Commanding A Force, Cao Cao Marches To Avenge His Father.
|In the last chapter the two arch rebels, Li Jue and Guo Si, proposed to murder Emperor Xian, but their followers Zhang Ji and Fan Chou opposed this.
"No. The people will not approve of his death now. Restore him to power, and get the leaguers inside Chang'an's control. Remove his supporters, and then we can compass his death. And the empire shall be in our hands."
So they ceased the attack. The Emperor again spoke from the tower, saying, "Why do you still remain? You have slain Wang Yun: Now withdraw these soldiers."
Then Li Jue and Guo Si replied, "Your servants desire rank rewards for their good service to your dynasty."
"And what ranks, Sirs?"
All four wrote their wishes and handed them up to the Emperor who had no choice but to accede to the request, and they were created:
Li Jue was appointed General of the Flying Cavalry, Lord of Chiyang, Commander of Capital District, Court Administrator, and granted Military Insignia.
Guo Si was appointed General of the Rear Army, Lord of Meiyang, Court Administrator, and granted Military Insignia.
Fan Chou was appointed General of the Right Army and Lord of Wanian.
Zhang Ji was appointed General of the Flying Cavalry and Lord of Pingyan.
After receiving ranks of nobility, Li Jue and Guo Si thanked the Emperor, and went away to camp at Xunung, the suburb of Chang'an. The inferior rebel leaders also were gratified with ranks. And once more the capital was free of troops.
Dong Zhuo's followers, having so far succeeded, did not forget their late leader. They sought his corpse for burial, but only a few fragments were discoverable. Then they had sculptors engrave a statue of fragrant wood in his likeness, laid that out in proper form, and instituted a noble's sacrifices and prayers. The remains were dressed in the robes of a prince, laid in a princely coffin for burial. They selected Meiwo for his tomb and having found an auspicious day conveyed the coffin thither.
But a terrific thunder storm came on at the time of inhumation, and the ground was flooded. The coffin was rived asunder, and the poor remains knocked out by thunders. A second time they buried the coffin, but a similar thing happened in the night. And yet a third time in another place but the earth rejected the remains. Meanwhile the thunder-fire had entirely consumed them. So it may be said justly that Heaven was exceedingly angry with Dong Zhuo. So now Li Jue and Guo Si wielded the real power of the scepter, and they were hard upon the people. They also removed the attendants from the Palace and replaced them by their own creatures, who maintained a most perfect watch over every movement of the Emperor so that he was greatly hampered and embarrassed. All appointments and demotions were made by the two rebels. For the sake of popularity they especially summoned Zhu Jun to court, made him Minister of the Inner Bureau and associated him with the government.
One day came a report that the Governor of Xiliang, Ma Teng, and the Imperial Protector of Bingzhou, Han Sui, with one hundred thousand troops, are rapidly approaching the capital with the intention of attacking the rebels in the name of the Emperor.
Now these leaders from the west had laid careful plans. Ma Teng and Han Sui had sent trusty friends to the capital to find out who would support them. They had conspired with three officials---Court Counselors Ma Yu and Chong Shao, and Imperial Commander Liu Fan---to be their inside allies and plot against the rebels. These three obtained from the Throne two secret edicts conferring the ranks of Commander Who Conquers the West on Ma Teng and Commander Who Guards the West on Han Sui. With these powers the two commanders joined forces and began their march.
The four leaders of the party in power---Li Jue, Guo Si, Fan Chou, and Zhang Ji---held a consultation with their generals as to how to meet the attack.
Adviser Jia Xu said, "Since the attackers are coming from a distance, our plan is to fortify and wait till shortage of food shall work for us. In a hundred days their supplies will be consumed, and they must retire. We can pursue and we shall capture them."
Li Meng and Wang Fang rose and said, "This plan is bad. Give us ten thousand troops, and we will put an end to both of them and offer their heads before your ensign.""To fight forthwith means defeat," said Jia Xu.
Li Meng and Wang Fang cried with one voice, "If we fail, we are willing to lose our heads. But if we win, then your head is forfeit."
Jia Xu then suggested to Li Jue and Guo Si, saying, "Seventy miles west of the capital stand the Zhouzhi Hills. The passes are narrow and difficult. Send Generals Zhang Ji and Fan Chou to occupy this point of vantage and fortify themselves so that they may support Li Meng and Wang Fang."
Li Jue and Guo Si accepted this advice. They told off fifteen thousand horse and foot, and Li Meng and Wang Fang left in high spirit. They made a camp ninety miles from Chang'an.
The force from the west arrived. Ma Teng and Han Sui led out their troops to the attack. They found their opponents Li Meng and Wang Fang in battle array.
Ma Teng and Han Sui rode to the front side by side. Pointing to the rebel leaders, the commanders abused them, crying, "Those are traitors! Who will capture them?"
Hardly were the words spoken when there came out a youth general with a clear, white complexion as jade, eyes like shooting stars, lithe of body and strong of limb. He was armed with a long spear and bestrode an excellent steed. This young leader was Ma Chao, son of Ma Teng, then seventeen years of age.
Though young he was a supreme valiance. Wang Fang, despising him on account of his youth, galloped forth to fight him. Before they had exchanged many passes Wang Fang was disabled and fell to a thrust of the young Ma Chao's spear. The victor turned to retire into the formation, but Li Meng rode after Ma Chao to avenge his fallen colleague.
Ma Chao did not see Li Meng, but his father called out "You are followed!"
Hardly had Ma Teng spoken when he saw that the pursuer was a prisoner seated on his son's steed. Now Ma Chao had known he was followed, but pretended not to see, waiting till his enemy should have come close and lifted his spear to strike. Then Ma Chao suddenly wheeled about. The spear thrust met only empty air; and as the horses passed, Ma Chao's powerful arm shot out and pulled Li Meng from the saddle. Thus Li Meng and Wang Fang's soldiers were left leaderless and fled in all directions. The army of Ma Teng and Han Sui dashed in pursuit, and a complete victory was scored. They pressed into one of the passes and made a camp. Then they decapitated Li Meng and exposed his head.
Surely enough after a couple of months the supplies of the Xiliang force were all exhausted and the leaders began to consider retreat.
Just at this juncture a household servant of Ma Yu's family betrayed his master and told of the conspiracy of the three court officials to assist the attackers. The two chiefs Li Jue and Guo Si in revenge seized the three conspirators---Ma Yu, Chong Shao, and Liu Fan---, with every member of their households, and beheaded them in the market place. The heads of the three were exposed at the front gate of the capital.
Being short of food and hearing of the destruction of their three adherents in the city, the only course for Ma Teng and Han Sui was to retreat. At once Zhang Ji went in pursuit of Ma Teng, and Fan Chou followed Han Sui. The retreating army under Ma Teng was beaten, and only by Ma Chao's desperate efforts were the pursuers driven off.
Fan Chou pursued the other army. When he had come close, Han Sui rode boldly up and addressed him, saying, "You and I, Sir, are fellow villagers. Why then behave so unfriendly?"
Fan Chou replied, "I must obey the commands of my chief."
"I am here for the service of the state. Why do you press me so hard?" said Han Sui.
At this Fan Chou turned his horse, called in his troops, and left Han Sui in peace. Unwittingly a nephew of Li Jue had been a witness of this scene; and when he saw the enemy allowed to go free, he returned and told his uncle. Angry that his enemy had escaped, Li Jue would have sent an army to wreak vengeance on his general.
But his adviser Jia Xu again came in, saying, "The people are yet unsettled, it was dangerous to provoke another war. Instead, invite Fan Chou to a banquet and, while the feast was in progress, executing him for dereliction of duty."
This seemed good to Li Jue, so the banquet was prepared. Zhang Ji and Fan Chou accepted their invitations and went cheerfully.
Toward the latter part of the entertainment a sudden change came over their host Li Jue, and he suddenly asked Fan Chou, "Why have you been intriguing with Han Sui? You are turning traitor, eh?"
The unhappy guest was taken aback. Before he could frame his words to reply, he saw the assassins rush out with swords and axes. In a moment all was over, and Fan Chou's head lay beneath the table.
Scared beyond measure, his fellow-guest Zhang Ji groveled on the floor.
"Fan Chou was a traitor," said the host, raising Zhang Ji by the arm, "and he has his deserts. You are my friend and need not fear." Li Jue gave Zhang Ji command of Fan Chou's army with which Zhang Ji returned to his headquarters garrison in Hongnong.
No one of the leaders among the leaguers dared attempt an attack on the party newly risen from Dong Zhuo's disaffection, while on the other hand Jia Xu never ceased to urge his masters to exert themselves for the welfare of the people and thus to tempt wise people to join them. And by these means the government began to prosper, and the court to reassert its authority.
However, a new trouble arose in the shape of a resurgence of Yellow Turbans in Qingzhou. They came, under numerous chieftains, in the number of hundreds of thousand and plundered any place they reached.
Minister Zhu Jun said he knew of one who could destroy this sedition, and when asked who was the man he proposed, Zhu Jun said, "You want to destroy this horde of rebels; you will fail unless you get the service of Cao Cao."
"And where is he?" asked Li Jue.
"He is Governor of Dongjun. He has a large army, and you have only to order him to act. The rising will be broken."
A messenger went post haste with a command for Cao Cao and Bao Xin, Lord of Jibei, to act together in quelling the rebellion. As soon as Cao Cao received the court command, he arranged with his colleague first to attack the rebels at Shouyang. Bao Xin made a dash right into their midst and inflicting damage wherever he could, but he was killed in a battle. Cao Cao pursued the rebels as they fled. Ten thousand surrendered. Then Cao Cao put his quondam enemies in the van. When his army reached any place, many more surrendered and joined him. After three months of these tactics, he had won over many thousands, both of soldiers and ordinary folks.
Of these new adherents the strongest and boldest were made the Qingzhou Army, and the others were sent home to their fields. In consequence of these successes Cao Cao's prestige and fame became very great and increased daily. He reported his success to Capital Chang'an and was rewarded with the title of General Who Guards the East.
At his headquarters in Yanzhou, Cao Cao welcomed wise counselors and bold warriors, and many gathered around him. Two clever persons, uncle and nephew, came at the same time, both from Yanzhou, named Xun Yu and Xun You. The uncle had once been in the service of Yuan Shao.
Cao Cao rejoiced when he had won the elder Xun to his side, saying, "Xun Yu is my Zhang Liang!"
He made Xun Yu a Marching General. The nephew Xun You was famed for his ability and had been in the court service when it was in Luoyang, but he had abandoned that career and retired to his village. Cao Cao made him a Military Instructor.
Xun Yu said to Cao Cao, "There is a certain wise person of Yanzhou somewhere, but I do not know in whose service he is.""Who is he?"
"Cheng Yu. He belongs to the eastern part of Yanzhou."
"Yes; I have heard of him," said Cao Cao.
So a messenger was sent to his native place to inquire. Cheng Yu was away in the hills engaged in study, but he came at Cao Cao's invitation.
"I shall prove unworthy of your recommendation," said Cheng Yu to his friend Xun Yu, "for I am rough and ignorant. But have you forgotten a fellow villager of yours, Guo Jia? He is really able. Why not spread the net to catch him?"
"I had nearly forgotten," said Xun Yu suddenly.
So he told Cao Cao of this man, who was at once invited.
Guo Jia, discussing the world at large with Cao Cao, recommended Liu Ye from Henan, who was a descendant of Liu Xiu the Founder of Latter Han. When Liu Ye had arrived, he was the means of inviting two more: Man Chong from Shanyang, and Lü Qian from Wucheng, who were already known to Cao Cao by reputation. These two brought to their new master's notice the name of Mao Jie from Chenliu, who also came and was given office. Then a famous leader, with his troop of some hundreds, arrived to offer service. This was Yu Jin of Taishan, an expert horseman and archer, and skilled beyond his fellows in every form of military exercise. He was made an army inspector.
Then another day Xiahou Dun brought a fellow to present to Cao Cao. "Who is he?" asked Cao Cao.
"He is from Chenliu and is named Dian Wei. He is the boldest of the bold, the strongest of the strong. He was one of Zhang Miao's people, but quarreled with his tent companions and killed some dozens of them with his fists. Then he fled to the mountains where I found him. I was out shooting and saw him follow a tiger across a stream. I persuaded him to join my troop, and I recommend him."
"I see he is no ordinary man," said Cao Cao. "He is fine and straight and looks very powerful and bold."
"He is. He killed a man once to avenge a friend and carried his head through the whole market place. Hundreds saw him, but dared not come near. The weapon he uses now is a couple of spears, each weighs a hundred and twenty pounds, and he vaults into the saddle with these under his arm."
Cao Cao bade the man give proof of his skill. So Dian Wei galloped to and fro carrying the spears. Then he saw away among the tents a huge banner swaying dangerously with the force of the wind and on the point of falling. A crowd of soldiers were vainly struggling to keep it steady. Down he leaped, shouted to the men to clear out and held the staff quite steady with one hand, keeping it perfectly upright in spite of the strong wind.
"This is old Elai again!" said Cao Cao.
He gave Dian Wei a post in the headquarters and besides made Dian Wei presents of an embroidered robe he was wearing and a swift steed with a handsome saddle.
Cao Cao encouraged able people to assist him, and he had advisers on the civil side and valiant generals in the army. He became famous throughout the East of the Pass.
Now Cao Cao's father, Cao Song, was living at Langye, whither he had gone as a place free from the turmoil of the partisan struggles. Cao Cao wished to be united with him. As a dutiful son, Cao Cao sent the Governor of Taishan, Ying Shao, to escort his father to Yanzhou. Old Cao Song read the letter with joy, and the family prepared to move. They were some forty in all, with a train of a hundred servants and many carts.
Their road led through Xuzhou Region where the Imperial Protector, Tao Qian, was a sincere and upright man who had long wished to get on good terms with Cao Cao but, hitherto, had found no means of effecting a bond of union. Hearing that the family of the great man was passing through his region, Tao Qian went to welcome them, treated them with great cordiality, feasting and entertaining them for two days; and when they left, he escorted them to his boundary. Further he sent with them one General Zhang Kai with a special escort of five hundred.
The whole party reached the county of Huafei. It was the end of summer, just turning into autumn, and at this place they were stopped by a tremendous storm of rain. The only shelter was an old temple and thither they went. The family occupied the main rooms and the escort the two side wings. The men of the escort were drenched, angry, and discontented.
Then Zhang Kai called some of his petty officers to a secret spot and said, "We are old Yellow Turbans and only submitted to Tao Qian because there was no other choice. We have never got much out of it. Now here is the Cao family with no end of gear, and we can be rich very easily. We will make a sudden onslaught tonight at the third watch and slay the whole lot. Then we shall have plenty of treasure, and we will get away to the mountains."
They all agreed. The storm continued into the night and as Cao Song sat waiting anxiously for signs of clearing, he suddenly heard a hubbub at the west end of the temple. His brother, Cao De, drawing his sword, went out to see what it was about, and Cao De was at once cut down. Cao Song seized one of the concubines by the hand, rushed with her through the passage toward the back of the temple so that they might escape. But the lady was stout and could not get through the narrow doors, so the two hid in one of the small outhouses at the side. However, they were seen and slain.
The unhappy Governor Ying Shao fled for his life to Yuan Shao. The murderers fled into the South of River Huai with their plunder after having set fire to the old temple.
Slew his hosts on his former flight;
Nemesis never turns aside,
Murdered too his family died.
Some of the escort escaped and took the evil tidings to Cao Cao. When he heard it he fell to the earth with a great cry. They raised him.
With set teeth he muttered, "Tao Qian's people have slain my father: No longer can the same sky cover us. I will sweep Xuzhou off the face of the earth. Only thus can I satisfy my vengeance."
Cao Cao left one small army of thirty thousand under Xun Yu and Cheng Yu to guard the east headquarters and the three counties of Juancheng, Fanxia, and Dongjun. Then he set forth with all the remainder to destroy Xuzhou and avenge his father. Xiahou Dun, Yu Jin, and Dian Wei were Van Leaders with Cao Cao's orders to slaughter all the inhabitants of each captured city.
Now the Governor of Jiujiang, Bian Rang, was a close friend of Tao Qian. Hearing Xuzhou was threatened, Bian Rang set out with five thousand troops to his friend's aid. Angered by this move, Cao Cao sent Xiahou Dun to stop and kill Bian Rang while still on the march.
At this time Chen Gong was in office in Dongjun, and he was also on friendly terms with Tao Qian. Hearing of Cao Cao's design to destroy the whole population, Chen Gong came in haste to see his former companion. Cao Cao, knowing Chen Gong's errand, put him off at first and would not see him. But then Cao Cao could not forget the kindness he had formerly received from Chen Gong, and presently the visitor was called to his tent.
Chen Gong said, "They say you go to avenge your father's death on Xuzhou, to destroy its people. I have come to say a word. Imperial Protector Tao Qian is humane and a good man. He is not looking out for his own advantage, careless of the means and of others. Your worthy father met his unhappy death at the hands of Zhang Kai. Tao Qian is guiltless. Still more innocent are the people, and to slay them would be an evil. I pray you think over it."
Cao Cao retorted angrily, "You once abandoned me and now you have the impudence to come to see me! Tao Qian slew my whole family, and I will tear his heart out in revenge. I swear it! You may speak for your friend and say what you will. I shall be as if I heard not."
Intercession had failed. Chen Gong sighed and took his leave.
He said, "Alas! I cannot go to Tao Qian and look upon his face."
So Chen Gong rode off to the county of Chenliu to give service to Governor Zhang Miao.
Cao Cao's army of revenge laid waste whatever place it passed through, slaying the people and desecrating their cemeteries.
When Tao Qian heard the terrible tidings, he looked up to heaven, saying, "I must be guilty of some fault before Heaven to have brought this evil upon my people!"
He called together his officials to consult.
One of them, Cao Bao, said, "Now the enemy is upon us: We cannot sit and await death with folded hands. I for one will help you to make a fight." Tao Qian reluctantly sent the army out. From a distance he saw Cao Cao's army spread abroad like frost and rushed far and wide like snow. In their midst was a large white flag and on both sides was written Vengeance.
When he had ranged his troops, Cao Cao rode out dressed in mourning white and abused Tao Qian.
But Tao Qian advanced, and from beneath his ensign he bowed low and said, "I wished to make friends with you, Illustrious Sir, and so I sent Zhang Kai to escort your family. I knew not that his rebel heart was still unchanged. The fault does not lie at my door as you must see."
"You old wretch! You killed my father, and now you dare mumble this nonsense," said Cao Cao.
And he asked who would go out and seize Tao Qian.
Xiahou Dun undertook this service and rode out. Tao Qian fled to the inner portion of his array; and as Xiahou Dun came on, Cao Bao went to meet him. But just as the two horses met, a hurricane burst over the spot, and the flying dust and pebbles threw both sides into the utmost confusion. Both drew off.
Tao Qian retired into the city and called his officers to council.
"The force against us is too strong," said he. "I will give myself up as a prisoner and let him wreak his vengeance on me. I may save the people." But a voice was heard saying, "You have long ruled here, and the people love you. Strong as the enemy are, they are not necessarily able to break down our walls, especially when defended by you and your people. I have a scheme to suggest that I think will make Cao Cao die in a place where he will not find burial."
These bold words startled the assembly, and they eagerly asked what the scheme was.
But, where danger seemed most threatening, he discovered safety's gate.
The next chapter will disclose who the speaker was.
- ↑ Yanzhou had belonged to Liu Dai, but he submitted to Cao Cao, and Cao Cao used the region as his base.
- ↑ Zhang Liang 張良, aka Zhang Zifang 張子房, the master strategist for Liu Bang. His family had served the state of Han as chief ministers during the Warring States period. It is said that he received the strategy book of Lu Wang from a mysterious old man. When he was young, Zhang Liang plotted to assasinate the First Emperor, but failed. He later rebelled against Qin. Joined Liu Bang (BC 206) to fight against Qin and then Chu. Recommended Han Xin to Liu Bang. Zhang Liang's insights had earned him the name "The Teacher of Emperor". After Liu Bang won the empire, Zhang Liang was enobled as Lord of Liu, but did not take office, instead he resigned from political life and traveled.
- ↑ Elai, whose physical strength was extraordinary, was a general of King Zhou, the last king of Shang Dynasty.
- ↑ Chen Gong is the magistrate who spared Cao Cao after Cao Cao failed to assassinate Dong Zhuo. Chen Gong and Cao Cao then traveled as fugitives to Qiao, but they parted haft way (see chapter 4).