From chapter 3 of an English translation of Sun Zi's Art of War is this quotation:

     "What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy."

I think that is a translation of this Chinese:


I would like to know the literal meaning of the Chinese of 孫子

I wonder does 上兵伐謀 = "The superior warrior attacks [the opponent's] strategy"? 

As: 上 = superior 兵 = warrior 伐 = attacks  謀 = strategy

Could someone please guide me.

Thanks to all

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Thank you very much, Tommy. I appreciate your reply.

So the quotations is about "attacking with strategy" rather than "attacking the opponent's strategy"

Is that correct?


This is old Chinese which is very concise since each character was carved on wood or oracles.

上 means "superior". 兵 here means "method/art of army fighting" instead of just a soldier.  伐 means "attack" but it means "defeat" or "win enemy" here. 謀 is "strategy" or "tactics". So whole sentence means "superior way of fighting between armies is to defeat (enemies) with strategy or tactics (instead of direct physical fight or sacrifice of people's lives)". If a diplomacy can resolve a conflict, that is the best strategy. That is why John Kerry flies around the world everyday.


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