As the Ten Eunuchs were being slaughtered by Ho Chin’s men, two vast armies entered the capital city of Loyang. One was led by the patriotic noble Teng Yuan, while the other larger army was led by Tung Ch’o. On his way to the capital, Tung Ch’o met the two fleeing princes Pian-te and Hian-te. The Crown Prince Pian-te was clearly frightened, but Prince Hian-te was braver. He faced up to Tung Ch’o and demanded:
“Before the Crown Prince Pian-te, why do you not bow!”
Tung Ch’o was shocked. He went on his knees and bowed to the two princes. He was rather impressed by Hian-te but felt that the Crown Prince Pian-te was nothing more than a coward. When he entered the Palace, his army was the biggest of all. Tung Ch’o expressed his opinion that they should crown Hian-te as Emperor. Yuan Shao, a powerful warlord in his own rights, was disgusted and left the capital.
But it was Teng Yuan who spoke up against Tung Ch’o, “Traitor Tung Ch’o, how dare you defy the will of Heavens and the laws of the Imperial Family? Crown Prince Pian-te is elder and should reign.”
Tung Ch’o’s men wanted to strike down Teng Yuan, but his adopted son, Lu Bu, stood by him. Now, Lu Bu was no ordinary man but the greatest warrior of the late Han period. The war between Teng Yuan and Tung Ch’o would now begin. Although Tung Ch’o had the bigger army, he could not defeat Teng Yuan, for Lu Bu was a great warrior worth more than a hundred soldiers. In one battle, Lu Bu almost killed Tung Ch’o, but he managed to flee in time.
Li Ru, Tung Ch’o’s wise son-in-law and advisor, went to talk with Tung Ch’o: “Master, we can not win this war with Lu Bu by Teng Yuan’s side. Our of our generals, Li Su, is a friend of Lu Bu. Tell him to convince Lu Bu to our side and shower Lu Bu with gifts.”
“Will he betray his own father for us?” Tung Ch’o asked. Li Ru: “Lu Bu is a great warrior, but he is not cunning. Teng Yuan is only a godfather.”
So Tung Ch’o followed Li Ru’s advice. He ordered Li Su to take great treasures to Lu Bu, who welcomed him as an old friend.
Lu Bu: “We have not met for ages, Li Su. What brings you here?” Li Su: “Our friendship. What else? If only we were working for the same masters.” Lu Bu: “Such is a man’s fate. We can not complain, Li Su.” Li Su: “I am a humble soldier, but you are the greatest warrior in China. I pity that you do not seek greater opportunity.” Lu Bu: “What opportunity is there for me, Li Su? I am a warrior of Teng Yuan, is this not enough?” Li Su: “You are greater than this, Lu Bu. My master Tung Ch’o has great admiration for you and has asked me to send these gifts to you.”
Li Su then pointed to the great horse called Red Hare, “The Red Hare is the fastest horse in China. He can run a thousand lis (Chinese miles) in a short period of time.” Lu Bu took the horse in with great admiration. He made up his mind to work for Tung Ch’o, so that night, he entered Teng Yuan’s tent alone. “What brings you here, my son?” Teng Yuan asked. “Why are you up so late?” To which Lu Bu replied, “Why must I be your son? I am the greatest warrior in China.” With that he chopped off Teng Yuan’s head, set fire to the camp, and defected to Tung Ch’o riding on the Red Hare.
Without Lu Bu, Teng Yuan’s army was helpless. Tung Ch’o, whose army was far bigger, easily crushed them. Finally, Tung Ch’o accepted Lu Bu as his own adopted son. Hence, Lu Bu became known as the “Man with Three Fathers.” For first was his real father, second was the noble Teng Yuan, and finally the treacherous Tung Ch’o.
With Lu Bu by his side, Tung Ch’o was invincible. When a noble spoke up against Tung Ch’o at a party, Lu Bu dragged him out and chopped his head off instantly before returning for drinks.
His arrogance now unsurpassed, Tung Ch’o ordered Empress Ho and her son Crown Prince Pian-te thrown to their death from the balcony of the palace and installed Prince Hian-te as Emperor of China. As the new Minister of War, Tung Ch’o was the most powerful man in China.
In Chinese history, Tung Ch’o was known as the ultimate tyrant. At one time, he ordered 800 women into his palace to serve him as concubines. At another time, he ordered some of them torn on four sides by horses for fun.
China was entering the Dark Ages. Or was it a time for great heroes to emerge?
To find out, don’t miss out our next episode…The Adventures of Ts’ao Ts’ao.