Every Bush and Tree Looks Like an Enemy
During the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Fu Jian, king of the State of
Qin, controlled northern China. In the year383, Fu Jian led 900,000
infantry and cavalry troops to assault the State of Jin which
was south of the Yangtze River. Xie Shi and Xie Xuan, senior generals
of the Jin army, led 80,000 troops to offer resistance. Knowing
that the Jin army was short of men, Fu Jian wanted to seize this
opportunity of being much more numerous in armed forces to stage
a quick attack.
Unexpectedly, the van of Fu Jian's army of 250,000 troops was
defeated in the Shouchun area by an ingenious military move of
the Jin army and suffered heavy losses. The senior general of
the van of Fu Jian's army was killed, and there were heavy casualties
of more than 10,000 soldiers. Fu Jian's army was dispirited and
its morale was shaken. Many soldiers were in such a great panic
that they waited for opportunities to run away. Standing on the
city wall of the Shouchun City, Fu Jian and his brother Fu Rong
saw that the ranks of the Jin army were in good order and that
the morale of the Jin army was high. Turning to his brother, Fu
Jian said, "What a powerful enemy this is! Why did people
say that the Jin army was short of men?" He deeply regretted
that he had taken the enemy too lightly.
Overshadowed by the disastrous defeat, Fu Jian ordered his troops
to be deployed in battle formation on the north side of the Feishui
River, in an attempt to regain the initiative by relying on the
superior geographical conditions. Then Xie Shi and Xie Xuan, the
senior generals of the Jin army, suggested that Fu Jian's army
retreat a little bit, leaving some space, so that the Jin army
could cross the river to conduct ooperations. Fu Jian thought
that his chance had come, believing that the senior generals of
the Jin army did not have the elementary knowledge of warfare.
It was his plan to stage a sudden attack while the troops of the
Jin army was busy crossing the river, and he was sure that his
plan would word. So he willingly accepted the suggestion of the
Unexpectedly, the moment the order to retreat was given, Fu Jian's
troops were utterly routed and could by no means be controlled.
Taking advantage of this favorable situation, the Jin army crossed
the river, pursuing and attacking the enemy. The trooops of Fu
Jian's army threw away everything in headlong flight, and the
field was littered with the corpses of the soldiers of Fu Jian's
army. Fu Rong was killed in the tangled fighting, and Fu Jian
was hit by an arrow and ran away. The Jin army won a brilliant
victory by defeating a big army with its limited armed forces.
This story comes from "The Life of Fu Jian" in the volume
"Records" of The History of the Jin Dynasty. The set
phrase "every bush and tree looks like an enemy" is
subsequently used to refer to a state of extreme nervousness.