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65 Sun Tzu Quotes & 5 Facts about His Life

One of the few military generals who is known for his influential pearls of wisdom, Sun Tzu’s principles in “The Art of War” have served as inspiration for countless people in the centuries following his death. We’ve gathered his quotes here so you can use them as motivation for your own life.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general and writer who lived during the Eastern Zhou period (771–256 B.C.). His book, “The Art of War”, detailed military tactics and strategies that became highly popular among readers in the Western World during the twentieth century.

From insights on life and leadership to dealing with opposition, Sun Tzu’s quotes can inspire people across all walks of life.

Best Quotes from Sun Tzu

Best Quotes from Sun Tzu

When life gets tough, going about our daily tasks such as work and relationships can be a struggle. It’s important to make an effort to regain our mental strength and banish the negativity from our minds.

Someone many people look to for guidance on strength of mind is Sun Tzu, military general and Taoist philosopher. His writings preach the importance of governing your own mind and banishing inner negativity.

Below, we have some of Sun Tzu’s most inspirational quotes to help you turn your mind into your most powerful weapon and overcome the personal struggles in your life.

Here you’ll find more beautiful quotes about life.

Sun Tzu Quotes from “Art of War”

Sun Tzu Quotes from “Art of War”

“The Art of War” is an ancient Chinese military treatise that dates back to the 5th century B.C. Written by Sun Tzu, it details the different skills and art forms involved in warfare and how they can be harnessed to enhance military strategy.

Despite the text’s original purpose, readers outside the military world have been inspired by the teachings of The Art of War and have applied them to business, culture, politics and personal matters.

Discover quotes from the classic below and use their wisdom to achieve victory in your personal endeavors.

  1. 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.
  2. All warfare is based on deception.
  3. The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.
  4. Quickness is the essence of the war.
  5. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
  6. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  7. 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.
  8. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.
  9. If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is death.
  10. There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.
  11. Using order to deal with the disorderly, using calm to deal with the clamorous, is mastering the heart.
  12. He wins his battles by making no mistakes.
  13. All wars are won or lost before they are ever fought.

Best and Most Famous Quotes from Sun Tzu

Best and Most Famous Quotes from Sun Tzu

Many of Sun Tzu’s quotes about inner strength and mastering your mind have become easily recognizable around the world.

The are admired for their motivating words that can be applied to overcoming battles in different areas of life.

Whether you’re preparing for a contest in your specialist sport or simply looking for words of encouragement to face the day ahead, the most famous quotes from Sun Tzu below will put a fire under your feet.

  1. Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
  2. Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.
  3. Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
  4. 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.
  5. Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of the trigger.
  6. Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.
  7. If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler’s bidding.
  8. Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.
  9. Sweat more during peace: bleed less during war.
  10. Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength.
  11. The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.
  12. If you are strong, appear weak. But if you are weak, appear strong.

Sun Tzu Quotes about Leadership

Sun Tzu Quotes about Leadership

As a legendary leader in Chinese war and strategy, Sun Tzu is a wealth of knowledge on the topic of leadership.

His philosophy can help you to become a great leader, whether that’s at work as a boss, on your sports team as captain or even as a parent.

Apply Sun Tzu’s advice on leadership below to your management efforts and put yourself on the path to success.

  1. Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and sternness.
  2. The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.
  3. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.
  4. A leader leads by example, not by force.
  5. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.
  6. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.
  7. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country—its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.
  8. You have to believe in yourself.
  9. What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.
  10. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.
  11. Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
  12. Know yourself and you will win all battles.
  13. The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
  14. A wise general makes a point of foraging of the enemy.
  15. The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty doubts.

Sun Tzu Quotes on Strategy and Discipline

Sun Tzu Quotes on Strategy and Discipline

Strategy and discipline are areas where most of us could do with some improvement.

Whether it’s in adhering to an effective fitness plan, learning a new skill or growing your business, words of wisdom on the best tactics for strategy and discipline are a great asset.

As one of China’s most influential military strategists, Sun Tzu’s insights on the best strategy to for achieving victory and defeating opposition offer excellent advice for those in need of a boost in their endeavors.

Read his quotes below and increase your discipline.

  1. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
  2. 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.
  3. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals.
  4. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.
  5. All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
  6. If your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him.
  7. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.
  8. The difficulty of tactical manoeuvring consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.
  9. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.
  10. To take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation.
  11. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.
  12. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
  13. The peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict unnecessary.
  14. 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.
  15. The height of strategy is to attack your opponent’s strategy.

Are you looking for motivational quotes? Here you’ll find them.

Enemy Quotes from Sun Tzu

Enemy Quotes from Sun Tzu

We’ve all faced opposition in our lives at one stage or another – in childhood, a schoolyard bully or that one teacher that didn’t like you; in adulthood, a difficult boss, a jealous peer or a sports rival.

But dealing with this opposition can be a difficult task – should you face them head on or rise above?

Sun Tzu’s quotes about dealing with enemies offer various strategies on overcoming your opposition in life.

Think of these quotes next time you’re about to take on an opponent on the sports field – or any other kind of opposition in your life.

  1. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  2. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.
  3. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
  4. The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.
  5. He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
  6. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
  7. Be where your enemy is not.
  8. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home.
  9. To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
  10. If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
  11. Do not engage an enemy more powerful than you. And if it is unavoidable and you do have to engage, then make sure you engage it on your terms, not on your enemy’s terms.
  12. It is more important to out-think your enemy than to outfight him.
  13. Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.
  14. It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.

Exciting Facts about Sun Tzu

Exciting Facts about Sun Tzu

His wisdom and philosophy have influenced readers around the world for centuries. Although many are quite familiar with his writings and quotes, there is a lot to uncover about Sun Tzu’s personal life.

Having lived over 2,500 years ago, it’s hard to picture what his life may have been like so long ago in ancient China.

Thankfully, you don’t have to imagine for much longer, because we’ve gathered some of the most fascinating facts about Sun Tzu’s life here to give you an insight on the esteemed philosopher’s life.

1. We still don’t know when exactly he lived

As famous as this Chinese military general is, his year of birth and death are still disputed. Some even dispute his existence and deem him to be fictional character. The general consensus, however, is that he is thought to have lived during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China.

2. He preached the superiority of non-violent means

Despite being a military general who wrote about and practised leading an army to war, Tzu generally promoted the least violent means as the best way to resolve conflict. He emphasized finding peaceful resolutions and that winning without fighting was the ultimate victory.

3. His birth name was Sun Wu

In accordance with the Chinese tradition of employing honorifics, Sun Tzu was bestowed with the title “Tzu”, meaning master. Sun Wu was his birth name, with Sun being his family name.

4. He is responsible for the victory at the Battle of Bajo

In the battle between the states of Wu and Chu, Wu’s army were greatly outnumbered. Despite being ordered to retreat, the King’s brother Fugai led the army to Chu’s brigade.

Under Sun Tzu’s advice, Fugai employed spies and studied the enemy, revealing that the army did not like their commander and would probably be unwilling to die for him. This prompted Wu’s army to attack and led to an unexpected victory.

5. Sun Tzu’s philosophies emphasize the importance of understanding human nature

Sun Tzu believed that understanding people’s motivations and behaviors was crucial to the art of strategy. This belief is central to “The Art of War”, and the book explains how to leverage an understanding of human nature to gain an advantage.

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