With One Letter, Sun Quan Repulses Cao Cao.
|In spite of the persuasion of Pang Tong and Fa Zheng, Liu Bei steadily refused to sanction the assassination of his host at the banquet, Imperial Protector Liu Zhang, even if thereby he was to gain possession of West River Land.
The next day there was another banquet, this time in the city of Fucheng, whereat host and guest unbosomed themselves freely to each other and became exceedingly friendly and affectionate.
All were mellow with wine, and Pang Tong, talking with Fa Zheng, said, "Since our master will have nothing to do with our scheme, we had better set Wei Yan's sword-play to work and take advantage of the confusion to kill Liu Zhang."
Wei Yan came in shortly afterward, with his sword drawn, and said, "There being no other entertainment at this banquet, may I show you a little fencing to amuse you?"
Thereupon Pang Tong called up some of the armed guards and ranged them along the lower part of the hall till Wei Yan should fall on.
At these preparations the officers of Liu Zhang stared with questioning eyes toward the chief seats at the upper end.
Then one of them, Zhang Ren, drew his sword, saying, "An opponent is needed to make fencing a success, so he and I will display our skill at the same time."
So they began. Presently, at a glance from Wei Yan, Liu Feng came up and took position at his side.
At once three of the commanders of the west followed suit, saying, "And we three will come in too. It may add to your amusement and help to raise a laugh."
But to Liu Bei matters began to take on a serious look. Drawing a sword of a servant, he stood out in the banquet hall and cried, "We brothers have perhaps honored our meeting with a little too much wine. There is nothing to say against that, but this is no Hongmen Banquet, where murder was done. Put up your swords, or I will slay you!"
"Why wear swords at all at a meeting of two brothers?" cried Liu Zhang, at the same time telling his servants to surround his officers and take away their weapons.
Disarmed, they sulkily withdrew.
Then Liu Bei called all the generals of Liu Zhang to the upper end of the banquet hall, gave them wine, and said, "You need have no doubts. We two brothers, of the same bone and blood, have talked over the great design, and we are one in purpose."
The officers bowed and retired.
Liu Zhang took his guest by the hand, saying, "Brother, I shall never forget your kindness."
They sat drinking till late, both feeling very happy. When at length Liu Bei reached his camp, he blamed his strategist for having caused the confusion.
"Why did you endeavor to force me into committing a great wrong?" said Liu Bei. "There must be no repetition of this."
Pang Tong retired, sighing.
When Liu Zhang reached his own camp, his leaders waited on him and said, "Sir, you saw the real meaning of that occurrence at the banquet, we suppose. We think it prudent for you to retire at once into the city."
"My brother is different from ordinary humans," replied Liu Zhang.
"He may not incline toward murder himself, but those about him have but one desire---that is to exploit this land of ours to their own advantage."
"Do not try to sow dissension between us and make us quarrel," said their chief.
And Liu Zhang took no heed of their remonstrance. One day, when he and Liu Bei were enjoying together relaxation from cares of state, the news came that Zhang Lu was about to invade the West River Land at the Jiameng Pass. Thereupon the Imperial Protector begged Liu Bei to go and defend it. Liu Bei consented and left immediately with his own especial band.
At once Liu Zhang's officers took advantage of the guest's departure to urge the Imperial Protector to place his own trusty generals in command at various strategic points, so as to guard against any attempts of the visitors to seize the land. At first Liu Zhang was unwilling and refused, but as they prayed him most earnestly to do this he yielded and consented to take some steps to safeguard himself. He sent Yang Huai, Commander of Baishui, and Gao Pei to garrison River Fu Pass.
So Liu Zhang returned to Chengdu and his guest, Liu Bei, went away to the point where invasion threatened. Arrived there, Liu Bei soon won the hearts of the people by the strict discipline he maintained over his army and by his gracious manner.
News of these doings in the west duly reached the south, and Sun Quan summoned his counselors as to his countermove.
Then Gu Yong spoke, saying, "I have an infallible plan to propose. Liu Bei and his army are now far away and separated from us by difficult country. Therefore he cannot return quickly, and my advice is to occupy the passes so that he cannot get through. Then send all your force against Jingzhou and Xiangyang, and they will surely fall to you."
"The plan seems excellent," said Sun Quan.
But just then a voice was heard from behind the screen, crying, "You may just put to death the man who proposed that scheme for trying to compass the death of my daughter."
Everyone started with surprise. It was the Dowager Marchioness' voice.
Further, Lady Wu looked very angry as she entered, saying, "What is to become of my only daughter, who is the wife of Liu Bei?"
She turned her wrathful eyes to Sun Quan and said, "You were heir to your father and brother and obtained possession of all these lands without the least effort. Yet you are dissatisfied and would forget the claims of your own flesh and blood and sacrifice your sister for the sake of adding a little to your lands."
"No, no!" murmured Sun Quan, ashamed. "I would never think of going contrary to my mother's wishes and orders."
He abruptly dismissed the assembly, and when they had gone the old lady, still nursing her wrath, retired to her own apartments.
Left alone beneath the portico, Sun Quan sighed sadly.
"This chance missed! When will Jingzhou be mine?" thought he.
While still deep in reverie, Zhang Zhao came up, saying, "What grieves my lord?"
"No great matter; only this last failure to gain my ends."
"The difficulty may be easily removed," said Zhang Zhao. "Choose some trusty man and charge him with a secret letter to Lady Sun Ren saying that her mother is dangerously ill. Give him five hundred men as escort and tell him to make his way privily into Jingzhou City and deliver the letter. Hearing her mother wants her, she will rush home at once, and she might bring with her the only son of Liu Bei. Liu Bei will be glad enough to exchange Jingzhou for his son. If he will not, you can still send the army."
"That sounds like a good plan," said Sun Quan. "Further, I have the man to carry it out successfully. He is that Zhou Shan, who was a bold one. He used to accompany my brother in his youth. He is the man to go."
"Keep it a secret, then," said Zhang Zhao, "and let Zhou Shan start quickly."
It was decided that Zhou Shan should take with him about five hundred soldiers disguised as ordinary traders. He had five vessels and distributed his men among them, while weapons were hidden in the holds. Travel documents were forged to look like veritable authority in case they were asked.
Zhou Shan set out along the river route for the city of Jingzhou and was not long on the way. He anchored his ships under the bank, landed, and went into the city to the residence, where he bade the doorkeepers announce him. He was admitted and led into the presence of Lady Sun and presently gave her the secret letter. When she read that her mother was in danger of death, she began to weep bitterly and questioned the messenger closely.
Zhou Shan invented a story, saying, "The Dowager Marchioness is really fretting for a sight of yours. If you do not go quickly, it will be too late. The Dowager Marchioness also wants to see little Liu Shan once before she dies."
Lady Sun replied, "You know that the Imperial Uncle is far away on military service, and I ought to inform the chief of the army before returning home."
"But what will you do if the chief says he must inform your husband and await his consent?" said Zhou Shan.
"If I went without asking permission---but I fear that is impossible."
"My ships are all ready in the river, and you have only to drive through the city," said Zhou Shan.
Naturally the news of her mother's illness greatly disturbed the young wife. In a short time her carriage was ready, and she mounted, taking Liu Shan with her. She took an escort of thirty guards, all armed, and was soon at the river side and had embarked before the palace people could report what she was doing.
But just as the ships were starting, a voice was heard, shouting, "Do not start yet! Let me bid my lady farewell."
The voice was Zhao Yun's. He had just returned from an inspection trip, and they had at once told him of Lady Sun's sudden departure. As soon as he had recovered from his surprise, he dashed down to the river bank like a whirlwind, with only half a dozen followers. He arrived only just in time. The boat was starting, and Zhou Shan stood in the prow, a long spear in his hand.
"Who are you that you dare hinder the movements of your mistress?" cried Zhou Shan.
Zhou Shan bade his soldiers cast off and get under way, and also to prepare their weapons to fight. The ship moved off with a fair wind and a strong current beneath her keel.
But Zhao Yun followed along the bank.
"My lady may go or not as she pleases," cried he, "but I have one word to say to her."
Zhou Shan turned a deaf ear and only urged his soldiers to get greater speed on the ship. Zhao Yun followed down the bank for some three or more miles. Then he saw a fishing boat made fast to the bank. He at once dismounted, cast off the rope, took his spear, and leaped into the boat. Then he made the two men row him toward the vessel in which sat Lady Sun.
As he approached, the soldiers of the South Land threatened him with their spears. Thereupon he threw his spear into the bottom of the boat, drew the glittering steel blade he wore, dashed aside the opposing spears, and leaped upon the larger vessel. The guards of the South Land fell back in surprise and fear, and Zhao Yun went down into the body of the ship. There sat Lady Sun with little Liu Shan in her arms.
"Why this rude intrusion?" said she angrily.
The warrior sheathed his sword and said humbly, "Whither may my mistress be going, and why goes she privily?"
"My mother is ill and on the point of death. I had no time to inform any person of my departure," said Lady Sun.
"But why take the young master if you are going merely to see a sick person?" said Zhao Yun.
"Liu Shan is my son, and I would not leave him behind to be neglected."
"Mistress, you have acted wrongly. My lord has but this one son of his body, and I rescued the child lord from among many thousand troops of Cao Cao in the great battle at Long Slope Bridge in Dangyang. There is no reason for you to take him away."
Lady Sun took refuge in anger. "You leave my family affairs alone, you common soldier!" cried she.
"My lady, if you will go, then go, but leave the young master behind."
"You are a rebel, jumping on board the ship like that!" cried Lady Sun.
"If you will not leave the young lord behind, I refuse to let you go, come what may," said Zhao Yun.
Lady Sun called in her maids to seize him, but he just pushed them off. Then he took the boy from her arms and ran out to the prow of the ship. He tried to get the vessel in to the bank, but no one would aid him, and he thought it would be wrong to begin to slay indiscriminately. He knew not what to do in such a quandary. And Lady Sun was screaming to her maids to take the boy away from him. But he kept too firm a grip on the child, and the good sword in his other hand kept everyone at bay.
Zhou Shan was at the helm, giving all his attention to getting the ship out into the current and away down the river. He steered for the middle of the stream, where the wind was strong. Zhao Yun, one hand taken up with holding the boy, was quite unable to get the vessel in toward the shore.
Just as things looked most desperate, Zhao Yun saw a string of ships filing out from a creek lower down the stream, flags fluttering and drums beating. He thought that certainly all was over and he was about to fall a victim to a stratagem of the South Land, when he noticed a mighty warrior standing in the prow of the leading craft. He was armed with a long spear, and it was Zhang Fei.
Zhang Fei also shouted, "Sister-in-law! Leave the child lord."
Zhang Fei had been out scouting when he heard the news of his sister-in-law's sudden departure, and he at once made for the River Yu with the intention of intercepting her flight. He had arrived just in the nick of time to cut off the ships of the South Land. Very soon, sword in hand, he had boarded the vessel. As Zhang Fei came on board, Zhou Shan drew his sword and advanced toward him, but one sweep of Zhang Fei's blade laid him on the deck dead. And the grim warrior hung his head at the feet of Lady Sun.
"Why this very unseemly behavior?" cried Lady Sun, now quite frightened.
"Sister," said Zhang Fei, "you thought very little of my brother when you set out on this mad journey. That was behaving rudely."
"My mother is very ill. It is a matter of life and death," cried she. "If I had waited for your brother's permission to go, I should have been too late. If you do not let me go now, I will throw myself into the river."
Zhao Yun and Zhang Fei took counsel together. They said to each other, "It is hardly the correct thing for servants to force their lord's wife into committing suicide. Suppose we keep the child and let the vessel go."
Then they said, "O Lady, we cannot allow the wife of our exalted brother to die a death of shame, and so we will take our leave. We trust you will not forget our brother and that you will return quickly."
Taking the child with them, they left the vessel, and the five ships of the South Land continued their voyage down stream. One poet has praised the conduct of Zhao Yun:
What time his mother died;
Again like service he performs,
Upon the Great River's tide.
The soldiers of Wu all in the ship,
Were stricken down with fear
Search all the world, you never find
Of bold Zhao Yun the peer.
Another has eulogized Zhang Fei:
With rage Zhang Fei boiled,
Like wild beast roared,
And warriors recoiled.
From danger now
His prince is saved.
On history's page
His name is graved.
Quite satisfied with their success, the two warriors sailed homeward. Before they had gone far, they met Zhuge Liang with a squadron of ships. He was very pleased to find they had recovered the child, and they three joyfully returned to Jingzhou, whence an account of the whole adventure was written to Liu Bei.
When Lady Sun reached her home, she related the story of the death of Zhou Shan and the carrying off of the child. Naturally Sun Quan was very wrath at the miscarriage of his scheme, and he resolved to attack Jingzhou in revenge for his messenger's murder.
"Now that my sister has returned home, there is no longer any family tie to prevent the attack, and I will take full measure of revenge for the death of my general," said Sun Quan.
So he called the council to consider the expedition.
But before they could decide upon any plan, their deliberations were suddenly cut short by the news that Cao Cao was coming down upon the South Land with four hundred thousand troops, burning to avenge his defeat at the Red Cliffs. All thoughts now turned toward repelling his attack.
Adviser Zhang Hong, who had retired to his home ill, had just died, and his testament was sent to his lord to read. Therein he advised Sun Quan:
"My lord, the seat of government should be removed to the old land of Moling, where the scenery seems to bear the impress of kingly dignity, befitting a person who cherishes the ambition of founding an enduring dynasty."
Sun Quan read this document out to his councilors at this meeting, not without many tears in memory of the writer.
He told them, saying, "Zhang Hong was sincere till his death. I cannot withstand his last advice!"
And Sun Quan at once gave orders to build a walled city named Shidou in Moling, and changed the name of the land to Jianye. Henceforth he intended to make his capital there.
As a protection against Cao Cao, Admiral Lü Meng proposed building a rampart at River Ruxu.
Some other officers opposed this, saying, "When the enemy appears, you will have to land in order to attack him, and after that you will return to your ships. What is the use of a rampart?"
Lü Meng replied, "One must prepare against possibilities. Soldiers vary in keenness and sometimes lose battles. If an urgent occasion arises, the soldiers may be unable to reach the water's edge, and how then are they to embark? They will then need shelter."
Sun Quan said, "Provision against eventualities, such as he proposes, is good. Against a distant risk provide, and sorrow walks not by your side."
So they sent soldiers to build ramparts at River Ruxu, and as the work ceased not day or night the wall was soon completed.
In the capital Cao Cao's influence and glory waxed daily greater. High Counselor Dong Zhao proposed that the title of duke should be conferred upon him.
Dong Zhao said, "In all history, no one has rendered such services as you have, O Prime Minister, not even Duke of Zhou or Lü Wang. These thirty years you have exposed yourself to all risks, been combed by the wind and bathed by the rain, and you have swept evil from the empire, succored the distressed, and restored the Hans. Who of all statesmen can rank with you? It would be fitting for you to become the Duke of Wei and receive the Nine Dignities, that your merit and virtue be known to all."
Now the Nine Dignities, or signs of honor, were:
However, all the courtiers were not of one mind.
Said High Adviser Xun Yu, "This should not be done, O Prime Minister. You raised a force by an appeal to the innate sense of righteousness of the people, and with that force you restored the Han authority. Now you should remain loyal and humble. The virtuous person loves people with a virtuous love and would not act in this way."
Cao Cao did not take this opposition kindly.
Dong Zhao said, "How can we disappoint the hopes of many because of the words of one?"
So a memorial went to the Throne, and Cao Cao's ambitions and desires were gratified with the title of Duke of Wei. The Nine Dignities were added."I did not think to see this day!" said Xun Yu, sighing.
This remark was repeated to the newly created Duke and angered him. He took it to mean that Xun Yu would no longer aid him or favor his designs.
In the winter of the seventeenth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 212), Cao Cao decided to send an army to conquer the South Land, and he ordered Xun Yu to go with it. Xun Yu understood from this that Cao Cao wished his death, so he declined the appointment on the plea of illness. While Xun Yu was at home, he received one day a box such as one sent with presents of dainties. It was addressed in Cao Cao's own handwriting. Opening it, Xun Yu found therein nothing. He understood; so he took poison and died. He was fifty-two years of age.
That was sad that at the door of power he tripped.
Posterity is wrong to class him with the noble Zhang Liang,
For, nearing death, he dared not face his lord of Han.
News of Xun Yu's death came to Cao Cao in the form of the ordinary letter of mourning by his son, Xun Yun. Then Cao Cao was sorry and gave orders for an imposing funeral. He also obtained for the dead man the posthumous title of lordship.
The northern army reached River Ruxu, whence Cao Cao sent a reconnaissance of thirty thousand troops led by Cao Hong down to the river.
Soon Cao Hong reported: "The enemy's fleet blankets the river, but no sign of movements."
Feeling suspicious, Cao Cao led his army to the river to watch the enemy and deploy his troops. On the river he saw displayed a fleet of ships all arranged in admirable order, the divisions being marked by distinctive flags. The equipment glittered in the sunlight. In the center was a large ship whereon was a huge umbrella, and beneath the shade sat Sun Quan in the midst of his staff.
"That is the sort of son to have," said Cao Cao in admiration, "not such piglets and puppies as Liu Biao's."
Suddenly, at the explosion of a bomb, the ships got under way and came flying toward him, while a force moved out of River Ruxu. Cao Cao's soldiers at once retired in great haste. A company led by the green-eyed, purple-bearded Sun Quan made straight for Cao Cao, who hastily retreated. But Cao Cao was sore pressed by other Sun Quan's commanders, Han Dang and Zhou Tai, and it had gone hard with him but that Xu Chu came to his rescue and fought with the troops of the South Land till his master could escape. Xu Chu fought some score bouts before he could draw off and return to his own aide.
When Cao Cao returned to camp, he conferred rich rewards upon his henchman who had saved him, and he reprimanded his other leaders for their too hasty retirement.
"You blunt the keen spirits of the army. And if you do such a thing again, I will put you to death," said Cao Cao.
About midnight that night there arose great commotion at the gates of the camp. When Cao Cao went outside, he found that the enemy had crept up secretly and started a conflagration. The soldiers of the South Land forced their way into the stockade and went hither and thither, slaying till morning broke. Then Cao Cao and his army retired.
Cao Cao was greatly distressed by this misfortune. He was sitting in his tent poring over the Book of War when Cheng Yu came in to see him.
"O Prime Minister," said Cheng Yu, "you who know so thoroughly the art of war, have you forgotten the maxim to strike quickly? You had your army ready, but you postponed action and allowed your enemies to build the ramparts at River Ruxu. Now you will find it hard to capture the place. It would be better now to retreat on the capital and await a more propitious moment."
Cao Cao listened, but said nothing. After a time Cheng Yu went away. Cao Cao remained seated in his tent, leaning on a small table by his side. And he fell asleep. Suddenly he heard a sound as of a rushing stream or galloping squadrons of horse, and out of the river in front of him arose a huge red sun, so bright that his eyes were dazzled by it. Looking up at the sky, he saw two other suns as if reflections of this one. And as he wondered, the first sun suddenly flew up and then dropped among the hills in front of his camp with a roar like thunder.
This woke him. He was in his tent and had been dreaming, and the sentry at his tent door was just reporting noon.
Soon he had his horse saddled and rode out, with a small escort of fifty riders, toward the spot he had seen in his dream. As he stood gazing around him, an army of horse came along with Sun Quan at their head. Sun Quan wore a glittering helmet and was clad in silver armor.
Seeing his chief enemy, Sun Quan showed no sign of haste or dismay, but reined in his steed on a rise.
Pointing with his whip at Cao Cao, Sun Quan said, "Behold the all-powerful minister who holds the Middle Land in the hollow of his hand! He has reached the acme of wealth and good fortune and yet he is not content, but must come to encroach upon our South Land."
Cao Cao replied, "You are disobedient, and the command of the Emperor is to exterminate you!"
"What words!" cried Sun Quan with a laugh. "Are you not ashamed? Everyone knows that you control every act of the Emperor and you tyrannize over the nobles. I am no rebel against the dynasty, but I do desire to capture you and reform the government."
Cao Cao grew angry at this speech and bade his generals go over and take Sun Quan prisoner. But before they could obey, Han Dang and Zhou Tai, Chen Wu and Pan Zhang led out two armies of soldiers from left and right at the sound of beating drums, and arrows and crossbow bolts began to fall like raindrops around Cao Cao. He turned to retire, and the archers and bowmen followed him. However, presently appeared Xu Chu, with the Tiger Guards, who rescued Cao Cao and took him back to his camp. The army of the South Land had scored a victory, and they marched back to River Ruxu.
Alone in his camp, Cao Cao thought, "This Sun Quan certainly is no ordinary man, and by the presage of the sun in my dream he will become an emperor."
He began to think it would be well to retire from the expedition, only that he feared the troops of the South Land would exult over him. So the two armies remained facing each other a whole month, fighting occasional skirmishes and battles in which victory fell sometimes to the one and sometimes to the other.
And so it went on till the new year, and the spring rains filled the watercourses to overflowing, and the soldiers were wading in deep mud. Their sufferings were extreme, and Cao Cao became sad at heart. At the council board his officers were divided, some being for retirement and others anxious to hold on till the warm weather. Their chief could not make up his mind.
Then there came a messenger from the South Land bearing a letter of Sun Quan, which read:
"You and I, O Prime Minister, are both servants of Han, but you are careless for the tranquillity of the people and think only of battle, thereby causing great suffering. Is this conduct worthy of a kindly person?
"But spring with its heavy rains is at hand, and you would be wise to retire while you can. If not, you may expect a repetition of the misfortune at the Red Cliffs. It would be well to consider this."
And on the back of the letter was a note in a line running thus: "No tranquillity for me while you live!"
Cao Cao read the letter and laughed.
"Sun Quan speaks the truth!" said he.
He rewarded the messenger and issued orders to retreat. The Governor of Lujiang, Zhu Guang, was left to guard Huancheng. The army marched for the capital.
Sun Quan returned to Jianye.
At a meeting of his advisers Sun Quan said, "Cao Cao has marched north, Liu Bei is at Jiameng Pass. Why should I not lead the army that has just repulsed the northern forces to take Jingzhou?"
Thereupon Zhang Zhao offered another plan, saying, "Do not move a soldier. I know how to keep Liu Bei from returning to Jingzhou."
Sun Quan's thoughts then southward stray.
The scheme proposed by Zhang Zhao will be unfolded in the next chapter.
- ↑ Hongmen Banquet At that time Liu Bang, Governor of Pei, and Xiang Yu, King of West Chu, were fighting Qin under the Chu banner. Liu Bang was the first commander who entered Qin's capital, Xianyang. The loss of this honor enraged Xiang Yu, and he was set to attack Liu Bang's force. But his uncle Xiang Ba wanted to mediate the situation, and Xiang Ba invited Liu Bang to visit Xiang Yu's camp in Hongmen. During a banquet at Hongmen, Xiang Yu's adviser Fan Zeng ordered Xiang Chang to perform a sword-dance and take the chance to kill Liu Bang. However, as Xiang Chang closed in Liu Bang, Xiang Ba rose to perform another sword-dance and fend off the attack. Just then Liu Bang's general Fan Kuai bursted in, armed and angry-looking. Fan Kuai proclaimed his lord's achievements and denounced the murder plot. In the confusion, Liu Bang slipped away and rushed back to his camp.
- ↑ Jianye since then has been a southern capital of China for successive dynasties. A beautiful place, Jianye was considered a treasure by the emperors of Yuan Dynasty (Mongol rule). Located near Shanghai where the Great River meets the East Sea, Jianye's modern name is Nanjing.
- ↑ Duke of Zhou was brother of King Wu, who was the founder of Zhou Dynasty. After King Wu's death, the Duke of Zhou served his young son as regent. The Duke of Zhou completely ended the Shang domination, and he helped establish the Zhou administrative framework, which served as a model for future Chinese dynasties. Zhou Dynasty lasted for 800 years (BC 1050-221).
- ↑ Lü Wang was a master strategist, founding minister of Zhou Dynasty, counselor to King Wen. Before joining King Wen, Lü Wang had been a fisher, who mediated on the river bank on political events.
- ↑ Wei was a state in the Warring States period. Wei came into existence after the partition of Jin. Succeeded Jin in dominating the empire for some time.
- ↑ In previous campaigns, Cao Cao always left Xun Yu at the capital and appointed Xun Yu Court Administrator, who managed Cao Cao's affair in his absence.