Liu Bei Pays Three Visits To The Sleeping Dragon Ridge.
|As has been said Xu Shu hastened to the capital. When Cao Cao knew Xu Shu had arrived, he sent two of his confidants, Xun Yu and Cheng Yu to receive the newcomer at the city gate, and so Xu Shu was led first to the Prime Minister's palace.
"Why did such an illustrious scholar as you bow the knee to Liu Bei?" said Cao Cao.
"I am young, and I fled to avoid the results of certain escapades. I spent some time as a wanderer and so came to Xinye where I became good friends with him. But my mother is here, and when I thought of all her affection, I could no longer remain absent."
"Now you will be able to take care of your mother at all times. And I may have the privilege of receiving your instructions."
Xu Shu then took his leave and hastened to his mother's dwelling. Weeping with emotion, he made his obeisance to her at the door of her room.
But she was greatly surprised to see him and said, "What have you come here for?"
"I was at Xinye, in the service of Liu Bei of Yuzhou, when I received your letter. I came immediately."
His mother suddenly grew very angry.
Striking the table she cried, "You shameful and degenerate son! For years you have been a vagabond in spite of all my teaching. You are a student and know the books. You must then know that loyalty and filial piety are often opposed. Did you not recognize in Cao Cao a traitor, a man who flouts his king and insults the mighty ones? Did you not see that Liu Bei was virtuous and upright as all the world knows? Moreover, he is of the House of Han, and when you were with him you were serving a fitting master. Now on the strength of a scrap of forged writing, with no attempt at any inquiry, you have left the light and plunged into darkness and earned a disgraceful reputation. Truly you are stupid. How can I bear to look upon you? You have besmirched the fair fame of your forefathers and are of no use in the world!"
The son remained bowed to the earth, not daring to lift his eyes while his mother delivered this vilifying tirade. As she said the last word, she rose suddenly and left the room. Soon after one of the servants came out to say Lady Xun had hanged herself. Xu Shu rushed in to try to save her, but was too late. A eulogy of her conduct has been written thus:
The storied page glows with your name,
From duty's path you never strayed,
The family's renown you made.
To train your son no pains you spared,
For your own body nothing cared.
You stand sublime, from us apart,
Through simple purity of heart.
Brave Liu Bei's virtues you extolled,
You blamed Cao Cao, the basely bold.
Of blazing fire you felt no fear,
You blenched not when the sword came neat,
But dreaded lest a willful son
Should dim the fame his fathers won.
Yes, Mother Xun was of one mold
With famous heroes of old,
Who never shrank from injury,
And even were content to die.
Fair meed of praise, while still alive,
Was yours, and ever will survive.
Hail! Mother Xun, your memory,
While time rolls on, shall never.
At sight of his mother dead, Xu Shu fell in a swoon and only recovered consciousness after a long time. By and bye Cao Cao heard of it and sent mourning gifts, and in due course went in person to condole and sacrifice. The body was interred on the south of the capital, and the dead woman's unhappy son kept vigil at her tomb. He steadily rejected all gifts from Cao Cao.
At that time Cao Cao was contemplating an attack on the south.
His adviser Xun Yu dissuaded him, saying, "The winter is not favorable for this campaign. My lord should await milder weather."
And Cao Cao yielded. But he began to prepare, and led the River Zhang's waters aside to form a lake, which he called the Aquamarine Lake, where he could accustom his soldiers to fight on the water.
As has been said, Liu Bei prepared gifts to offer to Zhuge Liang on his visit. One day his servants announced a stranger of extraordinary appearance, wearing a lofty headdress and a wide belt.
"Surely this is he," said Liu Bei, and, hastily arranging his dress, he went to welcome the visitor.
But the first glance showed him that it was the recluse of the mountains, Sima Hui. However, Liu Bei was glad to see him and led him into the inner apartment as he would an old friend.
There Liu Bei conducted him to the seat of honor and made his obeisance, saying, "Since leaving you that day in the mountains, I have been overwhelmed with military preparations and so have failed to visit you as courtesy demanded. Now that the brightness has descended upon me, I hope this dereliction of duty may be pardoned."
"I hear Xu Shu is here. I have come expressly to see him," replied Water Mirror bluntly.
"He has lately left for Xuchang. A messenger came with a letter telling of the imprisonment of his mother."
"Then he has just fallen into Cao Cao's trap, for that letter was a forgery. I have known his mother to be a very noble woman. Even if she were imprisoned by Cao Cao, she would not summon her son like that. Certainly the letter was a forgery. If the son did not go, the mother would be safe; if he went, she would be a dead woman."
"But how?" asked Liu Bei dismayed.
"She is a woman of the highest principles, who would be greatly mortified at the sight of her son under such conditions."
Liu Bei said, "Just as your friend was leaving, he mentioned the name of a certain Zhuge Liang. What think you of him?"
Water Mirror laughed, saying, "If Xu Shu wanted to go, he was free to go. But why did he want to provoke Zhuge Liang into coming out and showing compassion for someone else?"
"Why do you speak like that?" asked Liu Bei
He replied, "Five persons, Zhuge Liang of Nanyang, Cui Zhouping of Boling, Shi Guangyuan of Yingchuan, Meng Gongwei of Runan, and Xu Shu of Yingchuan were the closest of friends. They formed a little coterie devoted to meditation on essential refinement. Only Zhuge Liang arrived at a perception of its meaning. He used to sit among them with his arms about his knees muttering and then, pointing to his companions, he would say, 'You, gentlemen, would become governors and protectors if you were in official life.'
"When they asked him what was his ambition, he would only smile and always compared himself with the great ancient scholars Guan Zhong and Yue Yi. No one could gauge his talents."
"How comes it that Yingchuan produces so many able humans?" said Liu Bei.
"That old astrologer, Yin Kui, used to say that the stars clustered thick over the region, and so there were many wise people."
Now Guan Yu was there. When he heard Zhuge Liang so highly praised, he said, "Guan Zhong and Yue Yi are the two most famous leaders mentioned in the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods. They well overtopped the rest of humankind. Is it not a little too much to say that Zhuge Liang compares with these two?"
"In my opinion he should not be compared with these two, but rather with two others," said Water Mirror.
"Who are these two?" asked Guan Yu.
"One of them is Lü Wang, who laid the foundations of the Zhou Dynasty so firmly that it lasted eight hundred years; and the other Zhang Liang, who made the Han glorious for four centuries."
Before the surprise called forth by this startling statement had subsided, Water Mirror walked down the steps and took his leave. Liu Bei would have kept him if he could, but he was obdurate.
As he stalked proudly away, he threw up his head and said, "Though Sleeping Dragon has found his lord, he has not been born at the right time. It is a pity!"
"What a wise hermit!" was Liu Bei's comment.
Soon after the three brothers set out to find the abode of the wise man. When they drew near the Sleeping Dragon Ridge, they saw a number of peasants in a field hoeing up the weeds, and as they worked they sang:
And the sky hangs over all,
Under it humans are contending,
Some rise, but a many fall.
For those who succeed this is well,
But for those who go under rough.
There's a dozing dragon hard by,
But his sleep is not deep enough."
Liu Bei and his brothers stopped to listen to the song and, calling up one of the peasants, asked who made it.
"It was made by Master Sleeping Dragon," said the laborer.
"Then he lives hereabout. Where?"
"South of this hill there is a ridge called the Sleeping Dragon, and close by is a sparse wood. In it stands a modest cottage. That is where Master Zhuge Liang takes his repose."
Liu Bei thanked him and the party rode on. Soon they came to the ridge, most aptly named, for indeed it lay wrapped in an atmosphere of calm beauty.
A poet wrote of it thus:
There stands, clear cut against the sky,
A lofty ridge, and at its foot
A gentle stream goes gliding by.
The contour, curving up and down,
Although by resting cloud it's marred,
Arrests the eye; and here and there
The flank by waterfalls is scarred.
There, like a sleeping dragon coiled, Or phoenix hid among thick pines, You see, secure from prying eyes, A cot, reed-built on rustic lines.
The rough-joined doors, pushed by the wind, Swing idly open and disclose The greatest genius of the world Enjoying still his calm repose.
The air is full of woodland scents, Around are hedgerows trim and green, Close-growing intercrossed bamboos Replace the painted doorway screen.
But look within and books you see By every couch, near every chair; And you may guess that common persons Are very seldom welcomed there.
The hut seems far from human ken, So far one might expect to find Wild forest denizens there, trained To serve in place of humankind.
Without a hoary crane might stand As warden of the outer gate; Within a long-armed gibbon come To offer fruit upon a plate.
But enter; there refinement reigns; Brocaded silk the lutes protect, And burnished weapons on the walls The green of pines outside reflect.
For he who dwells within that hut Is talented beyond compare, Although he lives the simple life And harvest seems his only care.
He waits until the thunderous call Shall bid him wake, nor sleep again; Then will he forth and at his wordPeace over all the land shall reign.
Liu Bei soon arrived at the door of the retreat, dismounted, and knocked at the rough door of the cottage. A youth appeared and asked what he wanted.
Liu Bei replied, "I am Liu Bei, General of the Han Dynasty, Lord of Yicheng, Imperial Protector of Yuzhou, and Uncle of the Emperor. I am come to salute the Master."
"I cannot remember so many titles," said the lad.
"Then simply say that Liu Bei has come to inquire after him."
"The Master left this morning early."
"Whither has he gone?"
"His movements are very uncertain. I do not know whither he has gone."
"When will he return?"
"That also is uncertain. Perhaps in three days, perhaps in ten."
The disappointment was keen.
"Let us go back, since we cannot see him," said Zhang Fei.
"Wait a little time," said Liu Bei.
"It would be better to return," said Guan Yu, "then we might send to find out when this man had come back."
So Liu Bei agreed, first saying to the boy, "When the Master returns, tell him that Liu Bei has been here."
They rode away for some miles. Presently Liu Bei stopped and looked back at the surroundings of the little cottage in the wood.
The mountains were picturesque rather than grand, the water clear rather than profound, the plain was level rather than extensive, the woods luxuriant rather than thick. Gibbons ranged through the trees, and cranes waded in the shallow water. The pines and the bamboos vied with each other in verdure. It was a scene to linger upon.
While Liu Bei stood regarding it, he saw a figure coming down a mountain path. The man's bearing was lofty. He was handsome and dignified. He wore a comfortable-looking bonnet on his head, and a black robe hung about his figure in easy folds. He used a staff to help him down the steep path.
"Surely that is he!" said Liu Bei.
He dismounted and walked over to greet the stranger, whom he saluted deferentially, saying, "Are you not Master Sleeping Dragon, Sir?"
"Who are you, General?" said the stranger.
"I am Liu Bei."
"I am not Zhuge Liang, but I am a friend of his. My name is Cui Zhouping."
"Long have I known of you! I am very glad to see you," replied Liu Bei. "And now I pray you be seated just where we are, and let me receive your instruction."
The two men sat down in the wood on a stone, and the two brothers ranged themselves by Liu Bei's side.
Cui Zhouping began, saying, "General, for what reason do you wish to see Zhuge Liang?"
Liu Bei replied, "The empire is in confusion, and troubles gather everywhere. I want your friend to tell me how to restore order."
"You, Sir, wish to arrest the present disorder, although you are a kindly man and, from the oldest antiquity, the correction of disorder has demanded stern measures. On the day that Liu Bang first put his hand to the work and slew the wicked ruler of Qin, order began to replace disorder. Good government began with the Supreme Ancestor (BC 206), and endured two hundred years---two centuries of tranquillity. Then came Wang Mang's rebellion, and disorder took the place of order. Anon, arose Liu Xiu, who restored the Han Dynasty, and order once more prevailed. We have had two centuries of order and tranquillity, and the time of trouble and battles is due. The restoration of peace will take time. It cannot be quickly accomplished. You, Sir, wish to get Zhuge Liang to regulate times and seasons, to repair the cosmos, but I fear the task is indeed difficult, and to attempt it would be a vain expenditure of mental energy. You know well that he who goes with the favor of Heaven travels an easy road; he who goes contrary meets difficulties. One cannot escape one's lot; one cannot evade fate."
"Master," replied Liu Bei, "your insight is indeed deep, and your words of wide meaning. But I am a scion of the House of Han and must help it. Dare I talk of the inevitable and trust to fate?"
Cui Zhouping replied, "A simple denizen of the mountain wilds is unfitted to discuss the affairs of empire. But you bade me speak and I have spoken---perhaps somewhat madly."
"Master, I am grateful for your instruction. But know you whither Zhuge Liang has gone?"
"I also came to see him, and I know not where he is," said Cui Zhouping.
"If I asked you, Master, to accompany me to my poor bit of territory, would you come?"
"I am too dilatory, too fond of leisure and ease, and no longer have any ambitions. But I will see you another time."
And with these words Cui Zhouping saluted and left. The three brothers also mounted and started homeward.
Presently Zhang Fei said, "We have not found Zhuge Liang, and we have had to listen to the wild ravings of this so-called scholar. There is the whole result of this journey."
"His words were those of a deep thinker," replied Liu Bei.
Some days after the return to Xinye, Liu Bei sent to find out whether Zhuge Liang had returned, and the messenger came back saying that he had. Wherefore Liu Bei prepared for another visit.
Again Zhang Fei showed his irritation by remarking, "Why must you go hunting after this villager? Send and tell him to come."
"Silence!" said Liu Bei, "The Teacher Mencius said, 'To try to see the sage without going his way is like barring a door you wish to enter.' Zhuge Liang is the greatest sage of the day. How can I summon him?"
So Liu Bei rode away to make his visit, his two brothers with him as before. It was winter and exceedingly cold. Floating clouds covered the whole sky. Before they had gone far, a bitter wind began to blow in their faces, and the snow began to fly. Soon the mountains were of jade and the trees of silver.
"It is very cold and the earth is frozen hard, no fighting is possible now," said Zhang Fei. "Yet we are going all this way to get advice which will be useless to us. Where is the sense of it? Let us rather get back to Xinye out of the cold."
Liu Bei replied, "I am set upon proving my zeal to Zhuge Liang. But if you, my brother, do not like the cold, you can return."
"I do not fear death: Do you think I care for the cold? But I do care about wasting my brother's energies," said Zhang Fei.
"Say no more," said Liu Bei, and they traveled on.
When they drew near the little wood, they heard singing in a roadside inn and stopped to listen. This was the song:
This man has made no name;
Alas! The day is breaking late
That is to show his fame.
O friends you know the Lu Wang's tale:
The aged man constrained to leave
His cottage by the sea,
To follow in a prince's train
His counselor to be.
Eight hundred feudal chieftains met
Who came with one accord;
The happy omen, that white fish,
That leapt the boat aboard;
The gory field in distant wilds.
Whence flowed a crimson tide,
And him acknowledged chief in war
Whose virtues none denied;
That Zhang Liang, a Gaoyang rustic,
Fond of wine, who left, his native place
And went to serve so faithfully
The man of handsome face;
And one who spoke of ruling chiefs
In tones so bold and free,
But sitting at the festive board
Was full of courtesy;
And one, that was he who laid in dust
Walled cities near four score
But humans of doughty deeds like these
On earth are seen no more.
Now had these humans not found their lord
Would they be known to fame?
Yet having found, they served him well
And so achieved a name.
The song ended, the singer's companion tapping the table sang:
Who drew his shining sword,
Cleansed all the land within the seas
And made himself its lord.
In time his son succeeded him,
And so from son to son
The lordship passed, held firm until
Four hundred years had run.
Then dawned a day of weaklier sons,
The fiery virtue failed,
Then ministers betrayed their trust,
Court intrigues vile prevailed.
The omens came; a serpent
Coiled on the dragon throne,
While in the hall of audience
Unholy haloes shone.
Now bandits swarm in all the land
And noble strives with chief,
The common people, sore perplexed,
Can nowhere find relief.
Let's drown our sorrows in the cup,
Be happy while we may,
Let those who wish run after fame
That is to last for aye.
The two men laughed loud and clapped their hands as the second singer ceased. Liu Bei thought full surely the longed for sage was there, so he dismounted and entered the inn. He saw the two merry-makers sitting opposite each other at a table. One was pale with a long beard; the other had a strikingly refined face.
Liu Bei saluted them and said, "Which of you is Master Sleeping Dragon?"
"Who are you, Sir?" asked the long-bearded one. "What business have you with Sleeping Dragon?"
"I am Liu Bei. I want to inquire of him on how to restore tranquillity to the world."
"Well, neither of us is your man, but we are friends of his. My name is Shi Guangyuan and my friend here is Meng Gongwei."
"I know you both by reputation," said Liu Bei gladly. "I am indeed fortunate to meet you in this haphazard way. Will you not come to Sleeping Dragon's retreat and talk for a time? I have horses here for you."
"We idle folks of the wilds know nothing of tranquilizing states. Please do not trouble to ask. Pray mount again and continue searching Sleeping Dragon."
So he remounted and went his way. He reached the little cottage, dismounted, and tapped at the door. The same lad answered his knock, and he asked whether the Master had returned.
"He is in his room reading," said the boy.
Joyful indeed was Liu Bei as he followed the lad in. In front of the middle door he saw written this pair of scrolls:
By repose affect the distant.
As Liu Bei was looking at this couplet, he heard someone singing in a subdued voice and stopped by the door to peep in. He saw a young man close to a charcoal brazier, hugging his knees while he sang:
And only will perch on a magnolia tree.
The scholar is hidden, O!
Till his lord appear he can patient be.
He tills his fields, O!
He is well-content and loves his home,
He awaits his day, O!
His books and his lute to leave and roam.
As the song ended Liu Bei advanced and saluted, saying, "Master, long have I yearned for you, but have found it impossible to salute you. Lately Water Mirror spoke of you and I hastened to your dwelling, only to come away disappointed. This time I have braved the elements and come again and my reward is here. I see your face, and I am indeed fortunate."
The young man hastily returned the salute and said, "General, you must be that Liu Bei of Yuzhou who wishes to see my brother."
"Then, Master, you are not Sleeping Dragon!" said Liu Bei, starting back.
"Is your brother at home?"
"Only yesterday he arranged to go a jaunt with Cui Zhouping."
"Whither have they gone?"
"Who can say? They may take a boat and sail away among the lakes, or go to gossip with the priests in some remote mountain temple, or wander off to visit a friend in some far away village, or be sitting in some cave with a lute or a chessboard. Their goings and comings are uncertain and nobody can guess at them."
"What very poor luck have I! Twice have I failed to meet the great sage."
"Pray sit a few moments, and let me offer you some tea."
"Brother, since the master is not here, I pray you remount and go," said Zhang Fei.
"Since I am here, why not a little talk before we go home again?" said Liu Bei.
Then turning to his host he continued, "Can you tell me if your worthy brother is skilled in strategy and studies works on war?"
"I do not know."
Grumbled Zhang Fei, "The wind and snow are getting worse. We ought to go back."
Liu Bei turned on him angrily and told him to stop.
Zhuge Jun said, "Since my brother is absent, I will not presume to detain you longer. I will return your call soon."
"Please do not take that trouble. In a few days I will come again. But if I could borrow paper and ink, I would leave a note to show your worthy brother that I am zealous and earnest."
Zhuge Jun produced the "four treasures" of the scholar, and Liu Bei, thawing out the frozen brush between his lips, spread the sheet of delicate note-paper and wrote:
The letter written and given to Zhuge Jun, Liu Bei took his leave, exceedingly disappointed at this second failure.
As he was mounting, he saw the serving lad waving his hand outside the hedge and heard him call out, "The old Master is coming!"
Liu Bei looked and then saw a figure seated on a donkey leisurely jogging along over a bridge.
The rider of the donkey wore a cap with long flaps down to his shoulders, and his body was wrapped in a fox fur robe. A youth followed him bearing a jar of wine. As he came through the snow he hummed a song:
The north wind comes with icy blast,
Light snowflakes whirl down until
A white pall covers dale and hill.
Perhaps above the topmost sky
White dragons strive for mastery,
The armor scales from their forms riven
Are scattered over the world wind-driven.
Amid the storm there jogs along
A simple wight who croons a song.
'O poor plum trees, the gale doth tear
Your blossoms off and leave you bare.'"
"Here at last is Sleeping Dragon," thought Liu Bei, hastily slipping out of the saddle.
He saluted the donkey rider as he neared and said, "Master, it is hard to make way against this cold wind. I and my companions have been waiting long."
The rider got off his donkey and returned the bow, while Zhuge Jun from behind said, "This is not my brother. It is his father-in-law Huang Chenyan."
Liu Bei said, "I chanced to hear the song you were singing. It is very beautiful."
Huang Chenyan replied, "It is a little poem I read in my son in-law's house, and I recalled it as I crossed the bridge and saw the plum trees in the hedge. And so it happened to catch your ear, Noble Sir."
"Have you seen your son-in-law lately?" asked Liu Bei.
"That is just what I have come to do now."
At this Liu Bei bade him farewell and went on his way. The storm was very grievous to bear, but worse than the storm was the grief in his heart as he looked back at Sleeping Dragon Ridge.
A prince rode forth the sage to find;
Alas! His journey was in vain,
And sadly turned he home again.
The stream stood still beneath the bridge
A sheet of ice draped rock and ridge,
His steed benumbed with biting cold
But crawled as he were stiff and old.
The snowflakes on the rider's head
Were like pear-blossoms newly shed,
Or like the willow-catkins light
They brushed his cheek in headlong flight.
He stayed his steed, he looked around,
The snow lay thick on tree and mound,
The Sleeping Dragon Ridge lay white
A hill of silver, glistening bright.
After the return to Xinye, the time slipped away till spring was near. Then Liu Bei cast lots to find the propitious day for another journey in search of Zhuge Liang. The day being selected, he fasted for three days and then changed his dress ready for the visit. His two brothers viewed the preparations with disapproval and presently made up their minds to remonstrate.
A warrior despises humility.
The next chapter will tell what they said.