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The Thirty-Six Stratagems

Book Description

The 36 Stratagems is a Chinese essay used to illustrate a series of stratagems used in politics and in war, as well as in civilian life, often through unorthodox means. Approximately 300 years ago an unknown scholar compiled the stratagems, a strangely seductive meditation on deception. The stratagems are ordered in categories according to your current position. 'Advantageous Stratagems', 'Opportunistic Stratagems' and 'Attacking Stratagems' are used when you are in a winning situation. 'Confusion Stratagems', 'Deception Stratagems' and 'Desperate Stratagems' are used when you are in a disadvantageous or losing situation. These strategems can be combined in various ways as they are not intended to be used alone, nor are they only applicable in purely a winning or purely a losing situation. So how can the three hundred year old ideas of an unknown Chinese scholar provide help with the strategic challenges we face today? In this brilliant interpretation, this ancient text is transformed into a practical guide for the 21st century business executive or politician. By interpreting the lessons of The 36 Stratagems this handy, authentic, realistic approach shows how we can defeat the opponents we face in our business and personal lives. But beware: there is no 'win win' scenario in The 36 Stratagems. Winner takes all!

Table of Contents

  1. Stratagems for when you are winning
    1. Stratagems for advantageous situations
      1. 1. Sneak across the ocean in broad daylight
      2. 2. Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào
      3. 3. Kill with a borrowed knife
      4. 4. Wait at leisure while the enemy labours
      5. 5. Loot a burning house
      6. 6. Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west
    2. Stratagems for opportunistic situations
      1. 7. Create something from nothing
      2. 8. Openly repair the gallery roads, but sneak through the passage of Chencang
      3. 9. Watch the fires burning across the river
      4. 10. Hide a knife behind a smile
      5. 11. Sacrifice the plum tree to preserve the peach tree
      6. 12. Take the opportunity to pilfer a goat
    3. Stratagems for attacking situations
      1. 13. Stomp the grass to scare the snake
      2. 14. Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul
      3. 15. Entice the tiger to leave its mountain lair
      4. 16. In order to capture, one must let loose
      5. 17. Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem
      6. 18. Defeat the enemy by capturing their chief
  2. Stratagems for when you are losing
    1. Stratagems for confused situations
      1. 19. Remove the firewood from under the pot
      2. 20. Disturb the water and catch a fish
      3. 21. Slough off the cicada’s golden shell
      4. 22. Shut the door to catch the thief
      5. 23. Befriend a distant state while attacking a neighbour
      6. 24. Obtain safe passage to conquer the state of Guo
    2. Stratagems for deception situations
      1. 25. Replace the beams with rotten timbers
      2. 26. Point at the mulberry tree while cursing the locust tree
      3. 27. Feign madness but keep your balance
      4. 28. Remove the ladder when the enemy has ascended to the roof
      5. 29. Deck the tree with false blossoms
      6. 30. Make the host and the guest exchange roles
    3. Stratagems for desperate situations
      1. 31. The beauty trap
      2. 32. The empty fort strategy
      3. 33. Let the enemy’s own spy sow discord in the enemy camp
      4. 34. Inflict injury on oneself to win the enemy’s trust
      5. 35. Chain stratagems
      6. 36. If all else fails, retreat
  3. Appendices