Contesting Array Battles, Zhuge Liang Shames Sima Yi.
|When the Shu officers got to know that the Wei army had gone but they were not to pursue, they were inclined to discontent and went in a body to the Prime Minister's tent and said, "The rain has driven the enemy away. Surely it is the moment to pursue."
Zhuge Liang replied, "Sima Yi is an able leader who would not retreat without leaving an ambush to cover it. If we pursue we shall fall victims. Let him go in peace, and I shall then get through the Xie Valley and take Qishan, making use of the enemy's lack of defense."
"But there are other ways of taking Chang'an," said they. "Why only take Qishan?"
"Because Qishan is the first step to Chang'an, and I want to gain the advantage of position. And every transportation from the West Valley Land must come this way. It rests on River Wei in front and is backed by the Xie Valley. It gives the greatest freedom of movement and is a natural maneuvering ground. That is why I want it."
They bowed to his wisdom.
Then Zhuge Liang dispatched Wei Yan, Zhang Ni, Du Qiong, and Chen Shi for Gu Valley; and he sent Ma Dai, Wang Ping, Zhang Yi, and Ma Zhong for the Xie Valley; all were to meet at the Qishan Mountains. He led the main army himself, with Guan Xing and Liao Hua in the van.
When the Wei army retreated, Cao Zhen and Sima Yi remained in the rear superintending the movement. They sent a reconnoitering party along the old road to Chencang, and they returned saying no enemy was to be seen. Ten days later the leaders, who had commanded in the ambush, joined the main body saying that they had seen no sign of the enemy.
Cao Zhen said, "This continuous autumn rain has rendered all the plank trails impassable. How could the soldiers of Shu know of our retreat?"
"They will appear later," said Sima Yi.
"How can you know?"
"These late five dry days they have not pursued, because they think we shall have left a rearguard in ambush. Therefore they have let us get well away. But after we have gone, they will try to occupy Qishan."
Cao Zhen was not convinced.
"Why do you doubt?" asked Sima Yi. "I think Zhuge Liang will certainly advance by way of the two valleys, and you and I should guard the entrances. I give them ten days, and if they do not appear, I will come to your camp painted in the face to own my mistake."
"If the army of Shu do appear, I will give you the girdle and the steed that the Emperor gave me," replied Cao Zhen.
And they split their force, Cao Zhen taking up his station on the west of Qishan in the Xie Valley, and Sima Yi going to the east in the Gu Valley.
As soon as the camp was settled, Sima Yi led a cohort into hiding in the valley. The remainder of the force was placed in detachments on the chief roads.
Sima Yi disguised himself as a soldier and went among the soldiers to get a private survey of all the camps.
In one of them he happened upon a junior officer who was complaining, saying, "The rain has drenched us for days, and they would not retire. Now they have camped here for a wager. They have no pity for us soldiers."
Sima Yi returned to his tent and assembled his officers.
Hauling out the grumbler, Sima Yi said to him, angrily, "The state feeds and trains soldiers a thousand days for one hour's service. How dare you give vent to your spleen to the detriment of discipline?"
The man would not confess, so his comrades were called to bear witness. Still he would not own up.
"I am not here for a wager, but to overcome Shu," said Sima Yi. "Now you all have done well and are going home, but only this fellow complains and is guilty of mutinous conduct."
Sima Yi ordered the lictors to put him to death, and in a short time they produced his head.
The others were terrified, but Sima Yi said, "All you must do your utmost to guard against the enemy. When you hear a bomb explode, rush out on all sides and attack."
With this order they retired.
Now Wei Yan, Zhang Ni, Chen Shi, and Du Qiong, with twenty thousand troops, entered the Gu Valley. As they were marching, Adviser Deng Zhi came.
"I bear an order from the Prime Minister. As you go out of the valley, beware of the enemy," said Deng Zhi.
Chen Shi said, "Why is the Prime Minister so full of doubts? We know the soldiers of Wei have suffered severely from the rain and must hasten home. They will not lay any ambush. We are doing double marches and shall gain a great victory. Why are we to delay?"
Deng Zhi replied, "You know the Prime Minister's plans always succeed. How dare you disobey his orders?"
Chen Shi smiled, saying, "If he was really so resourceful, we should not have lost Jieting."
Wei Yan, recalling that Zhuge Liang had rejected his plan, also laughed, and said, "If he had listened to me and gone out through Ziwu Valley, not only Chang'an but Luoyang too would be ours. Now he is bent on taking Qishan. What is the good of it? He gave us the order to advance and now he stops us. Truly the orders are confusing."
Then said Chen Shi, "I will tell you what I will do. I shall take only five thousand troops, get through the Gu Valley, and camp at Qishan. Then you will see how ashamed the Prime Minister will look."
Deng Zhi argued and persuaded, but to no avail: The willful leader hurried on to get out of the valley. Deng Zhi could only return as quickly as possible and report.
Chen Shi proceeded. He had gone a few miles when he heard a bomb, and he was in an ambush. He tried to withdraw, but the valley was full of the enemy and he was surrounded as in an iron cask. All his efforts to get out failed. Then there was a shout, and Wei Yan came to the rescue. Wei Yan saved his comrade, but Chen Shi's five thousand troops was reduced to about five hundred, and these wounded. The Wei soldiers pursued, but two other divisions of Zhang Ni and Du Qiong prevented the pursuit, and finally the army of Wei retired.
Chen Shi and Wei Yan who had criticized Zhuge Liang's powers of prevision no longer doubted that he saw very clearly. They regretted their own shortsightedness.
When Deng Zhi told his chief of the bad behavior of Chen Shi and Wei Yan, Zhuge Liang only laughed.
Said he, "Wei Yan has been disposed to disobey and resent. However, I value his valor, and so I have employed him. But he will do real harm some day."
Then came a messenger, who reported, "Chen Shi had fallen into an ambush and lost more than four thousand troops. He has led his remained five hundred horse back to the gorge."
Zhuge Liang sent Deng Zhi back again to Gu Valley to console with Chen Shi and so keep him from actual mutiny.
Then Zhuge Liang called to his tent Ma Dai and Wang Ping, and said, "If there are any troops of Wei in the Xie Valley, you are to go across the mountains, marching by night and concealing yourselves by day, and make for the east of Qishan. When you arrive, make a fire as a signal."
Next he gave orders to Ma Zheng and Zhang Ni, saying, "You are to follow the by-roads to the west of Qishan. You are also to march by night and conceal by day. Then you are to join up with Ma Dai and Wang Ping. The four of you shall make a joint attack on Cao Zhen's camp. I shall lead the army through the valley and attack the camp in the center."
After the four Generals left, Guan Xing and Liao Hua also received secret orders.
The armies marched rapidly. Not long after starting, two other detachments led by Hu Ban and Wu Yi received secret orders and left the main body.
The doubts about the coming of the Shu army made Cao Zhen careless, and he allowed his soldiers to become slack and rest. He only thought of getting through the allotted ten days, when he would have the laugh against his colleague.
Seven of the days had passed, when a scout reported a few odd men of Shu in the valley. Cao Zhen sent Qin Liang with five thousand troops to reconnoiter and keep them at a distance.
Qin Liang he led his troops to the entrance of the valley. As soon as he arrived, the enemy retired. Qin Liang went after them, but they had disappeared. He was perplexed and puzzled, and while trying to decide, he told the troops to dismount and rest.
But almost immediately he heard a shout, and ambushing troops appeared in front of him. He jumped on his horse to look about him, and saw a great cloud of dust rising among the hills. He disposed his troops for defense, but the shouting quickly came nearer, and then Hu Ban and Wu Yi appeared advancing towards him. Retreat was impossible for Guan Xing and Liao Hua had blocked the road.
The hills were on both sides, and from the hill-tops came shouts of "Dismount and yield!"
More than half did surrender. Qin Liang rode out to fight, but he was slain by Liao Hua.
Zhuge Liang put the Wei soldiers who had come over to his side in one of the rear divisions. With their dress and arms, he disguised five thousand of his own troops so that they looked like his enemies, and then he sent this division---under Guan Xing, Liao Hua, Wu Yi, and Hu Ban---to raid Cao Zhen's camp. Before they reached the camp, they sent one of their number ahead as a galloper to tell Cao Zhen that there had been only a few men of Shu and they had all been chased out of sight, and so lull him into security.
This news satisfied Cao Zhen.
But just then a trusty messenger from Sima Yi came with a message: "Our troops have fallen into an ambush, and many have been killed. Do not think any more about the wager: That is canceled. But take most careful precautions."
"But there is not a single soldier of Shu near," said Cao Zhen.
He told the messenger to go back. Just then they told him Qin Liang's army had returned, and he went out to meet them. Just as he got near, someone remarked that some torches had flared up in the rear of his camp. He hastened thither to see. As soon as he was out of sight, the four leaders waved on their troops and dashed up to the camp. At the same time Ma Dai and Wang Ping came up behind, and Ma Zheng and Zhang Yi came out.
The soldiers of Wei were trapped and helpless. They scattered and fled for life. Cao Zhen, protected by his generals, fled away eastward. The enemy chased them closely. As Cao Zhen fled there arose a great shouting, and up came an army at full speed. Cao Zhen thought all was lost, and his heart sank, but it was Sima Yi, who drove off the pursuers.
Though Cao Zhen was saved, he was almost too ashamed to show his face.
Then said Sima Yi, "Zhuge Liang has seized Qishan, and we cannot remain here. Let us go to River Wei, whence we may try to recover our lost ground."
"How did you know I was in danger of defeat?" asked Cao Zhen.
"My messenger told me that you said there was not a single soldier of Shu near, and I knew Zhuge Liang would try to seize your camp. So I came to your help. The enemy's plan succeeded, but we will say no more about that wager. We must both do our best for the country."
But the fright and excitement made Cao Zhen ill, and he took to his bed. And while the army were in such a state of disorder, Sima Yi was afraid to advise a return. They camped at River Wei.
After this adventure Zhuge Liang hastened back to Qishan. After the soldiers had been feasted and services recognized, the four discontented leaders---Wei Yan, Chen Shi, Du Qiong, and Zhang Ni---came to the tent to apologize.
"Who caused the loss?" said Zhuge Liang.
Wei Yan said, "Chen Shi disobeyed orders and rushed into the valley."
"Wei Yan told me to," said Chen Shi.
"Would you still try to drag him down after he rescued you?" said Zhuge Liang. "However, when orders have been disobeyed, it is useless to try and gloze it over."
Zhuge Liang sentenced Chen Shi to death, and he was led away. Soon they brought his head into the presence of the assembled generals. Zhuge Liang spared Wei Yan as there was yet work for him to accomplish.
After this, Zhuge Liang prepared to advance. The scouts reported that Cao Zhen was ill, but was being treated by doctors in his tent.
The news pleased Zhuge Liang, and he said to his officers, "If Cao Zhen's illness is slight, they will surely return to Chang'an. They must be delayed by his serious sickness. He stays on so that his soldiers may not lose heart. Now I will write him such a letter that he will die."
Then he called up the soldiers of Wei who had yielded, and said to them, "You are Wei troops, and your families are all over there: It is wrong for you to serve me. Suppose I let you go home?"
They thanked him, falling prostrate and weeping.
Then Zhuge Liang continued, "Friend Cao Zhen and I have a compact, and I have a letter for him which you shall take. The bearer will be well rewarded."
They received the letter and ran home to their own tents, where they gave their Commander-in-Chief the letter. Cao Zhen was too ill to rise, but he opened the cover and read:
Cao Zhen's wrath rose as he read. At the end it filled his breast. And he died that evening. Sima Yi sent his coffin to Luoyang on a wagon.When the Ruler of Wei heard of the death of Cao Zhen, he issued an edict urging Sima Yi to prosecute the war, to raise a great army, and to fight with Zhuge Liang.
Sima Yi sent a declaration of war one day in advance, and Zhuge Liang replied that he would fight on the morrow.
After the envoy had left, Zhuge Liang said, "Cao Zhen must have died!"
He called Jiang Wei by night to receive secret orders. He also summoned Guan Xing and told him what to do.
Next morning the whole force marched to the bank of River Wei and took up a position in a wide plain with the river on one flank and hills on the other. The two armies saluted each other's appearance with heavy flights of arrows. After the drums had rolled thrice the Wei center opened at the great standard and Sima Yi appeared, followed by his officers. Opposite was Zhuge Liang, in a four-horse chariot, waving his feather fan.
Sima Yi addressed Zhuge Liang, "Our master's ascension of the Throne was after the manner of King Yao, who abdicated in favor of King Shun. Two emperors have succeeded and have their seat in the Middle Land. Because of his liberality and graciousness, my lord has suffered the rule of Shu and Wu lest the people should suffer in a struggle. You, who are but a plowman from Nanyang, ignorant of the ways of Heaven, wish to invade us, and you should be destroyed. But if you will examine your heart and repent of your fault and retire, then each may maintain his own borders, and a settled state of three kingdoms will be attained. Thus the people may be spared distress, and you will save your life."
Zhuge Liang smiled and replied, "Our First Ruler entrusted to me the custody of his orphan son: Think you that I shall fail to exert myself to the uttermost to destroy rebels against his authority? Your soldiers of the Cao family will soon be exterminated by Han. Your ancestors were servants of Han and for generations ate of their bounty. Yet, instead of giving grateful service, you assist usurpers. Are you not ashamed?"
The flush of shame spread over Sima Yi's face, but he replied, "We will try the test of battle. If you can conquer, I pledge myself to be no longer a leader of armies. But if you are defeated, then you will retire at once to your own village and I will not harm you."
"Do you desire a contest of generals, or of weapons, or of battle array?" asked Zhuge Liang.
"Let us try a contest of battle array," replied Sima Yi.
"Then draw up your array that I may see," said Zhuge Liang.
Sima Yi withdrew within the line and signaled to his officers with a yellow flag to draw up their troops.
When he had finished, he rode again to the front, saying, "Do you recognize my formation?"
"The least of my generals can do as well," said Zhuge Liang, smiling. "This is called the 'Disorder-in-Order' formation."
"Now you try while I look on," said Sima Yi.
Zhuge Liang entered the lines and waved his fan. Then he came out and said, "Do you recognize that?"
"Of course. This is the 'Eight Arrays'."
"Yes; you seem to know it. But dare you attack?"
"Why not, since I know it?" replied Sima Yi.
"Then you need only try."
Sima Yi entered the ranks and called to him three generals---Dai Ling, Zhang Hu, and Yue Chen---to whom he said, "That formation consists of eight gates---Birth, Exit, Expanse, Wound, Fear, Annihilation, Obstacle, and Death. You will go in from the east at the Gate of Birth, turn to the southwest and make your way out by the Gate of Annihilation. Then enter at the north, at the Exit Gate, and the formation will be broken up. But be cautious."
They started with Zhang Hu leading, Dai Ling next, and Yue Chen in rear, each with thirty horsemen. They made their way in at the Gate of Birth amid the applause of both sides. But when they had got within they found themselves facing a wall of troops and could not find a way out. They hastily led their men round by the base of the line toward the southwest to rush out there. But they were stopped by a flight of arrows. They became confused and saw many gates, but they had lost their bearings. Nor could they aid each other. They dashed hither and thither in disorder, but the formation was as if gathering clouds and rolling mists. Then a shout arose, and each one was seized and bound.
They were taken to the center, where Zhuge Liang sat in his tent, and the three leaders with their ninety men were ranged in front.
"Indeed you are prisoners. Are you surprised?" said Zhuge Liang, smiling. "But I will set you free to return to your leader, and tell him to read his books again, and study his tactics, before he comes to try conclusions with me. You are pardoned, but leave your weapons and horses here."
So they were stripped of their arms and armors and their faces inked. Thus were they led on foot out of the array. Sima Yi lost his temper at sight of his people thus put to shame.
Said he, "After this disgrace, how can I face the other officers in the Middle Land?"
He gave the signal for the army to fall on and attack the enemy, and, grasping his sword, led his brave generals into the fray and commanded the attack. But just as the two armies came to blows, Guan Xing came up fromt the southwest, his drums rolling and troops shouting, and attacked. Sima Yi told off a division from the rear to oppose Guan Xing, and again turned to urge on his main body.
Then the army of Wei was thrown into confusion by another attack from Jiang Wei, who came up silently and joined in the battle. Thus three sides of the Wei army were attacked by three different divisions of the enemy, and Sima Yi decided to retire. However, this was difficult. The soldiers of Shu hemmed him in and came closer every moment. At last, by a desperate push, he cut an alley toward the south and freed his army. But he had lost six or seven out of every ten of his soldiers.
The Wei army withdrew to the south bank of River Wei and camped. They strengthened their position and remained entirely on the defensive.
Zhuge Liang mustered his victorious army and returned to Qishan.
Zhuge Liang, angry at the delay, upbraided him, saying, "This grain is of the utmost importance to the army and you delay it. Three days' delay ought to mean the death penalty. What can you say to this delay of ten?"
Gou An was sentenced to death and hustled out.
But Yang Yi ventured to intervene, saying, "Gou An is a servant of Li Yan, and Li Yan has sent large supplies of all sorts from the West River Land. The road is long and difficult. If you put this man to death, perhaps others will not undertake transport duty."
Zhuge Liang then bade the executioners loose the offender, give him eighty blows, and let him go.
This punishment filled Gou An's heart with bitter resentment, and, in the night, he deserted to the enemy, he and his half dozen personal staff. He was taken before Sima Yi and told the tale of his wrongs.
"Your tale may be true, but it is hard to trust it," said Sima Yi. "Zhuge Liang is full of guile. However, you may render me a service, and if you do, I will ask the Ruler of Wei that you may be allowed to serve him and obtain a post for you."
"Whatever you ask, I will do the best I can," replied the deserter.
"Then go to Chengdu and spread a lying report that Zhuge Liang is angry with the powers there and means to make himself emperor. This will get him recalled, and that will be a merit to you."
Gou An accepted the treacherous mission. In Chengdu he got hold of the eunuchs, and told them his lying tale that the Prime Minister was too proud of his services and was about to use his sweeping powers to usurp the Throne.
The eunuchs became alarmed for their own safety and told the Emperor all these things.
"In such a case what am I to do?" asked the Latter Ruler.
"Recall him to the capital," said the eunuchs, "and take away his military powers so that he cannot rebel."
The Latter Ruler issued an edict recalling the army.
But Jiang Wan stepped forward and said, "The Prime Minister has rendered many great services since he led out the army. Wherefore is he recalled?"
"I have a private matter to consult him about," said the Latter Ruler. "I must see him personally."
So the edict was issued and sent to Zhuge Liang. The messenger was at once received as soon as he reached Qishan.
"The Emperor is young, and there is some jealous persons by his side," said Zhuge Liang sadly. "I was just going to achieve some solid success. Why am I recalled? If I go not, I shall insult my Prince. If I retire, I shall never get such a chance again."
"If the army retire, Sima Yi will attack," said Jiang Wei.
"I will retire in five divisions. Thus today this camp goes. Supposing that there are a thousand soldiers in the camp, then I shall have two thousand cooking places prepared, or if there are three thousand soldiers, then four thousand cooking plates shall be got ready, and so on, increasing the cooking arrangements as the troops are sent away."
Yang Yi said, "In the days of old, when Sun Bin was attacking Pang Juan, Sun Bin decreased the cooking arrangements as the soldiers were increased. Why do you reverse this, O Prime Minister?"
"Because Sima Yi is an able leader and would pursue if he knew we were retreating. But he would recognize the probability of an ambush; and if he sees an increase in the cooking arrangements in a camp, he will be unable to conclude whether the troops have gone or not, and he will not pursue. Thus I shall gradually withdraw without loss."
The order for retreat was given.
Confident of the effect that Gou An's lying report would produce, Sima Yi waited for the retreat of the Shu army to begin. He was still waiting when the scouts told him the enemy's camps were empty. Wishing to make sure, he rode out himself with a small reconnoitering party and inspected the empty camps. Then he bade them count the stoves. Next day he paid a second visit to another empty camp, and again the cooking stoves were counted. The count showed an increase of a half.
"I felt sure that Zhuge Liang would have more troops ready. He has increased the cooking arrangements, and so, if we pursue, he will be ready for us. No; we also will retire and await another opportunity."
So there was no pursuit, and Zhuge Liang did not lose a soldier on his retreat to Hanzhong.
By and by, people came in from the River Lands to say that the retreat was a fact, and that only the cooking arrangements had been increased, not the soldiers.
Sima Yi knew that he had been tricked, and looking up the sky, he sighed, "Zhuge Liang imitated the ruse of Sun Bin to rouse my suspicion. His thinking is superior to mine."
And Sima Yi set out for Chang'an.
Then victory hovers between;
Perhaps your opponent's a genius,
So put on your lowliest mien.
What happened when Zhuge Liang returned to Chengdu will be told next.