So the three sworn brothers, Liu Pei, Kuan Yu, and Chang Fei, took up the challenge and led a small local militia against the Yellow Turban Rebels. The Yellow Turban Rebels were an extremely powerful force. During the late Han dynasty, corruption of the Ten Eunuchs in the Imperial Palace spread over China. A man called Chang Pao claimed to be a sage and offered special healing powers. A great rebellion followed him, and they all wore the yellow turban. Chang Pao was their Supreme Commander. He was also called Commander of the Heavens by his followers.
Liu Pei’s militia joined that of his mentor Lu Zhi. Lu Zhi was a pugilist who had risen to the ranks of a commander. Together, they had many successes, but eventually Lu Zhi was beheaded by an evil commissioner. Even during times of troubles, the corruption of the Han court was immense.
In another battle, Liu Pei rescued the powerful warlord Tung Ch’o from the rebels. Tung Ch’o summoned his savior, but when he realized Liu Pei was not an official general but only a militia leader, he simply looked past him.
Liu Pei’s big break came in his next battle. He ordered his men to carry a rack of ten torches each. They attacked the rebels at night. Though vastly outnumbered, Liu Pei gave the rebels the perception that he had a vast army. They panicked and could not respond. When he reached their camp, he threw down the torches and burned down the camp. In the ensuing turmoil, Liu Pei was able to kill Chang Ren, a younger brother of Chang Pao who was also known as Commander of the Land.
With the victories he earned, Liu Pei was only made a minor district governor. This was because he had little backing in the Imperial Palace. In the meantime, another general Ts’ao Ts’ao was promoted during the same war. Ts’ao Ts’ao was instrumental in the defeat of the Yellow Turban Rebels, and it was he who crushed the the Chang Pao and his other younger brother Chang Yin (known as Commander of the Ghosts).
Although Tung Ch’o had one of China’s greatest army, he contributed little to the fight against the Yellow Turban Rebels. Nevertheless, he bribed the powerful Ten Eunuchs to turn the story in his favor and emerged as the most powerful warlord in China following this event. The Yellow Turban Rebellion was a turning point for the decadent Han Empire. Now, the fall of Han was only a matter of time. Powerful men who would reshape China in their own image arose due to the wars caused by Chang Pao and the Yellow Turban Rebels.