Chapter Nine of the “Art of War” is just good, common sense war advice. This Chapter may seem a little dry. However, if you try interpreting it in symbolic terms, all applies in a higher, Esoteric or Metaphysical level. As usual, the following is only a rendering by this writer, based on a comparison of multiple translations, and comments are in italics.
IX. THE ARMY ON THE MARCH
1. We come now to the question of positioning the army, and observing Signs of the Enemy. Cross quickly over mountains, and keep in the close to the valleys;
Sometimes the easiest Way is best.
2. Camp in high places, face the sunny side; observe from on high ground. If the enemy holds the high ground, do not ascend in order to fight. This is the most essential information needed to know about positioning in mountain warfare.
Be aware of your surroundings.
3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from it.
Don't look back. Have no regrets.
4. When an invading force crosses a river in its onward march, do not advance to meet it in mid-stream. It will be best to let half the army get across, and then deliver your attack.
Sometimes, we can know the Future; other Times, we can’t/
5. If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet the invader near a river which he has to cross.
6. Moor your craft higher up than the Enemy, and facing the sunny side. Do not move up-stream to meet the Enemy. This is the most essential information needed to know about positioning in river warfare.
Go with the Flow when you must.
7. In crossing marshes, your sole concern should be to get over them quickly, without any delay.
Don't get mired in muck.
8. If forced to fight in a marsh, you should have water and grass near you, and get your back to a clump of trees. This is the most essential information needed to know about positioning in marshes.
Watch your back.
9. In dry, level country, take up an easily accessible position with rising ground to your right and on your rear, so that the danger may be in front, and safety lie behind. This is the most essential information needed to know about positioning in flat country.
Keep your wits.
10. These are the four useful branches of military knowledge which enabled the Yellow Emperor to vanquish four sovereigns.
11. All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark.
Keep to the high ground.
12. If you are careful of your Troops, and camp on hard ground, the army will be free from disease of every kind, and this will spell victory.
Isn't this similar to the health regulations in Deuteronomy Chapter 23: 13-14?
And you shall have a designated place outside the camp, so that you can go out there. And you shall keep a stake in addition to your weapons; and it shall be, when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it, and you shall return and cover your excrement.
13. When you come to a hill or a bank, occupy the sunny side, with the slope on your right rear. Thus you will at once act for the benefit of your soldiers and utilize the natural advantages of the ground.
Did you notice the use of Yang and Yin here?
14. When, in consequence of heavy rains up-country, a river which you wish to ford is swollen and flecked with foam, you must wait until it subsides.
For u, this can be interpreted Metaphysically as “Be patient. Learn to wait out disaster”.
15. Country in which there are precipitous cliffs with torrents running between, deep natural hollows, confined places, tangled thickets, quagmires and crevasses, should be left with all possible speed and not approached.
Before, he said “Choose your battles”. Now he is saying “Choose your battleground”.
16. While we keep away from such places, we should get the Enemy to approach them; while we face them, we should let the Enemy have them on his rear.
Make sure the Enemy can't watch his back.
17. If in the neighborhood of your camp there should be any hilly country, ponds surrounded by aquatic grass, hollow basins filled with reeds, or woods with thick undergrowth, they must be carefully routed out and searched; for these are places where Troops in ambush or insidious spies are likely to be lurking.
18. When the Enemy is close at hand and remains quiet, it is occupying a natural stronghold. An Enemy who is far away and challenges you to do battle, wants you to advance, occupies level ground that is to an advantage.
Don't let idle threats suck you in!