Ts‘ao Ts‘ao’s courage and resource in ch. 1 of the San Kuo Chih, 武帝紀: In 198 A.D., he was besieging 張繡 Chang Hsiu in 穰 Jang, when 劉表 Liu Piao sent reinforcements with a view to cutting off Ts‘ao’s retreat. The latter was obliged to draw off his troops, only to ﬁnd himself hemmed in between two enemies, who were guarding each outlet of a narrow pass in which he had engaged himself. In this desperate plight Ts‘ao waited until nightfall, when he bored a tunnel into the mountain side and laid an ambush in it. Then he marched on with his baggage-train, and when it grew light, Chang Hsiu, finding that the bird had flown, pressed after him in hot pursuit. As soon as the whole army had passed by, the hidden troops fell on its rear, while Ts‘ao himself turned and met his pursuers in front, so that they were thrown into confusion and annihilated. Ts‘ao Ts‘ao said afterwards: 虜遏吾歸師而與吾死地戰吾是以知勝矣 “The brigands tried to check my army in its retreat and brought me to battle in a desperate position: hence I knew how to overcome them.”
36. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free.
This does not mean that the enemy is to be allowed to escape. The object, as Tu Mu puts it, is 示以生路令無必死之心 “to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his ﬁghting with the courage of despair.” Tu Mu adds pleasantly: 因而擊之 “After that, you may crush him.”
Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
For 迫, the T‘u Shu reads 追 “pursue.” Ch‘ên Hao quotes the saying: 鳥窮則搏獸窮則噬 “Birds and beasts when brought to bay will use their claws and teeth.” Chang Yü says: 敵若焚舟破釜決一戰則不可逼迫來 “If your adversary has burned his boats and destroyed his cooking-pots, and is ready to stake all on the issue of a battle, he must not be pushed to extremities.” The phrase 窮宼 doubtless originated with Sun Tzŭ. The P‘ei Wên Yün Fu gives four examples of its use, the earliest being from the Ch‘ien Han Shu, and I have found another in chap. 34 of the same work. Ho Shih illustrates the meaning by a story taken from the life of 符彥卿 Fu Yen-ch‘ing in ch. 251 of the 宋史. That general, together with his colleague 杜重威 Tu Chung-wei, was surrounded by a vastly superior army of Khitans in the year 945 A.D. The country was bare and desert-like, and the little Chinese force was soon in dire straits for want of