Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book XXXV : Lu Xun Torches Liu Pei’s Grand Army

The great nobles of Wu assembled before Emperor Sun Quan’s court, and they were all convinced nothing could stop Liu Pei and the Shu invaders. Surely, the kingdom founded by Sun Ts’e was coming to an end. Surrender was not an option for Liu Pei wanted his head. Suddenly, Wu Tse came up with the suggestion that Lu Xun should be appointed as Grand General to stem off the Shu invasion. He even wagered his life and those of his family on Lu Xun’s appointment!!

Sun Quan pondered upon this issue. What did he have to lose? Did the previous Grand General Lu Meng not say that Lu Xun had everything except position and recognition? In dire times, maybe Lu Xun was worth a risk. Lu Xun needed recognition, so he said he would only accept the position and do his best if Sun Quan would bestow upon him the Imperial Sword of Sun Ts’e. Whosoever held the Imperial Sword was equivalent to the Emperor on the battlefield. If anyone should disobey him, Lu Xun could behead him instantly.

Lu Xun proceeded to take command of the entire army. His strategy was to wait for Liu Pei’s army to tire out and defend the fortress carefully. Chou Tai was enraged by this seemingly silly design of the former scholar. Seeing Lu Xun as no more than a pedant, he contested his command, but Lu Xun threatened to behead him with the Imperial Sword. Lu Xun even refused to help Prince Sun Lang, who was being besieged by Liu Pei. He said that Prince Sun Lang was a capable commander who could defend his own stronghold. This caused seething anger in his men, but they grudgingly obeyed him out of respect from the Emperor Sun Quan. Deep inside though, they detested and despised the new Grand General.

Meanwhile, Liu Pei’s men on the plains watched the Wu fortress on the hill. It was summer and very hot now, but Lu Xun would not come out to fight. Liu Pei ordered his men to curse the Wu soldiers as cowards, but they still refused to come out for combat. Meanwhile, Liu Pei’s men were dehydrated by the heat. Finally, he told his advisor Ma Liang that he would retreat to an area closer to the river.

Ma Liang countered, “Your Majesty must not do that. If we retreat now, Lu Xun would send his men after us. He is not one to look down on. It was his plans that killed Kuan Yu.”

Emperor Liu Pei was very angry when he learned of Lu Xun’s role in the death of his brother, but his wits were about him. In reply, he told Ma Liang, “No worries, I am not without battlefield experience. Order some old men to be left behind, and an ambush strike force about our line of retreat.” In this manner, the Shu army retreated to an area closer to the river. Ma Liang, not knowing what to do, went back to seek guidance from his master Kung Ming in faraway capital of Chengtu.

Impatient as ever, Chou Tai and the other generals wanted to attack Liu Pei, but Lu Xun stopped them. Chou Tai pointed out that it was best to attack a retreating army. However, Lu Xun observed that only old soldiers were left in the camp. He quickly realized that Liu Pei hath set up an ambush for them and ordered the Wu soldiers back to the fortress. Again, Chou Tai and the other generals were seething with impatience and ill will towards their seemingly coward commander.

However, after some time had past, Lu Xun could well see that Liu Pei’s men were getting sick from the heat. Their supply lines were stretched over long distances, and some were very close to the river. He ordered men to pile dry woods on their ship and prepare to torch Liu Pei’s camp near the river along with any ships. He also ordered the Wu troops to concentrate their men at key points and ambush Liu Pei. The main purpose was to capture the Emperor of Shu himself, for Liu Pei was the last true descendant of Han with any true significance.

The plan worked!! Liu Pei’s army, though more numerous and armed with greater warriors of caliber, was easily torched and defeated. They were ambushed in many key areas, and Liu Pei barely escaped with his life, using fire as an evasion tactic to get away from the battlefield.

Many days earlier, Ma Liang hath reached Kung Ming, who also saw through the troubles. He sent Marshal Chao Yun to rescue Liu Pei with some very specific directions. After Chao Yun rescued Liu Pei, he detoured to a mysterious labyrinth called I-puk-poh. Lu Xun was trapped in this labyrinth for some time until he was rescued by Kung Ming’s father-in-law. He then realized how dangerous and cunning Kung Ming truly was.

Wei and Wu had made a treaty with each other, since they joined forces against Kuan Yu in the Battle of Chingchou. The treaty was still valid, so Chou Tai and the other generals urged Lu Xun on, but Lu Xun realized in times of war, peace treaties meant little. Instead of pursuing Liu Pei, Lu Xun ordered his men back to Nanking.

And how lucky!! It was that Emperor Ts’ao Pi of Wei, seeing Wu and Shu, at war decided to send a massive army of close to one million men into Wu. Luckily, Lu Xun retreated in time to match the assault and save Wu from total destruction.

Lu Xun was truly a hero of Wu, and he would later rise to the exalted position of Minister of Wu, being second in importance only to Emperor Sun Quan himself. At a later stage, Lu Xun made some unfavorable comments about Sun Quan’s choice of heir, Sun Huan. He felt the Prince Sun Lang was older and more capable, but Sun Quan disregarded his choice and pretended not to listen to him. The Emperor himself would chose which of his nephew would succeed him. Seeing his importance declining, Lu Xun resigned. This was the story of the rise and fall (or rather just retirement) of one of the great men of Wu.

Rulers of Wu:  Grand Generals of Wu
Sun Jian (actually of Changsha) :
Sun Ts’e (founder of Wu):  Chou Yu (sworn brother of Sun Ts’e)
Sun Quan (Emperor):  Lu Ssu
Sun Huan : Lu Meng, Lu Xun

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