The “36 Stratagems of the Honorable Mr. Tan” is a collection of tactical and strategic principles from ancient China compiled by the military strategist Tan Daoji. These stratagems have been used throughout history in various fields such as politics, business, and the military, and continue to have an influence on modern Chinese culture and thought.
Cunning and Deception in Modern Storytelling
However, cunning and deception are not only important for military strategists, but also the salt in the soup of all authors. It’s not just about the all-encompassing final punchline, as movies like “The Usual Suspects” or “The Sixth Sense” have made them a success. Deceptions are used all the time to add zing to a story. Here are some modern examples from film and literature:
“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001): The movie is about a plan to pull off a heist at three Las Vegas casinos. The group of robbers deceives the casino owner and the head of security to gain access to the casinos and eventually get away with the theft.
“The Hunger Games” (2012): In the book and movie, protagonist Katniss Everdeen must outwit the Panem government to save her sister from participating in the Hunger Games. She tricks the government by volunteering for the games instead of her sister, and only through strategy and cunning can she eventually win the games.
“Breaking Bad” (2008-2013): The TV series is about a chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with cancer, decides to manufacture crystal meth to provide financial security for his family. He has to hide from the police and other drug cartels and keeps fooling them in order to survive.
The 36 stratagems in “Game of Thrones”
The hit series “Game of Thrones” offers many examples of different tactics from the “36 Stratagems.” The series is based on the novels by George R. R. Martin and is about different noble houses fighting for the throne of Westeros. The characters use a variety of tactics and stratagems to achieve their goals and defeat their opponents. Some examples of stratagems from “Game of Thrones” are:
“Let the enemy run into the void” (stratagem 6): A tactic of making the enemy waste resources by pretending to be weaker than you actually are. In the series, Tyrion Lannister uses this tactic when he plans the defense of King’s Landing and tricks the enemy into wasting their resources by pretending their army is weaker than it actually is.
“Confuse the enemy to defeat him” (Stratagem 18): A tactic of confusing the enemy in order to defeat him. In the series, Littlefinger uses this tactic by spinning a plot against Ned Stark and causing him to lose his power.
“Use the enemy to defeat the enemy” (Stratagem 29): A tactic of getting the enemy to fight against itself. In the series, Daenerys Targaryen uses this tactic by getting the slaves of Meereen to fight against their own masters, thereby conquering the city.
These examples show how the “36 Stratagems” can also be applied in modern stories like “Game of Thrones.”
The list of the 36 stratagems
Here you have a list of the “36 Stratagems” in a modern translation. I’m not sure in how far it is congruent with more traditional translations that can be found on the net. My main purpose here is to give you a first impression. If you want to experiment with these stratagems yourself, you should delve a little deeper anyway.
- Deceive the emperor and cross the sea
- Split the enemy and strike one by one
- Attack the enemy when he retreats
- Attack a stake with a lance in your hand
- Light a fire on your own terrace to fight the enemy
- Let the enemy run into the void
- Cut a bridge with a knife after crossing it
- Pulling away a ladder after climbing to the roof
- Luring the enemy into a trap and attacking them
- Deceive the enemy with false information
- Bring down the wall to trap the king
- Stabbing the enemy with a straw
- Ride in a boat with the enemy and run up the stairs
- Set fire to the rebel’s ship to catch the fish
- Give a path to a tiger to lure it up the mountain
- Open one door to close another
- Walk with a sheepskin among the wolves
- Confuse the enemy to defeat him
- Set a trap to conquer the desert
- Cut the wax moon with a dagger
- Catch the crane with a bamboo stick
- Attack the tiger with a turtle
- Give a stirrup aid to kill the enemy
- Make the enemy sit on a high wall
- Break the bridge after the enemy has crossed it
- Using a stick in the forest to catch the monkey
- Break a rod to drive away the poisonous worm
- Taking a silk line to touch the enemy’s heart
- Using the enemy to defeat the enemy
- Fool an oak tree with a squirrel
- Taking a few steps back to take another step forward
- Leaving the horses and wagons behind to defeat the enemy
- Climbing the tree to catch the fish
- Playing with the enemy as if he is playing a harp
- Make the enemy build a bridgehead to destroy him
- Raise the white flag to buy time for retreat
If you still need a Writing Prompt, google one of the stratagems to learn a little more about it and then try to use that stratagem in a story. What strategy does your protagonist use to get his dream girl into bed? How can your protagonist win over her prince charming? Let your imagination run wild!
If you publish the resulting stories on the Internet, you can see how well the 36 stratagems work in literature from readers’ reactions. One of the best ways to test erotic stories on the web is probably https://www.literotica.com/. Feel free to leave a comment below this blog post if you publish a story based on one of the 36 stratagems.