Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book XXXIII : Ts’ao Ts’ao’s Death and the Fall of the Han Dynasty

<p>In Wu, the death of Kuan Yu would bring fear to the hearts of men. Lu Meng hath taken Kuan Yu’s great horse, the Red Hare, but it would not eat any hay and eventually died. Lu Meng himself died shortly afterwards vomiting blood. It was said that the ghost of Kuan Yu haunted him.</p>

<p>In Wei, however, Ts’ao Ts’ao rejoiced, for he hath feared that Kuan Yu would invade his capital in Xu Chang. One day, he decided to build a new palace, and his nobles recommended cutting a great tree, but the woodcutters wouldn’t do it. There were afraid of the spirits. So Ts’ao Ts’ao went to the tree and said “Let the sin befall upon me.” With this, he slashed his great sword at the tree, and to everyone’s surprise, blood spewed from it!! After that, the tree was cut down and built into his grand new palace.</p>

<p>But Ts’ao Ts’ao did not rest easy. He was continuously haunted by dreams of people he hath killed in the past, such as the Empress Ho (whom he replaced with his own daughter Empress Ts’ao) and Kuan Yu. The famous doctor Hua Toh visited Ts’ao Ts’ao and said that he had brain cancer and needed to undergo surgery, but Ts’ao Ts’ao grew suspicious of him, believing that he hath come to avenge Kuan Yu and so imprisoned him. Soon Hua Toh was executed. Before he died, Hua Toh left his manual with the Warden Wu who took good care of him, but that guy’s wife burned the manual away for fear of Warden Wu’s own life. So the greatest know-how in China was destroyed in this manner.</p>

<p>The nobles of Wei urged Ts’ao Ts’ao to seize the throne, but at that time, he was both old (60) and sick. He replied, “I rose from the ranks of a mere soldier to Minister of Han. There is no more that  I can wish for in this life.” This is a marked difference from his earlier attempts to seize the throne at 40. I guess people just kinda lose their ambitions when they get older.</p>

<p>Shortly after this incident, the Lord of Wei died. Ts’ao Ts’ao is arguably the greatest leader in the Three Kingdoms. In the period of disunity and severe conflict, he would rule much of the empire. Ironically, it was his death that would spell the end of the Han dynasty.</p>

<p>Now, Ts’ao Ts’ao actually had five sons. His eldest son, Ts’ao Ang, was killed during the battle with Chang Siu, so Ts’ao Pi now became his eldest son instead. His second son, Ts’ao Zhang, was a great warrior, and his third son, Ts’ao Zhi, was the greatest poet of his time. His youngest son, Ts’ao Hin, was a weak imbecile.</p>

<p>Ts’ao Ts’ao’s will stipulated that Ts’ao Pi would be the heir, but Ts’ao Zhang marched into the palace with 300,000 soldiers to challenge him. The senior Wei noble Jia Xue reprimanded Ts’ao Zhang for trying to challenge his brother. Now, Ts’ao Zhang was not a particularly bright guy, so he changed his mind abruptly, handed over the troops to Ts’ao Pi, and said that he was only coming to his father’s funeral.</p>

<p>The other sons did not come to the funeral, so Ts’ao Pi, now Minister of Wei, sent a Commissioner to demand their explanations. Ts’ao Hin was sick during the time of Ts’ao Ts’ao’s death and felt bad about his eldest brother’s suspicion, so he killed himself. This bought much grief to Wei.</p>

<p>When the Commissioner arrived at Ts’ao Zhi’s palace, he refused to apologize but drove the man away, rudely saying that Ts’ao Zhi was brighter than Ts’ao Pi and should rightly have been Minister of Wei. Ts’ao Pi was enraged!! He ordered Xu Zhu to arrest Ts’ao Zhi immediately, so Xu Zhu murdered the palace guards and bought Ts’ao Zhi before Ts’ao Pi at the capital city of Xu Chang.</p>

<p>Ts’ao Pi charged Ts’ao Zhi with treason and was about to execute him when their mother came to beg for Ts’ao Zhi’s life. Ts’ao Pi said he was only wanting to teach Ts’ao Zhi a lesson. He then said framed Ts’ao Zhi for lying to their father Ts’ao Ts’ao and copying poems from others by saying, “If you are really the poetic genius you claim, write a poem or verse in seven paces and let that picture be the topic. Use brotherhood as the theme.”</p>

<p>Now, Ts’ao Zhi was a truly talented poet. He may have learned strategy and cunning from Yang Xiu, but in poetry, even Yang Xiu was not his match. In less than seven paces and under immense pressure, Ts’ao Zhi replied, “Two rams (brothers) collided by the well. One bloodied, whilst the other fell.”</p>

<p>Ts’ao Pi then said, “Well done, but I think you walked too slowly. I demand you write another verse now with faster pace and you must not use the word brother anymore.”</p>

<p>Without even walking, the great poet Ts’ao Zhi replied,</p>

<p>“Using pod of peas to fuel the fire, To boil the same peas with fate so dire.”</p>

<p>Ts’ao Pi was not a fool. He understood the meaning of the poem. Ts’ao Zhi was the peas to be boiled by him (Ts’ao Pi), the pod. Yet, they were brothers from the same line of Ts’ao Ts’ao. Deeply touched, Ts’ao Pi made up his mind to let Ts’ao Zhi go but demoted him to a mere commoner.</p>

<p>Now, Ts’ao Pi’s ambitions knew no bounds. He thought he would complete that which his father Ts’ao Ts’ao hath not, which was to usurp the Han dynasty itself. The pressure on Emperor Hien-te mounted. Empress Ts’ao, who was Ts’ao Pi’s younger sister, suddenly left the Emperor. The Emperor offered his throne to Ts’ao Pi twice, but was rejected. </p>

<p>In the third instance of pressure, Ts’ao Pi accepted. Now, he was Emperor of Wei, while the former Emperor Hien-te was reduced to a mere village headman. The Han dynasty was officially at an end. Ts’ao Pi’s actions would have great repercussions on the Three Kingdoms.</p>

<p>With the collapse of Han, Liu Pei and Sun Quan no longer paid nominal loyalty to the powers of the capital Xuchang.</p>

<p>Soon, Sun Quan would proclaim himself Emperor of Wu. Liu Pei was sad for many days, for he lamented the fall of the Han dynasty as much as the death of his brother Kuan Yu. Finally, Kung Ming convinced him to stand firm against the tyranny of Ts’ao Pi. Convinced that he himself was most closely related to the Han line, Liu Pei agreed to proclaim himself Emperor of Shu (Han). Now, there were really three kingdoms fighting for supremacy in China.</p>

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