Clavell's Translations

Clavell's Version:

Although James Clavell did not do this translation himself (it is a version of an older translation by Giles), his name appears prominently on its cover, so we refer to it by his name.

This is the book for readers who want a little more explanation about what the nineteenth-century author thought Sun Tzu meant, mixed in with the text itself. The actual text and its sentences and paragraphs have little to do with the original text.

The goal of this work is to explain Sun Tzu's ideas. In most cases, this explanation was not offered by Sun Tzu himself. This stanza, for example, appears as a single group of characters in the original, but Clavell's translation starts it in the middle of one paragraph and combines several of the lines together into a single paragraph. This implies that Sun Tzu meant them to be taken together, but we don't know that. This translation cannot resist expanding and explaining the master's words well beyond anything Sun Tzu actually said. See at Barnes and See at

Our Character Translation

Clavell's Translation

Without invitation right correct’s banner, To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order,
Do not attack hall hall of formation, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array—
Here govern transform one also; this is the art of studying circumstances.
Make use war’s method, It is a military axiom...

High mound do not face,

not to advance uphill against the enemy,

Back walls do not oppose,

nor to oppose him when he comes down hill.

Pretend flee do not follow,

Do not pursue an enemy that simulates flight;

Sharp soldiers do not attack,

do not attack soldiers whose temperament is keen.

Bait war do not feed,

Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.

Returning home legion do not block,

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home because a man whose heart is set on returning home will fight to the death against any attempt to block his way.

Encircling troops must watch-tower,

When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. This does not mean that the enemy should be allowed to escape. The object is to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of despair.

Poor pillage do not force,

For you should not press a desperate foe too hard.

Here use war’s method also.

Such is the art of warfare.