(excerpt from the book" 36 strategies of the chinese" by Wee Chow hou and Lan Luh Luh)
Historians today have still been unable to establish the exact time period and authors of the famous "Thirty-six Strategies". The most commonly used strategy, Strategy 26, "Escape - the best strategy" (三十六计, 走为上策), was first mentioned in "The Biography of Wang Jingze" (王敬则传) , a chapter appearing in Nan Qi Shu (南齐书) which writes that among "the thirty-six strategies of Master Tan, escape is the most supreme strategy" (檀公三十六策, 走为上计). The details of the escape of Master Tan or Tan Daoji (檀道济), a famous Song General, from the state of Wei was narrated in the 15th chapter of Nan Shi (南史), "The Biography of Tan Daoji" (檀道济传). The same phrase regarding the supremacy of the art of escape also appears in "Yuan Cai" (渊才), a chapter in The Night Tales of Leng Zhai (冷斋夜话). Judging from records, the "Thirty six Strategies" should have a history of near two thousand years.
Although the "Thirty-six Strategies" is a summary of some of the war strategies used by the ancient Chinese warriors, the name "Thirty-six Strategies" may have come from Yi Jing's (or I-Ching) (易经) "Yin Yang Theory" (阴阳学说) which uses the Tai Yin number of 66 (太阴六六之数) to mean "many tricks". The main statement which sums up the "Thirty-six Strategies" writes:
Six multiplied by six is 36. The word "calculation" (数) conceals another word, namely "strategy" (术). In the application of a strategy, careful calculation is required. Once one is able to calculate the pattern of how situations develop, he will find the required strategy. A strategy cannot be detached from an objective assessment of a situation. It cannot work by subjective imagination.
The stategist holds the key to the appropriate application of a strategy to each situation. As situations (like war conditions) change, so must the strategies. Thus, how well a strategist assesses a situation determines how good he is in applying the right strategy. The process is dynamic and the strategist is the guru. There is no single answer to any problem or situation; the answer depends on the strategists.
Classification of the 36 Strategies
Generally, the Thirty-six Strategies are grouped under 6 categories. Each category contains 6 strategies. The six categories in turn can be used in two types of situations. The three categories, the "Advantageous Strategies" (胜战计）, the "Opportunistic Strategies" (敌战计） and the "Offensive Strategies" (攻战计） are used in a winning situation. The other three categories, the "Confusion Strategies" (混战计）, the "Deception Strategies" (并战计） and the "Desperate Strategies" (败战计） are used in a disadvantageous situation. However, the application and usage of these strategies can be mingled in various combinations. They are not intended to be used singly, nor are they only applicable in either a winning or losing situation. The possible combination and application of these strategies are limited only by the imagination and creativity of the strategist.
Other than Strategy 36, nobody can be certain of the content of the other thirty-five strategies. The most commonly-used version is that by an Anonymous author. Nevertheless, over the years, these strategies have been commonly cited and used by many generals as well chinese businessman.
(to be continued..)
Edited by General_Zhaoyun, 21 April 2005 - 10:13 AM.