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The 36 Stratagems, in Detail

 

Disciplines > Warfare > Principles > The 36 Stratagems, in Detail

 

Rather than being a work authored by a single person, the 36 Stratagems is a collection of warfare wisdom that was derived over many centuries of inter-state conflict within China.

Many of the stratagems involve deception of some kind and may be used in changing minds, though of course the values of modern society act to moderate effective action. Having said this, where the alternative is harmful conflict, deception may be the best alternative.

This is only an approximate grouping and stratagems from any group can be used as appropriate. The greatest ability of all is probably flexibility in being able to adapt and innovate at will.

 

Group 1: Stratagems When Commanding Superiority

  1. Fool the Sky to Cross the Sea
  2. Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao
  3. Kill With a Borrowed Knife
  4. Relax While the Enemy Exhausts Himself
  5. Loot a Burning House
  6. Make a Feint to the East While Attacking in the West

Group 2: Stratagems for Confrontation

  1. Create Something Out Of Nothing
  2. Pretend to Take One Path While Sneaking Down Another
  3. Watch the Fires Burning Across the River
  4. Hide a Knife in a Smile
  5. Sacrifice a Plum Tree to Save a Peach Tree
  6. Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat

Group 3: Stratagems for Attack

  1. Beat the Grass to Startle the Snake
  2. Raise a Corpse From the Dead
  3. Lure the Tiger Out of the Mountains
  4. Snag the Enemy by Letting Him Off the Hook
  5. Cast a Brick to Attract Jade
  6. Capture the Ringleader to Catch the Bandits

Group 4: Stratagems for Confused Situations

  1. Remove the Firewood from Under the Cauldron
  2. Fish in Troubled Waters
  3. Slough Off the Cicada's Shell
  4. Shut The Door to Catch the Thief
  5. Befriend a Distant State While Attacking a Neighbor
  6. Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the Kingdom of Guo

Group 5: Stratagems for Gaining Ground

  1. Replace the Beams and Pillars with Rotten Timber
  2. Point at the Mulberry and Curse the Locust
  3. Play Dumb While Remaining Smart
  4. Pull Down the Ladder After the Ascent
  5. Deck the Tree with Bogus Blossoms
  6. Make the Host and the Guest Exchange Places

Group 6: Stratagems for Desperate Straits

  1. Use a Woman to Ensnare a Man
  2. Fling Open the Gates to the Empty City
  3. Let the Enemy's Own Spies Sow Discord in the Enemy Camp
  4. Inflict Injury on Oneself in Order to Win the Enemy's Trust
  5. Chain Together the Enemy's Warships
  6. Run Away

See also

The Annotated Art of War, The Six Secret Teachings

 

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