Winning Stratagems

​第一计     ONE


Fool the sky to cross the sea
mán tiān guò hǎi


  • Cross the sea by a trick.

  • Openly act as if you are intending one thing then do something else.

  • Create false alarms until the enemy no longer take notice of alarms.

  • Mask your real goals, by using the ploy of a fake goal, until the real goal is achieved.

  • Give the enemy a sense of false security by appearing harmless. When their guard is low, you can attack without raising suspicion.

  • To lower an enemy's guard you must act in the open hiding your true intentions under the guise of common every day activities.


In 643, the Tang Emperor was afraid to cross the sea to fight Goguryeo. So his general, Xue Rengui, led him down a dark tunnel to a big room where they feasted for several days. Unknown to the Emperor, the room was in the ship.

​第二计     TWO


Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao
wéi wèi jiù zhào


  • Distract a powerful force that is threatening you by causing greater problems for it elsewhere, particularly by attacking those places it holds most dear.

  • When the enemy is too strong to attack directly, then attack something he holds dear.

  • Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.

  • Know that the enemy cannot be superior in all things.


Sun Bin, a descendant of Sun Tzu, was a talented advisor to the Kingdom of Wei. Chief military advisor Pang Juan was envious and changed a letter to make it seem that Sun Bin was going to defect. After severe punishment, Sun Bin was saved by people from Qi.


Years later, when Pang Juan was sent to attack Zhao, Zhao turned to Qi for help. After allowing Wei's forces to weaken in siege for a year, Sun Bin set up an attack on the Wei capital. Pang Juan and 20,000 troops tried rushing back to help Wei, but were first harried by Zhao forces from behind and then decimated in an ambush that was orchestrated by Sun Bin with Qi's main forces.

第三计     THREE


Kill with a borrowed sword
jiè dāo shā rén


  • Attack using the strength of another.

  • Cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed.
    For example: 
    ploy an ally to attack your enemy, use the enemy's own strength against hims, bribe someone at the enemy to become a traitor.


  • A cunning way to let your enemy find 'spies' within their own camp - who are actually people you want out of the way.

  • When you do not have the means to attack your enemy directly, then attack using the strength of another.


Chang Tuo defected from Western Zhou to Eastern Zhou. At first, minister Feng Chu of Western Zhou sent a 'secret letter' to Chang that make it appear that Chang was a spy for Western Zhou. He then send another message to Eastern Zhou that led to the first message being intercepted. As a result, Eastern Zhou executed Chang.


In another instance, the King of Zheng 'buried' under a shrine a list with names of Kuai officials and generals he would reward if Kuai fell. The King of Kuai obtained the list and executed them all. Zheng then attacked and easily conquered Kuai.

​第四计     FOUR


Wait at leisure while the enemy labors
yǐ yì dài láo


  • Conserving energy while the enemy tires himself out.

  • Stimulate the enemy to waste his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength.
    When he gets exhausted, the time is to attack him.


  • It is an advantage to select the time and place of a battle.

  • Let the enemy come to you for the battle, like that you are ready and he is not, thus, you can best use the terrain and be ready for the appropriate maneuvers.

  • Relax while the enemy exhausts himself.


When the Wei army was pursuing Sun Bin, he steadily reduced the number of campfires each night so the Wei army would think Sun Bin's soldiers were deserting. Wei quickly arranged an attack which lasted for two days of continuous march. Upon the arrival of his exhausted army, Sun Bin's forces released a discharge of arrows, which killed the Wei commander which led to a swift defeat.

During the revolution Mao Zedong regularly exhausted his enemy Chian Kai Shek by using this stratagem. Mao lacked the force of his enemy, but he gained in mobility, flexibility and surprise.

​第五计     FIVE


Loot a burning house
chèn huǒ dǎ jié


  • Use the opportunity of fire to rob others.

  • When a country is beset by internal conflicts and/or disease and famine devastates the population and/or when corruption and crime are rampant - it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack.

  • Keep gathering internal information about your enemy. Once he is in his weakest state ever, attack without mercy and totally destroy him to prevent future problems.

  • Cause the enemy problems which he is required to deal with. Then attack him when he is distracted.


When Qin and Wei attacked Han, Han asked Qi for help. Qi agreed but actually didn't give the promised help, as other allies Chu and Chao stepped in. This left Yan, another state which was in internal turmoil, without support. Qi seized the opportunity to attack and conquered Yan, whose allies were now busy elsewhere.


After a humiliating defeat in 493 BC by Fu Chai of Wu State, Gou Jian of Yue State gave a large amount of luxuries to Fu Chai to encourage his licentious ways. He also provided sterilized rice seeds to ensure a famine outbreak. When Fu Chai went on a journey, Gou Jian easily conquered the weakened and unhappy state. On his return, Fu Chai begged for mercy. He was only offered execution or suicide, of which he chose the latter.

​第六计     SIX


Make a sound in the east, then attack in the west

shēng dōng jī xī


  • To threaten the east and strike in the west.

  • Use directional deception to make the enemy misinterpret your movements.

  • Fake signals that you know will be intercepted.

  • Create an expectation in the enemy's mind through the use of a feint. Get him to focus his forces in a location, and then attack in another weakly defended location.


Zhu Jun attacked the western wall of the besieged city of Yuan. Once he knew the locals were all rushing to defend that spot, he launched a successful attack from the northeast.

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