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Lesson 1  


Lesson 4

cheng yu positive

Lesson 5 chengyu negative
Lesson 6



Lesson 7  




Lesson 8  

36 Strategies of Ancient China - San Guo

Read the 36 Strategies here



Lesson 9 TBA
Lesson 10 TBA

Lesson 1 

Lesson 2 twin characters



Root character













to obey




to quarrel



to go out




to string














one more time



to overcome










two hundred















2 pounds ( ~ 1Kg)


pound (~ 500g)


gems mounted together



ln, miǎo

mǒu, sī

Lesson 3  Triple characters  



Root character













down of the bird


hair, fur


running dog




galloping horses






















expanse of water




heap of stones
































high mountain









to unite forces










to talk quickly




flock of sheep




to stir up trouble




flying dragon




beautiful eyes




land between the fields









one more time







mǒu, sī


Lesson 4    cheng yu positive



Lesson 5 cheng yu negative











Lesson 6    TBA   






One of the greatest achievements of Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the extreme complexity of its stories and characters. The novel contains numerous secondary stories. As such, the following only serves as a summary of the central plot.

Three Heroes of Three Kingdoms, silk painting by Sekkan Sakurai (17151790), depicting Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. This painting is usually hung in the offices of businessmen to show that they are trustworthy, just as these brothers were to each other.

Yellow Turban Rebellion

The story begins in the final years of the Han Dynasty when incompetent eunuchs deceived the emperor and banished good officials. The government had become extremely corrupt on all levels, leading to widespread deterioration of the empire. During the reign of the penultimate Han emperor, Emperor Ling, the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out under the leadership of Zhang Jiao, who allegedly practiced Taoist wizardry. Zhang Jiao pretended to be a traveling healer curing people of sickness while secretly inciting them to revolt. In this time of turmoil, many of the major characters in the story are introduced; Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Cao Cao, Sun Jian, etc.

The rebellion was barely suppressed by imperial troops under the command of He Jin, Emperor Lings brother-in-law and the Supreme Commander of the armies of the Central Government. Fearing his growing power, the eunuchs under Zhang Rang lured He Jin alone into the palace following Emperor Ling's death and murder that was orchestrated by his rivals. His stunned guards, led by Yuan Shao, responded by charging into the palace, which turned into an indiscriminate slaughter. In the ensuing confusion, the child Emperor Shao and the Prince of Chenliu (later Emperor Xian) disappeared from the palace.

Dong Zhuo's tyrannical rule

Soon, the Emperor and the Prince were discovered by soldiers belonging to the warlord Dong Zhuo from Western Liang, who proceeded to seize control of the capital under the pretext of protecting the emperor. Dǒng later had Emperor Shao deposed and replaced with the Prince of Chenliu, who became Emperor Xian. Under Dong Zhuos violent rule, the people suffered greatly. There were assassination attempts on him by both the court physician Wu Fu and Cao Cao but both attempts failed.

Cao Cao managed to escape and issued an edict in the emperor's name to all governors, calling them to remove Dong Zhuo from power. Under general Yuan Shao, 18 governors and nobles joined forces in a campaign against Dong Zhuo, but undermined by poor leadership and conflict of interest, they only managed to drive him from the capital Luoyang to Chang'an. However, Dong Zhuo was later betrayed and murdered by his own foster son L Bu, from a dispute over the beautiful Diaochan, in a scheme orchestrated by minister Wang Yun.

Conflict among the various warlords and nobles

In the meantime, however, the empire was already disintegrating into civil war. Sun Jian, governor of Changsha, found the Imperial Seal at the bottom of a well in the ruins of Luoyang but secretly kept it for his own purposes, further weakening royal authority. Without a strong central government, warlords began to rise up and fight each other for land and power. In the north, Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan were at war, and in the south, Sun Jian and Liu Biao. Many others, even those without title or land, such as Cao Cao and Liu Bei, were also starting to build up power.

Cao Cao took Emperor Xian from Dong Zhuos former subordinates Li Jue and Guo Si and established the new court in Xuchang. Even more powerful now with the emperor in his control, Cao Cao quickly subdued his rivals such as L Bu, Yuan Shu and Zhang Xiu, culminating in his greatest military victory, over Yuan Shao in the famous Battle of Guandu despite being outnumbered 10-to-1. Cao Cao pursued the defeated Yuan clan and finally united northern China, which later served as the foundation for the Kingdom of Wei.

Sun Ce builds a dynasty in Jiangdong

Meanwhile, an ambush had violently concluded Sun Jian's life in a war with Liu Biao, fulfilling his own rash oath to heaven. His eldest son Sun Ce then delivered the Imperial Seal as tribute to rising royal pretender Yuan Shu of Huainan, in exchange for much needed reinforcements. Now, like the proverbial tiger that has been given claws, he soon secured himself a state in the rich riverlands of Jiangdong, on which the Kingdom of Wu would eventually be founded. Tragically, Sun Ce also died at the height of his career from illness under stress of his terrifying encounter with the ghost of Yu Ji, a venerable magician whom he had falsely accused and executed in jealousy. However, his successor and younger brother Sun Quan, led by skilled advisors Zhou Yu and Zhang Zhao, proved to be a masterful and charismatic ruler, inspiring hidden talents from across the land such as Lu Su to join his service, while raising a strong military which would truly receive a trial by fire in Cao Caos great southern campaign.

Liu Bei's unrealized ambition

Liu Bei, along with his sworn brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei had sworn allegiance to the Han Dynasty (in the famous Oath of the Peach Garden) and pledged to do their best to serve the emperor and the common people. However, their goals and ambitions had not been realized until the later part of the novel. Liu Bei, ever since he had successfully quelled the Yellow Turban Rebellion, was not recognized for his efforts and was made only the magistrate of a small county. Later, Liu Bei joined Gongsun Zan and participated in the war against Dong Zhuo. Cao Cao invaded Xuzhou as a revenge against Tao Qian, the governor of Xuzhou who unknowingly allowed his subordinate to kill Cao Caos father. Liu Bei led his troops from Pingyuan to help Tao Qian and Tao passed on his post as Governor of Xuzhou to Liu Bei before he died. At that same time, Lu Bu was at war with Cao Cao as he also longed to dominate China ever since he had killed Dong Zhuo. Lu Bu was defeated by Cao Cao and he sought refuge under Liu Bei. Later, Lu Bu repaid Liu Beis kindness with evil and seized control of Xuzhou. Liu Bei was forced to join forces with Cao Cao and they defeated Lu Bu. Lu Bu was executed and Liu Bei became officially recognized by Emperor Xian as the Emperors Uncle. Liu Bei plotted with some officials to kill Cao Cao as Cao Cao wielded far too much power and had the intention of usurping the throne. Liu Bei failed to kill Cao Cao as the plot was exposed. He seized control of Xuzhou but lost to Cao Cao when Cao Cao led his troops to conquer Xuzhou. Liu Bei got control of Runan with help from some former Yellow Turban rebels but was defeated once again by Cao Cao in battle. Liu Bei had no choice but to move to Jingzhou to seek Liu Biaos protection. Liu Biao treated Liu Bei with respect and put him in charge of Xinye. At Xinye, Liu Bei recruited the talented military strategist Zhuge Liang personally and slowly built up his forces.

Battle of the Red Cliff

Cao Cao, who declared himself the Prime Minister, led his troops to attack southern China after uniting the north. At Xinye, he was defeated twice by Liu Beis forces but Liu Bei lost Xinye and had to move to Jingzhou. Unfortunately, Liu Biao had died by then and left Jingzhou split between his two sons Liu Qi and Liu Cong. Liu Bei led the civilians of Xinye to Xiangyang, where Liu Cong ruled but Liu Bei was denied entry. Liu Cong later surrendered to Cao Cao, and Liu Bei had no choice but to move to Jiangxia where Liu Qi ruled. On the way, Liu Bei and the civilians were pursued by Cao Caos troops and several innocent civilians were killed. Liu Bei and his men managed to reach Jiangxia where he established a strong foothold against Cao Caos invasion.

To resist Cao Caos invasion, Liu Bei sent Zhuge Liang to persuade Sun Quan in Jiangdong to form an alliance. Zhuge Liang managed to persuade Sun Quan to form an alliance with Liu Bei against Cao Cao and stayed in Jiangdong as a temporary advisor. Sun Quan placed Zhou Yu in command of the forces of Jiangdong (Eastern Wu) to defend against Cao Caos invasion. Zhou Yu felt that the talented Zhuge Liang would become a future threat to Eastern Wu and tried several times to kill Zhuge Liang, but failed. In the end, he had no choice but to co-operate with Zhuge Liang for the time being as Cao Caos armies were at the border. Cao Cao was defeated at the Battle of the Red Cliff, also called the battle of Chibi, by the combined forces of Liu Bei and Sun Quan and forced to flee back to Jingzhou.

Tension between Liu Bei and Sun Quan

After the great battle at the Red Cliff, Eastern Wu and Liu Bei vied for control of Jingzhou. Zhou Yu led the troops of Eastern Wu to attack Jingzhou and gained a victory, but eventually Jingzhou ended up in Liu Beis hands, as Zhuge Liang had advised Liu Bei to seize Jingzhou while Zhou Yu and Cao Caos forces were at war. Zhou Yu was extremely unhappy and reported the matter to Sun Quan. Sun Quan dispatched Lu Su to Jingzhou to negotiate with Liu Bei for Jingzhou. Again and again, Liu Bei refused to hand over Jingzhou to Eastern Wu. Sun Quan had no choice but to use new strategies suggested by Zhou Yu to take Jingzhou. One of these was the Beauty Scheme, in which Sun Quan lured Liu Bei to Jiangdong (where he intended to hold Liu Bei hostage in exchange for Jingzhou) by pretending to betroth his younger sister, Lady Sun to Liu Bei. However, Zhuge Liang outwitted Zhou Yu, and Liu Bei returned to Jingzhou safely with his new wife. Zhou Yu tried and failed repeatedly to take Jingzhou. After being infuriated by Zhuge Liang twice, Zhou Yu eventually coughed out blood. The third time, he coughed out even more, and died unconscious.

Ma Chao

In the northwest, Ma Chao started a campaign against Cao Cao to avenge his father, Ma Teng, who was killed by Cao Cao. Ma Chaos forces were formidable as he had the support of Han Sui and troops from the Qiang minority. However, Cao Cao managed to defeat Ma Chaos forces by using cunning strategies to make Ma Chao and Han Sui turn against each other. Han Sui surrendered to Cao Cao and Ma Chao was left stranded. Ma Chao later sought refuge under Zhang Lu of Hanzhong, and eventually joined Liu Bei.

Liu Bei controls Xichuan and Jingzhou

After Zhou Yus death, relations between Liu Bei and Sun Quan deteriorated, but not to the point of outright war. Following Zhuge Liang's advice, Liu Bei invaded and conquered Xichuan, where the incompetent noble Liu Zhang ruled. He also took Hanzhong, which had been in Cao Caos control. Liu Bei proclaimed himself King of Hanzhong, while Cao Cao had himself promoted from Prime Minister to King of Wei; Sun Quan was known as the Duke of Wu. At this time, Liu Bei ruled a vast area of land from Jingzhou to Sichuan in the west. This would later serve as a strong foundation for the founding of the Kingdom of Shu. Meanwhile, Cao Cao and Sun Quan were also at war, with defeats and victories for both sides at the Battle of Ruxukou and Battle of Hefei.

The situation among the three major powers almost reached a stalemate after this, until Cao Cao died due to a brain tumor. The following year, Cao Caos son Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate, ending the Han Dynasty which had lasted for centuries. Cao Pi proclaimed himself emperor and renamed his dynasty Cao Wei. In response to this, Liu Bei declared himself Emperor of Shu Han, to signify that he still carried on the bloodline of the Han royal family, but was based in the lands of Shu.

Death of Guan Yu

Sun Quan, tired of Liu Beis repeated refusals to hand over Jingzhou, made plans to retake it. He made peace with Cao Cao and was bestowed the title of Prince of Wu. Liu Bei left his sworn brother Guan Yu in charge of Jingzhou, and Guan led the Jingzhou troops to attack Cao Cao. Sun Quan took advantage of the situation and sent Lu Meng to seize Jingzhou. Lu Meng disguised his troops as merchants and finessed a quiet entry. As Guan Yu was besieging Cao Wei general Cao Ren, Lu Meng's forces attacked Guan Yu from the rear, and routed his army with ease. Guan Yu's general Liao Hua volunteered to ride his horse through the oncoming horde of Wu soldiers to Liu Feng's castle to request reinforcements. Liu Feng, fearing that he would be in danger with a smaller force of soldiers, refused, and this ultimately led to the fall of Guan Yu. In desperate retreat, Guan Yu's army scattered, and Guan was captured. Sun Quan had him beheaded after he refused to renounce his loyalty to Liu Bei. Liu Bei deeply grieved the death of Guan Yu and the loss of Jingzhou. He was already planning to avenge Guan Yu when he heard that his other sworn brother, Zhang Fei, had been murdered in his sleep by subordinates who then fled to Eastern Wu. Liu Bei was determined to avenge both brothers. Disregarding advice from Zhuge Liang, Zhao Yun, and others, Liu Bei led a formidable army of 750,000 to attack Eastern Wu.

Battle of Yiling

Sun Quan offered Liu Bei the return of the Jing province and of his sister (Liu's ex-wife Lady Sun). Liu Bei's advisers, including Zhuge Liang, urged him to accept these terms, but Liu persisted. After initial victories, a series of strategic mistakes due to the impetuosity of Liu Bei led to the cataclysmic defeat of Han troops in the Battle of Yiling. However, Lu Xun, the commander of Wu who spearheaded the war against Shu Han, refrained from pursuing Liu Beis defeated troops. Famous generals from both Shu Han and Eastern Wu forces perished. Lu Xuns caution was vindicated when Cao Pi launched an invasion against Wu, thinking that Wu forces would still be abroad. The invasion was crushed by strong Wu resistance, coupled with a plague outbreak.

Meanwhile, in Baidicheng, sixty-two year old Liu Bei, ailing after three years of neglecting his health, died, leaving his young son Liu Shan in the care of Zhuge Liang. In a moving final conversation between Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei asked Zhuge Liang to assume the imperial throne himself in place of Liu Shan, should Liu Shan prove to be inept. He refused to do so, and swore that he would remain faithful to the trust that Liu Bei had for him. This promise was to be a raison d'tre for the rest of Zhuge Liang's life.

Zhuge Liang calmly fends off five armies

Cao Pi, following Sima Yis advice, induced several forces, including Sun Quan, turncoat Shu general Meng Da, Meng Huo of the Nanman, and the Qiang tribe, to attack Shu Han, in coordination with a Cao Wei army. Zhuge Liang successfully deployed the Shu Han troops and caused the five armies to retreat without shedding a single drop of blood. An envoy from Shu Han named Deng Zhi subsequently persuaded Sun Quan to renew its former alliance with Shu Han.

In one of his final strokes of brilliance, Zhuge Liang personally led the Shu troops to subdue the southern barbarian king Meng Huo of the Nanman tribe. The barbarian troops were no match for the Shu troops and Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times by using cunning strategies. The first six times, Meng Huo complained that he had been captured by trickery, and had no chance to fight a real battle with the Shu troops. Zhuge Liang agreed to let him go every time, allowing him to come back again for another battle. The seventh time, Zhuge Liang wanted to release Meng Huo once again but this time Meng Huo refused. Meng Huo was ashamed of rebelling against Shu Han and was so deeply touched by Zhuge Liangs benevolence that he swore allegiance to Shu Han forever.

Battle of wits between Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi

At this time, Cao Pi also died of illness and was succeeded by Cao Rui. Ma Chao died of illness as well at age 46. In Jiangdong, Sun Quan declared himself Emperor of Eastern Wu. Zhuge Liang then turned his eyes northwards, and planned to attack Wei to restore the Han Dynasty as he had promised Liu Bei at the latters deathbed. However, his days were numbered and Shu was far too weak to overcome the material superiority of Wei. His last significant victory against Wei was probably the defection of Jiang Wei, a young general whose brilliance paralleled his own.

Zhuge Liang all along had a chronic illness, which was compounded when he refused to rest even into the early hours of the morning, so that he would be able to complete his analysis of the battlegrounds or to formulate his next plan. He finally died of sickness at the Battle of Wuzhang Plains, while leading a stalemated battle against the Wei commander, Sima Yi, with his far superior force. As a final ploy, he ordered his trusted generals to fake a statue of himself to scare off Sima Yi in order to buy time for the Shu army to retreat to Hanzhong.

Sima family controls Wei

The long years of battle between Shu and Wei saw many changes in the ruling Cao family in Wei. The Cao family gradually grew weak after the death of Cao Rui and Sima Yi slowly plotted to usurp the throne. Sima Yi removed Cao Shuang, a powerful noble of Wei from power with a cunning strategy and since then the power of Wei had been in the hands of Sima Yi. After Sima Yis death, his sons Sima Shi and Sima Zhao continued wielding the power of Wei in their hands. Sima Zhao had Cao Fang removed from the throne and replaced Cao Fang with Cao Mao. Later, Cao Mao tried to assassinate Sima Zhao, who had the intention of usurping the throne, but was killed by Sima Zhaos subordinate. Sima Zhao pretended to grieve and mourn Cao Maos death and even later had his subordinate, whom he ordered to kill Cao Mao, executed for committing regicide.

End of the Three Kingdoms

Jiang Wei carried on Zhuge Liangs campaign against Wei for a bitter three decades. However, Liu Beis son Liu Shan did not heed Jiang Weis advice and listened to the evil eunuch Huang Hao instead. In order to escape from the rival officials in the court, Jiang Wei decided to resign from his military title for the time being and went off to a fertile land of Tazhong. The Wei general Deng Ai, who was at war with Jiang Wei, took the chance to attack Shu Han. Deng Ai and his troops arrived in front of Chengdu, the capital city of Shu-Han, by taking a shortcut. Liu Shan surrendered without a battle and ended the Kingdom of Shu-Han. Jiang Wei planned to rebuild Shu-Han by uniting forces with a Wei general, Zhong Hui, who was at odds with Deng Ai. However, he was not able to see it to the end when his heartache grew intolerable in the midst of the final battle. Seeing the rebellion has failed, he then killed himself with a sword, marking the last stand of Shu.

In Eastern Wu, there was internal conflict among the nobles ever since the death of Sun Quan. Zhuge Ke tried to usurp the throne of Eastern Wu but was assassinated by Sun Lin. Later, Sun Lin himself also lusted for power and had the emperor of Eastern Wu Sun Liang deposed and replaced with Sun Xiu. Sun Xiu sought help from the old veteran general Ding Feng and had Sun Lin assassinated, and the power of Eastern Wu went back into the hands of the emperor. This did not last for long.

In Wei, Sima Yan, son of Sima Zhao, finally forced the last Wei emperor Cao Huan to abdicate in the same manner as Cao Pi had forced Emperor Xian of Han to abdicate. Sima Yan established the Jin Dynasty in AD 265, declaring himself the first emperor of the new dynasty. The Kingdom of Wei came to an end.

Sima Yan ordered the Jin troops to attack Eastern Wu from the former land of Shu-Han and succeeded in conquering Eastern Wu after a long period of struggle when the last tyrannical emperor of Eastern Wu, Sun Hao surrendered. Thus the Three Kingdoms period concluded after almost a century of civil strife.

Lesson 8    36 Strategies of Ancient China - Sanguo

36 Strategies of Ancient China - from San guo yan yi

"The Thirty-Six Strategies" is a a Chinese collection of 36 proverbs commented as militaristic tactics.

Often attributed to Sun Tzu, this is generally rejected by scholars since Sun Tzu lived during the Spring and Autumn Period of China.

It is believed by many to have been written by Zhuge Liang of the Three Kingdoms period.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a book with a long and impressive history. Nevertheless, this novel concerning the history of 1800 years ago is still acknowledged as a literary masterpiece today.

The novel (San Guo Yan Yi) covers one hundred and thirteen years of Chinese history, starting in 168 A.D. and ending with the reunification of the land in 280 A.D.

Three Kingdoms describes a fascinating dynastic-cycle: the fall of the Han Dynasty under Emperor Ling due to the Yellow Scarves rebellion, the division of the Empire into the three kingdoms Shu, Wei, and Wu and the reunification of the empire by the Jin Dynasty.

Regarding this novel and another Chinese classic Water Margin, there is a popular saying in China that goes: "少不讀水滸, 老不讀三國", translated as "The young shouldn't read Water Margin while the old shouldn't read The Three Kingdoms." The former depicts the lives of outlaws and their defiance with the established social system. Depicting frequent violence, brawls, passionate brotherhood and an emphasis on machismo, it could easily have a negative influence on young boys. The latter presents all kinds of sophisticated stratagems, deceptions, frauds, trickeries, traps and snares employed by the three kingdoms and their individual characters to compete with each other, which might tempt the experienced old readers (the elderly are traditionally well respected, trusted and considered wise and kindhearted in Chinese society) to use them to harm other people. Also, old people are supposed to "know the will of the heavens" (says Confucius). They shouldn't exhaust or strain themselves with always having to consider how to deceive others.

Content taken from Thirty-Six Strategies - Wikisource

Chapter 1 - Winning Strategies

Strategy 1 "瞒天过海" (Man tian guo hai) - Deceive the sky to cross the ocean.

o    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 "围魏救赵" (Wei wei jiu zhao) - Surround Wei to rescue Zhao.

o    When the enemy is too strong to attack directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that in all things he cannot be superior. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.

o    In other words, you may try to attack the relatives or dear ones of the enemy to weaken him psychologically.

Strategy 3 "借刀杀人"( Jie dao sha ren)  - Borrow one's hand to kill. (Kill with a borrowed knife.)

o    Attack using the strength of another (because of lack of strength or do not want to use own strength). Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to turn traitor, or use the enemy's own strength against him.

Strategy 4 "以逸待劳" (yi yi dai lao) - Make your enemy tire himself out while conserving energy.

o    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 his energy in futile quests while you conserve your strength. When he is exhausted and confused, you attack with energy and purpose.

Strategy 5 "趁火打劫"  (Chen huo da jie) Use the opportunity of fire to rob others. (Loot a burning house.)

o    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 "声东击西" ( sheng dong ji xi) - Feign an attack in the east and attack in the west.

o    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.

Chapter 2 - Enemy Dealing/ Confrontation Strategies

Strategy 7 "无中生有" ( Wu Zhong Sheng You)- Create something from nothing.

o    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 his guard down.

Strategy 8 "暗渡陈仓"( An Du Chen Cang) - Secretly utilize the Chen Chang passage. (Repair the highway to take the crude path.) e.g., the Allied invasion of Normandy and the Pas de Calais deception.

o    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.

Strategy 9 "隔岸观火" (Ge An Guan Huo) - Watch the fires burning across the river.

o    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 pieces.

Strategy 10 "笑里藏刀" (Xiao Li Cang Dao)- Knife sheathed in a smile.

o    Charm and ingratiate yourself to your enemy. When you have gained his trust, you move against him in secret

Strategy 11 "李代桃僵" (Li Dai Tao Jiang)- Plum tree sacrifices for the peach tree. (Sacrifice the silver to keep the gold.)

o    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 "顺手牵羊" (Shun Shou Qian Yang) Stealing a goat along the way (Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat.)

o    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.

Chapter 3 - Attacking Strategies

Strategy 13 "打草惊蛇" (Da Cao Jing  She)  Startle the snake by hitting the grass around it.

o    When you cannot detect the opponent's plans launch a direct, but brief, attack and observe your opponent reactions. His behavior will reveal his strategy.

Strategy 14 "借尸还魂" (Jie Shi huan hun) Borrow another's corpse to resurrect the soul. (Raise a corpse from the dead.)

o    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 "调虎离山" ( Diao  Hu Li Shan) Entice the tiger to leave its mountain lair.

o    Never directly attack an opponent whose advantage is derived from its position. Instead lure him away from his position thus separating him from his source of strength.

Strategy 16 "欲擒姑纵" ( Yu Qin Gu Zong) In order to capture, one must let loose.

o    Cornered prey will often mount a final desperate attack. To prevent this you let the enemy believe he still has a chance for freedom. His will to fight is thus dampened by his desire to escape. When in the end the freedom is proven a falsehood the enemy's morale will be defeated and he will surrender without a fight.


Strategy 17 "抛砖引玉" (Pao Zhuan Yin Yu) Tossing out a brick to get a jade

o    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 "擒贼擒王" ( Qin Zei Qin Wang)Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief.

o    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.

Chapter 4 - Chaos Strategies In Confused Situations

Strategy 19 "釜底抽薪" (Fu Di Chou Xin) Remove the firewood under the cooking pot. (Remove the stick from the axe.)

o    When faced with an enemy too powerful to engage directly you must first weaken him by undermining his foundation and attacking his source of power.

Strategy 20 "混水摸鱼" (Hun Shui Mo Yu)  Fish in disturbed waters.

o    Before engaging your enemy's forces create confusion to weaken his perception and judgment. Do something unusual, strange, and unexpected as this will arouse the enemy's suspicion and disrupt his thinking. A distracted enemy is thus more vulnerable.

Strategy 21 "金蝉脱壳" (Jin Chan Tuo Qiao) Slough off the cicada's shell. (False appearances mislead the enemy.)

o    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 presence.

Strategy 22 "关门捉贼" ( Guan Men Zhuo Zei) Shut the door to catch the thief.

o    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 "远交近攻" (Yuan Jiao Jin Gong) Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbor.

o    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 "假道伐虢" (Jia Dao  Fa Guo)  Obtain safe passage to conquer the Kingdom of Guo.

o    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.

Chapter 5 - Proximate Strategies Gaining Grounds

Strategy 25 "偷梁换柱" -  (Tuo Liang Huan Zhu) Replace the beams with rotten timbers.

o    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 "指桑骂槐" ( Zhi Sang Ma Huai ) Point at the mulberry and curse the locust.

o    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 "假痴不癫" ( Jia  Chi Bu Dian) Pretend to be a pig in order to eat the tiger. (Play dumb.)

o    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, he drops his guard. Then you may attack.

Strategy 28 "上屋抽梯" ( Shang Wu Chou Ti) Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof (Cross the river and destroy the bridge.)

o    With baits and deceptions lure your enemy into treacherous terrain. Then cut off his lines of communication and avenue of escape. To save himself he must fight both your own forces and the elements of nature.

Strategy 29 "树上开花" ( Shu Shang Kai Hua) Deck the tree with false blossoms.

o    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 appear useful.

Strategy 30 "反客为主" ( Fan Ke Wei Zhu) Make the host and the guest exchange places.

o    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 his weakness and then, when the enemy's guard is relaxed, strike directly at the source of his strength.

Chapter 6 - Defeat Strategies Desperate Straits

Strategy 31 "美人计" ( Mei Ren Ji) The beauty trap. (The tender trap, use a woman to ensnare a man.)

o    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 exacberating the situation.

Strategy 32 "空城计" (Kong Cheng Ji) Empty fort. (Mental trap, empty a fort to make enemy think it is filled with traps.)

o    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 he will be dissuaded from attacking.

Strategy 33 "反间计" ( Fan Jian Ji) Let the enemy's spy sow discord in the enemy camp. (Use enemy's own spy to spread false information.)

o    Undermine your enemy's ability to fight by allowing enemy's spy to remain within your ranks,while you feed false information causing enemy discord with his friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population. Preoccupied settling internal disputes, your enemy's ability to attack or defend is compromised and your control of him is increased.

Strategy 34 "苦肉计" (Ku Ruo Ji) Inflict injury on one's self to win the enemy's trust. (Fall into a trap; become baited.)

o    Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he 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 "连环计" (Lian Huan Ji) Chain together the enemy's ships. (Never rely on but a single strategy.)

o    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.

The 36th strategy "走为上" (Zuo Wei Shang) Run away to fight another day.

o    If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat then retreat and regroup. When your side is losing there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape. Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat. As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance.




Translation Chinese Interpretation
The relationship between a husband and a wife is like a garment; if a garment is torn, it can be mended. The relationship between two brothers is like a limb; if a limb is broken, it cannot be repaired. 夫妻如衣服, 兄弟如手足 It is much easier for husband and wife to make up after a quarrel than it is for two brothers.

Some Chinese people also interpret this phrase to mean

A wife can be changed, like laundry, but friendship can never be replaced

Liu Bei "borrows" Jingzhou borrowing without returning. 劉備借荊州有借無還 There are people who borrow but never return what they borrowed, so be wary of them.
Speak of 'Cao Cao' and Cao Cao arrives. 說曹操,曹操到



equivalent to "speak of the devil" in English when a person under discussion suddenly appears
Three reeking tanners (are enough to) overcome one Zhuge Liang. 三個臭皮匠, 勝過一個諸葛亮

or more colloquially,

三個臭皮匠, 賽過一個諸葛亮

When together, three incapable persons will always overpower one capable person
Losing your wife and your army. 賠了夫人又折兵 In reference to Lady Sun leaving for Liu Bei. Representing a bad deal in which a person loses on both sides of the deal.
East Wu arranges for a marriage, turning fake into real 東吳招親弄假成真 Refers to planning something that is intended to be fake, but becomes real.


Lesson 9   TBA    




Lesson 10   TBA