The 36 Strategies

Weak-Attack Openly, Strong-Attack Secretly


Advance To Chencang By A Hidden Path

Means that you have to attack on two ways. First is to attack direct, but with less power and second is to attack indirect, but with much power, so that the enemy does not expect that. That will lead him lead into confusion and that leads to your victory.

Attack the enemy with two convergent forces. The first is the direct attack, one that is obvious and for which the enemy prepares his defense. The second is the indirect, the attack sinister, that the enemy does not expect and which causes him to divide his forces at the last minute leading to confusion and disaster.

To pin down the enemy, expose part of your action deliberately, so that you make a surprise attack somewhere else.


Muromachi Period Japan

In 1560 one of Japan's greatest warlords, Oda Nobunaga, then still a minor commander, marched his force of 2,000 men to stop the incursion of a rival warlord Imagawa Yoshimoto.

Even though Nobunaga was outnumbered twelve to one he set out humming a tune. Nobunaga's scouts reported that Imagawa was resting his troops at a village that was nestled near a narrow gorge that Nobunaga knew would be ideal for a surprise attack.

The scouts further reported that Imagawa's troops were celebrating and viewing the heads taken in a previous battle.

Nobunaga devised the following ploy. He made camp some distance away from the village. He placed numerous flags and had straw dummies made to give the impression that a large host had arrived. Imagawa's forces thus expected an attack to come from the direction the enemy camp. Meanwhile Nobunaga's troops secretly made a forced march in a wide circle in order to come up from behind the Imagawa encampment.

Weather favored Nobunaga's scheme for late in the day there was a heavy downpour. Taking advantage of the foul weather, Nobunaga's troops launched a sudden attack from the rear. So unexpected was this attack that Imagawa a first thought that a brawl had broken out among his own troops. Only when he saw two enemy Samurai charging towards him did he realize he was under attack. The realization came too late and Imagawa was beheaded and his troops scattered. The battle lasted only a few minutes but it made Oda Nobunaga's reputation and he quickly rouse in power until he became one of Japan's greatest warlords.


This stratagem took place towards the end of the Qin dynasty. There were rebellions everywhere and the most powerful of the rebel leaders was Xiang Yu, warlord of Western Chu.

Xiang Yu appointed Liu Bang as king of Hanzhong, effectively making him leave China. To further ensure that Liu Bang does not return to China from the East, Xiang Yu divided Guanzhong into three principilities and put three people in charge, informing them to be alert against Liu Bang.

Liu Bang's aide Zhang Liang said, "In order to placate Xiang Yu and the three kings, we must destroy the mountain plank road to show that we've no intention of returning to China."

Once Liu Bang arrived in Hanzhong, he made Han Xin commander of his army. After nine years of preparations, Liu Bang's army became powerful and was ready to march eastwards.

On Han Xin's suggestion, Liu Bang ordered his generals Fan Hui and Zhou Bo to take 10,000 men and horses and repair the plank road within three months. The scale of the job was large, they repaired only a few li* in three months, which was too slow.

Liu Bang recalled Fan Hui and Zhou Bo and placed others in charge of the task. Meanwhile, his enemies were greatly perturbed. One of the kings even led his forces to block the plank road exit.

Han Xin then led Fan Hui, Zhou Bo and several thousand troops to overrun Guanzhong by the old roundabout route through Chencang.


(li is about one kilometre)


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