How the “Empty Fort Strategy” saved a town

How the "Empty Fort Strategy" saved a town
Why did this resourceful leader play 
music while a superior army advanced?

An episode from the 14th Century Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms:

The small town of Xixian (Xicheng) is storing grain for the troops, and there is only a small group of soldiers left to defend the town. They discover that a huge enemy force is approaching. The leader of the town, Zhuge Liang, realizes he cannot fight or flee, so based on his knowledge of the leader of the attack, he devises a deceptive ruse to save the town. This strategy, known as the Empty Fort Strategy, is found in the Chinese book Thirty-Six Stratagems and is one of the stratagems for desperate situations:

The Strategy of Open City Gates
When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretence of military preparedness and act casually. Unless the enemy has an accurate description of your situation this unusual behavior will arouse suspicions. With luck he will be dissuaded from attacking.

The clips dramatizing this incident are from the Chinese language TV series Three Kingdoms.

Three Kingdoms: Sima Yi vs. Zhuge Liang (Part 1/3)

Three Kingdoms: Sima Yi vs. Zhuge Liang (Part 2/3)

Three Kingdoms: Sima Yi vs. Zhuge Liang (Part 3/3)

– The Strategy of Open City Gates, Wengu>>
– Thirty-Six Strategies, Wengu>>
– Thirty-Six Stratagems, Wikipedia>>
– Empty Fort Strategy, Wikipedia>>
– Three Kingdoms, IMDB>>
– Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Three Kingdoms>>

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3 thoughts on “How the “Empty Fort Strategy” saved a town

  1. Hi Bob, I just want to know about the picture. It is free to use? No copy right issues? I would really appreciate, if you can give me the source of the painting. Thanks!

  2. Chathura:

    I try to give a source for everything I use, but I couldn’t find an artist for this work. It probably didn’t help me that most of the sites were in Chinese.

    I assume that the work is older, but truthfully I don’t know. I think I may have found it on an educational site.

    Your best bet is to save the image from this site and use Google’s image search to locate other sites that have the image, then translate to see if any list the artist. I tried this but most of the sites talked about the subject of the work and not the artist.

    Good luck!

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