The 36 Strategies

Surprise Your Enemy To Advantage Your Army


Clamor In The East, Attack In The West

Means that you have to surprise you enemy by attacking him where he least expects it. Your enemy will be greatly surprised and then you will gain a great advantage that leads to victory.

In any battle the element of surprise can provide an overwhelming advantage. Even when face to face with an enemy, surprise can still be employed by attacking where he least expects it. To do this you must create an expectation in the enemy's mind through the use of a feint.

When the enemy command is in confusion, it will be unprepared for any contingencies. The situation is like flood waters rising higher and higher; likely to burst the dam at any time. When the enemy loses internal control, take the chance and destroy him.


Song Dynasty China

Once there was an official who was transferred to the capital.

The front part of the inn where he stayed was a teahouse, and across the street was a shop that sold expensive dyed silks. Whenever he had nothing to do, he would sit at a table watching the people and activity on the street.

One day he noticed with surprise that several suspicious looking characters were walking back and forth observing the silk shop with great interest. One of them came up to his table and whispered: "We're in the robbery business and we're here to steal those fine silks. Since you noticed us I came to ask you not to mention it."

"That has nothing to do with me," the official replied. "Why should I say anything about it?"

The fellow thanked him and left him. The official thought to himself: 'the silk shop has its wares openly displayed on a busy street. In broad daylight, with a thousand eyes watching, if they have the skill to steal those silks, then they must be smart thieves indeed.' So he watched carefully to see how they would manage it.

But what he saw was only the same people walking back and forth in front of the silk shop. Sometimes they gathered on the left, sometimes on the right. The official sat watching until after sunset when everyone had gone and the shop had closed. "Those fools." said the official to himself. "They were putting one over on me."

When he returned to his room to order some food, he discovered that all his belongings were gone.


In AD 200, Yuan Shao and Cao Cao fought a decisive battle. Yuan Shao, with the advantage of terrain and troop strength, wanted to block the enemy's route of retreat (Battle of Guandu).

Yuan Shao ordered general Yan Liang to lead 10,000 soldiers to occupy the enemy's strategic Baima city.

Cao Cao was told of the enemy's plan. He summoned his aides to help think of a solution. One of his aides, Xun You said, "Let's show as if we're crossing the river to attack Ye city. Yuan Shao will send some troops westwards. In the meantime, we can surround Baima and attack the remaining Yuan Shao troops."

Falling for the ruse, Yuan Shao led some troops to reinforce Ye city. Yan Liang surrounded Baima and believing that Cao Cao's army was attacking Yanjin and Ye, thought that Cao Cao will surrender in a few days time. Meanwhile, Cao Cao made his troops travel day and night to Baima.

Yuan Shao reached Yanjin and found nobody there. Cao Cao managed to kill Yan Liang and thus the siege was lifted.


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