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走为上计 (zou3 wei2 shang4 ji4) - When everything fails, retreat

Feature | 36 Stratagems

IN face of an overwhelmingly powerful enemy and seeing no chance for winning the battle, to retreat is usually the best choice. Many people believe that to surrender represents a complete defeat; to compromise means...

连环计 (lian2 huan2 ji4) Multi-ploy scheme at play

Feature | 36 Stratagems

IN face of a powerful enemy, one is always advised to not enter into a head-on battle with him. Instead, you should employ some shrewd ploy to defeat the enemy and avoid heavy losses on your own side. However sometimes...

苦肉计 (ku3 rou4 ji4) - When one hurts himself is really to hurt his enemy

Feature | 36 Stratagems

PEOPLE naturally do not want to harm themselves physically. It's cruel and also painful. Therefore, when someone tries to ingratiate themselves with an enemy after being badly harmed by their own people, their hatred...

反间计 (fan2 jian1 ji4) Sow distrust in enemy camp

Feature | 36 Stratagems

ONE way to weaken your enemy's fighting power is to sow distrust within its forces. This will often lead to discord and infighting and, as a result, individuals or groups within the enemy camp will become demoralized...

空城计 (kong1 cheng2 ji4) - An empty fortress strategy

Feature | 36 Stratagems

WHEN the enemy is overwhelming in numbers and there is little chance to withstand a siege, the best option is to make yourself utterly defenseless by removing all your forces. This unusual move might confuse your enemy...

美人计 (mei3 ren2 ji4) Beaten by womanly wiles

Feature | 36 Stratagems

FEW men can be immune to the sometimes lethal attraction of beautiful women. Sociologists tend to attribute this phenomenon to human nature and moralists often link it to the weakness of men. Strategists, however,...

反客为主 (fan3 ke4 wei2 zhu3) - Guest outstays welcome

Feature | 36 Stratagems

AS a slave, you have no control over what you do in your master's house. As a guest, you have little control of things. No matter how long you stay as a guest, you simply don't have much say in the house, but you...

树上开花 (shu4 shang4 kai1 hua1) Defending with 'blossoms'

Feature | 36 Stratagems

A tree may look less attractive without flowers on its branches. But you can give it a dazzling display by attaching bright and colorful artificial blossoms. An application of this stratagem in a battle is not...

上屋抽梯 (shang4 wu1 chou1 ti1) - Removing escape routes

Feature | 36 Stratagems

THERE were rarely any stairs leading to the attic in old Chinese houses, so people had to use a ladder to get to the loft. By removing the ladder after luring someone to climb upstairs, you actually had them trapped. ...

假痴不癫 (jia3 chi1 bu4 dian1) Feigning weakness to wait for the right time to strike

Feature | 36 Stratagems

FEIGNING idiocy while keeping tabs on everything happening around you, or feigning inaction while secretly getting ready for action is what this stratagem is all about. The purpose, of course, is to confuse the...

指桑骂槐 (zhi3 sang1 ma4 huai2) Achieving the result without waging too many battles

Feature | 36 Stratagems

THE title of this stratagem implies warning someone by allusion or without directly naming names. It is actually a scheme to fight, conquer or warn your enemies, big or small, without head-on confrontation. After...

偷梁换柱 (tou1 liang2 huan4 zhu4) - Swapping good wood for bad

Feature | 36 Stratagems

IF you replace the beams and pillars of a house with rotten timber, it's bound to eventually collapse. If you can manipulate the battle plan of your rivals to negate or remove their strongest force, they will crumple...

借道伐虢 (jie4 dao4 fa1 guo1) Defeat one enemy at a time

Feature | 36 Stratagems

THE title of this stratagem derives from a story describing how the State of Jin conquered its two neighboring states during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC). Compared to its two small neighbors, namely,...

远交近攻 (yuan3 jiao1 jin4 gong1) - Making distant states allies while attacking a neighbor

Feature | 36 Stratagems

HISTORY has proven that neighboring countries can become enemies more often than those separated by distance, just like family members living together are more likely to get into quarrels with each other than with...

关门捉贼 (guan1 men2 zhuo1 zei2) Shut the door to catch the thief

Feature | 36 Stratagems

WHEN a thief is in your house, you'd better bolt your doors first in order to catch him and then prevent him escaping. This is of course applicable only when the thief is "small" and you are sure you can subdue him. ...

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