The 36 Strategies

When You Are Being Defeating, Command For Retreating


If All Else Fails Retreat

Means that if all your strategies and plans fails and it's obvious that you are losing; then commanding for retreat and regroup is the best option. When you are safe, you can always regroup and think another strategy or plan to revenge and finish the battle to gain victory at last.

If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat then retreat and regroup.

To avoid combat with a powerful enemy, the whole army should retreat and wait for the right time to advance again. This is not inconsistent with normal military priciples.


Ming Dynasty China

The Ming emperor Hwei Ti, had disposed of all his uncles except one who feigned madness.

This very uncle, the prince of Yan, in 1403 led a huge army to the capital of Nanking to seize the throne. The city was surrounded and the emperor considered committing suicide when he was stopped by a eunuch who told him that his grandfather, the emperor Hong Wu, had left a chest in his care with orders that should any great crisis occur to threaten the dynasty then the reigning emperor should open the chest.

"Let us open it at once then," said the emperor, "and see what my father would do were he here now." When the lid was lifted the box was found to contain the robes of a Buddhist monk, a diploma, a razor, and ten ingots of silver. The emperor understood the meaning at once and with a handful of attendants fled the palace through a secret tunnel to a Buddhist temple. There he shaved his head and put on the robes. He made his way out of the city and all the way to Sichuan province where he lived in obscurity in a remote monastery.

Meanwhile the palace had burned down during the fighting and it was assumed that the emperor had died in the fire.

Forty years later during the rein of emperor Ying Tsung (the fourth since Hwei Ti's time) an old Buddhist priest arrived at court and claimed to be the old emperor Hwei Ti. It turned out the man was an imposter but a rumor began that Hwei Ti was still alive. To quell the rumors and settle the issue, an official investigation was made which discovered that Hwei Ti was indeed still alive living as a Buddhist priest. The old emperor was invited back to the capital with great ceremony and he lived out his last days as a guest in the palace. However, he was kept under a watchful eye.


During the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, Tan Daoji was the founding general of the Song Dynasty. King Wen Di put Tan in charge of a punitive expedition to the south.

In the year AD 431, Tan Daoji led troops to fight the state of Northern Wei. The Song army won more than thirty battles. The Song army advanced to Zhili city but was short of food.

The enemy had sent a spy to the Song camp. Realizing that the enemy's spy will know that they are short of food, Tan Daoji formulated a plan with the provisions officer.

That night, the provisions officer took stock of the food. The spy saw many sacks of food and found it strange, he had thought that the Song army had run out of food.

When the provisions officer finished taking stock and kept the sacks of food, the spy came out to inspect the ground, where the provisions officer had taken stock of the food. The spy found on the ground real grains that were presumably dropped from the sacks.

The spy reported back saying that the Song army had enough food and was unlikely to leave. By the time the Norhern Wei army realized they were tricked, the Song forces had safely pulled out.

Acutally, the grains were scattered on the ground and the rest were sacks of sand.


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