Monday, 18 March 2013

The Thirty-Six Stratagems is an ancient Chinese treatise composed of six chapters detailing various stratagems for use on the battlefield. The author has been a subject of debate, though it is generally accepted that it is a compilation from different sources, such as Sun Tzu and Zhuge Liang. Though meant for warfare, its teachings have been used and applied by martial artists, politicians, and corporate businessman. As with most Chinese documents, it is written in a proverbial, analogical manner which can be interpreted and applied in a number of ways. Here I have written each stratagem and included a brief explanation to its original meaning and application; the command of armies.

1) Cross the sea under camouflage - Hide the intentions of your army while moving forward.
Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao - Do not face the enemy head on. Rather attack his weakness and force him to move to defend it.

2) Kill with a borrowed sword - Use your allies to your advantage, turn enemy officers to your cause, use the enemy’s strength against him.
Wait in leisure while the enemy labors - Force the enemy to tire himself by coming to you. Allow him to expend himself in futile attacks and then engage the enemy at a time and place of your choosing.

3) Loot a burning home - When the enemy is beset by troubles, turn this to your advantage and attack without mercy.

4) Make a sound in the East, then strike in the West - Mislead the enemy on your intentions and force him to move against you while attacking from another direction.

5) Create something from nothing - Convince the enemy that you have what you do not or are less than what your are.

6) Openly repair the galley roads, but advance to Chencang by a hidden path - Lure the enemy into a false sense of security by moving your force through an obvious route, making your intentions known. All the while, advance another army through hidden means to strike the enemy while he is fixated on your decoy.

7) Watch the fires burning from across the river - When two enemy armies are engaged, do not attack until their fighting has ceased. Wait for them to tire themselves, then strike.

8) Hide a knife behind a smile - Deceive the enemy into believing you are his ally, then move against him in secret.

9) Sacrifice the plum tree for the peach tree - Be willing to make sacrifices in order to preserve and attain objectives.

10) Take the opportunity to pilfer the sheep - Take advantage of any opportunity, no matter how small, and avail yourself of any profit, no matter how slight.

11) Beat the grass to startle the snakes - Make the enemy expose himself and his plans by moving somewhere unexpected or attacking from an unusual position.

12) Borrow a corpse to resurrect a spirit - Use long forgotten or discarded methods and ideologies and apply them to your own purposes.

13)Lure the tiger down from the mountain - Never engage the enemy in their own territory. Lure them to an area where they cannot rely on the strength of their surroundings.

14)In order to capture, one must release - When surrounding the enemy allow an avenue of escape. If the enemy sees no escape he will mount one final desperate attack and you will suffer losses. By releasing an enemy, they will be focused entirely on escaping and will be heavily demoralized and can be induced to surrender.

15) Toss out a brick to draw a jade - Beguile the enemy by making him believe you have something of value when in fact you have nothing. This will present an opportunity to take advantage of his greed and impatience.

16) Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief - When all else fails, attack the enemy commander. By taking him, the chain of command breaks down and the enemy will be in chaos.
Remove the firewood from under the pot - When the enemy is too strong to attack, chip away at his defenses and attack areas which will require him to expend his strength to defend. Little by little, this will weaken the him.

17) Disturb the water to catch a fish - Confuse the enemy and take advantage of his disorganization.

18) Slough off the golden cicada’s shell - Distract the enemy by creating an illusion such as a false army or a heavily fortified camp. With the enemies gaze focused on the deception, one can attack or escape at will.

19) Lock the gates to catch the bandits - When being invaded, cut off the enemies escape to prevent them from returning to their bases and territories. Being trapped in foreign lands is demoralizing to any army and will make them easier to defeat.

20) Befriend from a distance, attack nearby - Become allies with nations or states that do not border and attack those who do. By doing so you can focus on the enemy at hand while ensuring an ally once the enemy state is taken.

21) Obtain safe passage to conquer the State of Guo - When allied against a common enemy, use as much of your ally’s resources as possible and secure areas within his domain. Once your mutual enemy has been dealt with, turn on your ally using his own means against him.

22) Replace the beams with rotten pillars - Discover the enemy’s main means of support, whether it is a certain commander, a particular formation, or some other means in which their army is centered upon. Once discovered, endeavor to remove their support thereby toppling their command structure.

23) Point at the mulberry tree only to curse the locust - Criticize those who cannot be directly confronted by using other means to get your displeasure across. By doing so, one cannot be directly confronted either and one can make use of dissension it may cause, whether outside one’s own army or within.

24) Feign madness while keeping your balance - Fool the enemy into believing you are insane or incompetent and he will underestimate you. Once he moves to attack, show him your true nature and attack.

25) Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof - Guide the enemy onto disadvantageous terrain from which escape will be impossible.
Make flowers bloom on a dead tree - Deceive the enemy by creating artificial areas to appear as places of value. False villages, supply camps, and the like will cause the enemies eyes to wander and lose focus on his true objective.

26) Make the guest into the host - Infiltrate the enemy by means of yourself or another who is in a position of authority. Take measures to secure your role as future leader and then usurp command from the enemy.

27) Scheme with beauties - Use beautiful women to get close to men of rank within the enemy army. Because of their charms, these men will lose focus on their appointed tasks and become open to suggestion by these women. In many cases these women will also cause jealousy among the other men and women of the enemy nation.

28) Plot with an empty fort - When at a disadvantage, convince the enemy that you are stronger than you actually are by using tactics that only a strong, confidant army would use. The enemy will be cautious in their advancement, allowing you the opportunity to plan your next course of action without fear of being overrun.

29) Sow the seeds of discord - With the proper use of spies, one can create discord in an enemy nation by manipulating the various leaders therein, both domestic and military. Double agents are of particular use in this stratagem.

30) Inflict injury on oneself to gain trust - Deceive the enemy into a false sense of security by feigning a tremendous loss. A potential ally can also be swayed to your side by creating the illusion of injury caused by a mutual enemy.

31) The chaining of stratagems - Do not focus on one particular stratagem, but rather employ many and use them continuously in order to achieve your goals. This will keep the enemy guessing at all times.

32) The best stratagem is retreat - When the enemy is winning and there is no hope of victory then it is best to retreat. So long as one is not made to surrender or be compromised in another fashion, the battle can continue after you have regrouped your forces.

- Martin AKA SorrowfulKain

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