back the fuck up
There’s another story that I like about a Chinese general who had to defend a city with only a handful of soldiers from a huge enemy horde that was in all likelihood going to steamroll the place flat within hours of showing up.
So when said horde did arrive, they saw the general sitting outside the city’s open gates, drinking tea. The horde sent a couple of emissaries over to see what was what, and the general greeted them cheerfully and invited them all to come and take tea with him.
The horde decided that this was a scenario that had “MASSIVE FUCKING TRAP” written all over it in beautiful calligraphy and promptly fucked off.
Whoever that general was, he was clearly the Ancient Chinese equivalent of Sam Vimes.
did he just invite us over for tea nah man i’m out
This just keeps getting better
I fucking love history.
ok but tbh that story misses a lot of the subtlety of the situation like ok
so this story is the Romance of Three Kingdoms, and essentially takes place between Zhuge Liang, resident tactician extraordinaire, and Sima Yi… OTHER resident tactician extraordinaire.
The two were both regarded as tactical geniuses and recognized the other as their rival. Zhuge Liang had a reputation for ambushing the SHIT out of his opponents and using the environment to his advantage, thus destroying large armies with a small number of men. Sima Yi (who kind of entered the picture later) was a cautious person whose speciality was unravelling his opponent’s plans before they began. So it was natural that the two would butt heads; however, since Sima Yi tended to have more men and resources, he started winning battles against the former. Which, y’know, kinda sucked.
On to the actual story: Zhuge Liang is all like “shit i gotta defend this city with like 10 men.” Literally if he fights ANY kind of battle here, he WILL lose; his only option for survival is not to fight. And that’s looking more and more impossible until he hears that his rival is leading the opposing army. And then he gets this brilliant idea. He basically opens all the gates, sends his men out in civilian clothes to sweep the streets, and sits on top of the gate drinking tea and chilling out and basically makes the whole thing out to be a trap
When Sima Yi comes he’s all like “yo come on in bro”
and Sima Yi is like “yeah he’s never been that obvious about his traps before. this is definitely a bluff” and he’s about to head in when he realizes
wait. he knows that i think he’s bluffing.
and so he gets it in his head that maybe, just MAYBE, Zhuge Liang has this cunning plan that will wipe out his army - recall that he has a pretty good handle on what his rival is capable of. And after a long period of deliberation (which is just like “he know that I know that he knows that etc.”), being the cautious man he is, SIma Yi eventually decides to turn his entire army around and leave.
Zhuge Liang later points out that the plan was based specifically on the fact that he was facing his rival; if it had been anyone else, there’s no way it would have worked. A dumber or less cautious person would have simply charged in and won without breaking a sweat.
and that’s the real genius here: it was a plan formed entirely just to deceive one man, and it worked.