Aug 23, 2009

King Fisher Part IV - The Supreme Strategy

"If our military and political leaders had studied this work of genius, Wars would have been avoided - certainly they would not have been waged as they were waged, and the millions of youth obliterated unnecessarily and stupidly by monsters calling themselves generals and they would have lived out their lives."
~James Clavell (1924-1994)~

King Fisher Part IV – The Supreme Strategy

Fishing Philosophy

Now, first for some fishing philosophy,

When King Wen first met the Jiang Ziya (The Grand Duke) when he was fishing as relayed in Part I, in one of the conversation, King Wen ask Jiang Ziya: “Do you take pleasure in fishing?”
Jiang replied: “The true man of worth takes pleasure in attaining his ambitions, the common man takes pleasure in succeeding in his ordinary affairs and my fishing is very much like this.”

King Wen inquired: “What do you mean it is like this?”
Jiang responded: “In fishing there are three forms of authority: the rank of salaries, death and offices. (Fishing here is also the likeness of the Chinese word for weighing or balance as in the size of the bait the fisherman can entice bigger fish.) Fishing is the means to obtain what you seek. Its nature is deep, and from it much greater principles can be discerned.”

King Wen asked: “Can I hear about its nature?”
Jiang elaborated: “When the source is deep, the water flows actively, fish spawn there. This is nature. When the roots are deep, the tree is tall. When the tree is tall, fruit is produced. This is nature. When true men of worth have sympathies and views in common, they will be drawn together. When they are drawn together affairs arise. This is nature. (Note: When the world (nation) is in turmoil, True Men of Worth spontaneously gather together out of anger and sympathy for All under Heaven (All the People or Citizens), and thereon the enterprise of revolution may be born.)

In one of the conversation still on fishing the Duke said: “When the line is thin and the bait glittering, only small fish will eat it. When the line is heavier and the bait fragrant, medium size fish will eat it. But when the line is heavy and the bait generous, large fish will eat it. When the fish take the bait they will be caught on the line. When men take their salary they will submit to the ruler.

The Liu Tao is the lesser known literature of military strategy even in China as compared to the world renowned Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Sun Tzu’s Art of War is widely used in Japanese literature and a must have book for all executives and a compulsory subject of military studies. The Liu Tao is also considered to be a Military Classics from a revolutionary perspective because the ambition of the Zhou state was nothing less than a dynastic reformation and of implementing positive changes.

In ancient China the Liu Tao is highly regarded and revered by Emperors, Kings and Generals and is accordingly the founding book of strategy and the basis from all where other works were developed. These literature are highly kept secrets and not available to the common people but there were numerous stories where certain individuals have kept copies of all or part of and were pass on from generations to generations and as it was that Sun Bin (also a famous military writer) who is a descendant of Sun Tzu was in possession and a student of the Liu Tao.

The Tai Kung’s Liu Tao is a compilations of his discussions, advice and instructions with King Wen and King Wu of Zhou as even in those ancient years, the King’s court are highly organized and structured and all affairs of the court are recorded by administrative officials and even in war expedition, the general will lead with the support of administrative officers and others with numerous civil functions in support of the military and all affairs during the military expedition are recorded.

Today there are numerous version of the Liu Tao in print (mostly in Chinese and Japanese writings) with many interpretations and commentaries and generally most works are focus on translating the strategies into modern application as in the Sun Tzu’s Art of War. However for those who are familiar with the Art of War will find some similarities with the earlier work of Jiang Tai Kung’s Liu Tao. The Liu Tao is therefore a compilation of communications, political advice and tactical instructions during his time with the Zhou state and later organized into a complete book under six main volumes and in 64 chapters with over 20,000 words (Chinese characters), however today only 60 chapters are found and presented and it is the belief of this writer that there should be 64 chapters accordingly as with the 64 hexagram of the I Ching. And the missing four chapters are the Secret of the Secret Teachings.

In order for a clearer understanding of these military works, we will require greater depth and background, and in the environment of the original creator, and the analogy of the structure of the works. The consideration that the writing is based on the Tao will requisite that any interpretations of such works require some knowledge of the Tao and its philosophy so that the teachings could be learned and the thoughts could flow incessantly throughout, inquisitively and creatively in flexibility of adaptations to its application.

The Liu Tao is built up and organized into six progressive and related groupings in accordance to the structures of hexagrams of the I Ching. The Tao consist of a combination of Yang and Yin which represents the Hard and Soft, Male and Female, Light and Darkness and etc. Hexagram is a symbol that consists of a combination of six lines or of two trigram (Trigram is a symbol consisting of three lines) and every single line is either a yin or yang line. (A yang or solid line is a symbol of the Male principles and the yin or broken line is a symbol of the female principles). The hexagram is built up from the bottom and is the first line and a yang line.

The first volume representing the top line of a hexagram which is the sixth line and a yin line as the hexagram is built up from the base as the first line and a yang line is titled Civil Secret Teaching and representing the position of the Ruler, Emperor, and King of an Empire, Kingdom, or Country. This volume contains advice and teachings towards the political thought and philosophy required of the King that lays the solid foundation for a harmonious and prosperous empire. The art of identifying and recruiting talent and of talent management is highly emphasized in the Civil Secret Teaching.

Volume 2 of the Liu Tao titled Martial Secret Teaching, which occupies the second top line or the fifth line and a yang line of the hexagram which represents the Prime Minister and or Ministers and consists of strategies and philosophies for building an empire. The ultimate concept of winning a war without a single battle is highlighted in this chapter.

Volume 3 is the Dragon Secret Teaching, the fourth and yin line of the hexagram denotes the General, consist of the strategies and philosophies of leadership especially relating to the qualities of a military General.

Volume 4 is the Tiger Secret Teaching, the third and yang line of the hexagram of Military Support, which teaches of the creative and tactical approach to the support of the General in weaponry and equipments and the tactical principles of military maneuvers and expedition.

Volume 5 is the Leopard Secret Teachings, the second and yin line of the hexagram, which emphasizes the flexible strategy of defenses and attacking in a battle and the secrets or as one author puts it the “critical path” for complete execution.

Volume 6 is the Canine Secret Teaching and occupies the first or bottom line of the hexagram and is of the yang principle is about the training and employment of resources and the tactical usage of the component of the army in battle and contains knowledge of getting out of difficult situations.


The late James Clavell (1924 – 1994), the famous author and film producer and director of “To Sir With Love” fame starring Sidney Poiter, and best selling novels like “The Tai Pan”, “Shogun”, Noble House and many more has this to say about the Sun Tzu Art of War which was sent to him by his friend P.G. Williams and first read it in 1977 has this to say: “I am totally shocked as to how I could have miss such a book!” and added that this book has been a constant companion to him eversince.

“I believe, very much, that Sun Tzu’s knowledge is vital to our survival. It can give us the protection we need to watch our children grow in peace and thrive.” – James Clavell

I am sure that James would have been thrilled if he would have access to the works of The Grand Duke at that time.

Watch out for the final Part V - "The Quintessence of Strategy"
Note: Much of the writings here in Part IV are the findings of the writer and especially the subject of Background and Structure on the Liu Tao.

Read Part I HERE
Read Part II HERE
Read Part III HERE

No comments: