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Cao Gui’s Tactics on a Battle..........Zuo Qiuming

2023-03-24 16:54Source:Chinese Literature Translation







Cao Gui’s Tactics on a Battle

Zuo Qiuming

In the spring of the tenth year of the reign of Duke Zhuang of the State of Lu, the troops of the State of Qi attacked us the State of Lu. When Duke Zhuang of Lu was going to fight against Qi, Cao Gui asked Duke of Zhuang to receive him. One of his fellow countrymen said, “Wars are planned by those in power, so why should you get involved in it?” “Those in power are incompetent and do not have foresight,” said Cao Gui. With that, he went in to see Duke Zhuang and asked, “By what are you going to fight?” Duke Zhuang said, “We dare not enjoy such sustenance as food and clothing alone. We always share them with people.” “You cannot extend such little favors to all the people, so they won’t follow you,” replied Cao Gui. Duke Zhuang then said, “I never exaggerate the amount of sacrifices to the gods, such as cows, sheep, jade and silk. I always offer what I promised.” “It’s just a little credit,” said Cao Gui, “if you don’t convince the gods, they won’t protect you.” Duke Zhuang said, “Although we can’t thoroughly understand all the suits, we always handle them reasonably.” Cao Gui replied, “You’ve done your duty and you can fight the enemy. Please allow me to go with you when you fight.”

Duke Zhuang rode with him in a chariot and fought against the Qi army at Changshao. Duke Zhuang was going to give order to beat the drums and charge at the enemy. “Not yet,” Cao Gui said. When the Qi army had beaten drums three times, Cao Gui said, “It’s time.” The troops of Qi were routed. Duke Zhuang ordered his men to chase the Qi troops. “Not yet,” Cao Gui said. Then he went down and looked at the tracks left by the wheels of the Qi army. He got on again and looked over at the formation of the Qi army, holding the crossbar of the chariot. Then he said, "It is time.” They began to chase the Qi army.

After defeating the Qi army, Duke Zhuang asked him why he had done that. Cao Gui answered, “In battle, what counts is courage. The first bangs of drum can boost the soldiers’ spirits, but their spirits fell after the second bangs, and exhausted after the third. When their morale was gone, our army’s morale was high. That is why we defeated them. For a country as big as Qi, it is hard to predict the situation. I was afraid that they might set an ambush for us. When I saw their wheel tracks scattered and their flags fallen, I decided we could chase them.”

Translated by Jin Deming