36 Strategies


Strategy 1 - Deceive the sky to cross the ocean.
Moving about in the darkness and shadows, occupying isolated places, or hiding
behind screens will only attract suspicious attention. To lower an enemy's
guard you must act in the open hiding your true intentions under the guise of
common every day activities.

Strategy 2 - Surround Wei to rescue Zhao.
When the enemy is too strong to attack directly, then attack something she
holds dear. Know that in all things she cannot be superior. Somewhere there is
a gap in the armor, a weakness that can be attacked.

Strategy 3 - Borrow another's hand to kill. (Kill with a borrowed knife.)
When you do not have the means to attack your enemy directly, then attack
using the strength of another. Trick an ally into attacking her, bribe an
official to turn traitor, or use the enemy's own strength against her.

Strategy 4 - Make your enemy work while you wait at leisure.
(Await the exhausted enemy at your ease).
It is an advantage to choose the time and place for battle. In this way you
know when and where the battle will take place, while your enemy does not.
Encourage your enemy to expend her energy in futile quests while you conserve
your strength. When she is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and

Strategy 5 - Use the opportunity of fire to rob others. (Loot a burning house).
When a country is beset by internal conflicts, when disease and famine ravage
the population, when corruption and crime are rampant, then it will be unable
to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack.

Strategy 6 - Display (feint) in the east and attack in the west.
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 she least expects it. To do this you must create an expectation
in the enemy's mind through the use of a feint.

Strategy 7 - Create something from nothing.
You use the same feint twice. Having reacted to the first and often the second
feint as well, the enemy will be hesitant to react to a third feint. Therefore
the third feint is the actual attack catching your enemy with her guard down.

Strategy 8 - Secretly utilize the Chen Chang passage.
(Pretend to take one path while sneaking down the other.)
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 her to divide his forces at the last minute leading to confusion and

Strategy 9 - Watch the fires burning across the river.
Delay entering the field of battle until all the other players have become
exhausted fighting amongst themselves. Then go in full strength and pick up the

Strategy 10 - Knife hidden under the smiling face.
Charm and ingratiate yourself to your enemy. When you have gained her trust,
move against her in secret.

Strategy 11 - Plum tree sacrifices for the peach tree.
There are circumstances in which you must sacrifice short-term objectives in
order to gain the long-term goal. This is the scapegoat strategy whereby
someone else suffers the consequences so that the rest do not.

Strategy 12 - Walk the sheep home, just because it is there.
(Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat.)
While carrying out your plans be flexible enough to take advantage of any
opportunity that presents itself, however small, and avail yourself of any
profit, however slight.

Strategy 13 - Disturb (startle) the snake by hitting the grass.
When you cannot detect the opponent's plans launch a direct, but brief, attack
and observe your opponent reactions. Her behavior will reveal her strategy.

Strategy 14 - Borrow another's body to return the soul.
(Raise a corpse from the dead).
Take an institution, a technology, or a method that has been forgotten or
discarded and appropriate it for your own purpose. Revive something from the
past by giving it a new purpose or to reinterpret and bring to life old ideas,
customs, and traditions.

Strategy 15 - Entice the tiger to leave the mountain.
Never directly attack a well-entrenched opponent. Instead lure her away from
her stronghold and separate her from her source of strength.

Strategy 16 - To catch something, first let it go.
Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack. To prevent this you
let the enemy believe she still has a chance for freedom. Her will to fight is
thus dampened by her desire to escape. When in the end the freedom is proven a
falsehood the enemy's morale will be defeated and she will surrender without a

Strategy 17 - Bait a piece of jade with a brick.
(Toss out a brick to attrack Jade)
Prepare a trap then lure your enemy into the trap by using bait. In war the
bait is the illusion of an opportunity for gain. In life the bait is the
illusion of wealth, power, and sex.

Strategy 18 - Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief.
(To capture the bandits, catch their leader first)
If the enemy's army is strong but is allied to the commander only by money or
threats then, take aim at the leader. If the commander falls the rest of the
army will disperse or come over to your side. If, however, they are allied to
the leader through loyalty then beware, the army can continue to fight on after
his death out of vengeance.

Strategy 19 - Remove the firewood under the cooking pot.
When faced with an enemy too powerful to attack directly you must first weaken
her by undermining her foundation and attacking her source of power.

Strategy 20 - Fish in troubled water.
Create confusion to weaken her perception and judgment. Do something unusual,
strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt
her thinking. A distracted enemy is thus more vulnerable.

Strategy 21 - Shed off the cicada's shell.
When you are in danger of being defeated, and your only chance is to escape and
regroup, then create an illusion. While the enemy's attention is focused on
this artifice, secretly remove your men leaving behind only the facade of your

Strategy 22 - Shut the door to catch the thief.
If you have the chance to completely capture the enemy then you should do so
thereby bringing the battle or war to a quick and lasting conclusion. To allow
your enemy to escape plants the seeds for future conflict. But if they succeed
in escaping, be wary of giving chase.

Strategy 23 - Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbor.
It is known that nations that border each other become enemies while nations
separated by distance and obstacles make better allies. When you are the
strongest in one field, your greatest threat is from the second strongest in
your field, not the strongest from another field.

Strategy 24 - Obtain safe passage to conquer the Kingdom of Guo.
Borrow the resources of an ally to attack a common enemy. Once the enemy is
defeated, use those resources to turn on the ally that lent you them in the
first place.

Strategy 25 - Replace the beams and pillars with rotten timber.
Disrupt the enemy's formations, interfere with their methods of operations,
change the rules in which they are used to following, go contrary to their
standard training. In this way you remove the supporting pillar, the common
link that makes a group of men an effective fighting force.

Strategy 26 - Point at the mulberry and curse the locust.
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.

Strategy 27 - Pretend to be a pig in order to eat the tiger. (Play dumb.)
Hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about
your intentions and motivations. Lure your opponent into underestimating your
ability until, overconfident, she drops her guard. Then you may attack.

Strategy 28 - Cross the river and destroy the bridge.
With baits and deceptions lure your enemy into treacherous terrain. Then cut
off her lines of communication and avenue of escape. To save herself she must
fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.

Strategy 29 - Deck the tree with bogus blossoms.
Tying silk blossoms on a dead tree gives the illusion that the tree is healthy.
Through the use of artifice and disguise make something of no value appear
valuable; of no threat appear dangerous; of no use, useful.

Strategy 30 - Make the host and the quest exchange places.
Defeat the enemy from within by infiltrating the enemy's camp under the guise
of cooperation, surrender, or peace treaties. In this way you can discover her
weakness and then, when the enemy's guard is relaxed, strike directly at the
source of her strength.

Strategy 31 - The beauty trap. (The tender trap, use a woman to ensare a man.)
Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp. This strategy
can work on three levels. First, the ruler becomes so enamored with the beauty
that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane. Second, other
males at court will begin to display aggressive behavior that inflames minor
differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale. Third, other females
at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues further
exasperating the situation.

Strategy 32 - Empty city.
When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you
expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretence of military
preparedness and act casually. Unless the enemy has an accurate description of
your situation this unusual behavior will arouse suspicions. With luck she
will be dissuaded from attacking.

Strategy 33 - Let the enemy's own spy sow discord in the enemy camp.
(Use double agents.)
Undermine your enemy's ability to fight by secretly causing discord between her
and her friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population.
While she is preoccupied settling internal disputes her ability to attack or
defend, is compromised.

Strategy 34 - Inflict injury on one's self to win the enemy's trust.
Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy
is lulled into relaxing her guard since she no longer considers you to be an
immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself to your enemy by
pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.

Strategy 35 - Chain together the enemy's ships.
In important matters one should use several strategies applied simultaneously.
Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; in this manner if any one
strategy fails you would still have several others to fall back on.

Strategy 36 - Run away to fight another day. (Escape is the best policy.)
If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat
then retreat and regroup.