After Liu Pei’s coronation, Kung Ming convinced him to put off the plans to invade Wu for the moment. The purpose was to focus on the usurper Ts’ao Pi of Wei, but an event changed all that. It was Chang Fei. He came forth and begged his brother to attack Wei, saying that Kung Ming and the generals knew nothing of their oath to Kuan Yu at the Peach Orchard. Liu Pei, seeing the needs of the country first, dismissed him.
That night, Chang Fei drank incredible amounts of wine and punished his generals for late work in painting Kuan Yu’s vengeance flag. Upon seeing him asleep, the two generals murdered Chang Fei, took his head to Wu, and submitted to Sun Quan. Now, Liu Pei had no other choice but to see Sun Quan as his sworn enemy. Disregarding the wisdom of Kung Ming, he marched with a great army of almost 700,000 men into Wu territory. Amongst the generals who accompanied him were the aged Huang Zhong, Kuan Xin (son of Kuan Yu), and Chang Pao (son of Chang Fei). Chao Yun was left behind with Kung Ming at the Shu capital of Chengtu.
First, Liu Pei wanted to deal with his foster son, Liu Han, and Meng Da, who he considered traitors against Kuan Yu. He ordered Liu Han to battle Meng Da, but Meng Da beat him back and submitted to Wei. When Liu Han reported to Chengtu, he was beheaded by Liu Pei. His last words were, “Please watch over my father.” When Liu Pei heard this, he wept.
Initially, Kuan Xin and Chang Pao fought for the role of lead general, but Liu Pei reconciled them. In an early campaign, Kuan Xin killed some of Kuan Yu’s murderers. Hoping to sue for peace, Sun Quan sent Pao Hsu Yin and Tiao Tud, who hath betrayed Kuan Yu, to Liu Pei, and Kuan Xin killed both of them.
The generals who betrayed Chang Fei were fearful of betrayal by their own soldiers, most of whom were former soldiers of Shu. They went back to Liu Pei, but the Emperor of Shu did not spare them. So they were also beheaded by Chang Pao. Now, Wu was in terror of the Shu advance. Much of Wu hath already fallen into the hands of a vengeful Liu Pei. Even though Sun Quan offered his sister (Lady Sun) back to Liu Pei, he refused!! All he wanted to revenge.
One day, Emperor Liu Pei praised Kuan Xin and Chang Pao’s bravery before the men, highlighting their youth. Huang Zhong, who was seventy, felt his honor tarnished. The great warrior attacked the Wu camp solo and was slain in the winter after causing great damage. Huang Zhong was a great warrior and one of the Five Tiger Generals. His loss was a great one for Shu, and Liu Pei wept bitterly for his careless words.
The Wu camp also suffered severe losses. While its general Chou Tai was being defeated by Emperor Liu Pei, his comrade Gan Ning wanted to help despite his poor health. Gan Ning was one of Wu’s greatest general. As fever struck him in the hot sun that summer, he fell ill, was struck by a stray Shu arrow, and was dying. His last words to a private by his side was “It is the end of Wu.” The words were prophetic in some senses, but the war didn’t end just then.
The loss of two heroes, Gan Ning of Wu and Huang Zhong of Shu, was monumental indeed. It signified the pain felt by the two tiger nations as they clashed. Would Emperor Liu Pei conquer Wu in his rage? Or was the tide to turn?
Don’t miss our next episode, one of my personal favorites: Book XXXV Lu Xun Torches Liu Pei’s Grand Army