(6)Three Strategies of Huang Shigong
The Three Strategies of Huang Shigong is a text on military strategy that was historically associated with the Han dynasty general Zhang Liang. The text's literal name is "the Three Strategies of the Duke of Yellow Rock", based on the traditional account of the book's transmission to Zhang. Modern scholars note the similarity between its philosophy and the philosophy of Huang-Lao Daoism.
As its title would suggest, the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong is organized into three sections, which can be interpreted as a hierarchy of importance or as simple indicators of position in the work. The work itself states that all three types of strategy are necessary for different styles of government. Much of the work is concerned with administrative control, but some important tactical concepts are also developed. Generals are placed in a high position, and must be unquestioned once they assume command. Attacks should be swift and decisive.
There are three points which should be mastered:
- Alternate hard and soft approaches. This means a leader must be both benevolent and awe-inspiring according to what is appropriate. This links to the second principle-
- Act according to the actual circumstances. Avoid responses which are based on imagination, memory of the past, or habits acquired in other circumstances. You must rely only on observation and perception and be willing to modify plans at any time.
- Employ only the capable. This requires an accurate insight into others.
Each of these principles have deep and various implications.
The sections of the Three Strategies which directly discuss military strategy and tactics emphasize quality generalship, swiftness, authority, the integration and balance of available forces, and the relationship between hard and soft tactics. The text supports the view that, once a general assumes command, his authority must be absolute. The commander must be emotionally controlled and never display doubt or indecision. He should be receptive to advice and constructive criticism, but his decisions must ultimately be unquestioned.
The text agrees with Sun Tzu's Art of War, arguing that speed must be emphasized in military engagements, and that long, indecisive wars of attrition must be avoided. Secrecy, unity, and righteousness must characterize the commander's decisions. Public doubts, internal dissention, divination, or anything else that would slow an army or weaken its collective commitment must never be permitted.
The general must cultivate his sense of awesomeness by rigorously, severely, and systematically employing a well-known, public system of rewards and punishments. It is only when such a system is unquestioned that the commander's awesomeness and majesty will be established. Without a system of rewards and punishments, the commander will lose the allegiance of his men, and his orders will be publicly ignored and disparaged.
The author confirms the Daoist belief that the soft and weak can overcome the hard and strong, and extends this belief to military strategy and tactics. The Three Strategies teaches that an army must adopt a low, passive posture when not directly engaged in action, in order to prevent becoming brittle, exposed, and easily overcome. The text assumes that the employment of both hard and soft tactics must be utilized by a successful army, in order to achieve the desired levels of unpredictability and flexible deployment.
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