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Romance of the Three Kingdoms/chapter 77

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Chapter 77

Cao Cao Is Possessed At Luoyang;
Guan Yu Manifests At The Jade Spring Mount.

Sun Quan having asked Lü Meng for a plan, Lü Meng replied, "This Guan Yu has very few soldiers left, and he will not venture along the high road. North of Maicheng is a risky path, and he will try to escape along that. Therefore you must lay an ambush for him seven miles away from the city, but do not stop him. Let him go by, and then harass his rear. Thus he will be forced into Linju. Set another small ambush near there, and you will capture your enemy. For the present, attack the city vigorously on all sides but one, leaving the north gate for escape."

Before carrying out this plan, Sun Quan bade Lü Fan consult the auspices.

Lü Fan did so, announcing, "The enemy will flee toward the northwest, but will be caught that night before midnight."

So Zhu Ran was sent in command of the first ambush, and Pan Zhang was the second. The troops sent were all veterans.

When Guan Yu mustered his fighting men in the city of Maicheng, he had but three hundred. The food was done. That night many soldiers of Wu came to the city walls and called to their friends by name, and many of these slipped over the wall and deserted, reducing the small force still further. No rescue force appeared, and Guan Yu was at the end of his resources.

Again he bewailed to Wang Fu, saying, "I regret that I have neglected your wise warning. In this danger what is to be done?"

"I think even if Lü Wang[1] could come to life again, he would be helpless in this case," replied Wang Fu, weeping.

Said Zhao Lei, "Liu Feng and Meng Da have surely decided not to send help from Shangyong. Let us abandon this miserable place, try to get to Yizhou, and recover the army. We may then tempt our fortune once more."

"I agree with you that that is the best plan," said Guan Yu.

Then he ascended the walls and surveyed the country. Noting that the weakest side was the north, he called in some of the inhabitants and inquired the nature of the country on that side.

They replied, "There are only paths there, but by them one may get into the West River Land."

"We will go that way tonight," said Guan Yu.

Wang Fu opposed it, saying, "General, you will surely fall into an ambush. The main road will be safer."

"There may be an ambush, but do I fear that?" said the old warrior.

Orders were given to be ready to march.

"At least be very cautious," said Wang Fu. "I will defend this city to the very last. I only need a hundred troops. Never will we surrender. Only I hope, Most Noble General, that you will send me speedy help."

The two parted in tears. Wang Fu and Zhou Cang remaining to guard Maicheng. Guan Yu, Guan Ping, and Zhao Lei marched with their weak force out of the north gate. Guan Yu, his green-dragon saber ready to hand, went first. About the third watch, seven miles lay between them and the city. There they saw a deep cleft in the hills wherefrom rolled the sound of beaten drums. And men were shouting. Soon appeared a large force with Zhu Ran at their head.

He came dashing forward, and summoned the small party, saying, "Guan Yu, do not run! Surrender and live!"

But Guan Yu whipped his steed to a gallop and bore down on the leader with anger in his eyes. Then Zhu Ran ran away. Guan Yu followed him till there came the loud boom of a large drum, and out sprang troops from all sides. Guan Yu dared not engage such a number, and fled in the direction of Linju. Zhu Ran came up behind and attacked the flying soldiers, so that Guan Yu's following gradually became smaller and smaller.

Still he struggled on. A few miles farther the drums rolled again, and torches lit up all round. This was Pan Zhang's ambush, and he appeared flourishing his sword. Guan Yu whirled his blade and went to meet him, but Pan Zhang ran away after a couple of bouts. However, Guan Yu saw they were too many for him, and sought refuge among the mountains.

His son followed, and when he got within speaking distance, Guan Ping gave him the mournful tidings: "Zhao Lei has fallen in the melee!"

Guan Yu was very sad, and bade his son try to protect the rear while he should force his way forward.

With about ten men he reached Zhuxi, a place with mountains on both sides. At their foot was a thick mass of reeds and dried grass. The trees grew very close. It was then the fifth watch. Presently the small party stumbled into another ambush, and the ambushing soldiers thrust forth hooks and threw ropes. Entangled in these, Guan Yu's horse fell, and Guan Yu reeled out of the saddle. In a moment Ma Zhong, the Marching General of Pan Zhang, made him a prisoner. Guan Ping dashed to his rescue, but before he could do anything, he also was surrounded and held. Father and son were both captives.

With great joy Sun Quan heard of the success of his plans. In the morning, he assembled all his officers in his tent to await the arrival of the prisoners. Before long, Ma Zhong came hustling his prisoner before his lord.

"I have long had a friendly feeling for you," said Sun Quan to Guan Yu, "on account of your great virtues. Now I would have made a covenant and alliance with you, if you would. You and your son have long held yourselves to be invincible, but you see you are my prisoners today. Yet I hope to win you over to my side."

But Guan Yu only answered roughly, "You green-eyed boy! You purple-bearded rat! I made a covenant in the Peach Garden with my brothers to uphold the Hans. Think you that I will stand side by side with a rebel such as you are? I am a victim of your vile schemes, but I can only die once. And there is no need of many words."

"He is a real hero, and I love him," said Sun Quan to those standing near. "I will treat him well and endeavor to win him over. Do you think it well?"

Said the First Secretary Zuo Xian, "When Cao Cao had hold of this man, Cao Cao treated him lavishly well. Cao Cao created him a marquis; in three-day interval Cao Cao held a small banquet, in five days a great one; Cao Cao gave him gold and presented him with silver; all this, hoping to retain him at his side. But Cao Cao failed. The man broke through his gates, slew his six generals in five passes and went away. Today Cao Cao fears him, and almost moved the capital for dread of him. Now he is in your power, destroy him, or you will rue the day. Evil will come if you spare him."

Sun Quan reflected for some time.

"You are right," said he presently, and gave the order for execution.

So father and son met their fate together in the winter of the twenty-fourth year (AD 219) in the tenth month. Guan Yu was fifty-eight.

A poem says:

Peerless indeed was our Lord Guan Yu, of the latter days,
Head and shoulders stood he out among the best;
Godlike and terrible in war, elegant and refined in peace,
Resplendent as the noonday sun in the heavens,
Haloed as are the noblest of those early days,
He stands, the brightest model for all ages,
And not only for the strenuous days he lived in.

And another:

Seek ye a noble one? Then take ye the way of Jieliang,
Watch ye how all people revere Guan Yu,
Each excelling others to honor him,
Him, one of the three brothers of the Peach Garden Oath,
Who have won sacrifices, as emperor and king.
Incomparable their aura spreads through the world;
They are resplendent as the great lights of the firmament;
Temples to our Lord Guan Yu abound, no village lacks one,
Their venerable trees at sundown are the resting places for birds.


So Guan Yu ended his life. His famous steed, Red Hare, also captured with its master, was sent to Sun Quan, who gave it as a reward to his captor, Ma Zhong. But Red Hare survived its master only a short time. It refused to feed, and soon died.
Guan Yu - Qing ZQ-SGYY

Guan Yu

Foreboding of misfortune came to Wang Fu within the city of Maicheng. His bones felt cold, and his flesh crept.

He said to his colleague Zhou Cang, "I have had a terrible dream in which I saw our lord all dripping with gore. I would question him, but I was overcome with dread. May it augur no evil tidings!"

Just then the troops of Wu came up to the city wall and displayed the gory heads of the two, father and son. Wang Fu and Zhou Cang went up on the wall to see if the dread tokens were real. There was no doubt. Wang Fu with a despairing cry threw himself over the wall and perished, Zhou Cang died by his own hand. Thus Maicheng fell to Wu.

The execution of Guan Yu gave Sun Quan undisputed possession of the whole of the Jingzhou Region. He rewarded his soldiers and spread a great feast at which Lü Meng was in the seat of honor.

Sun Quan made a speech, saying, "After long waiting, the desire of my heart has come to me very easily through the magnificent efforts of my friend Lü Meng."

Lü Meng bowed and bowed deprecatingly, but Sun Quan continued, "My good Zhou Yu was superior to most humans, and he defeated Cao Cao at the Red Cliffs. Alas! He died too soon. My good Lu Su succeeded him. In his first interview, he inaugurated the general policy of creating a state. That was the first instance of his keen insight. When Cao Cao descended upon my country, and everyone counseled me to yield, he advised me to summon my good Zhou Yu to oppose and smite Cao Cao. That was the second instance of his keen insight. He made only one fault: He advised me to let Liu Bei occupy Jingzhou. Now today my good Lü Meng has succeeded, and in that he far surpasses both his predecessors."

Then Sun Quan filled a goblet and in person presented it to the guest of the evening. Lü Meng took the cup, but as he raised it, a sudden change came over him.

Dashing the cup to the ground, Lü Meng seized Sun Quan, crying, "O green-eyed boy! O purple-bearded rat! Do you know me?"

Consternation seized the whole assembly, but many rushed to the rescue of their lord, who had been thrown to the floor by the guest he had so lately complimented. Rushing forward over Sun Quan's body, Lü Meng sat himself in the host's seat, his eyebrows staring stiff and his eyes glaring.

"After I quelled the Yellow Turbans, I went hither and thither for thirty years. Now I have fallen victim to your base plots, and you have overcome me. Living, I have been unable to gorge upon the flesh of my enemy; dead, I will pursue the spirit of this bandit Lü Meng. I am the Lord of Hanshou, Guan Yu!"

Terror-stricken, Sun Quan was the first to fall prostrate, and all his officers followed him.

Thereupon Lü Meng fell over dead, with blood gushing from the seven orifices of his body.

In due time the body was coffined and interred. Lü Meng was created posthumously Governor of Nanjun and Lord of Chanling. His son, Lü Ba, was given hereditary nobility.

After this visitation Sun Quan lived in constant terror. Soon Zhang Zhao came in from Jianye to see him and blame him for the murder.

"My lord, by the slaughter of Guan Yu you have brought misfortune very near to this state. You know the oath sworn in the Peach Garden. Now Liu Bei has the force of the two River Lands at his back, Zhuge Liang as adviser, and those heroes Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong, and Ma Chao to carry out his behests. When Liu Bei hears of the death of both father and son, he will set in motion the whole force he has to avenge them, and I fear you cannot stand such an onslaught."

Sun Quan started up in a fright.

"Yes; I have made a little mistake," said he. "But seeing it is so, what shall I do?"

"You need have no fear," replied Zhang Zhao. "I have a plan to fend off the armies of the west from our borders and keep Jingzhou quite safe."

"What is your plan?" asked Sun Quan.

"Cao Cao with his many legions is greedily aiming at the whole empire. If Liu Bei wants revenge, he will ally himself with Cao Cao, and, should they combine against the South Land, we should be in great danger. Therefore I advise you to send Guan Yu's head to Cao Cao to make it appear that Cao Cao was the prime cause of his destruction. This should divert Liu Bei's extreme hatred toward Cao Cao and send the armies of Shu against Wei instead of toward Wu. After carefully considering the whole matter, I counsel this as the best course of action."

Sun Quan thought the move worth making, and so the head of the great warrior was placed in a box and sent off as quickly as possible to Cao Cao.

At this time Cao Cao's army had marched back from Mopo to Luoyang. When he heard of the coming of the gruesome gift, he was glad at heart.

Said he, "So Guan Yu is dead. Now I can stick to my mat and sleep soundly at night."

But Sima Yi saw through the ruse and said from his place by the steps, "This is a trick to divert evil from Wu."

"What do you mean? How?" said Cao Cao.

"The Peach Garden Oath bound the three brothers to live and die together. Now Wu is fearful of revenge for the execution of one of the three and sends the head to you to cause Liu Bei's wrath to fasten on you, O Prince. Sun Quan wishes Liu Bei to attack you instead of himself, the real perpetrator of the crime. Then he will find a way of accomplishing his ends while you two are quarreling."

"You are right, friend," said Cao Cao. "And now how can we escape?"

"I think escape is easy. You have the head of Guan Yu. Make a wooden image of the remainder of the body, and bury the whole with the rites suitable to a minister of state. When Liu Bei hears of this, he will turn his hate toward Sun Quan and raise all his forces to attack him. If you will think it out, you will see that whichever is victor the other will be smitten; and if we get one of the two, the other will follow before very long."

Cao Cao was pleased with the solution. Then he ordered the messenger to come in with the box, which was opened, and he looked upon the face of the dead. The features had not changed; the face bore the same appearance as of old. Cao Cao smiled.

"I hope you have been well since our last meeting, Guan Yu," said Cao Cao.

To his horror, the mouth opened, the eyes rolled, and the long beard and hair stiffened. Cao Cao fell to the ground in a swoon.

They rushed to him, but it was a long time before he recovered consciousness.

"General Guan Yu is indeed a spirit," he said.

The messenger who had brought the dead warrior's head told the story of Guan Yu cursing and reviling Sun Quan, and of what had befallen Lü Meng.

Cao Cao, filled with dread, prepared sacrifices and performed the rites for the honored dead. An effigy was carved out of heavy fragrant wood and buried outside the south gate with all the rites of a princely noble, a huge concourse of officials of all grades following in the procession. At the funeral Cao Cao himself bowed before the coffin and poured a libation. He also conferred on the dead the posthumous title of Prince of Jingzhou, and appointed guardians of the tomb. The messenger was sent back to Wu.

Now the spirit of Guan Yu did not dissipate into space, but wandered through the void till it came to a certain spot in Dangyang on a famous hill known as the Mount of the Jade Spring. There lived a venerable Buddhist priest whose name in the faith was Transverse Peace. He was originally of the State Guardian Temple in the River Si Pass and abbot of that temple. In the course of roaming about the world, he had reached this place. Entranced with its natural beauty, he had built himself a shelter of boughs and grass, where he sat in meditation on the "Way". He had a novice with him to beg food and to attend to his simple wants.

This night, about the third watch, the moon was bright and the air serene. Transverse Peace sat in his usual attitude in the silence of the mountains.

Suddenly he heard a great voice calling in the upper air, "Give back my head! Give back my head!"

Gazing upward Transverse Peace saw the shape of a man mounted on a red horse. In the hand was a shining blade like unto the green-dragon saber. Two military figures were with him, one on either side. He on the left had a white face; he on the right was swarthy of countenance with a curly beard. And they followed the figure with the shining blade. They floated along on a cloud which came to rest on the summit of the mountain.

The recluse recognized the figure as that of Guan Yu, so with his yak's tail flagellum he smote the lintel of his hut and cried, "Where is Guan Yu?"

The spirit understood, and the figure dismounted, glided down, and came to rest at the door of the hut.

Interlacing its fingers, it stood in a reverential attitude and said, "Who is my teacher, and what is his name in the faith?"

"In the State Guardian Temple in River Si Pass, I once saw you, O Noble Sir, and I was not likely to forget your face," replied the priest.

"I am deeply grateful for the help you gave me. Misfortune has befallen me, and I have ceased to live. I would seek the pure instruction and beg you to indicate the obscure way."

"Let us not discuss former wrongdoings nor present correct actions. Later events are the inevitable result of former causes. I know that Lü Meng has injured you. You call aloud for the return of your head. But who will also return the heads of your several victims---Yan Liang, Wen Chou, and the commanders of the five passes?"

Thereupon Guan Yu seemed suddenly to comprehend, bowed in token of assent, and disappeared. After this appearance to the recluse, his spirit wandered hither and thither about the mountain, manifesting its sacred character and guarding the people.

Impressed by his virtue, the inhabitants built a temple on the Mount of the Jade Spring, wherein they sacrificed at the four seasons. In later days, one wrote a couplet for the temple, the first member reading:

"Ruddy faced, reflecting the honest heart within, out-riding the wind on the Red Hare steed, mindful of the Red Emperor;"

"In the light of clear lamp, reading the histories, resting on the Green-Dragon saber curved as the young moon, heart pure as the azure heaven."

Meanwhile in Shu, having conquered East River Land, the Prince of Hanzhong returned to his capital Chengdu.

Fa Zheng memorialized, saying, "O Prince, thy consorts has passed away, and the Lady Sun has returned to her maiden home, perhaps never to come again. Human relations should not be set at nought, wherefore another consort should be sought, so that all things may be correctly ordered within the Palace."

The Prince having signified his acceptance of the principle, Fa Zheng continued, "There is the sister of Wu Yi, comely and good, and declared by the physiognomist as destined to high honor. She was betrothed to Liu Mao, son of Liu Yan, but he died in youth, and she has remained unwedded. Take her as a wife."

"It is incompatible with propriety. Liu Mao and I are of the same ancestry."

"As to the degree of relationship, would it differ from the marriage between Duke Wen of Jin and Lady Huai Ying?"

Upon this precedent the Prince gave his consent and wedded the lady, and she bore to him two sons, the elder of whom was named Liu Yong[2] and the younger Liu Li.

Meanwhile, the whole land of Shu was prospering, the people were tranquil, and the state was becoming wealthy. The fields in both River Lands yielded bountiful harvests.

Suddenly there came one who told of the attempt of Sun Quan to ally himself with Guan Yu by marriage, and the indignant rejection of the proposal.

"Jingzhou is in danger," said Zhuge Liang. "Recall and replace Guan Yu."

Then began to arrive a series of messengers from Jingzhou, bearers of news of the moves in the game. At first they brought good tidings, then evil. Guan Xing came first to tell of the drowning of the seven armies of Yu Jin. Then one reported the installation of beacon towers along the river bank, and other preparations which seemed as near perfect as any could be. And Liu Bei's anxiety ceased.

But evil tidings were on the way. Liu Bei was ill at ease and felt a creepiness of the skin that boded evil. He was restless by day and sleepless by night. One night he rose from his couch and was reading by the light of a candle when drowsiness overcame him, and he fell asleep over the low table by his side. He dreamed. A cold gust of wind swept through the chamber, almost putting out the candle flame. When it brightened again he glanced up and saw a figure standing near the light.

"Who are you, who thus come by night to my chamber?" asked he.

The figure made no reply, and Liu Bei got up to go over and see who it was. Then the figure took the shape of his brother. But it avoided him, retreating as he advanced.

Liu Bei said, "Brother, there is nothing wrong, I hope. But surely something of great importance brings you here thus in the dead of the night. And why do you avoid me, your brother, who loves you as himself?"

Then the figure wept and said, "Brother, send your armies to avenge me."

As Guan Yu said that, a chilly blast went through the room, and the figure disappeared. Just then Liu Bei awoke and knew that he had dreamed.

The drums were beating the third watch as he awoke. He felt greatly worried and disturbed. So he went into the front portion of the Palace and sent for Zhuge Liang. Soon he came, and Liu Bei told him of the vision.

"You have been thinking too deeply of Guan Yu lately, my lord," said Zhuge Liang. "There is no need to be distressed."

But Liu Bei could not find comfort, and Zhuge Liang was long in calming his feelings and arguing away his fancies.

As Zhuge Liang left the building, he met Xu Jing, who said, "Instructor, I went to your residence to deliver a very secret piece of news, and they told me to find you here."

"What is your secret?"

"There is a report about that Wu has got possession of Jingzhou; Lü Meng has taken it. And more than that, Guan Yu is dead. I had to come to tell you."

"I saw it in the sky some nights ago. A large star of a general fell over against Jingzhou, and I knew some evil had befallen Guan Yu. But I feared the effect upon our master, and I forbore to say anything."

They did not know that Liu Bei was standing just within the door.

Suddenly Liu Bei rushed out, seized Zhuge Liang by the sleeve and said, "Why did you hide from me? Why, when you had such terrible news?"

"Because it is only a rumor," replied they. "It is too improbable for belief. We pray you not to be distressed."

"By our oath we live or die together: How can I go on living if he is lost?"

The two men soothed their lord as best they could. But even as they spoke to him, one of the private attendants said that Ma Liang and Yin Ji had arrived. Liu Bei called them in and questioned them eagerly.

They said, "Jingzhou has indeed been lost, and Guan Yu begs for instant help."

The letters they brought had not been read before Liao Hua was ushered in. He prostrated himself and, weeping, told the story of the refusal of help on the part of Liu Feng and Meng Da.

"Then is my brother lost!" cried Liu Bei.

"If those two have really behaved so badly, the offense is even too great for death," said Zhuge Liang. "But calm yourself, O Prince. I will see about an army and lead it to the rescue."

"If Guan Yu is gone, I cannot live," moaned Liu Bei. "Tomorrow I myself will set out with an army to rescue him."

Liu Bei sent off a messenger to Zhang Fei in Langzhong and gave orders to muster horse and foot for instant departure.

Before day dawned other messengers arrived, giving step by step the sequence of the tragedy: "Guan Yu had cut his way to Linju at night and been captured by a general of Wu. He had refused to bend, and both father and son had gone to the Nine Springs."

When he heard of the final catastrophe, Liu Bei uttered a great cry and fell swooning.

His mind went back to the pledge of days gone by;
Could he live still and let his brother die?

What happened will be told in the next chapter.

NotesEdit

  1. 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.
  2. GJCM notes: this man was called Liu Yung in the original Brewitt-Taylor translation.

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