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Chapter 73

Liu Bei Becomes The Prince Of Hanzhong;
Guan Yu Marches To Attack Xiangyang.

When Cao Cao retired to the Xie Valley, Zhuge Liang considered it to mean the abandonment of his attempt to acquire possession of Hanzhong. So Zhuge Liang sent out Ma Chao and a dozen parties to harass and hasten Cao Cao's retreat. For this reason the retreating army had to keep on the move. Beside, Cao Cao was suffering from his wound, and he marched as hurriedly as possible. But it was a dejected army, when the leading legions encountered fire on both flanks, which had been raised by troops placed in ambush while Ma Chao's main force kept driving the army before it. Everyone in the Cao Cao army was dispirited, and there was no more courage in them. They pressed forward day and night alike without halting to rest. It was only after reaching Jingzhao that they had some repose.

Having conquered Hanzhong, Liu Bei sent Liu Feng, Meng Da, and Wang Ping to take Shangyong. The Commander of the city, Shen Dan, and his colleagues, knowing that Cao Cao had retreated, offered their submission. After confidence had been restored among the people, Liu Bei rewarded his army generously, and they were all joyful.

It was after this that the general body of the officers decided to urge Liu Bei to assume the title of "Emperor", but they dared not tell him so. However, they sent up a petition to Zhuge Liang.

He replied, "I have already decided on this course."

So Zhuge Liang and Fa Zheng headed a deputation that went in to see their lord.

They said, "Now that Cao Cao really holds the reins of authority, the people are without a true sovereign. Our lord, your kindness and sense of justice have spread throughout the empire. You have restored peace over the two River Lands, and your becoming an emperor would be according to God's will and the desire of the people. Then by right and title you could destroy rebels. This matter should not be delayed, and we pray you choose the auspicious day."

But Liu Bei evinced great surprise, and replied, "Your words, O Instructor, are wrong. Although I am of the imperial house, yet I am but a minister. And to do this thing would be rebellion against Han."

Zhuge Liang replied, "Not so. Today the empire is riven, and many of the bolder spirits have seized upon and claim the rule of various portions. The talented of the empire and the virtuous among officers, who have risked death and lost their lives in serving those above them, all desire to have the opportunity of serving a true emperor and doing service for a true throne. Now, if you insist on modestly maintaining your righteous way, I fear that you will lose popular support. My lord, I wish that you should reflect upon this."

"But you desire me to usurp a place of great honor in the state, and I dare not. Let there be more delay and discussion."

But with one voice they said, "Our lord, if you reject this, the hearts of the people will turn from you!"

"My lord," said Zhuge Liang, "you have made rectitude your motto all your life. If you really object to the most honored title, then, since you have Jingzhou, Yizhou, and Hanzhong, take temporarily the title of 'Prince of Hanzhong'."

"Gentlemen, though you may desire to honor me by the title of Prince, yet, without an edict from the Emperor, such action would be usurpation."

Said Zhuge Liang, "The time demands recognition of the actual state of authority, and not a rigid adherence to all the rules of propriety."

And Zhang Fei roared out, "All sorts of people with all sorts of names are making themselves rulers: How much more ought you, brother, who are of the dynastic stock? It ought not to be Prince of Hanzhong but Emperor. What prevents it?"

"Brother, say no more," said Liu Bei, roughly.

"My lord," said Zhuge Liang, "it is fitting to follow political changes and suit one's conduct to circumstances. Wherefore first take the princedom, and then memorialize the Throne."

Liu Bei declined two or three times; but as there seemed no other option, he listened and complied. In the twenty-fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 219), in the seventh month, an altar was set up at Mianyang, half a square mile, which was set around with the proper flags and banners and symbols. In the presence of all his civil and military officers assembled according to their rank, and at the request of the two Ministers Xu Jing and Fa Zheng, Liu Bei received the headdress and seat of a prince. Then he took his seat, facing the south as a ruler should, and received the salutes and felicitations of all his officers as the Prince of Hanzhong. And his son Liu Shan was nominated his heir-apparent.

Xu Jing was given the title of Imperial Guardian; Fa Zheng that of Chair of the Secretariat. Zhuge Liang was reappointed Directing Instructor of the Forces, with the additional powers of control over the whole state policy. Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong, and Ma Chao were the Five Tiger Generals. Wei Yan was made Governor of Hanzhong, and all the others who had assisted were given ranks and offices.

As soon as the investiture was completed, Liu Bei composed a memorial and sent it to Capital Xuchang. This is the document:

"I, Liu Bei, have but ordinary talents, yet was I made a general of high rank and led a great army. Though I received a commission to purge the empire of rebels, I was unable to cleanse it and so renew the tranquillity to Your Majesty's house and restore the dynasty. Too long have I delayed to spread Your Majesty's sacred governance. The world is evil and not in good case, and as I sorrowfully think it over and over, I am distressed as one in severe pain.
"Rebellion began with Dong Zhuo, and all kinds of evils have spread abroad; cruelty and ferocity have become rife. Strong in faith in Your Majesty's sacred virtue and inspiring presence, many banded together to help. The loyal exerted themselves to destroy the rebels, but others of them were smitten of heaven. The fierce and the contumacious have been exterminated, and gradually rebellion has melted away.
"Only Cao Cao now remains, too long unpunished. He has arrogated to himself the authority of the state. His wicked heart is very rebellious. Once I, with General Dong Cheng, the State Uncle, conspired against him, but the plot was discovered and my fellow conspirator suffered. Thenceforward I was a wanderer and my loyalty availed nothing. It only allowed Cao Cao further license and liberty to do evil, till he dared even to accomplish the death of the Empress and the destruction of her sons. Although we might band together and form associations, yet, with all our energy, we had to recognize that we were too weak for war. Wherefore the years passed and nothing was accomplished. In constant fear of destruction, we even fear more lest our duty to the state be forgotten. Waking and sleeping we sighed, and our nights were times of anxiety.
"Now my fellows consider that history has repeated itself. They attach the utmost importance to the family and would manifest it with all their might. Hereditary succession of rulers is still a principle. The rulers of Zhou, taking the two preceding dynasties as models, strengthened its clan's position through all the states, and it reinforced itself with the support of the states of Jing and Zheng. When the great Founder of Han came into his own, he ennobled his whole family with kingships and lordships. Later, the dynasty had to issue a general command throughout the whole of the nine regions in order to destroy the widespread Lü Family and to enhance the Liu Family.[1]
"Now Cao Cao is an enemy of all rectitude, and his followers are all evil. His treachery is manifest. Since the members of the imperial clan are few and weak, the clan is not honored. Having reflected upon the ancient models and being desirous of temporary alleviation, my fellows have made me assume the title of Prince of Hanzhong with the addition of Regent Marshal.
"I have deeply considered these things. If one receives kindness from the Throne and accepts the responsibility for a portion of the state and fail, then such a fault would only be made the more serious by holding high rank and thereby increasing the burden of reproach. But my fellows have urged me, and they have convinced me that it would be right; and, should I refuse, the wicked will not be destroyed and the danger to the state will not be removed. The temple of our ancestors is in danger, and the imperial prerogatives are failing. A faithful servant, who in the day of tribulation can undertake a suitable policy whereby to preserve the dynasty, should not refuse his help at any cost. Wherefore I have yielded and accepted the position for the glory of the state.
"Humbly I think of such a title and its exalted position and the favor vouchsafed me, and I would endeavor to show true gratitude. My anxiety is deep, for the responsibility is heavy. I am as one on the brink of a great gulf. I must surely exert myself to the utmost and encourage my armies and lead all disciples of rectitude, in accordance with the will of Heaven and as occasion serves, to smite rebellion so as to restore the dynasty."

When this memorial reached Capital Xuchang, Cao Cao was in the Palace at Yejun, and it annoyed him greatly.

"How dare this mean weaver of straw shoes behave thus?" said he. "Now I swear that I will destroy him."

So he issued orders for the whole force of the state to go out against the two River Lands to wage fierce war with the new Prince of Hanzhong.

But a remonstrance came from the mouth of one man.

"Let not the great Prince of Wei trouble himself to go on a distant expedition because of a temporary annoyance. I can propose a plan of which the execution will need not the bending of a single bow, and yet it will make Liu Bei bring down disaster upon his own head. When his army shall have become exhausted, it will only be necessary to send one single general against him and victory will be ours."

Cao Cao looked at the officer. It was First Secretary Sima Yi.

"What is your exalted view, my friend?" said Cao Cao.

"Sun Quan's sister is wife to Liu Bei, but Sun Quan has found an occasion to steal away the bride. Liu Bei is in possession of Jingzhou still, and he and Sun Quan are bitter enemies. Therefore send some able speaker with a letter to Wu to persuade the Marquis to send an army to recover Jingzhou. That will draw thither all the armies of Shu, when you can send your army to Hanzhong. Liu Bei will be helpless, and his strength will be wasted."

The scheme pleased Cao Cao. He at once drew up a letter and sent it by the hand of Man Chong, who soon arrived in Wu. As soon as Sun Quan knew of the mission, he summoned his advisers to consult.

Zhang Zhao said, "Wei and Wu are primarily enemies because of the dissension fomented by the words of Zhuge Liang. We have been fighting for several years, and many lives have been lost. Now this messenger has surely come to discuss terms of friendship, and he should be welcomed."

On the strength of this, Man Chong was well received and conducted into the city and into the presence of Sun Quan. He presented his letters at the conclusion of the ceremonies of reception and declared his mission.

"Wu and Wei have no fundamental quarrel, and their dissension has been brought about by Liu Bei. My master sends me to covenant with you for an attack on Jingzhou, while he goes against Hanzhong. This double attack being successful, the conquered regions can be divided between us two, and we can both swear to respect each other's territory."

Having read the letter, Sun Quan prepared a banquet in honor of Man Chong and then sent him to the guest-house to rest while he discussed the matter with his council of advisers.

Said Gu Yong, "Although the messenger's speech was all special pleading, it was correct in form. I propose that the messenger be allowed to return and that a covenant be made with Cao Cao for joint attack. In addition, let spies be sent over the Great River to find out Guan Yu's movements, and then we may act."

Zhuge Jin said, "I hear that since Guan Yu has been in Jingzhou, Liu Bei has found him a wife, who has borne him a son and a daughter. The daughter is too young to have been betrothed, wherefore let me go to ask her in marriage with your heir. If Guan Yu agrees, then we can arrange with him to attack Cao Cao. If Guan Yu refuses, then let us aid Cao Cao in an attack on Jingzhou."

Sun Quan took this advice. So he sent Man Chong away and sent Zhuge Jin to Jingzhou to try to arrange the betrothal. Zhuge Jin was received.

When the time came to state the reason for his coming, Guan Yu asked him, "What have you come for, Zhuge Jin?"

"I have come seeking to ally the two houses. My master, the Marquis of Wu, has a son who is quite clever. Hearing that you have a daughter, General, I ask her in marriage, hereby the two houses may join in an attack on Cao Cao. This would be an admirable result, and I pray you consider the proposal."

But the warrior flared up.

"How can a tiger's daughter marry with a dog's whelp? Were it not for your brother, I would take your head. Say no more!"

Guan Yu called his servants to hustle forth the hapless messenger, who ran away with his hands over his head, too astonished to look anyone in the face. And reaching his own place, he dared not hide the manner of his reception, but told the whole truth.

"What ruffianism!" exclaimed the Marquis.

Thereupon Sun Quan ordered the council again to consider an attack on Jingzhou.

Bu Zhi rose and said, "It has been long manifest that Cao Cao wishes to usurp the Throne, but he is afraid of Liu Bei. Now we are to attack Shu with an army, and so Cao Cao wants to shift the misfortune to us indeed."

"But I also want the place," said Sun Quan.

Said Bu Zhi, "Cao Ren is already camped at Fancheng and Xiangyang and in no danger from the river. If Cao Cao can take Jingzhou by land, why does he not take it? However, he wants you, my lord, to send your army, and you can judge his real intention from this. Send to Cao Cao and tell him to make Cao Ren attack by land. Then Guan Yu must take the army from Jingzhou to Fancheng. When Guan Yu has left Jingzhou, you can send an army to seize it."

Sun Quan thought the scheme good and sent letters with these proposals to Cao Cao. Cao Cao adopted the plan, and having sent the messenger back to the South Land, he next sent Man Chong to help Cao Ren at Fancheng as Adviser in the matter of attack. He also sent dispatches to the South Land to ask for the assistance of Sun Quan's marine force.

Having laid on Wei Yan the task of holding the East River Land, the Prince of Hanzhong, with his officers, returned to Chengdu and began to set his new house in order. A Palace was begun and public guest-houses were built, and between Chengdu and Baishui, at selected places, they built four hundred rest-houses and post stations. The Prince of Hanzhong also set himself to accumulate great stores of grain and forage and to till his arsenals with weapons with the design of mastering the capital in the north and the whole empire.

Then his spies told him of the treaty between Cao Cao and Sun Quan, with designs upon Jingzhou, and he hastily called in Zhuge Liang to ask what should be done.

"I felt that Cao Cao would try to do this," said Zhuge Liang, "and most of the advisers in the South Land will persuade Cao Cao to order Cao Ren to begin the campaign."

"But what am I to do?" asked the Prince.

"First send a special messenger to Guan Yu with his new title, telling him to capture Fancheng, which will so damp the ardor of the enemy that they will break off themselves."

Therefore Liu Bei sent Fei Shi, a minister from his Board of War, to take the patent of the new title to Guan Yu, who received the delegate with great deference and conducted him into the city. After they had arrived at the official residence, Guan Yu inquired what new title had been conferred upon him.

"The first of the Five Tiger Generals," replied Fei Shi.

"And who are the five?"

"Their names are Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, Ma Chao, and Huang Zhong."

"The second is my brother," said Guan Yu, "Ma Chao comes of a famous family, and Zhao Yun has been with my elder brother so long that he is as a brother. It is right for them to be put on a level with me. But what sort of a man is this Huang Zhong that he is ranked with us? The really great man does not stand shoulder to shoulder with any soldier that comes along."

And Guan Yu refused both title and seal.

"You do wrong to refuse," said Fei Shi. "Of old, Xiao He[2] and Cao Shen[3] helped Liu Bang, the Founder of the Han Dynasty, in his great enterprise and were very dear friends, while Han Xin[4] was but a runaway leader from Chu. Yet Liu Bang made Han Xin a prince, and so placed over the heads of the other two. I have never heard that these two resented it. The Prince of Hanzhong has his Five Tiger Generals, but he is still your brother and all that that means. As his brother, you are he and he is you. Is there any comparison with any other? The Prince has always treated you with the greatest kindness. You two are one in sorrow and joy, sharers of disaster and good fortune. No such question as that of a mere title ought to reckon at all. I pray you, Sir, reflect."

Guan Yu understood, and thanked Fei Shi, saying, "You have prevented me from making a great mistake due to my ignorance."

Guan Yu then received the seal with all humility.

Next Fei Shi produced the edict ordering the capture of Fancheng. Guan Yu lost no time in obeying its command. He appointed Fu Shiren and Mi Fang Leaders of the Van to take the first army out of the city into camp.

This done, a banquet was prepared for Fei Shi, and they sat late at their wine. While still at table there was an alarm of fire in the new camp, and Guan Yu hastened out of the city to see. He found that the two generals had also been feasting, and the fire had started behind their tent, a spark having fallen into some explosives, whence it spread and destroyed the whole camp and all that was in it. Guan Yu and his soldiers did what they could to put out the fire and then reentered the city. There Guan Yu summoned the two generals before him, abused them for their lack of care, and sentenced them to death.

However, Fei Shi interceded for them, saying, "It is not well to put two leaders to death at the beginning of a campaign, before even the army has marched. You might reprieve them at least."

Guan Yu's anger had by no means subsided, but he recalled the two generals and said, "Were it not that I have the greatest regard for Chairman Fei Shi here, I had let the sentence take its course. Now I will only flog you."

So the two officers received forty blows each and were degraded from leading the van. Their seals were taken away, and Mi Fang was sent to Nanjun, Fu Shiren to Gongan.

"Now be warned," said Guan Yu. "If, when I return from my victories, there is the least sign of disorder on your part, you will suffer for both faults."

The two men flushed crimson and went out.

Then two new officers were appointed, Liao Hua and Guan Ping. Next Guan Yu took command of the main army, and he had two advisers---Ma Liang and Yin Ji. Then it was that Hu Hua's son, Hu Ban, came to Jingzhou and joined Guan Yu, who loved him for the sake of his father and the good service Hu Ban had rendered when he saved Guan Yu. Guan Yu sent Hu Ban to the Prince of Hanzhong in the train of Fei Shi.

The day that Guan Yu sacrificed to his standard before starting, he was lying in his tent resting when suddenly there dashed into his tent a huge boar, very large, as big as a bullock and quite black. It bit his foot. He jumped up to kill the creature, when it squealed with the sound of tearing cloth---and he awoke. It was a dream, but he had a pain in his foot. The dream perplexed him, and he could not explain it.

He related it to his son, who interpreted it happily, saying, "The boar is a royal beast, like the dragon, and coming to your feet means a rise of your dignity."

When the dream got noised abroad, for he told his officers, some interpreted it as auspicious and some the reverse. "When a person nears sixty, he ought not to be greatly disturbed by the thought of death," said Guan Yu. "After all, I am a warrior."

Just about that time came an edict from the Prince of Hanzhong making him Commanding General, with honorable insignia of rank and control over the nine territories of forty-one counties in Jingzhou. When the officers congratulated him on his new honors, they did not forget the dream.

"This shows what a dream of boars means."

This new distinction pleased Guan Yu greatly, and he had no more perplexing doubts. Soon he marched away along the great road to the point of danger.

Cao Ren was in Xiangyang when he heard that Guan Yu was coming against him. He was much put about, and inclined to trust solely to defense. But his next command, Zhai Yuan, did not support this course and argued against it.

"The Prince of Wei has ordered you to act in concert with Wu and take Jingzhou. For the other side to come against such a combination is to walk in the way of death. Certainly we have no occasion to avoid a conflict."

On the other hand the newly sent Adviser Man Chong inculcated caution.

Said he, "Guan Yu is brave and cunning and one not to be met lightly. I think defense is best."

Then General Xiahou Cun said contemptuously, "This is all the talk of a lot of book-folks. When the flood approaches, bank up to keep it out. Let the enemy come with their tired soldiers, and we shall go out, defeat them, and receive our reward, for we are sure of victory."

Cao Ren was won over to the side of those of action. He placed Man Chong in command of the defenses of Fancheng, while he went outside to beat off Guan Yu. When the two forces met, Guan Yu called to his side Guan Ping and Liao Hua, to whom he gave certain orders. These two advanced, settled their array, and Liao Hua then rode out and offered a challenge. Zhai Yuan accepted it. But soon after the combat began, Liao Hua made as if he was defeated and turned to leave the field. Zhai Yuan went after him. The Jingzhou troops retired seven miles or so.

Soon the Jingzhou soldiers came again and offered battle, when Xiahou Cun and Zhai Yuan both went out. The maneuver of the preceding day was repeated, and the Jingzhou army retreated another seven miles. But suddenly there was a detonation behind the army of Cao Cao, and the rolling of drums as for attack. Cao Ren hastily called upon his troops to return. They did so; but Guan Ping and Liao Hua then turned and followed on their heels so that the troops of Cao Cao were thrown into confusion.

Cao Ren by this time had seen that a trap had been laid and he had fallen therein, so he hastily marched with one army to Xiangyang. He got to within a short distance of the city when he saw before him a handsome banner waving in the wind, and out came Guan Yu with his green-dragon saber ready to slay. Cao Ren was powerless from fear, and, fighting being impossible, he turned off into a bye-road for Xiangyang.

Then Xiahou Cun came. He fell into a rage at the sight of the old warrior and went to fight him. But Xiahou Cun was slain in the first encounter. Zhai Yuan fled, but Guan Ping pursued and slew him. Then the pursuit was continued, and the loss of Cao Cao's side was very heavy. More than half were drowned in River Xiang. Seeing the situation was desperate, Cao Ren fled to Fancheng. Guan Yu got possession of Xiangyang.

"You have obtained this city very easily," said the Marching General, Wang Fu, "but the task is not ended. Cao Cao's army have been beaten and their courage broken, but there is danger from the side of Wu. Lü Meng is at Lukou, and he has long cherished the desire to lay hands on Jingzhou. Suppose he now attacks: What will happen?"

"I was even thinking of that myself. You may go and attend to this matter. You will certainly be able to find certain elevated spots on the river bank, about seven miles apart, suitable for alarm beacons, whence could be signaled any attempt of the marines of Wu to cross the river. Fifty soldiers could guard each station. Let there be a flame by night and a smoke by day. If they cross the river, I must go and smite them."

Wang Fu replied, "Fu Shiren and Mi Fang are defending important places, but they may not be able to defend the Passes well. There ought to be a commander-in-chief over Jingzhou City."

"There is no need for anxiety. Army Inspector Pan Jun is guarding the city."

"The objection is the character of Pan Jun. He is jealous and selfish and not a fit person for the task. I think you would do well to replace him by Zhao Lei, now of the Chief of the Commissariat. Zhao Lei is loyal, trusty, clean-handed, and straight, a much more desirable man for the post."

"I know Pan Jun very well, but I have delegated him for that duty and cannot change now. The work Zhao Lei has to do in the supplies is also most important. I do not think you need be anxious. Just get along with those beacons for me."

Wang Fu, disappointed, took his leave.

Then Guan Ping was bidden to prepare ships ready to cross the river and attack Fancheng, whither Cao Ren had retired after his defeat.

Now Cao Ren said to Man Chong, "Neglecting your advice, I lost soldiers, two generals, and the city of Xiangyang. What am I to do now?"

"Guan Yu is very dangerous, too brave and skillful for us to try to defeat. We had better remain on the defensive," replied Man Chong.

Just about this time came the tidings that Guan Yu was crossing the river on the way to attack. Man Chong maintained his policy of defense. But one of Cao Ren's generals, Lü Chang, was for going out to meet the enemy.

"I ask for a few thousand troops," said Lü Chang, "and I will meet the enemy on the way."

"You cannot do any good," said Man Chong.

"According to the advice of you and the other bookish officials, there is only one thing to do. But will defense drive off the enemy? The proper way is to attack your enemy while he is crossing a river, and as Guan Yu is doing that now, why not attack? It will be quite another matter if you let him reach the walls and get possession of the moat."

As a result of his arguments and protest, Lü Chang got command of two thousand troops, whom he led to the river. And there he found Guan Yu already arrayed for battle. Guan Yu at once rode out, and the bold Lü Chang was going to attack him. But his soldiers were panic-stricken at the sight of Guan Yu's fierce countenance and ran away. Lü Chang called them to come back, but they would not stop, and as Guan Yu came on with a rush, the army of Wei again lost the day. Many were slain, and the remainder ran into Fancheng. Cao Ren sent off a hasty messenger for help and a letter to Xuchang to tell what Guan Yu had done and how Fancheng was in imminent danger of falling.

The letter reached Cao Cao, who chose a certain general among his leaders and assigned the task, "You go and defend Fancheng!"

The man at once stepped out and accepted the assignment. He was Yu Jin.

"Let me have another general to lead the van," said Yu Jin.

"Who volunteers?" asked Cao Cao, looking around.

"I do!" cried a man, "I will give my poor services for what they are worth. And I will capture this fellow Guan Yu and bring him as an offering before your standard."

The soldiers of Wei began the war
Even before Wu had sent out armies.

But who was the man bold enough to say he would capture Guan Yu? For his name see the next chapter.

NotesEdit

  1. After Liu Bang's death, Empress Lü, Liu Bang's wife, held imperial authority. She appointed members of her own family to highly important positions of state and clearly hoped to substitute her own family for the reigning Liu family. But these plans were frustrated on her death (BC 180).
  2. Xiao He (BC ?-193) a close adviser of Liu Bang. He and Liu Bang had been friends in their native Pei, where Liu Bang later held a minor office. Recommended Han Xin to Liu Bang. Became Han's prime minister. Enobled as the Lord of Cuo.
  3. Cao Shen a general of Liu Bang. He and Liu Bang had been close friends in their native Pei, where Liu Bang later held a minor office. Served as Han's prime minister.
  4. Han Xin was a general of Liu Bang. Before serving Han, Han Xin had been an officer under Xiang Yu. Disappointed because his plans were rejected, Han Xin left Xiang Yu and joined Liu Bang's camp, where he was made Commander-in-Chief by recommendations of Xiao He and Zhang Liang. Enobled as King of Qi, then King of Chu.

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