Guan Yu And Zhang Fei Captures Two Generals.
|This was the plan Chen Deng proposed to Liu Bei, "Yuan Shao is Cao Cao's terror. He is strongly posted in an extensive territory of four regions---Jizhou, Qingzhou, Youzhou, and Bingzhou---with one million fighting soldiers and numerous able officers. Write letters and pray him rescue you."
Liu Bei replied, "But we have never had any dealings with each other, and he is unlikely to do such a thing for a person who has just destroyed his brother."
"There is someone here whose family have been on intimate terms with the Yuans for a hundred years. Yuan Shao would surely come, if he wrote."
"And who is this?"
"A man you know well and respect greatly. Can you not guess?"
"You surely mean Zheng Xuan," said Liu Bei suddenly.
"That is he," said Chen Deng smiling.
Now Zheng Xuan was a student and a man of great talent, who had long studied under the famed teacher Ma Rong, whose knowledge of the Book of Odes was universally recognized. Whenever Ma Rong lectured, he let fall a curtain behind which were a circle of singing girls. The students were assembled in front of this curtain. Zheng Xuan attended these lectures for three years and never once let his eyes wander to the curtain.
Naturally the master admired his pupil. After Zheng Xuan had finished his studies and gone home, Ma Rong praised him to the others, saying, "Only one man has penetrated the inner meaning of my instructions, and that one is Zheng Xuan."
In Zheng Xuan's household, the waiting maids were familiar with the Book of Odes. Once one of the maids opposed Zheng Xuan's wishes, so as punishment she was made to kneel in front of the steps. Another girl made fun of her, quoting from an ode:
"What are you doing there in the mire?"
The kneeling girl capped the verse from another ode, quoted she:
"That was but a simple word I said,
Such was the family in which Zheng Xuan had been born. In the reign of the Emperor Huan, he rose to the rank of Chair of the Secretariat. But when the Ten Eunuchs began to control the government, he gave up office and retired into the country to Xuzhou. Liu Bei had known him before, had consulted him on many occasions, and greatly respected him.
Liu Bei was glad that he had remembered this man, and without loss of time, in company with Chen Deng, he went to Zheng Xuan's house to ask him to draft this letter, which Zheng Xuan generously consented to do.
Sun Qian was entrusted with the task of delivery and set out at once. Yuan Shao read it and considered the matter long before speaking.
"Liu Bei destroyed my brother, and I ought not to help him, but out of consideration for the writer of this letter I must."
Thereupon Yuan Shao assembled his officers to consider an attack upon Cao Cao.
Adviser Tian Feng said, "Do not raise an army. The people are worn out, and the granaries are empty with these constant wars. Let us rather report the recent victory of Gongsun Zan to the Throne. If that does not reach the Emperor, then memorialize that Cao Cao is hindering the government. Then raise an army, occupy Liyang, assemble a Yellow River fleet in Henan, prepare weapons, send out your various divisions, and within three years you will win all round."
Adviser Shen Pei replied, "I do not agree. The military genius of our illustrious lord having overcome the hordes of the north, to dispose of Cao Cao is as simple as turning one's hand. It is not a matter of months."
Adviser Ju Shou said, "Victory is not always to the many. Cao Cao's discipline is excellent; his soldiers are brave and well drilled. He will not sit down quietly waiting to be surrounded as Gongsun Zan did. Now you abandon the intention to inform the Throne of our success, which I find a good plan, but you intend to send out an army without any valid excuse. Our lord should not do that."
Then followed adviser Guo Tu, saying, "You are wrong. No expedition against Cao Cao can lack excuse. But if our master would take the chance now offering itself of coming into his own, he will accede to the request in the letter of Zheng Xuan and ally himself with Liu Bei for the destruction of Cao Cao. This would win the approval of Heaven and the affections of the people, a double blessing."
Thus the four advisers differed and wrangled, and Yuan Shao could not decide which to follow.
The two made their obeisance, and Yuan Shao said, "A letter from Zheng Xuan the Chair has arrived, counseling me to support Liu Bei in an attack on Cao Cao. Now am I to send an army or not send an army?"
They both cried with one voice, "Send! Your armies are numerous enough and strong enough. You will destroy a traitor and help the dynasty.""Your words just express my desire," said Yuan Shao and thenceforward the discussion turned on the expedition.
First, Liu Bei's legate, Sun Qian, was sent back with Yuan Shao's consent and instructions for Liu Bei to make ready to cooperate. Second, Yuan Shao assigned Shen Pei and Peng Ji as Commanding Generals; Tian Feng, Xun Chen, and Xu You as Military Advisers; Yan Liang and Wen Chou as Generals. The army was to be composed of three hundred thousand, horse and foot in equal numbers. They were to march on Liyang.
When the arrangements were complete, Guo Tu went to his chief, saying, "In order to manifest the righteousness of your attack on Cao Cao, it would be well to issue a manifesto with a summary of his various crimes."
Yuan Shao approved of this, and Chen Lin, well known as a scholar, was entrusted to compose such a document. Chen Lin had been the Court Secretary in the reign of the late Emperor Ling. When Dong Zhuo unseated Regent Marshal He Jin, Chen Lin sought safety in Jizhou. This is the manifesto:
Of ministers that all people curse,
For greed and cruelty and lust,
Than Cao Cao you will not find a worse.
Yuan Shao read this effusion with great joy. He at once ordered copies to be posted everywhere, in towns and cities, at gates, tax stations, ferries, and passes. Copies found their way to the capital, and one got into Cao Cao's palace. That day he happened to be in bed with a bad headache. The servants took the paper to the sick man's room. He read it and was frightened from the tips of his hair to the marrow of his very bones. He broke out into a cold perspiration, and his headache vanished.
Cao Cao bounded out of bed and said to Cao Hong, "Who wrote this?"
"They say it is Chen Lin's brush," replied he.
Cao Cao laughed, "They have the literary gift; they would rather have the military too to back it up. This fellow may be a very elegant writer, but what if Yuan Shao's fighting capacity falls short?"
Cao Cao called his advisers together to consider the next move.
Kong Rong heard of the summons and went to Cao Cao, saying, "You should not fight with Yuan Shao: He is too strong. Make peace."
Xun Yu said, "He is despicable. Do not make peace."
Kong Rong replied, "His land is wide and his people strong. He has many skillful strategists like Guo Tu, Xu You, Peng Ji, and Shen Pei; loyal leaders like Tian Feng and Ju Shou; and formidable generals like Yan Liang and Wen Chou; able commanders like Gao Lan, Zhang He, Han Meng, and Chunyu Qiong. You cannot say he is despicable."
Xun Yu laughed, saying, "His army is a rabble. One general, Tian Feng, is bold but treacherous; another, Xu You, is greedy and ignorant; Shen Pei is devoted but stupid; Peng Ji is steady but useless. And these four of such different temperaments, mutually incompatible, will make for confusion rather than efficiency. The brave Yan Liang and Wen Chou are worthless and can be disposed of in the first battle; and the others such as Gao Lan, Zhang He, Han Meng, and Chunyu Qiong are poor, rough stuff. What is the use even of their hundred thousands?"
Kong Rong was silent, and Cao Cao smiled.
"They are even as Xun Yu describes," said Cao Cao.
This Liu Dai had been Imperial Protector of Yanzhou but had surrendered to Cao Cao and entered Cao Cao's service after the fall of his region. Cao Cao had given him a rank as Supernumerary Leader and now was disposed to make use of him.
Cao Cao himself took command of a large army of two hundred thousand troops for a simultaneous attack on Yuan Shao at Liyang.
Adviser Cheng Yu said, "The two Liu Dai and Wang Zhong sent against Liu Bei are unequal to their task."
"I know," said Cao Cao. "They are not meant to fight Liu Bei. It is merely a feint. They have orders not to make any real attack till I have overcome Yuan Shao. Then Liu Bei will be next."
Liu Dai and Wang Zhong went their way, and Cao Cao marched out his grand army, which came into touch with the enemy, then thirty miles distant, at Liyang. Both sides made fortified camps and waited watching each other. This went on for two months of the autumn.
There was dissension in Yuan Shao's camp. Xu You was at enmity with his colleague, Shen Pei, who was in commanding position; and the strategist Ju Shou resented the rejection of his plan. So they would not attack. Yuan Shao also could not make up his mind.
Tired of this state of inaction, Cao Cao then gave orders to his commanders: Zang Ba was to continue the pressure on Qingzhou and Xuzhou; Yu Jin and Li Dian to deploy troops along the Yellow River; Cao Ren to quarter the main force at Guandu. Then Cao Cao with an army marched back to Capital Xuchang.
The five legions sent against Liu Bei went into camp thirty-five miles from Xuzhou. The camp made an imposing display of the banners of the Prime Minister, but no attacks followed. Their spies were very busy north of the river to get news of Cao Cao's movement. On the defensive side, Liu Bei, as he was uncertain of the strength of the force against him, dared not move.
Suddenly orders came for the Cao Cao's army to attack, and then discord showed itself.
Liu Dai said, "The Prime Minister orders an attack: You advance."
Wang Zhong replied, "You were named first."
"I am the Commander-in-Chief. It is not my place to go first."
"I will go with you in joint command," said Wang Zhong.
"Let us cast lots, and he upon whom the lot falls must go," said Liu Dai.
They drew lots, and it fell to Wang Zhong, who advanced toward Xuzhou with half the force.
When Liu Bei heard of the threatened attack, he called Chen Deng to consult.
Liu Bei said, "There is dissension in Yuan Shao's camp at Liyang, so they do not advance. We do not know where Cao Cao is, but his own banner is not displayed in his Liyang's camp. Why then is it shown here?"
Chen Deng replied, "His tricks take a hundred forms. It must be that he regards the north as more important and has gone there to look after its defense. He dares not show his flag there, and I feel sure it is only meant to mislead us. He is not here."
Liu Bei then asked whether one of his brothers would find out the truth, and Zhang Fei volunteered to go.
"I fear you are unsuited for this," said Liu Bei. "You are too impetuous."
"If Cao Cao is there, I will haul him over here," said Zhang Fei.
"Let me go first and find out," said Guan Yu.
"If you go, I shall feel more at ease," said Liu Bei.
So Guan Yu set out with three thousand soldiers to reconnoiter. It was then early winter, and snow was falling from a gloomy sky. They marched regardless of the snow and came near Wang Zhong's camp with arms all ready to attack. Guan Yu summoned Wang Zhong to a parley.
"The Prime Minister is here. Why do you not surrender?" said Wang Zhong.
"Beg him to come to the front, for I would speak with him," replied Guan Yu.
"Is he likely to come out to see such as you," said Wang Zhong.
Guan Yu angrily dashed forward, and Wang Zhong set his spear to meet him. Guan Yu rode till he came close to his antagonist, then suddenly wheeled away. Wang Zhong went after him and followed up a slope. Just as they passed the crest, Guan Yu suddenly wheeled again, shouted, and came on flourishing the mighty sword. Wang Zhong could not withstand that and fled. But Guan Yu, changing the huge sword to his left hand, with his right laid hold of his victim by the straps of his breastplate, lifted him out of the saddle, and rode away to his own lines with the captive laid across the pommel of his saddle. Wang Zhong's army scattered.
The captive was sent to Xuzhou, where he was summoned into the presence of Liu Bei.
"Who are you? What office do you hold? How dare you falsely display the ensigns of the Prime Minister?" said Liu Bei.
"What do you mean by falsely when I simply obeyed my orders?" said Wang Zhong. "My master wanted to produce the impression that he was present. Really he was not there."
Liu Bei treated him kindly, giving him food and clothing, but put him in prison till his colleague could be captured.
Guan Yu said to Liu Bei, "I knew you had peaceful intentions in your mind; therefore, I captured Wang Zhong instead of slaying him."
"I was afraid of Zhang Fei's hasty and impulsive temper," said Liu Bei. "He would have slain this man. So I could not send him. There is no advantage in killing people of this sort, and while alive they are often useful in amicable settlements."
Here Zhang Fei said, "You have got this Wang Zhong; now I will go and get the other man."
"Be careful," said Liu Bei. "Liu Dai was once Imperial Protector of Yanzhou, and he was one of the nobles who met at Tiger Trap Pass to destroy Dong Zhuo. He is not to be despised."
"I do not think him worth talking about so much. I will bring him in alive just as Second Brother did this other."
"I fear that if his life be lost, it may upset our designs," said Liu Bei.
"If I kill him, I will forfeit my own life," said Zhang Fei.
So he was given three thousand soldiers and went off quickly.
The capture of his colleague made Liu Dai careful. He strengthened his defenses and kept behind them. He took no notice of the daily challenges and continual insults which began with Zhang Fei's arrival.
After some days Zhang Fei evolved a ruse. He issued orders to prepare to rush the enemy's camp at night, but he himself spent the day drinking. Pretending to be very intoxicated, he held a court-martial, and one soldier was severely flogged for a breach of discipline.
The man was left bound in the midst of the camp, Zhang Fei saying, "Wait till I am ready to start tonight: You shall be sacrificed to the flag."
At the same time he gave secret orders to the custodians to let the man escape. The man found his opportunity, crept out of camp, and went over to the enemy, to whom he betrayed the plan of a night attack. As the man bore signs of savage punishment, Liu Dai was the more disposed to credit his desertion and tale. So Liu Dai made his arrangements, putting the greater part of his troops in ambush outside his camp so that it was empty.
That night, having divided his army into three parties, Zhang Fei went to attack the camp. A few men were ordered to advance directly, dash in and set fire going. Two larger bodies of troops were to go round to the rear of the camp and attack when they saw the fire well started. At the third watch, Zhang Fei, with his veterans, went to cut off Liu Dai's road to the rear.
The thirty men told off to start a conflagration made their way into the camp and were successful. When the flames arose, the ambushing troops rushed out but only to find themselves attacked on both sides. This confused them, and as they knew nothing of the number of their assailants, they were panic stricken and scattered.
Liu Dai, with a company of footmen got clear of the fight and fled, but he went straight toward Zhang Fei. Escape was impossible, and the two men rode up each to attack the other. Zhang Fei captured his opponent, and the men surrendered. Zhang Fei sent news of this success to his brothers.
Liu Bei said, "Hitherto Zhang Fei has been rather violent, but this time he has acted wisely, and I am very pleased."
They rode out to welcome Zhang Fei.
"You said I was too rough. How now?" said Zhang Fei to his brothers.
"If I had not put you on your mettle, you would not have evolved this stratagem," said Liu Bei.
Zhang Fei laughed. Then appeared the captive Liu Dai, in bonds.
Liu Bei at once dismounted and loosed the cords, saying, "My young brother was rather hasty, but you must pardon him."
So Liu Dai was freed. He was taken into the city, his colleague was released, and both were cared for.
Liu Bei said to them, "I could not help putting Deputy Imperial Protector Che Zhou to death when he tried to kill me, but Cao Cao took it as disaffection and sent you two generals to punish me. I have received much kindness from him and certainly would not show ingratitude by killing you. I wish you to speak for me and explain when you get back."
"We are deeply grateful that you spare our lives, and we will certainly do so in gratitude for what our wives and children owe you."
Next day the two leaders and their army were allowed to depart unscathed. But before they had got three miles from the boundary, they heard a mighty shouting and there appeared Zhang Fei barring the road.
"My brother made a mistake in letting you go. He did not understand. How could he give freedom to two rebels?"
This made the two men quake with fear, but as the fierce eyed warrior with uplifted sword was bearing down upon them, they heard another man galloping up and shouting, "Do not behave so disgracefully!"
The newcomer was Guan Yu, and his appearance relieved the unhappy men of all fear.
"Why do you stop them since our brother set them free?" cried Guan Yu.
"If they are let go today, they will surely come back," cried Zhang Fei.
"Wait till they do, then you may kill them," replied Guan Yu.
The two leaders with one voice cried, "Even if the Prime Minister slay our whole clans, we will never come again. We pray you pardon us."
Said Zhang Fei, "If Cao Cao himself had come, I would have slain him. Not a breastplate should have gone back. But for this time I leave you your heads."
Clapping their hands to their heads the two men scuttled off while the two brothers returned to the city.
"Cao Cao will certainly come," said Guan Yu and Zhang Fei.
Sun Qian said, "This is not a city that can hold out for long. We should send part of our forces to Xiaopei and guard Xiapi as a corner stone of our position."
Liu Bei agreed and told off Guan Yu to guard Xiapi whither he also sent his two wives, Lady Gan and Lady Mi. The former was a native of Xiapi; the latter was Mi Zhu's younger sister.
The two released leaders, Liu Dai and Wang Zhong, hastened home to Cao Cao and explained to him that Liu Bei was not disaffected.
But their master was exceeding angry with them, crying, "You shameful traitors, what use are you?"
He roared to the guards to take them away to instant execution.
To conquer in tiger strife?
Minnows and shrimps that with dragons contend
Already have done with life.
The fate of the two leaders will be told in the next chapter.
- ↑ GJCM notes: this man was called Xun Shen in the original Brewitt-Taylor translation.
- ↑ Zhao Gao a court eunuch serving the First Emperor. Zhao Gao killed the eldest son and supported the second son for the throne after the First Emperor's death (BC 209). In the final days of Qin Dynasty, Zhao Gao killed the Second Emperor and placed the First Emperor's grandson on the throne (BC 206).
- ↑ Zhou Bo was prime minister of Han Emperor Wen (BC 179-156). After Empress Lu died, Zhou Bo cooperated with Chen Ping and Liu Zhan to purge the Lu clan. Ennobled as Lord of Jiang.