Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 113


Ding Feng Makes A Plan To Slay Sun Chen;
Jiang Wei Arrays A Battle To Defeat Deng Ai.

Fearing lest reinforcements would strengthen his enemy beyond his own power of resistance, Jiang Wei decided to retreat while he could. He sent all his stores and baggage away first with the footmen, and kept the cavalry to cover the retirement.

The spies reported his movements to Deng Ai, who said, “He has gone because he knew that the main army would soon be upon him. Let him go, and do not follow. If we pursue, he will play us some evil trick.”

Scouts were sent to keep in touch with the retreating army, and when they returned they reported that preparations of dry woods and straws had been made in the Luo Valley to check any pursuit with fire.

The officers praised the prescience of Deng Ai, “General, your calculation is superhuman!”

When Deng Ai reported these matters to the capital, Sima Zhao was very pleased and confer more rewards.

The Prime Minister of Wu, Sun Chen, was greatly angered by the desertion of so many of his soldiers and officers to Wei, and revenged himself by putting their families to death. The Ruler of Wu, Sun Liang, disapproved of these acts of cruelty, but he was powerless.

The young Emperor was of an ingenious turn of mind. One day he went to the West Park to eat of the newly ripened plums. He bade one of the eunuchs bring some honey. It was brought, but there were mouse droppings in it. The Ruler of Wu called the storekeeper and blamed him for carelessness.

The storekeeper said, “We are very careful to keep the stores in good order, and the honey cannot not possibly have been fouled in the storehouse.”

“Has anyone asked you for honey lately?” asked the Ruler of Wu.

“One of the eunuchs asked for some a few days ago. I refused him.”

The Ruler of Wu called the named eunuch and said, “You defiled the honey out of spite.”

The man denied it.

“It is very easy to tell,” said the Ruler of Wu. “If the dirt has been lying in the honey for some time it will be wet all through.”

Then the Ruler of Wu ordered them to cut one of the lumps, and it was quite dry inside. The eunuch then confessed.

This shows the Ruler of Wu was quick-witted. But clever as he was, he could not control his Prime Minister, whose relatives were in command of all the garrisons and armies, so that he was unassailable. His four brothers all had high offices: Sun Ju was General Who Terrifies Distant Regions and Commander of Imperial Guards; Sun En, General Who Shows Prowess; Sun Gan, Imperial Commander; and Sun Kan, Commander of Changshui.

One day the Ruler of Wu, musing over his sorrows and feeling very miserable, began to weep. The officer in charge of the eunuchs, who was an Imperial Brother-in-Law, stood by.

“Sun Chen holds all real power and does as he wishes, while I am despised,” said the Ruler of Wu. “Something must be done.”

Quan Ji said, “I would think no sacrifice too great if Your Majesty would make use of me.”

“If you could muster the Palace guards and help General Liu Cheng to keep the gates, I would go and murder that ruffian. But you must not let anyone know; for if you tell your noble mother, who is a sister of Sun Chen, she will tell her brother, and that would be very serious for me.”

“Will Your Majesty give me a command that I may have authority to act when the time comes?” said Quan Ji. “At the critical moment I could show the edict and hold back Sun Chen’s supporters.”

The command was given, and Quan Ji went home. But he could not keep his secret, and confided the plan to his father, Quan Shang.

His father told his wife, “Sun Chen will be got rid of in three days.”

“Oh, he deserves that,” said she.

Although she seemed to approve with her tongue, she sent a secret messenger with a letter to the proposed victim.

That same night Sun Chen called in his four leader brothers, and the Palace was surrounded. The conspirators were seized, with Liu Cheng and Quan Shang and all their families.

About dawn the Ruler of Wu was disturbed by a commotion at the gates, and a servant told him, “Sun Chen with his army has surrounded the Inner Palace!”

Sun Liang knew that he had been betrayed. He turned on Empress Quan, who was of the Quan house, and reproached her.

“Your father and brother have upset all my plans!”

Drawing his sword, he was dashing out when his Consort and her people clung to his clothing and held him back.

After putting to death Liu Cheng’s and Quan Shang’s parties, Sun Chen assembled the officers in the court and addressed them thus: “The Emperor is vicious and weak, depraved and foolish and unfit for his high office. Wherefore he must be deposed. Any of you who oppose will be punished as for conspiracy.”

“We shall obey your command, O General!” said the court officiers out of fear.

Only one of those present dared to say a word of protest.

It was Chair of the Secretariat Huan Yi, who said, “How dare you utter such words? Our Emperor is very intelligent, and I will not support you. I would rather die!”

Sun Chen wrathfully drew his sword and slew Huan Yi.

Then Sun Chen went into the Palace and said to Sun Liang, “O unrighteous and unenlightened Highness, your death would be the only fitting reparation to make to the empire, but out of consideration for your ancestors you are only deposed and degraded to princely rank as Prince of Kuaiji. I will select a worthy successor.”

Secretary Li Zong was ordered to bring in the royal seal, which was delivered to Deng Cheng. The deposed ruler retired weeping.

[hip, hip, hip]
The sage example of the wise Yi Yin*
Perverted now to traitor’s use we see;
And Huo Guang’s faithful services* are made
A cloak to cover vilest treachery.
Even able princes are but toys of fate,
And need our pity, fallen from high estate.
[yip, yip, yip]

[e] Yi Yin was was helper and prime minister of King Tang, the founder of Shang Dynasty. After King Tang’s death, Yi Yin served his sons and grandson. Soon after Tai Jia, King Tang’s grandson, ascended the throne, he committed many faults, and Yi Yin, acting as regent, exiled Tai Jia to Tong Palace—the burial place of King Tang. After three years Yi Yin returned him the throne. Tai Jia eventually became an enlightened emperor. Shang Dynasty lasted for 650 years (BC 1700-1050). It was this act of Yi Yin rather than his services in building up an empire that has made him immortal. Whether he did right in temporarily dethroning the king was open to question, until a final verdict was rendered by Mencius who thought that his ends amply justified his means. This historical event attests the extent of the power exercised by a prime minister in those days. …..
[e] Huo Guang (BC ?-68) a general and regent of Han. After Emperor Wu died, Huo Guang became regent to three successive emperors, and the second one had been the Prince of Changyi, who was on the throne for only twenty-seven days. Huo Guang had the Prince of Changyi declared unfit to rule and deposed him. Even though Huo Guang contributed much to the empire’s stabilization, after he died, he was distanced by the emperor and most of his family were executed for conspiracy charges. …..

Sun Chen then sent two ministers of the court, Royal Clan Recorder Sun Kai and Secretary Dong Cao, went as envoys to Hulin to request Sun Xiu, Prince of Langye, the sixth son of Sun Quan, to ascend the throne.

The Emperor-elect had had some premonition of the high honor to which he was now called, for in a dream he saw he ascended into the skies seated on a dragon. Only the dragon seemed to have no tail. He woke up in a fright, and the next day brought the Imperial Envoys, Sun Kai and Dong Cao.

Sun Xiu set out. At Que his carriage was stopped by a venerable old man who claimed to be Gan Xiu and offered felicitations.

“Your Majesty should move faster, for things may change swiftly,” said the aged one.

Sun Xiu thanked the old man.

At Busai Pavilion awaited Sun En with a chariot, but Sun Xiu’s modesty would not allow him to mount it. He remained in his own simple carriage and therein traveled to the Palace. Officials lined the road to salute him, and he dismounted to return their salutations. Then Sun Chen stood forth and bade them take the newly-elected Emperor by the arm and lead him into the Great Hall, where, after thrice refusing the honor, he at last took his seat in the Dragon Throne and received the jade seal passed from one ruler to another.

When all the officers had made obeisance, there were the usual amnesties, promotions, and honors, and Eternal Tranquillity, the first year (AD 258), was the name of the new reign. Sun Chen was confirmed as Prime Minister, with the Imperial Protectorship of Jingzhou. Moreover, Sun Hao, the son of his elder brother, was created Lord of Wucheng.

Sun Chen, with five persons in his family holding lordships and the whole army under their command, was immensely powerful, able to set up and pull down at will. The new Ruler of Wu, Sun Xiu, secretly feared him; and although outwardly he showed Sun Chen great favor, yet he kept careful watch over Sun Chen, whose arrogance knew no bounds.

In the winter Sun Chen sent into the Palace presents of oxen and wine as birthday gifts. The Ruler of Wu declined them. Sun Chen was very annoyed and took the presents to Zhang Bu’s residence, where they two dined together. Zhang Bu was the General of the Left Army.

When warmed with wine, Sun Chen said, “When I deposed the present Prince of Kuaiji, many people urged me to take the throne myself. But I acted magnanimously and set up this present Emperor. Now I suffer the mortification of seeing my presents rejected. You will see what will come of this slight.”

Zhang Bu showed sympathy, but the next day he secretly told the Ruler of Wu, and Sun Xiu’s fears increased so that he could not rest. Shortly after this, Sun Chen sent a large body of troops under the command of Minister Meng Zong into camp at Wuchang, and Sun Chen armed them from the state arsenals.

Whereupon General Wei Miao and Imperial Guard Shi Shuo secretly memorialized the Ruler of Wu: “Sun Chen has moved the troops outside and provided them with state arms. This action points to rebellion.”

Sun Xiu was shocked, and called in Zhang Bu to consult, and he said, “The Veteran General Ding Feng is an able and trustworthy officer. He should be consulted.”

So Ding Feng was called and taken into the Emperor’s confidence.

“Have no anxiety,” said Ding Feng. “I will find some way of ridding the state of this evil.”

“What do you propose?”

“When the winter court is held, and all the officers are assembled, spread a great banquet and invite Sun Chen. I shall be ready to act.”

Wei Miao and Shi Shuo were taken into the plot and were to do what was possible outside the Palace, and Zhang Bu saw to arrangements within.

One night a heavy storm came on to blow, which tore up great trees by the roots. However, by daylight it had abated, and that morning an Emperor’s messenger arrived bearing an invitation to a banquet in the Palace. Sun Chen rose from his couch, and, as he did so, fell flat on the ground as though he had been pushed from behind. This accident troubled him, and he felt apprehensive, so he called half a score of his trusty guards to act as his escort to the Palace.

As he was leaving home, his family besought him not to go out, saying, “The storm last night and the fall this morning are fearful omens. You should not go to that banquet.”

However, he made light of their fears and said, “My brothers are holding the army. Who will dare come near me? But if there is anything amiss, you just give a fire signal from the Prime Minister’s residence.”

So Sun Chen took his seat, and the carriage set out. When he reached the court, the Ruler of Wu rose from his place to welcome him, and at table Sun Chen sat in the seat of honor. The banquet proceeded.

“There is a fire outside: What does that mean?” said a guest presently.

Sun Chen rose to go out, but the Ruler of Wu said, “There is no danger, and there are plenty of soldiers outside to take care of that.”

Just at that moment Zhang Bu entered at the head of thirty armed guards. He rushed up the banquet chamber, shouting, “I hold a command to slay the rebel Sun Chen!”

[e] Jiaozhou was a deep-south region, which is now northern Vietnam.

Instantly the Prime Minister was seized. He fell prostrate before the Ruler of Wu, knocking his head on the ground and crying, “Spare my life! Exile me to Jiaozhou*, where I will do plow work.”

“Did you exile any of your victims—Teng Yin, Lu Ju, Wang Chun, and others?” said the Ruler of Wu, angrily.

The order went forth to carry out the execution, and Sun Chen was hustled out and put to death. No single person of his servants raised a hand to help him.

Then Zhang Bu read an edict: “Sun Chen is the only culprit, and no other will be questioned.”

Then at Zhang Bu’s request, the Ruler of Wu went up on the Tower of the Five Phoenixes. Zhang Bu, Wei Miao, and Shi Shuo brought the brothers of the Prime Minister before Sun Xiu, and he condemned them to death. After this their families were slain, so that many hundreds suffered death. Not content with all these things, the tomb of Sun Jun was broken open and his corpse beheaded.

Magnificent tombs were raised to his victims—Zhuge Ke, Teng Yin, Lu Ju, Wang Chun, and others. Thus at last loyalty was rewarded, and the banished were permitted to return home with full pardon. The conspirators were rewarded.

News of this revolution was sent into Chengdu, and the Latter Ruler sent an envoy into Wu with felicitations. In return, the Ruler of Wu sent Xue Xu as his envoy to Shu.

When Xue Xu returned, the Ruler of Wu questioned about affairs in the west, and Xue Xu said, “All affairs of state are in the hands of a certain eunuch named Huang Hao, and all the courtiers look up to him as to a father. At court plain truth is never heard, and the country people look sallow and starved. The whole country appears on the verge of destruction. The birds on the roof do not know that the building is about to be burned.”

“Ah ! If only Zhuge Liang the Martial Lord was still alive—how different all would be!” said Sun Xiu, with a sigh.

Letters were prepared saying that beyond doubt Sima Zhao intended usurpation, and when that came about in Wei, both Wu and Shu would be invaded. Wherefore both should be ready.

On the arrival of these letters, Jiang Wei hastened to seek permission to attempt another expedition. Consent being given, a large army marched into Hanzhong in the winter of the first year of Wonderful Sight (AD 258). Liao Hua and Zhang Yi were appointed Leaders of the Van, Wang Han and Jiang Bin as Commanders of the Left Army, and Jiang Shu and Fu Qian as Commanders of the Right Army, while Jiang Wei and Xiahou Ba led the main column.

Asked what he thought should be the first objective, Xiahou Ba replied, “There is no better fighting ground than Qishan, as the tactics of the late Prime Minister made evident, and it is the only good exit.”

So thither three armies marched, and they made three camps at the entrance to the valley. At this time Deng Ai had a training camp at Qishan drilling the Longyou troops.

The scouts told him: “The Shu army have pitched three camps in the valley.”

He ascended a hill to see and verify their reports. He seemed pleased when he saw the enemy camp.

“They have just done as I foresaw,” said Deng Ai.

Now Deng Ai had carefully considered the topography of the countryside, and so had not interfered with the Shu army when it was on the march or settling into camp. Moreover, he had excavated a subterranean road to the spot where he had thought they would halt, and their left camp had been pitched just on it. Wang Han and Jiang Bin commanded in that camp.

Deng Ai called his son Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan and sent them with ten thousand troops each to attack the left camp, one on each flank. Then he sent Zheng Lun and five hundred troops into the underground road, which opened in rear of the camp of Wang Han and Jiang Bin.

As the newly made camp was not yet well fortified, Wang Han and Jiang Bin exercised great care and kept their troops under arms all night, watching with vigilance. So when the alarm was given, they had but to seize their weapons and go out. But as the two leaders were mounting their steeds, Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan had attacked from without, and Zheng Lun from within. Thus attacked from three sides, soon Wang Han and Jiang Bin found the position untenable and fled.

When Jiang Wei saw that his left camp had been attacked on three sides, he mounted and took his position in front of the center camp.

“Let no one move on pain of death!” he shouted. “Stand still. When the enemy approaches, shoot!”

The right camp was ordered to stand fast. His defense was effective. A dozen of times the troops of Wei came forward, only to be driven back before the arrows and bolts of the defenders. Daylight found the Shu camps still firm, and the Wei troops drew off.

“Jiang Wei has indeed learned of Zhuge Liang,” said Deng Ai. “His soldiers stood the night attack without flinching, and the leaders took the chances of battle quite calmly. He is able.”

Next day, when Wang Han and Jiang Bin went to confess their fault, Jiang Wei said, “It was less your fault than mine, for I did not clearly recognize the nature of the terrain.”

So no penalty was inflicted. The camp was made stronger, and the subterranean passage was filled with the bodies of the slain.

A challenge to battle for the following day was sent to Deng Ai, who accepted it joyfully.

Next day the two armies were arrayed in front of the Qishan Mountains. The troops of Shu arrayed according to the “Eight Formations” designed by Zhuge Liang, which are called Heaven, Earth, Wind, Cloud, Bird, Serpent, Dragon, and Tiger. While the maneuver was in progress, Deng Ai recognized it as the Eight Gates Formation and placed his troops accordingly.

Jiang Wei then gripped his spear and rode out, saying, “You have made a good imitation of my eight, but can you work variations?”

“You call these yours! Did you think that you alone held the secret? Since I have made it, of course I know the variations.”

Deng Ai reentered his ranks, gave the signal officers certain orders, and the eight gates were evolved in rapid succession into sixty-four gates. Then he rode to the front again.

“What of my evolution?” asked Deng Ai.

“Not so bad. Would you like to try a surrounding move with me?” replied Jiang Wei.

“Why not?”

The two armies moved in orderly ranks. Deng Ai stood in the midst of his army giving the necessary orders. Then the clash came, but his tactics did not grip. Then Jiang Wei waved a certain signal flag, and his force suddenly assumed the form of a serpent coiled on the ground with Deng Ai in the center. Shouts arose all about him, and Deng Ai could not understand what had happened and began to feel afraid. Gradually the troops of Shu closed in upon him, and he saw no way of escape.

“Deng Ai, you must surrender!” cried the soldiers.

“Indeed a moment of pride had led me into the trap of Jiang Wei!” he sighed.

Suddenly from the northwest a cohort dashed in. To Deng Ai’s great joy they were soldiers of Wei, and they forced over the battle array and released him. The leader was Sima Wang.

But although Deng Ai had been rescued, his nine camps were seized by his enemy and he had to retire. He led his army to the south of River Wei and made a camp.

“How did you know exactly where to strike in that maze?” asked Deng Ai of his rescuer.

Sima Wang replied, “In my youth I went to study in Jingzhou and was friendly with Shi Guangyuan and Cui Zhouping. They explained that formation to me. Jiang Wei used what is known as ‘The Serpent Coil’, and the only way to break it is to attack the head, which I saw was in the northwest.”

Deng Ai replied, “Although I have studied formations, I do not know all the modifications. But since you know about this, we may be able to recover our camps.”

“I fear the little I have learned will not be enough to overcome Jiang Wei.”

“Tomorrow you shall contend with him, and while his attention is engaged, I will attack the rear of Qishan, and we will recover our camps.”

So a force was prepared to attack on the morrow, and Deng Ai sent a letter of challenge to a contest in tactics for the same day. Jiang Wei marked in to accept.

Jiang Wei said to his officers, “In the secret book that I received from the Prime Minister, the variations of the formation are three hundred and sixty-five, corresponding to the circuit of the heavens. This challenge from them is as one going to teach hewing to the God of Carpenters. I think some ruse lies behind this. Can you guess what it is?”

Liao Hua replied, “While they engage your attention in this competition, they intend to attack our rear.”

“Just so; that is also my opinion,” replied Jiang Wei.

So he prepared a counter-stroke by sending Liao Hua and Zhang Yi to lie in wait at the back of the hills with ten thousand troops.

Next day Jiang Wei led all the troops from the nine camps out and drawn up in front of the hills. Sima Wang came out on the other side and presently rode to the front to parley.

“You have challenged me to a contest. Now draw up your army for me to see,” said Jiang Wei.

Sima Wang did so and arrayed the eight diagrams.

“That is what we know as the Octagon,” said Jiang Wei. “But it is nothing wonderful, only a sort of array fit for a brigand’s raid.”

“You also have only stolen another man’s tactics,” replied his adversary.

“How many modifications of this are there?” asked Jiang Wei.

“Since I have arranged this, naturally I know the variations, of which there are nine nines, making eighty-one.”

“Try them.”

Sima Wang returned to his array and evolved many, finally riding out and asking his opponent if he recognized them.

“My formation admits of three hundred and sixty-five variations. You are but a frog in a well and know nothing of the deeper mysteries.”

Now Sima Wang knew that so many variations were possible, but had not studied them. However, he put on a bold air and said contemptuously, “I do not believe you. Prove it!”

“Go and call Deng Ai,” replied Jiang Wei. “I will display them to him.”

“General Deng Ai has excellent plans and does not think much of such tactics.”

“What plans? I suppose you mean a plan to keep me here while he tries a surprise attack in the rear.”

Sima Wang was aghast. He made a sudden dash forward, and a melee began. Jiang Wei made a signal with his whip, and his force poured in from both wings. The troops of Wei were seized with sudden panic, threw down their weapons and fled.

Now Deng Ai had hurried on Zheng Lun to make the first attack. As Zheng Lun turned the corner of the hill, a bomb exploded. At once the drums rolled and an ambush discovered itself. Liao Hua was in command. Neither side stayed to parley, and the leaders engaged in single combat. In the first encounter Liao Hua cut Zheng Lun down.

Deng Ai had not expected such preparation, and he hastened to withdraw. Then Zhang Yi came forth and attacked on the other side. The army of Wei was worsted. Deng Ai fought his way out, but he bore four arrow wounds upon his body. He got to the river, where he found Sima Wang, and they discussed how to get away.

But Sima Wang proposed another form of attack.

“Recently the Ruler of Shu has had a favorite, Eunuch Huang Hao, in whom he places all his trust and with whom he spends his time in one round of pleasure. Let us use the eunuch to sow distrust between the Emperor and his general and so get Jiang Wei recalled. In that way we shall retrieve our defeat.”

So Deng Ai assembled his advisers and asked who could go into Shu and get into communication with Huang Hao.

Dang Jun volunteered at once. Deng Ai entrusted gold and pearls and precious things to him, and sent him into Shu to win the treacherous alliance of the eunuch. As Dang Jun went, he also disseminated reports that Jiang Wei was angry and intended to go over to Wei.

These rumors became the common talk in Chengdu, and everyone believed them. Huang Hao carried them to the Emperor, and a messenger was sent to call the general to the capital.

Meanwhile Jiang Wei tried every day to bring the enemy to give battle, but they remained obstinately behind their defenses. Jiang Wei began to think some evil scheme was afoot, when suddenly he was recalled by Imperial Edict. Although ignorant of the reason, he could not disobey; and when he began the retreat, Deng Ai and Sima Wang knew that their plot had succeeded. They broke camp and set out to attack the retreating army.

[e] Yue Yi was a general of Yan. Yue Yi helped Yan overcome Qi, which was a dominant state during the Warring States period. But he fell victim to court slanderers. …..
[e] Yue Fei (AD 1103-1142) a great general during the Song Dynasty. During his time, northern China was invaded by the Jin (northeast) armies. Yue Fei, as commander of the northern expedition, was winning victories, when the emperor recalled him because the emperor feared Yue Fei’s growing power and that Jin would release his father and brother (both former emperors). Yue Fei was later executed due to false charges. …..

[hip, hip, hip]
Because of court intrigues
Yue Yi* and Yue Fei* failed.
[yip, yip, yip]

How matters went will be told in the next chapter.

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