Friday Sep 21, 2007


That sign reads, "Hermetically Swimming Unfishable Boating Dabbler Offender to bring (someone) to justice." No, I will not reveal the location of such literature master-piece. But whoever can decipher this please step forward. Chinese readers, no cheating.

Wednesday Oct 25, 2006

What is "site sponsor?"

Jeff Jackson, during his address to ERI, asked me, "What's the translation of site sponsor?" When met with silence, he asked, "How about God Father?"

That I knew. I blurted out, "教父."

Then I had doubts. When it was my time to go up the stage, I asked the audience for the proper translation.



Sunday Jun 04, 2006

Trick #7: Something out of nothing

Trick #7: 无中生有 (Wu Zhong Sheng You: Something out of nothing)

In Tang dynasty (唐朝), two warlords 安禄山 (An) and 史思明 (Shi) tried to topple the emperor. For a while, it appeared that they may be successful. During the war, they reached 雍丘 (YongQiu, in HeNan province) where General 张巡 (ZHANG Xun; 713~741) was defending. General Zhang commanded a troop of about 3,000 and Mr. Shi's commander, 令狐潮 (LING-HU Chao) had over 40,000. The siege was tight and General Zhang was running out of arrows. (Imagine Lord of the Rings movie.)

Zhang made few thousands mannequins with straws and lowered them off the wall during the night as if trying for a surprise attack. Ling-Hu's people noticed and showered those mannequins with ammunition. Zhang troops then harvested tens of thousands of arrows.

Few nights later, Zhang did the same. This time, General Ling-Hu would not bite.

Zhang did yet again. Ling-Hu simply laughed and went back to sleep. But this time, it was the real surprise attack. Zhang defeated Ling-Hu.

Each of the 36 tricks come with lessons.

  1. The key point is to fool the enemy first and use the same trick to fool them again.

  2. On the other side, complacency is the killer.

The story has a sad ending.

Few months later, General Ling-Hu came back again. General Zhang could not hold on and escaped to 睢阳 (ZhuiYang) where he fought until there were only 400 men left. When they ran out of food, they first killed all the animals and finally cannibalized. At the end, General Zhang's own wife was fed to the soldiers.

Eventually, Zhang was captured. Ling-Hu found he has no teeth left in the mouth. General Zhang said, "Whenever I thought of you traitors, I got so mad that each time I ground off few of my teeth." As he said that, blood came out of his mouth.

Ling-Hu tortured and killed General Zhang.

Eventually, An and Shi were defeated.

Saturday Apr 15, 2006

Trick #1: 瞞天過海

Everyone heard of Sun Tze, the Chinese strategist whose "Arts of War" was revered and studied by all military seniors and gaining popularity among business executives. The original text fits into mere 8 single-sided pages, yet the wisdom generated tomes of works that fill libraries.

As globalized Sun Tze has become, westerners do not seem to notice Chinese "street wisdom" for everyday lives. Hundreds of years ago, someone compiled the most useful 36 tricks to get out of troubles. These tricks are named and numbered. I grew up hearing about them and witnessing people using them. Chinese allude to them in everyday conversation.

When I visited National Museum recently, I found those beautifully thread-bond books in the sourvenir store. Among them a 3-book set of 36-tricks. Each one nicely illustrated and annotated with their origin and historical applications. I could not resist.

Trick #1: 瞞天過海 (Man Tian Guo Hai: Deceive the boss to get him what he wants)

Emperor 唐太宗 (Tang TaiZong 599~649: pictured, born 李世民 (LI ShiMin), was the 2nd emperor of the Tang dynasty. He was one of the best emperors in China history.) was determined to conquer Korea. When he reached, possibly, the Yellow Sea (Sea is hai in Chinese), he got cold-feet. He issued a mission-impossible order — the staff shall manage to cross the sea without him boarding any ship. The staff was very much stuck. The emperor (who is the son of God, symbolized as the sky, in Chinese "Tian") is not being reasonable but they cannot argue with him. They went to 薛仁貴 (XUE RenGui, famous general in Tang dynasty in charge of this "Korea project") and he quickly came up with a solution.

Next day, the staff presented the new agenda of the day. The emperor is to meet this old man who will fund part of the military expenses. When the emperor arrived, the old man greeted him in a big tent that was elaborated decorated and thickly carpeted. They talked, feasted, and enjoyed songs and dances. The emperor was well-entertained.

All of the sudden, there is an earth-quake. The tent shook violently and everyone panicked. The emperor ran out of the tent and found him in the middle of the sea. He was furiously deceived but also saw this is an ingenious solution.

Each of the 36 tricks come with lessons.

  1. If the staff needs to deceive you to meet your own objective, you, as the boss, should probably modify your style. Make sure you punish the staff. Otherwise, you will get to learn lession below.

  2. This trick weakens the boss. Sometimes, the staff will deceive you for their own gain, not for your objectives.

  3. Only the very confident staff can pull this trick. Although mission accomplished, the boss will be quite miffed afterward (see lession #1 above). It is a highly career-limiting maneuver.

  4. The deception itself is not the goal. Don't get caught up with that. Focus on crossing the sea.




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