Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book XXV : Ts’ao Ts’ao Creates a Rift Between Ma Chao and Han Sui

This is one of my personal favorite episodes in Three Kingdoms…so here goes.

Ts’ao Ts’ao’s troops suffered bitterly in that winter. It was difficult to build a fortress until a wise old man gave him some tip. Then, Ts’ao Ts’ao ordered soldiers to pile up wet soil into a fortress. The next morning, a miracle happened. The water in the soil froze into ice, thus giving Ts’ao Ts’ao an ice fortress. Unable to attack, Ma Chao sued for temporary ceasefire. It was during this moment that Jia Xue, one of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s leading advisor, came up with the plan to defeat Ma Chao and Han Sui.

They discovered that the two warlords had an arrangement. Ma Chao and Han Sui would take turns going out to inspect Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fortress every day. On the day that Han Sui came for inspection, Ts’ao Ts’ao came out and talked of old times with him. After all, Han Sui’s father and Ts’ao Ts’ao hath been friends. When Han Sui returned that day, Ma Chao asked what he talked to Ts’ao Ts’ao, but Han Sui dismissed him casually, “Oh, it’s all about the old times. Nothing political.”

Nevertheless, Ma Chao was a warrior and not a strategist. The seed of doubt seem to have been cast. In another time, Ts’ao Ts’ao scribbled up some stuff in a letter and had it sent to Han Sui, who could not read the scribbles at all. There were cancellations of words all over the place.

When Ma Chao heard that Ts’ao Ts’ao sent a letter to Han Sui, he quickly went up to the latter and asked, “Lord Han Sui, what did Ts’ao Ts’ao write to us?”

Han Sui: “It’s all scribbles and cancelled words. Doesn’t make no sense.” He then handed the letter to Ma Chao.

Ma Chao could not read it either, but he thought Han Sui had cancelled the words himself, so he confronted Han Sui on this.

Han Sui was livid, “Of course not. Why would I do that? If you don’t trust me, tomorrow hide yourself in the soldiers and kill Ts’ao Ts’ao when he comes out to talk to me.”

The next morning, Han Sui went to inspect Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fortress, but Ts’ao Ts’ao did not come out but only sent his general to say, “Han Sui, just do as per our agreement with the Minister and you will be rewarded.”

Upon seeing that, Ma Chao thought Han Sui betrayed him and decided to attack the latter, but his generals stopped him, saying they should discuss in a meeting later.

Han Sui knew he could no longer trust Ma Chao, who would not listen to reason, so he sent a letter agreeing to submit to Ts’ao Ts’ao. Ma Chao found out about this and attacked him, killing Han Sui’s bodyguards and cutting his right arm. Han Sui barely escaped to Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fortress, but before he did so, his men succeeded in burning Ma Chao’s camp. Suddenly, the Wei army attacked, and Ma Chao was defeated.

With this, Ts’ao Ts’ao was able to capture Xi Liang, and he made Han Sui its governor. Ma Chao and his loyal general Pang Te would flee to the nearby city of Han Zhong, where Chang Lu the Taoist master ruled.

Book XXIV : Ma Chao Defeats Ts’ao Ts’ao at Xi Liang

Xi Liang is an important frontier city in northwestern China. The people there were strong and semi-barbaric, because they were not pure Chinese but generally had mixed Mongol blood and could withstand intense cold. Their leader Ma Teng was fiercely loyal to Han dynasty and was secretly communicating with Liu Pei of Chingchou despite the distance.

One day, Ts’ao Ts’ao wanted to test Ma Teng’s loyalty, so he summoned him to his capital (Xu Chang) and said that he would inspect Ma Teng’s famed cavalry. Ma Teng had every intention of murdering Ts’ao Ts’ao during the inspection, but his co-conspirator was a fool who told the secret to a mistress. The mistress in turn shared this important secret with her adulterer, who in turn carried the news to Ts’ao Ts’ao himself. Realizing the plot, Ts’ao Ts’ao rounded up Ma Teng and his co-conspirator and had him executed. He then executed the adulterer as well, for he hated treacherous people who could betray him later.

But Ma Teng had left an heir in Xi Liang. His eldest son, Ma Chao, was a famed warrior who wore the lion’s helmet. Ma Chao managed to kill an enemy general before he was 16. Apart from this, Ma Teng also had a sworn brother named Han Sui. Han Sui was a brilliant tactician. This is the story of how the two of them faced Ts’ao Ts’ao’s mighty invasion of the north and briefly triumphed.

At that time, Ts’ao Ts’ao was planning to invade Sun Quan of Wu. Though Liu Pei hath won many victories and expanded his territory, Ts’ao Ts’ao still realized that Wu was the greatest threat to Wei and not Liu Pei. However, Liu Pei was also brother-in-law and ally of Sun Quan, so when the latter requested his assistance against Ts’ao Ts’ao, it was difficult to turn them down.

Kung Ming, however, told Liu Pei not to send troops to Wu. Instead, he sent a letter to Ma Chao inciting him to go to war with Ts’ao Ts’ao in order to avenge his father. Instigated by Kung Ming’s crafty letter, Ma Chao and Han Sui led the Xi Liang forces against Wei and quickly captured Tian Shui and marched on An Ding by the Wei River.

Ts’ao Ts’ao realized that he could not simply ignore this threat. If An Ding fell, then his eastern capital Chang’an could be next, so he temporarily abandoned plans to attack Wu and led a massive force of 200,000 troops against Ma Chao. Ma Chao’s men were vastly outnumbered, but he also knew the terrain better than Ts’ao Ts’ao. Furthermore, it was winter, and the Wei soldiers were not as accustomed to the bitter cold as the Xi Liang troops.

At the Wei River, Ts’ao Ts’ao offered to parry. He said he was willing to make Ma Chao Lord of the Northwest if he would serve Wei. However, Ma Chao never forgave Ts’ao Ts’ao for his father’s death and charged in for the kill. Luckily for Ts’ao Ts’ao, his general Xu Zhu (a former Yellow Turban rebel with great fighting skill) went forth to fight with Ma Chao. Neither Xu Zhu nor Ma Chao could defeat the other. Xu Zhu had to take off his armor and fight ligher. He lost his lance to Ma Chao’s spear, but managed to protect himself by breaking Ma Chao’s spear. Not wanting to risk losing his favorite general, Ts’ao Ts’ao sounded the drums, whereupon Xu Zhu managed to get back in truce.

That night, Ma Chao spilled oil into the river and burned Ts’ao Ts’ao’s camp. In the Battle of Wei River, Ts’ao Ts’ao was badly retreated and forced to evacuate from An Ding. In fact, Ma Chao almost captured Ts’ao Ts’ao alive, but the latter took off his emblem of power and cut his own beard, pretending to be a private soldier. Ma Chao even met him in person, but not realizing that this was Ts’ao Ts’ao, merely asked him where Ts’ao Ts’ao went. Ts’ao Ts’ao, always quick-witted, merely pointed in the wrong direction, and so managed to escape just barely.

Ma Chao and Han Sui staged many winter raids on Ts’ao Ts’ao’s food depot. The damages were not much, but the deterioration of morale was worse. So Ts’ao Ts’ao built an underground fortress, but the Xi Liang army broke the dam and flooded this fortress, thus causing great damage.

Ma Chao still could not destroy Ts’ao Ts’ao’s gigantic army, but Ts’ao Ts’ao suffered great damages. Is this the end of the wily Minister? To know how the Battle of Xi Liang ends, don’t miss our next episode “Ts’ao Ts’ao Creates a Rift Between Ma Chao and Han Sui” (Book XXV).

Book XXIII : The Beautiful Maiden Ploy

The wives of Liu Pei hath finally all died, and this gave Sun Quan and Chou Yu an idea of how to capture him. Based on Chou Yu’s plan, Sun Quan would offer his younger sister, Lady Sun Shangxiang, to Liu Pei in marriage. When Liu Pei came to Nanking to take the bride, Chou Yu would imprison him and not allow him to return until Kung Ming returned Chingchou to Wu. Because Lady Sun was beautiful, Chou Yu felt confident that Liu Pei would fall for this trap. If Liu Pei did not come, they would still use it as an excuse to invade Chingchou, saying that Liu Pei didn’t honor the alliance with Wu. It was a no-lose proposition as far as Chou Yu was concerned.

When the matchmaker reached Chingchou, Liu Pei saw through the trickery, but Kung Ming advised him to take the invitation anyway, saying in his cunning voice, “Don’t worry, my Lord. Not only will you ensnare this beautiful Lady, but I will also teach Chou Yu a lesson. Haha, to think he would try to play a dirty trick on me…We shall see…hehe.”

With this, Kung Ming asked Liu Pei to go to Nanking to pick up his bride, but he also had Chao Yun accompany him. Before Chao Yun left, Kung Ming gave him three scrolls with the directions, “Open the first scroll the moment you reach Nanking. Open the second scroll at the wedding, and when things get really bad, open the third scroll. Chao Yun, you are a smart man. I know you will find a way to execute my plans.”…And with that Liu Pei and Chao Yun left to pick up Lady Sun in Nanking, as was the tradition of Wu.

Upon reaching Nanking, Chao Yun opened the first scroll and did what it told him to do. He immediately went to Lord Qiao, showered him with precious gifts from Chingchou, and told him that the Imperial Uncle Liu Pei came over to marry Lady Sun.

Now, Lord Qiao was an important man. Not only was he a retired noble of Wu, but he was also father to the two most beautiful women of the south. One was the widow of Wu founder Sun Ts’e, and the other Xiao Qiao was Chou Yu’s own wife. As such, he had the confidence of the Wu royalty, and could visit them whenever he wanted.

So he visited the Dowager Sun, who was mother of Lady Sun and foster mother of Marquis Sun Quan himself. He congratulated Dowager Wu on the wedding of her daughter, whereupon Dowager Sun was most surprised. Certainly, Sun Quan hath not informed her of this. She was angry at the thought that her young daughter would have to marry a fifty year old man like Liu Pei, Imperial Uncle though he may be.

So he called Sun Quan to reprimand him, whereupon Sun Quan said he was only using this as a ploy to seize Chingchou. Now, Dowager Sun was even more angry!! How dare Sun Quan use her daughter as a tool in his mindless wars?!? Did Chou Yu not have the brilliance to take the cities by force?! She demanded.

Sun Quan was at a loss. In the end, Dowager Sun demanded that she meet Liu Pei at the Kum Lor Temple. If he was found to be an unsuitable groom, she would allow Sun Quan to kill him rather than have him marry her daughter.

So Sun Quan stationed his men outside the Temple waiting to kill Liu Pei, thinking, “Haha, how can my mother allow my beautiful, young sister marry an old man like Liu Pei? Surely, I will kill him and take Chingchou easily now.”

That day, Liu Pei dressed splendidly, and though he was probably as old as Dowager Sun herself, his charisma and character shined. Liu Pei truly looked like a royalty…if not a hero from the legends himself!!

Dowager Sun was much impressed upon seeing him. Surely, this is the son-in-law of her dreams. Suddenly, Liu Pei broke down and said, “My mother, if it is your will, let me die by your hands and not those of my enemies.”

Upon hearing this, Dowager Sun was much surprised and replied, “My son Liu Pei, you are in the midst of family here. To have the Imperial Uncle into the Sun family is a great honor. No man shall dare harm you here, not without crossing over my dead body.”

Suddenly, brave Chao Yun appeared in all his glory and reported the ambush that Sun Quan hath prepared for Liu Pei.

Upon hearing this, Dowager Sun was most impressed by Chao Yun and simultaneously angry at her own son, “Ha!! This is the great Chao Yun, hero of the Chang-pa’an slopes. You are more impressive than the myths have it. Sun Quan, you unfilial son!! Do you dare attack my son-in-law in presence? Am I still your mother?! Do you not know that Lord Liu Pei is the Imperial Uncle, and to harm his person would be treason to the Han dynasty?!?”

Sun Quan was shocked by his mother’s response and quickly ordered the ambush away. Chou Yu, his co-conspirator, was both disappointed and angry at the failure of their plan.

But Chou Yu was not a man to easily give up. Next, he told Sun Quan, “Allow them to get married and build a palace like Liu Pei has never known. Shower him with pleasures until he forgets Chingchou, then I and Lu Ssu will lead two armies in a pincer movement and take it by force. Without Liu Pei, Chingchou will be disunited and easy to conquer.”

And so, Sun Quan spared no expense in building an orpulent palace for Liu Pei that was not inferior to his own. Gifts and beautiful maidens were laden upon him, for what were these minor expenses compared to the possibility of conquering Chingchou?

In time, it seemed like Liu Pei was lost in pleasures of Nanking and likely to really forget Chingchou! Upon seeing this, Chao Yun opened the second scroll and told Liu Pei, “Master Kung Ming requires you to return to Chingchou at this instant, for Ts’ao Ts’ao is now invading our lands.”

Lady Sun entered the room and saw Liu Pei weeping.

Lady Sun: “Beloved husband, why are you weeping?”

Liu Pei: “I am in bitter dilemma. I can not bear to leave you, but neither can I desert the brothers whom I have sworn to die with in Chingchou. The tyrant Ts’ao Ts’ao now threatens them. My brothers Kuan Yu and Chang Fei will be in distress, not to mention my benefactor Kung Ming.”

Lady Sun: “I am your wife and will follow you to Chingchou. Have no fear.”

So Lady Sun went and told her mother who approved their departure, but Sun Quan decided to send his men after them. The Wu general Zhou Tai tried to make Lady Sun and Liu Pei stop, but Chao Yun opened the third scroll and told Liu Pei of Kung Ming’s plan. Liu Pei bowed down before Lady Sun and pleaded for his life, so Lady Sun went before Zhou Tai and threatened him.

Zhou Tai thought to himself, “Today, Sun Quan may order me to capture his own sister, but if I use force, certainly he will blame me one day. After all, I am a mere soldier, and this is his own sister.” So Zhou Tai reluctantly let them go.

When Sun Quan heard of this, he was furious. He ordered the general Taishi Chi who knew no fear, “Take this sword of mine. If my sister does not return, slay her!! We shall not let Chingchou out of our grasp.”

By then, however, Lady Sun and Liu Pei were already on a ship. Taishi Chi tried to follow, but he was no match for Chao Yun’s archery or Chou Zang’s command of the sea. Kung Ming was on the same boat too. He shouted back to Chou Yu, “Chou Yu, you tried to lure us with the beautiful maiden, but now, Wu and Chingchou are of the same blood. Haha!!”

Chou Yu was so angry that he vomited blood again. Once again, he was tricked by the wily Kung Ming and could do nothing but wait on the banks of Wu. It would be even harder to take Chingchou now that Liu Pei hath become Sun Quan’s brother-in-law.

Not long after this incident, Chou Yu died. It was a great loss for Wu. Before he died, Chou Yu showed his envy for Kung Ming’s wisdom by saying the words, “The Heavens let Chou Yu be born. Why did they send Chuko Liang (Kung Ming) to be a thorn in my side?” Leadership of the Wu army passed on to Lu Ssu, but Chou Yu’s brilliance would not be forgotten by the men of Wu. In truth, I believe he was the greatest general Wu hath ever known….perhaps on par with the founder Marquis Sun Ts’e himself. After all, Sun Ts’e and Chou Yu were sworn brothers.

Many years later, whilst Liu Pei was away trying to conquer Shu (Szechuan in southwestern China), Sun Quan came up with another plan. He tried to lure his sister back to Nanking by saying that Dowager Sun was sick, knowing that Lady Sun would try to take Liu Pei’s son with her. After all, the heir was in her care. However, as she boarded the ship led by Chou Zang, the valiant generals Chao Yun and fiery Chang Fei boarded the ship.

Chou Zang ordered his men to attack, but Chao Yun fended all the arrows, while Chang Fei ran forth and slew Chou Zang in one mighty blow. Lady Sun threatened to kill herself by jumping into the river if Chang Fei did not allow her to go back and see her sick mother. Upon hearing this, they allowed her to go back but did not allow her to take Liu Pei’s son A-tou with her.

And so the blissful marriage between Liu Pei and Lady Sun came to an end as such.

As the Chinese saying goes, “there are no real friends or true enemies.”

Book XXII : The Road to Changsha

Now, it was time for Kung Ming to capture the four cities immediately south of Chingchou. Due to Chou Yu’s sickness and Ts’ao Ren’s shameful defeat, neither Wei nor Wu tried to interfere. The secret was to act fast, before the enemies could recover.

First, it was Chang Fei who attacked Lumkun. The city used to be a major stronghold that held nominal allegiance to Wei. It was easily defeated by Chang Fei. Next, Kung Ming sent Chao Yun to invade the city of Wu Ling. The governor of Wu Ling was a great admirer of Chao Yun. He immediately surrendered when the armies of Chingchou reached the gates of Wu Ling.

Seeing that Chao Yun was both gallant and handsome, he offered to let his widowed sister-in-law, a beautiful maiden, marry Chao Yun. Upon hearing this, Chao Yun beat up the governor of Wu Ling. The governor, who was previously well disposed to Chao Yun, now hated him and led a rebellion. Again, he was no match for the “Gentleman of Sian Sa”, who easily defeated him.

Chao Yun bought the governor before his master Liu Pei, and the governor, bitter and downtrodden, told the entire story to the Imperial Uncle, ending with, “All I wanted to do was honor Chao Yun, but he treats me like a dog. I thought of the Chingchou army as deliverers of Wu Ling, but he made feel that you are a tyrant.”

Upon hearing this, Liu Pei sympathized with the governor and decided to sort it out with Chao Yun for him, so he summoned Chao Yun and said, “Chao Yun, you are the most valiant general I have known, and you are not married. Today, the governor of Wu Ling offers a woman of exquisite beauty. Why did you beat him up? Let us be friends. I will act as the host for this wedding, and we will put everything behind us. Is this acceptable?”

But Noble Chao Yun replied, “Imperial Uncle, this must not be! If others hear that I have taken this woman for my own, they will gossip on you, and say that Liu Pei has invaded Wu Ling only to find a good bride for his general. Then, they will really see you as a tyrant, which you are not. I would rather be without a bride than to dirty Thy Name.”

And so, both Kung Ming and Liu Pei were impressed by his nobility. Liu Pei explained the situation to the former governor of Wu Ling and compensated him with gold. The governor and Chao Yun made peace, and Chao Yun maintained his nobility by not marrying the beautiful maiden.

In the battle of Ling Ling, Kung Ming knew this governor was arrogant. He pretended to approach the battlefield on a wheelchair. The Lord of Ling Ling thought he would capture the Sleeping Dragon alive and pursued him, but was ambushed and slain by Chang Fei. Once again, the city of Ling Ling fell to Liu Pei.

Finally, it was time to invade Changsha. Changsha was the original hometown of Sun Jian, whose family now ruled Wu. At the time, Changsha was ruled by a tyrant, but this tyrant hath two valiant generals, namely Huang Zhong (who was noble but old) and Wei Yan (who was wicked and cunning). Kung Ming ordered Kuan Yu to invade Changsha.

In the first battle between Kuan Yu and Huang Zhong, the latter’s horse slipped on a stone, causing Huang Zhong to fall off his horseback. The valiant Kuan Yu, seeing that this was clearly an accident, spared his life and waited for the next combat.

However, Huang Zhong was too noble to NOT repay a debt. When he met Kuan Yu again, he pretended to shoot an arrow with no bow. Kuan Yu was perplexed and marched closer to him on the Red Hare, whereupon Huang Zhong shot a real arrow, but it only slashed Kuan Yu’s hair turban. Kuan Yu was shocked!! Such was the marksmanship of Huang Zhong. Apart from Lu Bu, I doubt there was another archer who could match Huang Zhong. Kuan Yu now knew that Huang Zhong hath spared his life to repay a debt.

But the tyrant was angry upon seeing this. He suspected that Huang Zhong was in cahoots with Kuan Yu to seize control of Changsha. Why else would they only pretend to fight and not do real combat?!!

So he had Huang Zhong arrested pending execution. Upon seeing this, the soldiers of Changsha were greatly angered. Led by Wei Yan, they captured and murdered the governor, released Huang Zhong, and surrendered to Liu Pei.

When Wei Yan presented himself to Liu Pei, Kung Ming suggested that he be executed for treachery and disloyalty, but Liu Pei would not allow that, saying, “If we kill those who surrender to us, in the future who would come to me in goodwill and surrender? Our struggles will be tough and bitter.”

Not knowing what to do, Kung Ming spared Wei Yan, but his suspicion of this capable but treacherous general would not go away. Such was the quick mind of the Sleeping Dragon.

In the meanwhile, brave Huang Zhong sulked in his home. He neither ate nor drank. Such was his grief and loyalty at the fall of Changsha, but then Liu Pei and Kuan Yu met him at his home, asking him to serve the Imperial Uncle in his just cause of preserving the Han dynasty. Huang Zhong was pleased to see people give him importance. He could see that the Lord of Chingchou was not a tyrant as the previous governor of Changsha. Finally, he submitted to Liu Pei and became one of his top generals. At that time, Huang Zhong was already about 60 years old, but his bravery and strength was second to none.

Liu Pei hath now solidified his power base in Chingchou and Changsha. He was no longer a minor warlord. Across the river Yangtse, Sun Quan, the Marquis of Wu, still coveted Chingchou. What plans would Sun Quan hatch to snare this prize from Liu Pei and Kung Ming? To find out, don’t miss our next episode…The Beautiful Maiden Ploy. (Book 23)

Book XXI : Kung Ming Angers Chou Yu Thrice

Badly defeated, Ts’ao Ts’ao rested for a while before returning north. Fearful that the allies (Wu and Liu Pei) would attack his strongholds in the South, he sent a plan to his cousin Ts’ao Ren, governor of Lum Yong (Yuan Shu’s former city), so that the latter could defend Lum Yong properly. Lum Yong was important due to its proximity to Chingchou. If it fell, Chingchou could be threatened.

Meanwhile, Chou Yu and Lu Ssu fear that Kung Ming would seize the 3 Wei cities of the south, Lum Yong, Chingchou, and Xin Ye if they did not negotiate beforehand. Hence, the Wu generals went to meet Kung Ming in a half-threatening manner, claiming that it was Wu that helped Liu Pei during the hard times and expended a great numbers of troops. By rights of conquest, the three cities belonged to them.

So Kung Ming said that he was only wanting to help Wu against Ts’ao Ren of Wei. In fact, he would only take the cities if Wu failed to do so. Chou Yu liked the wager and the thought that he would be a first mover in the battle and not Kung Ming, so he signed the agreement: “Wu would get first rights to move on all three cities of Wei in the South, but only if Wu failed to conquer them would Liu Pei’s army be allowed to conquer them later.”…and so that was the gentleman’s agreement between Kung Ming and Chou Yu.

In the first battle of Lum Yong, Chou Yu fell into a trap set by Ts’ao Ren, who also shot a poisoned arrow into his arm. Though Chou Yu survived, the poison could not be removed entirely. The doctor advised Chou Yu not to get angry lest the impact of the poison would harm him.

So Chou Yu ordered the Wu camp to feign his death. Seeing the mock funeral, Ts’ao Ren thought it was an opportunity to go beyond his role and destroy the Wu army camped outside. He attacked the Wu camp, but was ambushed and defeated by Chou Yu, who was still well and alive. Chou Yu pursued Ts’ao Ren back to the walls of Lum Yong, hoping to capture the city.

…But alas, Chao Yun hath already captured it in Ts’ao Ren’s absence. Chou Yu was very angry, but he could not do anything. Chao Yun taunted him from above, “Grand General Chou Yu, I was afraid you could not defeat Ts’ao Ren, so I decided to come to your aid.”

Chou Yu was very angry, but there was no point in attacking Chao Yun’s forces who were his allies and already in a secure position. Instead, Chou Yu decided to march on Chingchou instead. After all, was Chingchou not the grand price in this battle?

However, when Chou Yu’s army reached Chingchou, he was in for a bitter surprise. Kung Ming had already seized control of this crucial city. He basically forged a message from Ts’ao Ren to the governor of Chingchou to send assistance to Lum Yong. As the governor’s army left, Kung Ming seized the prosperous city, and its citizens, who were already in favor of Liu Pei, supported them. Meanwhile, the governor, like Chou Yu, was unable to enter Lum Yong, which was now securely in the control of Chao Yun.

Once again, Chou Yu was deeply angry that he had lost this most important jewel to Kung Ming, but he had no choice but to move on. Kung Ming claimed that Wu was unable to take Chingchou on its own and hence hath lost its wager.

Now, Chou Yu marched out against the last city of Xin Ye, but he was again in for a massive surprise. Kung Ming’s general Kuan Yu hath already seized this city!!

How was this possible? Basically, Kung Ming used the same dirty trick, tricking the governor of Xin Ye into a futile rescue of Chingchou by forging Ts’ao Ren’s orders. Chou Yu was inconsolable and wanted to attack Xin Ye despite the treaty between himself and Kung Ming, but Kuan Yu was a great marksman and hath fired several arrows to defend Xin Ye.

Knowing he was no match against Kuan Yu in the heavily fortified city, Chou Yu finally retreated. He was so angry with Kung Ming that he vomited blood and nearly died. Now, Wu was weakened, and the famous Wei general Ts’ao Ren was forced to flee north. It was clear that Liu Pei’s tiny army was on the ascendance. The capture of Chingchou would greatly improve his strength.

Now, Kung Ming was bent on enlarging Liu Pei’s domain even further. He laid his eyes on the four cities surrounding Chingchou, namely Lumkun, Wu Ling, Ling Ling, and of course…Changsha, the former home of the Sun clan themselves. Don’t miss the next episode of Liu Pei’s ascendancy in …The Road to Changsha  (Book XXII).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book XX : The Battle of Red Wall

The Battle of the Red Wall is considered the climax of Three Kingdoms. This is how it began…

An aged general of Wu, Huang Gai, approached Chou Yu. He felt that it was vital for them to send someone to infiltrate Ts’ao Ts’ao’s camp. Chou Yu agreed, but how? Huang Gai volunteered himself, but Chou Yu quickly disagreed, “You have served Wu for three generations since the great warlords Sun Jian and Sun Ts’e and now Sun Quan. Surely, no one doubts your loyalty, and Ts’ao Ts’ao will know it is our ploy.”

Huang Gai then replied, “Not if you brutally punish me.”

Chou Yu could see the wisdom and sacrifice in Huang Gai’s statement. He bowed to Huang Gai and said, “Wu is forever indebted to you.” Then, the two of them proceeded to plan the deceit of Ts’ao Ts’ao.

The next morning, Huang Gai appeared before the military camp hosted by Chou Yu and said that Wu should surrender to Wei. Chou Yu was angry and denounced Huang Gai as a traitor, whereupon Huang Gai yelled, “Little Boy Chou Yu, best friend of Sun Ts’e, playing grand general!!?? Huh!! What do you know? I have served three generations of the Sun clan.”

Where upon Chou Yu ordered his men to seize Huang Gai and execute him for impunity. Yet, Huang Gai appeared unrepentant. The other generals pleaded for Huang Gai’s life, but Chou Yu could not simply let it go, so he ordered Huang Gai beaten one hundred times.

Huang Gai was badly injured. The wise man of Wu, Wu Tse, promptly visited him and revealed that he could see through Huang Gai’s plan, but was willing to help out. So it was Wu Tse who pretended to be Huang Gai’s messenger to the Wei court.

Ts’ao Ts’ao was first suspicious of Wu Tse and wanted to behead him, but Wu Tse merely laughed at him.

Ts’ao Ts’ao: “You are about to die! How dare you laugh at me?”

Wu Tse: “I laugh not at you but at Huang Gai. How foolish of him to think you any better than that pansy boy Chou Yu?!?”

Ts’ao Ts’ao: “What do you mean? Do you think I do not know that you come here as part of Chou Yu’s ploy? If you were sincere, where is your family and those of Huang Gai’s? I don’t believe you are really here to submit to me.”

Wu Tse: “What foolishness is this!! We are on the verge of betraying Wu, which is at war with you!! Do you think it is that easy to send over his family without raising Chou Yu’s suspicion?! Aiyaahh!! Huang Gai, my friend, what a fool you are to think of raising a new home at Wei?!”

Just then, messengers from two of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fake defectors (nephews of Chua Mao and Chang Yun) to Wu collaborated Wu Tse’s story that the three-generation general Huang Gai had indeed been whipped a hundred times by the impudent boy general Chou Yu.

Upon hearing this, Ts’ao Ts’ao released Wu Tse, trusted him, and told him to seek out Huang Gai to accept his defection. After that, Xu Shu found Wu Tse and told him that he could see through the plan.

Wu Tse: “But you must not tell Ts’ao Ts’ao. If you do, our plan will fail.”

Xu Shu: “Of course not, Ts’ao Ts’ao’s trickery got my mother killed. I hate him. Rest assured your secret is safe with me.”

And thus, Wu Tse succeeded in deceiving Ts’ao Ts’ao into believing that Huang Gai would surrender, so he returned to see Chou Yu and Huang Gai in Nanking.

One day, Chou Yu pondered upon the upcoming battle. He hath placed a fake defector Huang Gai into Ts’ao Ts’ao’s confidence, stolen 100,000 arrows with the help of Kung Ming, and even slain the talented admiral Chua Mao of Chingchou by tricking Jiang Gan, but one thing still eluded him. If he attacked Ts’ao Ts’ao’s magnificent fleet with fire, the ships could still break up and largely escape. Hmmm….If only he could trick Ts’ao Ts’ao into tying the ships together. Just then, he got help from the “Fledgling Phoenix” Pang Tong, who was said to be as brilliant as Kung Ming himself.

Meanwhile, Jiang Gan hoped to redeem himself before Ts’ao Ts’ao’s eyes and volunteered to spy on Wu. Ts’ao Ts’ao really didn’t want to see him, but in the end, decided to give the fool his second chance. So Jiang Gan visited Chou Yu in Nanking again, much to Chou Yu’s delight.

Chou Yu feigned anger and said to Jiang Gan, “Last time, I treated you like a friend, but you made me lose my fearsome admiral Chua Mao. I trusted you, man. How could you betray me?!”

Before Jiang Gan could respond, Chou Yu ordered him escorted to a remote hill outside the city and even ended with the words, “If we were not childhood friends, I would have beheaded you for such treachery. Anyway, considering our friendship, I will just keep you out of my way, while I destroy Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fleet.”

So Jiang Gan was unable to leave the hill for fear of Chou Yu’s men. He was disappointed that he could not contribute anything to Wei in the war, but one day, he heard sounds of a man reading a book. He walked up to the ugly man by the hut and apologized for interrupting, “My, my…you are a man of learning indeed from these myriad books you read. I must apologize for entering, but what is your name, Master?”

“Not at all”, the man replied. “You are most polite, and it is lonely up here. My name is Pang Tong. I stay in this remote hill, because I think Chou Yu is a useless bum….so arrogant, man!”

“Pang Tong!!”, exclaimed Jiang Gan. “I did not know the wise master Fledgling Pheonix was here in person. Please excuse my stupidity!! Chou Yu does not know a genius from a normal scholar. Please come and serve my Lord Ts’ao Ts’ao. Wei will provide you with everything you need.”

In reality, Pang Tong hated Wei, for his house hath been burned down by Wei soldiers during the Battle of Lum Yong, in which Yuan Shao was vanquished, but he pretended to go along. Jiang Gan was much too happy. Now, he had something worth more than Chua Mao’s head. To have Pang Tong on the side of Wei could not be underestimated. The two of them escaped back to Wei in a small ship.

When Pang Tong arrived at the Wei naval base, he was much honored by Ts’ao Ts’ao who admired his wisdom. Ts’ao Ts’ao threw a great feast and let the navy demonstrate for Pang Tong before asking his opinion, whereupon Pang Tong replied, “The fleet’s size is impressive, but I note that your men are land armies. They perform poorly in naval maneuvers. Many soldiers were vomiting and clumsy. Even with greater strength, there’s a risk that Chou Yu would get the better of them.”

“How do I resolve this then?”, Ts’ao Ts’ao asked.

Pang Tong then advised Ts’ao Ts’ao to use planks, chains, and nails to link the ships together. Once linked, the entire fleet seem like land, and the land soldiers had no problem practicing on it. No one was vomiting and clumsy anymore. Then, Pang Tong took his leave, saying he would recruit more able defectors from Wu to join Wei in the attack. Ts’ao Ts’ao was much impressed.

Chou Yu now had one last problem. The wind currently blowing was the northwestern wind. Even if he laid fire on Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fleet, the wind would blow the fire back to him. He needed the southeastern wind that would blow from Wu to Wei, but who could command the gods? Pondering over this, Chou Yu fell sick, and Kung Ming told Lu Ssu he’d pay the Grand General a visit.

Kung Ming: “I have a medicine for your Excellency. I know what you need is the southeastern wind.”

Chou Yu was very excited. He would offer Kung Ming anything in return for the southeastern wind, so Kung Ming asked for an altar upon which he could pray for the southeastern wind. Chou Yu was skeptical but wished Kung Ming would succeed. In reality, Kung Ming could predict the winds and weather as he did earlier when he stole Ts’ao Ts’ao’s arrows in the fog.

He hath predicted that the southeastern wind would come, but did the pretension of asking for  the winds from Heaven. When the southeastern wind came, Kung Ming fled by small boat manned by the famed warrior Chao Yun. The Wu fleet tried to follow, but Chao Yun simply shot down their sail. In the end, Chou Yu could not capture Kung Ming, who fled back to Hankow successfully.

Now, Chou Yu and Huang Gai planned the final attack on Ts’ao Ts’ao’s fleet. Huang Gai loaded his ships with firewood and oil and sailed forth to the Wei naval base in accordance with his feigned defection. Ts’ao Ts’ao was very pleased until one of his advisors Jia Xue observed, “Your Excellency, look. The ships are sailing light. It seems they are not loaded with food supplies but with firewood!!”

Suddenly, Ts’ao Ts’ao realized he was tricked. He ordered Huang Gai to back off. When that failed, he ordered men to shoot Huang Gai, who was injured but nevertheless survived. It was too late. Huang Gai’s ships fired up and crashed head on into the Wei fleet. If the Wei fleet had been of separate ships, they may have been able to flee, but they were all chained together, as Ts’ao Ts’ao hath listened to Pang Tong’s counsel. Now, Ts’ao Ts’ao’s massive fleet with close to a million soldiers was a ball of fire!! He was being attacked by Chou Yu’s fleet from the south as well. Unable to fight against the inferno, Ts’ao Ts’ao disembarked to the northern bank and fled.

Meanwhile, in the military camp at Hankow, Kung Ming ordered Chao Yun and Chang Fei to position their forces at different points to ambush Ts’ao Ts’ao. Kuan Yu knew he was being missed out and so demanded why Kung Ming hath singled him out.

To this, Kung Ming replied, “Kuan Yu, you have received much kindness from Ts’ao Ts’ao in the past. I’m afraid that you will repay him by letting him go. I can not afford not to capture or kill the Minister of Wei.”

But Kuan Yu angrily retorted, “It is true that Ts’ao Ts’ao hath offered me many kindness in the past, but I never asked for it and have repaid him by killing Yuan Shao’s two generals Yan Liang and Wen Chou as well. There is nothing left between us.”

So Kung Ming asked if Kuan Yu was willing to sign a contract. If Kuan Yu spared Ts’ao Ts’ao’s life, he would have to meet capital punishment. To this, Kuan Yu signed without hesitation and was given the most important ambush position along Ts’ao Ts’ao’s escape route.

After Kuan Yu departed, Liu Pei asked Kung Ming, “Do you really think he will capture Ts’ao Ts’ao for us?”

Kung Ming understood noble warriors just as Liu Pei did, but he laughed and replied, “My Lord, Ts’ao Ts’ao’s destiny has not ended yet. It is best for us to give Kuan Yu a final chance to repay Ts’ao Ts’ao’s kindness for the sake of his peace of mind.”

This greatly amazed Liu Pei, “Ah!! Your wisdom is that of the Heavens, Master Sleeping Dragon!”

Meanwhile, in the northern banks of the Red Wall, Ts’ao Ts’ao fled an ambush by Chou Yu just barely. He reached a grove where he laughed. The troops asked why he was laughing, and Ts’ao Ts’ao replied, “They say Chou Yu and Kung Ming are brilliant, but look at them. If they had ambushed here, what would we do?”

Jus then, a small army of Hankow troops led by Chao Yun appeared, the fierce general shouting, “Ts’ao Ts’ao, give me your head!!” Upon seeing this, some of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s generals risked their lives to block Chao Yun, whereupon Ts’ao Ts’ao fled.

Much as his life was on a thread, Ts’ao Ts’ao managed to make it through to the outskirts of Lum Yong. Though it was sad to lose such an epic battle, the Minister of Wei managed to let out a bittersweet laugh. His advisor Jia Xue asked him why he laughed after barely escaping alive.

Ts’ao Ts’ao replied, “Kung Ming has the wisdom of Heavens. If he hath but ambushed us here, we would be dead. I’m starting to see loopholes in his thought process. There will be many battles with that boy yet.”

Just then, another Hankow army emerged led by Chang Fei, who shouted, “Criminal Ts’ao Ts’ao, today is your last!!”

Many generals went forth to fight against the valiant Chang Fei and died at his spear, but Ts’ao Ts’ao barely got away. In the end, he reached a dead end ridge with very few men, whom he had to force a march on pain of death. Just then, he laughed again.

Jia Xue was irritated and asked, “Your Highness, the last two times you laughed, we were in deep trouble. Let us not underestimate the enemy.”

Ts’ao Ts’ao then replied jovially, “Sweet Jia Xue, you must forgive me, but can you not see the irony? This ridge is a dead end. If Kung Ming hath ambushed us here, we would be dead.”

Suddenly, Kuan Yu rode the Red Hare before him with a mighty army from Hankow. It was obvious that Ts’ao Ts’ao’s men were too weak to fight now. Ts’ao Ts’ao was thinking of a brave last stand, but Jia Xue thought otherwise and said, “Your Highness, we can not fight Kuan Yu like this. We will all be dead. Kuan Yu is too noble to kill a benefactor like him. All you have to do is ask for mercy.”

So Ts’ao Ts’ao pleaded with Kuan Yu for mercy, but noble Kuan Yu replied, “I’ve repaid your kindness with the deaths of Yuan Shao’s generals, Wen Chou and Yan Liang. This time, I must capture you, Ts’ao Ts’ao.”

Ts’ao Ts’ao: “When you slew my six wardens at the Five Passes, I never held bitter feelings for you. I have always admired you, Kuan Yu, and it is not your loyalty that I can hope for, but all is ask is that you spare my life once if you can find it in your heart. I have nothing now.”

Kuan Yu was too noble to kill Ts’ao Ts’ao and so let him go. The battle was won, but Kuan Yu went before Kung Ming with downtrodden face.

Kung Ming: “Is the victorious general unhappy that I did not go forth to greet you outside the camp? Forgive me, General Kuan Yu. Come, I will drink on your behalf.”

But Kuan Yu replied, “It is not that, Master Kung Ming. I am here to take my punishment.”

Kung Ming: “Did Ts’ao Ts’ao not pass that place I sent you to ambush? In that case, the fault is mine, not yours.”

Kuan Yu shook his head, “No, Ts’ao Ts’ao was at that exact location, but I let him go, not being able to forget his kindness.”

Kung Ming was then angry, “Kuan Yu, I warned you this would happen. Now, you will be executed to preserve the sanctity of military conduct.”

Kuan Yu was willing to be executed, but Liu Pei intervened on his behalf, “Please spare the life of my brother, Master Kung Ming. We were sworn to die together. If Kuan Yu dies, so must I.”

Kung Ming was displeased, “I can not kill my own Lord. Since Lord Liu Pei wills it, I will spare you once, Kuan Yu. In the future, you will know my wrath if you ever spare Ts’ao Ts’ao again.”

And this was how the famous Battle of the Red Wall ended. The mighty army of Ts’ao Ts’ao fell before the allies, and from the ashes, Liu Pei’s tiny force at Hankow would rise under the leadership of Kung Ming. But can the allies remain on good terms? To find out, don’t miss our next episode “Kung Ming Angers Chou Yu Thrice”

Book XIX : Kung Ming Borrows Ts'ao Ts'ao's Arrow

<p>Though Liu Pei and Kung Ming were safe in the meantime and Hankow, they realized that Ts’ao Ts’ao’s power was now invincible for he hath penetrated the south for the first time. Chingchou had capitulated to Wei, and Ts’ao Ts’ao murdered Lady Chua and her son, assuming direct control of the city himself. Chua Mao, seeing the Wei might, submitted to him despite the blood fued. In return, Ts’ao Ts’ao appointed Chua Mao admiral of the Wei fleet and made ready to crush Sun Quan of Wu as well as Liu Pei in Hankow. Kung Ming realized their only chance of survival was to gain an alliance with Sun Quan, even though Wei and Wu was not officially at war yet. This episode tells of the brilliance of Kung Ming and how Liu Pei narrowly escaped total annihilation at the hands of Ts’ao Ts’ao.</p>

<p>One of Sun Quan’s advisors, Lu Ssu, heard of the brilliance of Kung Ming the “Sleeping Dragon” who had defeated Ts’ao Ts’ao’s mighty host and asked the Marquis of Wu to consider an alliance with Liu Pei, who at that time had less than 5,000 troops in Hankow. Only Wu could have any chance of countering Wei, but to fight alone was difficult. So they invited Kung Ming to Naking, the capital of Wu, where Kung Ming tried to convince Wu to form an alliance with Liu Pei.</p>

<p>At the same time, Ts’ao Ts’ao offered terms of surrender to Wu. If Sun Quan would send his eldest son to Wei as a captive, Ts’ao Ts’ao would spare Sun Quan, so Sun Quan asked Kung Ming why he should not accept Ts’ao Ts’ao’s terms.</p>

<p>“You should”, Kung Ming replied. “Not everyone is like the Imperial Uncle Liu Pei.”</p>

<p>Sun Quan: “Are you saying I’m inferior to Liu Pei?”</p>

<p>Kung Ming: “No my Lordship, but even without hope of winning, the Imperial Uncle will fight Ts’ao Ts’ao. This is why I serve him.”</p>

<p>Sun Quan was truly angry at the hurt to his pride, so he sent Kung Ming to the palace of Chou Yu. Chou Yu was sworn brother to the Wu founder Sun Ts’e. He was also grand general of Wu and was married to Xiao Qiao, the most beautiful woman in the south. He was a brilliant man and hoped to test his wits against Kung Ming as well.</p>

<p>Chou Yu tried to say that in reality Wu and Wei were not at war and that the problem was really Liu Pei. Kung Ming agreed and even added, “In truth, it is very easy for Wu to stop war with Wei, all we have to do is send two women to him.”</p>

<p>Chou Yu: “Really? Who are these true women? They must be exquisite beauties if they can stop war between Wu and Wei!”</p>

<p>Kung Ming: “Indeed, they are. Ts’ao Ts’ao’s son Ts’ao Xi once wrote a poem for his father, how he would rejoice when he hath the two Qiao sisters by his side for eternal pleasure. It was such a touching poem.”</p>

<p>Kung Ming went on to recite the poem, much to Chou Yu’s consternation.</p>

<p>Chou Yu: “Do you have any idea who these women are?”</p>

<p>Kung Ming: “Oh, what does it matter? Two women, exquisite beauties though they may be are worth little compared to the peace of Wei and Wu. Let’s just send them over, man!”</p>

<p>Chou Yu: “How dare you!! The elder Qiao is widow of Sun Ts’e, the founder of Wu, and the younger Qiao is my own wife!!”</p>

<p>Kung Ming then pretended to be frightened and pleaded “General Chou, I meant you no offence. Forgive my ignorance!! I…I had no idea… they were such important ladies!!”</p>

<p>Chou Yu’s anger transformed into hatred for Ts’ao Ts’ao and fierce determination, “Rise, Master Kung Ming, please assist me against the tyrant Ts’ao Ts’ao.”</p>

<p>…and so playing on the emotions of Chou Yu, Kung Ming successfully transformed the cause of Liu Pei into those of Wu, as though…by magic!</p>

<p>After listening to Chou Yu’s counsel, Sun Quan made up his mind to ally with Liu Pei against Wei. He realized the head of the civilian faction, Chang Ching, was in favor of peace by surrendering to Ts’ao Ts’ao, so Sun Quan showed his determination by cutting the edge of the table and saying “He who talks of peace with Ts’ao Ts’ao will have a fate like this table!!”</p>

<p>…and so Wu formed an alliance with Liu Pei, the minor warlord of Hankow, against the invincible Wei.</p>

<p>Meanwhile, in the Wei camp, a noble called Jiang Gan offered to recruit Chou Yu, who was his childhood friend, to the Wei side. Ts’ao Ts’ao decided to give him a shot. Jiang Gan talked merrily to Chou Yu when he arrived, but Chou Yu already knew his plans but feigned ignorance. Chou Yu ordered his men, “Jiang Gan is my best friend. Anyone who talks of the conflict between Wei and Wu today will be beheaded.” …The order certainly didn’t give Jiang Gan any peace of mind himself.</p>

<p>Then, Chou Yu showed Jiang Gan the strength of the Wu navy and the bountiful food supplies, much to Jiang Gan’s dismay. After showing him the glorious military drill of the Wu navy, he pretended to get drunk and invited Jiang Gan to sleep with him. At night, Chou Yu pretended to murmur in his sleep, “Jiang Gan, I will bring you the head of Ts’ao Ts’ao.”</p>

<p>Jiang Gan rose from his bed and found a letter by Chou Yu to Chua Mao, “Admiral Chua Mao, I have made preparations. You have promised the head of Ts’ao Ts’ao to me, and I would appreciate if you expedited it.” In reality, the letter was forged by Chou Yu himself, but Jiang Gan thought it was real and so he bought it to Ts’ao Ts’ao, escaping before Chou Yu could wake up.</p>

<p>Returning to the Wei camp unsuccessfully, Jiang Gan still looked proud as he foolishly handed Chou Yu’s letter to Ts’ao Ts’ao. Ts’ao Ts’ao was a suspicious man, so he ordered Chua Mao and his right hand man Chang Yun up to see him.</p>

<p>Ts’ao Ts’ao: “You folks are the finest naval commanders of the South, and it is said even Chou Yu himself fears you at sea. Why is the navy still not ready for the attack of Wu by now?!? It’s been six months for Heaven’s sakes!!”</p>

<p>Chua Mao: “Your Excellency, the soldiers of Wei are not accustomed to naval warfare as those of Wu and Chingchou, so the training must take longer. Give us a few more months. That Chou Yu has not made any sorties on our great fleet shows that we are making progress and that he is frightened of us.”</p>

<p>Ts’ao Ts’ao threw the letter down to Chua Mao in disgust and yelled, “Or perhaps, it is because you have not sent Chou Yu my head yet.” He then ordered his men, “Seize these two traitors!! Dogs of Chingchou!! I knew I could not trust you.”</p>

<p>Thereupon, the Wei executioner beheaded Chua Mao and Chang Yun, the two most talented naval officers Ts’ao Ts’ao had at his disposal. Many of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s advisors asked what he hath done. Ts’ao Ts’ao now realized that Jiang Gan was a fool, and that wise Chou Yu hath deceived him, but he could not accept his fault. After all, Chua Mao and Chang Yun would not simply come back to life if he did, so he said, “They did not obey Wei protocols.” After that, he dismissed his advisors, foolish Jiang Gan, and the other nobles angrily.</p>

<p>Such was the cunning of Chou Yu. There was a poem that says Chou Yu was wiser than Kung Ming. I do not believe this to be the case, but a worthy opponent, he certainly was.</p>

<p>One day, Kung Ming revealed to Lu Ssu that he could see through Chou Yu’s brilliant plan to kill the great admiral Chua Mao using the foolish Jiang Gan. Chou Yu now pondered over the wisdom of Kung Ming. He was not a jealous man, but he certainly wanted Wu to be triumphant not simply over Wei but over Liu Pei as well. How could that be when Liu Pei had Kung Ming by his side? Chou Yu then ordered Chuko Chin, a prominent Wu noble who was also Kung Ming’s elder brother to convince him to serve Wu. However, Kung Ming was much too witty for his brother and managed to refuse him in the most convincing way, even asking Chuko Chin to come in serve Liu Pei instead!!</p>

<p>When he was unable to convince Kung Ming to join Wu, Chou Yu instead conspired to find an excuse to kill Kung Ming. In one meeting, he invited Lu Ssu and Kung Ming to the meeting. Chou Yu stressed the importance of having enough arrows to fight with Ts’ao Ts’ao. Then, he asked if Kung Ming could supervise building 50,000 arrows in one week, but the daredevil Kung Ming instead said, “50,000 in one week is not enough. I’ll give you 100,000 in three days!!”</p>

<p>Chou Yu was shocked and replied, “Master Kung Ming, these matter of wars are serious matters of state. I wish you didn’t speak of it so lightly.”</p>

<p>Kung Ming: “Ah, don’t worry. I’ll find you the arrows, man!”</p>

<p>Chou Yu: “And if you should fail?”</p>

<p>Kung Ming: “If I can not find you 100,000 arrows in 3 days, you shall have my head.”</p>

<p>Chou Yu: “Deal! Tell me if you need anything to facilitate this task.”</p>

<p>Once out of the meeting room, Kung Ming called unto Lu Ssu, “Why did you tell Chou Yu that? Now, I’m in trouble. He wants me dead.”</p>

<p>Lu Ssu: “You really shouldn’t have said you’d do it in 3 days. He gave you one week!!”</p>

<p>Kung Ming: “Don’t worry. I can get away with this, but you’ll have to help me.”</p>

<p>Lu Ssu: “Oh drats!! OK, whatever. Next time, don’t play games with General Chou Yu like this again?”</p>

<p>So Kung Ming asked Lu Ssu for ships, hay, and men. On the third day, he invited Lu Ssu to see his work. It was a ship decked with scarecrows and very few men. That day, the fog spread thickly over the river as Kung Ming had expected, and they sailed straight into the Wei navy.</p>

<p>Ts’ao Ts’ao saw only the thick flood and thought the ship carried Chou Yu’s large navy of men. Not having clear vision, he was afraid that fire would damage his own fleet and ordered his men to shoot but not use fire. The Wei navy shot so much arrows that the Wu fleet was heavy with arrows, whereupon Kung Ming ordered his men to say “Thank you, Minister of Wei, for the arrows!!”</p>

<p>Ts’ao Ts’ao was so enraged, but the fog was thick and it was too late to follow Kung Ming lest the Wei navy be caught unprepared in Wu waters. After that, Kung Ming sent over 100,000 arrows to Chou Yu, who was much impressed but even more suspicious of Kung Ming.</p>

<p>Nevertheless, the two great allies would still unite against Ts’ao Ts’ao of Wei in the epic warfare of the Three Kingdoms. See the climax of this saga in our next episode. Book XX The Battle of Red Wall</p>

Book XVIII : Chao Yun Rescues A-tou at Chang Pa-an Slope

Unfortunately for Liu Pei, Ts’ao Ts’ao was not a man who would easily give up. Liu Biao was dying, and he offered the mighty city of Chingchou. The benevolent Liu Pei, however, declined, saying that Liu Hsun was the rightful heir and should inherit it despite his sickness.

Liu Pei’s rejection created a power vacuum in Chingchou when Liu Biao died, and Ts’ao Ts’ao decided to attack the prosperous stronghold that once held out Sun Jian the Bold. Chingchou had infinite amount of food supplies and could probably have held out indefinitely, but there was an internal power struggle.

At the behest of Lady Chua, her brother Admiral Chua Mao, the most talented but treacherous naval commander of the south, staged a coup to install his nephew as ruler of Chingchou. The conspirators chose to submit to the power of Ts’ao Ts’ao, while Liu Pei, Liu Hsun (the eldest son of Liu Biao), and Liu Pei’s men fled to Hankow, the only place where they could hope to contest Ts’ao Ts’ao.

However, Ts’ao Ts’ao was eager to stop them before they reached Hankow. The two forces would meet at the Chang-pa’an Slope. With several hundred thousand men under Ts’ao Ts’ao, it did not seem like much of a fight, but Liu Pei still managed to pull out a miracle. Against the counsel of Kung Ming, he chose to take along families who feared Ts’ao Ts’ao. This greatly slowed down their migration.

Liu Pei realized that his two wives and infant son A-tou, later known as Liu Chan, was trapped in the city but chose not to save them. However, his brave general Chao Yun thought otherwise. Chao Yun was the greatest warrior in China after Lu Pu.

Chao Yun tried to rescue Liu Pei’s family, but one of his wife hath already been slain. The other one, Lady Bee, was carrying Liu Pei’s only son, A-tou. Chao Yun insisted on rescuing them both, but Lady Bee threw herself into a well after handing A-tou to Chao Yun. Many of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s men tried to destroy Chao Yun, but they were no match for him.

Ts’ao Ts’ao saw greatness in Chao Yun and wanted to recruit him and so ordered his men to take him alive. None of the Wei soldiers dared to fire arrows on him, but Chao Yun was such a great warrior that catching him alive would be virtually impossible. Finally, the hero made away with A-tou and met with Liu Pei at the main camp.

When Chao Yun handed A-tou over to Liu Pei, Liu Pei threw down his own son, saying “Lousy kid, because of you, I lost my wife, and now, I almost lost a brother and great general!!”

Whereupon, Chao Yun, deeply touched, handed A-tou back to Liu Pei saying it was his destiny to fight and die for his master. After this incident, the heroism of Chao Yun became legendary. The battle with Ts’ao Ts’ao was not over. Meeting at the Chang-pa’an Slopes, Ts’ao Ts’ao denounced Liu Pei as a traitor against the Han court, which he represented, but Liu Pei pointed out that as Imperial Uncle, he was more loyal than any of them and that it was Ts’ao Ts’ao who sought to usurp the throne.

So the conflict between the two sides continued. Liu Pei was defeated, but Chang Fei managed to hold the bridge against Ts’ao Ts’ao by feigning heroism and courage. In the background, Chang Fei’s horses connected to palm branches and cooked up a lot of dust, deceiving Ts’ao Ts’ao into believing that a massive army remained behind.

When Ts’ao Ts’ao did not attack, Chang Fei destroyed the bridge and joined up with Liu Pei’s main force, which was still fleeing, but Kung Ming reprimanded him for destroying the bridge, “Ts’ao Ts’ao is an experienced general. If you had left the bridge intact, he would suspect that you had a great ambush on the other side. Now knowing that you fear him, he will surely cross. With his vast army, building a bridge is as simple as clicking a finger.”

So Ts’ao Ts’ao rebuilt the bridge and followed him. By then, however, the valiant Kuan Yu had gathered up a large force from Hankow with the help of Liu Hsun and ambushed Ts’ao Ts’ao’s forces. Though the Wei outnumbered Kuan Yu by a great deal, they were shocked by the ambush and Kuan Yu’s famous heroism and fled before him. Once again, Liu Pei was saved. Thereupon, he fled to Hankow to reposition his forces for Ts’ao Ts’ao’s next invasion.

…But the conflict between Liu Pei and Ts’ao Ts’ao was only started. The duel of wits and wisdom would reach new highs in our next episode Book XIX Kung Ming Borrows Ts’ao Ts’ao’s Arrows

Book XVI : The Sinister Plans of Chua Mao

While Ts’ao Ts’ao and Yuan Shao battled for control of the north, Liu Pei and his small band of followers fled south to the prosperous city of Chingchou ruled by his cousin Liu Biao. Liu Biao was powerful but indecisive.

During this time, Chen Wu led a rebellion in Xin Ye, which was a subsidiary city of Chingchou. Liu Pei and his brothers successfully defeated the rebels, with his general Chao Yun successfully capturing Chen Wu and his famous Black Stallion. Chao Yun presented the horse to Liu Pei, who liked the strong horse.

One day, Liu Pei and Liu Biao went for a stroll in the park, Liu Biao admired the Black Stallion whereupon Liu Pei presented it to him as a gift. One day, a soothsayer saw the horse. Its eye was too deep, and he told Liu Biao, “The horse has a bad character, which is why its previous rider Chen Wu perished. You should not ride it.”

Upon hearing this, Liu Biao returned the horse to Liu Pei, but he also began to distrust him, thinking that he hath given him the horse to unseat him and perhaps one day gain control of Chingchou himself. Nevertheless, he made Liu Pei protector of Xin Ye to distance him. Liu Biao was a foolish man. He could not properly see friend from foe.

Now, Liu Biao had two wives, but his eldest wife hath died long time ago. His second wife Lady Chua pestered him to name her young son heir and bypass the elder son. One day, Liu Biao discussed the issue with Liu Pei, who advised him to stick with the eldest son, as is the norm.

When Lady Chua’s elder brother Chua Mao heard this, he wanted to kill Liu Pei but was afraid of his brothers, Kuan Yu and Chang Fei, and his fierce general Chao Yun, so he invited Liu Pei alone to the banquet. His men then decided to ambush the unsuspecting Liu Pei. Liu Pei, however, was tipped off by a loyal noble, and barely escaped with his Black Stallion.

During this brief exodus, Liu Pei came in touch with a wise man Ssuma Taisho, who advised him to seek out wise men to serve him. Liu Pei quickly offered the post of Advisor to Ssuma Taisho, who declined. Instead, he told him to seek out two of the wisest men in the country.

“If you can get either the Sleeping Dragon Chuko Liang ‘Kung Ming’ or the Fledgling Pheonix Pang Tong, then this empire will surely fall into your hands.” Liu Pei returned to Xin Ye with these words of wisdom.

When he returned to Xin Ye, Liu Pe met a man called Chen Hu, who spoke wisely to him. Chen Hu saw the Black Stallion and said that it was a creature that bought bad luck. Liu Pei, however, replied that the Black Stallion hath saved his life during Chua Mao’s plot and asked Chen Hu for advice.

“My Lord, you should give this horse to one of your generals. When he falls in battle, you can take the horse back, the bad luck will have gone.”

Seeing that Chen Hu was a man without scruples, Liu Pei ordered to dismiss him, but then Chen Hu revealed that he was only testing Liu Pei. After that, Chen Hu became Liu Pei’s advisor.

After crushing Yuan Shao in the north, Ts’ao Ts’ao led his great army against tiny Xin Ye in hope of vanquishing Liu Pei once and for all. However, Chen Hu devised the Octagonal Locket formation for Liu Pei’s army and repulsed Ts’ao Ts’ao’s great army.

Chen Hu became popular with Liu Pei’s generals. He liked nothing better than to wrestle with Chang Fei in the mud.

As Chen Hu’s fame spread, Ts’ao Ts’ao became interested in recruiting him as his own man, and so his advisor Chia Kuo devised a scheme. He told Ts’ao Ts’ao that Chen Hu was really Xu Zhu, a wise man who had become a vagabound after killing a villain. Xu Zhu escaped by feigning madness and eventually changing his name and look.

But Chia Kuo knew that Xu Zhu’s mother was living in the north. They captured her and ordered her to write a letter telling Xu Zhu to come and serve Ts’ao Ts’ao, knowing that Xu Zhu was a filial son. Xu Zhu’s mother refused to write the letter despite repeated threats, so they kept her in the palace. While she resided in Ts’ao Ts’ao’s palace, Chia Kuo offered her many favors and in gratitude, she wrote him a thank you letter.

Cunning Chia Kuo forged her handwriting and tricked Xu Zhu into believing that Ts’ao Ts’ao would slay her if Xu Zhu did not come to serve him. Eventually, Xu Zhu revealed the truth to Liu Pei and said that he hath to leave and go serve Ts’ao Ts’ao for the sake of his mother.

However, before he left, he told Liu Pei the location of Chuko Liang “Kung Ming”, the wisest man in China. Chuko Liang was known as the Sleeping Dragon. Liu Pei loved Xu Zhu so much and couldn’t imagine anyone greater than him.

“If you serve Ts’ao Ts’ao, who is this Chuko Liang to compare to you, Master Xu Zhu?”, Liu Pei said amidst tears.

“I am like a firefly to Kung Ming’s moonlight” was Xu Zhu’s reply. Upon saying this, Xu Zhu left for Wei. Upon learning Chia Kuo’s trickery, Xu Zhu’s mother committed suicide. Xu Zhu remained with Ts’ao Ts’ao but did so reluctantly. He never gave Ts’ao Ts’ao any useful advice as his heart remained with the Imperial Uncle Liu Pei.

In the meantime, Liu Pei, determined to forge a great kingdom for himself, decided to follow Xu Zhu’s advice and seek out Chuko Liang. Don’t miss this great mission in our next episode Book XVII Liu Pei Visits Kung Ming Thrice

Book XVII : Liu Pei Visits Kun Ming Thrice

So Liu Pei decided to visit “Kung Ming” Chuko Liang at his hut in the mountains and convince him to be his advisor. At first, Chang Fei wanted to capture this Kung Ming, but Liu Pei criticized him for being so rude.

Kung Ming’s uncle was once appointed governor of Xin Ye by the Emperor Liang when he was still young, but Liu Biao was powerful and hath slain him in battle. Orphaned, Kung Ming studied strategy at Sun Hzi’s academy and graduated first in a class with other notables such as Pang Tong “The Fledgling Pheonix” and Xu Shu himself. Only Pang Tong is considered his equal. Xu Shu once tried to convince Kung Ming to go and serve Liu Pei, but Kung Ming refused to do so and remained in his hut. His wisdom was so great that they called him “The Sleeping Dragon”.

The first time, Liu Pei visited the hut, they met with a couple of scholars writing poetry. They thought one of the scholars was Kung Ming, but this was not the case. He went home disappointed.

That next time, winter came. It snowed hard, but Liu Pei insisted on going. Liu Pei felt that if he went in winter, Kung Ming would be even far more impressed with his determination. When Kuan Yu and Chang Fei complained, he said he would go alone. Reluctantly, his brothers went along. Again, Kung Ming was not there.

Finally, another summer came, and they visited Kung Ming. This time, he was sleeping in his hut. Chang Fei got so angry he wanted to go burn the hut down, but Kuan Yu stopped him, “Surely, elder brother Liu Pei will be very angry should you do that.”

Liu Pei patiently waited until Kung Ming woke. Kung Ming asked his servant why he did not wake him up, but the boy said that Liu Pei told him to let Kung Ming sleep. Kung Ming was deeply touched by Liu Pei’s sincerity and personality and so he agreed to serve Liu Pei.

Kung Ming then laid out the plans for Three Kingdoms, “China now needs to be divided into three parts. Ts’ao Ts’ao is all-powerful in the north (Wei). Sun Quan of Wu is powerful in the southeast. He will not be easy to dislodge. You must ally with him against Ts’ao Ts’ao and carve a domain for yourself in Szechuan (southwest) and await the time to unify China.”

So Kung Ming returned to Chingchou with the three brothers, and his first advice was given to Liu Hsun, the eldest son of Liu Biao. Actually, he did not want to help Liu Hsun. His job was to serve the Imperial Uncle Liu Pei and not help others, but Liu Pei wanted him to help. So one day, Liu Hsun told Kung Ming that he wanted to show off some books on the high shelf. When they reached there, the ladder was taken away. He would not let Kung Ming down until he advised him.

At that time, Liu Hsun was afraid of getting killed by his stepmother Lady Chua. Kung Ming advised him to flee to Hankow and await the right time to come back, which is exactly what he did.

“During the time of Spring and Autumns, a stepmother wanted to kill the two elder sons of the Marquis of Ch’i. She put honey on her dress and went to the garden with the eldest son, whereupon bees came around her, and the Marquis’s eldest son chased the bees away. The Marquis thought his son was flirting with his beautiful young wife, so he beheaded him. The second son, however, fled and waited for the Marquis to die. A palace coup occurred. The stepmother was killed in it, and the second son of the Marquis returned to seize power. He became Ch’I Heng Gong, the first powerful hegemon of Ch’i who would later lead Chinese nobles against the Hsiung-nu invasion from Mongolia.”

Thus, Liu Hsun was saved from the treachery of Lady Chua and her brother, the powerful admiral Chua Mao.

Ts’ao Ts’ao then ordered his general Hsiahou Tun to invade Xin Ye and crush Liu Pei. Liu Pei gave Kung Ming his sword of command, and Kung Ming laid out all his plans. Kuan Yu despised Kung Ming for he could not even carry a sword. Also, Kung Ming delegated every order to the generals, even Liu Pei himself, but with no role for Kung Ming.

Kuan Yu: “Ha! So you can win battles with just theories and orders!! This is so great.”

Kung Ming: “I am he who holds the Sword of Command. General Kuan Yu, if you disobey me, you will be beheaded.”

So the generals had no choice but to follow Kung Ming’s orders. This was how the battle of Xin Ye unfolded.

Firstly, Chao Yun met with Hsiahou Tun in battle and pretended to flee from the One-eyed General. Then, Chang Fei closed in behind him at sealed the ridge which Hsiahou Tun might use as an escape path and burned the place down.

Hsiahou Tun’s vast army was now trapped in fire. It was then that he met Kuan Yu in battle. Although Hsiahou Tun was a great warrior, he was defeated and slain by Kuan Yu. Thus was the Battle of Xin Ye!!

Ts’ao Ts’ao’s mighty army led by valiant Hsiahou Tun hath fallen. From that day onwards, Ts’ao Ts’ao never thought of young Kung Ming as a “little boy” no more. In fact, he heard from Xu Shu that Kung Ming was a far greater strategist than Xu Shu himself.

Also, after this battle, he gained the undying respect and loyalty of the generals Kuan Yu and Chang Fei.

So it was as Liu Pei said…for him, getting Kung Ming as his Advisor was as good as a fish getting water. Now with Kung Ming by his side, it was time for Liu Pei’s star to shine, but the road to greatness was not strewn on a bed of roses for Liu Pei. Before that, he would have to face great adversity at the Chang-pa’an Slopes (Book XVIII)…

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Book VII : Revolution of the Seventeen Warlords

When he arrived home, Ts’ao Ts’ao gained the help of his wealthy father Ts’ao Kao. The two of them forged documents calling people to arms against Tung Ch’o on behalf of the Han emperor. Not many people questioned the authenticity of the documents as people all over the land hated Tung Ch’o, so the armies of seventeen warlords assembled with Ts’ao Ts’ao.

Then, it was time to elect the great army leader. Ts’ao Ts’ao was in a position to nominate himself, but instead, he nominated Yuan Shao of Hebei who had the largest army. Yuan Shao also came from a powerful family.

The next question was who would lead the first attack. The volunteer was none other than Sun Jian, warlord of Changsha. Sun Jian was known as “the Little Tiger” for his prowress in battle. In one time, he single-handedly crushed a group of pirates. In the first battle, he easily defeated Lu Bu’s general and marched towards the capital city of Loyang. During this time, he found an ancient Imperial Seal. Sun Jian felt this was Heaven’s way of telling him that he was destined for greatness, and perhaps, it was.

In the meanwhile, Supreme Commander Yuan Shao grew jealous of Sun Jian and didn’t send him reinforcements. In the end, Sun Jian had to retreat. He was very angry and wanted to kill Yuan Shao, but Yuan Shao put the blame on one of his advisors and beheaded the scapegoat.

Later, he got wind of the Imperial Seal. He accused Sun Jian of being a rebel. The Hebei forces and those of Chingchou (led by Yuan Shao’s ally Liu Biao) pursued Sun Jian, and he barely escaped back with a few men. Sun Jian vowed to get revenge on both Yuan Shao and Liu Biao.

The glue that held the revolutionary army together was weakening. Hua Xin, one of Tung Ch’o’s general, defeated the revolutionaries in several skirmishes. The revolutionaries could not field a great general after Sun Jian left, and were in panic.

Suddenly, Kuan Yu who had followed Liu Pei to serve in Gongsun Zan’s army volunteered himself, but Yuan Shao was arrogant.

Yuan Shao: “How dare you present yourself? You are only a private. Do you think you even have a chance of beating a mighty general like Hua Xin?”

Ts’ao Ts’ao: “Wait, my lordship. Let this warrior have his chance.”

Ts’ao Ts’ao looked at Kuan Yu in admiration, for he saw greatness in him. He gave Kuan Yu a cup of hot tea and said “Brave young man, let me drink to your courage. May you bring us victory over Hua Xin.”

To which Kuan Yu replied, “My general, let me take your drink once the task is done.”

So Kuan Yu rode out and slew Hua Xin in a single stroke. He came back a drunk the tea before it was hot. Such was the greatness of Kuan Yu!!

The revolutionaries now approached Loyang, and Tung Ch’o felt that defeat was imminent. So Tung Ch’o ordered all the imperial Han graves to be uprooted, and he also took the treasures from the wealthy noble families and ordered everyone in the capital to evacuate to Chang’an.

Ts’ao Ts’ao urged the revolutionaries to invade Chang’an, as there was no point resting on their laurels in Loyang (now captured). However, Yuan Shao was a complacent man, and he insisted on staying on the capital. Ts’ao Ts’ao then invaded Chang’an on his own but was ambushed and defeated by Li Yu. He managed to return to Loyang and was welcomed by Yuan Shao, but by then, Ts’ao Ts’ao was disgusted by Yuan Shao’s lack of leadership qualities, so he left.

Without Ts’ao Ts’ao acting as the charismatic glue of the revolutionary army, they quickly fell apart. So this is how the revolution against Tung Ch’o ended…an empty victory with the capture of Loyang, but Tung Ch’o remained firmly in control of power at Chang’an.

Book XV : The Great Battle of Guandu

Ts’ao Ts’ao and Yuan Shao concluded a minor ceasefire when Yuan Shao’s son was sick. Yuan Shao’s advisor told him to attack Ts’ao Ts’ao unaware, but Yuan Shao hesitated and lost the golden opportunity. During this time, Ts’ao Ts’ao decided to consolidate control of areas between the two capitals Xuchang (his new capital) and Chang’an (the old capital once controlled by Tung Ch’o). He marched to the city linking the two, namely Wancheng.

Wancheng was ruled by Chang Siu, nephew of one of Tung Ch’o’s former general Chang Ji who had passed away earlier. Chang Siu knew he could not fight against Ts’ao Ts’ao and so decided to surrender at the Wei River. Ts’ao Ts’ao entered Wancheng pompously. While resting in Wancheng, he fell in love with Chang Ji’s beautiful widow, Lady Chang, and made her his mistress.

Chang Siu hath not surrendered willingly and was now greatly angered at the disgrace suffered by his aunt. His brilliant advisor Jia Xue devised a plan to destroy Ts’ao Ts’ao. Now, they knew that Ts’ao Ts’ao had a valiant general called Tian Wei, who was constantly by his side, so they invited Tian Wei to a banquet and bought out the finest wine. Tian Wei grew drunk, and Ts’ao Ts’ao was lost in his private world with Lady Chang. At this time, Chang Siu’s men attacked and destroyed many of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s troops in the ambush. Ts’ao Ts’ao barely escaped with his life. His eldest son and heir, Ts’ao Ang, died in this battle. As for Tian Wei, it was said that he fought valiantly despite his drunken stupor. When he died, there were arrows all over him. Such is the immortality of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s great generals that men would sing of Tian Wei long after his last days.

Ts’ao Ts’ao wept, for the loss of Tian Wei and Ts’ao Ang was a heavy price, “For the sake of one woman, I have lost my most loyal general and most capable son.”

However, Ts’ao Ts’ao was not one to give up hope. In another battle against Chang Siu of Wancheng, he successfully ambushed Chang Siu and attacked the weakest part of Wancheng’s wall and destroyed Chang Siu’s army. Unable to defend himself, Chang Siu surrendered. Ts’ao Ts’ao decided to forgive Chang Siu, who then served him loyally. Ts’ao Ts’ao also did not take Lady Chang back as his mistress. He thus gained the admiration of the Wancheng citizens, and Jia Xue also became one of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s most trusted advisors.

Having consolidated his control over the capital cities, Ts’ao Ts’ao once again marched out against Yuan Shao. Yuan Shao’s forces in Hebei continued to outnumber Ts’ao Ts’ao’s forces of Wei, and it was not an easy battle. At Guandu, Yuan Shao successfully held out for a long time. The Wei troops dug a tunnel into Guandu, but the Hebei troops successfully ambushed them there.

Ts’ao Ts’ao then installed tall towers around Guandu where he could watch the Hebei forces and occasionally shoot arrows into the city, causing much annoyment. The stalemate continued, and there was hunger on both sides. Finally, Ts’ao Ts’ao took the ultimate risk. He disguised himself as a private soldier and was recruited into the Hebei army.

Once inside, he secretly burned the food supplies of Yuan Shao. Without food, Hebei became vulnerable. Ts’ao Ts’ao hesitated to attack Guandu in a decisive battle, and his senior advisor Xun You told him to do so, citing several reasons why Wei would triump.

“Your Highness, though Yuan Shao’s forces outnumber us. I believe you will triumph for seven reasons. Firstly, you are a good leader, and Yuan Shao is indecisive man who blames his subordinates for his own failures. Secondly, their food supplies have dwindled, and the Hebei spirit are in disarray. Thirdly, your charisma has attracted generals of character and caliber such as Hsiahou Tun and Kao Tu, while Yuan Shao has lost his greatest warriors, Yan Liang and Wen Chou, to Kuan Yu’s blade. Fourthly, you dispense justice with wisdom, creating a chain of command that is efficient and meritocratic in nature, while Yuan Shao dispenses favors as it fancies him creating a court of psychopants.

Fifthly, your army is trained for fast maneuvers. Speed is of essence. Yuan Shao, on the other hand, is used to delays. In a time when food supplies are crucial, the swift will defeat the slow. My sixth reason is that you operate based on facts, military intelligence collected from our spies, and the Art of War, whereas Yuan Shao operates on superstitions and personal whims. The quality of generalship is as different as the Heavens and Earth. Finally, I must point out that Yuan Shao’s sons Yuan Yin and Yuan Tan are squabbling children, with nobles and generals taking sides in their petty conflicts. The people of Wei are united, and our spirit strong. We will certainly win!!”

Having listened to Xun You’s wise words, Ts’ao Ts’ao stormed Guandu. Despite being outnumbered more than five to one, the army of Wei vanquished those of Hebei. Yuan Shao fled from Guandu and died of heartbreak shortly after. Yuan Yin and Yuan Tan fought for control of the remnants of Yuan Shao’s domains. Yuan Tan was defeated and submitted to Ts’ao Ts’ao, who easily defeated Yuan Yin in battle. He later poisoned Yuan Tan. Now, Ts’ao Ts’ao was firmly in control of northern China.

Now, the last warlord who could still have a chance of challenging Ts’ao Ts’ao in northern China was Yuan Shu. It was time to destroy him as well. Yuan Shu asked for help from Sun Ts’e, but the latter decided to cooperate with Wei in this battle instead. Yuan Shu was left without allies after the death of Lu Bu, so he was penned up in Lum Yong during the flood and Ts’ao Ts’ao’s invasion.

Ts’ao Ts’ao was not without troubles of his own. His army was low on food rations, and he repeatedly ordered the quartermaster to cut rations. When the army grew restless and angry, Ts’ao Ts’ao executed the quartermaster, blamed him for cutting (and cheating!!) rations, and finally stormed Lum Yong after a strong dinner. He personally scaled the walls of Lum Yong first, hence greatly improving morale of the troops. Finally, he successfully captured Lum Yong. Yuan Shao fled from the city and eventually died of hunger. His Imperial Seal finally fell into the hands of Ts’ao Ts’ao.

Now that Ts’ao Ts’ao was undisputedly the most powerful warlord in the North, it was time for him to vanquish his long-time archenemy Liu Pei in the south.

Will Liu Pei survive in the court of his cousin, Liu Biao of Chingchou? To find out, don’t miss our next episode Book XVI The Sinister Plans of Chua Mao

Book XIV : How Kuan Yu Attains Godhood

Ts’ao Ts’ao’s army was massive, and certainly, Liu Pei of Xuzhou was no much for him. But Ts’ao Ts’ao was still a careful man. On the way to invade Xuzhou, one of his flags broke. Ts’ao Ts’ao saw this as a bad sign and prepared an ambush instead. Liu Pei was roundly defeated and sought refuge with Yuan Shao, the powerful warlord of Hebei. Chang Fei fled to the mountains, while Kuan Yu was trapped in the city of Haifa.

Ts’ao Ts’ao had great respect for Kuan Yu and wanted to recruit him into Wei’s service, and his general Chang Liao volunteered to recruit him. Chang Liao was one of Lu Bu’s right hand men. He was not only capable in war but also quite smart. After Lu Bu’s death, he joined Ts’ao Ts’ao’s rank.

Initially, Chang Liao pretended to flee from Kuan Yu’s pursuing army. Then, he sent another army to capture Haifa behind Kuan Yu’s back. Now, Kuan Yu was in trouble, because both of Liu Pei’s wife were trapped in Haifa, so Chang Liao asked Kuan Yu to surrender to Wei for their sake.

Kuan Yu agrees to the temporary surrender under three conditions:
1) That he surrender to Han, and not Ts’ao Ts’ao.
2) That good care be taken of his sisters-in-laws, Liu Pei’s two wives.
3) That he be allowed to return to Liu Pei the moment he heard news of him.

So Chang Liao bought these terms of Ts’ao Ts’ao, eager to have the Minister accept it.

Ts’ao Ts’ao: I am Minister of Han. If Kuan Yu surrenders to Han or me, what is the difference? Haha, I will accept the first condition. I am an honorable man. Even if Kuan Yu did not ask, I will treat Liu Pei’s wives with utmost respect. This second condition, I shall accept, but for the third condition, it is not acceptable! If he runs back to Liu Pei, then what do I gain from his surrender, man?!?

Chang Liao: My Lordship, you must not think like this. Kuan Yu is a man of honor. Liu Pei is poor and only gives him trinkets, but he gave Liu Pei so much loyalty. Imagine how loyal he will be to you if you shower him with all the treasures that is due to a Lord of your status?

Ts’ao Ts’ao agreed with Chang Liao’s point and decided to take his chances, so he accepted Kuan Yu’s surrender. When Kuan Yu arrived, he gave Kuan Yu numerous gifts, not merely beautiful women but also fine silk clothing and other treasures. Every few days, Ts’ao Ts’ao would throw a small party for Kuan Yu. Every few weeks, he would throw a big party for him. All the nobles were jealous, but Ts’ao Ts’ao didn’t care. He wanted to win Kuan Yu over to his side real badly.

Eager to see Kuan Yu defect to Ts’ao Ts’ao wholeheartedly, one of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s advisors Jia Xue told him, “We must break the relationship between Kuan Yu and Liu Pei. Let him sleep with Liu Pei’s wife, so that the brotherhood of the Peach Orchard will cease.”

So Ts’ao Ts’ao arranged for Kuan Yu and Liu Pei’s wife to stay in a single room, but Kuan Yu read books all evening and went without sleep guarding Liu Pei’s wives from outside the room every night. This won him further admiration from Ts’ao Ts’ao, who remarked, “Kuan Yu is very impressive, his appearance is one of a god to me!!”

One day, he found Kuan Yu wearing his old tunic over his new silk shirt. Ts’ao Ts’ao was so amused that he said, “My, my, you are so parsimonious, Kuan Yu. Don’t worry. We will have many more silk shirt for you.”

…but Kuan Yu said, “Your Excellency has misunderstood. This old shirt comes from my brother Liu Pei. When I wear it, I feel like he is near.”

In another instance, Ts’ao Ts’ao gave Kuan Yu the horse Red Hare, and Kuan Yu was overjoyed. Once again, Ts’ao Ts’ao found this quite amusing.

Ts’ao Ts’ao: You never cease to puzzle me. I have given you many beautiful ladies, but did not see you as happy as getting this horse. Is the horse worth more than humans?

Kuan Yu: Your Excellency does not understand. With the Great Hare, I can ride many lis non-stop to meet my brother Liu Pei.

Ts’ao Ts’ao was very depressed when he heard this, and then Chang Liao found out, he spoke to Kuan Yu.

Chang Liao: Kuan Yu, do you not have a heart? The Minister Ts’ao Ts’ao treats you better than any noble I have seen. Do you not feel any gratitude towards him?

…Whereupon Kuan Yu replied: My friend Chang Liao, Ts’ao Ts’ao’s benevolence is well known to me, but I can not break an oath to my brother Liu Pei. This, surely, you must understand. However, I will not leave until I have repaid the Minister’s kindness to me.

So Chang Liao whispered these words to Ts’ao Ts’ao and told him, “My Lordship, if you don’t give Kuan Yu a chance to do battle and repay your benevolence, he will not be able to leave you.” Ts’ao Ts’ao nodded in agreement. After that, he never assigned any task to Kuan Yu.

However, at that time, Ts’ao Ts’ao and Yuan Shao were at war with each other. Yuan Shao’s general Yan Liang seem invincible. Many Wei generals hath already fallen before his lance. Ts’ao Ts’ao considered using Kuan Yu in the next battle, but Chang Liao warned him, “Your Lordship, you must not give Kuan Yu the chance to repay you. Otherwise, he may one day leave us to join Liu Pei.”

Whereupon, Ts’ao Ts’ao replied “If we don’t use him in battle, what is the purpose of having Kuan Yu with us? If he dies, then we don’t need to worry about him leaving to Liu Pei. Besides, it would show he’s not really worth that much anyway.” So Ts’ao Ts’ao made up his mind to let Kuan Yu face Yan Liang in battle.

So Ts’ao Ts’ao took Kuan Yu to the battlefield. Before the combat, he said to Kuan Yu, “Look at Yan Liang. A mighty warrior he is, so full of glory, is he not?” Perhaps, Ts’ao Ts’ao was having second thoughts about losing this fine general to Yan Liang in the combat.

However, Kuan Yu looked at Yan Liang and replied with contempt, “I think he is but a Pathonghoe salesman!”, whereupon Kuan Yu rode out in the battlefield and killed Yan Liang in one stroke!!

Ts’ao Ts’ao was overjoyed. That day, the army of Wei crushed the Hebei warriors and celebrated. Kuan Yu was a hero!! Now, Ts’ao Ts’ao was even more worried about losing him.

The war between Ts’ao Ts’ao and Yuan Shao raged on, and Yuan Shao sent his greatest general Wen Chou against Wei’s army. Wen Chou seemed invincible, and the Hebei army still outnumbered Wei. Many of Wei’s generals perished at Wen Chou’s hand, but Ts’ao Ts’ao did not want to use Kuan Yu for fear that he might leave.

This time, Chang Liao urged him to use Kuan Yu.

Ts’ao Ts’ao: It is not that I lack confidence in Kuan Yu, but if he wins, he will leave us for Liu Pei.

Chang Liao: You shall not worry, my Lordship. I heard that Liu Pei resides with Yuan Shao in Hebei. If Wen Chou dies, then surely Yuan Shao will suspect Liu Pei, and he will die. If Liu Pei dies by Yuan Shao’s sword, who else will Kuan Yu serve but you?

Ts’ao Ts’ao saw Chang Liao’s wisdom and allowed Kuan Yu to engage Wen Chou in combat. Kuan Yu allowed a small train of supply to be captured by Wen Chou, whereupon the Hebei army lost its discipline and fell in for the loot. Upon seeing this, Kuan Yu attacked. Wen Chou was a good warrior, but against Kuan Yu, his skills were childplay. Kuan Yu killed him in less than three strokes.

And so the news spread to Yuan Shao in Hebei, who suspected that Liu Pei hath collaborated with Kuan Yu, who was now working for Ts’ao Ts’ao, so he sent for his men to behead Liu Pei.

Liu Pei: My Lordship, what wrong have I done to be punished in this manner?

Yuan Shao: You conspire against me with your brother Kuan Yu, who killed two of my best generals Yan Liang and Wen Chou, and you pretend nothing is happening?!?

Liu Pei: My Lord, this can not be true. It is possible that my brother does not know I reside with you. Let me write him a letter, so that he may join us here.

Seeing nothing to lose, Yuan Shao allowed Liu Pei to write the letter to Kuan Yu. Upon receiving the letter, Kuan Yu wanted to say farewell to Ts’ao Ts’ao, but Ts’ao Ts’ao made up some silly excuses like being busy or not well. Finally, Kuan Yu sent his farewell letter on the floor and left Xuchang.

When Ts’ao Ts’ao realized Kuan Yu was leaving, he felt very sad and wanted to see him off personally. Such was his admiration and good feelings for Kuan Yu. Ts’ao Ts’ao and his entourage met Kuan Yu at the river bank.

Ts’ao Ts’ao: Kuan Yu, you know my feelings for you has always been friendly. Why have you left without saying farewell?

Kuan Yu: Your Excellency, I’ve tried to meet you in person to say farewell many times, but you were always unavailable. I really want to go back and meet my brother. Please accept my apologies, but I must go. In the past, I have killed two of Yuan Shao’s generals to repay your kindness.

Ts’ao Ts’ao: Yes, this is my fault. I have been too fond of you to let you go, Kuan Yu. Anyway, please accept this package of food and clothing. Take good care.

Kuan Yu used his lance to pick up the package. The Wei nobles thought Kuan Yu was being rude, but Ts’ao Ts’ao said, “C’mon, there are so many of us here, and he is alone. He has reasons to be suspicious. I have great admiration for him. All of you should follow his example.”

On his way to Hebei, Kuan Yu had to face many hardships. The Wei gatekeepers at five passes tried to block his way. Some shot him with an arrow and attacked him in a banquet. Others challenged him to a duel, but Kuan Yu defeated all of them.

Hsiahou Tun followed him to the border, but alas, Chang Liao followed him with the pass, so Hsiahou Tun grudgingly let him go. The two brave warriors would one day meet again.

Kuan Yu reached a mountain pass, where he was attacked by his own brother Chang Fei. Chang Fei had defeated and subjugated some mountain bandits and was now their leader. He was furious, because he thought Kuan Yu had defected to Ts’ao Ts’ao and was now out to get them. Kuan Yu did not want to fight with Chang Fei, and so he only parried the blows.

Finally, the duel stopped when Liu Pei’s wives came out and stopped Chang Fei, telling him how loyal Kuan Yu hath been. Liu Pei told Yuan Shao he would go gather support from Liu Biao, the warlord of Chingchou, and so the three sworn brothers were again reunited.

The good news was actually more than that. Another great general Chao Yun would join their ranks. Who is this Chao Yun anyway?

Chao Yun was originally a cook in Yuan Shao’s army, but he was actually one of the greatest warriors of his times. He quit, disillusioned by the unfairness. One day, Yuan Shao tricked Gongsun Zan, the White Horse Marshal, into an alliance against a minor city but then told the governor of that city he would rescue him against Gongsun Zan. Once inside the city, Yuan Shao seized control and denied Gongsun Zan his fair share, so the two went to war.

Yan Liang and Wen Chou, then not dead yet, used tripping ropes to defeat Gongsun Zan and almost killed him, but Chao Yun came to his rescue. Chao Yun served Gongsun Zan for a while until he met the more charismatic Liu Pei. Liu Pei didn’t want to poach Chao Yun from his benefactor Gongsun Zan. However, Gongsun Zan was later defeated and killed by Yuan Shu. After that, Chao Yun became a wanderer. He was again found killing some of Chang Fei’s bandit at the mountain pass. When he met the three sworn brothers, he joined their service.

Now, the three sworn brothers would have to avoid the conflict between Ts’ao Ts’ao and Yuan Shao for a while, but that great war raged on for control over northern China until it climaxed in our next episode, so don’t miss The Battle of Guandu!!

…Because of his immense loyalty to Liu Pei illustrated in this book, Kuan Yu is worshipped as the Chinese God of Loyalty even to this day.

Book XIII : The Fall of Lu Bu

Soon, war broke out once again between Ts’ao Ts’ao, the mighty Minister of Han, and Lu Bu, warlord of Xuzhou. This time, Liu Pei would fight on Ts’ao Ts’ao’s side. Ts’ao Ts’ao divided his armies into three part. He personally commanded one and ordered two led by Liu Pei and his loyal general Hsiahou Tun to attack Lu Bu in a sandwich or pincer movement. By now, the city of Xia Pi had fallen under Liu Pei’s control.

However, in one battle, Lu Bu defeated Liu Pei. The villagers of Xia Pi loved Liu Pei, so much that they refused to close the city gates on him. Hence, Xia Pi fell back into Lu Bu’s power. Hsiahou Tun, the great general of Wei, pursued Lu Bu, but Lu Bu used his arrow to shoot Hsiahou Tun in the eye. Hsiahou Tun was an incredibly brave. He merely pulled out his own eye and ate it in front of the soldiers. Such was the raw courage of Hsiahou Tun, a cousin of Ts’ao Ts’ao himself!! The battle did not stop. Anyway, Lu Bu prevailed in Xia Pi for a short period of time.

Lu Bu knew that his choices were limited. His only ally was Yuan Shu of Lum Yong, and Yuan Shu had proposed a marriage between his son and Lu Bu’s beautiful daughter. Lu Bu wanted the alliance, but he was hesitant about losing his daughter.

In time, Ts’ao Ts’ao’s numerical superiority took a toll on Lu Bu’s men, and two generals, Chen Gui and his son Chen Deng, also conspired against Lu Bu. They tricked him into leaving the city to them while he marched out against Ts’ao Ts’ao. When Lu Bu returned to Xuzhou, Chen Gui refused to let him in. Instead, he gave the city to Liu Pei, whom he felt was the rightful ruler of Xuzhou all along.

Lu Bu tried to challenge Ts’ao Ts’ao to personal combat, but Ts’ao Ts’ao was too smart for that kind of nonsense. He simply ordered all his men to attack Lu Bu. Unable to win, Lu Bu retreated to a deserted town of Haifa.

Now, he was truly desperate and decided to give his daughter to Yuan Shu in return for reinforcements, but luck was no longer on his son. Lu Bu tied his daughter to his back, hoping to make his way to Lum Yong, but he was blockaded by Chang Fei. Unable to break the blockade, he went back to sulk in Haifa. He had constant arguments with his advisor Chen Kong over how to prosecute the war. Now, you will remember Chen Kong from an earlier episode. He was the mayor who spared Ts’ao Ts’ao many years back but was later disillusioned by Ts’ao Ts’ao’s cruelty. If you forget Chen Kong, please go back and read the Book VI. The Adventures of Ts’ao Ts’ao.

Anyway, a flood kicked in, and there was not enough to eat in Haifa. Some of Lu Bu’s men tried to flee, but they were caught by his general Hou Cheng. When Hou Cheng reported the problem to a depressed Lu Bu, he was merely punished. Hou Cheng was so angered that he decided to betray Lu Bu to Ts’ao Ts’ao.

Firstly, Hou Cheng stole his horse Red Hare and sent it to Ts’ao Ts’ao. Lu Bu had ordered his men not to drink liquor, but one day, he himself broke the rule and drank some wine, because he was so depressed about losing his favorite horse. Now, Lu Bu was a strange man. He could sleep while standing. Anyway, Hou Cheng tied him up and sent him to Ts’ao Ts’ao. Haifa had now surrendered to mighty Wei.

Lu Bu asked to serve Ts’ao Ts’ao if he would only spare his life. He mentioned that he was the greatest warrior in China and told of the time when he held his own against the three sworn brothers, including Kuan Yu and Chang Fei, who were great warriors in their own rights.

Finally, Ts’ao Ts’ao asked Liu Pei for his opinion.

Liu Pei: “Your Excellency must not trust a traitor like Lu Bu. I too was once his friend, but he betrayed me. Lu Bu is the Man with Three Fathers. His own father had died long ago, but both his foster fathers, Ting Yuan and Tung Ch’o, have been murdered by him. He may be a great warrior, but he has no loyalty or honor. One day, he will betray you too.”

Ts’ao Ts’ao: “Ha! The Imperial Uncle is right. What use is a tiger that I can not tame!?! Guards, seize Lu Bu and execute him.”

Thus, it was in this manner that Lu Bu died…the greatest warrior of China but also one of the silliest and most dishonorable men during the Three Kingdoms.

Not long after Lu Bu’s death, Liu Pei was able to set his own domain separate from Ts’ao Ts’ao. After all, he was now Lord of Xuzhou, and the people were loyal to him. Ts’ao Ts’ao ordered two generals against Liu Pei, but Kuan Yu and Chang Fei captured them in succession, whereupon Liu Pei treated them with respect and told him he still respected Ts’ao Ts’ao.

The two generals fell for it and were released, but Ts’ao Ts’ao was so angry that his staff were stupid imbeciles. He felt now, he had to lead the war effort against Liu Pei himself. So it could be said that the death of Lu Bu was the main event that resulted in the break between Ts’ao Ts’ao and Liu Pei, two great men whose ambitions would be central to the Rise of the Three Kingdoms.

We will soon see this epic contest between the two in the next episode…How Kuan Yu Attains Godhood!!!

Book XII : Ts’ao Ts’ao Tests Liu Pei Twice

Now, Liu Pei was with Ts’ao Ts’ao at Xuchang, and the powerful Minister could see that Liu Pei was a charismatic person who could command attention. Ts’ao Ts’ao once thought of eliminating Liu Pei, but his advisor Sun Hou adviced against this, “Liu Pei is a virtuous man who has sought refuge with your Highness. If we slay him now, people will say bad things about us. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. This way, without a power base of his own, he can be of no danger to you.”

Ts’ao Ts’ao had great respect for Sun Hou, so he even went a step further by making friends with Liu Pei and introducing him to the Emperor. After checking his lineage, the Emperor declared the Liu Pei was actually his uncle and henceforth, Liu Pei was known as the Imperial Uncle.

Now, Ts’ao Ts’ao’s powers had increased significantly, and he was even toying with the idea of usurping the throne. Of course, he wanted to test the loyalty of people around him before he did that. One day, he went hunting with the Emperor and all of the entourage and shot a deer before the Emperor could do so.

When one of the Emperor’s men shouted out that the Emperor hath hit a deer, Ts’ao Ts’ao shouted back, “No, it is I, Minister Ts’ao Ts’ao, who shot that deer!”

Most of the nobles were enraged, but no one dared to voice an opinion against Ts’ao Ts’ao. Kuan Yu wanted to, but he was restrained by his brother Liu Pei. Upon seeing this, Ts’ao Ts’ao knew that he did not have complete support of the nobles yet and decided to delay his plans for usurping the throne…for now.

Ts’ao Ts’ao now realized the danger that Liu Pei would pose to him, and Liu Pei could see through his suspicion. To throw Ts’ao Ts’ao off his guard, Liu Pei pretended to be interested in gardening. This gave everyone the impression was totally unambitious, but Ts’ao Ts’ao could still not shake off all his suspicions of Liu Pei, so one day, he invited him for a drink in the royal pavilion.

During the drink, he posed the question: “Who is the hero of our age?” Liu Pei gave many names, but Ts’ao Ts’ao would dismiss them one by one.

“Sun Quan is but a child, Yuan Shao has money but no brains, same thing with Yuan Shu. In reality, there are only two heroes in China today, namely yourself and me.”

Luckily, a thunder roared at that time, and Liu Pei pretended to close his ears and hide in fear. At that time, his two brothers, Chang Fei and Kuan Yu, appeared. He chided them, and so the event ended. Thus, this was how Ts’ao Ts’ao tested Liu Pei to see the extent of his ambition. Liu Pei was eager to give Ts’ao Ts’ao the impression that he was loyal and not one to be feared…until, of course, the time was right.

We will see how Liu Pei detached himself from Ts’ao Ts’ao in the next book…The Fall of Lu Bu!!