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Cast a Brick to Attract Jade


Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Cast a Brick to Attract Jade

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 17

This group: Stratagems for Attack
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Offer them something small in order to get something big. Present something of apparent worth to attract real worth.

Lay a trap with attractive bait to lure them into an ambush or just to move them to a position that is more advantageous to you.


This is the seventeenth stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Attack

Alternative names

Hold Out a Brick to Attract a Gem

Toss Out a Brick to Attract Jade

Toss Out a Glazed Tile to Draw a Jade

Tossing Out a Brick to Get a Jade Gem

Or even:

Use a Small Bait to Catch a Big Fish

Offer Minor to Get Major 


In the Tang dynasty, the poet Chang Jian wanted to the learn from the great poet, Zhao Gu. He wrote half a poem on a temple wall where Zhao was visiting, hoping the better poet would complete it, which Zhao did.

In 700 BC Chu were besieging Jiao. One day, Chu sent woodcutters to chop down the fine trees outside the walls. Jiao's commander was so incensed, he sent out some men to capture the woodcutters, which they duly did and were handsomely rewarded. The next day, when more woodcutters arrived, most of Jiao's defenders rushed out in hope of getting their reward. They chased the woodcutters who led them into an ambush.

Cao Cao was leading his men through a desert and they were flagging. He climbed a nearby hill and said he could see a plum tree. Energized, his troops kept going until they found real water.

Zhi was preparing to attack Wei and gave the Wei king 400 mustangs. Wei became suspicious and increased their border guard. When Zhi saw this they realized their ploy had not worked.


The general principle of tempting, baiting or luring is used in a wide range of contexts. The foot in the door technique uses essentially the same method, of converting a small gain into a bigger one.

In more modern times, ensnaring has been a staple of the spying game. Commercially, restaurant chains may give children toys in order to get them to eat their meals (and nag their parents into going there).

In business use of incentives, such as bonuses, are effectively lures to get people to work extra hard in achieving business goals.

There is also a more generic principle of a little going a long way, of economic returns on investments. If you have money to invest, spreading it wisely in growing companies can be a more successful approach than putting your eggs all in one basket.

See also

Reciprocity Norm, Foot In The Door (FITD)


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