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Remove the Firewood from Under the Cauldron


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Remove the Firewood from Under the Cauldron

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 19

This group: Stratagems for Confused Situations
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Drain their sources of power. Find what makes them strong and then prevent them from drawing on this resource. You can steal it, destroy it, disable it or use any methods at your disposal.

Be creative, looking for ways to sap their strength and weaken their morale. Any resource or thing they use can be attacked, including psychological resources.

This is good to use when their sprits are weakening, as it will serve to weaken them further.


This is the nineteenth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Confused Situations

Alternative names

Remove the Firewood Under the Cauldron

Take Away the Fire from Under the Cauldron

Steal The Firewood From Under the Pot

Remove the Firewood From Under the Pot

Or even:

Eliminate the Source of Your Enemy's Strength


Cao Cao was besieged by Yuan Shao, so he used a contingent of men dressed in the enemy's clothing to infiltrate the enemy camp and set fire to their grain stores. This not only caused them problems but created immediate fear, which was further deepened as Cao Cao sent mutilated enemy soldiers back to their comrades. Yuan Shao's forces were terrified and scattered in disarray.

Morale is also an important resource. In 202 BC Liu Bang was battling the kingdom of Chu, so he got his men to sing Chu folk songs every night so the enemy forces would be too sad to fight.


Throughout the history of war, attacking the resources of the other side has been a common tactic. While this includes classic supplies such as dumps and supply lines, creative interpretation of the word 'resource' can lead to new methods, such as the Liu Bang example above.

This is a method where non-military means can be used and is consequently a viable approach for a weaker force. Even low-level nuisances can add to the weakening effect by creating annoying distractions.

A resource can also be a person such as an advisor or a person with unique knowledge of local terrain. Such people may be killed or captured.

In modern times, corporate raiders quietly buy up shares in target companies until they have enough to stage a take-over.

See also



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