This is the story of the Secret of the Three Kingdoms that earned one of China’s legendary general the name of the “Sleeping Dragon”.
During China’s War of the Three Kingdoms (A.D. 207 -265), the great general Zhuge Liang also known as Chuko Liang, leading the forces of the Shu Kingdom, dispatched his vast army to a distant camp while he rested in a small town with a handful of soldiers. Suddenly sentinels hurried in with the alarming news that an enemy force of over 150,000 troops under Sima Yi was approaching. With only a hundred men to defend him, Zhuge Liang’s situation was hopeless. The enemy would finally capture this renowned leader.
Without lamenting his fate, or wasting time trying to figure out how he had been caught, Liang ordered his troops to take down their flags, throw open the city gates, and hide. He himself then took a seat on the most visible part of the city’s wall, wearing a Taoist robe. He lit some incense, strummed his lute, and began to chant. Minutes later he could see the vast enemy army approaching, an endless phalanx of soldiers. Pretending not to notice them, he continued to sing and play the lute.
Soon the army stood at the town gates. At its head was Sima Yi, who instantly recognised the man on the wall.
Even so, as his soldiers itched to enter the unguarded town through its open gates, Sima Yi hesitated, held them back, and studied Liang on the wall. Then, he ordered an immediate and speedy retreat.
The Sleeping Dragon
This is the Secret of the Three Kingdoms and it earned Zhuge Liang the name “Sleeping Dragon”. His exploits in the War of the Three Kingdoms were legendary. Once a man claiming to be a disaffected enemy lieutenant came to his camp, offering help and information. Liang instantly recognised the situation as a setup; this man was a false deserter, and should be beheaded. At the last minute, though, as the axe was about to fall, Liang stopped the execution and offered to spare the man’s life if he agreed to become a double agent. Grateful and terrified, the man agreed, and began supplying false information to the enemy. Liang won battle after battle.
On another occasion Liang stole a military seal and created false documents dispatching his enemy’s troops to distant locations. Once the troops had dispersed, he was able to capture three cities, so that he controlled an entire corridor of enemy’s kingdom. He also once tricked the enemy into believing one of its best generals was a traitor, forcing the man to escape and join forces with Liang. The Sleeping Dragon carefully cultivated his reputation of being the cleverest man in China, one who always had a trick up his sleeve. As powerful as any weapon, this reputation struck fear into his enemy.
Sima Yi had fought against Zhuge Liang dozens of time and knew him well. When he came on the empty city, with Liang playing on the wall, he was stunned. The Taoist robes, the chanting, the incense – this had to be a game of intimidation. The man was obviously taunting him, daring him to walk into a trap. The game was so obvious that for one moment it crossed Yi’s mind that Liang actually was alone, and desperate. But so great was his fear of Liang that he dared not risk finding out. Such is the power of reputation. It can put a vast army on the defensive, even force them into retreat, without a single arrow being fired.
For, as Cicero says, even those who argue against fame still want the books they write against it to bear their name in the title and hope to become famous for despising it. Everything else is subject to barter: we will let our friends have our goods and our lives if need be; but a case of sharing our fame and making someone else the gift of our reputation is hardly to be found.
– Montaigue, 1533-1592
This is the 5th Law of Power: SO MUCH DEPENDS ON REPUTATION – GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE
Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.
Read all the 48 Laws of Power distilled from three thousand years of history of power by Robert Greene in his book of the same name. It outlines the laws of power in their unvarnished essence, synthesizing the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun-tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, and other great thinkers. These laws will fascinate any reader interested in gaining, observing or defending against ultimate control.