Monday, August 18, 2008

The Way of the General - Part VII

Psychological Configurations

Some generals are brave and think lightly of death

Some are hasty and impulsive
Some are greedy and materialistic
Some are humane but lack endurance
Some are intelligent but timid
Some are intelligent but easygoing at heart

Those who are brave and think lightly of death are vulnerable to assault

Those who are hasty and impulsive are vulnerable to delay
Those who are greedy and materialistic are vulnerable to loss
Those who are humane but lack endurance are vulnerable to fatigue
Those who are intelligent but timid are vulnerable to pressure
Those who are intelligent but easygoing are vulnerable to sudden attack


Founder of the Wu Kingdom, Tiger of Jiang Dong
Sun Jian’s was Sun Quan's father and it was he who established the foundations of the Wu Kingdom. His personal bravery and resourcefulness placed him amongst one of the most influential men of his time. If it were not for Yuan Shu’s pettiness, Sun Jian would have certainly succeeded in crushing Dong Zhuo’s forces and restore the Han Empire to its’ former glory.

Some generals are brave and think lightly of death
Yet, what sort of general was he? His actions depict him as a brave, intelligent and persistent warrior. Yet, he was also somewhat reckless and hot-headed. At the Battle of River Si Pass, he failed to foresee the risk of a counter-attack by Dong Zhuo’s forces, resulting in the Coalition’s undoing. Although he survived, his recklessness would prove to be his Achilles' heel.

Those who are brave and think lightly of death are vulnerable to assault
In AD191, the Coalition had been disbanded and Dong Zhuo still terrorized the land. Sun Jian, who had retreated back to the Wu Kingdom, was instigated by Yuan Shu to attack Liu Biao in the Jing Province.

Liu Biao’s forces led by Huang Zu attempted to defend Jing at the banks of the River Han. However, they were no match for the Wu Navy and were pushed back all the way to Xiangyang. Liu Biao’s forces were surrounded by his enemy and they were in desperate straits. It was only a matter of time before their eventual defeat.

However, Liu Biao’s adviser, Kuai Liang proposed a cunning ruse to Lu Gong, a warrior of great strength, to save the city.

‘You will have five hundred soldiers: Choose good bowmen. Dash through the enemy's formation and make for Xian Hills. You will be pursued; but send a hundred soldiers up the hill to prepare large stones, and place a hundred archers in ambush in the woods. These are not to flee from the pursuers but to beguile them along devious ways round to the place where the boulders have been prepared. There stones will be rolled down and arrows shot. If you succeed, fire off a series of bombs as a signal, and the armies in the city will come out to help. If you are not pursued, get away as fast as possible. Tonight will be suitable as there is very little moon. Start at dusk.’

As foreshadowed, when Sun Jian heard news of Lu Gong’s squad attempting to escape, he pursued them furiously with merely thirty horsemen. Being reckless, he rode too far ahead of his escort. Goaded on by his enemies, he pursued them to Xian Hill, where he was ambushed by Lu Gong’s men and hit by several arrows and a huge stone crushing his head. His escort was also killed.

Lu Gong, then set off a series of bombs. Hearing this signal, Liu Biao’s forces led by Huang Zu, Kuai Yue and Cai Mao led their armies out and counter-attacked. With their commander dead, Sun Jian’s forces were in disarray and suffered huge losses.

Kuai Liang’s cunning ruse succeeded due to his understanding of Sun Jian’s psychological configuration. The death of Sun Jian was a great loss to the Wu Kingdom and it was fortunate that Sun Ce and Sun Quan proved worthy successors to inherit the mantle to the Wu Kingdom.

知己知彼 Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy
百战百胜 A Hundred Battles, A Hundred Victories
(In the book “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu)


Marketing Deviant

Sun Jian's death could had been easily avoided. His hastiness got the best of him.


That's true. Still, it's always easy to see the faults of others rather than the faults of our own.

Hopefully, we can understand ourselves better and avoid the mistakes made by leaders of the past.

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