Before Kung Ming went to Shu to help Liu Pei against Liu Zhang, he entrusted Chingchou to Kuan Yu and asked Kuan Yu, “What will you do if Wei and Wu attack you at the same time?”
Kuan Yu: “I will fight unto death!”
Kung Ming frowned and reprimanded him, “A general must think not only of his only valour but the success of his country. If Wei and Wu threaten Chingchou at the same time, you must join forces with Wu against Wei.”
Kuan Yu pretended to take Kung Ming’s words to heart but continued in his own haughty ways.
At this time, Sun Quan blamed grand general Lu Ssu for his failure to retake Chingchou and his role in helping Liu Pei against Ts’ao Ts’ao during the hard times. Hard pressed, Lu Ssu sent Chuko Ching, Kung Ming’s elder brother, to Shu capital of Chengtu and told him to say that if Chingchou was not returned to Wu, Chuko Ching’s family would be killed.
Kung Ming saw through the ruse and pretended to cry before his brother and plead Liu Pei to return Chingchou to Sun Quan. Liu Pei drafted a letter to Kuan Yu for Chuko Ching to carry, but when they met, Kuan Yu refused to hand over the city to Chuko Ching, saying that “in the battlefield, the general is autonomous to his Lord.”
So Liu Pei drafted another letter ceding the outskirt cities of Chingchou to Wu, but when Sun Quan sent his govenors to those cities, they were driven off by Kuan Yu himself. Thinking that the problem was now Kuan Yu and not Liu Pei, he offered to arrange a marriage between his son to Kuan Yu’s daughter.
Kuan Yu, seeing through his ruse, called his bluff, and said “A frog (Sun Quan’s son) wants to eat the flesh of a swan (his daughter).” Sun Quan was furious!! Kuan Yu may be a hero and famous general, but he was not a Lord. Sun Quan was Marquis of Wu, and if their children hath been wedded, Kuan Yu’s daughter could have been Empress of Wu many years later. Now, Sun Quan’s heart was hardened against Kuan Yu.
Once again, he reprimanded the Grand General Lu Ssu, who then came up with another plan to take Chingchou from Kuan Yu. Lu Ssu then invited Kuan Yu to a river banquet. Against the advice of his lieutenants, Kuan Yu went without his army, accompanied only by Chou Cang and a ‘plan.’ While Lu Ssu talked about the return of Chingchou and Chou Cang interceded, Kuan Yu drove him away, but in reality, Chou Cang went out to wave the flag.
When Kuan Yu’s son Kuan Ping saw the flag, a small fleet of Shu ships arrived on Lukow where the banquet was held. Kuan Yu feigned drunkenness and dragged Lu Ssu with him to the riverside saying he needed the host to bring him to it, because he was drunk. Lu Ssu’s men did not dare to open fire on Kuan Yu, because they feared hurting their own general.
Finally, Kuan Yu escaped back to Chingchou unarmed. This caused great loss of face to Lu Ssu. Lu Ssu died shortly after and was succeeded by the general Lu Meng (no relation).
Because Kuan Yu hath spurned Sun Quan’s overtures of alliance, Wu joined forces with Wei against Shu just as Kung Ming had predicted. Ts’ao Ts’ao planned to send a vast army led by Pang Te to invade Chingchou, but the Wei nobles protested. They thought Pang Te was a turncoat who hath fought for Ma Chao and Chang Lu and was unworthy of command. After all, is Ma Chao even now not working for Shu?
So Pang Te was made second in command to Yue Jin, and the great army of Wei descended on Chingchou. In the first battle, Pang Te fought valiantly against Kuan Yu. He then pretended to flee, but when Kuan Yu followed him, he shot him with a poisoned arrow.
Luckily for Kuan Yu, the magical doctor Hua Toh was there. Hua Toh wanted to tie a ring around Kuan Yu before the operation, but Kuan Yu refused. Instead, he played chess with his son Kuan Ping while the doctor operated on his arm.
When the operation was done, Kuan Yu said, “You are a fine doctor. The world has not known your equal.”
Hua Toh complimented him back, “You are a fine patient. I have never seen a man withstand such pain!”
Kuan Yu then broke the dam and flooded Chingchou. His men boarded ships and attacked the Wei army, which broke easily. Yue Jin was easily captured, but Pang Te resisted to the last. Finally, Pang Te fell into the water and was captured by Kuan Yu’s right hand man, Chou Chang, who was adept at swimming.
Yue Jin pleaded for his life, and Kuan Yu let him go, saying “It is not worth my blade killing a dog like you!”
Kuan Yu had great respect for Pang Te and tried to persuade him to submit, but Pang Te was totally loyal to Ts’ao Ts’ao and refused to do so. Finally, Kuan Yu beheaded Pang Te but had him buried with great honor.
Ts’ao Ts’ao wept when he heard of Pang Te’s loyalty and courage to the last. Kuan Yu’s army now swept northwards into Wei territory. Ts’ao Ts’ao was so fearful of his prowress that he thought of moving the capital away from Xu Chang, which was too close to Chingchou, but his advisor Ssuma I advised against it, “Kuan Yu only has a small army compared to us. What will your citizens think if you flee from him?”
So Ts’ao Ts’ao did not move from Xu Chang. Luckily for Ts’ao Ts’ao, the armies of Wu at Luk Cao was also mobilizing against Chingchou, it seems. Don’t miss the climax in Book XXXII Kuan Yu’s Last Stand.