|1.||Those who wage war often say, 1|
|2.||“We prefer response to invitation,|
|3.||The span withdrawn to the inch gained. ”|
|4.||This is formation that does not go forward,|
|5.||Deflection with hand unraised,|
|6.||The firm grip that holds no sword,|
|7.||And the thrust that cannot be countered. 2|
|8.||But “having no foe” is the greatest threat.|
|9.||It leads to the loss of our triple treasure.|
|10.||Once battle is joined, who gives way wins.|
COMMENT One of the meanings of wuwei in a military context is defensive preparedness. A passive, defensive mode is more effective than an active, aggressive one. And a defensive psychology is essential for survival—a point that is made directly in line 8's warning against self-confident disdain of an enemy. Mencius's famous formulation goes: “Without enemy kingdoms and external dangers the state will fall” (6 B.15).
Some scholars see in bao, “treasure, ” in line 9 a reference to stanza 67: if we imagine we have no enemy, we will lose our caring (for the people), our frugality, and our reluctance to take a (military) initiative. In line 10, most texts have ai, mourn, instead of xiang, which is a near-homonym to rang (give way, yield). With ai, this line has entered the Chinese language as a common saying: “soldiers who sorrow prevail, ” in the spirit of stanza 31. However, “yield” seems to make better sense in this context than “sorrow, ” and there are a number of other examples of textual interchanges between the two words due to graphic similarity.
The terms zhu, host, and ke, guest, are explored in the “Con-