Famous Chinese Quotes and Sayings, Meaning and Origin

Author: Sun Tzu. Origin: Chapter III · Strategic Attack, The Art of War (roughly 5th century BC).

知可战与不可战者胜。
“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.” Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu (孫子) born Sūn Wǔ (孫武) was a Chinese general and philosopher, probably lived between the 6th and 5th centuries BC He is credited with one of the most important military strategy treaties of all time, The Art of war (孫子兵 法, Sūnzǐ Bīngfǎ, Literal meaning”Master Sun’s Military Methods”).

Sun Tzu’s victories then inspired him to write The Art of War. The book contained a detailed explanation and analysis of the Chinese military, from weapons and strategy to rank and discipline.

Original text:

故知胜有五:知可以战与不可以战者胜,识众寡之用者胜,上下同欲者胜,以虞待不虞者胜,将能而君不御者胜。此五者,知胜之道也。

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. (2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. (3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. (4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. (5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. These five are the way by which we know which side will win.

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