During China’s Three Kingdoms period there was a brilliant general and master strategist of Shu Han named Chuko “Sleeping Dragon” Liang. During the War of the Three Kingdoms, he had sent a majority of his soldiers many miles away before he was alerted that an opposing army of 150,000 was headed towards the small town they were in. With no more than 100 soldiers left to defend him, he came up with a plan that required both luck and his reputation to pull off.
He ordered his men to remove their flags, open all the gates, and hide. He then took a seat upon the towns city wall with nothing more than the robe he was wearing and a lute. He began to play the lute and chant while the enemy forces approached. As Sima Yi arrived at the gates, he immediately stopped his army and studied Chuko as he pretended not to notice them and continued playing the lute. Having fallen victim to Chuko’s clever tricks before, Sima Yi was convinced it was a trap. Not willing to take any risks, order his army into a hasty retreat.
Chuko Liang was a strong believer in the Confucian ethics of Hsun Tzu, the military philosopher. Hsun Tzu believed that deception is unworthy of the battlefield. Because Sima Yi knew this, and was familiar with Chuko’s clever tactics he found the event to be too great a risk.
One of the most important morals of this story is that a bluff should only be used in the most dire and extreme circumstances. It’s never a good idea to show your opponent that you often go out on limbs in pursuit of victories. Instead let them see that you never take a risk you aren’t able to back up. A lie is always more powerful coming from someone who never tells them rather than always tells them. It isn’t wrong to lie, but it is wrong to over use your lies.