When the Birds Are Gone, the Bow Is Stored.

Once the bird hunt is over, the bow should be put away. This alludes to the fact that once a war is over, the wartime powers given to civil and military officials should be revoked or diminished. In ancient China, this often occurred when the country shifted from a state of war to one of peace; to a certain extent, it ensured the security of the central government and the civil and military officials, and was conducive to the resumption of the country’s normal and stable governance. In later years, this expression came to mean that after a task was achieved, those who had worked toward its success were abandoned.

When the high-flying birds have died, the powerful bow is put away. When the enemy state is destroyed, the strategists are eliminated. Eliminating them does not mean killing them; it means stripping them of their authority and power.