Skip to content
Site Tools
Increase font size Decrease font size Default font size default color blue color green color
Home History and Culture Thirty-Six Strategies 33-36
Thirty-Six Strategies 33-36
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

33.The Strategy Of Sowing Discord

Undermine your enemy's ability to fight by secretly causing discord between him and his friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population. While he is preoccupied settling internal disputes his ability to attack or defend, is compromised.

This is an episode from the Three Kingdoms. Cao cao sent a letter to Zhou Yu to summon him to surrender. Zhou Yu tore Cao's letter to pieces. Zhou Yu's classmate, Jiang Gan, was working for Cao Cao as an adviser, Jiang offered to travel to Wu to persuade Zhou Yu to surrender. One day while Zhou Yu was discussing with his subordinates how to defeat Cao Cao, he was told that Jiang Gan had come to see him. Zhou immediately figured out that Jiang must have come to persuade him to surrender. Zhou Yu devised a clever plan to thwart his efforts and enlisted the help of his subordinate to carry it out. Then he went to meet Jiang Gan all smiles. Zhou Yu took Jiang Gan's hands and marshaled him into his tent and treated him to a banquet. When all his generals and subordinates came for dinner, Zhou Yu told those around the table: "This is an old friend or mine. Though he came from the Cao Cao camp, he did not come to persuade me to surrender. Please do not suspect him." After the banquet, Zhou Yu pretended that he had too much and invited Jiang Gan to his bedroom for a rest. Zhou Yu soon pretended to have fallen asleep. Jiang Gan took this chance to thumb through Zhou Yu's documents. He was shocked to find a letter from Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, two generals of the Cao camp, who had written Zhou Yu to surrender. Jiang hid letter of surrender in his pocket and returned to the bed, pretending that he was sill asleep.

After midnight, someone sneaked into Zhou Yu's tent and woke him up, telling him "A messenger came from the Cao camp to say that Cai Mao and Zhang Yun were not yet a position to carry out their plan." After he heard the news, Zhou Yu went back to sleep. Jiang Gan got up again silently and snuck out of Zhou Yu's camp. He crossed the river immediately and handed the letter of surrender to Cao Cao. Cao was enraged and he had Cai Mao and Zhang Yun executed.

When the news spread to Wu, Zhou Yu burst into laughter and said, "Cai Mao and Zhang Yun were the two generals I feared most. Now I fear no one." Before long, Cao cao realized that he was cheated by Zhou Yu's stratagem of sowing distrust in Cao's camp.

34.The Strategy Of Injuring Yourself
Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself to your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.

This is a story from Three Kingdoms that happened before the Battle of Chibi. One night, Zhou Yu was thinking hard in his tent about how to defeat Cao Cao's army, when Huang Gai came in . He suggested attacking with fire. "Well, it's exactly what I mean to do." Said Zhou Yu. "That's why I'm keeping those two spies: to convey false information to Cao's camp. But I need a man to play the same game for us." Huang Gai said he was willing to do it. They decided to carry out the trick of being flogged to win the enemy's confidence.

The next day Zhou Yu convened a general assembly of his commanders outside his tent. He ordered the commanders to take three months's rations and prepare to defend their line. Huang Gai came forward and said: "We don't need three months. If not, we'd better throw down our weapons and sue for peace."

Zhou Yu exploded in fury. "Ibear our lord's mandate," he cried, "to lead our troops to destroy Cao Cao. How dare you weaken our morale? Remove him and execute him!"
Huang Gai proudly, "I have served the Southland through three successive reigns. Where do the likes of you come from?"

The entire assembly got on their knees to intercede for Huang Gai. Zhou Yu said at last: "In consideration for the commanders' views, I shall not kill you. Give him one hundred strokes across the back!"

Huang Gai was forced facedown to the ground. Not yet at fifty blows of the rod, his skin was broken and his oozing flesh was crossed with welts. He fainted several times.

Zhou Yu let Kan Ze, Huang Gai's friend, to deliver the letter of surrender to Cao Cao, which Huang Gai had prepared. Before long, Cao Cao received a letter from the two spies, saying "Look for a boat with a blue-green flag at the bow. That will be Huang Gai." In Huang Gai's boat there were combustibles. In this way, Huang Gai was able to set fire to Cao Cao's camp. When the red current of fire passed through the surface of the river, Cao Cao's ships, linked with chains, turned into ashes.

35.The Strategy Of Combining Tactics
In important matters one should use several strategies applied simultaneously. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; in this manner if any one strategy fails you would still have several others to fall back on.

In 284 BC the state of Yan attacked and defeated Qi. The remaining Qi forces under the command of Tien Tan fled to the city of Ji Mo for a last stand. First, Tien Tan sent gold and treasure collected from the city's wealthiest citizens to general Qi Che. This event convinced Qi Che that the city was truly about to capitulate and he allowed his troops to relax their guard.

After this careful preparation Tien Tan felt the time was right to launch his counter attack. First he had the citizens of the city gather with drums and cooking pots and instructed them that on a signal they were to make as much noise as possible. He then had breaches made along the city walls from the inside. Next a herd of cattle was painted in bizarre patterns and knives and sickles tied to their horns and torches tied to their tails.

In the midnight, the citizens within the city struck up a cacophony of noise that startled the sleeping Yan troops. Then the torches on the tails of the cattle were lit and they were released through the breaches in the wall. The enraged animals ran madly about the Yan camp killing stunned troops with their horns and setting fire to tents with their tails. Then Qi's crack troops rushed out from the gates to attack the now terrified and utterly confused troops. Tien Tan defeated the Yan army and went on to take more than seventy cities.

36.If All Else Fails Retreat
If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat then retreat and regroup.

Before the Battle of Chengpu, Jin is said to have retired "three stages" (45 km) before camping on the plain of Chengpu at the border of Jin, awaiting a decisive battle and thus fulfilling Duke Wen's promise to King Cheng during his refuge in Chu. The retirement also linked the Jin forces up with Qi and Qin reinforcements.

三十六计故事 33-36

第33计 反间计

【读音】fǎn jiān jì

第34计 苦肉计

【读音】kǔ ròu jì

第35计 连环计

【读音】lián huán jì

第36计 走为上

【读音】zǒu wéi shàng

China Yellow Pages