Iraq Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

A detail of a Chinese warrior from the Terracotta Army.         Source: Sam Steiner/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The Tactics of the Ancient Chinese (Video)

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The ancient Chinese were adept at employing cunning tactics, both on the battlefield and in political intrigue. In the realm of warfare, strategies like the "Empty Fort" gambit exemplified their ingenuity. This tactic involved feigning weakness by abandoning a seemingly undefended position to lure the enemy into a trap. Historical accounts, such as the one involving Cao Cao's successful use of this ploy against Lü Bu, highlight its effectiveness in misleading adversaries and turning the tide of battle.

Similarly, the tactic of "Borrowing Arrows with Straw Boats" showcased the Chinese knack for deception. Zhuge Liang's ingenious ruse during the Battle of the Red Cliffs demonstrated how misdirection and stealth could be leveraged to outmaneuver superior forces. By exploiting the enemy's fear and uncertainty, Zhuge Liang not only saved his own life but also gained a strategic advantage for his allies.

In politics, the manipulation of personal relationships and desires proved just as potent as military maneuvers. The story of Diaochan, though likely embellished, underscores the use of seduction and betrayal to sow discord among allies and undermine opponents. By exploiting Lü Bu's infatuation and Dong Zhuo's lust, Wang Yun orchestrated a sequence of events that ultimately led to the downfall of a tyrant.

Through these tactics, the ancient Chinese demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of human psychology and the art of deception. Their strategic acumen transcended mere brute force, emphasizing the importance of intelligence, patience, and calculated risk-taking in achieving victory.

Top image: A detail of a Chinese warrior from the Terracotta Army.         Source: Sam Steiner/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

Next article