Tag Archives: strategy

With Lips Gone, Teeth are exposed to Cold

With Lips Gone, Teeth are exposed to Cold

(From: Spring and Autumn Annals)

 Re-written by BoSt


Long ago, Duke Xian of the state of Jin wished to expand his realm and power; the Duke hence, bade Xun Xi to launch an expedition against the powerful State of Guo. The great distance however was of some concern and the campaign’s success depended on traversing the State of Yu. At the time there was a tentative alliance with Yu so Duke Xian asked Xun Xi for his counsel on this matter.


“In order to secure Duke Yu’s promise to let our army pass …. Hmm…” Xun Xi remained hesitant for a moment, before resuming, “The surest way My Lord, would be to present Duke Yu with our Chuji Jade and good number of Quchan steeds.”

(Note: Xhuji in Xhanxi Province was famous at the time for producing excellent jade stones and Quxhan in Shanxi Province was renowned for its fine breed of horses.)


“Is there no other way?” The Duke Xian was displeased with the suggestion. “The stone is an inherited treasure and should remain so for the next generations. And the idea of losing my steeds to that loathsome, pompous Lord is quite unacceptable. “Duke Xian grumbled, “Perchance, what if Duke Yu accepted our gift but refused our request, what then?”

Xun Xi braved Lord’s fury with this quick riposte: “Well my Lord, if Lord Yu refuses the fine gifts, we can be certain of his veiled hostility and look elsewhere for the safe passage. If however, his Lordship does accept it, we’d only be allowing his Lordship temporary custody of the treasures. What is there to be worried about?”

Duke Xian nodded with approval and soon after sent Xun Xi to the State of Yu to negotiate the army’s safe passage.  


Xun Xi was quick to gain admittance to the Yu court.  He presented a splendid figure in his fineries holding the large precious stone before him.  Many courtiers gasped witnessing the magnificent steeds that were corralled into the courtyard, dazzling everyone. 

Duke Yu greedy for the fine gifts, was about to make the emissary of Jin Xun Xi a rash promise when one of his loyal subjects, Gong Ziyi, came forward to protest: “My Lord, I beg a private council with you, if you please.”

“What, now?” Duke Yu was annoyed.

“How preposterous an intrusion! Has propriety and good sense left Gong Ziyi” Many courtiers grumbled under their breath.

Nevertheless Guo Ziyi was a well respected, loyal minister and Lord Yu was bit intrigued. He signalled Guo to advance and gave him permission to speak his mind.

Guo Ziyi was most direct. “There shall be no promise of any kind, your Grace.” His strong, resounding voice simply ripped through the stone cold silence that had enveloped the court.

“What Yu is to Guo is like gums to the cheeks. Gums are closely related to cheeks and cheeks to gums; which is exactly the present situation of Yu in relation to Guo. As the old ancestral saying goes, ‘If the lips are gone, the teeth will be exposed to cold.’  The fact that Guo is able to exist depends on Yu while Yu’s ability to survive hinges on Guo.  This inter-dependency will be jeopardized, if we make way for Jin army, allowing Guo to perish.  Their demise will transpire in the morning to be followed by Yu in the evening.”


Guo again spoke in good strong voice: “Why should we ever let Jin pass?  Why seek a small gain, only to harm vital interests?”

Duke Yu, however refused to listen to reason and, blinded by greed, in the end still gave the Jin army convenient access to Guo.

Thus Xun Xi attacked Guo and conquered it, and on the way back attacked Yu and conquered it too.

Xun Xi then triumphantly returned to Jin. The jade and the horses were once again restored to Duke Xian who, greatly pleased, said in good humor: “The jade remains the same, but he horses have got some more teeth!”












The Warrior’s Way – Strategy One

The Warrior’s Way – Strategy One

An effective offensive has twin facets: the superficial and the underlying. By concealing both one can take the adversary completely by surprise. But such secrecy can seldom be attained; in fact it’s nearly impossible to keep an opponent entirely ignorant of one’s actions. Therefore the best way is to play tricks right under his nose and make the foe misinterpret your offensives till it’s too late for any retaliation. Remember also that familiar sights do not rouse suspicion. While you drive the opponent into fighting with shadows, seize the opportunity to mount a surprise attack to annihilate him.

A good defender, while concealed, assumes no posture and reveals no shape.  Being undetectable he gains the advantage of unlimited maneuvering and transformation.

A good assailant, when on the move, is so swift that the very moment a chance for attack is perceived, the intended enemy has no hope for defense.

Forming a Government

Forming a Government

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a very famous election pundit who was reported to have almost psychic abilities and could  accurately predict the future. So renowned was his ability that reporters from the farthest reaches of the country came to seek him out for his counsel.

It so happened that a minority government in this fairly opulent country had caused several elections in a very short span of time.  Now on the heels of yet another non- confidence vote, an election was being held.  The incumbent was fearful of minority government and fearful still of a coalition that would force another election. Among the countless politicians vying for the coveted position the three frontrunners found themselves to be campaigning in the pundit’s riding and decided to seek out his wisdom.  They scheduled separate appointments and at the appropriate time secretly called upon him to enquire which among them would be the successful candidate.  They were surprised to see each other there at the same time.  After exchanging wide- eyed glances the trio was met by an assistant and swiftly ushered into a musty, dimly lit room where a heavily carpeted floors, ancient tapestries and antique furniture along with wall-to-wall bookcases immediately intimidated any visitor.

The aged wise man seated by the cosy fire signalled for the trio to come forward and be seated before him.

The boldest one bowing his head slightly put the question forward in a respectful tone.

After a momentary pause he closed his eyes and silently pointed an index finger at the trio. The frontrunners were baffled by this gesture and exchanged quizzical looks. Then one of them, professing his ignorance, politely requested an explanation.

The pundit rose up in anger, “The will of the people cannot be any plainer.” He then exited the room in a huff.

Shaking their heads and somewhat miffed, the trio quietly left the premises.

That evening the assistant, no longer able to hold his query, asked, “Sir, which of the three will be the successful candidate?”

The pundit answered quietly: “The exact number is already known.”

“Does a single finger mean that only one of them will form the government?”


“But what if two of them are successful?”

“Then it means one of the three will fail.”

“And can all three of them be successful?”

“A single finger implies that all will succeed at one time or other.”

“And what if all of them fail to form a government?”

“My single finger means that not even one of them will be successful.”

The assistant quickly saw the point and said, “So this is Democratic Will!”

The Newly Elected Official

Newly Elected Official

An official on taking up his new post, asked his predecessor: “For efficiency sake, how should I proceed?”

The retiring official sporting a big smile, begrudgingly replied: “In your first year in office, act honestly and with decorum. Act in a semi-upright way and somewhat cautiously during the second and third year.  Then you can muddle along in the fourth and final year.”

The elected official heaved a deep sigh and shook his head. “How can I hold out until the fourth year?”

Two Tigers Fighting

Two Tigers Fighting

Once upon a time there were two powerful nations at war.

As each were equal in might the fierce continuous engagement had lasted for over two years wasting away manpower, arms and draining the treasury with neither of them gaining an advantage.

The long drawn out war presented certain advantages to an adjoining kingdom.  The Sovereign of this neighbouring country, was considering intervention to bolster his country’s prestige and might.  He called a war counsel and asked his ministers for their opinion. The ministers were divided; some claimed this was an opportunity that should not be missed, others claimed it would only draw their country into this never ending conflict and the losses would far outweigh any advantages. Only one junior minister, Roltan, had remained quiet on the subject.   After several hours of discussion the King, left with a serious quandary, dismissed the entire counsel, save for Roltan.

“You have abstained from voicing your opinion, any reason for that? “  The King addressed Roltan when the chamber had emptied.

“Your Majesty is most discerning, “Roltan begun with certain eloquence. “ Your Highness, if I may I be so bold as to relate a short story about what had happened to me once. When I was in my teens, to test my mettle, I had once undertaken to hunt a pair of Tigers that were terrorizing a village.

To lure the tigers to a trap, I had first tied an ox to the trunk of an ancient tree in a clearing just outside of the village perimeter.

When the tigers, as expected, descended upon the captive prey, I readied myself to strike.  Fortunately, I had with me a seasoned hunter, who quickly advised me to hold still. “Wait, he said. “ If you confront them now they will both attack you in unison. The beasts are just beginning to devour the ox. When they are halfway through, finding the meat rather savoury, they will fall into strife as they contend for the choices parts.  After the fray the smaller one will be bested while the big one will suffer injury.  Then you will easily finish them both and win certain fame for killing two tigers at once. “   Roltan paused, collecting his words before he spoke.” Never before has our Kingdom been in a more advantageous position to reach its true potential. “

The king eyed this young recruit with an appraising smile. It was in fact his secret ambition to ultimately subjugate these other kingdoms all under one rule, his rule.

Call a Stag a Horse

Call a Stag a Horse

Call a Stag a Horse

(Another story from Prickly)

Once upon a time there was an old kingdom that had for many years enjoyed the wise rule of its Sovereigns. There came an unfortunate period when a young weak Prince, not particularly adept at ruling, ascended the throne.  As it is with such rulers, a particularly power-hungry uncle became Regent to the new King and sought to seize power for himself before the boy King reached the age of maturity.  There remained one snag in his plan of usurpation however, as many of the senior ministers remained loyal to the old Dynasty and would mount an effective opposition.  To ensure his success the Uncle needed to ascertain with absolute confidence who among them were not his staunch supporters.

On the King’s birthday, last among many rare handsome gifts, the Uncle offered a very beautiful, white stag and said” Your Majesty, I’m privileged to also present this rare white stallion for your Highness’s riding pleasure.”

The King laughed good humouredly and said, “Your eyes must be failing you Uncle, for I see before me only a stag.”

At this point the Regent turned to address the many ministers that were present at Court, and with a grand gesture pointedly asked, “Good ministers, pray tell, is it a horse or a stag that you eyes behold?”

Some kept their silence, others, to please the Regent acceded readily that it was a beautiful white stallion. Proud but unwise ones protested haughtily that it was a stag and further grumbled under their breath that the Regent had gone a bit too far this time with this shameless posturing.

In the days that followed those loyal, steadfast ministers who had dared to speak the truth were one by one demoted, framed, besmirched or libelled.  Subsequently, all likely opponents were either publicly executed or quietly perished in the dungeons.

The young King, last of his line, was methodically driven to madness and then suicide, paving the way for the Uncle to seize the throne.

The Fox Assumes the Tiger’s Might


Prickly was a young cactus that lived in the vast garden of the desert. He spent most of his life in oblivious quiet while the seasons passed and the moon and the sun changed places in the infinite sky.  In the daylight hours the land baked under glorious heat. Occasionally however complaining winds laced the blue skies with clouds. The resulting life-giving water satiated the needs of the earth and all living creatures. When the Earth was cloaked in night the skies showed the brilliance of the stars like jewels accompanying the ever changing moon.

Then a strange thing happened, an odd thing, unbidden and without reason.

The little prickly cactus awoke one morning to find that he had full awareness and a terrible thirst for knowledge. But best of all, he was mobile. He had strange little projections where his roots used to be.  He was above ground and he could walk. He could go anywhere he wanted; the road ahead just beckoned him.

So without a moment’s hesitation he embarked on a life’s journey in search of that precious commodity: knowledge.

Here’s some of his accumulated lore and anecdotes, retold:


(Where would we all be without the support and backing of family, friends, organizations, nations etc?)

Once upon a time a mighty ferocious tiger caught a fox.  Pinning the poor creature under his paw, he opened wide his enormous maw to swallow his prey all in one gulp.

“Don’t you dare eat me,” shouted the desperate fox, mustering up all his courage. “God has made me king of all beasts, you will suffer most terrible consequences if you so brazenly defy The Almighty’s will!”

Seeing the tiger’s scepticism, fox insisted, “I have the proof.  Just let me lead the way and you follow close behind and note how every creature will flee at the sight of me.”

Curious, the Tiger gave his consent and the two of them set off together. True enough, when all the beasts saw them coming, they scattered, turned tail and ran. Not realizing that it was his own self that was the cause of this great panic, the tiger accepted the fox’s claim and let him go.