The idiom "Cross the Sea in Secret" comes from the story of how Xue Ren Gui (薛仁贵 xuē rén guì) skillfully helped Emperor Tai Zong of Tang (唐太宗 táng tài zōng) cross the sea.
In the early years of the Tang Dynasty (唐朝 táng cháo) (618–907 ADE), Tai Zong led an army to defeat Goryeo1. He defeated Gai Su Wen2 (盖苏文 gài sū wén) in Liao Dong (辽东 liáo dōng) who then fled across the sea to the Korean Peninsula in retreat. Tai Zong was preparing to cross the sea to continue his attack, however, as he reached the sea and witnessed it's boundlessness, he felt sick to his stomach and nearly fell off his horse.
1 Goryeo was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korean Peninsula until 1392.
2 Gai Su Wen was a military dictator (603-666 ADE) in Goryeo.
When his army was prepared and it was time for Tai Zong to climb on his boat, he refused to board. One after the other his generals tried to persuade him, but to no avail. His Chief Marching Commander, Zhang Shi Gui (张士贵 zhāng shì guì), returned to the Great Horde3 frustrated and at wits end. His deputy, Xue Ren Gui, came to him and whispered in his ear. Zhang Shi Gui nodded in agreement.
3 The Great Horde was a Tatar-Mongol khanate that existed from about 1466 to 1502.