In 206 B.C., Cao Cao (155-220), a great statesman, artist of war and man of letters, led his army to attack the city of Huguan. As the city was strategically located and very difficult to access, Cao’s army could not take it in spite of great efforts. Cao got extremely outraged and said, “Once I get into the city, I will have all those in it buried alive.”

Soon his words were spread throughout the city. As the defenders in the city feared that it would really happen to them, they waged a desperate resistance. As a result, Cao’s army found it even harder to win the battle. They made months of attempts to get in but in vain. Cao became more uneasy and consulted with his generals for a scheme.

At a meeting, General Cao Ren rose from his seat and said, “The art of war tells us that we should not put the enemy in too tight a ring, that the enemy should be left a way to survive. But now we have been trapping our enemy in a deadly corner. What’s more, you have declared to have them all buried alive. This will only make them battle desperately against us, for they would rather fight to death than be buried alive. As I estimate, the enemy has almost run out of supplies. If we now give them a ray of hope by leaving an open in the ring, they are very likely to surrender to us, for they would rather survive than fight to death for nothing.”

Cao Cao thought the idea quite sensible and ordered to do as the general said. As had been expected, the defending troops in the city soon crossed over to Cao’s side. The city was finally seized without a cruel fight.

Written by Ye Qinfa


Zhao Xixu. He was well respected and held in awe by the people of other countries as well as his own. One day, the king asked his ministers “I hear every state in the north is afraid of our minister Zhao Xixu, is that so?” At the question, almost all the ministers kept silent except one called Jiangyi, who liked to curry the king’s favor very much. He lost no time to seize the opportunity and said, “Your Majesty, you know, it’s you who people awe and respect, not him! Have you ever heard the story The Fox Borrows the Tiger’s Terror?” Well, here is the story.


One day a tiger was hunting around in a forest. An unlucky fox was met and caught by the tiger. For the fox, the inescapable fate was very clear — death. Despite the danger, the fox thought hard to find a way out. Promptly, the fox declared to the tiger, “How dare you kill me!” On hearing the words the tiger was surprised and asked for the reason” The fox raised his voice a bit higher and declared arrogantly: “To tell you the truth, it’s I who was accredited by God to the forest as the king of all the animals! If you kill me, that will be against the God’s will, you know?” Seeing that the tiger became suspicions, the fox added: “Let’s have a test. Let’s go through the forest. Follow me and you will see HOW THE ANIMALS ARE FRIGHTENED OF ME.”

The tiger agreed. So the fox walked ahead of the tiger proudly through the forest. As you can imagine, the animals, seeing the tiger behind, were all terribly frightened and ran away. Then the fox said proudly: “There is no doubt that what I said is true, isn’t it?” The tiger had nothing to say but to acknowledge the result. So the tiger nodded and said: “You are right. You are the king.”

When Minister Jiangyi finished the story above, he added to the king: “It seems as if the northern neighbors were afraid of Minister Zhao xixu. In fact, they are afraid of Your Majesty just as the animals were afraid of the tiger not of the fox.” The king was very pleased at Minister Jiangyi’s words. And never doubted its truth.

The idiom is often used to analogize with those who take advantage of one’s or somebody else’s power to bully people.

~Honor above all things~

(when I believe in something… I fight like hell for it!)
Steve McQueen
may your day be filled with strength