The 36 Strategies

Gain Trusting To Attack Surprising

 

Hide Your Dagger Behind A Smile

Means that you first must do anything to gain your enemy's trust. After that you can turn against him and launch a surprise attack in secret that leads to victory.

Charm and ingratiate yourself to your enemy. When you have gained his trust, you move against him in secret.

One way or another, make the enemy trust you and thereby slacken his vigilance. Meanwhile, plot secretly, making preparations for your future action to ensure its success. In this stratagem, one conceals one' hostility by assuming outward friendliness.

 

Warring States Era China

The king of Wei sent a beautiful courtesan to the king of Chu who took great delight in the new girl.

His queen, Zheng Xiu, knowing how fond the king was of his new woman, treated the newcomer as a sister supplying her with gifts and treasures and whatever she needed.

The king hearing of this summoned his queen and said: "A woman serves a man with her beauty and thus jealousy is a part of her very nature. Yet you, knowing how much the new woman pleases me, have treated her more kindly than I have myself. These actions are those of a child to her parents or a minister to his ruler, how unexpected it is to find this in a queen to her husband."

The queen thus knew that her husband did not suspect her of jealousy. When she next met with the new girl the queen told her: "His majesty is much taken with your beauty but he dislikes the shape of your nose. When next you serve him be sure to cover it with your hand." Grateful for the advice, when she next served the king this is what she did.

The next day the king asked his queen: "The new woman covers her nose when she is with me. Do you know why?"

"I know." replied the queen.
"Well then no matter how unpleasant you must tell me the reason."
"It seems she does not like the way your majesty smells."
"The shrew!" cried the king.

In a rage the king ordered that the unfortunate girl's nose be cut off.

 

During the Warring States, in the year 341 BC, General Gongsun Yang led 50,000 soldiers to invade the state of Wei.

Wei's king Hui was extremely worried. Gongzi Ying of Wei said, "Gongsun Yang was originally a native of Wei and we were good friends for some years. If I could talk to Gongsun Yang, I may be able to persuade him into ordering a retreat. If we find that he cannot be trusted, we can retreat into Wu city which has impregnable fortifications." Gongzi Ying then led 50,000 troops to guard Wu city.

Gongsun Yang arrived at Wu city and hearing that Gongzi Ying was in charge of its defence, hatched an idea.

Gongsun Yang sent a letter to Gongzi Ying which wrote, "Formerly, you and I enjoyed a good relationship. I greatly appreciate your trustworthiness and your valuing of our friendship. Why not order a mutual retreat? If you agree, let's meet outside the city in three days' time to discuss the matter."

Three days later, Gongzi Ying brought 300 unarmed troops showing his country's goodwill and sincerity. Gongsun Yang himself also brought no weapons. They started a discussion and the atmosphere was very cordial. Gongsun Yang then invited Gongzi Ying to his tent for a banquet.

Upon reaching the Qin's camps, Gongzi Ying and his 300 unarmed troops were siezed and arrested. The Qin soldiers then disguised themselves as Wei's troops and went to the city gates. They claimed that Gongzi Ying is back and asked for the gates to be opened. The Qin troops charged through the gates and conquered Wu city. Gongzi Ying was taken captive to Qin.

 


 
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