《三十六計》第一套 勝戰計 36 Strategies / Stratagems
《三十六計》第一套 勝戰計 36 Strategies / Stratagems
Strategy 1: Fool the Emperor to Cross the Sea
Syue Ren Guei Fool The Heaven To Cross The Sea
On year 17 of Tang Tai Zong Jhen-guan’s reign, the emperor personally led his army in a military campaign out east to conquer and expand his domain. One day, the army arrived at seashore. Looking at the vast waters beyond, he asked his generals for any ideas on how to cross the sea. They looked at each other for any suggestions but had none.
Suddenly, a civilian who lived by the sea requested to see the emperor. He informed the emperor that all the food for the three hundred thousand troops and the means to transport such a vast army across the sea has been prepared. The man led Emperor Tang Tai Zong and his officials to the sea. There, by the shore, they saw thousands of households tightly packed together and covered with colored tents.
This man led Tang Tai Zong into a luxurious house. Around the walls there were embroidered curtains and colored silks. There Tang Tai Zong and his officials drank, relaxed, and had fun.
Soon afterwards, the wind started to howl, and the sound of the waves felt like thunder. Glasses and plates fell all over the place, and no one could stand still. Startled, Tang Tai Zong ordered his chamberlains to draw back the curtains immediately, and they were stunned by what they saw. They were not partying at a civilian’s house like they thought. Instead, they were already at sea together with a giant armada of boats carrying the three hundred thousand soldiers. Later the emperor found out that his general Syue Ren Guei had thought up this deception. He was afraid that the emperor did not have the guts to cross the sea and would have withdrawn the troops and cancelled the military campaign. So he disguised himself as a civilian and devised such a scheme to “Fool the heaven (the emperor) to cross the sea”.
In ancient china, the emperor was considered “The Son of Heaven”. And heaven is often used in literature to refer to the emperor. Therefore, the saying “fool the heaven to cross the sea” means to fool the emperor to cross the sea.
In military parlance, “fool the heaven to cross the sea” means using disguise to create opportunities and striking suddenly when the enemy is unaware.
Strategy 2: Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao
In 354 BC, the king of Wei appointed Pang Juan to invade Zhao. Pang Juan led an army of five hundred chariots and headed directly to Zhao to besiege its capital Handan (city in Hebei). The siege of Zhao lasted more than one year without success. Then the king of Zhao appealed to Ci for help. The king of Ci agreed and appointed Tian Ji as the general and Sun Bin as the military advisor to head the Ci army to rescue the besieged Handan (city in Hebei).
Previously, Sun Bin and Pang Juan had both been disciples studying military strategy under the same master. Both of them became experts, but Sun Bin was more talented than Pang Juan, and Pang Juan was jealous of Sun Bin as a result. Through a vicious plot Pang Juan had Sun Bin’s legs broken and his face tattooed so that Sun Bin could never walk again nor appear in public out of shame. Afterwards, Sun Bin pretended to have gone mad and fled to Ci with the help of a diplomat of Ci.
Tasked with the mission to save Handan (city in Hebei), Tian Ji wanted to attack Handan (city in Hebei) immediately. But Sun Bin advised against this. He told Tian Ji, “The elite army of Wei is camped outside Handan (city in Hebei) right now. If we attack them directly, we would be attacking into their strength. However, there is only a minimal force defending Wei right now. So if we attack Wei instead, we would be exploiting this weakness, and the army of Wei would be forced to return to defend their capital. This would lift the siege of Zhao automatically, achieving our first goal. In addition, we can ambush the returning army of Wei halfway and they would suffer losses.’’ Tian Ji followed Sun Bin’s advice, and everything happened as Sun Bin said it would. Once the army of Ci appeared outside Wei, the army of Wei immediately left Handan (city in Hebei) for home. On their way back, the army of Wei was ambushed by the Ci army at Guei Ling and was defeated. Pang Juan was forced to retreat to Dai Liang. The siege of Zhao was thus lifted. This is the famous history of “Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao.’’
Avoid attacking the enemy’s strength directly. Instead, attack its weakness in order to seize the initiative of battle, thereby achieving the best outcome with the least cost.
Strategy 3: Kill with a Borrowed Sword
Killing Three Warriors With Two Peaches
During the Spring and Autumn Period, there were three fearless warriors in Ci by the name of Gong Sun Jie, Tian Kai Jiang and Gu Jhih Zih.
One day, the Prime Minister Yan Ying walked past the three generals. Court protocol demands that they rise and bow to Yan Ying as a matter of courtesy. However, the three of them just sat there without acknowledging Yan Ying’s presence. Yan Ying said nothing on the spot. But afterwards, he told the king of Ci about this incident and advised him, “These three generals have become arrogant because they have accomplished much on the battlefield. Today they only showed disrespect towards me. But who knows whether or not they will show disrespect towards your Majesty in the future. I suggest that they be removed as soon as possible so as to avoid any future troubles.” The king of Ci, Jing gong, had a high respect for Yan Ying and always followed his advice. So he agreed with him, but he added, “But how? No one is strong enough to beat them. Nor is anybody capable of assassinating them.” Yan Ying
replied, “I have already figured out how to deal with them.” He then told Jing Gong his plan to kill three warriors with two peaches. Two peaches were to be awarded to the two who deserved it the most.
The three of them argued fiercely in the beginning. Gong Sun Jie said first, “I caught a wild pig and a tiger alive with my bare hands. So I deserve the most.” Then he took one peach. Then Tian Kai Jiang said, “I defeated a whole squad of soldiers with my spear.” Then he took the other peach, too. Gu Jhih Zih turned red with anger,“Am I less worthy than you two?”He pulled his sword and challenged the other two to a duel. To everybody’s surprise, the other two put the peaches back onto the table and said, “Honor is more important than fighting over the rewards. We should be ashamed of ourselves.” That said, Gong Sun Jie and Tian Kai Jiang slit their own throats with their swords and died. Having watched this, Gu Jhih Zih, too, killed himself the same way. Thus Yan Ying was able to remove three potential threats to the country of Ci without lifting a finger. In this story, the peach was not poisonous but was used instead as a tool in political intrigue. The incident can therefore be referred to as “Kill with the peaches.”
Openly use another to achieve one’s purpose. “Sword” is used here as a metaphor for the means to an end.
Strategy 4: Wait for the Exhausted Enemy at Your Ease
Cao Suei Defeated Ci by Waiting until the Third Drumming
In the Spring and Autumn Period, the king of Ci appointed Bao Shu Ya as the general of his army to invade the country of Lu. The king of Lu was very frightened when he heard this. His minister Shih Bo recommended a hermit by the name of Cao Suei to lead the defense of Lu. It took a lot of effort to persuade Cao Suei to accept the post. But even then, he was only willing to work as a military adviser and not the general.
Bao Shu Ya did not take his enemy seriously because he had defeated the army of Lu before. And this time, he wanted to capture the king of Lu alive by attacking Lu directly. On the day of battle, the sound of drums and battle cries from the side of the Ci army was deafening, and the Ci army quickly charged the Lu army. At this time, Cao Suei dissuaded King Lu Jhuang from giving the signal to beat the drums telling the Lu soldiers to engage the Lu army. Cao Suei said, “Just wait a while. Right now the morale of the enemy is very high. We only need to defend ourselves at the moment. We need not act carelessly.”
The advancing Ci army tried in vain to breach the defensive line of the Lu army. Frustrated, Bao Shu Ya ordered another charge without success. However, the failure of the Lu army to engage the charging Ci army both times let Bao Shu Ya to believe that the Lu army must be too scared to engage the Ci army in battle. He thought a third attack would surely break through and then the Lu army would collapse completely. So he ordered a third charge.
But this time, when Cao Suei heard the third drumming of the Ci army, he said to the king of Lu, “Now is the time to beat our drums and fight back!” The Lu army attacked as soon as they heard their own battle drums, and the Ci army’s lines soon collapsed under the charge. Subsequently, when the king of Lu wanted to pursue the fleeing enemy, once again Cao Suei advised the king to wait until he checked the prints of the horses and the chariots and observed the directions where the Ci army had fled. Then he gave the green light for the Lu army to pursue. Afterwards, the king asked Cao Suei, “Why wait until their third attack? And why not pursue the retreating Ci army right away?”Cao Suei replied,“After the third drumming, the morale of the enemy was not as high as in the first drumming. Instead, the morale of our soldiers was just at its peak because we were beating our drums for the first time. Also, we took the enemy by surprise because after what had happened after their first two charges, they expected us to just stand our ground instead of charge back at them, and this element of surprise is what guaranteed us a victory. Afterwards, since the risk of being deceived by the enemy always exists, we must check the wheel prints of the horses and the chariots in order to make sure that the enemy had indeed fled in panic before we could safely pursue the enemy.”
When the battle begins, it is not necessary to fight a more powerful opponent immediately. Sometimes you could weaken your opponent by your inaction or by avoiding him in direct battle. Wait and conserve your strength while your opponent tires and becomes exhausted. This will allow you to equalize your relative strengths when you finally engage him in battle.
Strategy 5: Loot a Burning House
Gou Jian Restored His Country
春秋時期，吳、越兩國打仗多年，一開始是越王 勾踐被吳王 夫差打敗，而越王 勾踐只好對吳王 夫差俯首稱臣，於是勾踐決定每天要臥薪嘗膽來提醒自己亡國的教訓，經過二十年的暗中培養軍隊的實力後，終於完成備戰的工作，而此時的吳國由於奸臣當道，吳王 夫差竟然殺死了一代忠臣伍子胥，加上碰到乾旱的天災，造成國內作物枯死，河川乾涸。
In the Spring and Autumn Period, the countries of Wu and Yue were at war with each other for years. In the beginning, it was Gou Jian, the king of Yue, who was defeated by Fu Chai, the king of Wu. So Gou Jian had to bow to Fu Chai and offer himself as Fu Chai’s loyal vassal. But Gou Jian was not defeated in spirit. Everyday, Gou Jian tasted the gall bladder to remind himself of the bitter taste of defeat and to reaffirm his desire for revenge. Secretly, he was recruiting and rearming his military again. After 20 years, Gou Jian was finally ready for war again. By this time, Wu was governed by corrupt officials, and its king Fu Chai had grown arrogant and inept. Fu Chai even executed Wu Zih Syu, one of his most loyal officials, because he had suggested that Gou Jian be executed in case Gou Jian seeks to revolt in the future. In addition, Wu was plagued by a severe draught. Crops died and the rivers dried out.
But even in this time of crisis, Fu Chai refused to come to his senses. He was arrogant enough to believe that he should be the leader of all the countries. So he led his army to the Central Plains of China to meet the other kings. As a result, Wu was left with a minimal army to defend itself, while its people were living in hardship. In sum, Wu was in chaos and extremely vulnerable.
Gou Jian saw this as a golden opportunity. So he launched his attack at Wu and destroyed it, avenging his defeat 20 years ago and restoring the country of Yue.
When the enemy is in hardship or in crisis, we must seize the opportunity and exploit the situation to our advantage by attacking him when he is at his weakest.
Strategy 6: Sound East While Attack West
Han Sin Captured the King of Wei Alive
In 205 BC, while Siang Yu was on an expedition against Ci, Liou Bang crossed the Yellow River. Wei Bao, the king of Wei, suddenly rose in revolt against Liou Bang despite the fact that he had surrendered earlier. As a result, Liou Bang sent his general Han Sin to put down the revolt in Wei.
Wei Bao appointed Bo Jhih as the general of his army and moved his elite troops to Pu Ban, a town on the east bank of the Yellow River to keep Han Sin’s army under surveillance. And Han Sin camped on the west bank of the Yellow River. He assembled hundreds of ships alongside the river in preparation for a river crossing. When night fell, torches could be seen all cross the west bank. It appeared that Han Sin’s army was ready to cross the river at any moment. Seeing this, Bo Jhih ordered his troops to guard the west bank of the river and to destroy any ship that tried to cross. However, unknown to Bo Jhih, Han Sin had already sent the bulk of his forces to Sia Yang, a place which was 80 kilometers up the Yellow River. There, Han Sin’s army set up a temporary bridge across the river by using empty bottles and barrels. While the Wei army stayed put at Pu Ban for days to defend against a river crossing, Han Sin’s army had long crossed the Yellow River and had already launched an attack on the capital of Wei. By the time Bo Jhih heard the news, it was too late for him to rush back to the capital. And Han Sin was able to capture Wei Bao alive.
Create a feint to fool the enemy into believing that we are attacking the east when in fact we are attacking the west, thereby causing the enemy to make the wrong troop deployments. This is one way to create a surprise attack.