Wily wisdom from the East. According to the author (who was reared in China but educated in the US), the so-called stratagems at issue here derive from a variety of sources and were handed down orally from generation to generation over a period spanning nearly 5,000 years. Whatever their provenance, these down-and-dirty principia constitute the moral equivalent of a hustler's handbook. Gao's compendium of gnomic injunctions includes such counsel as: Kill with a Borrowed Knife; Loot a Burning House; Conceal a Dagger in a Smile; Fish in Troubled Waters; Pull Down the Ladder After the Ascent; and Use a Woman to Ensnare a Man. The author draws on five millennia of Chinese history to illuminate the implications of the three dozen maxims that are reviewed; he also offers once-over-lightly analyses of how specific prescriptions might prove useful in business, politics, or personal affairs. In discussing the behest to Chain Together the Enemy's Warships, for example, Gao notes that, during a Tang dynasty battle, one side loosed 500 mares in heat to distract its opponent's steeds; he goes on to point out that the Polish Communist Party's 1989 legalization of Solidarity could become a ship-chaining ploy if the union gets blamed for the country's ongoing economic woes. Guileful fun and gamesmanship.