100 Sun Tzu Quotes

If you’re curious to know how you can apply the Art of War into your daily life, then these top 100 Sun Tzu quotes will help you further understand how easily you can apply his military texts and strategies into your day-to-day life.

As the earliest known treatise on warfare and military science and art, the Art of War is one of the few publications that stood the test of time.

Centuries after it was first introduced to the world, it’s still being used as an essential guide, not just for military institutions, but those in the field of business, sports, and politics.

Learn more about what lessons you can pick up from Sun Tzu and the Art of War through the collection below.

And don’t forget to check out these Lao Tzu quotes and the Art of War quotes.

Best Sun Tzu Quotes

Sun Tzu Quote - Know yourself and you will win all battles.

1. “Know yourself and you will win all battles.”

2. “If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is death.”

3. “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

4. “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.”

Sun Tzu Quote - Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.

5. “Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”

6. “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”

7. “You have to believe in yourself.”

8. “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.”

9. “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”

Sun Tzu Quotes on Discipline and Leadership

Sun Tzu Quote - The army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.

10. “When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”

11. “When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a military leader.”

12. “Ask yourself which political leadership—your own or that of your enemy—is able to reject flatterers and draw close to the wise.”

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. Hence, that general is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skilful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.”

14. “The reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.”

Sun Tzu Quote - Without extorting their support, the general obtains it; without inviting their affection, he gains it.

15. “Without extorting their support, the general obtains it; without inviting their affection, he gains it; without demanding their trust, he wins it.”

16. “What is called ‘foreknowledge’ cannot be elicited from spirits, nor from gods, nor by analogy with past events, nor from calculations. It must be obtained from men who know the enemy’s situation.”

17. “It is the business of a general to be serene and inscrutable, impartial and self-controlled. If serene he is not vexed; if inscrutable, unfathomable; if upright, not improper; if self-controlled, not confused.”

18. “To assemble the army and throw it into a desperate position is the business of the general.”

19. “Confirmation of the ground is of the greatest assistance in battle. Therefore, to estimate the enemy situation and to calculate distances and the degree of difficulty of the terrain so as to control victory are virtues of the superior general.”

Sun Tzu Quote - When troops flee, are insubordinate, distressed, collapse in disorder or are routed, it is the fault of the general.

20. “When troops flee, are insubordinate, distressed, collapse in disorder or are routed, it is the fault of the general. None of these disasters can be attributed to natural causes.”

21. “When the general is morally weak and his discipline not strict, when his instructions and guidance are not enlightened, when there are no consistent rules to guide the officers and men, and when the formations are slovenly, the army is in disorder.”

22. “The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness.”

23. “Subtle and insubstantial, the expert leaves no trace; divinely mysterious, he is inaudible. Thus, he is master of his enemy’s fate.”

24. “Do not advance relying on sheer military power.”

Sun Tzu Quote - He who lacks foresight and underestimates his enemy will surely be captured by him.

25. “He who lacks foresight and underestimates his enemy will surely be captured by him.”

26. “When he is pleased, a feeling of affection springs up within him; when angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play.”

27. “Vacillation and fussiness are the surest means of sapping the confidence of an army.”

28. “The art of giving orders is not to try to rectify the minor blunders and not to be swayed by petty doubts.”

29. “Nothing is more difficult than the art of maneuver. What is difficult about maneuvering is to make the devious route the most direct and to turn misfortune to advantage.”

Sun Tzu Quotes on Battles and Warfare

Sun Tzu Quote - The art of war is self-explanatory.

30. “The art of war is self-explanatory.”

31. “Who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits.”

32. “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”

33. “The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are: the moral law, heaven, earth, the commander, and method and discipline.”

34. “If you wish to conduct an offensive war, you must know the men employed by the enemy. Are they wise or stupid, clever, or clumsy? Having assessed their qualities, you prepare appropriate measures.”

Sun Tzu Quote - Although I have heard of reckless haste in war, I have never seen wise delay.

35. “Although I have heard of reckless haste in war, I have never seen wise delay.”

36. “The doctrine of war is to follow the enemy’s situation in order to decide on battle.”

37. “In war, numbers alone confer no advantage.”

38. “Those who excel in war first cultivate their own humanity and justice, and maintain their laws and institutions. By these means, they make their governments invincible.”

39. “War is like a fire—if you do not put it out, it will burn itself out.”

Sun Tzu Quote - If one party is at war with another, and the other party does not realize it is at war, the party who knows it's at war almost always has the advantage and usually wins.

40. “If one party is at war with another, and the other party does not realize it is at war, the party who knows it’s at war almost always has the advantage and usually wins.”

41. “In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack—the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.”

42. “Know your enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

43. “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill.”

44. “Order or disorder depends on organisation; courage or cowardice on circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.”

Sun Tzu Quote - 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.

45. “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.”

46. “Now, in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be an advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.”

47. “Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness.”

48. “Do not press an enemy at bay. Wild beasts, when at bay, fight desperately.”

49. “Throw the troops into a position from which there is no escape and even when faced with death they will not flee.”

Sun Tzu Quotes on Wisdom and Foresight

Sun Tzu Quote - Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine.

50. “Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine.”

51. “Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.”

52. “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”

53. “There are five sorts of secret agents to be employed. These are native, inside, doubled, expendable, and living.”

54. “The crux of military operations lies in the pretense of accommodating one’s self to the designs of the enemy.”

Sun Tzu Quote - It is the nature of soldiers to resist when surrounded; to fight to the death when there is no alternative.

55. “It is the nature of soldiers to resist when surrounded; to fight to the death when there is no alternative, and when desperate to follow commands implicitly.”

56. “If they are prepared to die, what can they not achieve?”

57. “Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence.”

58. “A man whose heart is set on returning home will fight to the death against any attempt to bar his way, and is therefore too dangerous an opponent to be tackled.”

59. “When the helper is strong, the nation is secure; when the helper is weak, the nation is in peril.”

Sun Tzu Quote - That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg.

60. “That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg—this is affected by the science of weak points and strong.”

61. “Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will then be total.”

62. “All one can say is that this power will be exercised wisely by some, foolishly by others, and that among those who bear arms, some will be loyal and others rebellious.”

63. “It is sufficient to estimate the enemy situation correctly and to concentrate your strength to capture him.”

64. “When orders are consistently trustworthy and observed, the relationship of a commander with his troops is satisfactory.”

Sun Tzu Quote - How much more so will man, who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger!

65. “Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked. How much more so will man, who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger!”

66. “Without local guides, your enemy employs the land as a weapon against you.”

67. “The nature of water is that it avoids heights and hastens to the lowlands. When a dam is broken, the water cascades with irresistible force. Now, the shape of an army resembles water.”

68. “Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness.”

69. “Excessive sternness of command results in cruelty.”

Sun Tzu Quote - Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.

70. “Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.”

71. “To lift an autumn down requires no great strength; to distinguish between the sun and moon is no test of vision; to hear the thunderclap is no indication of acute hearing.”

72. “Fixation on trust results in folly.”

73. “The tao is the way of humanity and justice; laws are regulations and institutions.”

74. “Those who do not know the conditions of mountains and forests, hazardous defiles, marshes and swamps, cannot conduct the march of an army.”

Sun Tzu Quote - Show him there is a road to safety, and so create in his mind the idea that there is an alternative to death.

75. “To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape. Show him there is a road to safety, and so create in his mind the idea that there is an alternative to death. Then strike.”

76. “Just as water which carries a boat from bank to bank may also be the means of sinking it, so reliance on spies, while producing great results, is oftentimes the cause of utter destruction.”

77. “Thus, it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people’s fate—the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.”

78. “Where the army is, prices are high; when prices rise the wealth of the people is exhausted. When wealth is exhausted the peasantry will be afflicted with urgent exactions.”

79. “Keep your friends close, your enemies even closer.”

Sun Tzu Quotes on Victory and Strategy

Sun Tzu Quote - Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.

80. “Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.”

81. “Be where your enemy is not.”

82. “Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.”

83. “Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live.”

84. “When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.”

Sun Tzu Quote - To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

85. “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

86. “There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.”

87. “The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan. Now, the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the Ch’ang mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.”

88. “Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory—he will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight; he will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces; he will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks; he will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared; he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”

89. “Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained.”

Sun Tzu Quote - Sometimes, we send agents to the enemy to make a covenant of peace and then attack.

90. “Sometimes, we send agents to the enemy to make a covenant of peace and then attack.”

91. “Generally, in the case of armies you wish to strike, cities you wish to attack, and people you wish to assassinate, you must know the names of the garrison commander, the staff officers, the ushers, gate keepers, and the bodyguards.”

92. “When the enemy gives you an opening, be swift as a hare and he will be unable to withstand you.”

93. “Conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains.”

94. “Defeat your enemy from within.”

Sun Tzu Quote - He who first gets control of it will gain the support of all-under-Heaven.

95. “He who first gets control of it will gain the support of all-under-Heaven.”

96. “Ground to which access is constricted, where the way out is tortuous, and where a small enemy force can strike my larger one is called ‘encircled.’ Ground in which the army survives only if it fights with the courage of desperation is called ‘death.’”

97. “In death ground, I could make it evident that there is no chance of survival.”

98. “In a desperate situation, they fear nothing; when there is no way out, they stand firm.”

99. “Deep in a hostile land they are bound together, and there, where there is no alternative, they will engage the enemy in hand to hand combat.”

Sun Tzu Quote - When the men are united, the brave will not advance alone, nor will the cowardly retreat.

100. “When the men are united, the brave will not advance alone, nor will the cowardly retreat.”

Did the Quotes in This Collection Help You Understand How You Can Advance Through Life Cautiously but Successfully?

Though little is known of Sun Tzu’s early life, historians believed that he had a strong interest in battle and strategy even at a young age, thus joining the military and in the end, gaining a good reputation as an excellent military leader. However, though warfare and battle strategy interested him, Sun Tzu did not really advocate war. In truth, he recommended avoiding war as much as possible. However, during his time, avoiding wars was close to impossible. Thus, he came up with the Art of War—a handbook on military strategy in order to help his country end and win wars as quickly as possible. One of Sun Tzu’s most important reminders is this: choose your battles wisely. He argues that one should only advance when he has clear advantage. We should identify the goals we’re sure we can achieve in order for us to successfully allocate our time and talents to it and make sure we don’t waste any resources. Through this, we’ll be able to advance through life smoothly and effectively.

Have you had the chance to read the whole book? What other lessons did you take away from this collection? Leave a comment down below.


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Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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