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Chapter 5

Cao Cao Appeals To The Powerful Lords;
The Three Brothers Fight Against Lü Bu.

At the close of the last chapter, Chen Gong was about to slay Cao Cao. But Chen Gong reflected, "I joined him to do righteous things. Now if I killed him, I would only do unrighteousness, and the people would condemn me. I rather leave in silence."

Rising from his bed before the sunrise, Chen Gong mounted his horse and rode away eastward to his home county of Dongjun.

Cao Cao awoke with the day and missed his companion. Thought he, "Chen Gong thinks me brutal because of a couple of egoistic phrases I used, and so he has gone. I ought to push on too and not linger here."

So Cao Cao traveled as quickly as possible toward Qiao. When he saw his father, he related what had happened and said he wanted to dispose of all the family property and enlist soldiers with the money.

"Our possessions are but small," said his father, "and not enough to do anything with. However, there is a graduate here, one Wei Hong, careless of wealth but careful of virtue, whose family is very rich. With his help we might hope for success."

A feast was prepared, and Wei Hong was invited.

Cao Cao made him a speech: "The Hans have lost their lordship, and Dong Zhuo is really a tyrant. He flouts his prince and is cruel to the people, who gnash their teeth with rage. I would restore the Hans, but my means are insufficient. Sir, I appeal to your loyalty and public spirit."

Wei Hong replied, "I have long desired this but, so far, have not found a person fit to undertake the task. Since you, Cao Cao, have so noble a desire, I willingly devote all my property to the cause."

This was joyful news, and the call to arms was forthwith prepared and sent far and near. So they established a corps of volunteers and set up a large white recruiting banner with the words Loyalty and Honor inscribed thereon. The response was rapid, and volunteers came in like rain drops in number.

One day came a certain Yue Jin[1] from Yangping and another Li Dian from Julu. These two were appointed to Cao Cao's personal staff. Another was one Xiahou Dun from Qiao. He was descended from Xiahou Ying[2] of old. Xiahou Dun had been trained from his early boyhood to use the spear and the club. When only fourteen he had been attached to a certain master-in-arms. One day one person spoke disrespectfully of his master, and Xiahou Dun killed that person. For this deed, however, he had to flee and had been an exile for some time. Now he came to offer his services, accompanied by his cousin Xiahou Yuan. Each brought a thousand trained soldiers. Really these two were brothers of Cao Cao by birth, since Cao Cao's father was originally of the Xiahou family, and had only been adopted into the Cao family.

A few days later came Cao Cao's two cousins, Cao Ren and Cao Hong, each with one thousand followers. These two were accomplished horsemen and trained in the use of arms.
Cao Ren - Qing ZQ-SGYY

Cao Ren

Then drill began, and Wei Hong spent his treasure freely in buying clothing, armor, flags, and banners. From all sides poured in gifts of grain.

When Yuan Shao received Cao Cao's call to arms, he collected all those under his command to the number of thirty thousand. Then he marched from Bohai to Qiao to take the oath to Cao Cao. Next a manifesto was issued:

"Cao Cao and his associates, moved by a sense of duty, now make this proclamation. Dong Zhuo defies Heaven and Earth. He is destroying the state and injuring his prince. He pollutes the Palace and oppresses the people. He is vicious and cruel. His crimes are heaped up. Now we have received a secret command to call up soldiers, and we are pledged to cleanse the empire and destroy the evil-doers. We will raise a volunteer army and exert all our efforts to maintain the dynasty and succor the people. Respond to this, O Nobles, by mustering your soldiers." Many from every side answered the summons as the following list shows: [3]

  1. Governor of Nanyang---Yuan Shu
  2. Imperial Protector of Jizhou Region---Han Fu
  3. Imperial Protector of Yuzhou Region---Kong Zhou
  4. Imperial Protector of Yanzhou Region---Liu Dai
  5. Governor of Henei---Wang Kuang
  6. Governor of Chenliu---Zhang Miao
  7. Governor of Dongjun---Qiao Mao
  8. Governor of Shanyang---Yuan Yi
  9. Lord of Jibei---Bao Xin
  10. Governor of Beihai---Kong Rong
  11. Governor of Guangling ---Zhang Chao
  12. Imperial Protector of Xuzhou Region---Tao Qian
  13. Governor of Xiliang---Ma Teng
  14. Governor of Beiping---Gongsun Zan
  15. Governor of Shangdang---Zhang Yang
  16. Governor of Changsha---Sun Jian
  17. Governor of Bohai---Yuan Shao

These contingents varied in size, from ten thousand to thirty thousand, but each was complete in itself with its officers, civil and military, and battle-leaders. They were heading for Capital Luoyang.

The Governor of Beiping, Gongsun Zan, while on his way with his force of fifteen thousand, passed through the county of Pingyuan. There he saw among the mulberry trees a yellow flag under which marched a small company. When they drew nearer, he saw the leader was Liu Bei.

"Good brother, what do you here?" asked Gongsun Zan.
Gongsun Zan - Qing ZQ-SGYY

Gongsun Zan

"You were kind to me once, and on your recommendation I was made the magistrate of this county. I heard you were passing through and came to salute you. May I pray you, my elder brother, enter into the city and rest your steed?"

"Who are these two?" said Gongsun Zan, pointing to Liu Bei's brothers.

"These are Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, my sworn brothers."

"Were they fighting with you against the Yellow Turbans?" asked Gongsun Zan.

"All my success was due to their efforts," said Liu Bei.

"And what offices do they fill?"

"Guan Yu is a mounted archer; Zhang Fei is a foot archer."

"Thus are able people buried!" said Gongsun Zan, sighing. Then he continued. "All the highest in the land are now going to destroy the rebellious Dong Zhuo. My brother, you would do better to abandon this petty place and join us in restoring the House of Han. Why not?"

"I should like to go," said Liu Bei.

"If you had let me kill him that other time, you would not have this trouble today," said Zhang Fei to Liu Bei and Guan Yu.

"Since things are so, let us pack and go," said Guan Yu.

So without more ado, the three brothers, with a few horsemen, joined Gongsun Zan and marched with him to join the great army.

One after another the feudal lords came up and encamped. Their camps extended over seventy miles and more. When all had arrived, Cao Cao, as the head, prepared sacrificial bullocks and horses and called all the lords to a great assembly to decide upon their plan of attack.

Then spoke the Governor of Henei, Wang Kuang, "We have been moved by a noble sense of right to assemble here. Now must we first choose a chief and bind ourselves to obedience."

Then said Cao Cao, "For four generations the highest offices of state have been filled by members of the Yuan family, and their clients and supporters are everywhere. As a descendant of ancient ministers of Han, Yuan Shao is a suitable man to be our chief lord."

Yuan Shao again and again declined this honor. But they all said, "It must be he! There is no other!"

And then he agreed.

So the next day a three-story altar was built, and they planted about it the banners of all parties in five directions of space. And they set up white yaks' tails and golden axes and emblems of military authority and the seals of leadership round about.

All being ready, the chief lord was invited to ascend the altar. Clad in ceremonial robes and girded with a sword, Yuan Shao reverently ascended. There he burned incense, made obeisance and recited the oath:

"The House of Han has fallen upon evil days, the bands of imperial authority are loosened. The rebel minister, Dong Zhuo, takes advantage of the discord to work evil, and calamity falls upon honorable families. Cruelty overwhelms simple folks. We, Yuan Shao and his confederates, fearing for the safety of the imperial prerogatives, have assembled military forces to rescue the state. We now pledge ourselves to exert our whole strength and act in concord to the utmost limit of our powers. There must be no disconcerted or selfish action. Should any depart from this pledge, may he lose his life and leave no posterity. Almighty Heaven and Universal Earth and the enlightened spirits of our forebears, be ye our witnesses!"

The reading finished, Yuan Shao smeared the blood of the sacrifice upon his lips and upon the lips of those who shared the pledge. All were deeply affected by the ceremony and many shed tears.

This done, the chief lord was supported down from the high place and led to his tent, where he took the highest place and the others arranged themselves according to rank and age. Here wine was served.

Presently Cao Cao said, "It behooves us all to obey the chief we have this day set up, and support the state. There must be no feeling of rivalry or superiority based upon numbers."

Yuan Shao replied, "Unworthy as I am, yet as elected chief I must impartially reward merit and punish offenses. Let each see to it that he obeys the national laws and the army precepts. These must not be broken."

"Only thy commands are to be obeyed!" cried all.

Then Yuan Shao said, "My brother, Yuan Shu, is appointed Chief of the Commissariat. He must see to it that the whole camp is well supplied. But the need of the moment is a van leader who shall go to River Si Pass and provoke a battle. The other forces must take up strategic positions in support."

Then the Governor of Changsha, Sun Jian, offered himself for this service.

"You are valiant and fierce, and equal to this service!" said Yuan Shao.

The force under Sun Jian set out and presently came to River Si Pass. The guard there sent a swift rider to the capital to announce to the Prime Minister the urgency of the situation.

Ever since Dong Zhuo had secured his position, he had given himself up to luxury without stint. When the urgent news reached Adviser Li Ru, he at once went to his master, who much alarmed called a great council.

Lü Bu stood forth and said, "Do not fear, my father. I look upon all the lords beyond the Pass as so much stubble. And with the warriors of our fierce army, I will put everyone of them to death and hang their heads at the gates of the capital!"

"With your aid I can sleep secure!" said Dong Zhuo.

But someone behind Lü Bu broke in upon his speech, saying, "An ox-cleaver to kill a chicken! There is no need for the General to go: I will cut off their heads as easily as I would take a thing out of my pocket!"

Dong Zhuo looked up and his eyes rested on a stalwart man of fierce mien, lithe and supple as a beast. He had round head like a leopard and shoulders like an ape's. His name was Hua Xiong of Guanxi. Dong Zhuo rejoiced at Hua Xiong's bold words and at once appointed him Commander of the Valiant Cavalry and gave him fifty thousand of horse and foot. Hua Xiong and three other generals---Li Su, Hu Zhen, and Zhao Cen---hastily moved toward River Si Pass.

Among the feudal lords, Bao Xin, the Lord of Jibei, was jealous lest the chosen Van Leader Sun Jian should win too great honors. Wherefore Bao Xin endeavored to meet the foe first, and so he secretly dispatched his brother, Bao Zhong, with three thousand by a bye road. As soon as this small force reached the Pass, they offered battle.

Fast reacting, Hua Xiong at the head of five hundred armored horsemen swept down from the Pass, crying, "Flee not, rebel!"

But Bao Zhong was afraid and turned back. Hua Xiong came on, his arm rose, the sword fell, and Bao Zhong was cut down from his horse. Most of Bao Zhong's company were captured. Bao Zhong's head was sent to the Prime Minister's palace. Hua Xiong was promoted to Commander in Chief.

Sun Jian presently approached the Pass. He had four generals: Cheng Pu of Tuyin whose weapon was an iron-spined lance with snake-headed blade; Huang Gai of Lingling who wielded an iron whip; Han Dang of Lingzhi using a heavy saber; and Zu Mao of Wujun who fought with a pair of swords.

Commander Sun Jian wore a helmet of fine silver wrapped round with a purple turban. He carried across his body his sword of ancient ingot iron and rode a dappled horse with flowing mane.

Sun Jian advanced to the Pass and hailed the defenders, crying, "Helpers of a villain! Be quick to surrender!"

Hua Xiong bade Hu Zhen lead five thousand out against Sun Jian. Cheng Pu with the snaky lance rode out from Sun Jian's side and engaged. After a very few bouts, Cheng Pu killed Hu Zhen on the spot by a thrust through the throat. Then Sun Jian gave the signal for the main army to advance. But from the Pass, Hua Xiong's troops rained down showers of stones, which proved too much for the assailants, and they retired into camp at Liangdong. Sun Jian sent the report of victory to Yuan Shao.

Sun Jian also sent an urgent message for supplies to the commissary.

But a counselor said to the Controller Yuan Shu, "This Sun Jian is a very tiger in the east. Should he take the capital and destroy Dong Zhuo, we should have a tiger in place of a wolf. Do not send him grain. Starve his troops, and that will decide the fate of that army."

And Yuan Shu gave ears to the detractor and sent no grain or forage. Soon Sun Jian's hungry soldiers showed their disaffection by indiscipline, and the spies bore the news to the defenders of the Pass.

Li Ru made a plot with Hua Xiong, saying, "We will launch tonight a speedy attack against Sun Jian in front and rear so that we can capture him."

Hua Xiong agreed and prepared for the attack. So the soldiers of the attacking force were told off and given a full meal. At dark they left the Pass and crept by secret paths to the rear of Sun Jian's camp. The moon was bright and the wind cool. They arrived about midnight and the drums beat an immediate attack. Sun Jian hastily donned his fighting gear and rode out. He ran straight into Hua Xiong and the two warriors engaged. But before they had exchanged many passes, Li Ru's army came up from behind and set fire to whatever would burn.

Sun Jian's army were thrown into confusion and fled in disorder. A melee ensued, and soon only Zu Mao was left at Sun Jian's side. These two broke through the Pass and fled. Hua Xiong coming in hot pursuit, Sun Jian took his bow and let fly two arrows in quick succession, but both missed. He fitted a third arrow to the string, but drew the bow so fiercely that it snapped. He cast the bow to the earth and set off at full gallop.

Then spoke Zu Mao, "My lord's purple turban is a mark that the rebels will too easily recognize. Give it to me, and I will wear it!"

So Sun Jian exchanged his silver helmet with the turban for his general's headpiece, and the two men parted, riding different ways. The pursuers looking only for the purple turban went after its wearer, and Sun Jian escaped along a by-road.

Zu Mao, hotly pursued, then tore off the headdress which he hung on the post of a half-burned house as he passed and dashed into the thick woods. Hua Xiong's troops seeing the purple turban standing motionless dared not approach, but they surrounded it on every side and shot at it with arrows. Presently they discovered the trick, went up and seized it.

This was the moment that Zu Mao awaited. At once he rushed forth, his two swords whirling about, and dashed at the leader. But Hua Xiong was too quick. With a loud yell, Hua Xiong slashed at Zu Mao and cut him down the horse. Hua Xiong and Li Ru continued the slaughter till the day broke, and they led their troops back to the Pass.

Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, and Han Dang in time found their chief and the soldiers gathered. Sun Jian was much grieved at the loss of Zu Mao.

When news of the disaster reached Yuan Shao, he was greatly chagrined and called all the lords to a council. They assembled and Gongsun Zan was the last to arrive.

When all were seated in the tent Yuan Shao said, "The brother of General Bao Xin, disobeying the rules we made for our guidance, rashly went to attack the enemy: He was slain and with him many of our soldiers. Now Sun Jian has been defeated. Thus our fighting spirit has suffered and what is to be done?"

Everyone was silent. Lifting his eyes, Yuan Shao looked round from one to another till he came to Gongsun Zan, and then he remarked three men who stood behind Gongsun Zan's seat. They were of striking appearance as they stood there, all three smiling cynically.

"Who are those men behind you?" said Yuan Shao.

Gongsun Zan told Liu Bei to come forward, and said, "This is Liu Bei, Magistrate of Pingyuan and a brother of mine who shared my humble cottage when we were students."

"It must be the Liu Bei who broke up the Yellow Turban rebellion," said Cao Cao.

"It is he," said Gongsun Zan, and he ordered Liu Bei to make his obeisance to the assembly, to whom Liu Bei then related his services and his origin, all in full detail.

"Since he is of the Han line, he should be seated," said Yuan Shao, and he bade Liu Bei sit.

Liu Bei modestly thanked him, declining.

Said Yuan Shao, "This consideration is not for your fame and office. I respect you as a scion of the imperial family."

So Liu Bei took his seat in the lowest place of the long line of lords. And his two brothers with folded arms took their stations behind him.

Even as they were at this meeting came in a scout to say that Hua Xiong with a company of mail-clad horsemen was coming down from the Pass. They were flaunting Sun Jian's captured purple turban on the end of a bamboo pole. The enemy was soon hurling insults at those within the stockade and challenging them to fight.

"Who dares go out to give battle?" said Yuan Shao.

"I will go," said Yu She, a renowned general of Yuan Shu, stepping forward.

So Yu She went, and almost immediately one came back to say that Yu She had fallen in the third bout of Hua Xiong.

Fear began to lay its cold hand on the assembly.

Then Imperial Protector Han Fu said, "I have a brave warrior among my army. Pan Feng is his name, and he could slay this Hua Xiong."

So Pan Feng was ordered out to meet the foe. With his great battle-ax in his hand, Pan Feng mounted and rode forth. But soon came the direful tidings that General Pan Feng too had fallen. The faces of the gathering paled at this.

"What a pity my two able generals, Yan Liang and Wen Chou, are not here! Then should we have someone who would not fear this Hua Xiong," said Yuan Shao.

He had not finished when from the lower end a voice tolled, "I will go, take Hua Xiong's head, and lay it before you here!"

All turned to look at the speaker. He was tall and had a long beard. His eyes were those of a phoenix and his eyebrows thick and bushy like silkworms. His face was a swarthy red and his voice deep as the sound of a great bell.

"Who is he?" asked Yuan Shao.

Gongsun Zan told them it was Guan Yu, brother of Liu Bei.

"And what is he?" asked Yuan Shao.

"He is in the train of Liu Bei as a mounted archer."

"What! An insult to us all!" roared Yuan Shu from his place. "Have we no leader? How dare an archer speak thus before us? Let us beat him forth!"

But Cao Cao intervened. "Peace, O Yuan Shu! Since this man speaks great words, he is certainly valiant. Let him try. If he fails, then we may reproach him."

"Hua Xiong will laugh at us if we send a mere archer to fight him," said Yuan Shao.

"This man looks no common person. And how can the enemy know he is but a bowman?" said Cao Cao.

"If I fail, then can you take my head," spoke Guan Yu.

Cao Cao bade them heat some wine and offered a cup to Guan Yu as he went out.

"Pour it out," said Guan Yu. "I shall return in a little space."

Guan Yu went with his weapon in his hand and vaulted into the saddle. Those in the tent heard the fierce roll of the drums and then a mighty sound as if skies were falling and earth rising, hills trembling and mountains tearing asunder. And they were sore afraid. And while they were listening with ears intent, lo! the gentle tinkle of horse bells, and Guan Yu returned, throwing at their feet the head of the slain leader, their enemy Hua Xiong. The wine was still warm!

This doughty deed has been celebrated in verse:

The power of the man stands first in all the world,
At the gate of the camp was heard the rolling of the battle drums;
Then Guan Yu set aside the wine cup till he should have displayed his valor,
And the wine was still warm when Hua Xiong had been slain.

Cao Cao was greatly excited at this success.

But Zhang Fei's voice was heard, shouting, "My brother has slain Hua Xiong. What are we waiting for? Why not break through the Pass and seize Dong Zhuo? Could there have been a better time?"

Again arose the angry voice of Yuan Shu, "We high officials are too meek and yielding. Here is the petty follower of a small magistrate daring to flaunt his prowess before us! Expel him from the tent, I say."

But again Cao Cao interposed, "Shall we consider the station of him who has done a great service?"

"If you hold a mere magistrate in such honor, then I simply withdraw," said Yuan Shu.

"Is a word enough to defeat a grand enterprise?" said Cao Cao.

Then he told Gongsun Zan to lead the three brothers back to their own camp, and the other chiefs then dispersed. That night Cao Cao secretly sent presents of meat and wine to soothe the three after this adventure.

When Hua Xiong's troops straggled back and told the story of defeat and death, Li Ru was greatly distressed. He wrote urgent letters to his master who called in his trusted advisers to a council.

Li Ru summed up the situation, saying, "We have lost our best leader, and the rebel power has thereby become very great. Yuan Shao is at the head of this confederacy, and his uncle, Yuan Wei, is holder of the office of Imperial Guardianship. If those in the capital combine with those in the country, we may suffer. Therefore we must remove them. So I request you, Sir Prime Minister, to place yourself at the head of your army and break this confederation."

Dong Zhuo agreed and at once ordered his two generals, Li Jue and Guo Si, to take five hundred troops and surround the residence of Imperial Guardian Yuan Wei, slay every soul regardless of age, and hang the head of Yuan Wei outside the gate as trophy. And Dong Zhuo commanded two hundred thousand troops to advance in two armies. The first fifty thousand were under Li Jue and Guo Si, and they were to hold River Si Pass. They should not necessarily fight. The other one hundred fifty thousand under Dong Zhuo himself went to Tiger Trap Pass. His counselors and commanders---Li Ru, Lü Bu, Fan Chou, Zhang Ji, and others---marched with the main army.

Tiger Trap Pass is fifteen miles from Capital Luoyang. As soon as they arrived, Dong Zhuo bade Lü Bu take thirty thousand soldiers and make a strong stockade on the outside of the Pass. The main body with Dong Zhuo would occupy the Pass.

News of this movement reaching the confederate lords. Yuan Shao summoned a council.

Said Cao Cao, "The occupation of the Pass would cut our armies in two; therefore, we must oppose Dong Zhuo's army on the way."

So eight of the commanders---Wang Kuang, Qiao Mao, Bao Xin, Yuan Yi, Kong Rong, Zhang Yang, Tao Qian, and Gongsun Zan---were ordered to go in the direction of the Tiger Trap Pass to oppose their enemy. Cao Cao and his troops moved among them as reserve to render help where needed.

Of the eight, Wang Kuang, the Governor of Henei, was the first to arrive, and Lü Bu went to give battle with three thousand armored horsemen. When Wang Kuang had ordered his army, horse and foot, in battle array, he took his station under the great banner and looked over at his foe.

Lü Bu was a conspicuous figure in front of the line. On his head was a triple curved headdress of ruddy gold with pheasant tails. He wore a warring velvet-red robe of Xichuan silk embroidered with thousand flowers, which was overlapped by golden mail adorned with a gaping animal's head, joined by rings at the sides and girt to his waist with a belt fastened by a beautiful lion-head clasp. His bow and arrows were slung on his shoulders, and he carried a long heavy trident halberd. He was seated on his snorting steed Red Hare. Indeed Lü Bu was the man among humans, as Red Hare was the horse among horses.[4]

"Who dares go out to fight him?" asked Wang Kuang turning to those behind him.

In response a valiant general from Henei named Fang Yue spurred to the front, his spear set ready for battle. Lü Bu and Fang Yue met: Before the fifth bout Fang Yue fell under a thrust of the trident halberd, and Lü Bu dashed forward. Wang Kuang's troops could not stand and scattered in all directions. Lü Bu went to and fro slaying all he met. He was irresistible.

Luckily, two other troops led by Qiao Mao and Yuan Yi came up and rescued the wounded Wang Kuang, and Lü Bu pulled back. The three, having lost many troops, withdrew ten miles and made a stockade. And before long the remaining five commanders came up and joined them. They held a council and agreed Lü Bu was a hero no one could match.

And while they sat there anxious and uncertain, it was announced that Lü Bu had returned to challenge them. They mounted their horses and placed themselves at the heads of eight forces, each body in its station on the high ground. Around them was the opposing army in formation, commanded by Lü Bu, innumerable horse and foot, with splendid embroidered banners waving in the breeze.

They attacked Lü Bu. Mu Shun, a general of Governor Zhang Yang, rode out with his spear set, but soon fell at the first encounter with Lü Bu. This frightened the others. Then galloped forth Wu Anguo, a general under Governor Kong Rong. Wu Anguo raised his iron mace ready at his rival. Lü Bu whirling his halberd and urging on his steed came to meet Wu Anguo. The two fought, well matched for ten bouts, when a blow from the trident halberd broke Wu Anguo's wrist. Letting his mace fall to the ground he fled. Then all eight of the lords led forth their armies to his rescue, and Lü Bu retired to his line.

The fighting then ceased, and after their return to camp another council met.

Cao Cao said, "No one can stand against the prowess of Lü Bu. Let us call up all the lords and evolve some good plan. If only Lü Bu were taken, Dong Zhuo could easily be killed."

While the council was in progress again came Lü Bu to challenge them, and again the commanders moved out against him. This time Gongsun Zan, flourishing his spear, went to meet the enemy. After a very few bouts Gongsun Zan turned and fled; Lü Bu following at the topmost speed of Red Hare. Red Hare was a five-hundred-mile-a-day horse, swift as the wind. The lords watched Red Hare gained rapidly upon the flying horseman, and Lü Bu's halberd was poised ready to strike Gongsun Zan just behind the heart. Just then dashed in a third rider with round glaring eyes and a bristling mustache, and armed with a ten-foot serpent halberd.

"Stay, O twice bastard!" roared he, "I, Zhang Fei of Yan[5], await you!"

Seeing this opponent, Lü Bu left the pursuit of Gongsun Zan and engaged the new adversary. Zhang Fei was elated, and he rode forth with all his energies. They two were worthily matched, and they exchanged half a hundred bouts with no advantage to either side. Then Guan Yu, impatient, rode out with his huge and weighty green-dragon saber and attacked Lü Bu on the other flank. The three steeds formed a triangle and their riders battered away at each other for thirty bouts, yet still Lü Bu stood firm.
Lü Bu vs Three Brothers - Qing SGYY

Three brothers vs Lü Bu.

Then Liu Bei rode out to his brothers' aid, his double swords raised ready to strike. The steed with the flowing mane was urged in at an angle, and now Lü Bu had to contend with three surrounding warriors at whom he struck one after another, and they at him, the flashing of the warriors' weapons looking like the revolving lamps suspended at the new year. And the warriors of the eight armies gazed rapt with amazement at such a battle.

But Lu Bu's guard began to weaken and fatigue seized him. Looking hard in the face of Liu Bei, Lü Bu feigned a fierce thrust thus making Liu Bei

suddenly draw back. Then, lowering his halberd, Lü Bu dashed through the angle thus opened and got away.

But was it likely they would allow him to escape? They whipped their steeds and followed hard. The soldiers of the eight armies cracked their throats with thunderous cheers and all dashed forward, pressing after Lü Bu as he made for the shelter of the Tiger Trap Pass. And first among his pursuers were the three brothers.

An ancient poet has told of this famous fight in these lines:

The fateful day of Han came in the reigns of Huan and Ling,
Their glory declined as the sun sinks at the close of day.

Dong Zhuo, infamous minister of state, pulled down the youthful Bian.
It is true the new Xian was a weakling, too timid for his times.
Then Cao Cao proclaimed abroad these wicked deeds,
And the great lords, moved with anger, assembled their forces.
In council met they and chose as their oath-chief Yuan Shao,
Pledged themselves to maintain the ruling house and tranquillity.
Of the warriors of that time matchless Lü Bu was the boldest.
His valor and prowess are sung by all within the four seas.
He clothed his body in silver armor like the scales of a dragon,
On his head was a golden headdress with pheasant tails,
About his waist a shaggy belt, the clasp, two wild beasts' heads with gripping jaws,
His flowing, embroidered robe fluttered about his form,
His swift courser bounded over the plain, a mighty wind following,
His terrible trident halberd flashed in the sunlight, bright as a placid lake.
Who dared face him as he rode forth to challenge?
The bowels of the confederate lords were torn with fear and their hearts trembled.
Then leaped forth Zhang Fei, the valiant warrior of the north,
Gripped in his mighty hand the long serpent halberd,
His mustache bristled with anger, standing stiff like wire.
His round eyes glared, lightning flashes darted from them.
Neither quailed in the fight, but the issue was undecided.
Guan Yu stood out in front, his soul vexed within him,
His green-dragon saber shone white as frost in the sunlight,
His bright colored fighting robe fluttered like butterfly wings,
Demons and angels shrieked at the thunder of his horse hoofs,
In his eyes was fierce anger, a fire to be quenched only in blood.
Next Liu Bei joined the battle, gripping his twin sword blades,
The heavens themselves trembled at the majesty of his wrath.
These three closely beset Lü Bu and long drawn out was the battle,
Always he warded their blows, never faltering a moment.
The noise of their shouting rose to the sky, and the earth reechoed it,
The heat of battle ranged to the frozen pole star.
Worn out, feeling his strength fast ebbing, Lü Bu thought to flee,
He glanced at the hills around and thither would fly for shelter,
Then, reversing his halberd and lowering its lofty point,
Hastily he fled, loosing himself from the battle;
With head low bent, he gave the rein to his courser,
Turned his face away and fled to Tiger Trap Pass.

The three brothers maintained the pursuit to the Pass. Looking up they saw an immense umbrella of black gauze fluttering in the west wind. "Certainly there is Dong Zhuo," cried Zhang Fei. "What is the use of pursuing Lü Bu? Better far seize the chiefest rebel and so pluck up the evil by the roots!"

And he whipped up his steed toward the Pass.

To quell rebellion seize the leader if you can;
If you need a wondrous service then first find a wondrous man.

The following chapters will unfold the result of the battle.

NotesEdit

  1. Gongjin's Campaign Memorials notes: In the original Brewitt-Taylor translation Yue Jin was called Yue Jing.
  2. Xiahou Ying (?-173) a major general of Liu Bang. Ennobled as the Marquis of Ruyin and commonly called the Lord of Tang.
  3. Gongjin's Campaign Memorials notes: the historical coalition was quite different, which you can see here.
  4. Gongjin's Campaign Memorial notes: this sentence is also found in the historical text Cao Man zhuan (Biography of Cao Man [Cao Cao]).
  5. Yan was a state in the Warring States period. Located in the northeast, and north of Qi.

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