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.