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This literally means: [Just as] soldiers/warriors [are valued for their] quality and not [just] for quantity, [so] generals [are valued] for their tactics, not [just] for [their] bravery.
This is a proverb that follows one about how it is better to have warriors of quality, rather than just a large quantity of warriors in your army/force.
See Also: 兵在精而不在多
風林火山 is the battle strategy and proverb of Japanese feudal lord Takeda Shingen (1521-1573 A.D.).
This came from the Art of War by Chinese strategist and tactician Sun Tzu (Sunzi).
You can think of this as a sort of abbreviation to remind officers and troops how to conduct battle.
風林火山 is literally a word list: Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain.
The more expanded meaning is supposed to be...
"Swift as the wind, quiet as the forest, fierce as fire, and immovable as a mountain"
"As fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and immovable as the mountain"
"Move as swift as the wind, stay as silent as a forest, attack as fierce as fire, undefeatable defense like a mountain"
"Move swiftly like the wind, stay silent like the forest, attack fiercely like fire, take tactical position on the mountain"
See Also: Art of War
棋 is the most simple or generic way to write "chess" in Asia. 棋 is parts of other more specific words for board games of strategy such as the western version of chess, Chinese chess, Weiqi, or Go.
In Japanese, this single character is pronounced "Go" and often refers to game known in the west as "Go" (not just the 5-in-a-row version but also the complicated encirclement game of strategy known in China as Weiqi).
In Chinese, this can be more ambiguous as to which game of chess you speak.
If you like any version of chess, or games of intense strategy, this can be the character to hang on your wall in your game room.
This literally translates as: Troops/soldiers/warriors have no fixed [battlefield] strategy [just as] water has no constant shape [but adapts itself to whatever container it is in].
Figuratively, this means: One should seek to find whatever strategy or method is best suited to resolving each individual problem.
This proverb is about as close as you can get to the military idea of "adapt improvise overcome." This is best way to express that idea in both an ancient way, and a very natural way in Chinese.
圍棋 is the Chinese title for the ancient game of strategy known as Weiqi or Wei Chi in Chinese, and Go in Japanese.
This Chinese proverb literally translates as: [Even a general who has won a] hundred victories [may be] hard put to see through the enemy's [strategy], [but one who has] broken [his] arm three [times] [will] be a good doctor.
Figuratively, this means: One cannot always depend on past successes to guarantee future success but one can always learn from lessons drawn from failure.
兵 can be used to express soldiers, troops, a force, an army, weapons, arms, military, warfare, tactics, strategy, or warlike.
The final meaning depends on context. It's also part of the Chinese title for the Terracotta soldiers. In fact, this character is usually used in compound words (words of more than one character). Sometimes this single character is the title used for the pawns in a chess game (in a related issue, this is also a nickname for soldiers with the rank of Private).
孫子兵法 is the full title of the most famous book of military proverbs about warfare.
The English title is "Sun Tzu's The Art of War."
The last two characters have come to be known in the west as "The Art of War" but a better translation would be, "military strategy and tactics," "military skills" or "army procedures."
Note: Sometimes the author's name is Romanized as "Sun Zi" or "Sunzi."
It's written the same in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and Korean Hanja.
The first chapter of Sun Tzu's Art of War lists five key points to analyzing your situation.
It reads like a 5-part military proverb. Sun Tzu says that to sharpen your skills, you must plan. To plan well, you must know your situation. Therefore, you must consider and discuss the following:
1. Philosophy and Politics: Make sure your way or your policy is agreeable among all of your troops (and the citizens of your kingdom as well). For when your soldiers believe in you and your way, they will follow you to their deaths without hesitation, and will not question your orders.
2. Heaven/Sky: Consider climate / weather. This can also mean to consider whether God is smiling on you. In the modern military, this could be waiting for clear skies so that you can have air support for an amphibious landing.
3. Ground/Earth: Consider the terrain in which the battle will take place. This includes analyzing defensible positions, exit routes, and using varying elevation to your advantage. When you plan an ambush, you must know your terrain, and the best location from which to stage that ambush. This knowledge will also help you avoid being ambushed, as you will know where the likely places in which to expect an ambush from your enemy.
4. Leadership: This applies to you as the general, and also to your lieutenants. A leader should be smart and be able to develop good strategies. Leaders should keep their word, and if they break a promise, they should punish themselves as harshly as they would punish subordinates. Leaders should be benevolent to their troops, with almost a fatherly love for them. Leaders must have the ability to make brave and fast decisions. Leaders must have steadfast principles.
5. [Military] Methods: This can also mean laws, rules, principles, model, or system. You must have an efficient organization in place to manage both your troops and supplies. In the modern military, this would be a combination of how your unit is organized, and your SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).
Notes: This is a simplistic translation and explanation. Much more is suggested in the actual text of the Art of War (Bing Fa). It would take a lot of study to master all of these aspects. In fact, these five characters can be compared to the modern military acronyms such as BAMCIS or SMEAC.
CJK notes: I have included the Japanese and Korean pronunciations but in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, this does not make a typical phrase (with subject, verb, and object) it is a list that only someone familiar with Sun Tzu's writings would understand.
This Chinese proverb literally translates as: Hunt foxes stealthily, [and] hunt wolves openly [just as they themselves do].
Figuratively, this means:
Different opponents require different appropriate strategies.
This is a suggestion that you should know your enemy, and know that each enemy is different, that therefore requires a specialized approach (attack).
See Also: Art of War Military
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Attack When The Enemy Has Low Morale||避其鋭氣擊其惰歸|
|bì qí ruì qì jī qí duò guī|
bi4 qi2 rui4 qi4 ji1 qi2 duo4 gui1
bi qi rui qi ji qi duo gui
|pi ch`i jui ch`i chi ch`i to kuei
pi chi jui chi chi chi to kuei
|Value of Warrior Generals||兵在精而不在多將在謀而不在勇|
|bīng zài jīng ér bú zài duō jiàng zài móu ér bú zài yǒng|
bing1 zai4 jing1 er2 bu2 zai4 duo1 jiang4 zai4 mou2 er2 bu2 zai4 yong3
bing zai jing er bu zai duo jiang zai mou er bu zai yong
|ping tsai ching erh pu tsai to chiang tsai mou erh pu tsai yung|
|fuu rin ka zan|
fu rin ka zan
|fēng lín huǒ shān|
feng1 lin2 huo3 shan1
feng lin huo shan
|Chess||棋||go||qí / qi2 / qi||ch`i / chi|
|Warriors Adapt and Overcome||兵無常勢水無常形|
|bīng wú cháng shì shuǐ wú cháng xíng|
bing1 wu2 chang2 shi4 shui3 wu2 chang2 xing2
bing wu chang shi shui wu chang xing
|ping wu ch`ang shih shui wu ch`ang hsing
ping wu chang shih shui wu chang hsing
|The Game of Weiqi|
|wéi qí / wei2 qi2 / wei qi / weiqi||wei ch`i / weichi / wei chi|
|Art of War||兵法||hyou hou / hyouhou / hyo ho / hyoho||bīng fǎ / bing1 fa3 / bing fa / bingfa||ping fa / pingfa|
|You May Learn from Victory, You Will Learn from Failure||百勝難慮敵三折乃良醫|
|bǎi shèng nán lǜ dí sān zhé nǎi liáng yī|
bai3 sheng4 nan2 lv4 di2 san1 zhe2 nai3 liang2 yi1
bai sheng nan lv di san zhe nai liang yi
|pai sheng nan lü ti san che nai liang i|
|Soldiers||兵||hei||bīng / bing1 / bing||ping|
|Sun Tzu - Art of War||孫子兵法|
|son shi hyou hou|
son shi hyo ho
|sūn zǐ bīng fǎ|
sun1 zi3 bing1 fa3
sun zi bing fa
|sun tzu ping fa
|Art of War: 5 Points of Analysis||道天地將法|
|dou ten chi shou hou|
do ten chi sho ho
|dào tiān dì jiàng fǎ|
dao4 tian1 di4 jiang4 fa3
dao tian di jiang fa
|tao t`ien ti chiang fa
tao tien ti chiang fa
|Hunt Foxes with Stealth, Hunt Wolves in the Open||闇打狐狸明打狼|
|àn dǎ hú li míng dǎ láng|
an4 da3 hu2 li ming2 da3 lang2
an da hu li ming da lang
|an ta hu li ming ta lang
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.
Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.
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