The 36 Strategies

Say Something, But Mean Another Thing


Point At The Mulberry But Curse The Locust Tree

Means that you say things with OTHER meanings than you said. Then your enemy cannot detect your plans so that you can attack secretly and that leads to victory.

To discipline, control, or warn others whose status or position excludes them from direct confrontation; use analogy and innuendo. Without directly naming names, those accused cannot retaliate without revealing their complicity.

When the powerful wants to rules over the weak, he will sound a warning. One's uncompromising stand will often win loyalty, and one's resolite action, respect.


Han Dynasty China

After Gaozu had become Emperor he invested many of his followers. One day while he was strolling along the balcony of his palace he noticed several ministers milling about below speaking in hushed tones.

"What are they talking about?" he asked his advisor Chang Liang.

"Your majesty does not know? They are plotting a revolt."

"But peace has been restored to the empire. Why should they be planning a revolt?"

"When your majesty rose from among the common people, it was through these men that you seized control of the empire. You have become the Son of Heaven, but those whom you have invested have all been close friends from the old days. Now these younger officers of your army, reckoning up the merits they have won, believe that there is not sufficient land in the whole empire to invest them all. So some of them fear they will not receive their just allotment. Therefore they plot rebellion."

"What should I do?" asked the Emperor

"Among all your followers whom do you dislike the most?"

"Yong Chi and I are ancient enemies," replied the Emperor.

"You must hurry and invest Yong Chi before anyone else, and make known what you have done to your other followers. When they see Yong Chi has been invested, they will all feel assured of their own rewards." said Chiang

The emperor agreed and held a feast honoring Yong Chi with lands and titles. When the other ministers left the banquet they said to each other happily, "If even Yong Chi can become a marquis, the rest of us have nothing to worry about!"


During the Spring and Autumn period, Duke Huan of the prosperous Qi made Guan Zhong his chief minister.

Duke Huan wanted to be dominant and invited the eight states to a meeting on forming an alliance. Chen, Cai, Zhu and Song attended the meeting. Lu, Wei, Zheng, Cao did not attend the meeting.

Duke Huan told those who attended the meeting that he wanted their support to deal with Lu first. The duke of Song however did not want part of it and left. This greatly angered Duke Huan.

Duke Huan was about to launch an attack to punish Song when Guan Zhong stopped him, "Song is far, Lu is near. Let's deal with Lu first. We can attack Lu's vassal Sui." Sui was small and easy to conquer.

Guan Zhong also said, "We can strike at Sui first to scare Lu. Lu will then pay allegience to us. Song will also feel intimidated."

Duke Huan sent his army to attack Sui. The duke of Lu was told that the Qi army had subdued Sui. The duke of Lu quickly apologised to Qi. Wei and Cao also apologised for their absence at the meeting. Lu, Wei, Cao and Qi joined forces to attack Song. The duke of Song was terrified and quickly mend fences with Qi.

In 678 BC, Duke Huan succeeded in forming an alliance of eight states with barely any fighting.


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