Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 18


Giving Counsels, Jia Xu Directs A Great Victory;
Braving Battlefield, Xiahou Dun Loses An Eye.

Jia Xu, as he had guessed the enemy’s intention, had also devised a countermove. So he went to his chief and said, “I saw Cao Cao very carefully reconnoitering round about the city. He certainly noticed that the southeast corner of the wall had been lately restored with mud bricks of a different kind, and that the fencing barrier is badly out of repair. He will try to effect an entrance there. Wherefore he is making a feint attack at the opposite point. He is piling up straw and making ostentatious preparations whereby to cajole us into withdrawing from the real point of attack to defend the northwest. His troops will scale the walls in the darkness and try to enter at the southeast.”

  “Supposing your surmise correct, what do you advise?” asked Zhang Xiu.

  “the countermove is plain. You issue an order for our best and bravest soldiers to fill their bellies, to take only the lightest outfit and conceal themselves in the houses near the southeast corner. Then disguise the townspeople as soldiers and send them to pretend to defend the northwest. Tonight we will let the enemy climb up the walls and enter the city and, once they are fairly within, give the signal and the concealed soldiers will rush out upon them. We may even capture Cao Cao himself.”

  the stratagem was decided upon.

  Soon the scouts told Cao Cao: “The defenders of the city have moved to the northwest where noisy preparations for defense are going on. The opposite corner is left undefended.”

  “they have fallen into my trap!” said Cao Cao gleefully.

  He ordered his troops to prepare shovels and hooks and all the gear needed for scaling walls, and all day they kept up the attack on the northwest angle.

  But at the second watch they dispatched the veterans to the opposite corner, where they climbed the wall, broke up the fencing barrier, and got into the city apparently without disturbing any of the guards. There was no sign of life anywhere as they entered. But just as they were leaving the wall, suddenly a bomb exploded and they found themselves in an ambush. They turned to retire, but Zhang Xiu immediately fell on the rear and began a slaughter. Cao Cao’s troops were totally defeated and fled out of the gate into the country. Zhang Xiu kept up the pursuit till daybreak, when he retired into the city again.

  Cao Cao then rallied his army and mustered his soldiers. He had lost fifty thousand and much baggage, while two of his generals, Lu Qian and Yu Jin were wounded.

  Cao Cao being thus worsted, Jia Xu advised Zhang Xiu to write off to Liu Biao to cut off Cao Cao’s retreat so that he might be utterly destroyed.

  Liu Biao was preparing an army for this purpose, when a scout came to say that Sun Ce had encamped in the river at Hukou.

  Kuai Liang said, “This move of Sun Ce in the river is part of Cao Cao’s strategy, and there will be never-ending reGREt if Cao Cao is allowed to escape. An immediate expedition is necessary.”

  Wherefore Liu Biao moved out with his army to Anzhong to block Cao Cao, leaving Huang Zu to hold Jingzhou’s points of vantage. Zhang Xiu, having been informed of the movement of Liu Biao, went with Jia Xu to smite Cao Cao on the rear.

  In the meantime Cao Cao’s army, marching very leisurely, had arrived at Xiangyang.

  Walking one day beside River Yu, he suddenly uttered a GREat cry, and when his officers asked the reason thereof, he replied, “I remembered that here, only a year ago, I lost my great general: Dian Wei. Is that not a reason to grieve?”

  thereupon Cao Cao gave orders to halt, while he should make a GREat sacrifice and mourn for his lost leader. At the ceremony he himself burned incense and wailed and prostrated himself. The army was much affected by his devotion. After the sacrifices to the lost hero, he sacrificed to the names of his nephew Cao Amin and his eldest son Cao Ang, both of whom had died at the same time. He also sacrificed to his lost soldiers and even to his Dawan steed which had been killed by an arrow.

  Next day Xun Yu wrote to tell Cao Cao that Liu Biao had gone to help Zhang Xiu and was camped at Anzhong, thereby cutting his road of retreat.

  Cao Cao replied to the letter, saying, “I have been marching only a short distance each day and of course knew of the pursuit. But my plans are laid and, as I am near Anzhong, my enemy will be broken. You need not have any fears.”

  then Cao Cao hastened his march till he came near where Liu Biao had taken position. Zhang Xiu still shortened the distance. Cao Cao ordered his men during the night to open a secret way through a pass, where he laid an ambush.

  With the first light of dawn Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu met. As Cao Cao’s force looked small, they thought he had retired so they boldly advanced into the pass to smite him. Then the ambush was opened, and both the attackers’ forces were cut up. The fighting ended; Cao Cao’s soldiers went outside the pass and encamped.

  the two leaders on the other side restored order among their beaten troops and then held a conference.

  “How could we have foreseen such a wicked ruse?” said Liu Biao.

  “Let us try again,” said Zhang Xiu.

  Wherefore they joined forces at Anzhong.

  But Xun Yu discovered through his spies that Yuan Shao was preparing an attack on Capital Xuchang, so he at once wrote to Cao Cao who, much disturbed by this news, set out homeward right away. When Zhang Xiu heard this through his scouts, he wished to follow the retreating army.

  Jia Xu opposed it and said, “It will lead to a defeat.”

  However, Liu Biao said, “It is wrong to lose such a chance.”

  And so finally pursuit was decided upon. they had not marched more than four miles before they came upon Cao Cao’s rearguard, who fought with GREat vigor and bravery so that the pursuers were beaten off and went home discomfited.

  Zhang Xiu said to Jia Xu, “This defeat comes from my not following your advice.”

  “Now set your army in order and pursue,” said Jia Xu.

  “But we have just suffered defeat!” cried both leaders. “Do you now counsel pursuit?”

  “Yes, and the result will be a GREat victory if you go now. I will venture my head on that,” said Jia Xu.

  Zhang Xiu had confidence, but Liu Biao was afraid and would not accompany him. So one army only started in pursuit.

  However, this was enough. Cao Cao’s rear-guard was thoroughly routed and abandoned their wagons and their baggage in their hasty flight. Zhang Xiu pursued, but suddenly a troop came out from the shelter of some hills and checked him. Fearful to try further, he hastened back to Anzhong.

  the other general, Liu Biao, asked the adviser to explain his apparent inconsistency, saying, “When our veteran and brave soldiers were going to pursue those who retreated, you said our men would lose the day; and when defeated men pursued the victors, you foretold victory. You were right in both cases, but we wish you would enlighten us.”

  “It is easy to explain. You, Generals, although skilled leaders, are not a match for our enemy. Though Cao Cao had lost a battle, he had able generals to keep the rear and guard against pursuit. Our soldiers are good, but not a match for them. That is how I knew. For as much as Cao Cao’s hurried retreat was due to trouble in the capital, and he had beaten off our attack, I knew he would retire at his utmost speed and not take his usual precautions. I ventured to take advantage of his laxity.”

  Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu could not but affirm his complete understanding of the conditions. On the advice of Jia Xu then Liu Biao returned to Jingzhou, while Zhang Xiu took up his position at Xiangyang so that each strengthened the other as the lips protect the teeth from cold.

  When Cao Cao, during his retreat, heard that his army was being pursued, he hastily turned back to support the rearguard. Then he saw the pursuing army draw off.

  the soldiers of the beaten rearguard said, “Had it not been for the troops that came out of the hills, we should all have been lost.”

  “What troops?” asked Cao Cao in surprise.

  the leader of the troops then advanced, slung his spear and, dismounting, made a low obeisance. He was Li Tong, Imperial Commander, from Jiangxia.

  Cao Cao asked him why he had come.

  Li Tong replied, “I was in command at Runan when I heard of the struggle going on, so I came to lend you any help I could.”

  To show his gratitude, Cao Cao conferred upon Li Tong the title Lord Who Renders High Services, and confirmed him in his command as the defense of Runan against Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu. Then Li Tong expressed his thanks and took his leave.

  [e] Wu was a state in the Spring and Autumn period. Located southeast in the GREat River Plain (the South Land)。 Became dominant in BC 506, when her army defeated Chu under the leadership of Wu Qi. ……

  On his return to the capital, Cao Cao presented a memorial on the good services rendered by Sun Ce, and the Emperor made him Lord of Wu* with the title General Who Destroys Rebels. The messenger bearing the decree bore also the order to repress Liu Biao.

  Cao Cao went to his palace and there received the ceremonial calls of congratulation. These finished, Xun Yu asked, saying, “You, Sir, marched very leisurely to Anzhong: How came it that you felt certain of victory?”

  Cao Cao replied, “My soldiers, who retire and find their retreat cut off, fight vigorously and desperately. I retired slowly to entice the enemy into following whereby I could do as I wished with them. Basing my movements on these considerations I felt secure.”

  Xun Yu bowed his head in admiration.

  When Guo Jia entered, Cao Cao said, “Why so late, Sir?”

  the visitor drew a letter from his sleeve, saying to his master, “Yuan Shao sends this expressing he desires to send an army to attack Gongsun Zan and wishes you to lend provisions and troops.”

  “I heard Yuan Shao was going to attack Xuchang. I suppose my return has made him change his intention,” said Cao Cao.

  then he opened the letter and read it. It was couched in very arrogant terms.

  “Yuan Shao is so exceedingly rude that I will attack him,” said Cao Cao. “Only I think I am not quite strong enough. What should be done?”

  Guo Jia said, “My lord, you know well who lost, and why, in the conflict between Liu Bang, the Supreme Ancestor, and Xiang Yu, his rival. The former won only by superior wisdom. Xiang Yu was the stronger, but in the end he was overcome. Your rival has ten weak points whereas you have ten strong ones, and, though his army is large, it is not terrible.”

  then Guo Jia continued, “Yuan Shao is overmuch devoted to ceremony and deportment; while you are sympathetic and natural; this is an excellence in conduct. He is antagonistic and drives; you are conciliatory and lead; so you have the advantage of popular approval. For many years the government has been lax, and he makes it more so; you strive vigorously after efficiency; this is the excellence of able administration. He is outwardly liberal but grudging at heart, and too given to nepotism; you appear exacting, but you understand and use people after their ability; this is the advantage of correct appreciation. He is a visionary but lacking in decision; you are a man of prompt decision and direct action; this is an advantage in policy. He loves to gather about him people of renown; you treat people as you find them regardless of their reputation; this is where you excel in moral virtue. He is compassionate to those at hand, but careless about those out of sight; your care is all-embracing; this is where you excel in humanity. He lends a ready ear to calumny and is misled; you may be flooded with evil counsel, but you preserve independence; this is where you excel in perspicacity. His sense of right and wrong is confused; your appreciation is accurate and clear; this is where you excel in administrative capacity. He loves the make-believe force, but is ignorant of military essentials; you would overcome with far inferior numbers as you possess military genius; this is where you excel in war. With your ten superiorities, you will have no difficulty in overcoming Yuan Shao.”

  “How can I be worth as much as you say?” said Cao Cao, smiling.

  “What Guo Jia has said about the ten points in your favor aGREes exactly with what I think,” said Xun Yu. “Yuan Shao’s army is not formidable in spite of its size.”

  “the real and dangerous enemy is Lu Bu,” said Guo Jia. “When Yuan Shao has gone north to destroy Gongsun Zan, we ought to sweep away Lu Bu and so clear away our danger from that side; for if this is not done, our attack on Yuan Shao will be the signal for an attempt on the capital. That would be most serious.”

  Cao Cao saw things in the same light as his advisers and began to discuss plans for an attack on Lu Bu. Xun Yu was of opinion that they should first secure the fidelity and aid of Liu Bei. So letters were written, and they waited his assurance before moving a soldier. Then, in order to reassure Yuan Shao, his emissary was treated with GREat kindness, and a memorial presented to the Emperor asking extra honors for him. Yuan Shao was made Imperial Protector of the four northern regions——Jizhou, Qingzhou, Youzhou, and Bingzhou. With all this a private letter was written by Cao Cao urging upon him to attack Gongsun Zan and promising assistance. So Yuan Shao’s army started.

  In the meantime the two Chen Deng and Chen Gui were playing their game. At every feast and gathering in Xuzhou, they uttered the most fulsome praises of Lu Bu. Chen Gong was GREatly displeased and took an opportunity to talk about them to his master.

  “they flatter you to your face, but what is in their hearts? You ought to be most carefully on your guard.”

  “Hold your tongue!” was the angry reply. “You are simply slandering them without the slightest excuse. You want to harm good people.”

  “No ears for loyal words,” said Chen Gong, as he went away sad at heart, “and we shall suffer.”

  He thought seriously of abandoning Lu Bu, but that would be too painful a wrench. Beside he feared people would laugh at him.

  So the days passed sorrowfully for him. One day, with a few horsemen, he rode out to the country near Xiaopei to hunt. On the high road he saw a messenger galloping along in hot haste and began to wonder what it might mean. He left the hunt, rode across country, and intercepted the rider.

  “Where are you from? Who sent you?” asked Chen Gong.

  the messenger made no reply for he knew to what party his captors belonged. But they searched him and found a letter, the secret reply to Cao Cao’s letter from Liu Bei. The messenger and the letter were both taken straight to Lu Bu.

  Lu Bu questioned the man, who said, “The Prime Minister sent me to bear a letter to Imperial Protector Liu Bei. I was now taking back the reply. I know nothing more, and I am ignorant of the contents of the letters.”

  So Lu Bu tore it open and read:

  “I have received your commands concerning the destruction of Lu Bu, and dare I for a moment venture to disregard them? But my force is weak and I must act with extreme circumspection. If you move your main body, then I will hasten forward, and in the meantime my army shall be got ready and weapons prepared. I await your command.”

  Lu Bu was really alarmed.

  “the wretches!” cried he. “To dare to act thus!”

  the unhappy messenger was put to death and countermoves planned. Chen Gong and Zang Ba went to enlist the help of the Taishan Mountains bandits——Sun Guan, Wu Dun, Yin Li, and Chang Xi——so that they would take Yanzhou in the East of Huashang Mountains. Gao Shun and Zhang Liao went to attack Liu Bei in Xiaopei. Song Xian and Wei Xu went west to attack Runan and Yingchuan. And Lu Bu took command of a large body of troops ready to afford help wherever needed.

  the departure of the army under Gao Shun against Xiaopei was reported to Liu Bei, who assembled his officers at a council.

  Sun Qian advised sending a message to the capital to inform Cao Cao of their danger. In response to the chief’s call, Jian Yong, a fellow townsman of Liu Bei, offered to take the message. Up to that moment Jian Yong had served as a secretary. So a letter was written, and Jian Yong set out at once on his journey.

  then preparations were made for defense: Liu Bei commanding at the south gate; Sun Qian at the north gate; Guan Yu at the west gate; and Zhang Fei at the east gate. Mi Zhu and his brother Mi Fang commanded the family guard in the center.

  the two Mis were put in command of the house guard because they were Liu Bei’s brothers-in-law; Liu Bei had taken a sister of Mi Zhu as a second wife. Hence they were suitable men to guard the family.

  In due course Gao Shun came to the south gate. Liu Bei ascended the tower and said, “I have no quarrel with your master, why do you come here with an army?”

  “You have plotted with Cao Cao to injure my master as we know now: Why should I not bind you?”

  So saying Gao Shun gave the signal to attack. But Liu Bei did not go out to repulse Gao Shun; he only kept the gate fast closed.

  Soon after, Zhang Liao led an attack on the west gate, then kept by Guan Yu, who addressed Zhang Liao from the wall.

  “You are too good a man to waste yourself on rebels,” said Guan Yu.

  Zhang Liao hung his head and made no reply. Guan Yu knew that Zhang Liao had a sound heart and high principles and said no more, as he was unwilling to wound Zhang Liao. Nor did he go out to attack.

  Zhang Liao then drew off and proceeded to the east gate, and Zhang Fei went out to give battle. Soon it was told Guan Yu, who came over quickly. He saw Zhang Fei going out, but Zhang Liao was already withdrawing. Zhang Fei wished to pursue, but his brother held him back.

  “He is afraid and so has gone away. It would be best to pursue,” said Zhang Fei.

  “No,” said Guan Yu. “As a warrior he is not inferior to either of us, but I have spoken a few straight words, and he has sunk deep. He is repentant and that is why he will not meet us.”

  So Zhang Fei understood, and the gates were shut and orders given for careful defense. When Jian Yong, Liu Bei’s messenger, reached the capital, he saw Cao Cao and told him what had happened. The advisers were called to discuss a plan.

  Cao Cao said, “I wish to attack Lu Bu. I fear not Yuan Shao, but Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu may attack me in the rear.”

  Xun You, the nephew of Xun Yu, replied, “Both these latter have been too recently defeated to do anything so rash. But Lu Bu is a bold fighting man, and if he joined forces with Yuan Shu and they set themselves to conquer River Huai and River Si, the problem would he difficult.”

  then spoke Guo Jia, “Let us take advantage of the moment before they have fully made up their mind. Smite before they are fully prepared.”

  And Cao Cao did so. An army of fifty thousand were sent in advance with four commanders——Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Lu Qian, and Li Dian. Cao Cao commanded the Center Army, which marched by divisions, and Jian Yong brought up the rear.

  Soon the scouts informed Gao Shun. He sent flying messengers to Lu Bu, who detached two hundred horse with Hou Cheng, Cao Xing, and He Meng to assist him. Gao Shun posted this reinforcement and his army about ten miles from Xiaopei to meet Cao Cao’s army. Lu Bu and the main army also followed close.

  When Liu Bei saw the enemy retiring from the city, he knew Cao Cao’s army was close at hand. So, making arrangements for guarding the city within, he and his two brothers marched their troops out of the city and made a camp, that they might be ready to assist.

  Now the division of Cao Cao’s army under Xiahou Dun, having marched out in advance, first came into touch with Gao Shun. Xiahou Dun at once rode out with spear set and offered a challenge. It was accepted and the two leaders fought half a hundred bouts. Then Gao Shun began to weaken and had to turn back. He rode round to the rear of his array. Xiahou Dun was not the man to quail, so he followed right into the enemy’s country. Then Cao Xing, one of Lu Bu’s generals, secretly strung his bow, fitted an arrow and, when Xiahou Dun had come quite near, shot at him. The arrow hit Xiahou Dun full in the left eye. He shrieked, and putting up his head, pulled out the arrow and with it the eye.

  “Essence of my father, blood of my mother, I cannot throw this away!” cried Xiahou Dun, and he put the eye into his mouth and swallowed it.

  then resuming his firm grip of his spear, Xiahou Dun went after this new enemy. There was no escape for Cao Xing. He was overtaken and fell with a fatal spear wound full in the face. Both sides were stricken dumb with amazement.

  Having thus slain the man who had wounded him, Xiahou Dun rode back toward his own side. Gao Shun went in pursuit and, waving on his army, attacked so vigorously that he won the day. Xiahou Yuan defended for his elder brother as they fled. Lu Qian and Li Dian led various divisions back to Jibei and made a camp.

  Gao Shun, having scored this victory, returned to attack Liu Bei; and as Lu Bu opportunely arrived with Zhang Liao, these three arranged their forces so that each attacked one of the brothers.

   Dauntless was Xiahou Dun, that warrior bold, His courage had been proved of old;But smitten sore one hapless day, He might not in the battle stay.

  the fate of Liu Bei will be told in the next chapter.

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