36 Ji Introduction Table of content – Thirty-Six Strategies

A recently uncovered notebook of 36 proverbs commented as military tactics that helps dealing with conflicts. Tr. Verstappen (en), Doc Mac Jr (fr).

36ji VI. 36.

If All Else Fails Retreat

If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat then retreat and regroup.

Ming Dynasty China

The Ming emperor Hwei Ti, had disposed of all his uncles except one who feigned madness. (See chapter 27) This very uncle, the prince of Yan, in 1403 led a huge army to the capital of Nanking to seize the throne. The city was surrounded and the emperor considered committing suicide when he was stopped by a eunuch who told him that his grandfather, the emperor Hong Wu, had left a chest in his care with orders that should any great crisis occur to threaten the dynasty then the reigning emperor should open the chest.

"Let us open it at once then," said the emperor, "and see what my father would do were he here now." When the lid was lifted the box was found to contain the robes of a Buddhist monk, a diploma, a razor, and ten ingots of silver. The emperor understood the meaning at once and with a handful of attendants fled the palace through a secret tunnel to a Buddhist temple. There he shaved his head and put on the robes. He made his way out of the city and all the way to Sichuan province where he lived in obscurity in a remote monastery.

Meanwhile the palace had burned down during the fighting and it was assumed that the emperor had died in the fire. Forty years later during the rein of emperor Ying Tsung (the fourth since Hwei Ti's time) an old Buddhist priest arrived at court and claimed to be the old emperor Hwei Ti. It turned out the man was an imposter but a rumor began that Hwei Ti was still alive. To quell the rumors and settle the issue, an official investigation was made which discovered that Hwei Ti was indeed still alive living as a Buddhist priest. The old emperor was invited back to the capital with great ceremony and he lived out his last days as a guest in the palace. However, he was kept under a watchful eye.


« Courir est le meilleur choix »

Opte contre !
Choisis de ne pas participer,
de ne pas jouer le jeu que ton adversaire joue.

Eviter l'ennemi et préserver les hommes.

L'armée fait retraite. Pas de blâme*. Cela ne viole pas la pratique normale de la guerre.

Attaqué par un ennemi surpuissant, seules quatre alternatives s'offrent à vous :
- combattre jusqu'à la mort,
- négocier la paix avec l'ennemi,
- vous rendre,
- fuir.

Combattre jusqu'à la mort et vous rendre sont l'une et l'autre une défaite totale, et négocier signifie une demi-défaite. Fuir devient dès lors le meilleur choix. En évitant la défaite aujourd'hui, vous gagnez l'opportunité d'une victoire demain.

Une armée ne doit combattre qu'au bon moment, au bon endroit, et contre le bon adversaire. Les images conventionnelles de l'armée victorieuse allant de l'avant et de l'armée vaincue se repliant sont trompeuses car elles entretiennent le mythe de la retraite honteuse.

Comme l'indique le Yi Jing, la retraite, de même que l'avancée, sont des mouvements naturels lors de la guerre. Ainsi cette stratégie plaide pour l'adoption de la retraite comme meilleur plan lorsque la bataille doit être évitée.

Cf. Stratégie Vingt et Une.

* Issu du texte de l'hexagramme n°7 du Yi Jing : Shi (l'armée) (Cf. Stratégie Vingt-Six)... Ainsi une armée confrontée à un ennemi supérieur doit opérer une retraite ordonnée pour se préserver elle-même de la défaite. Agissant de la sorte, ce qui est conforme aux « lois de guerre », on peut éviter l'infortune qui résulterait d'un combat imprudent contre une puissance trop forte.

Doc Mac Jr

[Xref] Strategy 36 quotes I Ching hexagram 7 (fourth line)
gbog – Yijing 7 – 2005/12/02
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AliasThirty-Six Strategies, Thirty-Six Stratagems, Secret Art of War, Les 36 stratagèmes, Les Trente-six stratégies

The Book of Odes, The Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, Three-characters book, The Book of Changes, The Way and its Power, 300 Tang Poems, The Art of War, Thirty-Six Strategies
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