Forging A Letter, Jiang Wei Defeats The Northern Army.
|It was in the autumn of the sixth year of Beginning Prosperity (AD 229) that the Wei army was defeated, with very great loss, by Lu Xun of Wu. Cao Xiu's mortification brought on an illness from which he died in Luoyang. By command of Cao Rui, the Ruler of Wei, Cao Xiu received most honorable burial.
Then Sima Yi brought the army home again.
The other officers went to welcome him and asked, "The defeat of Commander Cao Xiu is also partly yours. Why, O General, did you hurry home?"
Sima Yi replied, "I came for reasons of strategy, because of Zhuge Liang's probable intentions. If he knows I have suffered a defeat, he may try to attack Chang'an. The whole West Valley Land would be helpless if I did not return."
They listened and smiled, for they thought he was afraid.
Letters from Wu came to Shu proposing a joint attack on Wei and detailing their recent victory. In these letters two feelings were gratified---that of telling the story of their own grandeur and prowess, and that of furthering the design of a treaty of peace. The Latter Ruler was pleased and sent the letters to Zhuge Liang in Hanzhong.
At that time the army was in excellent state, the soldiers hardy, the horses strong. There were plentiful supplies of all kinds. Zhuge Liang was just going to propose a new war.
On receipt of the letter he made a great banquet to discuss an expedition. A severe gale came on from the northeast and brought down a fir tree in front of the general's shelter. It was an inauspicious omen to all the officers, and they were troubled.
Zhuge Liang cast lots to know what portent was intended, and announced, "That gale signals the loss of a great leader."
Zhuge Liang, deeply affected, threw aside his wine cup and cried, "That is it. Zhao Yun is gone!"
When the two young men came in, they prostrated themselves and wept, saying, "Our father died the night before at the third watch."
Zhuge Liang staggered and burst into lamentation.
"My friend is gone. The country has lost it great beam, and I my right arm!"
Those about him joined in, wiping away their tears. Zhuge Liang bade the two young men go in person to Chengdu to bear the sad tidings to the Emperor.
And the Latter Ruler wept bitterly.
"Zhao Yun was my savior and friend. He saved my life when I was a child in the time of great confusion!" cried the Latter Ruler.
An edict was issued creating Zhao Yun Regent Marshal and Lord of Shunping and giving burial on the east of Silky Hills near Capital Chengdu. A temple was ordered to his memory and sacrifices were offered in four seasons.
In wit and valor he was fitting mate
For Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, his exploits rivaling
Even theirs. River Han and Dangyang recall
His name. Twice in his stalwart arms he bore
The prince, his well-loved leader's son and heir.
In storied page his name stands out, writ large.
Fair record of most brave and loyal deeds.
The Latter Ruler showed his affectionate gratitude to the late leader, not only in according him most honorable burial, but in kindness to his sons. The elder, Zhao Tong, was made General in the Tiger Army and the younger, Zhao Guang, Station General. He also set guards over the tomb.
When the two sons had left, the ministers reported to the Latter Ruler: "The dispositions of the army are complete, and the Prime Minister proposes to march against Wei without delay."
Talking this over with one and another, the Latter Ruler found the courtiers much inclined to a cautious policy and somewhat fearful. And the doubts entered into the Latter Ruler's mind so that he could not decide. Then came a memorial from Zhuge Liang, and the messenger, Yang Yi, was called into the presence and gave it to the Latter Ruler. The Emperor spread it on the table and read:
The Latter Ruler was convinced, and by edict directed Zhuge Liang to start on the expedition.
Zhuge Liang marched out with three hundred thousand well-trained soldiers, Wei Yan leading the first division, and made all haste to Chencang.
The news soon reached Luoyang, and Sima Yi informed the Ruler of Wei, who called his council.
Then Cao Zhen stepped forth and said, "In the previous campaign I failed to hold West Valley Land, and my disgrace is terrible to bear. But now I beg to be given another command that I may capture Zhuge Liang. Lately I have found a stalwart soldier for a leader, a man who wields a ninety-pound sword, rides a swift and savage steed, bends the three-hundred-pound bow, and carries hidden about him when he goes into battle three meteor maces with which his aim is certain. So valorous is he that none dare stand against him. He comes from Didao in West Valley Land and is named Wang Shuang. I would recommend him for my leader of the van."
Cao Rui approved at once and summoned this marvel to the hall. There came a nine-span man with a dusky complexion, yellowish eyes, strong as a bear in the hips and with a back supple as a tiger's.
"No need to fear anything with such a man!" said Cao Rui, laughing.
He gave the new hero rich presents, a silken robe and golden breastplate, and gave him the title General Who Possesses the Tiger Majesty. And Wang Shuang became Leader of the Van of the new army. Cao Zhen was appointed Commander-in-Chief.
Cao Zhen took leave of his master and left the court. He collected his one hundred fifty thousand veterans and, in consultation with Guo Huai and Zhang He, decided upon the strategic points to be guarded.
The first companies of the army of Shu sent out their scouts as far as Chencang. They came back and reported: "A rampart has been built and behind it is a general named Hao Zhao in command. The rampart is very strong and is further defended by thorny barriers. Instead of taking Chencang, which seems difficult, it would be easier to go out to Qishan by the Taibo Mountains, where is a practicable, though winding, road."
But Zhuge Liang said, "Due north of Chencang is Jieting, so that I must get this city in order to advance."
Wei Yan was sent to surround Chencang and take it. He went, but days passed without success. Therefore he returned and told his chief the place was impregnable. In his anger, Zhuge Liang was going to put Wei Yan to death, but an officer stepped forth.
Said he, "I have followed the Prime Minister for a long time, but have not achieved worthy service. Now I want to go to Chencang and persuade Hao Zhao to yield. Thus, our army does not need to use a single bow or arrow."
Others turned their attention to Counselor Jin Xiang.
"How do you think you will persuade him?" said Zhuge Liang. "What will you say?"
"Hao Zhao and I are both from West Valley Land and pledged friends from boyhood. If I can get to see him, I will so lay matters before him that he must surrender."
Jin Xiang got permission to try, and rode quickly to the wall of Chencang.
Then he called out, "Friend Hao Zhao, your old chum Jin Xiang has come to see you!"
A sentry on the wall told Hao Zhao, who bade them let the visitor enter and bring him up on the wall.
"Friend, why have you come?" asked Hao Zhao.
"I am in the service of Shu, serving under Zhuge Liang as an assistant in the Tactical Department. I am created exceedingly well, and my chief has sent me to say something to you."
Hao Zhao was rather annoyed, and said, "Zhuge Liang is my enemy. I serve Wei while you serve Shu. Each serves his own lord. We were brothers once, but now we are enemies. So do not say any more."
And the visitor was requested to take his leave. Jin Xiang tried to reopen the conversation, but Hao Zhao left him and went up on the tower. The Wei soldiers hurried Jin Xiang on to his horse and led him to the gate. As he passed out, he looked up and saw his friend leaning on the guard rail.
He pulled up his horse, pointed with his whip at Hao Zhao, and said, "My friend and worthy brother, why has your friendship become so thin?"
"Brother, you know the laws of Wei," replied Hao Zhao. "I have accepted their bounty, and if that leads to death, so be it. Say no more, but return quickly to your master and tell him to come and attack. I am not afraid."
So Jin Xiang had to return and report failure.
"He would not let me begin to explain," said he.
"Try again," said Zhuge Liang. "Go and really talk to him."
So the go-between soon found himself once more at the foot of the wall.
Hao Zhao presently appeared on the tower, and Jin Xiang shouted to him, "My worthy brother, please listen to my words while I explain clearly. Here you are holding one single city. How can you think of opposing one hundred thousand troops? If you do not yield, you will be sorry when it is too late. Instead of serving the Great Han, you are serving a depraved country called Wei. Why do you not recognize the decree of Heaven? Why do you not distinguish between the pure and the foul? Think over it."
Then Hao Zhao began to get really angry. He fitted an arrow to his bow and he called out, "Go! Or I will shoot. I meant what I said at first, and I will say no more."
Again Jin Xiang returned and reported failure to Zhuge Liang.
"The fool is very ill-mannered," said Zhuge Liang. "Does he think he can beguile me into sparing the city?"
He called up some of the local people and asked about the forces in the city. They told him about three thousand.
"I do not think such a small place can beat me," said Zhuge Liang. "Attack quickly before any reinforcements can arrive."
Thereupon the assailants brought up scaling ladders, upon the platforms of which ten or more men could stand. These were surrounded by planks as protection. The other soldiers had short ladders and ropes, and, at the beat of the drum, they attempted to scale the walls.
But when Hao Zhao saw the ladders being brought up, he made his soldiers shoot fire-arrows at them. Zhuge Liang did not expect this. He knew the city was not well prepared for defense, and he had had the great ladders brought up and bade the soldiers take the wall with a rush. He was greatly chagrined when the fire arrows set his ladders on fire and so many of his soldiers were burned. And as the arrows and stones rained down from the wall, the soldiers of Shu were forced to retire.
Zhuge Liang angrily said, "So you burn my ladders! Then I will use battering rams."
So the rams were brought and placed against the walls and again the signal given for assault. But the defenders brought up great stones suspended by ropes, which they swung down at the battering rams and so broke them to pieces.
Next the besiegers set to work to bring up earth and fill the moat, and Liao Hua led three thousand soldiers to excavate a tunnel under the ramparts. But Hao Zhao cut a counter-trench within the city and turned that device.
So the struggle went on for near a month, and still the city was not taken. Zhuge Liang was very depressed.
That was not all. The scouts reported: "From the east there is coming a relief force of Wei, the flags of which bears the name Wei Van Leader, General Wang Shuang."
Zhuge Liang asked, "Who wants to go out and oppose this force?"
Wei Yan offered himself.
"No;" said Zhuge Liang, "you are too valuable as Leader of the Van."
General Xie Xiong offered his services. They were accepted, and Xie Xiong was given three thousand troops. After he had gone, Zhuge Liang decided to send a second force, and for command of this General Gong Qi volunteered and was accepted. Gong Qi also had three thousand troops.
Then Zhuge Liang feared lest there would be a sortie from the city to aid the relief force just arriving, so he led off the army seven miles and made a camp.
The first body sent against Wang Shuang had no success: Xie Xiong fell almost immediately under Wang Shuang's great sword. The men fled and Wang Shuang pursued, and so came upon Gong Qi, who had come to support his colleague. Gong Qi met a similar fate, being slain in the third bout.
When the defeated parties returned, Zhuge Liang was anxious and called up Liao Hua, Wang Ping, and Zhang Ni to go out to check this Wang Shuang, They went and drew up in formal array, and then Zhang Ni rode to the front. Wang Shuang rode to meet him, and they two fought several bouts. Then Wang Shuang ran away and Zhang Ni followed.
His colleague, Wang Ping, suspected this flight was but a ruse, so he called to Zhang Ni, "Do not follow the fleeing general!"
Zhang Ni then turned, but Wang Shuang turned also and hurled one of his meteor hammers, which hit Zhang Ni in the back, so that he fell forward and lay over the saddle. Wang Shuang rode on to follow up this advantage, but Liao Hua and Wang Ping poured out and checked him. Wang Shuang's whole force then came on and slew many of the troops of Shu.
Zhang Ni was hurt internally and vomited blood at times. He came back and told Zhuge Liang, saying, "Wang Shuang is very terrible and no one can stand up to him. He camps outside Chencang, building a strong stockade, and so making the city with double walls and a deep moat."
Having lost two generals, and a third being wounded, Zhuge Liang called up Jiang Wei and said, "We are stopped this way. Can you suggest another road?"
"Yes," said Jiang Wei. "Chencang is too well protected and, with Hao Zhao as defender and Wang Shuang as supporter, cannot be taken. I would propose to check Chencang by leaving a general here, who shall make a strong camp with the support of the hills. Then try to hold the roads so that the attack from Jieting may be prevented. Then if you will send a strong force against Qishan, I can do something which will capture Cao Zhen."
Zhuge Liang agreed. He sent Wang Ping and Li Hui to hold the narrow road to Jieting, and Wei Yan was sent to guard the way from Chencang. And then the army marched out of the Xie Valley by a small road and made for Qishan.
Now Cao Zhen still remembered bitterly that in the last campaign Sima Yi had filched from him the credit he hoped to obtain. So when he received the commission of defending the capitals against the invading forces, he detached Guo Huai and Sun Li and sent them to hold positions east and west. Then he had heard that Chencang was threatened, so had sent Wang Shuang to its relief, and now to his joy he heard of his henchman's success. He placed Grand Commander Fei Yao in command of the van and stationed other generals at strategic and commanding points.
Then they caught a spy. He was taken into the presence of the Commander-in-Chief to be questioned.
The man knelt down and said, "I am not really a spy in the bad sense. I was bringing a secret communication for you, Sir, but I was captured by one of the parties in ambush. Pray send away your attendants."
The man's bonds were loosed and the tent cleared.
The captive said, "I am a confidant of Jiang Wei, who has entrusted me with a secret letter."
"Where is the letter?"
The man took it from among his garments and presented it to Cao Zhen, who read:
The letter pleased Cao Zhen, and he said, "This is heaven-sent help to aid me in an achievement."
Cao Zhen rewarded the messenger and bade him return to say that it was accepted.
Then he called Fei Yao to his councils and said, "I have just had a secret letter from Jiang Wei telling me to act in a certain fashion."
But Fei Yao replied, "Zhuge Liang is very crafty, and Jiang Wei is very knowing. If by chance Zhuge Liang has planned all this and sent this man, we may fall into a snare."
"But Jiang Wei is really a man of Wei. He was forced into surrender. Why are you suspicious?"
"My advice is not to go, but to remain here on guard. Let me go to meet this man, and any service I can accomplish will redound to your credit. And if there be any craft, I can meet it for you."
Cao Zhen approved this and bade Fei Yao take fifty thousand troops by way of the Xie Valley.
Fei Yao marched away and halted after the second or third stage and send out scouts. This was done, and the scouts reported that the Shu army was coming through the valley. Fei Yao at once advanced, but before the troops of Shu got into contact with him, they retired. Fei Yao pursued. Then the troops of Shu came on again. Just as Fei Yao was forming up for battle, the Shu army retreated again. And these maneuvers were repeated thrice, and a day and a night passed without any repose for the Wei army.
At length rest was imperative, and they were on the point of entrenching themselves to prepare food when a great hubbub arose all around, and with beating of drums and blaring of trumpets, the whole country was filled with the soldiers of Shu. Suddenly there was a stir near by the great standard, and out came a small four-wheeled chariot in which sat Zhuge Liang. He bade a herald call the leader of the Wei army to a parley.
Fei Yao rode out and, seeing Zhuge Liang, he secretly rejoiced.
Turning to those about him, Fei Yao said, "If the soldiers of Shu come on, you are to retire and look out for a signal. If you see a blaze, you are to turn and attack, for you will be reinforced by Jiang Wei."
Then Fei Yao rode to the front and shouted, "You rebel leader in front there. How dare you come here again after the last defeat?"
Zhuge Liang replied, "Go and call Cao Zhen to a parley."
"My chief, Cao Zhen, is of the royal stock. Think you that he will come to parley with rebels?"
Zhuge Liang angrily waved his fan, and there came forth Ma Dai and Zhang Ni and their troops with a rush. The Wei army retired. But ere they had gone far, they saw a blaze in the rear of the advancing host of Shu and heard a great shouting. Fei Yao could only conclude that this was the signal of Jiang Wei he was looking for, and so he faced about to attack.
But the enemy also turned about and retired. Fei Yao led the pursuit, sword in hand, hastening to the point whence the shouting came. Nearing the signal fire, the drums beat louder than ever, and then out came two armies, one under Guan Xing and the other under Zhang Bao, while arrows and stones rained from the hill-tops. The Wei troops could not stand it and knew not only they were beaten, but beaten by a ruse. Fei Yao tried to withdraw his force into the shelter of the valley to rest, but the enemy pressed on him, and the army of Wei fell into confusion. Pressing upon each other, many fell into the streams and were drowned.
Fei Yao could do nothing but flee for his life. Just as he was passing by a steep hill there appeared a cohort, and the leader was Jiang Wei.
Fei Yao began to upbraid him, crying, "Faithless ingrate! I have haplessly fallen in your treachery and craftiness!"
Jiang Wei replied, "You are the wrong victim. We meant to capture Cao Zhen not you. You would do well to yield!"
But Fei Yao only galloped away toward a ravine. Suddenly the ravine filled with flame. Then he lost all hope. The pursuers were close behind, so Fei Yao with a sword put an end to his own life.
Of the army of Wei many surrendered. The Shu army pressed home their advantage and, hastening forward, reached Qishan and made a camp. There the army was mustered and put in order.
Jiang Wei received a reward, but he was chagrined that Cao Zhen had not been taken.
"My regret is that I did not slay Cao Zhen," said he.
"Indeed, yes," replied Zhuge Liang. "It is a pity that a great scheme should have had so small a result."
Cao Zhen was very sad when he heard of the loss of Fei Yao. He consulted Guo Huai as to a new plan to drive back the enemy.
Meanwhile, flying messengers had gone to the capital with news of Zhuge Liang's arrival at Qishan and the defeat. Cao Rui called Sima Yi to ask for a plan to meet these new conditions.
"I have a scheme all ready, not only to turn back Zhuge Liang, but to do so without any exertion on our part. They will retire of their own will."
Fights on Sima Yi's strategy.
The strategy will appear in the next chapter.