Recently I stumbled upon this sentence. Since i was intrigued, i tried to quickly translate it through google language tools and babelfish. Since the translations made no sense whatsoever (try it by yourself, it’s rather funny), i tried harder to find out what it was. Googling for it send me to the baidu site, with some discussion on it that became my first lead, it seemed to be some citation from some chinese classic. After looking more into it, i got the impression that it was related to “the art of war” from Sun Zi. Luckily i got to talk with the person who had written the sentence and she confirmed that it was from the art of war, somewhere in chapter 11 (the one about the 9 types of location).
After i went home, i looked it up, but didn’t manage to find the exact sentence in my french version. Giving up on the “meta search” approach, i translated every part of the sentence. I’m still not sure if i got everything right (probably not) but:
投 (tóu) means throw, or to put oneself in (a situation…)
之 (zhī) is a connector similar to 的
亡地 (wáng dì) translate to “places of death”
后 (hòu) after ? really not sure about that
存 (cún) means survive
Edit: 后 can also be written: 後 (traditional version?), then 然後 is actually something i had to learn back in the days and means afterward (danach oder anschließend, après)
Roughly: After being thrown into places of death, they survive …
陷 (xiàn) trap (-ped)
之 see above
死地 (sǐ dì) places of death (again, not sure about the difference between 死 and 亡, the translations i have seem to translate 亡地 into dangerous places, or situation périlleuse)
然後 (rán hòu) afterwards, after
生 (shēng) to live
Roughly: after being trapped in a place of death, they live (or try to?)
Let’s elaborate on the terrain types:
“An area in which one can only survive through fearless fighting and will definitely perish if one does not is called a death ground.”
” En terre d’anéantissement, une armée doit se battre avec l’énergie du desespoir ou périr.”
亡地 is not formally one of the 9 described battlegrounds. It might refer to the same type, but could also be 围地 (surrounded place) or 圮地 (treacherous ground?), which are also pretty desperate types.
I have hoping to find some interesting comments from other classics, but it looks like the content is too obvious to have drawn a lot of comment. Sun Zi elaborates in Question from the king of Wou: in case of being encircled, burn your chariots and supplies, shave(?) your heads, eat the cows to show that you don’t have anything else in mind but to defend yourself till death. Once ready attack the enemy from both side (doesn’t make sense, sucky translation :S ) etc
Then the king of Wu asked what he should do in case he is encircling the enemy. Sun Zi answer that in that case, you should use a lot of ruse. Don’t let him be aware that he is encircled, make some place an apparent escape route, hide your archers in good positions in range of the escape route. It is important to not fight an enemy who is in a 死地 since it is there where his combative spirit is at the highest.
Thanks to Tingting for this opportunity to learn a little bit of chinese, and to think again about writings of Sun Zi. I may continue this kind of entry, i’m thinking about talking on my personal favorite: 善守者，藏于九地之下，善攻者，动于九天之上，故能自保而全胜也。