The Enemy Speaks in Humble Terms

From The Art of War, translation by Samuel B. Griffith .

  • Dust spurting upward in high straight columns indicates the approach of chariots. When in hangs low and is widespread infantry is approaching.
  • When dust rises in scattered areas the enemy is bringing in firewood; when there are numerous small patches which seem to come and go he is encamping the army.
  • When the enemy’s envoys speak in humble terms, but he continues his preparations, he will advance.

Chan Yu: When T’ien Tan was defending Ch Mo the Yen general Ch’i Che surrounded it. T’ien Tan personally handled the spade and shared in the labour of the troops.

He sent his wives and concubines to enroll in the ranks and divided his own food to entertain his officers. he also sent women to the city walls to ask for terms of surrender. The Yen general was very pleased.

T’ien Tan also collected twenty-four thousand ounces of gold, and made the rich citizens send a letter to the Yen general which said: “The city is to be surrendered immediately. Our only wish is that you will not make our wives and concubines prisoners.”

The Yen army became increasingly relaxed and negligent and T’ien Tan sallied out of the city and inflicted a crushing defeat on them.