The Art of Strategic Brilliance: Unravelling the 36 Chinese Stratagems
Welcome to Corpus Mandarin Learning Platform! Today, we embark on a fascinating journey into the world of ancient Chinese strategies known as the ’36 Strategies’ (三十六计). Rooted in centuries of military, political and business contexts, these time-tested tactics offer valuable insights into the art of maneuvering through challenges and achieving success. First documented in Sun Tzu’s renowned book ‘The Art of War during the 5th century BCE, the 36 Strategies have since evolved and found their place in various other Chinese literature.
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Challenges
The 36 Strategies encompass a range of cunning and insightful tactics, each with its own distinct purpose and application. Although originating from military principles, their adaptability has made them relevant in various spheres of life, from business negotiations to personal interactions. As we explore these strategies, you will discover how they hold significance even in today’s dynamic and competitive world.
Let us explore a selection of the 36 Strategies to understand their essence and significance:
Stratagems When Commanding Superiority (Winning Strategies)
1. 瞒天过海 (Mán tiān guò hǎi) Deceive the Heavens and Cross the Ocean
Master the art of misdirection by masking your true intentions and goals, diverting attention from your actual objective.
2. 围魏救赵 (Wéi wèi jiù zhào) Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao
When confronted with a formidable opponent, target something they hold dear to force them to retreat and support their vulnerable positions.
3. 借刀杀人 (Jiè dāo shā rén) Kill With a Borrowed Knife
Achieve your objectives by using a third party or instigating discord among adversaries.
4. 以逸待劳 (Yǐ yì dài láo) Wait at Leisure While the Enemy Labors
Strategically prepare yourself while your competitors exhaust themselves in haste, creating an advantage for you to seize upon.
5. 趁火打劫 (Chèn huǒ dǎ jié) Loot a Burning House
Seize opportunities when adversaries face their own problems and distractions.
6. 声东击西 (Shēng dōng jī xī) Clamour in the East, Then Attack in the West
Divert your enemy’s attention to one direction while executing a surprise attack from another.
Stratagems for Confrontation (Enemy Dealing Strategies)
7. 无中生有 (Wú zhōng shēng yǒu) Create Something from Nothing
Harness the power of illusion and analogy to manipulate perceptions or deceive adversaries.
8. 暗度陈仓 (Àn dù chén cāng) Openly Repair the Walkway, but Sneak Through the Passage of Chencang
Use misdirection to deceive your opponents with an apparent approach while secretly implementing a more effective plan.
9. 隔岸观火 (Gé àn guān huǒ) Observe the Fire from the Opposite Shore or Sit on the Mountain and Watch the Tigers Fight
Let adversaries exhaust themselves in conflict before making a well-timed entrance to secure victory.
10. 笑里藏刀 (Xiào lǐ cáng dāo) Hide a Knife Behind a Smile
Win over adversaries with charm and camaraderie, then strike with a hidden agenda.
11. 李代桃僵 (Lǐ dài táo jiāng) Sacrifice the Plum Tree to Preserve the Peach Tree
Sacrifice short-term gains to achieve long-term objectives.
12. 顺手牵羊 (Shùn shǒu qiān yáng) Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat
Stay flexible and seize any advantageous opportunity that arises during your language-learning journey. Adaptability will help you make progress even in challenging situations.
Stratagems for Attack (Attack Strategies)
13. 打草惊蛇 (Dǎ cǎo jīng shé) Beat the Grass to Startle the Snake
Provoke reactions from adversaries to reveal their plans and positions. Language learners can apply this principle by initiating conversations to assess their proficiency and identify areas for improvement.
14. 借尸还魂 (Jiè shī huán hún) Borrow a Corpse to Resurrect the Soul
Revive forgotten methods, technologies, or traditions and reinterpret them to your advantage. In language learning, explore various resources and learning approaches to enhance your skills.
15. 调虎离山 (Diào hǔ lí shān) Lure the Tiger Down From the Mountain
Entice adversaries away from their positions of strength to weaken their defenses.
16. 欲擒故纵 (Yù qín gù zòng) To Catch Something, First Set It Free
Create the illusion of escape to observe your enemy’s actions and intentions.
17. 抛砖引玉 (Pāo zhuān yǐn yù) Toss Out a Brick to Obtain the Jade
Bait your adversary to elicit a response, then capitalize on the opportunity to gain something valuable.
18. 擒贼擒王 (Qín zéi qín wáng) To Defeat the Bandits, Capture Their Leader
Target the leader to disperse or weaken the enemy’s forces.
Stratagems for Confused Situations (Chaos Strategies)
19. 釜底抽薪 (Fǔ dǐ chōu xīn) Steal the Firewood from Under the Pot
Deprive adversaries of their key resources and assets to weaken their opposition.
20. 浑水摸鱼 (Hùn shuǐ mō yú) Stir Up the Waters to Catch a Fish
Create confusion to exploit advantageous opportunities.
21. 金蝉脱壳 (Jīn chán tuō qiào) Slough Off the Cicada’s Golden Shell
Adapt disguise and misdirection to achieve your goals.
22. 关门捉贼 (Guān mén zhuō zéi) Shut the Door to Catch the Thief
Cut off escape routes to prevent your adversaries from fleeing or retaliating effectively.
23. 远交近攻 (Yuǎn jiāo jìn gōng) Befriend a Distant State While Attacking a Neighbour
Form temporary alliances when facing stronger adversaries, and use the opportunity to advance your objectives.
24. 假途阀虢 (Jiǎ tú fá guó) Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the State of Guo
Manipulate relationships and alliances to create opportunities for conquest.
Stratagems for Gaining Ground (Proximate Strategies)
25. 偷梁换柱 (Tōu liáng huàn zhù) Replace the Beams with Rotten Timbers
Disrupt your adversary’s foundation and formations to weaken their position.
26. 指桑骂槐 (Zhǐ sāng mà huái) Point at the Mulberry Tree While Cursing the Locust
Employ analogy and innuendo to indirectly address issues without confrontation.
27. 假痴不癫 (Jiǎ chī bù diān) Feign Madness but Keep Your Balance
Use deception and misdirection to confuse adversaries about your intentions and motivations.
28. 上楼抽梯 (Shàng lóu chōu tī) Lure Them Onto the Roof, Then Take Away the Ladder
Bait adversaries into treacherous positions, then cut off their avenues of escape or support.
29. 虛張聲勢 (Xū zhāng shēng shì) Deck the Tree With False Blossoms
Create illusions and distractions to deceive adversaries and advance your objectives.
30. 反客为主(Fǎn kè wéi zhǔ) Exchange the Roles of Host and Guest
Subvert established hierarchies to gain influence and control.
Stratagems for Desperate Straits (Defeat Strategies)
31. 美人计 (Měi rén jì) The Beauty Trap
Influence your adversaries by exploiting their weaknesses or preoccupations.
32. 空城计 (Kōng chéng jì) The Empty Fort Strategy
Create the illusion of strength to deter adversaries, even when facing overwhelming odds.
33. 反间计 (Fǎn jiàn jì) Let the Enemy’s Own Spy Sow Discord in the Enemy Camp
Turn adversaries against each other by manipulating their intelligence-gathering efforts.
34. 苦肉计 (Kǔ ròu jì) Injure Yourself to Gain the Enemy’s Trust
Feign vulnerability to gain the trust of your adversaries, allowing you to exploit their weaknesses.
35. 连环计 (Lián huán jì) Chain Stratagems
Employ multiple strategies simultaneously or sequentially to achieve your goals.
36. 走為上策 (Zǒu wéi shàng cè) If All Else Fails, Retreat
Strategic retreat can provide opportunities for reassessment and regrouping.
Embracing the 36 Strategies in Modern Life
While the 36 Strategies may originate from ancient Chinese warfare, their versatility has enabled them to transcend time and find relevance in various areas:
Business and Negotiation: Employ strategic thinking and cunning approaches to gain a competitive edge in negotiations and market dynamics.
Leadership and Management: Learn to adapt and respond intelligently to ever-changing circumstances to lead your team to success.
Conflict Resolution: Discover methods to de-escalate conflicts and find mutually beneficial solutions.
Personal Development: Apply these strategies to enhance decision-making and problem-solving skills in your daily life.
Corpus Mandarin Learning Platform: Your Gateway to Chinese Culture
At Corpus Mandarin Learning Platform, we believe that language learning is not just about grammar and vocabulary; it’s a gateway to understanding cultures and histories. By immersing yourself in the rich tapestry of the Chinese language, you gain insights into ancient philosophies, like the 36 Strategies, which continue to influence Chinese thinking today.
Our platform offers a comprehensive and interactive approach to learning Mandarin, combining cutting-edge technology with expert educators to make your language-learning journey enjoyable and effective. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, Corpus Mandarin Learning Platform caters to all proficiency levels.
As you delve into the profound wisdom of the 36 Strategies, you’ll find that their enduring principles are as applicable today as they were centuries ago. Corpus Mandarin Learning Platform empowers you not only to master the Chinese language but also to embrace the essence of Chinese culture and history. Unlock the secrets of ancient Chinese strategies and let them guide you on your path to success in both personal and professional endeavours. Happy learning!
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