The 36 Strategies

Borrow From The Enemy To Win From Your Enemy


Borrow The Road To Conquer Guo

Means that you first have to borrow resources of an ally/enemy to win from an enemy. Then after that enemy is defeated you will use those same resources you lent before and attack it's owners. You will surprise the enemy and that leads to victory.

Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the first place.

When a small state, located between two big states, is being threatened by the enemy state, you should immediately send troops to rescue it. thereby expanding your sphere of influence. Mere talk cannot win the trust of a state which is in a difficult position.


Spring and Autumn Period China

The small states of Yu and Guo bordered the larger state of Jin. Duke Xian of Jin desired to conquer both states.

This desire was not unknown to the two smaller states and both had taken steps to defend their borders with Jin. The duke's general, Xun Xi, suggested they make a roundabout attack at Guo through the state of Yu to catch them by surprise. General Xun suggested that since the duke of Yu was a greedy man he could be bribed with gifts of jade and horses in exchange for safe passage through his territory. Duke Xian objected to the idea of giving away so much treasure and asked: "What if the duke of Yu accepts our gifts but refuses us passage?" but general Xun replied: "If he doesn't intend to let us through, then he wouldn't accept them, but if he does accept the gifts, and he does let us through, then it will only mean that the treasure is stored temporarily in his storehouse rather than ours."

When the bribe was sent to the duke of Yu one of his ministers, Gong Ziqi, cautioned against accepting them saying: "Yu is to Guo, like lips are to teeth. Our ancestors had a saying; 'If the lips are gone, the teeth will be exposed to cold'. That Guo is able to exist depends on Yu while Yu's ability to survive hinges on Guo. If we make way for Jin, then the day will see Guo perish in the morning to be followed by Yu in the evening. Why should we ever let Jin pass?"

The duke of Yu, however, refused to listen to this advice. Jin was given safe passage and succeeded in conquering Guo. On their way back they stopped to conquered Yu. After taking the Yu capital and recovering the treasure, general Xun returned the jade and horses to the duke. Duke Xian was pleased and said in good humor "The jade is untouched but the horses seem to have gained some more teeth!"


During the Spring and Autumn period, Guo and Yu were two neighbouring states. Duke Xian of Jin had long wanted to conquer the two states.

If he attacked Guo, he would have to pass through Yu. Should Yu decide to block Jin, or even join forces with Guo to resist him, then however strong Jin was, it'll be difficult to suceed.

The trusted minister Xun Xi suggested, "The duke of Yu is greedy; offer him fine horses from Qu and jade from Chuiji in return for passing through his state to attack Guo."

"These are our best treasures. How can we give them away?" the duke said.

Xun Xi replied, "We're merely temporarily transferring them from our storehouse to Yu's. Eventually they'll be reclaimed by us."

Duke Xian despatched Xun Xi to Yu obtain safe passage. The duke of Yu agreed and even promised to personally lead a punitive expedition to Guo. But the shrewd minister Gong Zhiqi strongly opposed the move, "Yu and Guo depend on each other for security. If Guo is destroyed, it will be the case of 'if the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold'."

The duke of Yu ignored his protests. Gong Zhiqi couldn't bear to see his home and state destroyed, so he hastily summoned all his clansmen and fled to Cao state.

Jin despatched general Li Ke and Xun Xi to invade Guo. After almost four months, Guo was destroyed. After their vitory, the Jin troops halted at Yu saying that they'll like to remain for awhile to recuperate.

The duke of Yu did not suspect anything, thinking all the while how good it was to have a strong state as ally. Not long after, the Jin troops in Yu suddenly seized power and captured Yu's capital.

Duke Xian got back his horses and jade.


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