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Point at the Mulberry and Curse the Locust


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Point at the Mulberry and Curse the Locust

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 26

This group: Stratagems for Gaining Ground
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Use indirect means of getting your way or of showing what you mean or want.

Do not name names so you cannot be accused. Use intermediaries, third parties and others.

Cow the weak and convince the strong. Use scare tactics, threats, warnings and even physical beatings and punishment.

Make an example of those who do not comply with your commands or who oppose you. Use disproportionate punishment that will scare others into submission.


This is the twenty-sixth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Gaining Ground

Alternative names

Point at the Mulberry Tree but Curse the Locust Tree

Point at the Mulberry Only to Curse the Locust

Point at One to Scold Another

Or even:

Persuade Indirectly

Make an Example of the Non-Compliant

Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkey 


Sun Tzu wanted to show the king of Hu that even women could be trained to be invincible. He created two regiments from court women and put the king's two most-liked concubines in charge of each. He then gave them marching orders, but the groups just giggled. He had the concubines beheaded and put two women from the front rows in charge and gave the order again. This time, they obeyed. In this way, Sun Tzu made his point to the king.

The use of the atomic bomb in Japan in World War 2 was a huge show of strength that shocked the Japanese into submission. More recently, 'shock and awe' was a key strategy in the first Iraq war.


The metaphor of the name is that while you are doing one thing (pointing at the mulberry) you are really taking another quite different action (cursing the locust).

Being indirect can be most effective when being direct could cause problems such as reactive revolt or disruptive criticism.

Extrinsic motivation uses external methods of motivation, as opposed to the more internal drivers of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic methods are less effective where it is important for the person to be self-driven, yet they can be effective to just get people to follow orders.

Harsh approaches such as this can, of course, backfire as those harmed take revenge. Those who are supposed to be scared by this may also rebel.

See also

Extrinsic Motivation


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