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Pretend to Take One Path While Sneaking Down Another


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Pretend to Take One Path While Sneaking Down Another

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 8

This group: Stratagems for Confrontation
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Pretend you are going to take one action while you are secretly preparing to take another.

Set off on what looks like a long journey while secretly taking a short-cut.

Attack on two fronts: the obvious one and also a non-obvious one.

Set up a false front to distract the enemy. Meanwhile take covert action to achieve your real goal elsewhere.

Make the false attack seem larger, for example by using dummies or using a broad but thin approach.

More generally, pretend to care about something that you do not care about. Then when it is convenient, ignore it. For example, act as if a piece of land is important, fortifying it, but then retreating when attacked. Then let the enemy hold it, occupying many of their forces while you make occasional attacks to maintain the illusion.


This is the eighth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Confrontation

Alternative names

Secretly Utilize the Chen Cang Passage

Openly Repair the Walkway, but Sneak Through the Passage of Chengcang

Openly Repair the Gallery Roads, but Sneak Through the Passage of Chengcang

Openly Repair the Walkway, Secretly March to Chengcang

Cross the Pass in the Dark

Use a Well-known Path to Advance a Hidden Path

Or even:

Hide the Invisible Behind the Visible

Make a Loud Noise and Go Elsewhere


When moving to prepare for a confrontation with Xiang Lu, Liu Bang send his men to repair the main gallery roads (which he had recently destroyed). At the same time, he secretly marched his main contingent through the small town of Chengcang. Xiang Lu, meanwhile, had relaxed as he knew that the gallery roads would take years to repair. Liu Bang was hence able to take the lightly guarded Guanzhong by surprise.

In the second world war, the allies acted as if they were going to invade Europe via Calais while making secret plans to land at lightly-guarded backwater of the Normandy beaches.


The principle of this stratagem is to do something obvious to gain attention while gaining advantage elsewhere. By taking pains to make that alternative move secret, you can reduce the chance of this subterfuge being discovered.

A general application of this Stratagem is to superficially go along with rules and commands that you disagree with while quietly working to undermine them.

See also

Distraction principle


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