Gui Cao's Opinion on War

(A historical event in 684 BCE)

Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals

    The State of Qi invaded the State of Lu. The King of Lu prepared to fight. Gui Cao asked to see the king. Cao's friends said, "The generals in the king's court will discuss the war. Why do you need to interfere with it?" Cao replied, "The generals are shallow and do not have the vision to create a good war plan." Consequently, he entered the court to see the king.

    Cao asked the king, "What makes you think you can win?" The king answered, "I am not selfish about food and clothing. I always share them with my people." Cao responded, "Not enough people will follow you because not everyone can benefit from such a little favor." Then the king said, "But I have the Creator's support. I worship the Creator with faith. I do not use my offering as a bribe." Cao said, "The Creator will not bless a person who expects returns even though he has a little faith." The king said, "For all the court cases, I do not always make perfect decisions, but I must find truth." Cao said, "Your devotion to serving people shows that you are faithful to them. Now you can fight because people will trust you and follow you. Let me fight along with you in the battlefield."

    The King of Lu then let Cao ride in his chariot with him. The army of Lu and that of Qi faced off at Chang-shuo City. The King of Lu intended to beat the drums to advance. Cao said, "It is not the right time yet!" After Qis troops beat their drums three times, Cao said, "Now it is the time for us to advance." The army of the State of Qi was soon defeated. The King of Lu wanted to pursue them. Cao said, "Wait a minute! Let me check!" Cao got off the chariot and examined the trail of Qi's Chariots. He then climbed onto the chariot and watched the enemy withdraw. After careful observation, he said, "Now we can pursue them." In the end, the State of Lu repelled Qi's troops.

    After winning the war, the king asked Cao to explain his strategy. Cao said, "Victory relies on spirit. When the drums beat for the first time, the spirit is high. When the drums beat for the second time, the spirit weakens. When the drums beat for the third time, the spirit dies. When the enemy's spirit died, our spirit was high. This was why we defeated them. Because it was difficult to figure out the strategy of a powerful enemy, I worried that they might ambush us. After seeing their disorganized trail and fallen flags, I decided to push them out of our territory."