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At least as old as 2002-10-29 (from The Internet Archive Wayback Machine's archive)
During the period in China as the Warring States, three kingdoms fought for supremacy. Many battles took place during this time and the balance of power shifted constantly from one kingdom to another with neither really gaining complete superiority. In the kingdom of Wei, the war was going rather badly and shortages of both food and weapons were now beginning to tell. The general in command of the armed forces held a war council with his captains, asking each of them to come up with ideas to combat the shortages. After a few hours it was decided that the major shortfall was arrows.
"If we are to defend the city successfully," said the general, "then I need at least one hundred thousand arrows." Deep gasps came from the assembled officers, because one hundred thousand arrows would take a month to make, and already the army of the kingdom of Wu were assembling just on the other side of the river. "What are we to do?" cried one of the captains. Another voiced his opinion which was that they were doomed and that they should surrender to the king of Wu and perhaps prevent a massacre. Some of the other captains agreed with this suggestion. Just then Lin Ku, the king's philosopher, walked into the war council meeting to tell the general that the king had urgent need of him. "You have a great problem I fear," said Lin Ku. The general looked at the philosopher, whom he did not particularly like, for even though he was the finest martial artist in the kingdom he retired to seek enlightenment.
"We have no arrows with which to fight the enemy." said the general. "What do you suggest we do about it philosopher?" the general said somewhat sarcastically. "I would perhaps suggest reflecting upon the problem, for within every problem lie the seeds of its solution." replied Lin Ku.
"I need one hundred thousand arrows in ten days or the kingdom is lost." retorted the general. "So unless you are a magician as well as a philosopher, I suggest you keep your adages to yourself." Lin Ku responded tersely "Fighting is more than just a clashing of armed troops. Fighting is about understanding, knowing your enemy and knowing yourself. If these two concepts are followed, then you will be the victor of a thousand battles. So, general, I advise that you look to strategy as your savior. One good plan is worth more than a thousand ideas."
"If you are so knowledgeable philosopher, then you find me the arrows!" answered the general angrily. "In fact, after all you have said, if you don't find me the arrows in ten days then I will inform the king you have been meddlesome and you can look to him for punishment."
"General, I will bring you the arrows in five days!" said Lin Ku. He left the room to roars of laughter as this would be an impossibility. Lin Ku was given twelve soldiers to help him with this task. For two days and two nights he just sat around not seeming to care about the task assigned to him. The soldiers reported back to the general each day as to Lin Ku's progress. "He does nothing but sit around all day." said one soldier to the general. Another commented, "He eats, he drinks, and he tends his garden." The general listened and knew that Lin Ku could not possibly fulfill the order in time. He would now be able to have his revenge on the pompous philosopher.
In the late afternoon of the third day, Lin Ku requested a fleet of river barges be made ready. Hey then ordered that huge bales of hay be placed inside the barges so that they completely covered the whole deck area. As evening came Lin Ku, the twelve soldiers assigned to him and the bargemen set forth across the river. Quizzical looks were passed from one soldier to another. No one could understand what was happening. Halfway across the river a dense fog came in and settled. By now the were nearing the far bank, where the army of Wu was encamped. The soldiers on the barges began to feel a little uncomfortable so close to an army of fifty thousand men. Lin Ku came out on deck and ordered every man on all the barges to shout and scream for all they were worth and then to take cover below. Not understanding what was transpiring the soldiers obeyed and then rushed for cover. The noise of the shouting carried across to the enemy encampment. A captain came rushing into the tent of the commander and said that the crafty army of Wei had decided to attack under the cover of fog. The commander ordered all the archers to the bank and to the cliff edge. He told them to fire into the bank of fog which is where the enemy was hiding. "A shower of arrows cascading down upon them will put an end to their attempt to surprise us." said the commander.
Within two minutes twenty thousand archers were firing their deadly missiles at the fog bank. Meanwhile on the barges the arrows whistled through the air and found homes in their unseen target, the bales of hay. For half an hour or so wave upon wave of enemy arrows showered down on to the barges and embedded themselves in the bales of hay. Lin Ku went back on day and ordered the barges to be returned to their own side of the river. Daylight was just braking through the clouds as they arrived back. The barges looked like porcupines with so many arrows sticking out of the bales.
"We must have in excess of two hundred thousand arrows here." remarked Lin Ku. "Remove them all and take them in wagons to the general with my compliments, and say to him: a reflection upon a pool of water does not reveal its depth; so too is it with men!"
This story was taken from the book "Myths and legends of the Martial Arts"
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