This chapter introduces two types of representative works from the Chinese period from roughly the fifth century to the fifteenth century, a period that corresponds to the European Middle Age (although it should be noted that the European periodization is not accurate for non-European cultures). There are many noteworthy works from China during this period. Selected in this chapter are poetry from the Tang dynasty (618-960 C.E.) and vernacular fiction that emerged from the late phase of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 C.E.) and the early phase of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 C.E.).
It is often said that the Tang dynasty was the golden age in Chinese literary history, and poetry was the most glorious literary form of the time. The verse forms of the past were refined, and new poetic forms developed. One new form perfected early in the dynasty, which consists of eight lines of five or seven syllables in accordance with tonal patterns, is called lüshi (“regulated verse”). Another poetic form popular during the period was the jueju (“truncated verse”), which is a shortened version of the lüshi. Du Fu (712-770 C.E.) and Li Bo (701 762 C.E.) from the Tang dynasty are considered the greatest poets in China. Du Fu, who was a high official in the 740s, was highly erudite, and he excelled in all verse forms, but his mastery was the best in the lüshi. When he was young, he flirted with Daoism and travelled with Li Bo, whom he strongly admired. Li Bo, on the other hand, did not sustain a high-ranking position but instead spent a lot of time wandering. Li Bo expressed his Daoist worldview in his deliberately older and freer verse forms, avoiding the lüshi. Other renowned poets during the Tang dynasty include Wang Wei (701-761 C.E.) and Bai Juyi (772-846 C.E.). The Tang dynasty was a period of economic growth and prosperity, and culturally, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism continued to be influential.
Image 7.1: Kublai Khan | Portrait of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, emperor of China.
Author: Anige of Nepal
Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: Public Domain
The next major dynasty was the Song dynasty, during which literary productivity increased enormous ly, thanks to the improvement of printing (invented in the eighth century) and to the establishment of public schools throughout the empire. All the literary genres in verse and prose continued to develop during this period. The Song dynasty was later absorbed by the Yuan (or Mongol) dynasty. During the Yuan dynasty, dramatic literature blossomed, possibly catalyzed by Indian and Iranian theatre models available in this period. Many writers turned to playwriting, especially the musical drama of four or five acts along with prologue, epilogue, and songs. Between the late Yuan dynasty and the early Ming dynasty, particularly noteworthy are the works of fiction in the vernacular. Sanguozhi yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and Shuihuzhuan (The Water Margin), both acclaimed as masterpieces of the historical and picaresque (an early novelistic form of adventure narrative) genres, have been controversially attributed to Luo Guanzhong (ca. 1330-1400 C.E.). Romance of the Three Kingdoms is set at the end of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E-220 C.E.) and the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 C.E.). All through the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism continued to be influential, especially increasingly in the new mixtures of these three thoughts.
As already indicated above, the selections in this chapter, Li Bo’s poems and Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms, are good examples of the Tang dynasty and the Yuan/Ming dynasties, respectively. It will be useful to situate these works in their historical and cultural contexts and examine the unique characteristics pertaining to each genre.
AS YOU READ, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
Can you point out connections between Daoism and Li Bo’s poems? (Feel free to consult the video resource about Daoism below.)
Select specific poems by Li Bo and develop your own interpretive thesis statement for each poem, along with supporting ideas.
Do some quick research about major events in the Han dynasty, the Three Kingdoms period, and the Yuan/ Ming dynasties, and examine how Luo’s work incorporates elements of earlier and contemporary history and culture.
What philosophical, religious, political, and personal values do you think Luo’s work conveys?
FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE THE FOLLOWING SOURCES:
Go to the following websites for Chinese history and its timeline:
Written by Kyounghye Kwon
Image 7.2: Eighty Seven Celestials | Artwork by Wu Daozi depicting many angelic people walking along a path.
Author: Wu Daozi
Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: Public Domain
Li Bo (701-762 C.E.)
Composed ca. 716-762 C.E.
Li Bo is regarded as China’s greatest poet, along with Du Fu. His name is also spelled Li Bai, Li Po, and Li Pai. His courtesy name is Taibai and his literary name is Qinglian Jushi. There are about a thousand extant poems by Li Bo, and many of them are written in older poetic forms, less regulated than those developed during the the Tang dynasty (618-907 C.E.). Also unorthodox is his incorporation of colloquial language and folk songs into his poetry. Importantly, Li Bo’s poetic world expresses Daoist views, emphasizing “the (Daoist) Way” and celebrating a free and wandering life. Buddhism (especially Chan Buddhism) is also essential to understanding Li Bo’s poems. On a side note, he is well known for his love of alcohol and wrote many poems about drinking. A popular legend says that Li Bo drowned because he was sitting drunk in a boat and was trying to seize the moon’s reflection in the water.
Written by Kyounghye Kwon
7.3.1 Selections from The Poet Li Po A.D. 701-760
Bai Li, Translated by Arthur Waley
License: Public Domain
Image 7.3: Li Bai in Stroll | Ink illustration by Liang Kai of the poet Li Bai (also written as Li Bo).
Author: Liang Kai
Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: Public Domain
Last year we were fighting at the source of the San-kan;
This year we are fighting at the Onion River road.
We have washed our swords in the surf of Indian seas;
We have pastured our horses among the snows of T’ien Shan.
Three armies have grown gray and old,
Fighting ten thousand leagues away from home.
The Huns have no trade but battle and carnage;
They have no pastures or ploughlands,
But only wastes where white bones lie among yellow sands.
Where the house of Ch’in built the great wall that was to keep away the Tartars,
There, in its turn, the house of Han lit beacons of war.
The beacons are always alight; fighting and marching never stop.
Men die in the field, slashing sword to sword;
The horses of the conquered neigh piteously to Heaven.
Crows and hawks peck for human guts,
Carry them in their beaks and hang them on the branches of withered trees.
Captains and soldiers are smeared on the bushes and grass;
The General schemed in vain.
Know therefore that the sword is a cursèd thing
Which the wise man uses only if he must.
O Sun that rose in the eastern corner of Earth,
Looking as though you came from under the ground,
When you crossed the sky and entered the deep sea,
Where did you stable your six dragon-steeds?
Now and of old your journeys have never ceased: Strong were that man’s limbs
Who could run beside you on your travels to and fro.
The grass does not refuse
To flourish in the spring wind;
The leaves are not angry
At falling through the autumn sky.
Who with whip or spur
Can urge the feet of Time?
The things of the world flourish and decay,
Each at its own hour.
Is it true that once you loitered in the West
While Lu Yang raised his spear, to hold
The progress of your light;
Then plunged and sank in the turmoil of the sea?
Rebels against Heaven, slanderers of Fate;
Many defy the Way.
But I will put | the Whole Lump | of Life in my bag,
And merge my being in the Primal Element.
THE WHITE RIVER AT NAN-YANG
Wading at dawn the White River’s source,
Severed a while from the common ways of men,
To islands tinged with the colours of Paradise,
Where the river sky drowns in limpid space.
While my eyes were watching the clouds that travel to the sea.
My heart was idle as the fish that swim in the stream.
With long singing I put the sun to rest:
Riding the moon, came back to my fields and home.
GOING DOWN CHUNG-NAN MOUNTAIN AND SPENDING THE NIGHT DRINKING WITH THE HERMIT TOU-SSŬ
At dusk we left the blue mountain-head;
The mountain-moon followed our homeward steps.
We looked round: the path by which we had come
Was a dark cleft across the shoulder of the hill.
Hand in hand we reached the walls of the farm;
A young boy opened the wicker-gate.
Through green bamboos a deep road ran
Where dark creepers brushed our coats as we passed.
We were glad at last to come to a place of rest,
With wine enough to drink together to our fill,
Long I sang to the tune of the Pine-tree Wind;
When the song was over, the River-stars were few.
I was drunk and you happy at my side;
Till mingled joy drove the World from our hearts.
DRINKING ALONE BY MOONLIGHT
A cup of wine, under the flowering-trees:
I drink alone, for no friend is near.
Raising my cup, I beckon the bright moon,
For he, with my shadow, will make three men.
The moon, alas! is no drinker of wine:
Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
While we were sober, three shared the fun;
Now we are drunk, each goes his way.
May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the Sky.
In the third month the town of Hsien-yang
Is thick-spread with a carpet of fallen flowers.
Who in Spring can bear to grieve alone?
Who, sober, look on sights like these?
Riches and Poverty, long or short life,
By the Maker of Things are portioned and disposed.
But a cup of wine levels life and death
And a thousand things obstinately hard to prove.
When I am drunk, I lose Heaven and Earth;
Motionless, I cleave to my lonely bed.
At last I forget that I exist at all,
And at that moment my joy is great indeed.
If High Heaven had no love for wine,
There would not be a Wine Star in the sky.
If Earth herself had no love for wine,
There would not be a city called Wine Springs.
Since Heaven and Earth both love wine,
I can love wine, without shame before God.
Clear wine was once called “a Saint;”
Thick wine was once called “a Sage.”
Of Saint and Sage I have long quaffed deep,
What need for me to study spirits and hsien?
At the third cup I penetrate the Great Way;
A full gallon—Nature and I are one....
But the things I feel when wine possesses my soul
I will never tell to those who are not drunk.
Image 7.4: Going up to Sun Terrace | The only surviving calligraphy of Li Bo’s own handwriting.
Author: Li Bo
Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: Public Domain
IN THE MOUNTAINS ON A SUMMER DAY
Gently I stir a white feather fan,
With open shirt, sitting in a green wood.
I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone:
A wind from the pine-trees trickles on my bare head.
DRINKING TOGETHER IN THE MOUNTAINS
Two men drinking together where mountain flowers grow:
One cup, one cup, and again one cup.
“Now I am drunk and would like to sleep: so please go away.
Come back to-morrow, if you feel inclined, and bring your harp with you.”
CLEARING UP AT DAWN
The fields are chill; the sparse rain has stopped;
The colours of Spring teem on every side.
With leaping fish the blue pond is full;
With singing thrushes the green boughs droop.
The flowers of the field have dabbled their powdered cheeks;
The mountain grasses are bent level at the waist.
By the bamboo stream the last fragments of cloud
Blown by the wind slowly scatter away.
THE ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS
Written in the 14th century C.E.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the stories known as the “Four Classic Novels” or “Four Great Masterpieces” of Chinese literature (the other three being Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber). Although it was written in the 14th century C.E., the story is based on historical events from a thousand years earlier: during the late Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms Period (starting in 169 C.E. and ending in 280 C.E.). The story depicts the conflicts among the Wu, Wei, and Shu kingdoms. The characters are based on actual people, with the requisite alterations that are expected in fiction (such as the occasional warrior with superhuman strength, and other legendary and mythic elements). The story is 120 chapters long, with literally hundreds of characters to follow. The selections in the anthology begin with the introductory chapter, which includes how one group of heroes meets. The long selection is from the most well-known episode in the story: the Battle of Red Cliffs (208209 C.E.). The Romance of the Three Kingdoms continues to be a popular work, with movies, video games, comics, television series, and card games based on the story.
Written by Laura J. Getty
7.4.1 Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Luo Quanzhong, translated by C. H. Brewitt-Taylor
License: Public Domain
Image 7.5: Peach Garden Ceremony | Several heroes from the story gather together in a garden to perform a sacrifice and swear and oath.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: Public Domain
Three Heroes Swear Brotherhood In The Peach Garden; One Victory Shatters The Rebels In Battlegrounds.
The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide. This has been so since antiquity. When the rule of the Zhou Dynasty weakened, seven contending kingdoms sprang up, warring one with another until the kingdom of Qin prevailed and possessed the empire. But when Qin’s destiny had been fulfilled, arose two opposing kingdoms, Chu and Han, to fight for the mastery. And Han was the victor.
The rise of the fortunes of Han began when Liu Bang the Supreme Ancestor slew a white serpent to raise the banners of uprising, which only ended when the whole empire belonged to Han (BC 202). This magnificent heritage was handed down in successive Han emperors for two hundred years, till the rebellion of Wang Mang caused a disruption. But soon Liu Xiu the Latter Han Founder restored the empire, and Han emperors continued their rule for another two hundred years till the days of Emperor Xian, which were doomed to see the beginning of the empire’s division into three parts, known to history as The Three Kingdoms.
But the descent into misrule hastened in the reigns of the two predecessors of Emperor Xian—Emperors Huan and Ling—who sat in the dragon throne about the middle of the second century.
Emperor Huan paid no heed to the good people of his court, but gave his confidence to the Palace eunuchs. He lived and died, leaving the scepter to Emperor Ling, whose advisers were Regent Marshal Dou Wu and Imperial Guardian Chen Fan. Dou Wu and Chen Fan, disgusted with the abuses of the eunuchs in the affairs of the state, plotted the destruction for the power-abusing eunuchs. But Chief Eunuch Cao Jie was not to be disposed of easily. The plot leaked out, and the honest Dou Wu and Chen Fan were put to death, leaving the eunuchs stronger than before.
It fell upon the day of full moon of the fourth month, the second year, in the era of Established Calm (AD 168), that Emperor Ling went in state to the Hall of Virtue. As he drew near the throne, a rushing whirlwind arose in the corner of the hall and, lo! from the roof beams floated down a monstrous black serpent that coiled itself up on the very seat of majesty. The Emperor fell in a swoon. Those nearest him hastily raised and bore him to his palace, while the courtiers scattered and fled. The serpent disappeared.
But there followed a terrific tempest, thunder, hail, and torrents of rain, lasting till midnight and working havoc on all sides. Two years later the earth quaked in Capital Luoyang, while along the coast a huge tidal wave rushed in which, in its recoil, swept away all the dwellers by the sea. Another evil omen was recorded ten years later, when the reign title was changed to Radiant Harmony (AD 178): Certain hens suddenly crowed. At the new moon of the sixth month, a long wreath of murky cloud wound its way into the Hall of Virtue, while in the following month a rainbow was seen in the Dragon Chamber. Away from the capital, a part of the Yuan Mountains collapsed, leaving a mighty rift in the flank.
Such were some of various omens. Emperor Ling, greatly moved by these signs of the displeasure of Heaven, issued an edict asking his ministers for an explanation of the calamities and marvels.
Court Counselor Cai Yong replied bluntly: “Falling rainbows and changes of fowls’ sexes are brought about by the interference of empresses and eunuchs in state affairs.”
The Emperor read this memorial with deep sighs, and Chief Eunuch Cao Jie, from his place behind the throne, anxiously noted these signs of grief. An opportunity offering, Cao Jie informed his fellows, and a charge was trumped up against Cai Yong, who was driven from the court and forced to retire to his country house.
With this victory the eunuchs grew bolder. Ten of them, rivals in wickedness and associates in evil deeds, formed a powerful party known as the Ten Regular Attendants—Zhang Rang, Zhao Zhong, Cheng Kuang, Duan Gui, Feng Xu, Guo Sheng, Hou Lan, Jian Shuo, Cao Jie, and Xia Yun.
One of them, Zhang Rang, won such influence that he became the Emperor’s most honored and trusted adviser. The Emperor even called him “Foster Father”. So the corrupt state administration went quickly from bad to worse, till the country was ripe for rebellion and buzzed with brigandage.
At this time in the county of Julu was a certain Zhang family, of whom three brothers bore the name of Zhang Jue, Zhang Ba, and Zhang Lian, respectively. The eldest Zhang Jue was an unclassed graduate, who devoted himself to medicine. One day, while culling simples in the woods, Zhang Jue met a venerable old gentleman with very bright, emerald eyes and fresh complexion, who walked with an oak-wood staff. The old man beckoned Zhang Jue into a cave and there gave him three volumes of The Book of Heaven.
“This book,” said the old gentleman, “is the Essential Arts of Peace. With the aid of these volumes, you can convert the world and rescue humankind. But you must be single-minded, or, rest assured, you will greatly suffer.”
With a humble obeisance, Zhang Jue took the book and asked the name of his benefactor.
“I am Saint Hermit of the Southern Land,” was the reply, as the old gentleman disappeared in thin air.
Zhang Jue studied the wonderful book eagerly and strove day and night to reduce its precepts to practice. Before long, he could summon the winds and command the rain, and he became known as the Mystic of the Way of Peace.
In the first month of the first year of Central Stability (AD 184), there was a terrible pestilence that ran throughout the land, whereupon Zhang Jue distributed charmed remedies to the afflicted. The godly medicines brought big successes, and soon he gained the tittle of the Wise and Worthy Master. He began to have a following of disciples whom he initiated into the mysteries and sent abroad throughout all the land. They, like their master, could write charms and recite formulas, and their fame increased his following.
Zhang Jue began to organize his disciples. He established thirty-six circuits, the larger with ten thousand or more members, the smaller with about half that number. Each circuit had its chief who took the military title of General. They talked wildly of the death of the blue heaven and the setting up of the golden one; they said a new cycle was beginning and would bring universal good fortune to all members; and they persuaded people to chalk the symbols for the first year of the new cycle on the main door of their dwellings.
With the growth of the number of his supporters grew also the ambition of Zhang Jue. The Wise and Worthy Master dreamed of empire. One of his partisans, Ma Yuanyi, was sent bearing gifts to gain the support of the eunuchs within the Palace.
To his brothers Zhang Jue said, “For schemes like ours always the most difficult part is to gain the popular favor. But that is already ours. Such an opportunity must not pass.”
And they began to prepare. Many yellow flags and banners were made, and a day was chosen for the uprising. Then Zhang Jue wrote letters to Feng Xu and sent them by one of his followers, Tang Zhou, who alas! betrayed his trust and reported the plot to the court. The Emperor summoned the trusty Regent Marshal He Jin and bade him look to the issue. Ma Yuanyi was at once taken and beheaded. Feng Xu and many others were cast into prison.
The plot having thus become known, the Zhang brothers were forced at once to take the field. They took up grandiose titles: Zhang Jue the Lord of Heaven, Zhang Ba the Lord of Earth, and Zhang Lian the Lord of Human. And in these names they put forth this manifesto:
“The good fortune of the Han is exhausted, and the Wise and Worthy Man has appeared. Discern the will of Heaven, O ye people, and walk in the way of righteousness, whereby alone ye may attain to peace.”
Support was not lacking. On every side people bound their heads with yellow scarves and joined the army of the rebel Zhang Jue, so that soon his strength was nearly half a million strong, and the official troops melted away at a whisper of his coming.
Regent Marshal and Imperial Guardian, He Jin, memorialized for general preparations against the Yellow Scarves, and an edict called upon everyone to fight against the rebels. In the meantime, three Imperial Commanders—Lu Zhi, Huangfu Song, and Zhu Jun—marched against them in three directions with veteran soldiers.
Meanwhile Zhang Jue led his army into Youzhou, the northeastern region of the empire. The Imperial Protector of Youzhou was Liu Yan, a scion of the Imperial House. Learning of the approach of the rebels, Liu Yan called in Commander Zhou Jing to consult over the position.
Zhou Jing said, “They are many and we few. We must enlist more troops to oppose them.”
Liu Yan agreed, and he put out notices calling for volunteers to serve against the rebels. One of these notices was posted up in the county of Zhuo, where lived one man of high spirit.
This man was no mere bookish scholar, nor found he any pleasure in study. But he was liberal and amiable, albeit a man of few words, hiding all feeling under a calm exterior. He had always cherished a yearning for high enterprise and had cultivated the friendship of humans of mark. He was tall of stature. His ears were long, the lobes touching his shoulders, and his hands hung down below his knees. His eyes were very big and prominent so that he could see backward past his ears. His complexion was as clear as jade, and he had rich red lips.
He was a descendant of Prince Sheng of Zhongshan whose father was the Emperor Jing (reigned BC 157-141), the fourth emperor of the Han Dynasty. His name was Liu Bei. Many years before, one of his forbears had been the governor of that very county, but had lost his rank for remissness in ceremonial offerings. However, that branch of the family had remained on in the place, gradually becoming poorer and poorer as the years rolled on. His father Liu Hong had been a scholar and a virtuous official but died young. The widow and orphan were left alone, and Liu Bei as a lad won a reputation for filial piety.
At this time the family had sunk deep in poverty, and Liu Bei gained his living by selling straw sandals and weaving grass mats. The family home was in a village near the chief city of Zhuo. Near the house stood a huge mulberry tree, and seen from afar its curved profile resembled the canopy of a wagon. Noting the luxuriance of its foliage, a soothsayer had predicted that one day a man of distinction would come forth from the family.
As a child, Liu Bei played with the other village children beneath this tree, and he would climb up into it, saying, “I am the Son of Heaven, and this is my chariot!” His uncle, Liu Yuanqi, recognized that Liu Bei was no ordinary boy and saw to it that the family did not come to actual want.
When Liu Bei was fifteen, his mother sent him traveling for his education. For a time he served Zheng Xuan and Lu Zhi as masters. And he became great friends with Gongsun Zan.
Liu Bei was twenty-eight when the outbreak of the Yellow Scarves called for soldiers. The sight of the notice saddened him, and he sighed as he read it.
Suddenly a rasping voice behind him cried, “Sir, why sigh if you do nothing to help your country?”
Turning quickly he saw standing there a man about his own height, with a bullet head like a leopard’s, large eyes, a swallow pointed chin, and whiskers like a tiger’s . He spoke in a loud bass voice and looked as irresistible as a dashing horse. At once Liu Bei saw he was no ordinary man and asked who he was.
“Zhang Fei is my name,” replied the stranger. “I live near here where I have a farm; and I am a wine seller and a butcher as well; and I like to become acquainted with worthy people. Your sighs as you read the notice drew me toward you.”
Liu Bei replied, “I am of the Imperial Family, Liu Bei is my name. And I wish I could destroy these Yellow Scarves and restore peace to the land, but alas! I am helpless.”
“I have the means,” said Zhang Fei. “Suppose you and I raised some troops and tried what we could do.”
This was happy news for Liu Bei, and the two betook themselves to the village inn to talk over the project. As they were drinking, a huge, tall fellow appeared pushing a hand-cart along the road. At the threshold he halted and entered the inn to rest awhile and he called for wine.
“And be quick!” added he. “For I am in haste to get into the town and offer myself for the army.”
Liu Bei looked over the newcomer, item by item, and he noted the man had a huge frame, a long beard, a vivid face like an apple, and deep red lips. He had eyes like a phoenix’s and fine bushy eyebrows like silkworms. His whole appearance was dignified and awe-inspiring. Presently, Liu Bei crossed over, sat down beside him and asked his name.
“I am Guan Yu,” replied he. “I am a native of the east side of the river, but I have been a fugitive on the waters for some five years, because I slew a ruffian who, since he was wealthy and powerful, was a bully. I have come to join the army here.”
Then Liu Bei told Guan Yu his own intentions, and all three went away to Zhang Fei’s farm where they could talk over the grand project.
Said Zhang Fei, “The peach trees in the orchard behind the house are just in full flower. Tomorrow we will institute a sacrifice there and solemnly declare our intention before Heaven and Earth, and we three will swear brotherhood and unity of aims and sentiments: Thus will we enter upon our great task.”
Both Liu Bei and Guan Yu gladly agreed.
All three being of one mind, next day they prepared the sacrifices, a black ox, a white horse, and wine for libation. Beneath the smoke of the incense burning on the altar, they bowed their heads and recited this oath:
“We three—Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei—though of different families, swear brotherhood, and promise mutual help to one end. We will rescue each other in difficulty; we will aid each other in danger. We swear to serve the state and save the people. We ask not the same day of birth, but we seek to die together. May Heaven, the all-ruling, and Earth, the all-producing, read our hearts. If we turn aside from righteousness or forget kindliness, may Heaven and Human smite us!”
They rose from their knees. The two others bowed before Liu Bei as their elder brother, and Zhang Fei was to be the youngest of the trio. This solemn ceremony performed, they slew other oxen and made a feast to which they invited the villagers. Three hundred joined them, and all feasted and drank deep in the Peach Garden.
The next day weapons were mustered. But there were no horses to ride. This was a real grief. But soon they were cheered by the arrival of two horse dealers with a drove of horses.
“Thus does Heaven help us!” said Liu Bei.
And the three brothers went forth to welcome the merchants. They were Zhang Shiping and Su Shuang from Zhongshan. They went northwards every year to buy horses. They were now on their way home because of the Yellow Scarves. The brothers invited them to the farm, where wine was served before them. Then Liu Bei told them of the plan to strive for tranquillity. Zhang Shiping and Su Shuang were glad and at once gave the brothers fifty good steeds, and beside, five hundred ounces of gold and silver and one thousand five hundred pounds of steel fit for the forging of weapons.
The brothers expressed their gratitude, and the merchants took their leave. Then blacksmiths were summoned to forge weapons. For Liu Bei they made a pair of ancient swords; for Guan Yu they fashioned a long-handled, curve blade called Green-Dragon Saber, which weighed a full one hundred pounds; and for Zhang Fei they created a ten-foot spear called Serpent Halberd. Each too had a helmet and full armor.
When weapons were ready, the troop, now five hundred strong, marched to Commander Zhou Jing, who presented them to Imperial Protector Liu Yan. When the ceremony of introduction was over, Liu Bei declared his ancestry, and Liu Yan at once accorded him the esteem due to a relation.
Before many days it was announced that the rebellion had actually broken out, and a Yellow Scarves chieftain, Cheng Yuanzhi, had invaded the region with a body of fifty thousand rebels. Liu Yan bade Zhou Jing and the three brothers to go out to oppose them with the five hundred troops. Liu Bei joyfully undertook to lead the van and marched to the foot of the Daxing Hills where they saw the rebels. The rebels wore their hair flying about their shoulders, and their foreheads were bound with yellow scarves.
When the two armies had been drawn up opposite each other, Liu Bei rode to the front, Guan Yu to his left, Zhang Fei to his right.
Flourishing his whip, Liu Bei began to hurl reproaches at the rebels, crying, “O malcontents! Why not dismount and be bound?”
Their leader Cheng Yuanzhi, full of rage, sent out one general, Deng Mao, to begin the battle. At once rode forward Zhang Fei, his serpent halberd poised to strike. One thrust and Deng Mao rolled off his horse, pierced through the heart. At this Cheng Yuanzhi himself whipped up his steed and rode forth with sword raised ready to slay Zhang Fei. But Guan Yu swung up his ponderous green-dragon saber and rode at Cheng Yuanzhi. At the sight, fear seized upon Cheng Yuanzhi, and before he could defend himself, the great saber fell, cutting him in halves.
Two heroes new to war’s alarms,
Ride boldly forth to try their arms.
Their doughty deeds three kingdoms tell,
And poets sing how these befell.
Their leader fallen, the rebels threw away their weapons and fled. The official soldiers dashed in among them. Many thousands surrendered and the victory was complete. Thus this part of the rebellion was broken up.
On their return, Liu Yan personally met them and distributed rewards. But the next day, letters came from Imperial Protector Gong Jing of Qingzhou Region saying that the rebels were laying siege to the chief city and it was near falling. Help was needed quickly.
“I will go,” said Liu Bei as soon as he heard the news.
And he set out at once with his own soldiers, reinforced by a body of five thousand under Zhou Jing. The rebels, seeing help coming, at once attacked most fiercely. The relieving force being comparatively small could not prevail and retired some ten miles, where they made a camp.
“They are many and we but few,” said Liu Bei to his brothers. “We can only beat them by superior strategy.”
So they prepared an ambush. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, each with a goodly party, went behind the hills, right and left, and there hid. When the gongs beat they were to move out to support the main army.
These preparations made, the drums rolled noisily for Liu Bei to advance. The rebels also came forward. But Liu Bei suddenly retired. Thinking this was their chance, the rebels pressed forward and were led over the hills. Then suddenly the gongs sounded for the ambush. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei poured out from right and left as Liu Bei faced around to meet the rebels. Under three-side attack, the rebels lost heavily and fled to the walls of Qingzhou City. But Imperial Protector Gong Jing led out an armed body to attack them, and the rebels were entirely defeated and many slain. Qingzhou was no longer in danger.
Though fierce as tigers soldiers be,
Battles are won by strategy.
A hero comes; he gains renown,
Already destined for a crown.
After the celebrations in honor of victory were over, Commander Zhou Jing proposed to return to Youzhou.
But Liu Bei said, “We are informed that Imperial Commander Lu Zhi has been struggling with a horde of rebels led by Zhang Jue at Guangzong. Lu Zhi was once my teacher, and I want to go help him.”
So Liu Bei and Zhou Jing separated, and the three brothers with their troops made their way to Guangzong. They found Lu Zhi’s camp, were admitted to his presence, and declared the reason of their coming. The Commander received them with great joy, and they remained with him while he made his plans.
At that time Zhang Jue’s one hundred fifty thousand troops and Lu Zhi’s fifty thousand troops were facing each other. Neither had had any success.
Lu Zhi said to Liu Bei, “I am able to surround these rebels here. But the other two brothers, Zhang Ba and Zhang Lian, are strongly entrenched opposite Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun at Yingchuan. I will give you a thousand more troops, and with these you can go to find out what is happening, and we can then settle the moment for concerted attack.”
So Liu Bei set off and marched as quickly as possible to Yingchuan. At that time the imperial troops were attacking with success, and the rebels had retired upon Changshe. They had encamped among the thick grass.
Seeing this, Huangfu Song said to Zhu Jun, “The rebels are camping in the field. We can attack them by fire.”
So the Imperial Commanders bade every man cut a bundle of dry grass and laid an ambush. That night the wind blew a gale, and at the second watch they started a blaze. At the same time Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun’s troops attacked the rebels and set their camp on fire. The flames rose to the very heaven. The rebels were thrown into great confusion. There was no time to saddle horses or don armor: They fled in all directions.
The battle continued until dawn. Zhang Lian and Zhang Ba, with a group of flying rebels, found a way of escape. But suddenly a troop of soldiers with crimson banners appeared to oppose them. Their leader was a man of medium stature with small eyes and a long beard. He was Cao Cao, a Beijuo man, holding the rank of Cavalry Commander. His father was Cao Song, but he was not really a Cao. Cao Song had been born to the Xiahou family, but he had been brought up by Eunuch Cao Teng and had taken this family name.
As a young man Cao Cao had been fond of hunting and delighted in songs and dancing. He was resourceful and full of guile. An uncle, seeing the young fellow so unsteady, used to get angry with him and told his father of his misdeeds. His father remonstrated with him.
But Cao Cao made equal to the occasion. One day, seeing his uncle coming, he fell to the ground in a pretended fit. The uncle alarmed ran to tell his father, who came, and there was the youth in most perfect health.
“But your uncle said you were in a fit. Are you better?” said his father.
“I have never suffered from fits or any such illness,” said Cao Cao. “But I have lost my uncle’s affection, and he has deceived you.”
Thereafter, whatever the uncle might say of his faults, his father paid no heed. So the young man grew up licentious and uncontrolled.
A man of the time named Qiao Xuan said to Cao Cao, “Rebellion is at hand, and only a man of the greatest ability can succeed in restoring tranquillity. That man is yourself.”
And He Yong of Nanyang said of him, “The dynasty of Han is about to fall. He who can restore peace is this man and only he.”
Cao Cao went to inquire his future of a wise man of Runan named Xu Shao.
“What manner of man am I?” asked Cao Cao.
The seer made no reply, and again and again Cao Cao pressed the question.
Then Xu Shao replied, “In peace you are an able subject; in chaos you are a crafty hero!”
Cao Cao greatly rejoiced to hear this.
Cao Cao graduated at twenty and earned a reputation of piety and integrity. He began his career as Commanding Officer in a county within the Capital District. In the four gates of the city he guarded, he hung up clubs of various sorts, and he would punish any breach of the law whatever the rank of the offender. Now an uncle of Eunuch Jian Shuo was found one night in the streets with a sword and was arrested. In due course he was beaten. Thereafter no one dared to offend again, and Cao Cao’s name became heard. Soon he became a magistrate of Dunqiu.
At the outbreak of the Yellow Scarves, Cao Cao held the rank of General and was given command of five thousand horse and foot to help fight at Yingchuan. He just happened to fall in with the newly defeated rebels whom he cut to pieces. Thousands were slain and endless banners and drums and horses were captured, together with huge sums of money. However, Zhang Ba and Zhang Lian got away; and after an interview with Huangfu Song, Cao Cao went in pursuit of them.
Meanwhile Liu Bei and his brothers were hastening toward Yingchuan, when they heard the din of battle and saw flames rising high toward the sky. But they arrived too late for the fighting. They saw Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun to whom they told the intentions of Lu Zhi.
“The rebel power is quite broken here,” said the commanders, “but they will surely make for Guangzong to join Zhang Jue. You can do nothing better than hasten back.”
The three brothers thus retraced their steps. Half way along the road they met a party of soldiers escorting a prisoner in a cage-cart. When they drew near, they saw the prisoner was no other than Lu Zhi, the man they were going to help. Hastily dismounting, Liu Bei asked what had happened.
Lu Zhi explained, “I had surrounded the rebels and was on the point of smashing them, when Zhang Jue employed some of his supernatural powers and prevented my victory. The court sent down Eunuch Zhuo Feng to inquire into my failure, and that official demanded a bribe. I told him how hard pressed we were and asked him where, in the circumstances, I could find a gift for him. He went away in wrath and reported that I was hiding behind my ramparts and would not give battle and that I disheartened my army. So I was superseded by Dong Zhuo, and I have to go to the capital to answer the charge.”
This story put Zhang Fei into a rage. He was for slaying the escort and setting free Lu Zhi. But Liu Bei checked him.
“The government will take the due course,” said Liu Bei. “You must not act hastily!”
And the escort and the three brothers went two ways.
It was useless to continue on that road to Guangzong, so Guan Yu proposed to go back to Zhuo, and they retook the road. Two days later they heard the thunder of battle behind some hills. Hastening to the top, they beheld the government soldiers suffering great loss, and they saw the countryside was full of Yellow Scarves. On the rebels’ banners were the words Zhang Jue the Lord of Heaven written large.
“We will attack this Zhang Jue!” said Liu Bei to his brothers, and they galloped out to join in the battle.
Zhang Jue had worsted Dong Zhuo and was following up his advantage. He was in hot pursuit when the three brothers dashed into his army, threw his ranks into confusion, and drove him back fifteen miles. Then the brothers returned with the rescued general to his camp.
“What offices have you?” asked Dong Zhuo, when he had leisure to speak to the brothers.
“None,” replied they.
And Dong Zhuo treated them with disrespect. Liu Bei retired calmly, but Zhang Fei was furious.
“We have just rescued this menial in a bloody fight,” cried Zhang Fei, “and now he is rude to us! Nothing but his death can slake my anger.”
Zhang Fei stamped toward Dong Zhuo’s tent, holding firmly a sharp sword.
As it was in olden time so it is today,
The simple wight may merit well,
Officialdom holds sway;
Zhang Fei, the blunt and hasty,
Where can you find his peer?
But slaying the ungrateful would
Mean many deaths a year.
Dong Zhuo’s fate will be unrolled in later chapters.
Liu Bei Leads His People Over The River; Zhao Zilong Rescues The Child Lord At Dangyang.
The last chapter closed with the attack made by Zhang Fei as soon as his brother had let loose the waters on the doomed army. He met with Xu Chu and a combat began, but a fight with such a warrior was not to Xu Chu’s taste and he ran away. Zhang Fei followed till he came upon Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang, and the three went upstream till they came to the boats that had been prepared by Liu Feng and Mi Fang, when they all crossed over and marched toward Fancheng. As soon as they disembarked, Zhuge Liang ordered the boats and rafts to be burned.
Cao Ren gathered in the remnants of his army and camped at Xinye, while his colleague Cao Hong went to tell their lord the evil tidings of defeat.
“How dare he, this rustic Zhuge Liang!” exclaimed Cao Cao angrily.
Cao Cao then hastily sent an overwhelming army to camp near the place and gave orders for enormous works against the city, leveling hills and turning rivers to launch a violent assault on Fancheng from every side at once.
Then Liu Ye came in to see his lord and said, “Sir, you are new to this region, and you should win over the people’s hearts. Liu Bei has moved all the people from Xinye to Fancheng. If we march through the country, the people will be ground to powder. It would be well to call upon Liu Bei first to surrender, which will prove to the people that you have a care for them. If he yields, then we get Jingzhou without fighting.”
Cao Cao agreed and asked who would be a suitable messenger. Liu Ye suggested Xu Shu.
“He is a close friend of Liu Bei, and he is here with the army,” said Liu Ye.
“But he will not come back,” objected Cao Cao.
“If he does not return, he will be a laughing stock to the whole world. He will come back.”
Xu Shu was sent for, and Cao Cao said, “My first intention was to level Fancheng with the ground. But out of pity for its people, you may carry an offer to Liu Bei that if he will surrender, he will not only not be punished but he shall be given rank. But if he holds on his present misguided course, the whole of his followers shall be destroyed. Now you are an honest man and so I confide this mission to you, and I trust you will not disappoint me.”
Xu Shu said nothing but accepted his orders and went to the city, where he was received by both Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. They enjoyed a talk over old times before Xu Shu mentioned the object of his mission.
Then he said, “Cao Cao has sent me to invite you to surrender, thereby making a bid for popularity. But you ought also to know that he intends to attack the city from every point, that he is damming up the White River’s waters to be sent against you, and I fear you will not be able to hold the city. You ought to prepare.”
Liu Bei asked Xu Shu to remain with them, but Xu Shu said, “That is impossible, for all the world would ridicule me if I stayed. My old mother is dead, and I never forget my resentment. My body may be over there, but I swear never to form a plan for Cao Cao. You have the Sleeping Dragon to help you and need have no anxiety about the ultimate achievement of your undertaking. But I must go.”
And Xu Shu took his leave. Liu Bei felt he could not press his friend to stay. Xu Shu returned to Cao Cao’s camp and reported that Liu Bei had no intention of surrender. This angered Cao Cao who gave orders to begin the advance and siege.
When Liu Bei asked what Zhuge Liang meant to do, Zhuge Liang replied, “We shall abandon Fancheng and take Xiangyang.”
“But what of the people who have followed us? They cannot be abandoned.”
“You can tell them to do as they wish. They may come if they like, or remain here.”
They sent Guan Yu to prepare boats and told Sun Qian to proclaim to the people that Cao Cao was coming, that the city could not be defended, and those who wished to do so might cross the river with the army.
All the people cried, “We will follow the Prince even if it be to death!”
They started at once, some lamenting, some weeping, the young helping the aged, parents leading their children, the strong soldiers carrying the women. As the crowds crossed the river, from both banks arose the sound of lamentation.
Liu Bei was much affected as he saw all this from the boat.
“Why was I ever born,” said he, “to be the cause of all this misery to the people?”
He made to leap into the river, but they held him back. All were deeply sympathetic. When the boat reached the southern shore, he looked back at the weeping crowds waiting still on the other bank and was again moved to tears. He bade Guan Yu hasten the boats before he mounted and rode on.
When Xiangyang came in sight, they saw many flags flying on the walls and that the moat was protected by barbed barriers.
Liu Bei checked his horse and called out, “Liu Zong, good nephew! I only wish to save the people and nothing more. I pray you quickly open the gates.”
But Liu Zong was too frightened to appear. Cai Mao and Zhang Yun went up to one of the fighting towers and ordered the soldiers to shoot arrows down on those without the walls. The people gazed up at the towers and wept aloud.
Suddenly there appeared a general, with a small following, who cried out, “Cai Mao and Zhang Yun are two traitors. The princely Liu Bei is a most upright man and has come here to preserve his people. Why do you repulse him?”
All looked at this man. He was of eight-span height, with a face dark brown as a ripe date. He was from Yiyang and named Wei Yan. At that moment he looked very terrible, whirling his sword as if about to slice up the gate guards. They lost no time in throwing open the gate and dropping the bridge.
“Come in, Uncle Liu Bei,” cried Wei Yan, “and bring your army to slay these traitors!”
Zhang Fei plunged forward to take Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, but he was checked by his brother, who said, “Do not frighten the people!”
Thus Wei Yan let in Liu Bei. As soon as he entered, he saw a general galloping up with a few men.
The newcomer yelled, “Wei Yan, you nobody! How dare you create trouble? Do you not know me, General Wen Ping?”
Wei Yan turned angrily, set his spear, and galloped forward to attack the general. The soldiers joined in the fray and the noise of battle rose to the skies.
“I wanted to preserve the people, and I am only causing them injury,” cried Liu Bei distressed. “I do not wish to enter the city.”
“Jiangling is an important point. We will first take that as a place to dwell in,” said Zhuge Liang.
“That pleases me greatly,” said Liu Bei.
So they led the people thither and away from Xiangyang. Many of the inhabitants of that city took advantage of the confusion to escape, and they also joined themselves to Liu Bei.
Meanwhile, within the inhospitable city, Wei Yan and Wen Ping fought. The battle continued for four or five watches, all through the middle of the day, and nearly all the combatants fell. Then Wei Yan got away. As he could not find Liu Bei, he rode off to Changsha and sought an asylum with Governor Han Xuan.
Liu Bei wandered away from the city of Xiangyang that had refused shelter. Soldiers and people, his following numbered more than a hundred thousand. The carts numbered scores of thousands, and the burden bearers were innumerable. Their road led them past the tomb of Liu Biao, and Liu Bei turned aside to bow at the grave.
He lamented, saying, “Shameful is thy brother, lacking both in virtue and in talents. I refused to bear the burden you wished to lay upon me, wherein I was wrong. But the people committed no sin. I pray your glorious spirit descend and rescue these people.”
His prayer was fraught with sorrow, and all those about him wept.
Just then a scout rode up with the news that Fancheng was already taken by Cao Cao and that his army were preparing boats and rafts to cross the river.
The generals of Liu Bei said, “Jiangling is a defensible shelter, but with this crowd we can only advance very slowly, and when can we reach the city? If Cao Cao pursue, we shall be in a parlous state. Our counsel is to leave the people to their fate for a time and press on to Jiangling.”
But Liu Bei wept, saying, “The success of every great enterprise depends upon humanity. How can I abandon these people who have joined me?”
Those who heard him repeat this noble sentiment were greatly affected.
In time of stress his heart was tender toward the people,
And he wept as he went down into the ship,
Moving the hearts of soldiers to sympathy.
Even today, in the countryside,
Fathers and elders recall the Princely One’s kindness.
The progress of Liu Bei, with the crowd of people in his train, was very slow.
“The pursuers will be upon us quickly,” said Zhuge Liang. “Let us send Guan Yu to Jiangxia for succor. Liu Qi should be told to bring soldiers and prepare boats for us at Jiangling.”
Liu Bei agreed to this and wrote a letter which he sent by the hands of Guan Yu and Sun Qian and five hundred troops. Zhang Fei was put in command of the rear guard. Zhao Zilong was told to guard Liu Bei’s family, while the others ordered the march of the people.
They only traveled three or four miles daily and the halts were frequent.
Meanwhile Cao Cao was at Fancheng, whence he sent troops over the river toward Xiangyang. He summoned Liu Zong, but Liu Zong was too afraid to answer the call. No persuasion could get him to go.
Wang Wei said to him privately, “Now you can overcome Cao Cao if you are wise. Since you have announced surrender and Liu Bei has gone away, Cao Cao will relax his precautions, and you can catch him unawares. Send a well-prepared but unexpected force to waylay him in some commanding position, and the thing is done. If you were to take Cao Cao prisoner, your fame would run throughout the empire, and the land would be yours for the taking. This is a sort of opportunity that does not recur, and you should not miss it.”
The young man consulted Cai Mao, who called Wang Wei an evil counselor and spoke to him harshly.
“You are mad! You know nothing and understand nothing of destiny,” said Cai Mao.
Wang Wei angrily retorted, saying, “Cai Mao is the betrayer of the country, and I wish I could eat him alive!”
The quarrel waxed deadly, and Cai Mao wanted to slay Wang Wei. But eventually peace was restored by Kuai Yue.
Then Cai Mao and Zhang Yun went to Fancheng to see Cao Cao.
Cai Mao was by instinct specious and flattering, and when his host asked concerning the resources of Jingzhou, he replied, “There are fifty thousand of horse, one hundred fifty thousand of foot, and eighty thousand of marines. Most of the money and grain are at Jiangling. The rest is stored at various places. There are ample supplies for a year.”
“How many war vessels are there? Who is in command?” said Cao Cao.
“The ships, of all sizes, number seven thousands, and we two are the commanders.”
Upon this Cao Cao conferred upon Cai Mao the title of the Lord Who Controls the South, and Supreme Admiral of the Naval Force; and Zhang Yun was his Vice-Admiral with the title of the Lord Who Brings Obedience.
When they went to thank Cao Cao for these honors, he told them, saying, “I am about to propose to the Throne that Liu Biao’s son should be perpetual Imperial Protector of Jingzhou in succession to his late father.”
With this promise for their young master and the honors for themselves, they retired.
Then Xun You asked Cao Cao, “Why these two evident self-seekers and flatterers have been treated so generously?”
Cao Cao replied, “Do I not know all about them? Only in the north, where we have been, we know very little of war by water, and these two men do. I want their help for the present. When my end is achieved, I can do as I like with them.”
Liu Zong was highly delighted when his two chief supporters returned with the promise Cao Cao had given them. Soon after he gave up his seal and military commission and proceeded to welcome Cao Cao, who received him very graciously.
Cao Cao next proceeded to camp near Xiangyang. The populace, led by Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, welcomed him with burning incense, and he on his part put forth proclamations couched in comforting terms.
Cao Cao presently entered the city and took his seat in the residence in state. Then he summoned Kuai Yue and said to him graciously, “I do not rejoice so much at gaining Jingzhou as at meeting you, friend Kuai Yue.”
Cao Cao made Kuai Yue Governor of Jiangling and Lord of Fancheng; Wang Can, Fu Xuan, and Kuai Yue’s other adherents were all ennobled. Liu Zong became Imperial Protector of Qingzhou in the north and was ordered to proceed to his region forthwith.
Liu Zong was greatly frightened and said, “I have no wish to become an actual official. I wish to remain in the place where my father and mother live.”
Said Cao Cao, “Your protectorship is quite near the capital, and I have sent you there as a full official to remove you from the intrigues of this place.”
In vain Liu Zong declined the honors thus thrust upon him: He was compelled to go and he departed, taking his mother with him. Of his friends, only Wang Wei accompanied him. Some of his late officers escorted him as far as the river and then took their leave.
Then Cao Cao called his trusty officer Yu Jin and said, “Follow Liu Zong and put him and his mother to death. Our worries are thus removed.”
Yu Jin followed the small party.
When he drew near he shouted, “I have an order from the great Prime Minister to put you both to death, mother and son! You may as well submit quietly.”
Lady Cai threw her arms about her son, lifted up her voice and wept. Yu Jin bade his soldiers get on with their bloody work. Only Wang Wei made any attempt to save his mistress, and he was soon killed. The two, mother and son, were soon finished, and Yu Jin returned to report his success. He was richly rewarded.
Next Cao Cao sent to discover and seize the family of Zhuge Liang, but they had already disappeared. Zhuge Liang had moved them to the Three Gorges. It was much to Cao Cao’s disgust that the search was fruitless.
So Xiangyang was settled. Then Xun You proposed a further advance.
He said, “Jiangling is an important place, and very rich. If Liu Bei gets it, it will be difficult to dislodge him.”
“How could I have overlooked that?” said Cao Cao.
Then he called upon the officers of Xiangyang for one who could lead the way. They all came except Wen Ping.
Cao Cao sent for him and soon he came also.
“Why are you late?” asked Cao Cao.
Wen Ping said, “To be a minister and see one’s master lose his own boundaries is most shameful. Such a person has no face to show to anyone else, and I was too ashamed to come.”
His tears fell fast as he finished this speech. Cao Cao admired his loyal conduct and rewarded him with office of Governorship of Jiangxia and a title of Lordship, and also bade him open the way.
The spies returned and said, “Liu Bei is hampered by the crowds of people who have followed him. He can proceed only three or four miles daily, and he is only one hundred miles away.”
Cao Cao decided to take advantage of Liu Bei’s plight, so he chose out five thousand of tried horsemen and sent them after the cavalcade, giving them a limit of a day and a night to come up therewith. The main army would follow.
As has been said Liu Bei was traveling with a huge multitude of followers, to guard whom he had taken what precautions were possible. Zhang Fei was in charge of the rear guard, and Zhao Zilong was to protect his lord’s family. Guan Yu had been sent to Jiangxia.
One day Zhuge Liang came in and said, “There is as yet no news from Jiangxia. There must be some difficulties.”
“I wish that you yourself would go there,” said Liu Bei. “Liu Qi would remember your former kindness to him and consent to anything you proposed.”
Zhuge Liang said he would go and set out with Liu Feng, the adopted son of Liu Bei, taking an escort of five hundred troops.
A few days after, while on the march in company with three of his commanders—Jian Yong, Mi Zhu, and Mi Fang—a sudden whirlwind rose just in front of Liu Bei, and a huge column of dust shot up into the air hiding the face of the sun.
Liu Bei was frightened and asked, “What might that portend?”
Jian Yong, who knew something of the mysteries of nature, took the auspices by counting secretly on his fingers.
Pale and trembling, he announced, “A calamity is threatening this very night. My lord must leave the people to their fate and flee quickly.”
“I cannot do that,” said Liu Bei.
“If you allow your pity to overcome your judgment, then misfortune is very near,” said Jian Yong.
Thus spoke Jian Yong to his lord, who then asked what place was near.
His people replied, “Dangyang is quite close, and there is a very famous mountain near it called Prospect Mountain.”
Then Liu Bei bade them lead the way thither.
The season was late autumn, just changing to winter, and the icy wind penetrated to the very bones. As evening fell, long-drawn howls of misery were heard on every side. At the middle of the fourth watch, two hours after midnight, they heard a rumbling sound in the northwest. Liu Bei halted and placed himself at the head of his own guard of two thousand soldiers to meet whatever might come.
Presently Cao Cao’s men appeared and made fierce onslaught. Defense was impossible, though Liu Bei fought desperately. By good fortune just at the crisis Zhang Fei came up, cut an alley through, rescued his brother, and got him away to the east. Presently they were stopped by Wen Ping.
“Turncoat! Can you still look humans in the face?” cried Liu Bei.
Wen Ping was overwhelmed with shame and led his troops away. Zhang Fei, now fighting, protected his brother till dawn.
By that time Liu Bei had got beyond the sound of battle, and there was time to rest. Only a few of his followers had been able to keep near him. He knew nothing of the fate of his officers or the people.
He lifted up his voice in lamentation, saying, “Myriads of living souls are suffering from love of me, and my officers and my loved ones are lost. One would be a graven image not to weep at such loss!”
Still plunged in sadness, presently he saw hurrying toward him Mi Fang, with an enemy’s arrow still sticking in his face.
Mi Fang exclaimed, “Zhao Zilong has gone over to Cao Cao!”
Liu Bei angrily bade him be silent, crying, “Do you think I can believe that of my old friend?”
“Perhaps he has gone over,” said Zhang Fei. “He must see that we are nearly lost and there are riches and honors on the other side.”
“He has followed me faithfully through all my misfortunes. His heart is firm as a rock. No riches or honors would move him,” said Liu Bei.
“I saw him go away northwest,” said Mi Fang.
“Wait till I meet him,” said Zhang Fei. “If I run against him, I will kill him!”
“Beware how you doubt him,” said Liu Bei. “Have you forgotten the circumstances under which your brother Guan Yu had to slay Cai Yang to ease your doubts of him? Zhao Zilong’s absence is due to good reason wherever he has gone, and he would never abandon me.”
But Zhang Fei was not convinced. Then he, with a score of his men, rode to the Long Slope Bridge. Seeing a wood near the bridge, an idea suddenly struck him. He bade his followers cut branches from the trees, tie them to the tails of the horses, and ride to and fro so as to raise a great dust as though an army were concealed in the wood. He himself took up his station on the bridge facing the west with spear set ready for action. So he kept watch.
Now Zhao Zilong, after fighting with the enemy from the fourth watch till daylight, could see no sign of his lord and, moreover, had lost his lord’s family.
He thought bitterly within himself, “My master confided to me his family and the child lord Liu Shan; and I have lost them. How can I look him in the face? I can only go now and fight to the death. Whatever happen, I must go to seek the women and my lord’s son.”
Turning about he found he had but some forty followers left. He rode quickly to and fro among the scattered soldiers seeking the lost women. The lamentations of the people about him were enough to make heaven and earth weep. Some had been wounded by arrows, others by spears; they had thrown away their children, abandoned their wives, and were flying they knew not whither in crowds.
Presently Zhao Zilong saw a man lying in the grass and recognized him as Jian Yong.
“Have you seen the two mothers?” cried he.
Jian Yong replied, “They left their carriage and ran away taking the child lord Liu Shan in their arms. I followed but on the slope of the hill I was wounded and fell from my horse. The horse was stolen. I could fight no longer, and I lay down here.”
Zhao Zilong put his colleague on the horse of one of his followers, told off two soldiers to support Jian Yong, and bade Jian Yong ride to their lord and tell him of the loss.
“Say,” said Zhao Zilong, “that I will seek the lost ones in heaven or hell, through good or evil. And if I find them not, I will die in the battlefield.”
Then Zhao Zilong rode off toward the Long Slope Bridge.
As he went, a voice called out, “General Zhao Zilong, where are you going?”
“Who are you?” said Zhao Zilong, pulling up.
“One of the Princely One’s carriage guards. I am wounded.”
“Do you know anything of the two ladies?”
“Not very long ago I saw Lady Gan go south with a party of other women. Her hair was down, and she was barefooted”
Hearing this, without even another glance at the speaker, Zhao Zilong put his horse at full gallop toward the south. Soon he saw a small crowd of people, male and female, walking hand in hand.
“Is Lady Gan among you!” he called out.
A woman in the rear of the party looked up at him and uttered a loud cry.
He slipped off his steed, stuck his spear in the sand, and wept, “It was my fault that you were lost. But where are Lady Mi and our child lord?”
Lady Gan replied, “She and I were forced to abandon our carriage and mingle with the crowd on foot. Then a band of soldiers came up, and we were separated. I do not know where they are. I ran for my life.”
As she spoke, a howl of distress rose from the crowd of fugitives, for a thousand of soldiers appeared. Zhao Zilong recovered his spear and mounted ready for action. Presently he saw among the soldiers a prisoner bound upon a horse, and the prisoner was Mi Zhu. Behind Mi Zhu followed a general gripping a huge sword. The troops belonged to the army of Cao Ren, and the general was Chunyu Dao. Having captured Mi Zhu, he was just taking him to his chief as a proof of his prowess.
Zhao Zilong shouted and rode at the captor who was speedily slain by a spear thrust and his captive was set free. Then taking two of the horses, Zhao Zilong set Lady Gan on one and Mi Zhu took the other. They rode away toward Long Slope Bridge.
But there, standing grim on the bridge, was Zhang Fei.
As soon as he saw Zhao Zilong, he called out, “Zhao Zilong, why have you betrayed our lord?”
“I fell behind because I was seeking the ladies and our child lord,” said Zhao Zilong. “What do you mean by talking of betrayal?”
“If it had not been that Jian Yong arrived before you and told me the story, I should hardly have spared you.”
“Where is the master?” said Zhao Zilong.
“Not far away, in front there,” said Zhang Fei.
“Conduct Lady Gan to him. I am going to look for Lady Mi,” said Zhao Zilong to his companion, and he turned back along the road by which he had come.
Before long he met a leader armed with an iron spear and carrying a sword slung across his back, riding a curvetting steed, and leading ten other horsemen. Without uttering a word Zhao Zilong rode straight toward him and engaged. At the first pass Zhao Zilong disarmed his opponent and brought him to earth. His followers galloped away.
This fallen officer was no other than Xiahou En, Cao Cao’s sword-bearer. And the sword on Xiahou En’s back was his master’s . Cao Cao had two swords, one called “Trust of God” and the other “Blue Blade”. Trust of God was the weapon Cao Cao usually wore at his side, the other being carried by his sword-bearer. The Blue Blade would cut clean through iron as though it were mud, and no sword had so keen an edge.
Before Zhao Zilong thus fell in with Xiahou En, the latter was simply plundering, depending upon the authority implied by his office. Least of all thought he of such sudden death as met he at Zhao Zilong’s hands.
So Zhao Zilong got possession of a famous sword. The name Blue Blade was chased in gold characters so that he recognized its value at once. He stuck it in his belt and again plunged into the press. Just as he did so, he turned his head and saw he had not a single follower left. He was quite alone.
Nevertheless not for a single instant thought he of turning back. He was too intent upon his quest. To and fro, back and forth, he rode questioning this person and that.
At length a man said, “A woman with a child in her arms, and wounded in the thigh so that she cannot walk, is lying over there through that hole in the wall.”
Zhao Zilong rode to look and there, beside an old well behind the broken wall of a burned house, sat the mother clasping the child to her breast and weeping.
Zhao Zilong was on his knees before her in a moment.
“My child will live then since you are here,” cried Lady Mi. “Pity him, O General! Protect him, for he is the only son of his father’s flesh and blood. Take him to his father, and I can die content.”
“It is my fault that you have suffered,” replied Zhao Zilong. “But it is useless to say more. I pray you take my horse, while I will walk beside and protect you till we get clear.”
She replied, “I may not do that. What would you do without a steed? But the boy here I confide to your care. I am badly wounded and cannot hope to live. Pray take him and go your way. Do not trouble more about me.”
“I hear shouting,” said Zhao Zilong. “The soldiers will be upon us again in a moment. Pray mount quickly!”
“But really I cannot move,” she said. “Do not let there be a double loss!”
And she held out the child toward him as she spoke.
“Take the child!” cried Lady Mi. “His life and safety are in your hands.”
Again and again Zhao Zilong besought her to get on his horse, but she would not.
The shouting drew nearer and nearer, Zhao Zilong spoke harshly, saying, “If you will not do what I say, what will happen when the soldiers come up?”
She said no more. Throwing the child on the ground, she turned over and threw herself into the old well. And there she perished.
The warrior relies upon the strength of his charger,
Afoot, how could he bear to safety his young prince?
Brave mother! Who died to preserve the son of her husband’s line;
Heroine was she, bold and decisive!
Seeing that Lady Mi had resolved the question by dying, there was nothing more to be done. Zhao Zilong pushed over the wall to fill the well, and thus making a grave for the lady. Then he loosened his armor, let down the heart-protecting mirror, and placed the child in his breast. This done he slung his spear and remounted.
Zhao Zilong had gone but a short distance, when he saw a horde of enemy led by Yan Ming, one of Cao Hong’s generals. This warrior used a double edged, three pointed weapon and he offered battle. However, Zhao Zilong disposed of him after a very few bouts and dispersed his troops.
As the road cleared before him, Zhao Zilong saw another detachment barring his way. At the head of this was a general exalted enough to display a banner with his name Zhang He of Hejian. Zhao Zilong never waited to parley but attacked. However, this was a more formidable antagonist, and half a score bouts found neither any nearer defeat. But Zhao Zilong, with the child in his bosom, could only fight with the greatest caution, and so he decided to flee.
Zhang He pursued, and as Zhao Zilong thought only of thrashing his steed to get away, and little of the road, suddenly he went crashing into a pit. On came his pursuer, spear at poise. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light seemed to shoot out of the pit, and the fallen horse leapt with it into the air and was again on firm earth.
A bright glory surrounds the child of the imperial line, now in danger,
The powerful charger forces his way through the press of battle,
Bearing to safety him who was destined to the throne two score years and two;
And the general thus manifested his godlike courage.
This apparition frightened Zhang He, who abandoned the pursuit forthwith, and Zhao Zilong rode off.
Presently he heard shouts behind, “Zhao Zilong, Zhao Zilong, stop!” and at the same time he saw ahead of him two generals who seemed disposed to dispute his way.
Ma Yan and Zhang Zi following and Jiao Chu and Zhang Neng in front, his state seemed desperate, but Zhao Zilong quailed not.
As the men of Cao Cao came pressing on, Zhao Zilong drew Cao Cao’s own sword to beat them off. Nothing could resist the blue blade sword. Armor, clothing, it went through without effort and blood gushed forth in fountains wherever it struck. So the four generals were soon beaten off, and Zhao Zilong was once again free.
Now Cao Cao from a hilltop of the Prospect Mountain saw these deeds of derring-do and a general showing such valor that none could withstand him, so Cao Cao asked of his followers whether any knew the man. No one recognized him.
So Cao Hong galloped down into the plain and shouted out, “We should hear the name of the warrior!”
“I am Zhao Zilong of Changshan!” replied Zhao Zilong.
Cao Hong returned and told his lord, who said, “A very tiger of a leader! I must get him alive.”
Whereupon he sent horsemen to all detachments with orders that no arrows were to be fired from an ambush at any point Zhao Zilong should pass: He was to be taken alive.
And so Zhao Zilong escaped most imminent danger, and Liu Shan’s safety, bound up with his savior’s, was also secured. On this career of slaughter which ended in safety, Zhao Zilong, bearing in his bosom the child lord Liu Shan, cut down two main banners, took three spears, and slew or wounded of Cao Cao’s generals half a hundred, all men of renown.
Blood dyed the fighting robe and crimsoned his buff coat;
None dared engage the terrible warrior at Dangyang;
In the days of old lived the brave Zhao Zilong,
Who fought in the battlefield for his lord in danger.
Having thus fought his way out of the press, Zhao Zilong lost no time in getting away from the battle field. His white battle robe had turned red, soaking in blood.
On his way, near the rise of the hills, he met with two other bodies of troops under two brothers, Zhong Jin and Zhong Shen. One of these was armed with a massive ax, the other a halberd.
As soon as they saw Zhao Zilong, they knew him and shouted, “Quickly dismount and be bound!”
He has only escaped from the tiger cave,
To risk the dragon pool’s sounding wave.
How Zhao Zilong escaped will be next related.
Screaming Zhang Fei Triumphs At Long Slope Bridge; Defeated Liu Bei Marches To Hanjin.
As related in the last chapter two generals appeared in front of Zhao Zilong, who rode at them with his spear ready for a thrust. Zhong Jin was leading, flourishing his battle-ax. Zhao Zilong engaged and very soon unhorsed him. Then Zhao Zilong galloped away. Zhong Shen rode up behind ready with his halberd, and his horse’s nose got so close to the other’s tail that Zhao Zilong could see in his armor the reflection of the play of Zhong Shen’s weapon. Then suddenly, and without warning, Zhao Zilong wheeled round his horse so that he faced his pursuer, and their two steeds struck breast to breast. With his spear in his left hand, Zhao Zilong warded off the halberd strokes, and in his right he swung the blue blade sword. One slash and he had cut through both helmet and head. Zhong Shen fell to the ground, a corpse with only half a head on his body. His followers fled, and Zhao Zilong retook the road toward Long Slope Bridge.
But in his rear arose another tumultuous shouting, seeming to rend the very sky, and Wen Ping came up behind. However, although the man was weary and his steed spent, Zhao Zilong got close to the bridge where he saw standing, all ready for any fray, Zhang Fei.
“Help me, Zhang Fei!” he cried and crossed the bridge.
“Hasten!” cried Zhang Fei, “I will keep back the pursuers!”
About seven miles from the bridge, Zhao Zilong saw Liu Bei with his followers reposing in the shade of some trees. He dismounted and drew near, weeping. The tears also started to Liu Bei’s eyes when he saw his commander.
Still panting from his exertions, Zhao Zilong gasped out, “My fault—death is too light a punishment. Lady Mi was severely wounded. She refused my horse and threw herself into a well. She is dead, and all I could do was to fill in the well with the rubbish that lay around. But I placed the babe in the breast of my fighting robe and have won my way out of the press of battle. Thanks to the little lord’s grand luck I have escaped. At first he cried a good deal, but for some time now he has not stirred or made a sound. I fear I may not have saved his life after all.”
Then Zhao Zilong opened his robe and looked: The child was fast asleep.
“Happily, Sir, your son is unhurt,” said Zhao Zilong as he drew him forth and presented him in both hands.
Liu Bei took the child but threw it aside angrily, saying, “To preserve that suckling I very nearly lost a great general!”
Zhao Zilong picked up the child again and, weeping, said, “Were I ground to powder, I could not prove my gratitude.”
From out Cao Cao’s host a tiger rushed,
His wish but to destroy;
Though Liu Bei’s consort lost her life,
Zhao Zilong preserved her boy.
“Too great the risk you ran to save
This child,” the father cried.
To show he rated Zhao Zilong high,
He threw his son aside.
Wen Ping and his company pursued Zhao Zilong till they saw Zhang Fei’s bristling mustache and fiercely glaring eyes before them. There he was seated on his battle steed, his hand grasping his terrible serpent spear, guarding the bridge. They also saw great clouds of dust rising above the trees and concluded they would fall into an ambush if they ventured across the bridge. So they stopped the pursuit, not daring to advance further.
In a little time Cao Ren, Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Li Dian, Yue Jing, Zhang Liao, Xu Chu, Zhang He, and other generals of Cao Cao came up, but none dared advance, frightened not only by Zhang Fei’s fierce look, but lest they should become victims of a ruse of Zhuge Liang. As they came up, they formed a line on the west side, halting till they could inform their lord of the position.
As soon as the messengers arrived and Cao Cao heard about it, he mounted and rode to the bridge to see for himself. Zhang Fei’s fierce eye scanning the hinder position of the army opposite him saw the silken umbrella, the axes and banners coming along, and concluded that Cao Cao came to see for himself how matters stood.
So in a mighty voice he shouted: “I am Zhang Fei of Yan. Who dares fight with me?”
At the sound of this thunderous voice, a terrible quaking fear seized upon Cao Cao, and he bade them take the umbrella away.
Turning to his followers, he said, “Guan Yu had said that his brother Zhang Fei was the sort of man to go through an army of a hundred legions and take the head of its commander-in-chief, and do it easily. Now here is this terror in front of us, and we must be careful.”
As he finished speaking, again that terrible voice was heard, “I am Zhang Fei of Yan.Who dares fight with me?”
Cao Cao, seeing his enemy so fierce and resolute, was too frightened to think of anything but retreat.
Zhang Fei, seeing a movement going on in the rear, once again shook his spear and roared, “What mean you? You will not fight nor do you run away!”
This roar had scarcely begun when one of Cao Cao’s staff, Xiahou Jie, reeled and fell from his horse terror-stricken, paralyzed with fear. The panic touched Cao Cao and spread to his whole surroundings, and he and his staff galloped for their lives. They were as frightened as a suckling babe at a clap of thunder or a weak woodcutter at the roar of a tiger. Many threw away their spears, dropped their casques and fled, a wave of panic-stricken humanity, a tumbling mass of terrified horses. None thought of ought but flight, and those who ran trampled the bodies of fallen comrades under foot.
Zhang Fei was wrathful; and who dared
To accept his challenge? Fierce he glared;
His thunderous voice rolled out, and then
In terror fled Cao Cao’s armed soldiers.
Panic-stricken Cao Cao galloped westward with the rest, thinking of nothing but getting away. He lost his headdress, and his loosened hair streamed behind him. Presently Zhang Liao and Xu Chu came up with him and seized his bridle; fear had deprived him of all self-control.
“Do not be frightened,” said Zhang Liao. “After all Zhang Fei is but one man and not worthy of extravagant fear. If you will only return and attack, you will capture your enemy.”
That time Cao Cao had somewhat overcome his panic and become reasonable. Two generals were ordered back to the bridge to reconnoiter.
Zhang Fei saw the disorderly rout of the enemy but he dared not pursue. However, he bade his score or so of dust-raising followers to cut loose the branches from their horses’ tails and come to help destroy the bridge. This done he went to report to his brother and told him of the destruction of the bridge.
“Brave as you are, brother, and no one is braver, but you are no strategist,” said Liu Bei.
“What mean you, brother?”
“Cao Cao is very deep. You are no match for him. The destruction of the bridge will bring him in pursuit.”
“If he ran away at a yell of mine, think you he will dare return?”
“If you had left the bridge, he would have thought there was an ambush and would not have dared to pass it. Now the destruction of the bridge tells him we are weak and fearful, and he will pursue. He does not mind a broken bridge. His legions could fill up the biggest rivers that we could get across.”
So orders were given to march, and they went by a bye-road which led diagonally to Hanjin by the road of Minyang.
The two generals sent by Cao Cao to reconnoiter near Long Slope Bridge returned, saying, “The bridge has been destroyed. Zhang Fei has left.”
“Then he is afraid,” said Cao Cao.
Cao Cao at once gave orders to set ten thousand men at work on three floating bridges to be finished that night.
Li Dian said, “I fear this is one of the wiles of Zhuge Liang. So be careful.”
“Zhang Fei is just a bold warrior, but there is no guile about him,” said Cao Cao.
He gave orders for immediate advance.
Liu Bei was making all speed to Hanjin. Suddenly there appeared in his track a great cloud of dust whence came loud rolls of drums and shoutings.
Liu Bei was dismayed and said, “Before us rolls the Great River; behind is the pursuer. What hope is there for us?”
But he bade Zhao Zilong organize a defense.
Now Cao Cao in an order to his army had said, “Liu Bei is a fish in the fish kettle, a tiger in the pit. Catch him this time, or the fish will get back to the sea and the tiger escape to the mountains. Therefore every general must use his best efforts to press on.”
In consequence every leader bade those under him hasten forward. And they were pressing on at great speed, when suddenly a body of soldiers appeared from the hills and a voice cried, “I have waited here a long time!”
The leader who had shouted this bore in his hand the green-dragon saber and rode Red Hare, for indeed it was no other than Guan Yu. He had gone to Jiangxia for help and had returned with a whole legion of ten thousand. Having heard of the battle, he had taken this very road to intercept pursuit.
As soon as Guan Yu appeared, Cao Cao stopped and said to his officers, “Here we are, tricked again by that Zhuge Liang!”
Without more ado he ordered a retreat. Guan Yu followed him some three miles and then drew off to act as guard to his elder brother on his way to the river. There boats were ready, and Liu Bei and family went on board. When all were settled comfortably in the boat, Guan Yu asked where was his sister, the second wife of his brother, Lady Mi. Then Liu Bei told him the story of Dangyang.
“Alas!” said Guan Yu. “Had you taken my advice that day of the hunting in Xutian, we should have escaped the misery of this day.”
“But,” said Liu Bei, “on that day it was ‘Ware damaged when pelting rats.’”
Just as Liu Bei spoke, he heard war drums on the south bank. A fleet of boats, thick as a flight of ants, came running up with swelling sails before the fair wind. He was alarmed.
The boats came nearer. There Liu Bei saw the white clad figure of a man wearing a silver helmet who stood in the prow of the foremost ship.
The leader cried, “Are you all right, my uncle? I am very guilty.”
It was Liu Qi. He bowed low as the ship passed, saying, “I heard you were in danger from Cao Cao, and I have come to aid you.”
Liu Bei welcomed Liu Qi with joy, and his soldiers joined in with the main body, and the whole fleet sailed on, while they told each other their adventures.
Unexpectedly in the southwest there appeared a line of fighting ships swishing up before a fair wind.
Liu Qi said, “All my troops are here, and now there is an enemy barring the way. If they are not Cao Cao’s ships, they must be from the South Land. We have a poor chance. What now?”
Liu Bei went to the prow and gazed at them. Presently he made out a figure in a turban and Daoist robe sitting in the bows of one of the boats and knew it to be Zhuge Liang. Behind him stood Sun Qian.
When they were quite near, Liu Bei asked Zhuge Liang how he came to be there.
And Zhuge Liang reported what he had done, saying, “When I reached Jiangxia, I sent Guan Yu to land at Hanjin with reinforcements, for I feared pursuit from Cao Cao and knew that road you would take instead of Jiangling. So I prayed your nephew to go to meet you, while I went to Xiakou to muster as many soldiers as possible.”
The new-comers added to their strength, and they began once more to consider how their powerful enemy might be overcome.
Said Zhuge Liang, “Xiakou is strong and a good strategic point. It is also rich and suited for a lengthy stay. I would ask you, my lord, to make it a permanent camp. Your nephew can go to Jiangxia to get the fleet in order and prepare weapons. Thus we can create two threatening angles for our position. If we all return to Jiangxia, the position will be weakened.”
Liu Qi replied, “The Directing Instructor’s words are excellent, but I wish rather my uncle stayed awhile in Jiangxia till the army was in thorough order. Then he could go to Xiakou.”
“You speak to the point, nephew,” replied Liu Bei.
Then leaving Guan Yu with five thousand troops at Xiakou he, with Zhuge Liang and his nephew, went to Jiangxia.
When Cao Cao saw Guan Yu with a force ready to attack, he feared lest a greater number were hidden away behind, so he stopped the pursuit. He also feared lest Liu Bei should take Jiangling, so he marched thither with all haste.
The two officers in command at Jingzhou City, Deng Yi and Liu Xin, had heard of the death of their lord Liu Zong at Xiangyang and, knowing that there was no chance of successful defense against Cao Cao’s armies, they led out the people of Jingzhou to the outskirts and offered submission. Cao Cao entered the city and, after restoring order and confidence, he released Han Song and gave him the dignified office of Director of Ambassadorial Receptions. He rewarded the others.
Then said Cao Cao, “Liu Bei has gone to Jiangxia and may ally himself with the South Land, and the opposition to me will be greater. Can he be destroyed?”
Xun You said, “The splendor of your achievements has spread wide. Therefore you might send a messenger to invite Sun Quan to a grand hunting party at Jiangxia, and you two could seize Liu Bei, share Jingzhou with Sun Quan, and make a solemn treaty. Sun Quan will be too frightened not to come over to you, and your end will be gained.”
Cao Cao agreed. He sent the letters by a messenger, and he prepared his army—horse and foot and marines. He had in all eight hundred thirty thousand troops, but he called them a million. The attack was to be by land and water at the same time.
The fleet advanced up the river in two lines. On the west it extended to Jingxia, on the east to Qichun. The stockades stretched one hundred miles.
The story of Cao Cao’s movements and successes reached Sun Quan, then in camp at Chaisang. He assembled his strategists to decide on a scheme of defense.
Lu Su said, “Jingzhou is contiguous to our borders. It is strong and defensive, its people are rich. It is the sort of country that an emperor or a king should have. Liu Biao’s recent death gives an excuse for me to be sent to convey condolence and, once there, I shall be able to talk over Liu Bei and the officers of the late Imperial Protector to combine with you against Cao Cao. If Liu Bei does as I wish, then success is yours.”
Sun Quan thought this a good plan, so he had the necessary letters prepared, and the gifts, and sent Lu Su with them.
All this time Liu Bei was at Jiangxia where, with Zhuge Liang and Liu Qi, he was endeavoring to evolve a good plan of campaign.
Zhuge Liang said, “Cao Cao’s power is too great for us to cope with. Let us go over to the South Land and ask help from Sun Quan. If we can set north and south at grips, we ought to be able to get some advantage from our intermediate position between them.”
“But will they be willing to have anything to do with us?” said Liu Bei. “The South Land is a large and populous country, and Sun Quan has ambitions of his own.”
Zhuge Liang replied, “Cao Cao with his army of a million holds the Han River and a half of the Great River. The South Land will certainly send to find out all possible about the position. Should any messenger come, I shall borrow a little boat and make a little trip over the river and trust to my little lithe tongue to set north and south at each other’s throats. If the south wins, we will assist in destroying Cao Cao in order to get Jingzhou. If the north wins, we shall profit by the victory to get the South Land. So we shall get some advantage either way.”
“That is a very fine view to take,” said Liu Bei. “But how are you going to get hold of anyone from the South Land to talk to?”
Liu Bei’s question was answered by the arrival of Lu Su, and as the ship touched the bank and the envoy came ashore, Zhuge Liang laughed, saying, “It is done!”
Turning to Liu Qi he asked, “When Sun Ce died, did your country send any condolences?”
“It is impossible there would be any mourning courtesies between them and us. We had caused the death of his father, Sun Jian.”
“Then it is certain that this envoy does not come to present condolences but to spy out the land.”
So he said to Liu Bei, “When Lu Su asks about the movements of Cao Cao, you will know nothing. If he presses the matter, say he can ask me.”
Having thus prepared their scheme, they sent to welcome the envoy, who entered the city in mourning garb. The gifts having been accepted, Liu Qi asked Lu Su to meet Liu Bei. When the introductory ceremonies were over, the three men went to one of the inner chambers to drink a cup of wine.
Presently Lu Su said to Liu Bei, “By reputation I have known you a long time, Uncle Liu Bei, but till today I have not met you. I am very gratified at seeing you. You have been fighting Cao Cao, though, lately, so I suppose you know all about him. Has he really so great an army? How many, do you think, he has?”
“My army was so small that we fled whenever we heard of his approach. So I do not know how many he had.”
“You had the advice of Zhuge Liang, and you used fire on Cao Cao twice. You burned him almost to death so that you can hardly say you know nothing about his soldiers,” said Lu Su.
“Without asking my adviser, I really do not know the details.”
“Where is Zhuge Liang? I should like to see him,” said Lu Su.
So they sent for him, and he was introduced.
When the ceremonies were over, Lu Su said, “I have long admired your genius but have never been fortunate enough to meet you. Now that I have met you, I hope I may speak of present politics.”
Replied Zhuge Liang, “I know all Cao Cao’s infamies and wickednesses, but to my regret we were not strong enough to withstand him. That is why we avoided him.”
“Is the Imperial Uncle going to stay here?”
“The Princely One is an old friend of Wu Ju, Governor of Changwu, and intends to go to him.”
“Wu Ju has few troops and insufficient supplies. He cannot ensure safety for himself. How can he receive the Uncle?” said Lu Su.
“Changwu is not one to remain in long, but it is good enough for the present. We can make other plans for the future.”
Lu Su said, “Sun Quan is strongly posted in the six southern territories and is exceedingly well supplied. He treats able people and scholars with the greatest courtesy and so they gather round him. Now if you are seeking a plan for your Prince, you cannot do better than send some friend to confer with him.”
“There have never been any relations between my master and yours,” said Zhuge Liang. “I fear there would be nothing but a waste of words. Besides, we have no one to send.”
“Your elder brother Zhuge Jin is there as adviser and is longing to see you. I am but a simple wight, but I should be pleased to discuss affairs with my master and you.”
“But Zhuge Liang is my Directing Instructor,” said Liu Bei, “and I cannot do without him. He cannot go.”
Lu Su pressed him. Liu Bei pretended to refuse permission.
“It is important. I pray you give me leave to go,” said Zhuge Liang.
Then Liu Bei consented. And they soon took leave and the two set out by boat for Sun Quan’s headquarters.
A little boat sailed down the stream
With Zhuge Liang well content;
For he could see his enemies
To fiery perdition sent.
The result of this journey will appear in the following chapter.
Image 7.6: Three Brothers | Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei stand close together reading a scroll.
Author: User “Jonathan Groß”
Source: Wikimedia Commons
License: Public Domain
Zhuge Liang Disputes With The Southern Scholars; Lu Su Denounces The Majority Opinion.
In the boat on the way to Chaisang, the two travelers beguiled the time by discussing affairs.
Lu Su impressed upon his companion, saying, “When you see my master, do not reveal the truth about the magnitude of Cao Cao’s army.”
You do not have to remind me,” replied Zhuge Liang, “but I shall know how to reply.”
When the boat arrived, Zhuge Liang was lodged in the guests’ quarters, and Lu Su went alone to see his master. Lu Su found Sun Quan actually at a council, assembled to consider the situation. Lu Su was summoned thereto and questioned at once upon what he had discovered.
“I know the general outline, but I want a little time to prepare my report,” replied Lu Su.
Then Sun Quan produced Cao Cao’s letter and gave it to Lu Su.
“That came yesterday. I have sent the bearer of it back, and this gathering is to consider the reply,” said he.
Lu Su read the letter:
“When I, the Prime Minister, received the imperial command to punish a fault, my banners went south and Liu Zong became my prisoner, while the people of Jingzhou flocked to my side at the first rumor of my coming. Under my hand are one million strong and a thousand able leaders. My desire is, General, that we go on a great hunting expedition into Jiangxia and together attack Liu Bei. We will share his land between us, and we will swear perpetual amity. If happily you would not be a mere looker-on, I pray you reply quickly.”
“What have you decided upon, my lord?” asked Lu Su as he finished the letter.
“I have not yet decided.”
Then Zhang Zhao said, “It would be imprudent to withstand Cao Cao’s hundred legions backed by the imperial authority. Moreover, your most important defense against him is the Great River; and since Cao Cao has gained possession of Jingzhou, the river is his ally against us. We cannot withstand him, and the only way to tranquillity, in my opinion, is submission.”
“The words of the speaker accord with the manifest decree of providence,” echoed all the assembly.
Sun Quan remaining silent and thoughtful.
Zhang Zhao again took up the argument, saying, “Do not hesitate, my lord. Submission to Cao Cao means tranquillity to the people of the South Land and safety for the inhabitants of the six territories.”
Sun Quan still remained silent. His head bent in deep thought. Presently he arose and paced slowly out at the door, and Lu Su followed him.
Outside he took Lu Su by the hand, saying, “What do you desire?”
“What they have all been saying is very derogatory to you. A common person might submit. You cannot.”
“Why? How do you explain that?”
“If people like us servants submitted, we would just return to our village or continue holding our offices, and everything would go on as before. If you submit, whither will you go? You will be created a lord of some humble fief, perhaps. You will have one carriage, no more; one saddle horse, that is all. Your retinue will be some ten. Will you be able to sit facing the south and call yourself by the kingly title of ‘The Solitary’? Each one in that crowd of hangers-on is thinking for himself, is purely selfish, and you should not listen to them, but take a line of your own and that quickly. Determine to play a bold game!”
Sun Quan sighed, “They all talk and talk: They miss my point of view. Now you have just spoken of a bold game, and your view is the same as mine. Surely God has expressly sent you to me. Still Cao Cao is now the stronger by all Yuan Shao’s and Liu Biao’s armies, and he has possession of Jingzhou. I fear he is almost too powerful to contend with.”
“I have brought back with me Zhuge Liang, the younger brother of our Zhuge Jin. If you questioned him, he would explain clearly.”
“Is Master Sleeping Dragon really here?”
“Really here, in the guest-house.”
“It is too late to see him today. But tomorrow I will assemble my officials, and you will introduce him to all my best. After that we will debate the matter.”
With these instructions Lu Su retired.
Next day he went to the guest-house and conveyed Sun Quan’s commands to the guest, particularly saying, “When you see my master, say nothing of the magnitude of Cao Cao’s army.”
Zhuge Liang smiled, saying, “I shall act as circumstances dictate. You may be sure I shall make no mistakes.”
Zhuge Liang was then conducted to where the high officers, civil and military to the number of forty and more, were assembled. They formed a dignified conclave as they sat in stately ranks with their tall headdresses and broad girdles.
Zhang Zhao sat at the head, and Zhuge Liang first saluted him. Then, one by one, he exchange the formal courtesies with them all. This done he took his seat in the guest’s chair.
They, on their part, noted with interest Zhuge Liang’s refined and elegant manner and his commanding figure, thinking within themselves, “Here is a persuader fitted for discourse.”
Zhang Zhao led the way in trying to bait the visitor. He said, “You will pardon the most insignificant of our official circle, myself, if I mention that people say you compare yourself with those two famous men of talent, Guan Zhong and Yue Yi. Is there any truth in this?”
“To a trifling extent I have compared myself with them,” replied Zhuge Liang.
“I have heard that Liu Bei made three journeys to visit you when you lived in retirement in your simple dwelling in the Sleeping Dragon Ridge, and that when you consented to serve him, he said he was as lucky as a fish in getting home to the ocean. Then he desired to possess the region about Jingzhou. Yet today all that country belongs to Cao Cao. I should like to hear your account of all that.”
Zhuge Liang thought, “This Zhang Zhao is Sun Quan’s first adviser. Unless I can nonplus him, I shall never have a chance with his master.”
So he replied, “In my opinion the taking of the region around the Han River was as simple as turning over one’s hand. But my master Liu Bei is both righteous and humane and would not stoop to filching the possession of a member of his own house. So he refused the offer of succession. But Liu Zong, a stupid lad, misled by specious words, submitted to Cao Cao and fell victim to his ferocity. My master is in camp at Jiangxia, but what his future plans may be cannot be divulged at present.”
Zhang Zhao said, “Be it so; but your words and your deeds are something discordant. You say you are the equal of the two famous ones. Well, Guan Zhong, as minister of Prince Huan, put his master at the very head of the feudal nobles, making his master’s will supreme in all the land. Under the able statesmanship of Yue Yi, the feeble state of Yan conquered Qi, reducing nearly seventy of its cities. These two were men of most commanding and conspicuous talent.
“When you lived in retirement, you smiled scornfully at ordinary people, passed your days in idleness, nursing your knees and posing in a superior manner, implying that if you had control of affairs, Liu Bei would be more than human; he should bring good to everybody and remove all evil; rebellion and robbery would be no more. Poor Liu Bei, before he obtained your help, was an outcast and a vagabond, stealing a city here and there where he could. With you to help him, he was to become the cynosure of every eye, and every lisping school child was to say that he was a tiger who had grown wings; the Hans were to be restored and Cao Cao and his faction exterminated; the good old days would be restored, and all the people who had been driven into retirement by the corruption of political life would wake up, rub the sleep out of their eyes, and be in readiness to lift the cloud of darkness that covered the sky and gaze up at the glorious brilliancy of the sun and moon, to pull the people out of fire and water and put all the world to rest on a couch of comfort. That was all supposed to happen forthwith.
“Why then, when you went to Xinye, did not Cao Cao’s army throw aside their arms and armors and flee like rats? Why could you not have told Liu Biao how to give tranquillity to his people? Why could you not aid his orphan son to protect his frontiers? Instead you abandoned Xinye and fled to Fancheng; you were defeated at Dangyang and fled to Xiakou with no place to rest in. Thus, after you had joined Liu Bei, he was worse off than before. Was it thus with Guan Zhong and Yue Yi? I trust you do not mind my blunt speech.”
Zhuge Liang waited till Zhang Zhao had closed his oration, then laughed and said, “How can the common birds understand the long flight of the cranes? Let me use an illustration. A man has fallen into a terrible malady. First the physician must administer hashish, then soothing drugs until his viscera shall be calmed into harmonious action. When the sick man’s body shall have been reduced to quietude, then may he be given strong meats to strengthen him and powerful drugs to correct the disorder. Thus the disease will be quite expelled, and the man restored to health. If the physician does not wait till the humors and pulse are in harmony, but throws in his strong drugs too early, it will be difficult to restore the patient.
“My master suffered defeat at Runan and went to Liu Biao. He had then less than one thousand soldiers and only three generals—Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Zilong. That was indeed a time of extreme weakness. Xinye was a secluded, rustic town with few inhabitants and scanty supplies, and my master only retired there as a temporary refuge. How could he even think of occupying and holding it? Yet, with insufficient force, in a weak city, with untrained men and inadequate supplies, we burned Xiahou Dun at Bowang Slope, drowned Cao Ren and Cao Hong and their army in the White River, and set them in terror as they fled. I doubt whether the two ancient heroes would have done any better. As to the surrender of Liu Zong, Liu Bei knew nothing of it. And he was too noble and too righteous to take advantage of a kinsman’s straits to seize his inheritance. As for the defeat at Dangyang, it must be remembered that Liu Bei was hampered with a huge voluntary following of common people, with their aged relatives and their children, whom he was too humane to abandon. He never thought of taking Jiangling, but willingly suffered with his people. This is a striking instance of his magnanimity.
“Small forces are no match for large armies. Victory and defeat are common episodes in every campaign. The great Founder of the Hans suffered many defeats at the hands of Xiang Yu, but Liu Bang finally conquered at Gaixia, and that battle was decisive. Was not this due to the strategy of Han Xin who, though he had long served Liu Bang, had never won a victory. Indeed real statesmanship and the restoration of stable government is a master plan far removed from the vapid discourses and debates of a lot of bragging babblers and specious and deceitful talkers, who, as they themselves say, are immeasureably superior to the rest of humankind but who, when it comes to deeds and decisions to meet the infinite and constant vicissitudes of affairs, fail to throw up a single capable person. Truly such people are the laughing stock of all the world.”
Zhang Zhao found no reply to this diatribe.
But another in the assembly lifted up his voice, saying, “But what of Cao Cao’s present position? There he is, encamped with one hundred legions and a thousand leaders. Whither he goes he is invincible as wriggling dragon, and whither he looks he is as fearsome as roaring tiger. He seems to have taken Jiangxia already, as we see.”
The speaker was Yu Fan.
And Zhuge Liang replied, “Cao Cao has acquired the swarms of Yuan Shao and stolen the crowds of Liu Biao. Yet I care not for all his mob legions.”
Yu Fan smiled icily, saying, “When you got thrashed at Dangyang and in desperation sent this way and that to ask help, even then did you not care? But do you think big talk really takes people in?”
Zhuge Liang replied, “Liu Bei had a few thousand scrupulous soldiers to oppose against a million fierce brutes. He retired to Xiakou for breathing space. The South Land have strong and good soldiers, and there are ample supplies, and the Great River is a defense. Is now a time for you to convince your lord to bend the knee before a renegade, to be careless of his honor and reputation? As a fact Liu Bei is not the sort of man to fear such a rebel as Cao Cao.”
Yu Fan had nothing to reply.
Next, Bu Zhi, who was among those seated, said, “Will you talk of our southern land with a tongue like the tongues of the persuaders Zhang Yi and Su Qin in the ancient time?”
Zhuge Liang replied, “You regard those two as mere speculative talkers; you do not recognize them also as heroes. Su Qin bore the Prime Ministers’ seals of six federated states; Zhang Yi was twice Prime Minister of the state of Qin. Both were men of conspicuous ability who brought about the reformation of their governments. They are not to be compared with those who quail before the strong and overbear the weak, who fear the dagger and run away from the sword. You, Sir, have listened to Cao Cao’s crafty and empty threat, and it has frightened you into advising surrender. Dare you ridicule Su Qin and Zhang Yi?”
Bu Zhi was silenced.
Then suddenly another interjected the question, “What do you think of Cao Cao?”
It was Xue Zong who had spoken.
And Zhuge Liang replied, “Cao Cao is one of the rebels against the dynasty. Why ask about him?”
“You are mistaken,” said Xue Zong. “The Hans have outlasted their allotted time, and the end is near. Cao Cao already has two-thirds of the empire, and people are turning to him. Your master has not recognized the fateful moment, and to contend with a man so strong is to try to smash stones with eggs. Failure is certain.”
Zhuge Liang angrily replied, “Why do you speak so undutiful words, as if you knew neither father nor prince? Loyalty and filial duty are the essentials of a person’s being. For a minister of Han, correct conduct demands that one is pledged to the destruction of anyone who does not follow the canon of a minister’s duty. Cao Cao’s forbears enjoyed the bounty of Han, but instead of showing gratitude, he nourishes in his bosom thoughts of rebellion. The whole world is incensed against him, and yet you would claim for him the indication of destiny. Truly you are a man who knows neither father nor prince, a man unworthy of any words, and I decline to argue with you further.”
The blush of shame overspread Xue Zong’s face, and he said no more.
But another, Lu Ji, took up the dispute and said, “Although Cao Cao overawes the Emperor and in his name coerces the nobles, yet he is the descendant of the Supreme Ancestor’s Prime Minister Cao Shen; while your master, though he says he is descended from a prince, has no proof thereof. In the eyes of the world, Liu Bei is just a weaver of mats, a seller of straw shoes. Who is he to strive with Cao Cao?”
Zhuge Liang laughed and replied, “Are you not that Lu Ji who pocketed the orange when you were sitting among Yuan Shu’s guests? Listen to me: I have a word to say to you. Inasmuch as Cao Cao is a descendant of a minister of state, he is by heredity a servant of the Hans. But now he has monopolized all state authority and knows only his own arbitrary will, heaping every indignity upon his lord. Not only does he forget his prince, but he ignores his ancestors; not only is he a rebellious servant of Han, but the renegade of his family. Liu Bei of Yuzhou is a noble scion of the imperial family upon whom the Emperor has conferred rank, as is recorded in the annals. How then can you say there is no evidence of his imperial origin? Beside, the very founder of the dynasty was himself of lowly origin, and yet he became emperor. Where is the shame in weaving mats and selling shoes? Your mean, immature views are unfit to be mentioned in the presence of scholars of standing.”
This put a stop to Lu Ji’s flow of eloquence.
But another of those present said, “Zhuge Liang’s words are overbearing, and he distorts reason. It is not proper argument, and he had better say no more. But I would ask him what classical canon he studied.”
Zhuge Liang looked at his interlocutor, who was Yan Jun, and said, “The dryasdusts of every age select passages and choose phrases. What else are they good for? Do they ever initiate a policy or manage an affair? Yi Yin, who was a farmer in the state of Shen, and Lu Wang, the fisherman of the River Wei, Zhang Liang and Chen Ping, Zheng Yu and Geng Yan—all were men of transcendent ability, but I have never inquired what classical canon they followed or on whose essays they formed their style. Would you liken them to your rusty students of books, whose journeyings are comprised between their brush and their inkstone, who spend their days in literary futilities, wasting both time and ink?”
No reply was forthcoming. Yan Jun hung his head with shame.
But another disputant, Cheng Deshu by name, suddenly shouted, “You are mightily fond of big words, Sir, but they do not give any proof of your scholarship after all. I am inclined to think that a real scholar would just laugh at you.”
Zhuge Liang replied, “There is the noble scholar, loyal and patriotic, of perfect rectitude and a hater of any crookedness. The concern of such a scholar is to act in full sympathy with his day and leave to future ages a fine reputation. There is the scholar of the mean type, a pedant and nothing more. He labors constantly with his pen, in his callow youth composing odes and in hoary age still striving to understand the classical books completely. Thousands of words flow from his pen, but there is not a solid idea in his breast. He may, as did Yang Xiong, glorify the age with his writings and yet stoop to serve a tyrant such as Wang Mang. No wonder Yang Xiong threw himself out of a window; he had to. That is the way of the scholar of mean type. Though he composes odes by the hundred, what is the use of him?”
Cheng Deshu could make no reply. The other officers now began to hold this man of torrential speech in wholesome fear.
Only two of them, Zhang Wen and Luo Tong, had failed to challenge him, but when they would have tried to pose Zhuge Liang, suddenly someone appeared from without and angrily shouted, “This is not paying fit respect to a guest. You have among you the most wonderful man of the day, and you all sit there trying to entangle him in speech while our archenemy Cao Cao is nearing our borders. Instead of discussing how to oppose Cao Cao, you are all wrangling and disputing!”
All eyes turned toward the speaker. It was Huang Gai of Lingling, who was the Chief of the Commissariat of the South Land.
He turned to address Zhuge Liang, saying, “There is a saying that though something may be gained by talk, there is more to be got by silence. Why not give my lord the advantage of your valuable advice instead of wasting time in discussion with this crowd?”
“They did not understand,” replied Zhuge Liang, “and it was necessary to enlighten them, so I had to speak.”
As Huang Gai and Lu Su led the guest toward their master’s apartments, they met his brother Zhuge Jin. Zhuge Liang saluted him with the deference due to an elder brother.
Zhuge Jin said, “Why have you not been to see me, brother?”
“I am now in the service of Liu Bei of Yuzhou, and it is right that public affairs precede private obligations. I cannot attend to any private matters till my work is done. You must pardon me, brother.”
“After you have seen Marquis Sun Quan, you will come and tell me your news,” said he as he left.
As they went along to the audience chamber, Lu Su again cautioned Zhuge Liang against any rash speech, saying, “Do not tell the magnitude of Cao Cao’s forces. Please remember.”
The latter nodded but made no other reply. When they reached the hall, Sun Quan came down the steps to welcome his guests and was extraordinarily gracious. After the mutual salutations, the guest was given a chair while the Marquis’ officials were drawn up in two lines, on one side the civil, on the other the military. Lu Su stood beside Zhuge Liang and listened to his introductory speech.
As Zhuge Liang spoke of Liu Bei’s intentions, he glanced up at his host. He noted the green eyes and purple beard and the dignified commanding air of the man and thought within himself, “Certainly in appearance this is no common man. He is one to be incited perhaps, but not to be persuaded. It will be better to see what he has to say first, then I will try to stir him to action.”
The serving of tea being now finished, Sun Quan began with the usual gracious ceremonial expressions.
“Lu Su has often spoken of your genius,” said the host. “It is a great pleasure to meet you. I trust you will confer upon me the advantage of your instruction.”
“I am neither clever nor learned,” was the reply. “It humiliates me to hear such words.”
“You have been at Xinye lately, and you helped your master to fight that decisive battle with Cao Cao, so you must know exactly the measure of his military strength.”
“My master’s army was small and his generals were few; the city was paltry and lacked supplies. Hence no stand could be made against such a force as Cao Cao had.”
“How many has he in all?”
“Horse and foot, land and marine, he has a million.”
“Is there not some doubt about that?” said Sun Quan, surprised.
“None whatever. When Cao Cao went to Yanzhou, he had the two hundred thousand soldiers of Qingzhou. He gained five or six hundred thousand more when Yuan Shao fell. He has three or four hundred thousand troops newly recruited in the capital. Lately he has acquired two or three hundred thousand troops in Jingzhou. And if these be reckoned up, the total is not less than a million and a half. Hence I said a million for I was afraid of frightening your officers.”
Lu Su was much disturbed and turned pale. He looked meaningfully at the bold speaker, but Zhuge Liang would not see. Sun Quan went on to ask if his archenemy had a corresponding number of leaders.
“Cao Cao has enough administrators and strategists to control such a host, and his capable and veteran leaders are more than a thousand; perhaps more than two thousand.”
“What will be Cao Cao’s next move now that he has overcome Jingzhou?”
“He is camped along the river, and he has collected a fleet. If he does not intend to invade the South Land, what can his intentions be?”
“Since that is his intention, it is a case of fight or not fight. I wish you would decide that for me.”
“I have something I could say, but I fear, Sir, you would not care to hear it.”
“I am desirous of hearing your most valuable opinion.”
“Strife has prevailed for a long time; and so you have raised your army in the South Land and Liu Bei collected his forces south of the Han River to act in contest for the empire against Cao Cao. Now Cao Cao has overcome most of his difficulties, and his recent conquest of Jingzhou has won him great and wide renown. Though there might be one bold enough to tackle him, yet there is no foothold for such. That is how Liu Bei has been forced to come here. But, General, I wish you to measure your forces and decide whether you can venture to meet Cao Cao and that without loss of time. If you cannot, then follow the advice of your councilors: Cease your military preparations and yield, turn your face to the north and serve.”
Sun Quan did not reply. But his guest went on, “You have the reputation of being reasonable, but I know also you are inclined to hesitate. Still this matter is most important, and evil will be quickly upon you if you do not decide.”
Then replied Sun Quan, “If what you say represents the actual conditions, why does not Liu Bei yield?”
“Well, you know Tian Heng, that hero of the state of Qi: His character was too noble for him to submit to any shame. It is necessary to remember that Liu Bei also is an off-shoot from the Dynastic Family, beside being a man of great renown. Everyone looks up to him. His lack of success is simply the will of Heaven, but manifestly he could not bow the knee to anyone.”
These last words touched Sun Quan to the quick, and he could not control his anger. He shook out his sleeves, rose, and left the audience chamber. Those present smiled at each other as they dispersed.
But Lu Su was annoyed and reproached Zhuge Liang for his maladroit way of talking to Sun Quan, saying, “Luckily for you, my lord is too large-minded to rebuke you to your face, for you spoke to him most contemptuously.”
Zhuge Liang threw back his head and laughed.
“What a sensitive fellow it is!” cried he. “I know how Cao Cao could be destroyed, but he never asked me. So I said nothing.”
“If you really do know how that could be done, I will certainly beg my lord to ask you.”
“Cao Cao’s hosts in my eyes are but as swarms of ants. I have but to lift my hand, and they will be crushed,” said Zhuge Liang.
Lu Su at once went into his master’s private room, where he found Sun Quan still very irritable and angry.
“Zhuge Liang insulted me too deeply,” said Sun Quan.
“I have already reproached him,” said Lu Su, “and he laughed and said you were too sensitive. He would not give you any advice without being asked for it. Why did you not seek advice from him, my lord?”
At once Sun Quan’s anger changed to joy.
He said, “So he had a plan ready, and his words were meant to provoke me. I did despise him for a moment, and it has very nearly lost me.”
So Sun Quan returned to the audience chamber where the guest was still seated and begged Zhuge Liang to continue his speech.
Sun Quan spoke courteously, saying, “I offended you just now. I hope you are not implacable.”
“And I also was rude,” replied Zhuge Liang. “I entreat pardon.”
Host and guest retired to the inner room where wine was served.
After it had gone round several times, Sun Quan said, “The enemies of Cao Cao were Lu Bu, Liu Biao, Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu, Liu Bei, and my poor self. Now most of these are gone, and only Liu Bei and I remain. I will never allow the land of Wu to be dictated to by another. The only one who could have withstood Cao Cao was Liu Bei, but he has been defeated lately and what can he do now against such force?”
Zhuge Liang replied, “Although defeated, Liu Bei still has Guan Yu with ten thousand veterans. And Liu Qi still leads the troops of Jiangxia, another ten thousand. Cao Cao’s army is far from home, and the soldiers are worn out. They made a frantic effort to come up with my master, and the light horse marched one hundred miles in a day and a night. This was the final kick of the crossbow spring, and the bolt was not swift enough to penetrate even the thin silken vesture of Lu. The army can do no more. They are northern people, unskilled in water warfare, and the people of Jingzhou are unwilling supporters. They have no desire to help Cao Cao. Now if you, General, will assist Liu Bei, Cao Cao will certainly be broken, and he must retire northwards. Then your country and Jingzhou will be strong, and the tripod will be firmly established. But the scheme must be carried out without delay, and only you can decide.”
Sun Quan joyfully replied, “Your words, Master, open up the road clearly. I have decided and shall have no further doubts.”
So the orders were issued forthwith to prepare for a joint attack on Cao Cao. And Sun Quan bade Lu Su bear the news of his decision to all his officers. He himself escorted Zhuge Liang to the guest-quarters and saw to his comfort.
When Zhang Zhao heard of the decision he met his colleagues and said to them, “Our master has fallen into the trap set by this Zhuge Liang.”
They went in a body to their lord and said, “We hear you are going to attack Cao Cao. But how do you stand when compared with Yuan Shao? In those days Cao Cao was comparatively weak, and yet he overcame. What is he like today with his countless legions? He is not to be lightly attacked, and to listen to Zhuge Liang’s advice to engage in a conflict is like carrying fuel to a fire.”
Sun Quan made no reply, and Gu Yong took up the argument.
Gu Yong said, “Liu Bei has been defeated, and he wants to borrow our help to beat his enemy. Why must our lord lend himself to his schemes? Pray listen to our leader’s words.”
Doubts again surged up in the mind of Sun Quan.
When the troop of advisers had retired, Lu Su came in, saying, “They came to exhort you not to fight, but to compel you to surrender. All this is simply because they wish to secure the safety of their families. They distort their sense of duty to serve their own ends, and I hope you will not take their advice.”
Sun Quan being sunk in thought and saying nothing, Lu Su went on, “If you hesitate, you will certainly be led astray by the majority and——”
“Retire for a time,” said his master. “I must think it over carefully.”
So Lu Su left the chamber. Among the soldiers some wished for war, but of the civil officers, all were in favor of surrender; and so there were many discussions and much conflict of opinion. Sun Quan went to his private apartments greatly perplexed. There his worry was easily discernible, and he neither ate nor slept. He was quite unable to decide finally upon a course of action.
Then Lady Wu, the sister of his late mother, whom he also regarded as his own mother, asked him what so troubled him, and he told her of the threatened danger of Cao Cao and the different opinions his advisers held one and another and all his doubts and fears.
“If I fight, I might fail. But if I offer to surrender, perhaps Cao Cao will not tolerate me,” said he.
Then she replied, “Have you forgotten the last words of my sister?”
As to one recovering from a fit of drunkenness, or waking out of a dream, so came to him the dying words of the mother who bore him.
His mother’s advice he called to mind,
“In Zhou Yu’s counsels you safety find.”
What happened will be told in the next chapter.
Zhuge Liang Stirs Zhou Yu To Actions; Sun Quan Decides To Attack Cao Cao.
The dying message which Lady Wu recalled to Sun Quan’s memory was, “For internal matters consult Zhang Zhao; for external policy Zhou Yu.”
Wherefore Zhou Yu was summoned.
But Zhou Yu was already on the way. He had been training his naval forces on Poyang Lake when he heard of the approach of Cao Cao’s hosts and had started for Chaisang without loss of time. So, before the messenger ordered to call him could start, he had already arrived. As he and Lu Su were close friends, the latter went to welcome him and told him of all that had happened.
“Have no anxiety,” said Zhou Yu. “I shall be able to decide this. But go quickly and beg Zhuge Liang to come to see me.”
So Lu Su went to seek out Zhuge Liang.
Zhou Yu had many other visitors. First came Zhang Zhao, Zhang Hong, Gu Yong, and Bu Zhi to represent their faction to find out what might be afoot.
They were received, and after the exchange of the usual commonplaces, Zhang Zhao said, “Have you heard of our terrible danger?”
“I have heard nothing,” said Zhou Yu.
“Cao Cao and his hordes are encamped up the Han River. He has just sent letters asking our lord to hunt with him in Jiangxia. He may have a desire to absorb this country but, if so, the details of his designs are still secret. We prayed our master to give in his submission and so avoid the horrors of war, but now Lu Su has returned bringing with him the Directing Instructor of Liu Bei’s army, Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang, desiring to avenge himself for the recent defeat, has talked our lord into a mind for war, and Lu Su persists in supporting that policy. They only await your final decision.”
“Are you all unanimous in your opinions?”
“We are perfectly unanimous,” said Zhang Zhao.
Zhou Yu said, “The fact is I have also desired to submit for a long time. I beg you to leave me now, and tomorrow we will see our master, and I shall make up his mind for him.”
So they took their leave. Very soon came the military party led by Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, and Han Dang. They were admitted and duly inquired after their host’s health.
Then the leader Cheng Pu said, “Have you heard that our country is about to pass under another’s government?”
“No, I have heard nothing,” replied the host.
“We helped General Sun Quan to establish his authority here and carve out this kingdom, and to gain that end we fought many a battle before we conquered the country. Now our lord lends his ear to his civil officers and desires to submit himself to Cao Cao. This is a most shameful and pitiful course, and we would rather die than follow it. So we hope you will decide to fight, and you may depend upon our struggling to the last person.”
“And are you unanimous, Generals?” asked Zhou Yu.
Huang Gai suddenly started up and smote his forehead, saying, “They may take my head, but I swear never to surrender.”
“Not one of us is willing to surrender,” cried all the others.
“My desire also is to decide matters with Cao Cao on the battlefield. How could we think of submission? Now I pray you retire, Generals, and when I see our lord, I will settle his doubts.”
So the war party left. They were quickly succeeded by Zhuge Jin, Lu Fan, and their faction.
They were brought in and, after the usual courtesies, Zhuge Jin said, “My brother has come down the river saying that Liu Bei desires to ally himself with our lord against Cao Cao. The civil and military hold different opinions as to the course to be pursued. But as my brother is so deeply concerned, I am unwilling to say much on either side. We are awaiting your decision.”
“And what do you think about it?” asked Zhou Yu.
“Submission is an easy road to tranquillity, while the result of war is hard to foretell.”
Zhou Yu smiled, “I shall have my mind made up. Come tomorrow to the palace, and the decision shall be announced.”
The trimmers took their leave. But soon after came Lu Meng, Gan Ning, and their supporters, also desirous of discussing the same thing, and they told him that opinions differed greatly, some being for peace and others for war. One party constantly disputed with the other.
“I must not say much now,” replied Zhou Yu, “but you will see tomorrow in the palace, when the matter will be fully debated.”
They went away leaving Zhou Yu smiling cynically.
About eventide Lu Su and Zhuge Liang came, and Zhou Yu went out to the main gate to receive them.
When they had taken their proper seats, Lu Su spoke first, saying, “Cao Cao has come against the South Land with a huge army. Our master cannot decide whether to submit or give battle and waits for your decision. What is your opinion?”
Zhou Yu replied, “We may not oppose Cao Cao when he acts at the command of the Emperor. Moreover, he is very strong, and to attack him is to take serious risks. In my opinion, opposition would mean defeat and, since submission means peace, I have decided to advise our lord to write and offer surrender.”
“But you are wrong!” stammered Lu Su. “This country has been under the same rule for three generations and cannot be suddenly abandoned to some other. Our late lord Sun Ce said that you were to be consulted on matters beyond the border, and we depended upon you to keep the country as secure and solid as the Taishan Mountains. Now you adopt the view of the weaklings and propose to yield! I cannot believe you mean it.”
Replied Zhou Yu, “The six territories contain countless people. If I am the means of bringing upon them the misery of war, they will hate me. So I have decided to advise submission.”
“But do you not realize our lord’s might and the strength of our country? If Cao Cao does attack, it is very uncertain that he will realize his desire.”
The two wrangled for a long time, while Zhuge Liang sat smiling with folded arms.
Presently Zhou Yu asked, “Why do you smile thus, Master?”
And Zhuge Liang replied, “I am smiling at no other than your opponent Lu Su, who knows nothing of the affairs of the day.”
“Master,” said Lu Su, “what do you mean?”
“Why, this intention to submit is perfectly reasonable. It is the one proper thing.”
“There!” exclaimed Zhou Yu. “Zhuge Liang knows the times perfectly well, and he agrees with me.”
“But, both of you, why do you say this?” said Lu Su.
Said Zhuge Liang, “Cao Cao is an excellent commander, so good that no one dares oppose him. Only very few have ever attempted it, and they have been exterminated—the world knows them no more. The only exception is Liu Bei, who did not understand the conditions and vigorously contended against him, with the result that he is now at Jiangxia in a very parlous state. To submit is to secure the safety of wives and children, to be rich and honored. But the dignity of the country would be left to chance and fate—however, that is not worth consideration.”
Lu Su interrupted angrily, “Would you make our lord crook the knee to such a rebel as Cao Cao?”
“Well,” replied Zhuge Liang, “there is another way, and a cheaper. There would be no need to ‘lead the sheep and shoulder wine pots’ for presents, nor any need to yield territory and surrender seals of office. It would not even be necessary to cross the river yourselves. All you would require is a simple messenger and a little boat to ferry a couple of persons across the river. If Cao Cao only got these two under his hand, his hordes and legions would just drop their weapons, furl their banners, and silently vanish away.”
“What two persons could cause Cao Cao to go away as you say?” asked Zhou Yu.
“Two persons who could be easily spared from this populous country. They would not be missed any more than a leaf from a tree or a grain of millet from a granary. But if Cao Cao could only get them, would he not go away rejoicing?”
“But who are the two?” asked Zhou Yu again.
“When I was living in the country, they told me that Cao Cao was building a pavilion on the River Zhang. It was to be named the Bronze Bird Tower. It is an exceedingly handsome building, and he has sought throughout all the world for the most beautiful women to live in it. For Cao Cao really is a sensualist.
“Now there are two very famous beauties in Wu, born of the Qiao family. So beautiful are they that birds alight and fishes drown, the moon hides her face and the flowers blush for shame at sight of them. Cao Cao has declared with an oath that he only wants two things in this world: The imperial throne in peace and the sight of those two women on the Bronze Bird Terraces. Given these two, he would go down to his grave without regret. This expedition of his, his huge army that threatens this country, has for its real aim these two women. Why do you not buy these two from their father, the State Patriarch Qiao, for any sum however large and send them over the river? The object of the army being attained, it will simply be marched away. This is the ruse that Fan Li of Yue made to the king of Wu of the famous beauty Xi Shi.”
“How do you know Cao Cao so greatly desires these two?” said Zhou Yu.
“Because his son Cao Zhi, who is an able writer, at the command of his father wrote a poem ‘An Ode to the Bronze Bird Terrace,’ theme only allowing allusions to the family fitness for the throne. He has sworn to possess these two women. I think I can remember the poem, if you wish to hear it. I admire it greatly.”
“Try,” said Zhou Yu.
So Zhuge Liang recited the poem:
“Let me follow in the footsteps of the enlightened ruler that I may rejoice,
And ascend the storied terrace that I may gladden my heart,
That I may see the wide extent of the palace,
That I may gaze upon the plans of the virtuous one.
He has established the exalted gates high as the hills,
He has built the lofty towers piercing the blue vault,
He has set up the beautiful building in the midst of the heavens,
Whence the eye can range over the cities of the west.
On the banks of the rolling River Zhang he planned it,
Whence abundance of fruits could be looked for in his gardens.
The two towers rise, one on either flank,
This named Golden Phoenix, that Jade Dragon.
He would have the two Qiaos, these beautiful ladies of Wu,
That he might rejoice with them morning and evening.
Look down; there is the grand beauty of an imperial city,
And the rolling vapors lie floating beneath.
He will rejoice in the multitude of scholars that assemble,
Answering to the felicitous dream of King Wen.
Look up; and there is the gorgeous harmony of springtime,
And the singing of many birds delighting the ear;
The lofty sky stands over all.
The house desires success in its double undertaking,
That the humane influence may be poured out over all the world,
That the perfection of reverence may be offered to the Ruler.
Only the richly prosperous rule of Kings Wu and Huan
Could compare with that of the sacred understanding
That fortune! What beauty!
The gracious kindness spreads afar,
The imperial family is supported,
Peace reigns over all the empire,
Bounded only by the universe.
Bright as the glory of the sun and moon,
Ever honorable and ever enduring,
The Ruler shall live to the age of the eastern emperor,
The dragon banner shall wave to the farthest limit.
His glorious chariot shall be guided with perfect wisdom,
His thoughts shall reform all the world,
Felicitous produce shall be abundant,
And the people shall rest firm.
My desire is that these towers shall endure forever,
And that joy shall never cease through all the ages.
Zhou Yu listened to the end but then suddenly jumped up in a tremendous rage.
Turning to the north and pointing with his finger, he cried, “You old rebel, this insult is too deep!”
Zhuge Liang hastily rose too and soothed him, saying, “But remember the Khan of the Xiongnu People. The Han emperor gave him a princess of the family to wife although he had made many incursions into our territory. That was the price of peace. You surely would not grudge two more women from among the common people.”
“You do not know, Sir,” replied Zhou Yu. “Of those two women of the Qiao family you mentioned, Elder Qiao is the widow of Sun Ce, our late ruler, and Younger Qiao is my wife!”
Zhuge Liang feigned the greatest astonishment and said, “No indeed: I did not know. I blundered—a deadly fault—a deadly fault!”
“One of us two has to go: Either the old rebel or I. We shall not both live. I swear that!” cried Zhou Yu.
“However, such a matter needs a good deal of thought,” replied Zhuge Liang. “We must not make any mistake.”
Zhou Yu replied, “I hold a sacred trust from my late lord, Sun Ce. I would not bow the knee to any such as Cao Cao. What I said just now was to see how you stood. I left Poyang Lake with the intention of attacking the north, and nothing can change that intention, not even the sword at my breast or the ax on my neck. But I trust you will lend an arm, and we will smite Cao Cao together.”
“Should I be happy enough not to be rejected, I would render such humble service as I could. Perhaps presently I might be able to offer a plan to oppose him.”
“I am going to see my lord tomorrow to discuss this matter,” said Zhou Yu.
Zhuge Liang and Lu Su then left.
Next day at dawn Sun Quan went to the council chamber, where his officials, civil and military, were already assembled. They numbered about sixty in all. The civil, with Zhang Zhao at their head, were on the right; the military, with Cheng Pu as their leader, were ranged on the left. All were in full ceremonial dress, and the swords of the soldiers clanked on the pavement.
Soon Zhou Yu entered.
When Sun Quan had finished the usual gracious remarks, Zhou Yu said, “I hear that Cao Cao is encamped on the river and has sent a dispatch to you, my lord. I would ask what your opinion is.”
Thereupon the dispatch was produced and handed to Zhou Yu.
After reading it through he said, smiling, “The old thief thinks there are no people in this land that he writes in this contemptuous strain.”
“What do you think, Sir?” asked Sun Quan.
“Have you discussed this with the officials?” asked Zhou Yu.
“We have been discussing this for days. Some counsel surrender and some advise fight. I am undecided, and therefore I have asked you to come and decide the point.”
“Who advise surrender?” asked Zhou Yu.
“Zhang Zhao and his party are firmly set in this opinion.”
Zhou Yu then turned to Zhang Zhao and said, “I should be pleased to hear why you are for surrender, Master.”
Then Zhang Zhao replied, “Cao Cao has been attacking all opponents in the name of the Emperor, who is entirely in his hands. He does everything in the name of the government. Lately he has taken Jingzhou and thereby increased his prestige. Our defense against him was the Great River, but now he also has a large fleet and can attack by water. How can we withstand him? Wherefore I counsel submission till some chance shall offer.”
“This is but the opinion of an ill-advised student,” said Zhou Yu. “How can you think of abandoning this country that we have held for three generations?”
“That being so,” said Sun Quan, “where is a plan to come from?”
“Though Cao Cao assumes the name of the Prime Minister of the empire, he is at heart a rebel. You, O General, are able in war and brave. You are the heir to your father and brother. You command brave and tried soldiers, and you have plentiful supplies. You are able to overrun the whole country and rid it of every evil. There is no reason why you should surrender to a rebel.
“Moreover, Cao Cao has undertaken this expedition in defiance of all the rules of war. The north is unsubdued. Ma Teng and Han Sui threaten his rear, and yet he persists in his southern march. This is the first point against Cao Cao. The northern soldiers are unused to fighting on the water. Cao Cao is relinquishing his well-tried cavalry and trusting to ships. That is the second point against him. Again, we are now in full winter and the weather is at its coldest so there is no food for the horses. That is the third point against. Soldiers from the central state marching in a wet country among lakes and rivers will find themselves in an unaccustomed climate and suffer from malaria. That is the fourth point against. Now when Cao Cao’s armies have all these points against them, defeat is certain, however numerous they may be, and you can take Cao Cao captive just as soon as you wish. Give me a few legions of veterans, and I will go and destroy him.”
Sun Quan started up from his place, saying, “The rebellious old rascal has been wanting to overthrow the Hans and set up himself for years. He has rid himself of all those he feared, save only myself, and I swear that one of us two shall go now. Both of us cannot live. What you say, noble friend, is just what I think, and Heaven has certainly sent you to my assistance.”
“Thy servant will fight a decisive battle,” said Zhou Yu, “and shrink not from any sacrifice. Only, General, do not hesitate.”
Sun Quan drew the sword that hung at his side and slashed off a corner of the table in front of him, exclaiming, “Let any other person mention surrender, and he shall be served as I have served this table!”
Then he handed the sword to Zhou Yu, at the same time giving him a commission as Commander-in-Chief and Supreme Admiral, Cheng Pu being Vice-Admiral. Lu Su was also nominated as Assistant Commander.
In conclusion Sun Quan said, “With this sword you will slay any officer who may disobey your commands.”
Zhou Yu took the sword and turning to the assembly said, “You have heard our lord’s charge to me to lead you to destroy Cao Cao. You will all assemble tomorrow at the riverside camp to receive my orders. Should any be late or fail, then the full rigor of military law—the seven prohibitions and the fifty-four capital penalties—there provided, will be enforced.”
Zhou Yu took leave of Sun Quan and left the chamber. The various officers also went their several ways.
When Zhou Yu reached his own place, he sent for Zhuge Liang to consult over the business in hand. He told Zhuge Liang of the decision that had been taken and asked for a plan of campaign.
“But your master has not yet made up his mind,” said Zhuge Liang. “Till he has, no plan can be decided upon.”
“What do you mean?”
“In his heart, Sun Quan is still fearful of Cao Cao’s numbers and frets over the inequality of the two armies. You will have to explain away those numbers and bring him to a final decision before anything can be effected.”
“What you say is excellent,” said Zhou Yu, and he went to the palace that night to see his master.
Sun Quan said, “You must have something of real importance to say if you come like this at night.”
Zhou Yu said, “I am making my dispositions tomorrow. You have quite made up your mind?”
“The fact is,” said Sun Quan, “I still feel nervous about the disparity of numbers. Surely we are too few. That is really all I feel doubtful about.”
“It is precisely because you have this one remaining doubt that I am come. And I will explain. Cao Cao’s letter speaks of a million of marines, and so you feel doubts and fears and do not wait to consider the real truth. Let us examine the case thoroughly. We find that he has of central regions’ soldiers, say, some one hundred fifty thousand troops, and many of them are sick. He only got seventy or eighty thousand northern soldiers from Yuan Shao, and many of those are of doubtful loyalty. Now these sick men and these men of doubtful loyalty seem a great many, but they are not at all fearsome. I could smash them with fifty thousand soldiers. You, my lord, have no further anxiety.”
Sun Quan patted his general on the back, saying, “You have explained my difficulty and relieved my doubts. Zhang Zhao is a fool who constantly bars my expeditions. Only you and Lu Su have any real understanding of my heart. Tomorrow you and Lu Su and Cheng Pu will start, and I shall have a strong reserve ready with plentiful supplies to support you. If difficulties arise, you can at once send for me, and I will engage with my own army.”
Zhou Yu left. But in his innermost heart, he said to himself, “If that Zhuge Liang can gauge my master’s thoughts so very accurately, he is too clever for me and will be a danger. He will have to be put out of the way.”
Zhou Yu sent a messenger over to Lu Su to talk over this last scheme. When he had laid it bare, Lu Su did not favor it.
“No, no,” said Lu Su, “it is self-destruction to make away with your ablest officer before Cao Cao shall have been destroyed.”
“But Zhuge Liang will certainly help Liu Bei to our disadvantage.”
“Try what his brother Zhuge Jin can do to persuade him. It would be an excellent thing to have these two in our service.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Zhou Yu.
Next morning at dawn, Zhou Yu went to his camp and took his seat in the council tent. The armed guards took up their stations right and left, and the officers ranged themselves in lines to listen to the orders.
Now Cheng Pu, who was older than Zhou Yu but was made second in command, was very angry at being passed over, so he made a pretense of indisposition and stayed away from this assembly. But he sent his eldest son, Cheng Zi, to represent him.
Zhou Yu addressed the gathering, saying, “The law knows no partiality, and you will all have to attend to your several duties. Cao Cao is now more absolute than ever was Dong Zhuo, and the Emperor is really a prisoner in Xuchang, guarded by the most cruel soldiers. We have a command to destroy Cao Cao, and with your willing help we shall advance. The army must cause no hardship to the people anywhere. Rewards for good service and punishments for faults shall be given impartially.”
Having delivered this charge, Zhou Yu told off Han Dang and Huang Gai as Leaders of the Van, and ordered the ships under their own command to get under way and go to the Three Gorges. They would get orders by and bye. Then he appointed four armies with two leaders over each: The first body was under Jiang Qin and Zhou Tai; the second, Pan Zhang and Ling Tong; the third, Taishi Ci and Lu Meng; the fourth, Lu Xun and Dong Xi. Lu Fan and Zhu Zhi were appointed inspectors, to move from place to place and keep the various units up to their work and acting with due regard to the general plan. Land and marine forces were to move simultaneously. The expedition would soon start.
Having received their orders, each returned to his command and busied himself in preparation. Cheng Zi, the son of Cheng Pu, returned and told his father what arrangements had been made, and Cheng Pu was amazed at Zhou Yu’s skill.
Said he, “I have always despised Zhou Yu as a mere student who would never be a general, but this shows that he has a leader’s talent. I must support him.”
So Cheng Pu went over to the quarters of the Commander-in-Chief and confessed his fault. He was received kindly and all was over.
Next Zhou Yu sent for Zhuge Jin and said to him, “Evidently your brother is a genius, a man born to be a king’s counselor. Why then does he serve Liu Bei? Now that he is here, I wish you to use every effort to persuade him to stay with us. Thus our lord would gain able support and you two brothers would be together, which would be pleasant for you both. I wish you success.”
Zhuge Jin replied, “I am ashamed of the little service I have rendered since I came here, and I can do no other than obey your command to the best of my ability.”
Thereupon he went away to his brother, whom he found in the guest-house. The younger brother received him; and when he had reached the inner rooms, Zhuge Liang bowed respectfully and, weeping, told his experiences since they parted and his sorrow at their separation.
Then Zhuge Jin, weeping also, said, “Brother, do you remember the story of Bo Yi and Shu Qi, the brothers who would not be separated?”
“Ah, Zhou Yu has sent him to talk me over,” thought Zhuge Liang. So he replied, “They were two of the noble people of old days. Yes, I know.”
“Those two, although they perished of hunger near the Shouyang Hills, yet never separated. You and I, born of the same mother and suckled at the same breast, yet serve different masters and never meet. Are you not ashamed when you think of such examples as Bo Yi and Shu Qi?”
Zhuge Liang replied, “You are talking now of love, but what I stand for is duty. We are both men of Han, and Liu Bei is of the family. If you, brother, could leave the South Land and join me in serving the rightful branch, then on the one side we should be honored as Ministers of Han, and on the other we should be together as people of the same flesh and blood should be. Thus love and duty would both receive their proper meed. What do you think of it, my brother?”
“I came to persuade him and lo! It is I who is being talked over,” thought Zhuge Jin.
He had no fitting reply to make, so he rose and took his leave. Returning to Zhou Yu, he related the story of the interview.
“What do you think?” asked Zhou Yu.
“General Sun Quan has treated me with great kindness, and I could not turn my back on him,” replied Zhuge Jin.
“Since you decide to remain loyal, there is no need to say much. I think I have a plan to win over your brother.”
The wisest people see eye to eye,
For each but sees the right;
But should their several interests clash,
They all the fiercer fight.
The means by which Zhou Yu tried to get the support of Zhuge Liang will be described in the next chapter.
At The Three Gorges, Cao Cao Loses Soldiers; In The Gathering Of Heroes, Jiang Gan Is Trapped.
Zhou Yu was very annoyed by the words of Zhuge Jin, and a fierce hatred for Zhuge Liang took root in his heart. He nourished a secret resolve to make away with Zhuge Liang. He continued his preparations for war, and when the troops were all mustered and ready, he went in for a farewell interview with his lord.
“You go on first, Noble Sir,” said Sun Quan. “I will then march to support you.”
Zhou Yu took his leave and then, with Cheng Pu and Lu Su, marched out with the army. He invited Zhuge Liang to accompany the expedition, and when Zhuge Liang cheerfully accepted, the four embarked in the same ship. They set sail, and the fleet made for Xiakou.
About twenty miles from Three Gorges the fleet anchored near the shore, and Zhou Yu built a stockade on the bank near the middle of their line with the Western Hills as a support. Other camps were made near his. Zhuge Liang, however, took up his quarters in a small ship.
When the camp dispositions were complete, Zhou Yu sent to request Zhuge Liang to come and give him advice. Zhuge Liang came.
After the salutations were ended, Zhou Yu said, “Cao Cao, though he had fewer troops than Yuan Shao, nevertheless overcame Yuan Shao because he followed the advice given by Xun You to destroy Yuan Shao’s supplies at Wuchao. Now Cao Cao has over eight hundred thousand troops while I have but fifty or sixty thousand. In order to defeat him, his supplies must be destroyed first. I have found out that the main depot is at the Iron Pile Mountains. As you have lived hereabout, you know the topography quite well, and I wish to entrust the task of cutting off supplies to you and your colleagues Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Zilong. I will assist you with a thousand soldiers. I wish you to start without delay. In this way we can best serve our masters.”
Zhuge Liang saw through this at once. He thought to himself, “This is a ruse in revenge for my not having been persuaded to enter the service of the South Land. If I refuse, I shall be laughed at. So I will do as he asks and trust to find some means of deliverance from the evil he intends.”
Therefore Zhuge Liang accepted the task with alacrity, much to the joy of Zhou Yu.
After the leader of the expedition had taken his leave, Lu Su went to Zhou Yu secretly and said, “Why have you set him this task?”
“Because I wish to compass his death without appearing ridiculous. I hope to get him killed by the hand of Cao Cao and prevent his doing further mischief.”
Lu Su left and went to see Zhuge Liang to find out if he suspected anything. Lu Su found him looking quite unconcerned and getting the soldiers ready to march.
Unable to let Zhuge Liang go without a warning, however, Lu Su put a tentative question, “Do you think this expedition will succeed?”
Zhuge Liang laughingly replied, “I am an adept at all sorts of fighting, with foot, horse, and chariots on land and marines on the water. There is no doubt of my success. I am not like you and your friend, only capable in one direction.”
“What do you mean by our being capable only in one direction?” said Lu Su.
“I have heard the street children in your country singing:
“To lay an ambush, hold a pass,
Lu Su is the man to choose;
But when you on the water fight,
Zhou Yu is the man to use.
“You are only fit for ambushes and guarding passes on land, just as Zhou Yu only understands fighting on the water,” said Zhuge Liang.
Lu Su carried this story to Zhou Yu, which only incensed him the more against Zhuge Liang.
“How dare he flout me, saying I cannot fight a land battle? I will not let him go. I will go myself with ten thousand troops and cut off Cao Cao’s supplies.”
Lu Su went back and told this to Zhuge Liang, who smiled and said, “Zhou Yu only wanted me to go on this expedition because he wanted Cao Cao to kill me. And so I teased him a little. But he cannot bear that. Now is the critical moment, and Marquis Sun Quan and my master must act in harmony if we are to succeed. If each one tries to harm the other, the whole scheme will fail. Cao Cao is no fool, and it is he who usually attack enemies through cutting off their supplies. Do you not think Cao Cao has already taken double precautions against any surprise of his own depot? If Zhou Yu tries, he will be taken prisoner. What he ought to do is to bring about a decisive naval battle, whereby to dishearten the northern soldiers, and then find some other means to defeat them utterly. If you could persuade him what his best course was, it would be well.”
Without loss of time, Lu Su went to Zhou Yu to relate what Zhuge Liang had told him.
Zhou Yu shook his head when he heard it and beat the ground with his foot, saying, “This man is far too clever. He beats me ten to one. He will have to be done away with, or the South Land will suffer.”
Said Lu Su, “This is the moment to use people. You must think of the country’s good first of all. When once Cao Cao is defeated, you may do as you please.”
Zhou Yu had to confess the reasonableness of this.
Liu Bei had ordered his nephew Liu Qi to hold Jiangxia, while he and the bulk of the army returned to Xiakou. Thence he saw the opposite bank thick with banners and flags and glittering with every kind of arms and armors. He knew then that the expedition from the South Land had started. So he moved all his force from Jiangxia to Fankou.
Then he assembled his officers and said to them, “Zhuge Liang went to Wu some time ago, and no word has come from him, so I know not how the business stands. Will anyone volunteer to go to find out?”
“I will go,” said Mi Zhu.
So presents were prepared and gifts of flesh and wine, and Mi Zhu prepared to journey to the South Land on the pretext of offering a congratulatory feast to the army. He set out in a small ship and went down river. He stopped opposite the camp, and the soldiers reported his arrival to Zhou Yu, who ordered him to be brought in. Mi Zhu bowed low and expressed the respect which Liu Bei had for Zhou Yu and offered the various gifts. The ceremony of reception was followed by a banquet in honor of the guest.
Mi Zhu said, “Zhuge Liang has been here a long time, and I desire that he may return with me.”
“Zhuge Liang is making plans with me, and I could not let him return,” said Zhou Yu. “I also wish to see Liu Bei that we may make joint plans. But when one is at the head of a great army, one cannot get away even for a moment. If your master would only come here, it would be very gracious on his part.”
Mi Zhu agreed that Liu Bei might come and presently took his leave.
Then Lu Su asked Zhou Yu, “What is your reason for desiring Liu Bei to come?”
“Liu Bei is the one bold and dangerous man and must be removed. I am taking this opportunity to persuade him to come. When he shall be slain, a great danger will cease to threaten our interests.”
Lu Su tried to dissuade him from this scheme, but Zhou Yu was deaf to all Lu Su said.
Zhou Yu even issued orders: “Arrange half a hundred executioners to be ready to hide within the lining of the tent if Liu Bei decides to come; and when I drop a cup, that will be a signal for them to fall on and slay him.”
Mi Zhu returned and told Liu Bei that his presence was desired by Zhou Yu. Suspecting nothing, Liu Bei at once ordered them to prepare a fast vessel to take him without loss of time.
Guan Yu was opposed to his going, saying, “Zhou Yu is artful and treacherous, and there is no news from Zhuge Liang. Pray think more carefully.”
Liu Bei replied, “I have joined my forces to theirs in this attack on our common enemy. If Zhou Yu wishes to see me and I refuse to go, it is a betrayal. Nothing will succeed if both sides nourish suspicions.”
“If you have finally decided to go, then will I go with you,” said Guan Yu.
“And I also,” cried Zhang Fei.
But Liu Bei said, “Let Guan Yu come with me while you and Zhao Zilong keep guard. Jian Yong will hold Exian. I shall not be away long.”
So leaving these orders, Liu Bei embarked with Guan Yu on a small boat. The escort did not exceed twenty. The light craft traveled very quickly down the river. Liu Bei rejoiced greatly at the sight of the war vessels in tiers by the bank, the soldiers in their breastplates, and all the pomp and panoply of war. All was in excellent order.
As soon as he arrived, the guards ran to tell Zhou Yu.
“How many ships has he?” asked Zhou Yu.
They replied, “Only one; and the escort is only about a score.”
“His fate is sealed,” said Zhou Yu.
Zhou Yu sent for the executioners and placed them in hiding between the outer and inner tents, and when all was arranged for the assassination he contemplated, he went out to receive his visitor. Liu Bei came with his brother and escort into the midst of the army to the Admiral’s tent.
After the salutations, Zhou Yu wished Liu Bei to take the upper seat, but he declined saying, “General, you are famous throughout all the empire, while I am a nobody. Do not overwhelm me with too great deference.”
So they took the positions of simple friends, and refreshments were brought in.
Now by chance Zhuge Liang came on shore and heard that his master had arrived and was with the Commander-in-Chief. The news gave Zhuge Liang a great shock, and he said to himself, “What is to be done now?”
He made his way to the reception tent and stole a look therein. He saw murder written on Zhou Yu’s countenance and noted the assassins hidden within the walls of the tent. Then he got a look at Liu Bei, who was laughing and talking quite unconcernedly. But when he noticed the redoubtable figure of Guan Yu near his master’s side, he became quite calm and contented.
“My lord faces no danger,” said Zhuge Liang, and he went away to the river bank to await the end of the interview.
Meanwhile the banquet of welcome proceeded. After the wine had gone around several times, Zhou Yu picked up a cup to give the signal agreed upon. But at that moment Zhou Yu saw so fierce a look upon the face of the trusty henchman who stood, sword in hand, behind his guest, that Zhou Yu hesitated and hastily asked who he was.
“That is my brother, Guan Yu,” replied Liu Bei.
Zhou Yu, quite startled, said, “Is he the slayer of Yan Liang and Wen Chou?”
“Exactly; he it is,” replied Liu Bei.
The sweat of fear broke out all over Zhou Yu’s body and trickled down his back. Then he poured out a cup of wine and presented it to Guan Yu.
Just then Lu Su came in, and Liu Bei said to him, “Where is Zhuge Liang? I would trouble you to ask him to come.”
“Wait till we have defeated Cao Cao,” said Zhou Yu, “then you shall see him.”
Liu Bei dared not repeat his request, but Guan Yu gave him a meaningful look which Liu Bei understood and rose, saying, “I would take leave now. I will come again to congratulate you when the enemy has been defeated and your success shall be complete.”
Zhou Yu did not press him to remain, but escorted him to the great gates of the camp, and Liu Bei left. When he reached the river bank, they found Zhuge Liang awaiting them in their boat.
Liu Bei was exceedingly pleased, but Zhuge Liang said, “Sir, do you know in how great danger you were today?”
Suddenly sobered, Liu Bei said, “No, I did not think of danger.”
“If Guan Yu had not been there, you would have been killed,” said Zhuge Liang.
Liu Bei, after a moment’s reflection, saw that it was true. He begged Zhuge Liang to return with him to Fankou, but Zhuge Liang refused.
“I am quite safe,” said Zhuge Liang. “Although I am living in the tiger’s mouth, I am as steady as the Taishan Mountains. Now, my lord, return and prepare your ships and soldiers. On the twentieth day of the eleventh month, send Zhao Zilong with a small ship to the south bank to wait for me. Be sure there is no miscarriage.”
“What are your intentions?” said Liu Bei.
“When the southeast wind begins, I shall return.”
Liu Bei would have questioned him further, but Zhuge Liang pressed him to go. So the boat started up river again, while Zhuge Liang returned to his temporary lodging.
The boat had not proceeded far when appeared a small fleet of fifty ships sweeping down with the current, and in the prow of the leading vessel stood a tall figure armed with a spear. Guan Yu was ready to fight. But when they were near, they recognized that was Zhang Fei, who had come down fearing lest his brother might be in some difficulty from which the strong arm of Guan Yu might even be insufficient to rescue him.
The three brothers thus returned together.
After Zhou Yu, having escorted Liu Bei to the gate of his camp, had returned to his quarters, Lu Su soon came to see him.
“Then you had cajoled Liu Bei into coming, why did you not carry out your plan?” asked Lu Su.
“Because of that Guan Yu. He is a very tiger, and he never left his brother for a moment. If anything had been attempted, he would certainly have had my life.”
Lu Su knew that Zhou Yu spoke the truth. Then suddenly they announced a messenger with a letter from Cao Cao. Zhou Yu ordered them to bring him in and took the letter. But when he saw the superscription The First Minister of Han to Commander-in-Chief Zhou Yu, he fell into a frenzy of rage, tore the letter to fragments, and threw them on the ground.
“To death with this fellow!” cried he.
“When two countries are at war, their emissaries are not slain,” said Lu Su.
“Messengers are slain to show one’s dignity and independence,” replied Zhou Yu.
The unhappy bearer of the letter was decapitated, and his head sent back to Cao Cao by the hands of his escort.
Zhou Yu then decided to move. The van under Gan Ning was to advance, supported by two wings led by Han Dang and Jiang Qin. Zhou Yu would lead the center body in support. The next morning the early meal was eaten in the fourth watch, and the ships got under way in the fifth with a great beating of drums.
Cao Cao was greatly angered when he heard that his letter had been torn to fragments, and he resolved to attack forthwith. His advance was led by the Supreme Admiral Cai Mao, the Vice-Admiral Zhang Yun, and others of the Jingzhou officers who had joined his side. Cao Cao went as hastily as possible to the meeting of the three rivers and saw the ships of the South Land sailing up.
In the bow of the foremost ship from the south stood a fine figure of a warrior, who cried, “I am Gan Ning. I challenge anyone to combat!”
Cai Mao sent his young brother, Cai Xun, to accept the challenge. But as Cai Xun’s ship approached, Gan Ning shot an arrow and Cai Xun fell. Gan Ning pressed forward, his crossbowmen keeping up a heavy discharge which Cao Cao’s troops could not stand. The wings of Han Dang from the left and Jiang Qin from the right also joined in.
Cao Cao’s soldiers, being mostly from the dry plains of the north, did not know how to fight effectually on water, and the southern ships had the battle all their own way. The slaughter was very great. However, after a contest lasting till afternoon, Zhou Yu thought it more prudent, in view of the superior numbers of his enemy, not to risk further the advantage he had gained. So he beat the gongs as the signal to cease battle and recall the ships.
Cao Cao was worsted, but his ships returned to the bank, where a camp was made and order was restored.
Cao Cao sent for his defeated leaders and reproached them, saying, “You did not do your best. You let an inferior force overcome you.”
Cai Mao defended himself, saying, “The Jingzhou marines have not been exercised for a long time, and the others have never been trained for naval warfare at all. A naval camp must be instituted, the northern soldiers trained, and the Jingzhou force drilled. When they have been made efficient, they will win victories.”
“You are the Supreme Admiral. If you know what should be done, why have you not done it?” said Cao Cao. “What is the use of telling me this?”
So Cai Mao and Zhang Yun organized a naval camp on the river bank. They established twenty-four “Water Gates,” with the large ships outside as a sort of rampart, and under their protection the smaller ships went to and fro freely. At night when the lanterns and torches were lit, the very sky was illuminated, and the water shone red with the glare. On land the smoke of the camp fires could be traced for one hundred mile without a break.
Zhou Yu returned to camp and feasted his victorious fighting force. A messenger bore the joyful tidings of victory to his master Sun Quan. When night fell, Zhou Yu went up to the summit of one of the hills and looked out over the long line of bright lights stretching toward the west, showing the extent of the enemy’s camp. He said nothing, but a great fear came in upon him.
Next day Zhou Yu decided that he would go in person to find out the strength of the enemy. So he bade them prepare a small squadron which he manned with strong, hardy men armed with powerful bows and stiff crossbows. He also placed musicians on each ship. They set sail and started up the stream. When they got opposite Cao Cao’s camp, the heavy stones that served as anchors were dropped, and the music was played while Zhou Yu scanned the enemy’s naval camp. What he saw gave him no satisfaction, for everything was most admirable.
He said, “How well and correctly built is that naval base! Anyone knows the names of those in command?”
“They are Cai Mao and Zhang Yun,” said his officers.
“They have lived in the south a long time,” said Zhou Yu, “and are thoroughly experienced in naval warfare. I must find some means of removing them before I can effect anything.”
Meanwhile on shore the sentinels had told Cao Cao that the enemy craft were spying upon them, and Cao Cao ordered out some ships to capture the spies. Zhou Yu saw the commotion of the commanding flags on shore and hastily gave the order to unmoor and sail down stream. The squadron at once got under way and scattered; to and fro went the oars, and each ship seemed to fly. Before Cao Cao’s ships could get out after them, they were all far away.
Cao Cao’s ships took up the chase but soon saw pursuit was useless. They returned and reported their failure.
Again Cao Cao found fault with his officers and said, “The other day you lost a battle, and the soldiers were greatly dispirited. Now the enemy have spied out our camp. What can be done?”
In eager response to his question one stepped out, saying, “When I was a youth, Zhou Yu and I were fellow students and pledged friends. My three-inch tongue is still good, and I will go over and persuade him to surrender.”
Cao Cao, rejoiced to find so speedy a solution, looked at the speaker. It was Jiang Gan of Jiujiang, one of the counseling staff in the camp.
“Are you a good friend of Zhou Yu?” said Cao Cao.
“Rest content, O Prime Minister,” replied Jiang Gan. “If I only get on the other side of the river, I shall succeed.”
“What preparations are necessary?” asked Cao Cao.
“Just a youth as my servant and a couple of rowers. Nothing else.”
Cao Cao offered him wine, wished him success, and sent him on his way.
Clad in a simple linen robe and seated in his little craft, the messenger reached Zhou Yu’s camp and bade the guards say that an old friend Jiang Gan wished to see him.
The commander was in his tent at a council when the message came, and he laughed as he said to those about him, “A persuader is coming.”
Then he whispered certain instructions in the ear of each one of them, and they went out to await his arrival.
Zhou Yu received his friend in full ceremonial garb. A crowd of officers in rich silken robes were about him. The guest appeared, his sole attendant a lad dressed in a simple blue gown. Jiang Gan bore himself proudly as he advanced, and Zhou Yu made a low obeisance.
“You have been well I hope since last we met,” said Jiang Gan.
“You have wandered far and suffered much in this task of emissary in Cao Cao’s cause,” said Zhou Yu.
“I have not seen you for a very long time,” said the envoy much taken aback, “and I came to visit you for the sake of old times. Why do you call me an emissary for the Cao Cao’s cause?”
“Though I am not so profound a musician as Shi Kuang of old, yet I can comprehend the thought behind the music,” replied Zhou Yu.
“As you choose to treat your old friend like this, I think I will take my leave,” said Jiang Gan.
Zhou Yu laughed again, and taking Jiang Gan by the arm, said, “Well, I feared you might be coming on his behalf to try to persuade me. But if this is not your intention, you need not go away so hastily.”
So they two entered the tent. When they had exchanged salutes and were seated as friends, Zhou Yu bade them call his officers that he might introduce them. They soon appeared civil and military officials, all dressed in their best. The military officers were clad in glittering silver armor and the staff looked very imposing as they stood ranged in two lines.
The visitor was introduced to them all. Presently a banquet was spread, and while they feasted, the musicians played songs of victory and the wine circulated merrily.
Under the mellowing influence, Zhou Yu’s reserve seemed to thaw and he said, “Jiang Gan is an old fellow student of mine, and we are pledged friends. Though he has arrived here from the north, he is no artful pleader so you need not be afraid of him.”
Then Zhou Yu took off the commanding sword which he wore as Commander-in-Chief and handed it to Taishi Ci, saying, “You take this and wear it for the day as master of the feast. This day we meet only as friends and speak only of friendship, and if anyone shall begin a discussion of the questions at issue between Cao Cao and the South Land, just slay him.”
Taishi Ci took the sword and seated himself in his place. Jiang Gan was not a little overcome, but he said no word.
Zhou Yu said, “Since I assumed command, I have tasted no drop of wine; but today as an old friend is present and there is no reason to fear him, I am going to drink freely.”
So saying he quaffed a huge goblet and laughed loudly.
The rhinoceros cups went swiftly round from guest to guest till all were half drunk. Then Zhou Yu, laying hold of the guest’s hand, led him outside the tent. The guards who stood around all braced themselves up and seized their shinning weapons.
“Do you not think my soldiers a fine lot of fellows?” said Zhou Yu.
“Strong as bears and bold as tigers,” replied Jiang Gan.
Then Zhou Yu led him to the rear of the tent whence he saw the grain and forage piled up in mountainous heaps.
“Do you not think I have a fairly good store of grain and forage?”
“Your troops are brave and your supplies ample: The empire’s gossip is not baseless, indeed.”
Zhou Yu pretended to be quite intoxicated and went on, “When you and I were students together, we never looked forward to a day like this, did we?”
“For a genius like you, it is nothing extraordinary,” said the guest.
Zhou Yu again seized his hand, and they sat down.
“A man of the time, I have found a proper lord to serve. In his service, we rely upon the right feeling between minister and prince outside, and at home we are firm in the kindly feeling of relatives. He listens to my words and follows my plans. We share the same good or evil fortune. Even when the great old persuaders like Su Qin, Zhang Yi, Lu Jia, and Li Yiji lived again, even when their words poured forth like a rushing river, their tongues were as a sharp sword, it is impossible to move such as I am!”
Zhou Yu burst into a loud laugh as he finished, and Jiang Gan’s face had become clay-colored. Zhou Yu then led his guest back into the tent, and again they fell to drinking.
Presently Zhou Yu pointed to the others at table and said, “These are all the best and bravest of the land of the south. One might call this the ‘Gathering of Heroes.’”
They drank on till daylight failed and continued after lamps had been lit. Zhou Yu even gave an exhibition of sword play and sang this song:
When a man is in the world, O,
He ought to do his best.
And when he’s done his best, O.
He ought to have his rest.
And when I have my rest, O,
I’ll quaff my wine with zest.
And when I’m drunk as drunk can be, O,
I’ll sing the madman’s litany.
A burst of applause greeted the song. By this time it was getting late, and the guest begged to be excused.
“The wine is too much for me,” said Jiang Gan.
His host bade them clear the table.
As all the others left, Zhou Yu said, “It has been many a day since I shared a couch with my friend, but we will do so tonight.”
Putting on the appearance of irresponsible intoxication, he led Jiang Gan into the tent and they went to bed. Zhou Yu simply fell, all dressed as he was, and lay there emitting uncouth grunts and groans, so that to the guest sleep was impossible.
Jiang Gan lay and listened to the various camp noises without and his host’s thunderous snores within. About the second watch he rose and looked at his friend by the dim light of the small lamp. He also saw on the table a heap of papers, and coming out and looking at them furtively, he saw they were letters. Among them he saw one marked as coming from Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, Cao Cao’s Supreme Admiral and Vice-Admiral. He read it and this is what it said:
“We surrendered to Cao Cao, not for the sake of pay but under stress of circumstances. Now we have been able to hold these northern soldiers into this naval camp but, as soon as occasion offers, we mean to have the rebel’s head to offer as a sacrifice to your banner. From time to time there will be reports as occasions serve, but you may trust us. This is our humble reply to your letter.”
“Those two were connected with the South Land in the beginning,” thought Jiang Gan, so he secreted the letter in his dress and began to examine the others. But at that moment Zhou Yu turned over, and so Jiang Gan hastily blew out the light and went to his couch.
Zhou Yu was muttering as he lay there as if dreaming, saying, “Friend, I am going to let you see Cao Cao’s head in a day or two.”
Jiang Gan hastily made some reply to load on his host to say more. Then came, “Wait a few days; you will see Cao Cao’s head. The old wretch!”
Jiang Gan tried to question him as to what he meant, but Zhou Yu was fast asleep and seemed to hear nothing. Jiang Gan lay there on his couch wide awake till the fourth watch was beating.
Then someone came in, saying, “General, are you awake?”
At that moment as if suddenly awakened from the deepest slumber, Zhou Yu started up and said, “Who is this on the couch?”
The voice replied, “Do you not remember, General? You asked your old friend to stay the night with you. It is he, of course.”
“I drank too much last night,” said Zhou Yu in a regretful tone, “and I forgot. I seldom indulge to excess and am not used to it. Perhaps I said many things I ought not.”
The voice went on, “A man has arrived from the north.”
“Speak lower,” said Zhou Yu, and turning toward the sleeper, he called him by name. But Jiang Gan affected to be sound asleep and made no sign.
Zhou Yu crept out of the tent, while Jiang Gan listened with all his ears. He heard the man say, “Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, the two commanders, said that they cannot execute the plan in a hurry.”
But listening as he did with straining ears, he could not make out what followed. Soon after Zhou Yu reentered and again called out his companion’s name. But no reply came, for Jiang Gan was pretending to be in the deepest slumber and to hear nothing. Then Zhou Yu undressed and went to bed.
As Jiang Gan lay awake, he remembered that Zhou Yu was known to be meticulously careful in affairs, and if in the morning Zhou Yu found that a letter had disappeared, he would certainly slay the offender. So Jiang Gan lay there till near daylight and then called out to his host. Getting no reply, he rose, dressed, and stole out of the tent. Then he called his servant and made for the camp gate.
“Whither are you going, Sir?” said the watchmen at the gate.
“I fear I am in the way here,” replied Jiang Gan, “and so I have taken leave of the Commander-in-Chief for a time. So do not stop me.”
He found his way to the river bank and reembarked. Then, with flying oars, he hastened back to Cao Cao’s camp. When he arrived, Cao Cao asked at once how he had sped, and he had to acknowledge failure.
“Zhou Yu is very clever and perfectly high-minded,” said Jiang Gan. “Nothing that I could say moved him in the least.”
“Your failure makes me look ridiculous,” said Cao Cao.
“Well, if I did not win over Zhou Yu, I found out something for you. Send away these people, and I will tell you,” said Jiang Gan.
The servants were dismissed, and then Jiang Gan produced the letter he had stolen from Zhou Yu’s tent. He gave it to Cao Cao. Cao Cao was very angry and sent for Cai Mao and Zhang Yun at once.
As soon as they appeared, he said, “I want you two to attack.”
Cai Mao replied, “But the soldiers are not yet sufficiently trained.”
“The soldiers will be well enough trained when you have sent my head to Zhou Yu, eh?”
Both commanders were dumb-founded, having not the least idea what this meant. They remained silent for they had nothing to say. Cao Cao bade the executioners lead them away to instant death. In a short time their heads were produced.
By this time Cao Cao had thought over the matter, and it dawned upon him that he had been tricked. A poem says:
No one could stand against Cao Cao,
Of sin he had full share,
But Zhou Yu was more treacherous,
And caught him in a snare.
Two commanders to save their lives,
Betrayed a former lord,
Soon after, as was very met.
Both fell beneath the sword.
The death of these two naval commanders caused much consternation in the camp, and all their colleagues asked the reason for their sudden execution. Though Cao Cao knew they had been victimized, he would not acknowledge it.
So he said, “These two had been remiss, and so had been put to death.”
The others were aghast, but nothing could be done. Two other officers, Mao Jie and Yu Jin, were put in command of the naval camp.
Spies took the news to Zhou Yu, who was delighted at the success of his ruse.
“Those two Cai Mao and Zhang Yun were my only source of anxiety,” said he. “Now they are gone: I am quite happy.”
Lu Su said, “General, if you can continue like this, you need not fear Cao Cao.”
“I do not think any of them saw my game,” said Zhou Yu, “except Zhuge Liang. He beats me, and I do not think this ruse was hidden from him. You go and sound him. See if he knew.”
Zhou Yu’s treacherous plot succeeded well,
Dissension sown, his rivals fell.
Drunk with success was he, but sought
To know what cynic Zhuge Liang thought.
What passed between Lu Su and Zhuge Liang will next be related.
Using Strategy, Zhuge Liang Borrows Arrows; Joining A Ruse, Huang Gai Accepts Punishment.
Lu Su departed on his mission and found Zhuge Liang seated in his little craft.
“There has been so much to do that I have not been able to come to listen to your instructions,” said Lu Su.
“That is truly so,” said Zhuge Liang, “and I have not yet congratulated the Commander-in-Chief.”
“What have you wished to congratulate him upon?”
“Why Sir, the matter upon which he sent you to find out whether I knew about it or not. Indeed I can congratulate him on that.”
Lu Su turned pale and gasped, saying, “But how did you know, Master?”
“The ruse succeeded well thus played off on Jiang Gan. Cao Cao has been taken in this once, but he will soon rise to it. Only he will not confess his mistake. However, the two men are gone, and the South Land is freed from a grave anxiety. Do you not think that is a matter for congratulation? I hear Mao Jie and Yu Jin are the new admirals, and in their hands lie both good and evil for the fate of the northern fleet.”
Lu Su was quite dumbfounded. He stayed a little time longer passing the time in making empty remarks, and then took his leave.
As he was going away, Zhuge Liang cautioned him, saying, “Do not let Zhou Yu know that I know his ruse. If you let him know, he will seek some chance to do me harm.”
Lu Su promised. Nevertheless he went straight to his chief and related the whole thing just as it happened.
“Really he must be got rid of,” said Zhou Yu. “I have quite decided to put the man out of the way.”
“If you slay him, will not Cao Cao laugh at you?”
“Oh, no! I will find a legitimate way of getting rid of him so that he shall go to his death without resentment.”
“But how can you find a legitimate way of assassinating him?”
“Do not ask too much. You will see presently.”
Soon after all the officers were summoned to the main tent, and Zhuge Liang’s presence was desired. He went contentedly enough.
When all were seated, Zhou Yu suddenly addressed Zhuge Liang, saying, “I am going to fight a battle with the enemy soon on the water. What weapons are the best?”
“On a great river arrows are the best,” said Zhuge Liang.
“Your opinion and mine agree. But at the moment we are short of them. I wish you would undertake to supply about a hundred thousand arrows for the naval fight. As it is for the public service, you will not decline, I hope.”
“Whatever task the Commander-in-Chief lays upon me, I must certainly try to perform,” replied Zhuge Liang. “May I inquire by what date you require the hundred thousand arrows?”
“Could you have them ready in ten days?”
“The enemy will be here very soon. Ten days will be too late,” said Zhuge Liang.
“In how many days do you estimate the arrows can be ready?”
“Let me have three days. Then you may send for your hundred thousand.”
“No joking, remember!” said Zhou Yu. “There is no joking in war time.”
“Dare I joke with the Commander-in-Chief? Give me a formal military order. If I have not completed the task in three days, I will take my punishment.”
Zhou Yu, secretly delighted, sent for the secretaries and prepared the commission then and there.
Then he drank to the success of the undertaking and said, “I shall have to congratulate you most heartily when this is accomplished.”
“This day is too late to count,” said Zhuge Liang. “On the third from tomorrow morning send five hundred soldiers to the river side to convey the arrows.”
They drank a few more cups together, and then Zhuge Liang took his leave.
After he had gone, Lu Su said, “Do you not think there is some deceit about this?”
“Clearly it is not I! It is he who has signed his own death warrant,” said Zhou Yu. “Without being pressed in the least, he asked for a formal order in the face of the whole assembly. Even if he grew a pair of wings, he could not escape. Only I will just order the workers to delay him as much as they can, and not supply him with materials, so that he is sure to fail. And then, when the certain penalty is incurred, who can criticize? You can go and inquire about it all and keep me informed.”
So off went Lu Su to seek Zhuge Liang, who at once reproached him with having blabbed about the former business.
Zhuge Liang said, “He wants to hurt me, as you know, and I did not think you could not keep my secret. And now there is what you saw today, and how do you think I can get a hundred thousand arrows made in three days? You will simply have to rescue me.”
“You brought the misfortune on yourself, and how can I rescue you?” said Lu Su.
“I look to you for the loan of twenty vessels, manned each by thirty people. I want blue cotton screens and bundles of straw lashed to the sides of the boats. I have good use for them. On the third day, I shall undertake to deliver the fixed number of arrows. But on no account must you let Zhou Yu know, or my scheme will be wrecked.”
Lu Su consented, and this time he kept his word. He went to report to his chief as usual, but he said nothing about the boats.
He only said, “Zhuge Liang is not using bamboo or feathers or glue or varnish, but has some other way of getting arrows.”
“Let us await the three days’ limit,” said Zhou Yu, puzzled though confident.
On his side Lu Su quietly prepared a score of light swift boats, each with its crew and the blue screens and bundles of grass complete and, when these were ready, he placed them at Zhuge Liang’s disposal.
Zhuge Liang did nothing on the first day, nor on the second. On the third day at the middle of the fourth watch, Zhuge Liang sent a private message asking Lu Su to come to his boat.
“Why have you sent for me, Sir?” asked Lu Su.
“I want you to go with me to get those arrows.”
“Whither are you going?”
“Do not ask. You will see.”
Then the twenty boats were fastened together by long ropes and moved over to the north bank. The night proved very foggy and the mist was very dense along the river, so that one person could scarcely see another. In spite of the fog, Zhuge Liang urged the boats forward as if into the vast fairy kingdom.
There is a poem on these river fogs:
Mighty indeed is the Great River!
Rising far in the west, in the Emei and Min Mountains,
Plowing its way through Wu, east flowing, resistless,
Swelled by its nine tributary streams, rolling down from the far north,
Aided and helped by a hundred rivulets swirling and foaming,
Ocean receives it at last welcoming, joyful, its waters.
Therein abide sea nymphs and water gods,
Enormous whales a thousand fathoms long,
Nine-headed monstrous beasts, reptiles and octopi,
Demons and uncouth creatures wondrous strange.
In faith it is the home and safe retreat
Of devils and sprites, and wondrous growths,
And eke the battle ground of valiant humans.
At times occur strange strife of elements,
When darkness strives on light’s domains that encroach,
Whereat arises in the vaulted dome of blue
White wreaths of fog that toward the center roll.
Then darkness falls, too dense for any torch
Illumine; only clanging sounds can pass.
The fog at first appears, a vaporous wreath
Scarce visible. But thickening fast, it veils
The Southern Hills, the painted leopard’s home.
And spreads afar, until the northern sea
Leviathans are amazed and lose their course.
And denser yet it touches on the sky.
And spreads a heavy mantle over the earth.
Then, wide as is the high pitched arch of heaven,
Therein appears no single rift of blue.
Now mighty whales lead up their spouses to sport
Upon the waves, the sinuous dragons dive
Deep down and, breathing, swell the heaving sea,
The earth is moist as with the early rains,
And spring’s creative energy is chilled.
Both far and wide and high the damp fog spreads,
Great cities on the eastern bank are hid,
Wide ports and mountains in the south are lost,
Whole fleets of battle ships, a thousand keels,
Hide in the misty depths; frail fishing boats
High riding on a wave are seen—and lost.
The gloom increases and the domed sky
Grows dark and darker as the sun’s light fails.
The daylight dies, dim twilight’s reign begins,
The ruddy hills dissolve and lose their hue.
The skill of matchless King Yu would fail to sound
The depth and height; and Li Lou’s eye, though keen,
Could never pierce this gloom.
Now is the time, O sea and river gods, to use your powers.
The gliding fish and creeping water folk
Are lost; there is no track for bird or beast.
Fair Penglai Isles are hidden from our sight,
The lofty gates of heaven have disappeared.
Nature is blurred and indistinct, as when
A driving rain storm hurries over the earth.
And then, perhaps, within the heavy haze,
A noisome serpent vents his venom foul
And plagues descend, or impish demons work
Their wicked wills.
Ills fall on humans but do not stay,
Heaven’s cleansing breath sweeps them sway,
But while they last the mean ones cry,
The nobler suffer silently.
The greatest turmoil is a sign
Of quick return to state benign.
The little fleet reached Cao Cao’s naval camp about the fifth watch, and Zhuge Liang gave orders to form line lying prows west, and then to beat the drums and shout.
“But what shall we do if they attack us?” exclaimed Lu Su.
Zhuge Liang replied with a smile, “I think their fleet will not venture out in this fog. Go on with your wine, and let us be happy. We will go back when the fog lifts.”
As soon as the shouting from the river was heard by those in the camp, the two admirals, Mao Jie and Yu Jin, ran off to report to Cao Cao, who said, “Coming up in a fog like this means that they have prepared an ambush for us. Do not go out, but get all the force together and shoot at them.”
He also sent orders to the ground camps to dispatch six thousand of archers and crossbowmen to aid the marines.
The naval forces were then lined up shooting on the bank to prevent a landing. Presently the soldiers arrived, and ten thousand and more soldiers were shooting down into the river, where the arrows fell like rain. By and bye Zhuge Liang ordered the boats to turn round so that their prows pointed east and to go closer in so that many arrows might hit them.
Zhuge Liang ordered the drums to be kept beating till the sun was high and the fog began to disperse, when the boats got under way and sailed down stream. The whole twenty boats were bristling with arrows on both sides.
As they left, Zhuge Liang asked all the crews to shout derisively, “We thank you, Sir Prime Minister, for the arrows!”
They told Cao Cao, but by the time he came, the light boats helped by the swift current were seven miles long down the river and pursuit was impossible. Cao Cao saw that he had been duped and was very sorry, but there was no help for it.
On the way down Zhuge Liang said to his companion, “Every boat must have five or six thousand arrows and so, without the expenditure of an ounce of energy, we must have more than ten myriad arrows, which tomorrow can be shot back again at Cao Cao’s army to his great inconvenience.”
“You are really superhuman,” said Lu Su. “But how did you know there would be a thick fog today?”
“One cannot be a leader without knowing the workings of heaven and the ways of earth. One must understand the secret gates and the interdependence of the elements, the mysteries of tactics and the value of forces. It is but an ordinary talent. I calculated three days ago that there would be a fog today, and so I set the limit at three days. Zhou Yu would give me ten days, but neither artificers nor materials, so that he might find occasion to put me to death as I knew. But my fate lies with the Supreme, and how could Zhou Yu harm me?”
Lu Su could not but agree. When the boats arrived, five hundred soldiers were in readiness on the bank to carry away the arrows. Zhuge Liang bade them go on board the boats, collect them and bear them to the tent of the Commander-in-Chief. Lu Su went to report that the arrows had been obtained and told Zhou Yu by what means.
Zhou Yu was amazed and sighed sadly, saying, “He is better than I. His methods are more than human.”
Thick lies the fog on the river,
Nature is shrouded in white,
Distant and near are confounded,
Banks are no longer in sight.
Fast fly the pattering arrows,
Stick in the boats of the fleet.
Now can full tale be delivered,
Zhuge Liang is victor complete.
When, shortly after his return, Zhuge Liang went to the tent of the Commander-in-Chief, he was welcomed by Zhou Yu, who came forward to greet him, saying, “Your superhuman predictions compel one’s esteem.”
“There is nothing remarkable in that trifling trick,” replied he.
Zhou Yu led him within and wine was brought.
Then Zhou Yu said, “My lord sent yesterday to urge me to advance, but I have no master plan ready. I wish you would assist me, Master.”
“But where should I, a man of poor everyday ability, find such a plan as you desire?”
“I saw the enemy’s naval camp just lately, and it looked very complete and well organized. It is not an ordinary place to attack. I have thought of a plan, but I am not sure it will answer. I should be happy if you would decide for me.”
“General,” replied Zhuge Liang, “do not say what your plan is, but each of us will write in the palm of his hand and see whether our opinions agree.”
So brush and ink were sent for, and Zhou Yu first wrote on his own palm, and then passed the pen to Zhuge Liang who also wrote. Then getting close together on the same bench, each showed his hand to the other, and both burst out laughing, for both had written the same word, “Fire.”
“Since we are of the same opinion,” said Zhou Yu, “there is no longer any doubt. But our intentions must be kept secret.”
“Both of us are public servants, and what would be the sense of telling our plans? I do not think Cao Cao will be on his guard against this, although he has had two experiences. You may put your scheme into force.”
They finished their wine and separated. Not an officer knew a word of their plans.
Now Cao Cao had expended a myriad arrows in vain and was much irritated in consequence. He deeply desired revenge.
Then Xun You proposed a ruse, saying, “The two strategists on the side of the enemy are Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang, two men most difficult to get the better of. Let us send someone who shall pretend to surrender to them but really be a spy on our behalf and a helper in our schemes. When we know what is doing, we can plan to meet it.”
“I had thought of that myself,” replied Cao Cao. “Whom do you think the best person to send?”
“Cai Mao has been put to death, but all his clan and family are in the army, and his two younger brothers are junior generals. You have them most securely in your power and may send them to surrender. The ruler of the South Land will never suspect deceit there.”
Cao Cao decided to act on this plan, and in the evening summoned Cai Zhong and Cai He to his tent, where he told them, saying, “I want you to pretend to surrender to the South Land so that you can gather intelligence and sent it back. When all done, you will be richly rewarded. But do not betray me.”
“Our families are in Jingzhou, and that place is yours,” replied they. “Should we dare betray? You need have no doubts, Sir. You will soon see the heads of both Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang at your feet.”
Cao Cao gave them generous gifts. Soon after the two men, each with his five hundred soldiers, set sail with a fair wind for the opposite bank.
Now as Zhou Yu was preparing for the attack, the arrival of some northern ships was announced. They bore the two younger brothers of Cai Mao, who had come as deserters.
They were led in and, bowing before the general, said, weeping, “Our innocent brother has been put to death, and we desire vengeance. So we have come to offer allegiance to you. We pray you appoint us to the vanguard.”
Zhou Yu appeared very pleased and made them presents. Then he ordered them to join Gan Ning in leading the van. They thanked him and regarded their scheme as already a success.
But Zhou Yu gave Gan Ning secret orders, saying, “They have come without their families, and so I know their desertion is only pretense. They have been sent as spies, and I am going to meet their ruse with one of my own. They shall have some information to send. You will treat them well, but keep a careful guard over them. On the day our soldiers start the offense, they shall be sacrificed to the flag. But be very careful that nothing goes wrong.”
Gan Ning went away.
Then Lu Su came to tell Zhou Yu, saying, “Everyone agrees in thinking the surrender of Cai Zhong and Cai He feigned and they should be rejected.”
“But they wish to revenge the death of their brother,” said the Fleet Admiral. “Where is the pretense? If you are so suspicious, you will receive nobody at all.”
Lu Su left much piqued and went to see Zhuge Liang to whom he told the story. Zhuge Liang only smiled.
“Why do you smile?” said Lu Su.
“I smile at your simplicity. The General is playing a game. Spies cannot easily come and go, so these two have been sent to feign desertion that they may act as spies. The General is meeting one ruse with another. He wants them to give false information. Deceit is not to be despised in war, and his scheme is the correct one to employ.”
Then Lu Su understood.
That night as Zhou Yu was sitting in his tent, Huang Gai came to see him privately.
Zhou Yu said, “You have surely some wise plan to propose that you come at night like this.”
Huang Gai replied, “The enemy are more numerous than we, and it is wrong to delay. Why not burn them out?”
“Who suggested that to you?”
“I thought of it myself. Nobody suggested it,” replied Huang Gai.
“I just wanted something like this, and that is why I kept those two pretended deserters. I want them to give some false news. The pity is that I have no one to feign desertion to the other side and work my plan.”
“But I will carry out your plan,” said Huang Gai.
“But if you cannot show some injury, you will not be believed,” said Zhou Yu.
“The Sun family have been very generous to me, and I would not resent being crushed to death to repay them,” said Huang Gai.
Zhou Yu bowed and thanked him, saying, “If you would not object to some bodily suffering, then the South Land would indeed be happy.”
“Kill me. I do not mind,” repeated Huang Gai as he took his leave.
Next day the drums called all the officers together to the Commander-in-Chief’s tent, and Zhuge Liang came with the others.
Zhou Yu said, “The enemy’s camps extend about one hundred miles so that the campaign will be a long one. Each leader is to prepare supplies for three months.”
Scarcely had he spoken when Huang Gai started up, crying, “Say not three months. Be ready for thirty months, and even then it will not be ended. If you can destroy them this month, then all is well. If you cannot, then it were better to take Zhang Zhao’s advice, throw down your weapons, turn to the north, and surrender.”
Zhou Yu’s anger flared up, and he flushed, crying, “Our lord’s orders were to destroy Cao Cao, and whoever mentioned the word surrender should be put to death! Now, the very moment when the two armies are to engage, you dare talk of surrender and damp the ardor of my army! If I do not slay you, how can I support the others?”
He ordered the lictors to remove Huang Gai and execute him without delay.
Huang Gai then flamed up in turn, saying, “This is the third generation since I went with General Sun Jian, and we overran the southeast. Whence have you sprung up?”
This made Zhou Yu perfectly furious, and Huang Gai was ordered to instant death. But Gan Ning interfered.
Said he, “He is a veteran officer of the South Land. Pray pardon him!”
“What are you prating about?” cried Zhou Yu. “Dare you come between me and my duty?”
Turning to the lictors, Zhou Yu ordered them to drive Gan Ning forth with blows.
The other officials fell on their knees entreating pity for Huang Gai.
“He is indeed most worthy of death, but it would be a loss to the army. We pray you forgive him. Record his fault for the moment; and after the enemy shall have been defeated, then put him to death.”
But Zhou Yu was implacable. The officers pleaded with tears.
At length he seemed moved, saying, “Had you not interceded, he should certainly have suffered death. But now I will mitigate the punishment to a beating. He shall not die.”
Zhou Yu turned to the lictors and bade them deal the culprit one hundred blows. Again his colleagues prayed for remission, but Zhou Yu angrily pushed over the table in front of him and roared to the officers to get out of the way and let the sentence be executed.
So Huang Gai was stripped, thrown to the ground, and fifty blows were given. At this point the officers again prayed that he be let off.
Zhou Yu sprang from his chair and pointing his finger at Huang Gai said, “If you dare flout me again, you shall have the other fifty. If you are guilty of any disrespect, you shall be punished for both faults!”
With this he turned into the inner part of the tent, growling as he went, while the officers helped their beaten colleague to his feet. He was in a deplorable state. His back was cut in many places, and the blood was flowing in streams. They led him to his own quarters and on the way he swooned several times. His case seemed most pitiable.
Lu Su went to see the suffering officer and then called on Zhuge Liang in his boat.
Lu Su related the story of the beating and said, “Though the other officers have been cowed into silence, I think thought you, Sir, might have interceded. You are a guest and not under Zhou Yu’s orders. Why did you stand by with your hands up your sleeves and say never a word?”
“You insult me,” said Zhuge Liang smiling.
“Why do you say that? I have never insulted you: Never since the day we came here together.”
“Do you not know that terrible beating was but a ruse? How could I try to dissuade Zhou Yu?”
Then Lu Su began to perceive, and Zhuge Liang continued, saying, “Cao Cao would not be taken in unless there was some real bodily suffering. Zhou Yu is going to send Huang Gai over as a deserter, and Zhou Yu will see to it that the two Cao Cao’s spies duly tell the tale. But when you see the General, you must not tell him that I saw through the ruse. You say that I am very angry like the others.”
Lu Su went to see Zhou Yu and asked, “Why have you so cruelly beaten a proved and trusty officer?”
“Do the officers resent it?” asked Zhou Yu.
“They are all upset about it.”
“And what does your friend think?”
“Zhuge Liang also resents it in his heart, and he thinks you have made a mistake.”
“Then I have deceived him for once,” said Zhou Yu gleefully.
“What mean you?” cried Lu Su.
“That beating that Huang Gai got is part of my ruse. I am sending him to Cao Cao as a deserter, and so I have supplied a reason for desertion. Then I am going to use fire against the enemy.”
Lu Su kept silence, but he recognized that Zhuge Liang was again right.
Meanwhile Huang Gai lay in his tent, whither all his colleague officers went to condole with him and inquire after his health. But Huang Gai would say never a word. He only lay sighing deeply from time to time.
But when the Strategist Kan Ze came, Huang Gai told them to bring him to the room where he lay. Then he bade the servants go away.
Kan Ze said, “Surely you must have some serious quarrel with the General.”
“I have none,” said Huang Gai.
“Then this beating is just part of a ruse?”
“How did you guess?” said Huang Gai.
“Because I watched the General, and I guessed about nine tenths of the truth.”
Huang Gai said, “You see I have been very generously treated by the Sun family, all three of them, and have no means of showing my gratitude except by offering to help in this ruse. True I suffer, but I do not regret that. Among all those I know in the army, there is not one I am intimate with except yourself. You are true, and I can talk with you as a friend.”
“I suppose you wish me to present your surrender letter to Cao Cao. Is that it?”
“Just that; will you do it?” said Huang Gai.
Kan Ze consented joyfully.
Even the warrior’s body is but a stake in the game,
The friend so ready to help him proves that their hearts are the same.
Kan Ze’s reply will be read in the next chapter.
Kan Ze Presents A Treacherous Letter; Pang Tong Suggests Chaining The Ships.
Kan Ze was from Shanyin, a son of a humble family. He loved books, but as he was too poor to buy, he used to borrow. He had a wonderfully tenacious memory, was very eloquent and no coward. Sun Quan had employed him among his advisers, and he and Huang Gai were excellent friends.
Now Huang Gai had thought of Kan Ze to present the treacherous letter to Cao Cao, as Kan Ze’s gifts made him most suitable.
Kan Ze accepted with enthusiasm, saying, “When you, my friend, have suffered so much for our lord, could I spare myself? No! While a person lives, he must go on fulfilling his mission, or he is no better than the herbs that rot in the field.”
Huang Gai slipped off the couch and came over to salute him.
“However, this matter must speed,” continued Kan Ze. “There is no time to lose.”
“The letter is already written,” said Huang Gai.
Kan Ze received it and left. That night he disguised himself as an old fisherman and started in a small punt for the north shore, under the cold, glittering light of the stars. Soon he drew near the enemy’s camp and was captured by the patrol.
Without waiting for day, they informed Cao Cao, who said at once, “Is he not just a spy?”
“No,” said they, “he is alone, just an old fisherman. And he says he is an adviser in the service of the South Land named Kan Ze, and he has come on secret business.”
“Bring him,” said Cao Cao, and Kan Ze was led in.
Cao Cao was seated in a brilliantly lighted tent. He was leaning on a small table, and as soon as he saw the prisoner, he said harshly, “You are an adviser of East Wu. What then are you doing here?”
“People say that you greedily welcome people of ability. I do not think your question a very proper one. O friend Huang Gai, you made a mistake,” said Kan Ze.
“You know I am fighting against East Wu, and you come here privately. Why should I not question you?”
“Huang Gai is an old servant of Wu, one who has served three successive rulers. Now he has been cruelly beaten, for no fault, before the face of all the officers in Zhou Yu’s camp. He is grievously angry about this and wishes to desert to your side that he may be revenged. He discussed it with me, and as we are inseparable, I have come to give you his letter asking whether you would receive him.”
“Where is the letter? said Cao Cao.
The missive was produced and presented. Cao Cao opened it and read:
“I, Huang Gai, have been generously treated by the Sun family and have served them single-heartedly. Lately they have been discussing an attack with our forces on the enormous army of the central government. Everyone knows our few are no match for such a multitude, and every officer of the South Land, wise or foolish, recognizes that quite well. However, Zhou Yu who, after all, is but a youth and a shallow minded simpleton, maintains that success is possible and rashly desires to smash stones with an egg. Beside, he is arbitrary and tyrannical, punishing for no crime, and leaving meritorious service unrewarded. I am an old servant and for no reason have been shamed in the sight of people. Wherefore I hate him in my heart.
“You, O Prime Minister, treat people with sincerity and are ready to welcome ability and so I, and those under my leadership, desire to enter your service whereby to acquire reputation and remove the shameful stigma. The commissariat, weapons, and the supply ships that I am commanding will also come over to you. In perfect sincerity I state these matters. I pray you not to doubt me.”
Leaning there on the low table by his side, Cao Cao turned this letter over and over and read it again and again.
Then he smacked the table, opened his eyes wide with anger, saying, “Huang Gai is trying to play the personal injury trick on me, is he? And you are in it as the intermediary to present the letter. How dare you come to sport with me?”
Cao Cao ordered the lictors to thrust forth the messenger and take off his head. Kan Ze was hustled out, his face untroubled. On the contrary, he laughed aloud.
At this Cao Cao told them to bring him back and harshly said to him, “What do you find to laugh at now that I have foiled you and your ruse has failed?”
“I was not laughing at you. I was laughing at my friend’s simplicity.”
“What do you mean by his simplicity?”
“If you want to slay, slay. Do not trouble me with a multitude of questions.”
“I have read all the books on the art of war, and I am well versed in all ways of misleading the enemy. This ruse of yours might have succeeded with many, but it will not do for me.”
“And so you say that the letter is a vicious trick?” said Kan Ze.
“What I say is that your little slip has sent you to the death you risked. If the thing was real and you were sincere, why does not the letter name a time of coming over? What have you to say to that?”
Kan Ze waited to the end and then laughed louder than ever, saying, “I am so glad you are not frightened but can still boast of your knowledge of the books of war. Now you will not lead away your soldiers. If you fight, Zhou Yu will certainly capture you. But how sad to think I die at the hand of such an ignorant fellow!”
“What mean you? I, ignorant?”
“You are ignorant of any strategy and a victim of unreason. Is not that sufficient?”
“Well then, tell me where is any fault.”
“You treat wise people too badly for me to talk to you. You can finish me and let there be an end of it.”
“If you can speak with any show of reason, I will treat you differently.”
“Do you not know that when one is going to desert one’s master and become a renegade, one cannot say exactly when the chance will occur? If one binds one’s self to a fixed moment and the thing cannot be done just then, the secret will be discovered. One must watch for an opportunity and take it when it comes. Think: Is it possible to know exactly when? But you know nothing of common sense. All you know is how to put good people to death. So you really are an ignorant fellow!”
At this Cao Cao changed his manner, got up, and came over to the prisoner bowing, “I did not see clearly. That is quite true. I offended you, and I hope you will forget it.”
“The fact is that Huang Gai and I are both inclined to desert to you. We even yearn for it as a child desires its parents. Is it possible that we should play you false?”
“If you two could render me so great a service, you shall certainly be richly rewarded.”
“We do not desire rank or riches. We come because it is the will of Heaven and the plain way of duty.”
Then wine was set out, and Kan Ze was treated as an honored guest. While they were drinking, someone came in and whispered in Cao Cao’s ear.
He replied, “Let me see the letter.”
Whereupon the man pulled out and gave him a letter, which evidently pleased him.
“That is from the two Cai brothers,” thought Kan Ze. “They are reporting the punishment of my friend, and that will be a proof of the sincerity of his letter.”
Turning toward Kan Ze, Cao Cao said, “I must ask you to return to settle the date with your friend. As soon as I know, I will have a force waiting.”
“I cannot return. Pray, Sir, send some other one you can trust.”
“If someone else should go, the secret would be discovered.”
Kan Ze refused again and again but at last gave way, saying, “If I am to go, I must not wait here. I must be off at once.”
Cao Cao offered him gold and silks, which were refused. Kan Ze started, left the camp, and reembarked for the south bank, where he related all that had happened to Huang Gai.
“If it had not been for your persuasive tongue, then had I undergone this suffering in vain,” said Huang Gai.
“I will now go to get news of the two Cai brothers,” said Kan Ze.
“Excellent,” said Huang Gai.
Kan Ze went to the camp commanded by Gan Ning.
When they were seated, Kan Ze said to his host, “I was much distressed when I saw how disgracefully you were treated for your intercession on behalf of Huang Gai.”
Gan Ning smiled. Just then the two Cai brothers came, and host and guest exchanged glances.
Gan Ning said, “The truth is Zhou Yu is over confident, and he reckons us as nobody. We count for nothing. Everyone is talking of the way I was insulted.”
And he shouted and gritted his teeth and smacked the table in his wrath.
Kan Ze leaned over toward his host and said something in a very low voice, at which Gan Ning bent his head and sighed.
Cai He and Cai Zhong gathered from this scene that both Gan Ning and Kan Ze were ripe for desertion and determined to probe them.
“Why, Sir, do you anger him? Why not be silent about your injuries?” said they.
“What know you of our bitterness?” said Kan Ze.
“We think you seem much inclined to go over to Cao Cao,” said they.
Kan Ze at this lost color. Gan Ning started up and drew his sword, crying, “They have found out. They must die to keep their mouths shut!”
“No, no,” cried the two in a flurry. “Let us tell you something quite secret!”
“Quick, then!” cried Gan Ning.
So Cai He said, “The truth is that we are only pretended deserters, and if you two gentlemen are of our way of thinking, we can manage things for you.”
“But are you speaking the truth?” said Gan Ning.
“Is it likely we should say such a thing if it were untrue?” cried both at the same moment.
Gan Ning put on a pleased look and said, “Then this is the very heaven-given chance.”
“You know we have already told Cao Cao of the Huang Gai affair and how you were insulted.”
“The fact is I have given the Prime Minister a letter on behalf of Huang Gai, and he sent me back again to settle the date of Huang Gai’s desertion,” said Kan Ze.
“When an honest person happens upon an enlightened master, his heart will always be drawn toward him,” said Gan Ning.
The four then drank together and opened their hearts to each other. The two Cai Zhong and Cai He wrote a private letter to their master saying Gan Ning has agreed to join in our plot and play the traitor, and Kan Ze also wrote, and they sent the letters secretly to Cao Cao.
Kan Ze’s letter said:
“Huang Gai has found no opportunity so far. However, when he comes, his boat can be recognized by a black, indented flag. That shall mean he is on board.”
However, when Cao Cao got these two letters, he was still doubtful and called together his advisers to talk over the matter.
Said he, “On the other side Gan Ning has been put to shame by the Commander-in-Chief whom he is prepared to betray for the sake of revenge. Huang Gai has been punished and sent Kan Ze to propose that he should come over to our side. Only I still distrust the whole thing. Who will go over to the camp to find out the real truth?”
Then Jiang Gan spoke up, saying, “I failed in my mission the other day and am greatly mortified. I will risk my life again and, this time, I shall surely bring good news.”
Cao Cao approved of him as messenger and bade him start. Jiang Gan set out in a small craft and speedily arrived in the Three Gorges, landing near the naval camp. Then he sent to inform Zhou Yu.
Hearing who it was, Zhou Yu chuckled, saying, “Success depends upon this man.”
Then Zhou Yu called Lu Su and told him to call Pang Tong to come and do certain things for him.
This Pang Tong was from Xiangyang. And he had gone to the east of the river to get away from the strife. Lu Su had recommended him to Zhou Yu, but he had not yet presented himself.
When Zhou Yu sent Lu Su to ask what scheme of attack he would recommend against Cao Cao, Pang Tong had said to Lu Su, “You must use fire against him. But the river is wide and if one ship is set on fire, the others will scatter unless they are fastened together so that they must remain in one place. That is the one road to success.”
Lu Su took this message to Zhou Yu, who pondered over it and then said, “The only person who can manage this is Pang Tong himself.”
“Cao Cao is very wily,” said Lu Su. “How can Pang Tong go?”
So Zhou Yu was sad and undecided. He could think of no method till suddenly the means presented itself in the arrival of Jiang Gan.
Zhou Yu at once sent instructions to Pang Tong how to act, and then sat himself in his tent to await his visitor Jiang Gan.
But the visitor became ill at ease and suspicious when he saw that his old student friend did not come to welcome him, and he took the precaution of sending his boat into a retired spot to be made fast before he went to the general’s tent.
When Zhou Yu saw Jiang Gan, Zhou Yu put on an angry face and said, “My friend, why did you treat me so badly?”
Jiang Gan laughed and said, “I remembered the old days when we were as brothers, and I came expressly to pour out my heart to you. Why do you say I treated you badly?”
“You came to persuade me to betray my master, which I would never do unless the sea dried up and the rocks perished. Remembering the old times, I filled you with wine and kept you to sleep with me. And you, you plundered my private letters and stole away with never a word of farewell. You betrayed me to Cao Cao and caused the death of my two friends on the other side and so caused all my plans to miscarry. Now what have you come for? Certainly, it is not out of kindness to me. I would cut you in two, but I still care for our old friendship. I would send you back again, but within a day or two I shall attack that rebel. If I let you stay in my camp, my plans will leak out. So I am going to tell my attendants to conduct you to a certain retired hut in the Western Hills, and keep you there till I shall have won the victory. Then I will send you back again.”
Jiang Gan tried to say something, but Zhou Yu would not listen. He turned his back and went into the recesses of his tent. The attendants led the visitor off, set him on a horse, and took him away over the hills to the small hut, leaving two soldiers to look after him.
When Jiang Gan found himself in the lonely hut, he was very depressed and had no desire to eat or sleep. But one night, when the stars were very brilliant, he strolled out to enjoy them. Presently he came to the rear of his lonely habitation and heard, near by, someone crooning over a book. Approaching with stealthy steps, he saw a tiny cabin half hidden in a cliff whence a slender beam or two of light stole out between the rafters. He went nearer and peeping in, saw a man reading by the light of a lamp near which hung a sword. And the book was Sun Zi’s classic “The Art of War.”
“This is no common person,” thought Jiang Gan, and so he knocked at the door.
The door was opened by the reader, who bade him welcome with cultivated and refined ceremony. Jiang Gan inquired his name.
The host replied, “I am Pang Tong.”
“Then you are surely the Master known as Young Phoenix, are you not?”
“Yes, I am he.”
“How often have I heard you talked about! You are famous. But why are you hidden away in this spot?”
“That fellow Zhou Yu is too conceited to allow that anyone else has any talent, and so I live here quietly. But who are you, Sir?”
“I am Jiang Gan.”
Then Pang Tong made him welcome and led him in, and the two sat down to talk.
“With your gifts, you would succeed anywhere,” said Jiang Gan. “If you would enter Cao Cao’s service, I would recommend you to him.”
“I have long desired to get away from here. And if you, Sir, will present me, there is no time like the present. If Zhou Yu heard of my wish, he would kill me, I am sure.”
So without more ado, they made their way down the hill to the water’s edge to seek the boat in which Jiang Gan had come. They embarked and, rowing swiftly, they soon reached the northern shore. At the central camp, Jiang Gan landed and went to seek Cao Cao to whom he related the story of the discovery of his new acquaintance.
When Cao Cao heard that the newcomer was Master Young Phoenix, Cao Cao went to meet him personally, made him very welcome, and soon they sat down to talk on friendly terms.
Cao Cao said, “And so Zhou Yu in his youth is conceited and annoys his officers and rejects all their advice: I know that. But your fame has been long known to me, and now that you have been gracious enough to turn my way, I pray you not to be thrifty of your advice.”
“I, too, know well that you are a model of military strategy,” said Pang Tong, “but I should like to have one look at your disposition.”
So horses were brought, and the two rode out to the lines, host and visitor on equal terms, side by side. They ascended a hill whence they had a wide view of the land base.
After looking all round Pang Tong remarked, “Wu Qi the Great General, came to life again, could not do better, nor Sun Zi the Famed Strategist if he reappeared! All accords with the precepts. The camp is beside the hills and is flanked by a forest. The front and rear are within sight of each other. Gates of egress and ingress are provided, and the roads of advance and retirement are bent and broken.”
“Master, I entreat you not to overpraise me, but to advise me where I can make further improvements,” said Cao Cao.
Then the two men rode down to the naval camp, where twenty four gates were arranged facing south. The cruisers and the battleships were all lined up so as to protect the lighter crafts which lay inside. There were channels to pass to and fro and fixed anchorages and stations.
Pang Tong surveying all this smiled, saying, “Sir Prime Minister, if this is your method of warfare, you enjoy no empty reputation.”
Then pointing to the southern shore, he went on, “Zhou Yu! Zhou Yu! You are finished. You will have to die.”
Cao Cao was mightily pleased. They rode back to the chief tent and wine was brought. They discussed military matters, and Pang Tong held forth at length. Remarks and comments flowed freely between the two, and Cao Cao formed an exalted opinion of his new adherent’s abilities and treated him with the greatest honor.
By and bye the guest seemed to have succumbed to the influence of many cups and said, “Have you any capable medical people in your army?”
“What are they for, Master?” said Cao Cao.
“There is a lot of illness among the marines, and you ought to find some remedy.”
The fact was that at this time Cao Cao’s men were suffering from the climate. Many were vomiting and not a few had died. It was a source of great anxiety to him, and when the newcomer suddenly mentioned it, of course he had to ask advice.
Pang Tong said, “Your marine force is excellent, but there is just one defect. It is not quite perfect.”
Cao Cao pressed him to say where the imperfection lay.
“I have a plan to overcome the ailment of the soldiers so that no one shall be sick and all fit for service.”
“What is this excellent scheme?” said Cao Cao.
“The river is wide, and the tides ebb and flow. The winds and waves are never at rest. Your troops from the north are unused to ships, and the motion makes them ill. If your ships, large and small, were classed and divided into thirties, or fifties, and joined up stem to stem by iron chains and boards spread across them, to say nothing of soldiers being able to pass from one to the next, even horses could move about on them. If this were done, then there would be no fear of the wind and the waves and the rising and falling tides.”
Coming down from his seat, Cao Cao thanked his guest, saying, “I could never defeat the land of the south without this scheme of yours.”
“That is only my idea,” said Pang Tong. “It is for you to decide about it.”
Orders were then issued to call up all the blacksmiths and set them to work, night and day, forging iron chains and great bolts to lock together the ships. And the soldiers rejoiced when they heard of the plan.
In the Red Cliffs’ fight they used the flame,
The weapon here will be the same.
By Pang Tong’s advice the ships were chained,
Else Zhou Yu had not that battle gained.
Pang Tong further told Cao Cao, saying, “I know many bold people on the other side who hate Zhou Yu. If I may use my little tongue in your service, I can induce them to come over to you. If Zhou Yu be left alone, you can certainly take him captive. And Liu Bei is of no account.”
“Certainly if you could render me so great a service, I would memorialize the Throne and obtain for you one of the highest offices,” said Cao Cao.
“I am not doing this for the sake of wealth or honors, but from a desire to succor humankind. If you cross the river, I pray you be merciful.”
“I am Heaven’s means of doing right and could not bear to slay the people.”
Pang Tong thanked him and begged for a document that would protect his own family.
Cao Cao asked, “Where do they live?”
“All are near the river bank.”
And Cao Cao ordered a protection declaration to be prepared. Having sealed it, he gave it to Pang Tong.
Pang Tong said, “You should attack as soon as I have gone, but do not let Zhou Yu doubt anything.”
Cao Cao promised secrecy, and the wily traitor took his leave. Just as he was about to embark, he met a man in a Daoist robe, with a bamboo comb in his hair, who stopped him.
The man said, “You are very bold. Huang Gai is planning to use the ‘personal injury ruse’, and Kan Ze has presented the letter of pretended desertion. You have proffered the fatal scheme of chaining the ships together lest the flames may not completely destroy them. This sort of mischievous work may have been enough to deceive Cao Cao, but I saw it all.”
Pang Tong become helpless with fear—his viscera flown away, his spirit scattered.
By guileful means one may succeed,
The victims too find friends in need.
The next chapter will tell who the stranger was.
Banquet On The Great River, Cao Cao Sings A Song; Battle On Water, Northerners Fight With Chained Ships.
In the last chapter Pang Tong was brought up with a sudden shock when someone seized him and said of his scheme. Upon turning to look at the man, Pang Tong saw it was Xu Shu, an old friend, and his heart revived.
Looking around and seeing no one near, Pang Tong said, “It would be a pity if you upset my plan. The fate of the people of all the eighty-one southern counties is in your hands.”
Xu Shu smiled, saying, “And what of the fate of these eight hundred thirty thousand soldiers and horse of the north?”
“Do you intend to wreck my scheme, Xu Shu?”
“I have never forgotten the kindness of Uncle Liu Bei, nor my oath to avenge the death of my mother at Cao Cao’s hands. I have said I would never think out a plan for him. So am I likely to wreck yours now, brother? But I have followed Cao Cao’s army thus far; and after they shall have been defeated, good and bad will suffer alike and how can I escape? Tell me how I can secure safety, and I sew up my lips and go away.”
Pang Tong smiled, “If you are as high-minded as that, there is no great difficulty.”
“Still I wish you would instruct me.”
So Pang Tong whispered something in his ear, which seemed to please Xu Shu greatly, for he thanked him most cordially and took his leave. Then Pang Tong betook himself to his boat and left for the southern shore.
His friend gone, Xu Shu mischievously spread certain rumors in the camp, and next day were to be seen everywhere soldiers in small groups, some talking, others listening, heads together and ears stretched out, till the camps seemed to buzz.
Some of the officers went to Cao Cao and told him, saying, “A rumor is running around the camps that Han Sui and Ma Teng are marching from Xiliang to attack the capital.”
This troubled Cao Cao, who called together his advisers to council.
Said he, “The only anxiety I have felt in this expedition was about the possible doings of Han Sui and Ma Teng. Now there is a rumor running among the soldiers, and though I know not whether it be true or false, it is necessary to be on one’s guard.”
At this point Xu Shu said, “You have been kind enough to give me an office, Sir, and I have really done nothing in return. If I may have three thousand troops, I will march at once to San Pass and guard this entrance. If there be any pressing matter, I will report at once.”
“If you would do this, I should be quite at my ease. There are already troops beyond the Pass, who will be under your command, and now I will give you three thousand of horse and foot, and Zang Ba shall lead the van and march quickly.”
Xu Shu took leave of the Prime Minister and left in company with Zang Ba. This was Pang Tong’s scheme to secure the safety of Xu Shu.
A poem says:
Cao Cao marched south, but at his back
There rode the fear of rear attack.
Pang Tong’s good counsel Xu Shu took,
And thus the fish escaped the hook.
Cao Cao’s anxiety diminished after he had thus sent away Xu Shu. Then he rode round all the camps, first the land forces and then the naval. He boarded one of the large ships and thereon set up his standard. The naval camps were arranged along two lines, and every ship carried a thousand bows and crossbows.
While Cao Cao remained with the fleet, it occurred the full moon of the eleventh month of the thirteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 208). The sky was clear; there was no wind; and the river lay unruffled. He prepared a great banquet, with music, and thereto invited all his leaders. As evening drew on, the moon rose over the eastern hills in its immaculate beauty, and beneath it lay the broad belt of the river like a band of pure silk. It was a great assembly, and all the guests were clad in gorgeous silks and embroidered robes, and the arms of the fighting soldiers glittered in the moonlight. The officers, civil and military, were seated in their proper order of precedence.
The setting, too, was exquisite. The Southern Hills were outlined as in a picture; the boundaries of Chaisang lay in the east; the river showed west as far as Xiakou; on the south lay the Fan Mountains, on the north was the Black Forest. The view stretched wide on every side.
Cao Cao’s heart was jubilant, and he harangued the assembly, saying, “My one aim since I enlisted my first small band of volunteers has been the removal of evil from the state, and I have sworn to cleanse the country and restore tranquillity. Now there is only left this land of the south to withstand me. I am at the head of a hundred legions. I depend upon you, gentlemen, and have no doubt of my final success. After I have subdued the South Land, there will be no trouble in all the country. Then we shall enjoy wealth and honor and revel in peace.”
They rose in a body and expressed their appreciation, saying, “We trust that you may soon report complete victory, and we shall all repose in the shade of your good fortune.”
In his elation, Cao Cao bade the servants bring more wine and they drank till late at night.
Warmed and mellowed, the host pointed to the south bank, saying, “Zhou Yu and Lu Su know not the appointed time. Heaven is aiding me bringing upon them the misfortune of the desertion of their most trusted friends.”
“O Prime Minister, say nothing of these things lest they become known to the enemy,” said Xun You.
But the Prime Minister only laughed.
“You are all my trusty friends,” said he, “both officers and humble attendants. Why should I refrain?”
Pointing to Xiakou, he continued, “You do not reckon for much with your puny force, Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. How foolish of you to attempt to shake the Taishan Mountains!”
Then turning to his officers, he said, “I am now fifty-four; and if I get the South Land, I shall have the wherewithal to rejoice. In the days of long ago, the Patriarch Duke Qiao in the south and I were great friends, and we came to an agreement on certain matters, for I knew his two daughters—Elder Qiao and Younger Qiao—were lovely beyond words. Then by some means, they became wives to Sun Ce and Zhou Yu. But now my palace of rest is built on the River Zhang, and victory over the South Land will mean that I marry these two fair women. I will put them in the Bronze Bird Tower, and they shall rejoice my declining years. My desires will then be completely attained.”
He smiled at the anticipation.
Du Mu, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, in one poem says:
A broken halberd buried in the sand,
With deep rust eaten,
Loud tells of ancient battles on the strand,
When Cao Cao was beaten.
Had eastern winds Zhou Yu’s plan refused to aid
And fan the blaze,
The two fair Qiaos, in the Bronze Bird’s shade,
Would have been locked at spring age.
But suddenly amid the merriment was heard the hoarse cry of a raven flying toward the south.
“Why does the raven thus cry in the night?” said Cao Cao to those about him.
“The moon is so bright that it thinks it is day,” said they, “and so it leaves its tree.”
Cao Cao laughed. By this time he was quite intoxicated. He set up his spear in the prow of the ship and poured a libation into the river and then drank three brimming goblets.
As he lowered the spear, he said, “This is the spear that broke up the Yellow Scarves, captured Lu Bu, destroyed Yuan Shao, and subdued Yuan Shu, whose armies are now mine. In the north it reached to Liaodong, and it stretched out over the whole south. It has never failed in its task. The present scene moves me to the depths, and I will sing a song in which you shall accompany me.”
And so he sang:
“When goblets are brimming then sang is near birth,
But life is full short and has few days of mirth,
Life goes as the dew drops fly swiftly away,
Beneath the glance of the glowing hot ruler of day.
Human’s life may be spent in the noblest enterprise,
But sorrowful thoughts in his heart oft arise.
Let us wash clean away the sad thoughts that intrude,
With bumpers of wine such as Du Kang once brewed.
Gone is my day of youthful fire
And still ungained is my desire.
The deer feed on the level plain
And joyful call, then feed again.
My noble guests are gathered round.
The air is trilled with joyful sound.
Bright my future lies before me.
As the moonlight on this plain;
But I strive in vain to reach it.
When shall I my wish attain?
None can answer; and so sadness
Grips my inmost heart again.
Far north and south,
Wide east and west,
We safety seek;
Vain is the quest.
Human’s heart oft yearns
For converse sweet.
And my heart burns
When old friends greet.
The stars are paled by the full moon’s light,
The raven wings his southward flight.
And thrice he circles round a tree,
No place thereon to rest finds he.
They weary not the mountains of great height,
The waters deep of depth do not complain,
Duke Zhou no leisure found by day or night
Stern toil is his who would the empire gain.”
The song made they sang it with him and were all exceedingly merry, save one guest who suddenly said, “When the great army is on the point of battle and lives are about to be risked, why do you, O Prime Minister, speak such ill words?”
Cao Cao turned quickly toward the speaker, who was Liu Fu, Imperial Protector of Yangzhou. This Liu Fu sprang from Hefei. When first appointed to his post, he had gathered in the terrified and frightened people and restored order. He had founded schools and encouraged the people to till the land. He had long served under Cao Cao and rendered valuable service.
When Liu Fu spoke, Cao Cao dropped his spear to the level and said, “What ill-omened words did I use?”
“You spoke of the moon paling the stars and the raven flying southward without finding a resting place. These are ill-omened words.”
“How dare you try to belittle my endeavor?” cried Cao Cao, very wrathful. And with that he smote Liu Fu with his spear and slew him.
The assembly broke up, and the guests dispersed in fear and confusion. Next day, when Cao Cao had recovered from his drunken bout, he was very grieved at what he had done. When the murdered man’s son, Liu Xi, came to crave the body of his father for burial, Cao Cao wept and expressed his sorrow.
“I am guilty of your father’s death. I was drunk yesterday. I regret the deed exceedingly. Your father shall be interred with the honors of a minister of the highest rank.”
Cao Cao sent an escort of soldiers to take the body to the homeland for burial.
A few days after, the two leaders of the naval force, Mao Jie and Yu Jin, came to say the ships were all connected together by chains as had been ordered, and all was now ready. They asked for the command to start.
Thereupon the leaders of both land and naval forces were assembled on board a large ship in the center of the squadron to receive orders. The various armies and squadrons were distinguished by different flags: Mao Jie and Yu Jin led the central naval squadron with yellow flag; Zhang He, the leading squadron, red flag; Lu Qian, the rear squadron, black flag; Wen Ping, the left squadron, blue flag; and Li Tong, the right squadron, white flag. On shore Xu Huang commanded the horsemen with red flag; Li Dian, the vanguard, black flag; Yue Jing, the left wing, blue flag; and Xiahou Yuan, the right wing, white flag. Xiahou Dun and Cao Hong were in reserve, and the general staff was under the leadership of Xu Chu and Zhang Liao. The other leaders were ordered to remain in camps, but ready for action.
All being ready, the squadron drums beat the roll thrice, and the ships sailed out under a strong northwest wind on a trial cruise. When they got among the waves, they were found to be as steady and immovable as the dry land itself. The northern soldiers showed their delight at the absence of motion by capering and flourishing their weapons. The ships moved on, the squadrons keeping quite distinct. Fifty light cruisers sailed to and fro keeping order and urging progress.
Cao Cao watched his navy from the Command Terrace and was delighted with their evolutions and maneuvers. Surely this meant complete victory. He ordered the recall and the squadrons returned in perfect order to their base.
Then Cao Cao went to his tent and summoned his advisers.
He said, “If Heaven had not been on my side, should I have got this excellent plan from the Young Phoenix? Now that the ships are attached firmly to each other, one may traverse the river as easily as walking on firm earth.”
“The ships are firmly attached to each other,” said Cheng Yu, “but you should be prepared for an attack by fire so that they can scatter to avoid it.”
Cao Cao laughed.
“You look a long way ahead,” said he, “but you see what cannot happen.”
“Cheng Yu speaks much to the point, my lord,” said Xun You. “Why do you laugh at him?”
Cao Cao said, “Anyone using fire depends upon the wind. This is now winter and only west winds blow. You will get neither east nor south winds. I am on the northwest, and the enemy is on the southeast bank. If they use fire, they will destroy themselves. I have nothing to fear. If it was the tenth moon, or early spring, I would provide against fire.”
“The Prime Minister is indeed wise,” said the others in chorus. “None can equal him.”
“With northern troops unused to shipboard, I could never have crossed the river but for this chaining plan,” said Cao Cao.
Then he saw two of the secondary leaders stand up, and they said, “We are from the north, but we are also sailors. Pray give us a small squadron, and we will seize some of the enemy’s flags and drums for you that we may prove ourselves adepts on the water.”
The speakers were two men who had served under Yuan Shao, named Jiao Chu and Zhang Neng.
“I do not think naval work would suit you two, born and brought up in the north,” said Cao Cao. “The southern soldiers are thoroughly accustomed to ships. You should not regard your lives as a child’s plaything.”
They cried, “If we fail, treat us according to army laws!”
“The fighting ships are all chained together, there are only small, twenty-men boats free. They are unsuitable for fighting.”
“If we took large ships, where would be the wonderful in what we will do? No! Give us a score of the small ships, and we will take half each and go straight to the enemy’s naval port. We will just seize a flag, slay a leader, and come home.”
“I will let you have the twenty ships and five hundred of good, vigorous marines with long spears and stiff crossbows. Early tomorrow the main fleet shall make a demonstration on the river, and I will also tell Wen Ping to support you with thirty ships.”
The two men retired greatly elated.
Next morning, very early, food was prepared, and at the fifth watch all was ready for a start. Then from the naval camp rolled out the drums and the gongs clanged, as the ships moved out and took up their positions, the various flags fluttering in the morning breeze. And the two intrepid leaders with their squadron of small scouting boats went down the lines and out into the stream.
Now a few days before the sound of Cao Cao’s drums had been heard on the southern bank, Zhou Yu had watched the maneuvers of the northern fleet on the open river from the top of a hill till the fleet had gone in again. So when the sound of drums was again heard, all the southern army went up the hills to watch the northern fleet. All they saw was a squadron of small ships bounding over the waves.
As the northern fleet came nearer, the news was taken to Zhou Yu who called for volunteers to go out against them. Han Dang and Zhou Tai offered themselves. They were accepted and orders were issued to the camps to remain ready for action but not to move till told.
Han Dang and Zhou Tai sailed out each with a small squadron of five ships in line.
The two braggarts from the north, Jiao Chu and Zhang Neng, really only trusted to their boldness and luck. Their ships came down under the powerful strokes of the oars. As they neared, the two leaders put on their heart-protectors, gripped their spears, and each took his station in the prow of the leading ship of his division. Jiao Chu’s ship led and as soon as he came near enough, his troops began to shoot at Han Dang, who fended off the arrows with his buckler. Jiao Chu twirled his long spear as he engaged his opponent. But, at the first thrust, he was killed.
His comrade Zhang Neng with the other ships was coming up with great shouts, when Zhou Tai sailed up at an angle, and these two squadrons began shooting arrows at each other in clouds. Zhou Tai fended off the arrows with his shield and stood gripping his sword firmly till his ships came within a few spans of the enemy’s ships, when he leaped across and cut down Zhang Neng. Zhang Neng’s dead body fell into the water. Then the battle became confused, and the attacking ships rowed hard to get away. The southerners pursued but soon came in sight of Wen Ping’s supporting fleet. Once more the ships engaged and the forces fought with each other.
Zhou Yu with his officers stood on the summit of a mountain and watched his own and the enemy ships out on the river. The flags and the ensigns were all in perfect order. Then he saw Wen Ping and his own fleets engaged in battle, and soon it was evident that the former was not a match for his own sailors. Wen Ping turned about to retire, Han Dang and Zhou Tai pursued. Zhou Yu fearing lest his sailors should go too far, then hoisted the white flag of recall.
To his officers Zhou Yu said, “The masts of the northern ships stand thick as reeds. Cao Cao himself is full of wiles. How can we destroy him?”
No one replied, for just then the great yellow flag that flapped in the breeze in the middle of Cao Cao’s fleet suddenly fell over into the river.
Zhou Yu laughed.
“That is a bad omen,” said he.
Then an extra violent blast of wind came by, and the waves rose high and beat upon the bank. A corner of his own flag flicked Zhou Yu on the cheek, and suddenly a thought flashed through his mind. Zhou Yu uttered a loud cry, staggered, and fell backward. They picked him up. There was blood upon his lips, and he was unconscious. Presently, however, he revived.
And once he laughed, then gave a cry,
This is hard to ensure a victory.
Zhou Yu’s fate will appear as the story unfolds.
On Seven-Star Altar, Zhuge Liang Sacrifices To The Winds; At Three Gorges, Zhou Yu Liberates The Fire.
In the last chapter Zhou Yu was seized with sudden illness as he watched the fleets of his enemy. He was borne to his tent, and his officers came in multitudes to inquire after him.
They looked at each other, saying, “What a pity our general should be taken ill, when Cao Cao’s legions threaten so terribly! What would happen if Cao Cao attacked?”
Messengers with the evil tidings were sent to Sun Quan, while the physicians did their best for the invalid. Lu Su was particularly sad at the illness of his patron and went to see Zhuge Liang to talk it over.
“What do you make of it?” said Zhuge Liang.
“Good luck for Cao Cao; bad for us,” said Lu Su.
“I could cure him,” said Zhuge Liang laughing.
“If you could, Wu would be very fortunate,” said Lu Su.
Lu Su prayed Zhuge Liang to go to see the sick man. They went, and Lu Su entered first. Zhou Yu lay in bed, his head covered by a quilt.
“How are you, General?” said Lu Su.
“My heart pains me. Every now and again I feel faint and dizzy.”
“Have you taken any remedies?”
“My gorge rises at the thought. I could not.”
“I saw Zhuge Liang just now, and he says he could heal you. He is just outside, and I will call him if you like.”
“Ask him to come in.”
Zhou Yu bade his servants help him to a sitting position, and Zhuge Liang entered.
“I have not seen you for days,” said Zhuge Liang. “How could I guess that you were unwell?”
“How can anyone feel secure? We are constantly the playthings of luck, good or bad.”
“Yes. Heaven’s winds and clouds are not to be measured. No one can reckon their comings and goings, can they?”
Zhou Yu turned pale and a low groan escaped him, while his visitor went on, “You feel depressed, do you not? As though troubles were piling up in your heart?”
“That is exactly how I feel,” said Zhou Yu.
“You need cooling medicine to dissipate this sense of oppression.”
“I have taken a cooling draught, but it has done no good.”
“You must get the humors into good order before the drugs will have any effect.”
Zhou Yu began to think Zhuge Liang knew what was really the matter and resolved to test him.
“What should be taken to produce a favorable temper?” said Zhou Yu.
“I know one means of producing a favorable temper,” replied Zhuge Liang.
“I wish you would tell me.”
Zhuge Liang got out writing materials, sent away the servants, and then wrote a few words:
“To defeat Cao Cao
You have to use fire;
All are in your wish,
But wind from the east.”
This he gave to the sick general, saying, “That is the origin of your illness.”
Zhou Yu read the words with great surprise, and it confirmed his secret opinion that Zhuge Liang really was rather more than human. He decided that the only course was to be open and tell him all.
So he said, “Since you know the cause of the disease, what do you recommend as treatment? The need of a remedy is very urgent.”
“I have no great talent,” said Zhuge Liang, “but I have had to do with humans of no ordinary gifts from whom I have received certain magical books called ‘Concealing Method’. I can call the winds and summon the rains. Since you need a southeast breeze, General, you must build an altar on the Southern Hills, the Altar of the Seven Stars. It must be nine spans high, with three steps, surrounded by a guard of one hundred and twenty humans bearing flags. On this altar I will work a spell to procure a strong southeast gale for three days and three nights. Do you approve?”
“Never mind three whole days,” said Zhou Yu. “One day of strong wind will serve my purpose. But it must be done at once and without delay.”
“I will sacrifice for a wind for three days from the twentieth day of the moon. Will that suit you?”
Zhou Yu was delighted and hastily rose from his couch to give the necessary orders. He commanded that five hundred men should be sent to the mountains to build the altar, and he told off the guard of one hundred and twenty to bear the flags and be at the orders of Zhuge Liang.
Zhuge Liang took his leave, went forth, and rode off with Lu Su to the mountains where they measured out the ground. He bade the soldiers build the altar of red earth from the southeast quarter. It was two hundred and forty spans in circuit, square in shape, and of three tiers, each of three spans, in all nine spans high.
On the lowest tier he placed the flags of the twenty-eight “houses” of the heavens and four constellations: On the east seven, with blue flags; on the north seven, with black flags; on the west seven, with white flags; and on the south seven, with red flags.
Around the second tier he placed sixty-four yellow flags, corresponding to the number of the diagrams of the Book of Divination, in eight groups of eight.
Four men were stationed on the highest platform, each wearing a Daoist headdress and a black silk robe embroidered with the phoenix and confined with wide sashes. They wore scarlet boots and square-cut skirts. On the left front stood a man supporting a tall pole bearing at its top a plume of light feathers to show by their least movement the wind’s first breathing. On the right front was a man holding a tall pole whereon was a flag with the symbol of the seven stars to show the direction and force of the wind. On the left rear stood a man with a sword, and on the right rear a man with a censer.
Below the altar were forty-four men holding flags, umbrellas, spears, lances, yellow banners, white axes, red banderoles, and black ensigns. And these were spaced about the altar.
On the appointed day Zhuge Liang, having chosen a propitious moment, bathed his body and purified himself. Then he robed himself as a Daoist, loosened his locks, and approached the altar.
He bade Lu Su retire, saying, “Return to the camp and assist the General in setting out his forces. Should my prayers avail not, do not wonder.”
So Lu Su left him. Then Zhuge Liang commanded the guards on no account to absent themselves, to maintain strict silence, and to be reverent. Death would be the penalty of disobedience.
Next, with solemn steps he ascended the altar, faced the proper quarter, lighted the incense, and sprinkled the water in the basins. This done he gazed into the heavens and prayed silently. The prayer ended he descended and returned to his tent. After a brief rest he allowed the soldiers by turns to go away to eat.
Thrice that day he ascended the altar and thrice descended, but there was no sign of the wind.
During that time, Zhou Yu, with Cheng Pu and Lu Su and other military officials on duty, sat waiting in the tent till the wished-for wind should blow and the attack could be launched. Messengers were also sent to Sun Quan to prepare to support the forward movement.
Huang Gai had his fire ships ready, twenty of them. The fore parts of the ships were thickly studded with large nails, and they were loaded with dry reeds, wood soaked in fish oil, and covered with sulfur, saltpeter, and other inflammables. The ships were covered in with black oiled cloth. In the prow of each was a black dragon flag with indentations. A fighting ship was attached to the stern of each to propel it forward. All were ready and awaited orders to move.
Meanwhile Cao Cao’s two spies, Cai He and Cai Zhong, were being guarded carefully in an outer camp far from the river bank and daily entertained with feasting. They were not allowed to know of the preparations. The watch was so close that not a trickle of information reached the prisoners.
Presently, while Zhou Yu was anxiously awaiting in his tent for the desired wind, a messenger came to say that Sun Quan had anchored at a place thirty miles from the camp, where he awaited news from the Commander-in-Chief.
Lu Su was sent to warn all the various commanders to be ready, the ships and their weapons, sails and oars, all for instant use, and to impress upon them the penalties of being caught unprepared. The soldiers were indeed ready for the fight and yearning for the fray.
But the sky remained obstinately clear, and as night drew nigh no breath of air stirred.
“We have been cajoled,” said Zhou Yu. “Indeed what possibility is there of a southeast wind in midwinter?”
“Zhuge Liang would not use vain and deceitful words,” replied Lu Su.
Towards the third watch, the sound of a movement arose in the air. Soon the flags fluttered out. And when the Commander-in-Chief went out to make sure, he saw they were flowing toward the northwest. In a very short time the southeast wind was in full force.
Zhou Yu was, however, frightened at the power of the man whose help he had invoked.
He said, “Really the man has power over the heavens and authority over the earth. His methods are incalculable, beyond the ken of god or devil. He cannot be allowed to live to be a danger to our land of the south. We must slay him soon to fend off later evils.”
So Zhou Yu resolved to commit a crime to remove his dangerous rival.
He called two of the generals of his guard, Ding Feng and Xu Sheng, and said to them, “Each of you take a party of one hundred troops, one along the river, the other along the road, to the altar on the mountains. As soon as you get there, without asking questions or giving reasons, you are to seize and behead Zhuge Liang. Rich reward will be given when you bring his head back.”
Xu Sheng and Ding Feng went off on their errand, the former leading dagger and ax-men going as fast as oars could propel them along the river, the latter at the head of archers and bowmen on horseback. The southeast wind buffeted them as they went on their way.
High was raised the Seven Stars Altar,
On it prayed the Sleeping Dragon
For an eastern wind, and straightway
Blew the wind. Had not the wizard
Exercised his mighty magic
Nought had Zhou Yu’s skill availed.
Ding Feng first arrived. He saw the guards with their flags, dropped off his steed, and marched to the altar, sword in hand. But he found no Zhuge Liang.
When he asked the guards, they told him, saying, “He has just gone down.”
Ding Feng ran down the hill to search. There he met his fellow Xu Sheng, and they joined forces.
Presently a simple soldier told them, saying, “The evening before a small, fast boat anchored there near a sand spit, and Zhuge Liang was seen to go on board. Then the boat went up river.”
So Xu Sheng and Ding Feng divided their party into two, one to go by water, the other by land.
Xu Sheng bade his boatmen put on all sail and take every advantage of the wind. Before very long he saw the fugitive’s boat ahead, and when near enough, stood in the prow of his own and shouted, “Do not flee, O Instructor of the Army! The General requests your presence.”
Zhuge Liang, who was seated in the stern of his boat, just laughed aloud, saying, “Return and tell the General to make good use of his soldiers. Tell him I am going up river for a spell and will see him again another day.”
“Pray wait a little while,” cried Xu Sheng. “I have something most important to tell you!”
“I knew all about it, that Zhou Yu would not let me go and that he wanted to kill me. That is why Zhao Zilong was waiting for me. You had better not approach nearer.”
Seeing the other ship had no sail, Xu Sheng thought he would assuredly come up with it and so maintained the pursuit.
Then when he got too close, Zhao Zilong fitted an arrow to the bowstring and, standing up in the stern of his boat, cried, “You know who I am, and I came expressly to escort the Directing Instructor. Why are you pursuing him? One arrow would kill you, only that would cause a breach of the peace between two houses. I will shoot and just give you a specimen of my skill.”
With that he shot, and the arrow whizzed overhead cutting the rope that held up the sail. Down came the sail trailing in the water and the boat swung round. Then Zhao Zilong’s boat hoisted its sail, and the fair wind speedily carried it out of sight.
On the bank stood Ding Feng. He bade his comrade come to the shore and said, “Zhuge Liang is too clever for anyone; and Zhao Zilong is bravest of the brave. You remember what he did at Dangyang, at the Long Slope Bridge. All we can do is to return and report.”
So they returned to camp and told their master about the preparations that Zhuge Liang had made to ensure safety. Zhou Yu was indeed puzzled at the depth of his rival’s insight.
“I shall have no peace day or night while he lives,” said Zhou Yu.
“At least wait till Cao Cao is done with,” said Lu Su.
And Zhou Yu knew Lu Su spoke wisely.
Having summoned the leaders to receive orders, first Zhou Yu gave orders to Gan Ning: “Take with you the false deserter Cai Zhong and his soldiers, and go along the south bank, showing the flags of Cao Cao, till you reach the Black Forest just opposite the enemy’s main store of grain and forage. Then you are to penetrate as deeply as possible into the enemy’s lines and light a torch as a signal. Cai He is to be kept in camp for another purpose.”
The next order was: “Taishi Ci is to lead two thousand troops as quickly as possible to Huangzhou and cut the enemy’s communications with Hefei. When near the enemy, he is to give a signal. If he sees a red flag, he will know that our lord, Sun Quan, is at hand with reinforcements.”
Gan Ning and Taishi Ci had the farthest to go and started first.
Then Lu Meng was sent into the Black Forest with three thousand troops as a support to Gan Ning who was ordered to set fire to Cao Cao’s depot. A fourth party of three thousand troops was led by Ling Tong to the borders of Yiling and attack as soon as the signal from the forest was seen. A fifth party of three thousand under Dong Xi went to Hanyang to fall upon the enemy along the River Han. Their signal was a white flag; and a sixth division of three thousand commanded by Pan Zhang would support them.
When these six parties had gone off. Huang Gai got ready his fire ships and sent a soldier with a note to tell Cao Cao that he was coming over that evening. Four naval squadrons were told off to support Huang Gai.
The four squadrons, each of three hundred ships, were placed under four commanders: Han Dang, Zhou Tai, Jiang Qin, and Chen Wu. Twenty fire ships preceded each fleet. Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu went on board one of the large ships to direct the battle. Their guards were Ding Feng and Xu Sheng. Lu Su, Kan Ze, and the advisers were left to guard the camp. Cheng Pu was greatly impressed with Zhou Yu’s ordering of the grand attack.
Then came a messenger bearing a mandate from Sun Quan making Lu Xun Leader of the Van. He was ordered to go to Qichun. Sun Quan himself would support Lu Xun. Zhou Yu also sent two command units, one to the Western Hills to make fire signals, and the other to the Southern Hills to hoist flags.
So all being prepared they waited for dusk.
Liu Bei was at Xiakou anxiously awaiting the return of his adviser. Then appeared a fleet, led by Liu Qi, who had come to find out how matters were progressing.
Liu Bei sent to call him to the battle tower and said, “The southeast wind had begun to blow, and that Zhao Zilong had gone to meet Zhuge Liang.”
Not long after a single sail was seen coming up before the wind, and Liu Bei knew it was Zhuge Liang, the Directing Instructor of the Army.
So Liu Bei and Liu Qi went down to meet the boat. Soon the vessel reached the shore, and Zhuge Liang and Zhao Zilong disembarked.
Liu Bei was very glad, and after they had inquired after each other’s well-being, Zhuge Liang said, “There is no time to tell of any other things now. Are the soldiers and ships ready?”
“They have long been ready,” replied Liu Bei. “They only await you to direct how they are to be used.”
The three then went to the tent and took their seats.
Zhuge Liang at once began to issue orders: “Zhao Zilong, with three thousand troops is to cross the river and go to the Black Forest by the minor road. He will choose a dense jungle and prepare an ambush. Tonight, after the fourth watch, Cao Cao will hurry along that way. When half his troops have passed, the jungle is to be fired. Cao Cao will not be wholly destroyed but many will perish.”
“There are two roads,” said Zhao Zilong. “One leads to the southern regions and the other to Jingzhou. I do not know by which he will come.”
“The south road is too dangerous. Cao Cao will certainly pass along the Jingzhou road, so that he may get away to Xuchang.”
Then Zhao Zilong went away.
Next Zhuge Liang said to Zhang Fei, “You will take three thousand troops over the river to cut the road to Yiling. You will ambush in the Hulu Valley. Cao Cao, not daring to go to South Yiling, will go to North Yiling. Tomorrow, after the rain, he will halt to refresh his troops. As soon as the smoke is seen to rise from their cooking fires, you will fire the hill side. You will not capture Cao Cao, but you will render excellent service.”
So Zhang Fei left. Next was called Mi Zhu, Mi Fang, and Liu Feng. They were to take command of three squadrons and go along the river to collect beaten soldiers and their weapons.
The three left. Then Zhuge Liang said to Liu Qi, “The country around Wuchang is very important, and I wish you to take command of your own troops and station them at strategic points. Cao Cao, being defeated, will flee thither, and you will capture him. But you are not to leave the city without the best of reasons.”
And Liu Qi took leave.
Then Zhuge Liang said to Liu Bei, “I wish you to remain quietly and calmly in Fankou, in a high tower, to watch Zhou Yu work out his great scheme this night.”
All this time Guan Yu has been silently waiting his turn, but Zhuge Liang said no word to him.
When Guan Yu could bear this no longer, he cried, “Since I first followed my brother to battle many years ago, I have never been left behind. Now that great things are afoot, is there no work for me? What is meant by it?”
“You should not be surprised. I wanted you for service at a most important point, only that there was a something standing in the way that prevented me from sending you,” said Zhuge Liang.
“What could stand in the way? I wish you would tell me.”
“You see Cao Cao was once very kind to you, and you cannot help feeling grateful. Now when his soldiers have been beaten, he will have to flee along the Huarong Road. If I sent you to guard it, you would have to let him pass. So I will not send you.”
“You are most considerate, Instructor. But though it is true that he treated me well, yet I slew two of his most redoubtable opponents, Yan Liang and Wen Chou, by way of repayment, beside raising a siege. If I happened upon him on this occasion, I should hardly let him go.”
“But what if you did?”
“You could deal with me by military rules.”
“Then put that in writing.”
So Guan Yu wrote a formal undertaking and gave the document to Zhuge Liang.
“What happens if Cao Cao does not pass that way?” said Guan Yu.
“I will give you a written engagement that he will pass.” Then Zhuge Liang continued, “On the hills by the Huarong Valley, you are to raise a heap of wood and grass to make a great column of smoke and mislead Cao Cao into coming.”
“If Cao Cao sees a smoke, he will suspect an ambush and will not come,” said Guan Yu.
“You are very simple,” said Zhuge Liang. “Do you not know more of war’s ruses than that? Cao Cao is an able leader, but you can deceive him this time. When he sees the smoke, he will take it as a subterfuge and risk going that way. But do not let your kindness of heart rule your conduct.”
Thus was his duty assigned Guan Yu, and he left, taking his adopted son Guan Ping, his general Zhou Cang, and five hundred swordsmen.
Said Liu Bei, “His sense of rectitude is very profound. I fear if Cao Cao should come that way, my brother will let him pass.”
“I have consulted the stars lately, and the rebel Cao Cao is not fated to come to his end yet. I have purposely designed this manifestation of kindly feeling for Guan Yu to accomplish and so act handsomely.”
“Indeed there are few such far-seeing humans as you are,” said Liu Bei.
The two then went to Fankou whence they might watch Zhou Yu’s evolutions. Sun Qian and Jian Yong were left on guard of Xiakou.
Cao Cao was in his great camp in conference with his advisers and awaiting the arrival of Huang Gai. The southeast wind was very strong that day, and Cheng Yu was insisting on the necessity for precaution.
But Cao Cao laughed, saying, “The Winter Solstice depends upon the sun and nothing else. There is sure to be a southeast wind at some one or other of its recurrences. I see nothing to wonder at.”
Just then they announced the arrival of a small boat from the other shore with a letter from Huang Gai. The bearer of the letter was brought in and presented it. Cao Cao read it:
“Zhou Yu has kept such strict watch that there has been no chance of escape. But now some grain is coming down river, and I, Huang Gai, have been named as Escort Commander which will give me the opportunity I desire. I will slay one of the known generals and bring his head as an offering when I come. This evening at the third watch, if boats are seen with dragon toothed flags, they will be the grain boats.”
This letter delighted Cao Cao who, with his officers, went to the naval camp and boarded a great ship to watch for the arrival of Huang Gai.
In the South Land, when evening fell, Zhou Yu sent for Cai He and bade the soldiers bind him.
The unhappy man protested, saying, “I have committed no crime!”
But Zhou Yu said, “What sort of a fellow are you, think you, to come and pretend to desert to my side? I need a small sacrifice for my flag, and your head will serve my purpose. So I am going to use it.”
Cai He being at the end of his tether unable to deny the charge suddenly cried, “Two of your own side, Kan Ze and Gan Ning, are also in the plot!”
“Under my directions!” said Zhou Yu.
Cai He was exceedingly repentant and sad, but Zhou Yu bade them take Cai He to the river bank where the black standard had been set up and there, after the pouring of a libation and the burning of paper, Cai He was beheaded, his blood being a sacrifice to the flag.
This ceremony over, the ships started, and Huang Gai took his place on the third ship. He merely wore breast armor and carried a keen blade. On his flag were written four large characters Van Leader Huang Gai. With a fair wind his fleet sailed toward the Red Cliffs.
The wind was strong and the waves ran high. Cao Cao in the midst of the central squadron eagerly scanned the river which rolled down under the bright moon like a silver serpent writhing in innumerable folds. Letting the wind blow full in his face, Cao Cao laughed aloud for he was now to obtain his desire.
Then a soldier pointing to the river said, “The whole south is one mass of sails, and they are coming up on the wind.”
Cao Cao went to a higher point and gazed at the sails intently, and his officers told him that the flags were black and dragon shaped, and indented, and among them there flew one very large banner on which was a name Huang Gai.
“That is my friend, the deserter!” said he joyfully. “Heaven is on my side today.”
As the ships drew closer, Cheng Yu said, “Those ships are treacherous. Do not let them approach the camp.”
“How know you that?” asked Cao Cao.
And Cheng Yu replied, “If they were laden with grain, they would lie deep in the water. But these are light and float easily. The southeast wind is very strong, and if they intend treachery, how can we defend ourselves?”
Cao Cao began to understand. Then he asked who would go out to stop the approaching fleet, and Wen Ping volunteered, saying, “I am well used to the waters.”
Thereupon Wen Ping sprang into a small light craft and sailed out, followed by ten cruisers which came at his signal.
Standing in the prow of his ship, Wen Ping called out to those advancing toward them, “You southern ships are not to approach! Such are the orders of the Prime Minister. Stop there in mid stream!”
The soldiers all yelled to them to lower their sails. The shout had not died away when a bowstring twanged, and Wen Ping rolled down into the ship with an arrow in the left arm. Confusion reigned on his ship, and all the others hurried back to their camp.
When the ships were about a mile of distant, Huang Gai waved his sword and the leading ships broke forth into fire, which, under the force of the strong wind, soon gained strength and the ships became as fiery arrows. Soon the whole twenty dashed into the naval camp.
All Cao Cao’s ships were gathered there, and as they were firmly chained together not one could escape from the others and flee. There was a roar of bombs and fireships came on from all sides at once. The face of the three rivers was speedily covered with fire which flew before the wind from one ship to another. It seemed as if the universe was filled with flame.
Cao Cao hastened toward the shore. Huang Gai, with a few troops at his back, leaped into a small boat, dashed through the fire, and sought Cao Cao. Cao Cao, seeing the imminence of the danger, was making for the land. Zhang Liao got hold of a small boat into which he helped his master; none too soon, for the ship was burning. They got Cao Cao out of the thick of the fire and dashed for the bank.
Huang Gai, seeing a handsomely robed person get into a small boat, guessed it must be Cao Cao and pursued.
He drew very near and he held his keen blade ready to strike, crying out, “You rebel! Do not flee. I am Huang Gai.”
Cao Cao howled in the bitterness of his distress. Zhang Liao fitted an arrow to his bow and aimed at the pursuer, shooting at short range. The roaring of the gale and the flames kept Huang Gai from hearing the twang of the string, and he was wounded in the shoulder. He fell and rolled over into the water.
He fell in peril of water
When flames were high;
Ere cudgel bruises had faded,
An arrow struck.
Huang Gai’s fate will be told in the next chapter.
Zhuge Liang Foresees The Huarong Valley Episode; Guan Yu Lifts His Saber To Release Cao Cao.
The last chapter closed with Huang Gai in the water wounded, Cao Cao rescued from immediate danger, and confusion rampant among the soldiers. Pressing forward to attack the naval camp, Han Dang was told by his soldiers that someone was clinging to the rudder of his boat and shouting to him by his familiar name. Han Dang listened carefully and in the voice at once he recognized that Huang Gai was calling to him for help.
“That is my friend Huang Gai!” cried he, and they quickly pulled the wounded leader out of the water.
Then they saw Huang Gai was wounded for the arrow still stuck. Han Dang bit out the shaft of the arrow but the point was deeply buried in the flesh. They hastily pulled off his wet garments and cut out the metal arrowhead with a dagger, tore up one of the flags, and bound up the wound. Then Han Dang gave Huang Gai his own fighting robe to put on and sent him off in a small boat back to camp.
Huang Gai’s escape from drowning must be taken as proof of his natural affinity for, or sympathy with, water. Although it was the period of great cold and he was heavy with armor when he fell into the river, yet he escaped with life.
In this great battle at the junction of the three rivers, the Three Gorges, when fire seemed to spread wide over all the wide surface of the water, when the earth quaked with the roar of battle, when land forces closed in on both wings and four battle squadrons advanced on the front, when the ferocity of fire answered the clash of weapons and weapons were aided by fire, under the thrusts of spears and the flights of arrows, burnt by fire and drowned by water, Cao Cao lost an incalculable number of troops. And a poet wrote:
When Wei and Wu together strove
For the mastery,
In the Red Cliffs fight the tall ships
Vanished from the sea,
For there the fierce flames, leaping high.
Burned them utterly.
So Zhou Yu for his liege lord
Got the victory.
And another poem runs:
The hills are high, the moon shines faint.
The waters stretch afar;
I sigh to think how oft this land
Has suffered stress of war;
And I recall how southerners
Shrank from the northern army’s might,
And how a favoring eastern gale
Helped them to win the fight.
While fire was consuming the naval base of Cao Cao, Gan Ning made Cai Zhong guide him into the innermost recesses of Cao Cao’s camp. Then Gan Ning slew Cai Zhong with one slash of his sword. After this Gan Ning set fire to the jungle; and at this signal, Lu Meng put fire to the grass in ten places near to each other. Then other fires were started, and the noise of battle was on all sides.
Cao Cao and Zhang Liao, with a small party of horsemen, fled through the burning forest. They could see no road in front; all seemed on fire. Presently Mao Jie and Wen Ping, with a few more horsemen, joined them. Cao Cao bade the soldiers seek a way through.
Zhang Liao pointed out, saying, “The only suitable road is through the Black Forest.”
And they took it.
They had gone but a short distance when they were overtaken by a small party of the enemy, and a voice cried, “Cao Cao, stop!”
It was Lu Meng, whose ensign soon appeared against the fiery background. Cao Cao urged his small party of fugitives forward, bidding Zhang Liao defend him from Lu Meng.
Soon after Cao Cao saw the light of torches in front, and from a gorge there rushed out another force. And the leader cried, “Ling Tong is here!”
Cao Cao was scared. His liver and gall both seemed torn from within.
But just then on his half right, he saw another company approach and heard a cry, “Fear not, O Prime Minister, I am here to rescue you!”
The speaker was Xu Huang, and he attacked the pursuers and held them off.
A move to the north seemed to promise escape, but soon they saw a camp on a hill top. Xu Huang went ahead to reconnoiter and found the officers in command were Cao Cao’s Generals Ma Yan and Zhang Zi, who had once been in the service of Yuan Shao. They had three thousand of northern soldiers in camp. They had seen the sky redden with the flames, but knew not what was afoot so dared make no move.
This turned out lucky for Cao Cao who now found himself with a fresh force. He sent Ma Yan and Zhang Zi, with a thousand troops, to clear the road ahead while the others remained as guard. And he felt much more secure.
The two went forward, but before they had gone very far, they heard a shouting and a party of soldiers came out, the leader of them shouting, “I am Gan Ning of Wu!”
Nothing daunted the two leaders, but the redoubtable Gan Ning cut down Ma Yan. And when his brother warrior Zhang Zi set his spear and dashed forward, he too fell beneath a stroke from the fearsome sword of Gan Ning. Both leaders dead, the soldiers fled to give Cao Cao the bad news.
At this time Cao Cao expected aid from Hefei, for he knew not that Sun Quan was barring the road. But when Sun Quan saw the fires and so knew that his soldiers had won the day, he ordered Lu Xun to give the answering signal. Taishi Ci seeing this came down and his force joined up with that of Lu Xun, and they went against Cao Cao.
As for Cao Cao, he could only get away toward Yiling. On the road Cao Cao fell in with Zhang He and ordered him to protect the retreat. Cao Cao pressed on as quickly as possible.
At the fifth watch he was a long way from the glare and he felt safer. He asked, “What is this place?”
They told him, “It is west of the Black Forest and north of Yidu.”
Seeing the thickly crowded trees all about him, and the steep hills and narrow passes, Cao Cao threw up his head and laughed.
Those about him asked, “Why are you, Sir, so merry?”
And he said, “I am only laughing at the stupidity of Zhou Yu and the ignorance of Zhuge Liang. If they have only set an ambush there, as I would have done, why, there is no escape.”
Cao Cao had scarcely finished his explanation when from both sides came a deafening roll of drums and flames sprang up to heaven. Cao Cao nearly fell off his horse—he was so startled.
And from the side dashed in a troop, with Zhao Zilong leading, who cried, “I am Zhao Zilong, and long have I been waiting here!”
Cao Cao ordered Xu Huang and Zhang He to engage this new opponent, and he himself rode off into the smoke and fire. Zhao Zilong did not pursue; he only captured the banners, and Cao Cao escaped.
The faint light of dawn showed a great black cloud all around, for the southeast wind had not ceased. Suddenly began a heavy downpour of rain, wetting everyone to the skin, but still Cao Cao maintained his headlong flight till the starved faces of the soldiers made a halt imperative. He told the men to forage in the villages about for grain and the means of making a fire. But when these had been found and they began to cook a meal, another pursuing party came along, and Cao Cao again was terrified. However, these proved to be Li Dian and Xu Chu escorting some of his advisers whom he saw with joy.
When giving the order to advance again, Cao Cao asked, “What places lay ahead?”
They told him, “There are two roads. One was the highway to South Yiling, and the other a mountain road to North Yiling.”
“Which is the shorter way to Jiangling?” asked Cao Cao.
“The best way is to take the south road through Hulu Valley,” was the reply.
So Cao Cao gave orders to march that way. By the time Hulu Valley was reached, the soldiers were almost starving and could march no more; horses too were worn out. Many had fallen by the roadside. A halt was then made, food was taken by force from the villagers, and as there were still some boilers left, they found a dry spot beside the hills where they could rest and cook. And there they began to prepare a meal, boiling grain, and roasting strips of horse flesh. Then they took off their wet clothes and spread them to dry. The beasts, too, were unsaddled and turned out to graze.
Seated comfortably in a somewhat open spot, Cao Cao suddenly looked up and began to laugh loud and long.
His companions, remembering the sequel of his last laugh, said, “Not long since, Sir, you laughed at Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang. That resulted in the arrival of Zhao Zilong and great loss of troops to us. Why do you now laugh?”
“I am laughing again at the ignorance of the same two men. If I were in their place, and conducting their campaign, I should have had an ambush here, just to meet us when we were tired out. Then, even if we escaped with our lives, we should suffer very severely. They did not see this, and therefore I am laughing at them.”
Even at that moment behind them rose a great yell. Thoroughly startled, Cao Cao threw aside his breastplate and leaped upon his horse. Most of the soldiers failed to catch theirs, and then fires sprang up on every side and filled the mouth of the valley. A force was arrayed before them and at the head was the man of ancient Yan, Zhang Fei, seated on his steed with his great spear leveled.
“Whither would you flee, O rebel?” shouted he.
The soldiers grew cold within at the sight of the terrible warrior. Xu Chu, mounted on a bare-backed horse, rode up to engage him, and Zhang Liao and Xu Huang galloped up to his aid. The three gathered about Zhang Fei and a melee began, while Cao Cao made off at top speed. The other leaders set off after him, and Zhang Fei pursued. However, Cao Cao by dint of hard riding got away, and gradually the pursuers were out-distanced. But many had received wounds.
As they were going. the soldiers said, “There are two roads before us. Which shall we take?”
“Which is the shorter?” asked Cao Cao.
“The high road is the more level, but it is fifteen miles longer than the bye road which goes to Huarong Valley. Only the latter road is narrow and dangerous, full of pits and difficult.”
Cao Cao sent men up to the hill tops to look around.
They returned, saying: “There are several columns of smoke rising from the hills along the bye road. The high road seems quiet.”
Then Cao Cao bade them lead the way along the bye road.
“Where smoke arises there are surely soldiers,” remarked the officers. “Why go this way?”
“Because the ‘Book of War’ says that the hollow is to be regarded as solid, and the solid as hollow. That fellow Zhuge Liang is very subtle and has sent people to make those fires so that we should not go that way. He has laid an ambush on the high road. I have made up my mind, and I will not fall a victim to his wiles.”
“O Prime Minister, your conclusions are most admirable. None other can equal you,” said the officers.
And the soldiers were sent along the bye road. They were very hungry and many almost too weak to travel. The horses too were spent. Some had been scorched by the flames, and they rode forward resting their heads on their whips. The wounded struggled on to the last of their strength. All were soaking wet and all were feeble. Their arms and accouterments were in a deplorable state, and more than half had been left upon the road they had traversed. Few of the horses had saddles or bridles, for in the confusion of pursuit they had been left behind. It was the time of greatest winter cold, and the suffering was indescribable.
Noticing that the leading party had stopped, Cao Cao sent to ask the reason.
The messenger returned, saying, “The rain water collected in the pits makes the ground a mire, and the horses cannot not move.”
Cao Cao raged. He said, “When soldiers come to hills, they cut a road; when they happen upon streams, they bridge them. Such a thing as mud cannot stay an army.”
So he ordered the weak and wounded to go to the rear and come on as they could, while the robust and able were to cut down trees, and gather herbage and reeds to fill up the holes. And it was to be done without delay, or death would be the punishment of the disobedient or remiss.
So the soldiers dismounted and felled trees and cut bamboos, and they leveled the road. And because of the imminence and fear of pursuit, a party of one hundred under Zhang Liao, Xu Chu, and Xu Huang was told off to hasten the workers and slay any that idled.
The soldiers made their way along the shallower parts, but many fell, and cries of misery were heard the whole length of the way.
“What are you howling for?” cried Cao Cao. “The number of your days is fixed by fate. Anyone who howls shall be put to death.”
The remnant of the army, now divided into three, one to march slowly, a second to fill up the waterways and hollows, and a third to escort Cao Cao, gradually made its way over the precipitous road. When the going improved a little and the path was moderately level, Cao Cao turned to look at his following and saw he had barely three hundred soldiers. And these lacked clothing and armor and were tattered and disordered.
But he pressed on, and when the officers told him the horses were quite spent and must rest, he replied, “Press on to Jingzhou, and there we shall find repose.”
So they pressed on. But they had gone only one or two miles when Cao Cao flourished his whip and broke once again into loud laughter.
“What is there to laugh at?” asked the officers.
“People say those two, Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang, are able and crafty. I do not see it. They are a couple of incapables. If an ambush had been placed here, we should all be prisoners.”
Cao Cao had not finished this speech when the explosion of a bomb broke the silence, and a company of five hundred troops with swords in their hands appeared and barred the way. The leader was Guan Yu, holding his green-dragon saber, bestriding the Red Hare. At this sight, the spirits of Cao Cao’s soldiers left them, and they gazed into each others’ faces in panic.
“Now we have but one course,” said Cao Cao. “We must fight to the death!”
“How can we?” said the officers. “Though the leaders may have some strength left, the horses are spent.”
Cheng Yu said, “I have always heard that Guan Yu is haughty to the proud but kindly to the humble; he despises the strong, but is gentle with the weak. He discriminates between love and hate and is always righteous and true. You, O Prime Minister, have shown him kindness in the past. If you will remind him of that, we shall escape this evil.”
Cao Cao agreed to try. He rode out to the front, bowed low and said, “General, I trust you have enjoyed good health.”
“I had orders to await you, O Prime Minister,” replied Guan Yu, bowing in return, “and I have been expecting you these many days.”
“You see before you one Cao Cao—defeated and weak. I have reached a sad pass, and I trust you, O General, will not forget the kindness of former days.”
“Though indeed you were kind to me in those days, yet I slew your enemies for you and relieved the siege of Baima. As to the business of today, I cannot allow private feelings to outweigh public duty.”
“Do you remember my six generals, slain at the five passes? The noble person values righteousness. You are well versed in the histories and must recall the action of Yu Gong, the archer, when he released his master Zi Zhuo, for he determined not to use Zi Zhuo’s teaching to kill Zi Zhuo.”
Guan Yu was indeed a very mountain of goodness and could not forget the great kindness he had received at Cao Cao’s hands, and the magnanimity Cao Cao had shown over the deeds at the five passes. He saw the desperate straits to which his benefactor was reduced, and tears were very near to the eyes of both. He could not press Cao Cao hard.
He pulled at the bridle of his steed and turned away saying to his followers, “Break up the formation!”
From this it was evident that his design was to release Cao Cao, who then went on with his officers. When Guan Yu turned to look back, they had all passed. He uttered a great shout, and Cao Cao’s soldiers jumped off their horses and knelt on the ground crying for mercy. But he also had pity for them. Then Zhang Liao, whom he knew well, came along and was allowed to go free also.
Cao Cao, his army lost, fled to the Huarong Valley;
There in the throat of the gorge met he Guan Yu.
Grateful was Guan Yu, and mindful of former kindness,
Wherefore slipped he the bolt and freed the imprisoned dragon.
Having escaped this danger, Cao Cao hastened to get out of the valley. As the throat opened out, he glanced behind him and saw only forty-seven horsemen. As evening fell, they reached Jiangling, and they came upon an army that they took to be more enemies.
Cao Cao thought the end had surely come, but to his delight they were his own soldiers and he regained all his confidence.
Cao Ren, who was the leader, said, “I heard of your misfortunes, my lord, but I was afraid to venture far from my charge, else I would have met you before.”
“I thought I would never see you again,” said Cao Cao.
The fugitives found repose in the city, where Zhang Liao soon joined them. He also praised the magnanimity of Guan Yu.
When Cao Cao mustered the miserable remnant of his officers, he found nearly all were wounded and he bade them rest. Cao Ren poured the wine of consolation whereby his master might forget his sorrows.
As Cao Cao drank among his familiars, he became exceedingly sad.
Wherefore they said, “O Prime Minister, when you were in the cave of the tiger and trying to escape, you showed no sign of sorrow. Now that you are safe in a city, where you have food and the horses have forage, where all you have to do is to prepare for revenge, suddenly you lose heart and grieve. Why thus?”
Replied Cao Cao, “I am thinking of my friend Guo Jia: Had he been alive, he would not have let me suffer this loss.”
He beat his breast and wept, saying, “Alas for Guo Jia! I grieve for Guo Jia! I sorrow for Guo Jia!”
The reproach shamed the advisers, who were silent.
Next day Cao Cao called Cao Ren and said, “I am going to the capital to prepare another army for revenge. You are to guard this region and, in case of necessity, I leave with you a sealed plan. You are only to open the cover when hard-pressed, and then you are to act as directed. The South Land will not dare to look this way.”
“Who is to guard Hefei and Xiangyang?”
“Jingzhou is particularly your care, and Xiahou Dun is to hold Xiangyang. As Hefei is most important, I am sending Zhang Liao thither with good aids of Li Dian and Yue Jing. If you get into difficulties, send at once to tell me.”
Having made these dispositions, Cao Cao set off at once with a few followers. He took with him the officers who had come over to his side when Jingzhou fell into his hands.
Cao Ren placed Cao Hong in charge of Yiling and Jiangling.
After having allowed the escape of Cao Cao, Guan Yu found his way back to headquarters. By this time the other detachments had returned bringing spoil of horses and weapons and supplies of all kinds. Only Guan Yu came back empty-handed. When he arrived, Zhuge Liang was with his brother congratulating him on his success. When Guan Yu was announced, Zhuge Liang got up and went to welcome him, bearing a cup of wine.
“Joy! O General,” said Zhuge Liang. “You have done a deed that overtops the world. You have removed the empire’s worst foe and ought to have been met at a distance and felicitated.”
Guan Yu muttered inaudibly, and Zhuge Liang continued, “I hope it is not because we have omitted to welcome you on the road that you seem sad.”
Turning to those about him, Zhuge Liang said, “Why did you not tell us Guan Yu was coming?”
“I am here to ask for death,” said Guan Yu.
“Surely Cao Cao came through the valley?”
“Yes, he came that way. But I could not help it: I let him go.”
“Then whom have you captured?”
“Then you remembered the old kindness of Cao Cao and so allowed him to escape. But your acceptance of the task with its conditions is here. You will have to suffer the penalty.”
Zhuge Liang called in the lictors and told them to take away Guan Yu and put him to death.
Guan Yu risked life when he spared
Cao Cao in direst need,
And age-long admiration gained
For kindly deed.
What actually befell will be seen in the next chapter.
Cao Ren Withstands The South Land; Zhuge Liang Angers Zhou Yu.
Guan Yu would have died there but for his elder brother, who said to Zhuge Liang, “We three pledged ourselves to live and die together. Although my brother Guan Yu has offended, I cannot bear to break our oath. I hope you will only record this against him and let him atone later for the fault by some specially meritorious service.”
So the sentence was remitted.
In the meantime, Zhou Yu mustered his officers and called over his soldiers, noted the special services of each, and sent full reports to his master. The soldiers who had surrendered were all transported across the river. All this done they spread the feast of victory.
The next step was to attack and capture Nanjun. The van of the army camped on the river bank. There were five camps and the Commander-in-Chief’s tent was in the center. He summoned his officers to a council. At this moment Sun Qian arrived with congratulations from Liu Bei.
Zhou Yu received him and, having saluted in proper form, Sun Qian said, “My lord sent me on this special mission to felicitate the General on his great virtue and offer some unworthy gifts.”
“Where is Liu Bei?” asked Zhou Yu.
“He is now encamped at Youkou, the mouth of River You.”
“Is Zhuge Liang there?” asked Zhou Yu, taken aback.
“Both are there,” said Sun Qian.
“Then return quickly, and I will come in person to thank them.”
The presents handed over, Sun Qian was sent back forthwith to his own camp. Then Lu Su asked Zhou Yu why he had started when he heard where Liu Bei was camped.
“Because,” replied Zhou Yu, “camping at the mouth of River You means that he has the intention of taking Nanjun. Having spent much military energy and spared no expenditure, we thought the territory should fall to us easily. Those others are opposed to us, and they wish to get the advantage of what we have already accomplished. However, they must remember that I am not dead yet.”
“How can you prevent them?” asked Lu Su.
“I will go myself and speak with them. If all goes well, then, let it be so. In case it does not, then I shall immediately settle up with Liu Bei without waiting for Nanjun to be taken.”
“I should like to accompany you,” said Lu Su.
The commander and his adviser started, taking with them a guard of three thousand light horse. Having arrived at Youkou, they sought out Sun Qian, who, in turn, went in to see Liu Bei and told him Zhou Yu had come to render thanks.
“Why has he come?” asked Liu Bei of his Directing Instructor.
“He is not likely to come out of simple politeness. Surely he has come in connection with Nanjun.”
“But if he brings an army, can we stand against it?” asked Liu Bei.
“When he comes, you may reply thus and thus.”
Then they drew up the warships in the river and ranged the soldiers upon the bank. When the arrival of Zhou Yu was formally announced, Zhao Zilong, with some horsemen, went to welcome him. When Zhou Yu saw what bold soldiers they looked, he began to feel uncomfortable, but he went on his way. Being met at the camp gates by Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang, he was taken in to the chief tent, where the ceremonies were performed and preparations for a banquet had been made.
Presently Liu Bei raised his cup in felicitation on the recent victory gained by his guest. The banquet proceeded.
After a few more courses Zhou Yu said, “Of course you are camped here with no other idea than to take Nanjun?”
Liu Bei said, “We heard you were going to take the place and came to assist. Should you not take it, then we will occupy it.”
Zhou Yu laughed, saying, “We of the South Land have long wished for this territory. Now that it is within our grasp, we naturally shall take it.”
Liu Bei said, “There is always some uncertainty. Cao Cao left Cao Ren to guard the region, and you may be certain that there is good strategy behind Cao Ren, to say nothing of his boldness as a warrior. I fear you may not get it.”
“Well, if we do not take it then, Sir, you may have it,” said Zhou Yu.
“Here are witnesses to your words,” said Liu Bei, naming Lu Su, Zhuge Liang, and those at table. “I hope you will never repent what you have just said.”
Lu Su stammered and seemed unwilling to be cited as one of the witnesses, but Zhou Yu said, “When the word of a noble person has gone forth, it is ended. He never regrets.”
“This speech of yours, Sir, is very generous,” interjected Zhuge Liang. “The South Land shall try first. But if the place does not fall, there is no reason why my lord should not capture it.”
The two visitors then took their leave and rode away.
As soon as they had left, Liu Bei turned to Zhuge Liang and said, “O Master, you bade me thus reply to Zhou Yu. But though I did so, I have turned it over and over in my mind without finding any reason in what I said. I am alone and weak, without a single foot of land to call my own. I desired to get possession of Nanjun that I might have, at least, a temporary shelter, yet I have said that Zhou Yu may attack it first. If it falls to the South Land, how can I get possession?”
Zhuge Liang laughed and replied, “First I advised you to attack Jingzhou, but you would not listen. Do you remember?”
“But it belonged to Liu Biao, and I could not bear to attack it then. Now it belongs to Cao Cao, I might do so.”
“Do not be anxious,” replied the adviser. “Let Zhou Yu go and attack it. Some day, my lord, I shall make you sit in the high place thereof.”
“But what design have you?”
“So and so,” said Zhuge Liang, whispering.
Liu Bei was satisfied with the reply, and only strengthened his position at Youkou.
In the meantime Zhou Yu and Lu Su returned to their own camp, and the latter said, “Why did you tell Liu Bei that he might attack Nanjun?”
“I can take it with a flick of my finger,” replied Zhou Yu, “but I just manifested a little pretended kindliness.”
Then he inquired among his officers for a volunteer to attack the city. Jiang Qin offered himself, and was put in command of the vanguard, with Xu Sheng and Ding Feng as helpers. He was given five thousand of veterans, and they moved across the river. Zhou Yu promised to follow with supports.
On the other side Cao Ren ordered Cao Hong to guard Yiling, and so hold one corner of an ox-horn defense.
When the news came that the South Land’s force had crossed the River Han, Cao Ren said, “We will defend and not offer battle.”
But General Niu Jin said impetuously, “To let the enemy approach the walls and not offer battle is timidity. Our troops, lately worsted, need heartening and must show their mettle. Let me have five hundred of veterans, and I will fight to a finish.”
Cao Ren could not withstand this offer, and so the five hundred went out of the city. At once Ding Feng came to challenge the leader, and they fought a few bouts. Then Ding Feng pretended to be defeated, gave up the fight, and retreated into his own lines. Niu Jin followed him hard. When he had got within the South Land’s formation, at a signal from Ding Feng, the army closed round and Niu Jin was surrounded. He pushed right and left, but could find no way out. Seeing Niu Jin in the toils, Cao Ren, who had watched the fight from the wall, donned his armor and came out of the city at the head of his own bold company of horsemen and burst in among the forces of the South Land to try to rescue his colleague. Beating back Xu Sheng, Cao Ren fought his way in and presently rescued Niu Jin.
However, having got out, Cao Ren saw several score of horsemen still in the middle unable to make their way out, whereupon he turned again to the battle and dashed in to their rescue. This time he met Jiang Qin on whom Cao Ren and Niu Jin made a violent attack. Then his brother Cao Chun came up with supports, and the great battle ended in a defeat for the troops of the South Land.
So Cao Ren went back victor, while the unhappy Jiang Qin returned to report his failure. Zhou Yu was very angry and would have put to death his hapless subordinate but for the intervention of the other officers. Then Zhou Yu prepared for another attack where he himself would lead.
But Gan Ning said, “General, do not be in too great hurry. Let me go first and attack Yiling, the supporting angle of the ox-horn formation. After that the conquest of Nanjun will be easy.”
Zhou Yu accepted the plan and Gan Ning, with three thousand troops, went to attack Yiling.
When news of the approaching army reached him, Cao Ren called to his side Chen Jiao, who said, “If Yiling be lost, then Nanjun is lost too. So help must be sent quickly.”
Thereupon Cao Chun and Niu Jin were sent by secret ways to the aid of Cao Hong. Cao Chun sent a messenger to the city to ask that they should cause a diversion by a sortie at the time the reinforcements should arrive.
So when Gan Ning drew near, Cao Hong went out to meet and engage him. They fought a score of rounds, but Cao Hong was overcome at last, and Gan Ning took the city. However, as evening fell the reinforcements under Cao Chun and Niu Jin came up, and the captor was surrounded in the city he had taken. The scouts went off immediately to tell Zhou Yu of this sudden change of affairs which greatly alarmed him.
“Let us hasten to his rescue,” said Cheng Pu.
“Our place is of the greatest importance,” said Zhou Yu, “and I am afraid to leave it undefended lest Cao Ren should attack.”
“But Gan Ning is one of our first leaders and must be rescued,” said Lu Meng.
“I should like to go myself to his aid, but whom can I leave here in my place?” said Zhou Yu.
“Leave Ling Tong here,” said Lu Meng. “I will push on ahead, and you can protect my advance. In less than ten days we shall be singing the paean of victory.”
“Are you willing?” said Zhou Yu to the man who was to act for him.
Ling Tong said, “If the ten-day period is not exceeded, I may be able to carry on for that time. I am unequal to more than that.”
Ling Tong’s consent pleased Zhou Yu who started at once, leaving ten thousand troops for the defense of the camp.
Lu Meng said to his chief, “South of Yiling is a little-used road that may prove very useful in an attack on Nanjun. Let us send a party to fell trees and barricade this road so that horses cannot pass. In case of defeat, the defeated will take this road and will be compelled to abandon their horses, which we shall capture.”
Zhou Yu approved, and the men set out. When the main army drew near Yiling, Zhou Yu asked who would try to break through the besiegers, and Zhou Tai offered himself. He girded on his sword, mounted his steed, and burst straight into the Cao Hong’s army. He got through to the city wall.
From the city wall Gan Ning saw the approach of his friend Zhou Tai and went out to welcome him. Zhou Tai told him the Commander-in-Chief was on the way to his relief, and Gan Ning at once bade the defenders prepare from within to support the attack of the rescuers.
When the news of the approach of Zhou Yu had reached Yiling, Cao Hong, Cao Chun, and Niu Jin had sent to tell Cao Ren, who was at Nanjun, and at the same time they prepared to repel the assailants.
As the army of the South Land came near, they at once attacked. Simultaneously Gan Ning and Zhou Tai went out to attack on two sides, and the troops of Cao Hong were thrown into confusion. The soldiers of the South Land fell on lustily, and the three leaders all fled by a bye road, but, finding the way barred with felled trees and other obstacles, they had to abandon their horses and go afoot. In this way the troops of the South Land gained some five hundred steeds.
Zhou Yu, pressing on as quickly as possible toward Nanjun, came upon Cao Ren and his army marching to save Yiling. The two armies engaged and fought a battle which lasted till late in the evening. Then both drew off, and Cao Ren withdrew into the city.
During the night he called his officers to a council.
Then said Cao Hong, “The loss of Yiling has brought us to a dangerous pass. Now it seems the time to open the guide-letter of the Prime Minister, and see what plans he arranged for our salvation in this peril.”
“You but say what I think,” replied Cao Ren.
Whereupon he tore open the guide-letter and read it. His face lighted up with joy, and he at once issued orders to have the morning meal prepared at the fifth watch. At daylight the whole army moved out of the city through three gates, but they left a semblance of occupation in the shape of banners on the walls.
Zhou Yu went up to the tower of observation and looked over the city. He saw that the flags along the battlements had no guards behind them, and he noticed that all troops carried bundles at their waists behind so that they were ready for a long march.
Thought Zhou Yu to himself, “Cao Ren must be prepared for a long march.”
So Zhou Yu went down from the tower of observation and sent out an order for two wings of the army to be ready. One of these was to attack and, in case of its success, the other was to pursue at full speed till the clanging of the gongs should call them to return. He took command of the leading force in person, and Cheng Pu commanded the other. Thus they advanced to attack the city.
The armies being arrayed facing each other, the drums rolled out across the plain. Cao Hong rode forth and challenged, and Zhou Yu, from his place by the standard, bade Han Dang respond. The two champions fought near two score bouts, and then Cao Hong fled. Thereupon Cao Ren came out to help him, and Zhou Tai rode out at full speed to meet him. These two exchanged a half score passes and then Cao Ren tied.
Cao Ren’s army fell into confusion. Thereupon Zhou Yu gave the signal for the advance of both his wings, and the forces of Cao Ren were sore smitten and defeated. Zhou Yu pursued to the city wall, but Cao Ren’s troops did not enter the city. Instead, they went away northwest. Han Dang and Zhou Tai pressed them hard.
Zhou Yu, seeing the city gates standing wide open and no guards upon the walls, ordered the raiding of the city. A few score horsemen rode in first, Zhou Yu followed and whipping his steed. As he galloped into the enclosure around the gate, Chen Jiao stood on the defense tower. When he saw Zhou Yu enter, in his heart he applauded the god-like perspicacity of the Prime Minister Cao Cao.
Then was heard the clap-clap of a watchman’s rattle. At this signal the archers and crossbowmen let fly, and the arrows and bolts flew forth in a sudden fierce shower, while those who had won their way to the van of the inrush went headlong into a deep trench. Zhou Yu managed to pull up in time, but turning to escape, he was wounded in the left side and fell to the ground. Niu Jin rushed out from the city to capture the chief, but Xu Sheng and Ding Feng at the risk of their lives got him away safe. Then the troops of Cao Ren dashed out of the city and wrought confusion among the troops of the South Land, who trampled each other down and many more fell into the trenches. Cheng Pu tried to draw off, but Cao Ren and Cao Hong came toward him from different directions, and the battle went hardly against the soldiers of Zhou Yu, till help came from Ling Tong, who bore back their assailants. Satisfied with their success, Cao Ren led his forces into the city, while the losers marched back to their own camp.
Zhou Yu, sorely wounded, was taken to his own tent and the army physician called in. With iron forceps, he extracted the sharp bolt and dressed the wound with a lotion designed to counteract the poison of the metal. But the pain was intense, and the patient rejected all nourishment.
The physician said, “The missile had been poisoned, and the wound will require a long time to heal. You, General, must be kept quiet and especially free from any irritation, which will cause the wound to reopen.”
Thereupon Cheng Pu gave orders that each division was to remain in camp. Three days later, Niu Jin came within sight and challenged the men of the South Land to battle, but they did not stir. The enemy hurled at them taunts and insults till the sun had fallen low in the sky, but it was of no avail and Niu Jin withdrew.
Next day Niu Jin returned and repeated his insulting abuse. Cheng Pu dared not tell the wounded general. The third day, waxing bolder, the enemy came to the very gates of the stockade, the leader shouting that he had come for the purpose of capturing Zhou Yu.
Then Cheng Pu called together his officers, and they discussed the feasibility of retirement into the South Land that they might seek the opinion of Sun Quan.
Ill as he was, Zhou Yu still retained control of the expedition. He knew that the enemy came daily to the gates of his camp and reviled him, although none of his officers told him. One day Cao Ren came in person, and there was much rolling of drums and shouting. Cheng Pu, however, steadily refused to accept the challenge and would not let anyone go out.
Then Zhou Yu summoned the officers to his bedside and said, “What mean the drums and the shouting?”
“The soldiers are drilling,” was the reply.
“Why do you deceive me?” said Zhou Yu angrily. “Do I not know that our enemies come day by day to our gates and insult us? Yet Cheng Pu suffers this in silence and makes no use of his powers and authority.”
He sent for Cheng Pu and, when he arrived, asked him why he acted thus.
“Because you are ill, and the physician said you were on no account to be provoked to anger. Wherefore, although the enemy challenged us to battle, I kept it from you.”
“And if you do not fight, what think you should be done?” said Zhou Yu.
And they all said they desired to return to the South Land till he had recovered from his wound, when they would make another expedition.
Zhou Yu lay and listened. Suddenly he sprang up, crying, “The noble person who has eaten of his lord’s bounty should die in his lord’s battles. To return home dead and wrapped in a horse’s hide is a happy fate. Am I the sort of people to bring to nought the grand designs of my lord?”
So speaking he proceeded to gird on his armor, and he mounted his horse. The wonder of the officers only redoubled when their General placed himself at the head of some hundreds of horsemen and went out of the camp gates toward the enemy, then fully arrayed. Cao Ren, their general, stood beneath the great standard.
At sight of the opponents, Cao Ren flourished his whip and began to hurl abuse at them, “Zhou Yu, you babe! I think your fate has met you. You dare not face my army!”
The stream of insult never ceased.
Presently Zhou Yu could stand it no longer. Riding out to the front he cried, “Here I am, base churl. Look at me!”
The whole Cao Ren’s army were taken aback. But Cao Ren turned to those about him and said, “Let us all revile him!”
And the whole army yelled insults.
Zhou Yu grew angry and sent Pan Zhang out to fight. But before he had delivered his first blow, Zhou Yu suddenly uttered a loud cry, and he fell to the ground with blood gushing from his mouth.
At this Cao Ren’s army rushed to the battle, and the army of the South Land pressed forward to meet them. A fierce struggle waged around Zhou Yu’s body, but he was borne off safely and taken to his tent.
“Do you feel better?” asked Cheng Pu anxiously.
“It was a ruse of mine,” whispered Zhou Yu in reply.
“But what avails it?”
“I am not suffering, but I did that to make our enemies think I was very ill and so oppose them by deceit. I will send a few trusty men to pretend desertion and tell them I am dead. That will cause them to try a night raid on the camp, and we shall have an ambush ready for them. We shall get Cao Ren easily.”
“The plan seems excellent,” said Cheng Pu.
Soon from the tent there arose the sound of wailing as for the dead. The soldiers around took up the cry and said one to another, “The General is dead of his wound!” and they all put on the symbols of mourning.
Meanwhile Cao Ren was consulting with his officers.
Said he, “Zhou Yu lost his temper, and that has caused his wound to reopen and brought on that flow of blood. You saw him fall to the ground, and he will assuredly die soon.”
Just then there came in one who said that a few men had come over from the enemy asking to be allowed to join the army of Cao Ren. Among them were two of Cao Cao’s men who had been made prisoners. Cao Ren sent for the deserters and questioned them.
They told him, saying, “Zhou Yu’s wound reopened at his anger, and he died in the camp that day. The leaders are all clothing in white and in mourning. We desert because we have been put to shame by the second in command.”
Pleased at this news, Cao Ren at once began to arrange to make a night attack on the camp and, if possible, get the head of the dead general to send to the capital.
“Success depends upon promptitude, so act without delay,” said Chen Jiao.
Niu Jin was told off as Van Leader, Cao Ren himself led the center, while the rear was commanded by Cao Hong and Cao Chun. Chen Jiao and a small force were left to guard Nanjun.
At the first watch they left the city and took the way toward Zhou Yu’s camp. When they drew near, not a soldier was visible in the camp, but flags and banners and spears were all there, evidently to keep up an appearance of preparation. Feeling at once that they had been tricked, they turned to retreat.
But a bomb exploded, and this was the signal for an attack on all four sides. Han Dang and Jiang Qin pressed in from the east; Zhou Tai and Pan Zhang, from the west; Chen Wu and Lu Meng, from the north; and Xu Sheng and Ding Feng, from the south. The result was a severe defeat for the raiders, and the army of Cao Ren was entirely broken and scattered abroad so that no one part of the beaten army could aid the other.
Cao Ren, with a few horsemen got out of the press and presently met Cao Hong. The two leaders ran away together, and by the fifth watch they had got near Nanjun. Then they heard a beating of drums, and Ling Tong appeared barring the way. There was a small skirmish, and Cao Ren went off at an angle. But he fell in with Gan Ning, who attacked him vigorously. Cao Ren dared not go back to Nanjun, but he made for Xiangyang along the main road. The forces of the South Land pursued him for a time and then desisted.
Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu then made their way to Nanjun where they were startled to see flags on the walls and every sign of occupation.
Before they had recovered from their surprise, there appeared one who cried, “Pardon, General! I had orders from the Directing Instructor to take this city. I am Zhao Zilong of Changshan.”
Zhou Yu was fiercely angry and gave orders to assault the city, but the defenders sent down flights and flights of arrows, and his troops could not stay near the rampart. So he withdrew and took counsel. In the meantime he decided to send Gan Ning with a force of several thousand to capture Jingzhou City, and Ling Tong with another army to take Xiangyang. Nanjun could be taken later.
But even as these orders were being given, the scouts came in hurriedly to report, saying, “After Nanjun fell, Zhuge Liang, suddenly forging a military commission, induced the guards of Jingzhou City to leave it and go to the rescue of Cao Ren. Whereupon Zhang Fei occupied the capital.”
Soon after another messenger came, saying, “Xiahou Dun, at Xiangyang, received from Zhuge Liang dispatches, supported by a commission in due form, saying that Cao Ren was in danger and needed help, whereupon Xiahou Dun marched off, and Guan Yu seized that city.”
Thus the two cities that Zhou Yu wanted had fallen, without the least effort, into the hands of his rival Liu Bei.
“How did Zhuge Liang get this military commission with which he has imposed on the generals?” asked Zhou Yu.
Cheng Pu replied, “He seized that of Chen Jiao and so has got all this region into his power.”
Zhou Yu uttered a great cry, for at that moment his wound had suddenly burst open.
A city falls, but not to us the gain;
The guerdon is another’s; ours the pain.
The next chapter will say what befell Zhou Yu.