason
gu  
: cause, therefore, reason
Therefore

[when you have] power,
néng: ability, capability, power
neng  
néng: ability, capability, power
[when you have] capabilities,

then
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

show
shì: show, reveal
shi  
shì: show, reveal
show

it
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
it

[as if you do] not
: not
bu  
: not
[as if you do] not

[have] power.
néng: can, able, ability, capability
neng  
néng: can, able, ability, capability
[have these] capabilities.

[When] using [your power],
yòng: use, employ
yong  
yòng: use, employ
[When] using [your forces],

then
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

show
shì: show, reveal
shi  
shì: show, reveal
show

it
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
it

[as if] not
: not
bu  
: not
[as if] not

using [it].
yòng: use, employ
yong  
yòng: use, employ
using [them].

[Of a mere] perception / reflection [??],
jìng: mirror, reflect, reflect, perceive
jin  
jìn: near, close
[When being] near,

yet
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

show
shì: show, reveal
shi  
shì: show, reveal
show

it
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
it

[as] the original [truth??].
yuán: original, primary
yuan  
yuǎn: far, distant
[as if you are] far.

[Of] the original [truth??],
yuán: original, primary
yuan  
yuǎn: far, distant
[When being] far,

yet
ér: yet, then
er  
ér: yet, then
then

show
shì: show, reveal
shi  
shì: show, reveal
show

it
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
it

[as a mere] perception / reflection [??].
jìng: mirror, reflect, reflect, perceive
jin  
jìn: near, close
[as if you are] near.

The Art of War 1.6.a

Spread confusion, hide the truth, make them labor.

Again, these advices about deception need very little punnery to be applied to general spooky ruling, i.e. deceiving one’s subjects. Again, the mentioned schemes are supposedly to be used against some enemy, but the word “enemy” is never used in the text, it’s only ever “them”. Note especially the part about “making them labor”!

The Art of War 1.6.b

Encrypted: Benefit yet [from] enticing them [your subjects?]. [Throw them into] confusion, then exhaust them. [As for] the truth, yet hide it from them. [If they are] violent, then force / press them. [If they are easy to] anger, then disturb / scold / stir / [have] vent [?] them. [Feign to be?] humble, and pretend / feign it / [towards] them. [When they are] at ease / leisure, then [make] toil / labor them.

Official: Benefit yet [from] tempting them [your enemies?]. [Throw them into] confusion, then get / take them. [If they have] solid [forces?], then be prepared [for] them. [If they are] strong, then avoid them. [If they are easy to] anger, then disturb / bother / upset them. [Feign to be?] humble, then [make] arrogant them. [When they are] at ease / leisure, then [make] toil / labor them.

Benefit
: benefit, profit
li  
: benefit, profit
Benefit

yet [from]
ér: and, yet, then
er  
ér: and, yet, then
yet [from]

enticing
yòu: entice, tempt
you  
yòu: entice, tempt
tempting

them [your subjects?].
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them [your enemies?].

[Throw them into] confusion,
luàn: confusion, disorder
luan  
luàn: confusion, disorder
[Throw them into] confusion,

then
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

exhaust
: bend, yield, exhaust
qu  
: take, get
get / take

them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them.

[As for] the truth,
shí: real, true, honest
shi  
shí: solid
[If they have] solid [forces?],

yet
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

hide it from
bèi: hide something from
bei  
bèi: prepare, get ready
be prepared

them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
[for] them.

[If they are] violent,
qiáng: violent
qiang  
qiáng: strong, powerful
[If they are] strong,

then
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

force / press
: force, press, extort, compel
bi  
: avoid, shun, flee, hide from
avoid

them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them.

[If they are easy to] anger,
: anger, fury
nu  
: anger, fury
[If they are easy to] anger,

then
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

disturb / scold / stir / [have] vent [?]
nào: disturb, joke, scold, vent (feelings)
nao  
náo: stir, disturb, bother, upset
disturb / bother / upset

them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them.

[Feign to be?] humble,
bēi: low, vulgar, inferior, humble
bei  
bēi: low, vulgar, inferior, humble
[Feign to be?] humble,

and
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

pretend / feign
jiǎo: pretend, feign; jiǎo: pretend, counterfeit
jiao  
jiāo: proud, arrogant
[make] arrogant

it / [towards] them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them.

[When they are] at ease / leisure,
: easy, leisurely
yi  
: easy, leisurely
[When they are] at ease / leisure,

then
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

[make] toil / labor
láo: toil, labor
lao  
láo: toil, labor
[make] toil / labor

them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them.

The Art of War 1.6.b

Separate from your relatives.

The literal meaning of this paragraph is again of not much use: “if they get close, then leave”. Brilliant! But it may encrypt a key concept of spookery: Hiding of all family relations, to conceal the aristocratic nepotism. And you don’t need to change a single character: qīn means “close”, but also “relatives”!

That aristocrats must hide their nepotist family relations is written in Exodus 20:12, Leviticus 18:6, Art of War 1.6, Bello Judaico 1.34.

The Art of War 1.6.c

Encrypted: [As for your] parents / relatives, yet [feign to] be separate / independent [of] them.

Official: [When their armies] approach / are close [???], then part / go away from [???] them.

[As for your] parents / relatives,
qīn: intimate, parent, relative, related
qin  
qīn: close, approach
[When their armies] approach / are close [???],

yet
ér: and, then
er  
ér: and, then
then

[feign to] be separate / independent
: separate, independent of
li  
: leave, part from, away from
part / go away from [???]

[of] them.
zhī: him, it, them
zhi  
zhī: him, it, them
them.

The Art of War 1.6.c

Let them have no idea. Don’t put on the mask when seen.

Again, the literal text isn’t much of a big secret: “Don’t make your plans known in advance.” That’s hardly strategic genius. The encrypted text is almost as obvious: “Don’t put on the disguise when seen.”

The Art of War 1.6.d

Encrypted: Handle [all] this [when they are] not prepared. Appear [to] them [so they have] no idea. [For] this protective / screen / [for] hiding school of thought [of it] the success, not may [one] visibly put it on.

Official: Attack them [when they are] not prepared. Appear [on] them [when they have] no idea. [For] this military school of thought [of it] the success, not may [one] in advance pass on [this information].

Handle
gōng: accuse, study, handle
gong  
gōng: attack
Attack

[all] this
: he, it, they
qi  
: he, it, they
them

[when they are] not
: no, not, none
wu  
: no, not, none
[when they are] not

prepared.
bèi: prepare, get ready
bei  
bèi: prepare, get ready
prepared.

Appear
chū: go out, put forth, appear
chu  
chū: go out, put forth, appear
Appear

[to] them
: he, it, they
qi  
: he, it, they
[on] them

[so they have] no
: not
bu  
: not
[when they have] no

idea.
: idea, intention
yi  
: idea, intention
idea.

[For] this
: this, these
ci  
: this, these
[For] this

protective / screen / [for] hiding
bǐng: hide, suppress; píng: protect, shield, screen
bing  
bīng: soldiers
military

school of thought
jiā: school of thought
jia  
jiā: school of thought
school of thought

[of it]
zhī: him, it
zhi  
zhī: him, it
[of it]

the success,
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
the success,

not
: not
bu  
: not
not

may [one]
: can, may
ke  
: can, may
may [one]

visibly
xiàn: appear, present, manifest, visible
xian  
xiān: early, in advance
in advance

put it on.
穿 chuān: put on, dress, wear
chuan  
chuán: pass on, spread, transmit
pass on [this information].

 
: (affirmation)
ye  
: (affirmation)
 

The Art of War 1.6.d

Much planning will succeed.

Again, only a single word mentions zhàn “war”, which could easily be a codeword for zhàng “veiling”. The generic advice for “better planning” could again be applied to anything.

The Art of War 1.7.a

Encrypted: [When] not yet [in his] covering veil yet ingeniously [?] planning [it] [the] successful one, [he] will [??] plan a lot. [When] not yet [in his] covering veil yet ingeniously [?] planning [it] [the] not successful one, [he] will [??] plan [only] little. Much planning [will] succeed, little planning [will] not succeed, yet let alone as to no planning, [is it not]? I use these [ideas] [for the] display / show [of it] the success [or] failure [to] see.

Official: [When] not yet [in] battle yet [in his?] shrine [???] planning [it] [the] successful one, [he] will [??] plan a lot. [When] not yet [in] battle yet [in his?] shrine [???] planning [it] [the] not successful one, [he] will [??] plan [only] little. Much planning [will] succeed, little planning [will] not succeed, yet let alone as to no planning, [is it not]? I use these [ideas] [to] see this, victory [or] defeat [I] see.

 
: (introduce topic)
fu  
: (introduce topic)
 

[When] not yet
wèi: not yet
wei  
wèi: not yet
[When] not yet

[in his] covering veil
zhàng: covering veil, curtain, screen
zhan  
zhàn: fight, war, battle
[in] battle

yet
ér: and, but, yet
er  
ér: and, but, yet
yet

ingeniously [?]
miào: ingenious, clever
miao  
miào: temple, shrine
[in his?] shrine [???]

planning [it]
shuàn: trick, fool
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
planning [it]

[the] successful
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
[the] successful

one,
zhě: one who
zhe  
zhě: one who
one,

[he] will [??]
děi: must, will
dei  
děi: must, will
[he] will [??]

plan
suàn: calculate, plan, design
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
plan

a lot.
duō: many, much
duo  
duō: many, much
a lot.

 
: (affirmation)
ye   也;
: (affirmation)
 

[When] not yet
wèi: not yet, not
wei  
wèi: not yet, not
[When] not yet

[in his] covering veil
zhàng: covering veil, curtain, screen
zhan  
zhàn: fight, war, battle
[in] battle

yet
ér: and, but, yet
er  
ér: and, but, yet
yet

ingeniously [?]
miào: ingenious, clever
miao  
miào: temple, shrine
[in his?] shrine [???]

planning [it]
suàn: calculate, plan, design
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
planning [it]

[the] not
: not
bu  
: not
[the] not

successful
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
successful

one,
zhě: (define term)
zhe  
zhě: (define term)
one,

[he] will [??]
děi: must, will
dei  
děi: must, will
[he] will [??]

plan
suàn: calculate, plan, design
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
plan

[only] little.
shǎo: few, less
shao  
shǎo: few, less
[only] little.

 
: (affirmation)
ye   也;
: (affirmation)
 

Much
duō: many, much
duo  
duō: many, much
Much

planning
suàn: calculate, plan, design
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
planning

[will] succeed,
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
[will] succeed,

little
shǎo: few, less
shao  
shǎo: few, less
little

planning
suàn: calculate, plan, design
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
planning

[will] not
: not
bu  
: not
[will] not

succeed,
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
succeed,

yet
ér: and, but, yet
er  
ér: and, but, yet
yet

let alone
kuàng: moreover, let alone
kuang  
kuàng: moreover, let alone
let alone

as to
: in, at, to, from
yu  
: in, at, to, from
as to

no
: no, none
wu  
: no, none
no

planning,
suàn: calculate, plan, design
suan  
suàn: calculate, plan, design
planning,

[is it not]?
: (question)
hu   乎?
: (question)
[is it not]?

I
: I, my
wu  
: I, my
I

use
: use, by, with
yi  
: use, by, with
use

these [ideas]
: this, these
ci  
: this, these
these [ideas]

[for the] display / show
guān: play, display, show, appearance
guan  
guān: see, observe, behold
[to] see

[of it]
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: this, these
this,

the success
shèng: victory, success
sheng  
shèng: victory, success
victory

[or] failure
: lose, defeated
fu  
: lose, defeated
[or] defeat

[to] see.
jiàn: see
jian  
jiàn: see
[I] see.

 
: (final particle)
yi  
: (final particle)
 

The Art of War 1.7.a

Actors and costumes are expensive.

In this list of war expenses, we finally find some very obvious hints that the whole text is not about war. Instead, there are clues that it’s all about huge theatrical mock-ups:

The Art of War 2.1.a

Encrypted: Sun Tzu says: All usage / expenses [of] a protective / screen / [for] hiding [these] methods, [with] spread-out / supportive [?] theater [workers?] [in the] tousands [of] teams, [with] changed / altered / individual [?] theater [actors?] [in the] tousands [of] presented appearances / shapes, the girding shells [dresses] tens [of] ten thousands;

Official: Sun Tzu says: All expenses [for using] soldiers [these] methods, [with] fast running chariots [in the] tousands [of] teams, [with supporting] weapons / armor chariots [in the] tousands [of] chariots, [soldiers] girded [in] armor tens [of] ten thousands;

Sun Tzu
孫子 sūnzǐ: Sun Tzu
sun zi   孫子
孫子 sūnzǐ: Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu

says:
yuē: say
yue  
yuē: say
says:

All
fán: every, all
fan  
fán: every, all
All

usage / expenses
yòng: use, employ
yong  
yòng: expenses, outlay
expenses

[of] a protective / screen / [for] hiding
bǐng: hide, suppress; píng: protect, shield, screen
bing  
bīng: soldiers
[for using] soldiers

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

[these] methods,
: law, rule, method
fa  
: law, rule, method
[these] methods,

[with] spread-out / supportive [?]
chí: disseminate, spread afar; chí: support
chi  
chí: run fast, gallop
[with] fast running

theater [workers?]
: theatrical work, play, opera, drama
ju  
: chariot
chariots

[in the] tousands
qiān: thousand
qian  
qiān: thousand
[in the] tousands

[of] teams,
: team of 4 horses
si  
: team of 4 horses
[of] teams,

[with] changed / altered / individual [?]
: change, alter; : individual
ge  
: leather, leather armour, leather weaponry
[with supporting] weapons / armor

theater [actors?]
: theatrical work, play, opera, drama
ju  
: chariot
chariots

[in the] tousands
qiān: thousand
qian  
qiān: thousand
[in the] tousands

[of] presented appearances / shapes,
chéng: present appearance, assume shape
sheng  
shèng: 4 horse chariot; chéng: ride, mount
[of] chariots,

the girding
dài: band, belt, girdle
dai  
dài: band, belt, girdle
[soldiers] girded

shells [dresses]
jiǎ: armor, plating, shell
jia  
jiǎ: armor, plating, shell
[in] armor

tens
shí: ten
shi  
shí: ten
tens

[of] ten thousands;
wàn: ten thousand
wan   萬;
wàn: ten thousand
[of] ten thousands;

The Art of War 2.1.a

Stage changes, glue & paint are expensive.

The giveaway list of ridiculous “expenses” continues:

The Art of War 2.1.b

Encrypted: [For] thousands of veiled [people] the food / the masking [?], then [of] inside [rooms!] [and] outside [locations!] the expenses [including of all] the changes / transformations the expenses, [of] glue [!!!] [and] paint [!!!] the material, [of] theatrical shells the sewing [!!!]; [Every] day the expenses [will be] thousands [of] gold [coins], after tens [of] ten thousands of experts [have been] raised.

Official: [For them to march?] thousands of Li the food [and] grain, then [of] inner [and] outer [territory?] the expenses [including those of all] visitors / guests the expenses, [of] glue [???] [and] paint [???] the material, [of] chariots [and] armor the received / services [???]; [Every] day the expenses [will be] thousands [of] gold [coins], after tens [of] ten thousands of troops [have been] raised.

[For] thousands
qiān: thousand
qian  
qiān: thousand
[For them to march?] thousands

of veiled [people]
: veil, kerchief
li  
: li, ancient measure of length
of Li

the food / the masking [?],
鬼臉 guǐliǎn: grimace, face mask
kui liang   饋糧
kuì: food; liáng: grain, food
the food [and] grain,

then
: but, then
ze  
: but, then
then

[of] inside [rooms!]
nèi: inner room, room
nei  
nèi: inside, inner
[of] inner

[and] outside [locations!]
wài: outside, external
wai  
wài: outside, out
[and] outer [territory?]

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

the expenses
fèi: cost, spend, expenses
fei  
fèi: cost, spend, expenses
the expenses

[including of all] the changes / transformations
變革 biàngé: change, transform
bin ke   賓客
賓客 bīnkè: visitors, guests
[including those of all] visitors / guests

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

the expenses,
yòng: expenses, outlay
yong  
yòng: expenses, outlay
the expenses,

[of] glue [!!!]
jiāo: glue
jiao  
jiāo: glue
[of] glue [???]

[and] paint [!!!]
: paint
qi  
: paint
[and] paint [???]

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

the material,
cái: timber, material
cai  
cái: timber, material
the material,

[of] theatrical
: theatrical work, play, opera, drama
ju  
: chariot
[of] chariots

shells
jiǎ: armor, plating, shell
jia  
jiǎ: armor, plating, shell
[and] armor

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

the sewing [!!!];
féng: sew, stitch
feng  
fèng: offer, receive, serve
the received / services [???];

[Every] day
: sun, day
ri  
: sun, day
[Every] day

the expenses
fèi: cost, spend, expenses
fei  
fèi: cost, spend, expenses
the expenses

[will be] thousands
qiān: thousand
qian  
qiān: thousand
[will be] thousands

[of] gold [coins],
jīn: gold, money
jin  
jīn: gold, money
[of] gold [coins],

after
然後 ránhòu: after, afterwards
ran hou   然後
然後 ránhòu: after, afterwards
after

tens
shí: ten
shi  
shí: ten
tens

[of] ten thousands
wàn: ten thousand
wan  
wàn: ten thousand
[of] ten thousands

 
zhī: (possession)
zhi  
zhī: (possession)
 

of experts
shī: master, expert, model
shi  
shī: troops
of troops

[have been] raised.
: lift, raise
ju  
: lift, raise
[have been] raised.

 
: (final particle)
yi  
: (final particle)
 

The Art of War 2.1.b

🏷  Chinese interlinear · text