The 36 Strategies

Act As Casually To Prevent Your Enemy


The Strategy Of Open City Gates

Means that when your enemy is too strong, is superior in numbers and can overrun you at any moment; you have to act as normally. When your enemy arrives and see how casual and unprepared you are, he will think you have something up to. Then your enemy won't risk and will retreat. That leads to a victorious escape.

When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretence of military preparedness and act casually. Unless the enemy has an accurate description of your situation this unusual behavior will arouse suspicions. With luck he will be dissuaded from attacking.

In spite of the inferirity of your forces, deliberately make your defensive line defenseless in order to confuse the enemy. In situations when the enemies are many and you are few, this tactic seems all the more intriguing.


Three Kingdoms Period China

In 149 BC, the famous strategist Kong Ming of Shu, launched an attack against the state of Wei by sending an advance force to scout for the enemy.

Leading the army of Wei was Suma-I who also sent an advance force of fifty thousand troops. The two vanguards met and engaged in battle but the Wei forces were superior and won the day.

The defeated Shu vanguard raced back to the main body of Kong Ming's army whose troops, seeing the look of fear in the faces of their comrades, thought that the enemy was upon them and fled in panic. Kong Ming and a few bodyguards fled to the city of Yangping with the Wei army in hot pursuit. Vastly outnumbered and unable to either retreat or sustain a siege, Kong Ming played a last resort strategy that made him famous throughout China.

He removed all the guards and battle flags from the walls and had all four of the city gates flung open. When Suma-I approached the city he could see only a few old men nonchalantly sweeping the grounds within the gates. Kong-Ming was seen sitting in one of the towers smiling and playing his lute. Suma-I remarked to his advisors: "That man seems to be too happy for my comfort. Doubtless he has some deep laid scheme in mind to bring us all to disaster." As they stood spell bound, the strains of Kong Ming's lute reached their ears and this only heightened their sense of foreboding.

Such peculiar behavior was too suspicious and, fearing a clever trap, Suma-I turned his army back and retreated. After the army left Kong Ming and his remaining troops departed in the opposite direction and made their way safely back to their capital.


In the year 727, the tufan army, ancestors of mordern Tibetans, invaded Tang China and stormed the cities of Guazhou and Yumen vefore sweeping south.

Tang general Zhang Shougui led 5,000 troops to save Guazhou. Guazhou was already devastated by the Tufan army.

The Tufan army attacked again. Zhang Shougui told his men, "We're outnumbered. If we flee, they'll overtake and kill us." But the Tufan army was fast approaching Guazhou.

Zhang Shougui told his men to put up the banners and flags and hide themselves. He then called for a banquet to be held at the gate's tower. He calmly sipped wine and enjoyed music.

When the Tufan tactician saw this he was dumbfounded. The city was so quiet that he could only hear music. Thinking that Zhang Shougui was trying to lure them into an ambush, he ordered a retreat.

Seeing the Tufan army falling for the ruse, the Tang army attacked. The Tufan army suffered defeat and in the end negotiated for peace and withdrew.


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