The 36 Strategies

Disguise Your Army To Confuse Your Enemy


Tie Silk Blossoms To The Dead Tree

Means that you will disguise by making illusions or wonders. Then your enemy will be confused. You will attack and that leads to victory.

Tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy. Through the use of artifice and disguise make something of no value appear valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use, useful.

Use deceptive appearances to make your troop formation much more powerful than it really is. When wild geese soar high above, the grandness of their formation is greatly enhanced by the display of their outstretched wings.


Three Kingdoms Period China

During the final years of the Three Kingdoms, Suma Yan usurped the throne of Wei, made himself king, and changed the name of the kingdom from Wei to Jin.

News of this reached the neighboring king of Wu who knew that his kingdom would be the next likely target of the ambitious Suma. He worried so much that he died several days later. Sun Hao then inherited the throne of Wu and immediately took to pleasure and vice neglecting state affairs. Over the next few years the new king of Wu grew increasingly paranoid and had dozens of his advisors and commanders and their entire families executed on the slightest suspicion and as a result he was widely reviled.

Hearing that the people of Wu despised their king, Suma ordered a naval attack led by commander Wang Chun. The king of Wu had no idea of what to do against the impending naval attack. He convened what remained of his council and one advisor recommended stringing a bamboo barrier across the river to prevent the fleet from reaching the Wu capital of Jian Yeh. The king agreed and heavy bamboo cords were made and strung just below the surface.

When Commander Wang heard about the barrier he laughed. He ordered his men to build huge rafts from timbers on which were erected straw dummies dressed in armor and holding weapons. The dummies were soaked in oil and a trip mechanism was attached that would ignite the dummies when the rafts struck the barrier. The rafts burned through the bamboo and continued on down stream to the Wu capital. The spectacle of a fleet of rafts full of burning men so frightened the Wu troops that they fled in terror. Suma captured Wu and went on to found the short-lived Jin dynasty.


During the Warring States period, Yan joined forces with Qin, Han, Zhao and Wei to attack Qi. More than seventy cities in Qi fell. Only two cities still held out for three years: Lu, where the king of Yan was staying, and Jimo under the command of the resourceful Tian Dan.

Tian Dan collected a quantity of gold and sent it to the Yan general Qi Jie with a message, "Jimo is about to yield. Please don't seize our wives and concubines." The Yan soldiers were overjoyed and became sluggish.

Tian Dan began gathering more than a thousand bulls in the city. He covered them with purple silk and painted fantastic stripes of various colours. Daggers were fixed on the horns of the bulls. Oil-soaked straws were fastened onto the animals' tails.

That night, several breaches in the city walls were made. The straws on the bulls' tails were lit and the raging animals charged out of the city. 5,000 soldiers followed behind.

The Yan troops panicked when they saw the 'strange beasts'. Meanwhile, there rose from the city a deafening racket that shook heaven and earth. Qi Jie was killed.

Before long, Qi recovered the other cities and became a military power in the region.


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