31. The Strategy of Beautiful Women
Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp. This strategy can work on three levels. First, the ruler becomes so enamored with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane. Second, other males at court will begin to display aggressive behavior that inflames minor differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale. Third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues further exasperating the situation.
Han Dynasty China
In 199 BC the Han emperor, Gaozu personally led his army against the invading Xiongnu. The emperor, however, was no match against the cunning tribesmen and he was led into a trap and suffered serious casualties. (See chapter 15) He and his remaining forces retreated to the city of Pingcheng for refuge but were surrounded by some 300,000 horsemen. There the emperor remained surrounded for seven days with no possibility of bringing in either provisions or reinforcements. The emperor thought here was nothing left to do but surrender when his advisor, Chen Ping, came up with another strategy. Chen had a painting made of a beautiful Chinese princess that he secretly delivered to the wife of the Xiongnu commander. Along with the painting he sent a message that read: `My Emperor intends to surrender to your husband and so to win his favor he is sending him a present of one of China's famous beauties to be his concubine.' When the Xiongnu commander's wife saw the painting and read the note she was mad with jealousy. Fearing that such a beautiful rival would steal her husband's affections, she persuaded her husband to lift the siege and return home. The next morning when the emperor awoke he discovered the Xiongnu had left and he was able to return safely to his capital.
32. The Strategy of Open City Gates
When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretence of military preparedness and act casually. Unless the enemy has an accurate description of your situation this unusual behavior will arouse suspicions. With luck he will be dissuaded from attacking.
Three Kingdoms Period China
In 149 BC, the famous strategist Kong Ming of Shu, launched an attack against the state of Wei by sending an advance force to scout for the enemy. Leading the army of Wei was Suma-I who also sent an advance force of fifty thousand troops. The two vanguards met and engaged in battle but the Wei forces were superior and won the day. The defeated Shu vanguard raced back to the main body of Kong Ming's army whose troops, seeing the look of fear in the faces of their comrades, thought that the enemy was upon them and fled in panic. Kong Ming and a few bodyguards fled to the city of Yangping with the Wei army in hot pursuit. Vastly outnumbered and unable to either retreat or sustain a siege, Kong Ming played a last resort strategy that made him famous throughout China. He removed all the guards and battle flags from the walls and had all four of the city gates flung open. When Suma-I approached the city he could see only a few old men nonchalantly sweeping the grounds within the gates. Kong-Ming was seen sitting in one of the towers smiling and playing his lute. Suma-I remarked to his advisors: "That man seems to be too happy for my comfort. Doubtless he has some deep laid scheme in mind to bring us all to disaster." As they stood spell bound, the strains of Kong Ming's lute reached their ears and this only heightened their sense of foreboding. Such peculiar behavior was too suspicious and, fearing a clever trap, Suma-I turned his army back and retreated. After the army left Kong Ming and his remaining troops departed in the opposite direction and made their way safely back to their capital.
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.
Six Dynasties Period China
In the later Wei dynasty, the emperor Tai Wu led a hundred thousand troops against the Song general Zang Zhi. The emperor, with his superior forces, chased general Zhang to the city of Yu where he was cornered. The city was strongly fortified and so the emperor planned to surround it and starve the defenders into surrender. Feeling confident of his position, the emperor sent a cart carrying a large jar of wine to the city gate with the message asking for the traditional exchange of wine before commencing his siege of the city. Zang Zhi knew that he needed to fight a decisive battle quickly, or suffer defeat, saw this as an opportunity. He sent some soldiers to gratefully accept the jar of wine and in turn deliver another large jar sealed with the wine maker's stamp. When a cup of this wine was poured for the emperor it was discovered to be urine. This caused the emperor a humiliating loss of face before his own troops and in a rage ordered an immediate assault on the city. The defenders were well prepared and the bodies of the slain imperial troops piled up nearly to the top of the ramparts.In his haste and anger the emperor lost half his forces.
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.
Edo Period Japan
During the Tokugawa period, Kaei Juzo a former spy had come under suspicion and was in danger of being assassinated. It turned out that the man sent to kill him was a former acquaintance called Tonbe. Not wishing to kill his old friend, Tonbe and Juzo worked out the classic ploy as follows. Tonbe brought Juzo back as a prisoner to the Shogun. Juzo begged the Shogun to allow him one last dignity, permission to commit Harakiri. The Shogun, curious to see the notorious spy's bravery in death, allowed him that privilege. Juzo was given a tanto (dagger) that he plunged into his belly, and, cutting sideways, spilled his intestines onto the ground before falling over. The guards removed the body and threw it in the castle's moat. A short time later Juzo quietly swum to shore and escaped the district. Knowing that his warrior's reputation would merit him the right of committing Harakiri, Juzo had strapped a dead fox across his abdomen, when the fox's intestines spilled out it was indistinguishable from human intestines.
35. The Tactic 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.
Warring States Era China
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 had the womenfolk line the city walls and beg for a peaceful surrender while he sent gold and treasure collected from the city's wealthiest citizens to general Qi Che with a note asking that the women and children be spared in return for the peaceful surrender of the city. These events 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. Just before daylight three events occurred in rapid succession. 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 Yen 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.
Ming Dynasty China
The Ming emperor Hwei Ti, had disposed of all his uncles except one who feigned madness. (See chapter 27) This very uncle, the prince of Yan, in 1403 led a huge army to the capital of Nanking to seize the throne. The city was surrounded and the emperor considered committing suicide when he was stopped by a eunuch who told him that his grandfather, the emperor Hong Wu, had left a chest in his care with orders that should any great crisis occur to threaten the dynasty then the reigning emperor should open the chest.
"Let us open it at once then," said the emperor, "and see what my father would do were he here now." When the lid was lifted the box was found to contain the robes of a Buddhist monk, a diploma, a razor, and ten ingots of silver. The emperor understood the meaning at once and with a handful of attendants fled the palace through a secret tunnel to a Buddhist temple. There he shaved his head and put on the robes. He made his way out of the city and all the way to Sichuan province where he lived in obscurity in a remote monastery.
Meanwhile the palace had burned down during the fighting and it was assumed that the emperor had died in the fire. Forty years later during the rein of emperor Ying Tsung (the fourth since Hwei Ti's time) an old Buddhist priest arrived at court and claimed to be the old emperor Hwei Ti. It turned out the man was an imposter but a rumor began that Hwei Ti was still alive. To quell the rumors and settle the issue, an official investigation was made which discovered that Hwei Ti was indeed still alive living as a Buddhist priest. The old emperor was invited back to the capital with great ceremony and he lived out his last days as a guest in the palace. However, he was kept under a watchful eye.