The 36 Strategies

Close Thoroughly To Capture Completely


Bolt The Door To Catch The Thief

Means that when you want to capture or defeat your whole enemy, you first must prevent all opportunities for your enemy to escape and then you will be ensured you won't have any future dangers or chases. Now you can both capture or defeat all your enemies that leads to victory.

If you have the chance to completely capture the enemy then you should do so thereby bringing the battle or war to a quick and lasting conclusion. To allow your enemy to escape plants the seeds for future conflict. But if they succeed in escaping, be wary of giving chase.

When dealing with a small and weak enemy, surround and destroy him. If you let him retreat, you will be at a disadvantage in pursuing him.


Warring States Era China

In 449 BC the state of Wu had invaded the state of Yue and carried off its duke Guo Jian holding him prisoner for three years before releasing him back to his kingdom.

When he returned Guo Jian planned his revenge. For seven years he ruled with benevolence and generosity making a reputation as a wise and virtuous ruler until he felt his loyal subjects were prepared to undergo any hardship for him. He accordingly assembled his forces and attacked Wu gaining a decisive victory.

The king of Wu had to flee but it would only be a matter of time before he was caught. He sent ambassadors to Guo Jian begging for mercy. They reminded him of how Wu, though he had him firmly in her grasp, had released him to return to his state. The king of Wu now asked to be granted the same favor.

Guo Jian was contemplating granting this appeal when his prime minister Fan Li intervened and said: "When heaven gave the duke of Wu the grand opportunity for gaining power he did not take advantage of it and so he is a fugitive today. Should you fail to accept what fortune has now given you, you may be driven from your state, and then all the years of hardships you have bourn will have been endured in vain."

The duke was swayed by the argument and sent the ambassador back with the message that he would not grant any mercy. When the king of Wu received the message he gave up all hope and committed suicide.


In the year 260 BC, the armies of Qin and Zhao met in a decisive battle. Qin used the strategy of sowing discord among the enemy to cause the Zhao commander Lian Po, an experienced general, to be replaced by an armchair strategist, Zhao Kuo.

Qin general Bai Qi ordered, "Take our main forces to Changbi in Qin and be well-entrenched there. Block off all exits." "Take 3,000 soldiers to lure Zhao troops out."

Zhao Kuo did not know about the trap and when Qin deliberately let him win his first battle, he was extremely elated and cocky. He even ordered an all-out attack. Zhao's troops pursued all the way to Changbi.

Qin soldiers then cut off their route of retreat and supplies. The Zhao troops were unable to call for reinforcements as the Qin men have divided them making them unable to contact the rest of the army.

For 46 days, the Zhao soldiers were completely cut off from supplies and assistance. They could not break through the Qin encirclement. The Qin maintained the siege and refrained from fighting.

As a last ditched attempt, Zhao Kuo tried to break through the encirclement with a shock force of 5,000 men but he was killed. Zhao's troops troops surrenedered but Qin showed no mercy to them. The Zhao army was wiped out. The paper strategist caused 400,000 Zhao soldiers to lose their lives.


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