22. Restocking With the Enemy’s Arrows
Zhuge Liang (181-234) was a wily Chinese military strategist famous for his deceptions. In 208, during the buildup to a climactic battle between armies separated by the Yangtze River, he was maneuvered by opponents to commit himself to furnish 100,000 arrows within a few days – a seemingly impossible task. After mulling it over, Zhuge gathered a flotilla of river boats, lined them up with bales of wet straw, and waited for a foggy night.
When it arrived, he had the boats quietly rowed across the river and, undetected, positioned them in a line close to the enemy camp. At a signal, his crews erupted and broke the night’s silence by shouting, beating drums, clanging gongs, and creating an unholy din. Startled, the enemy camp awoke in a panic, and convinced they were facing a surprise night attack, unleashed a storm of arrows at the boat silhouettes flitting in the murk – arrows that were embedded in the bales of straw lining Zhuge’s boats. Then, his pincushioned boats groaning with the weight of more than 100,000 captured arrows, Zhuge departed.