Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 74


Pang De Takes His Coffin To The Field;
Guan Yu Drowns The Seven Armies.

The bold and self-confident leader of Cao Cao’s army who promised to make an end of Guan Yu was Pang De. Cao Cao was glad to find such a man.

“That fellow Guan Yu has a great reputation, and in the whole empire he has no rival. He has not met his match yet, but now you are going, he will find all his work cut out.”

So spoke Cao Cao. He conferred on Yu Jin the title of General Who Corrects the South and on Pang De that of General Who Corrects the West, and he made Pang De Leader of the Van. The two generals marched out with their seven armies to Fancheng.

These seven armies were composed of sturdy fellows from the north, led by two of their own Marching Commanders named Dong Heng and Dong Chao. Hearing who was to command them, these two, supported by their generals, went to see Yu Jin and represented that the Leader of the Van was unsuitable.

Dong Heng said, “Sir General, the expedition you lead is for the relief of Fancheng, and it can confidently expect victory. But is it wise to place such as Pang De in command of the van?”

“Why?” said Yu Jin, surprised.

“Because Pang De was once under the command of Ma Chao. He had no alternative but to surrender and fight for Wei. But his former chief is now in high honor in Shu, one of the Five Tiger Generals, and his own brother Pang Rou is there, too, as an officer. To send Pang De as Leader of the Van just now seems like trying to extinguish a fire with oil. Would it not be well to inform the Prince of Wei and ask him to exchange this man for another?”

Without further argument or delay, Yu Jin went to see the Prince and laid before him the objections to Pang De’s appointment. As soon as Cao Cao understood, he summoned Pang De to the steps and bade him yield his seal as Leader of the Van.

“O Prince, why do you reject my services? I was just about to do my best for you.”

“I do not doubt you, but Ma Chao is now in the west, and your brother also—both in the service of Liu Bei. I myself have no doubts, but it is what all the crowd are saying. What can I do?”

Pang De took off his headdress and prostrated himself, bitter tears rolling down his cheeks.

“Since I surrendered to you, O Prince, I have experienced much kindness, so that I would undergo any sufferings to show my gratitude. I hope you will trust me. When my brother and I were at home together, his wife was a wicked woman, and I slew her while I was drunk. My brother has never forgiven me, but is permeated with hate for me. He swears never to see me again, and we are enemies. For my old master, Ma Chao, I have profound contempt. He is bold, but only that, and was in a pitiable and dejected state when he found his way to the west. Now, like me, he serves his own master, but our friendship is at an end. How could I think of another after your kindness to me?”

Cao Cao raised Pang De from the ground and soothed him, saying, “I have always known what a noble man you are, and what I said just now was to satisfy the feelings of other people. Now you can strive to win fame. If you do not turn your back on me, I shall not on you.”

Then Pang De took his leave and returned to his house, where he ordered the artificers to make him a coffin. Next he invited all his friends to a banquet, and the coffin was set out in the reception room for all to see.

And they asked one another, “What can that inauspicious thing mean putting out on the eve of a campaign?”

By and by, drinking to them, Pang De said, “The Prince of Wei has been generous to me, and I am pledged to show my gratitude to the death. I am about to go out against this Guan Yu, and I have to kill him or he must kill me. If he does not kill me, I must commit suicide, and so I have prepared what is necessary. I will not return leaving my task unachieved.”

The terrible omen saddened the guests, and they fell to sighing. Then Pang De called in his wife, Lady Li, and bade her bring their son Pang Hui, whom he commended to her care.

“I have been appointed Leader of the Van of this new expedition against Guan Yu, and my duty bids me seek death or glory on the battlefield. If I die, our son is in your special care. Alas, the child has been born ill-starred, and when he grows up he will have to avenge a father.”

Both mother and son wept as they bade him farewell. When the army marched, the coffin was carried in its train.

Pang De bade his officers, saying, “I will fight to the end with Guan Yu. Place my body therein if I fall in combat. And if I slay him, then will I bring his head in this coffin as an offering to our Prince.”

Then out spoke his five hundred veterans and said, “If you are like this, O General, then we also will follow you to the end.”

The vanguard then marched away.

A certain man told the story of these happenings to Cao Cao, who was very pleased, saying, “I have no anxiety with such a general to lead my armies.”

But Jia Xu said, “I am anxious for Pang De’s safety. He is over-bold and imprudent to fight with Guan Yu to the death.”

Cao Cao thought such an act would be unwise, and he hastily sent a messenger with an edict warning Pang De against his antagonist.

“This Guan Yu lacks neither cunning nor valor. You are to be most cautious in engaging him. If you can conquer, then conquer; but if there be any doubt, remain on the defensive.”

“How highly does our Prince regard this fellow Guan Yu!” said Pang De to his officers when he heard this new command. “But I think I shall be able to take the keen edge off his thirty-year reputation.”

“The command of the Prince is to be obeyed,” said Yu Jin.

Pang De hastened to Fancheng in all the pomp and panoply of war, his gongs clanging, his drums rolling as he marched.

Guan Yu was sitting in his tent when his spies came to report: “Seven armies of the north under Yu Jin are approaching. They are ten miles away. The Van Leader is Pang De, who brings with him a coffin. As he marches, he slanders you, General, and vows to fight a decisive battle with you.”

Rage took possession of Guan Yu. His face changed color, his beard shook, and he roared out, “There is never a fighting man in all the world who has heard my name without trembling. Does this fellow dare disdain me?”

Then he ordered Guan Ping to attack Fancheng while he went out to stay the impudent boaster who dared him.

“Father,” said Guan Ping, “Taishan Mountain in its majesty does not quarrel with a pebble. Let me go and fight this Pang De.”

“Well, my son, go and try. I will support you.”

So Guan Ping took his sword, mounted his steed, and went out with his troops. Both sides being drawn up for battle. On the side of Wei there flew a single black flag on which was inscribed Pang De, Corrector of the West in white. The leader himself wore a blue robe with a silver helmet and rode a white charger. He stood out in front backed by his five hundred veterans, and a few foot soldiers were there too, bearing the gruesome coffin.

Guan Ping was very angry, crying out, “Turncoat! Traitor!”

“Who is that?” asked Pang De of his followers.

A certain one replied, “That is Guan Yu’s adopted son, Guan Ping.”

Pang De cried, “I have an edict from the Prince of Wei to take your father’s head. You are but a weakling, and I will spare you. But call your father!”

Guan Ping dashed forward flourishing his sword. Pang De went to meet him, and there followed thirty odd bouts with no advantage to either.

Both sides then drew off to rest. Soon the news of this combat reached Guan Yu, and he was not pleased. He sent Liao Hua to assault the city while he went to do battle with Pang De. Guan Ping met his father and related the story of the indecisive fight.

So Guan Yu rode out with his green-dragon saber ready, and he shouted to Pang De, “Come quickly and be slain!”

The drums reechoed as Pang De rode out and replied, “The edict from the Prince of Wei tells me to take your head. In case you disbelieve it, here is the coffin ready to receive it. If you fear death, down from your horse and surrender!”

“I hold you for a simple fool,” cried Guan Yu. “What can you do? It is a pity to stain my blade with the blood of such a rat.”

Then he galloped Red Hare out toward Pang De, flourishing the saber. Pang De whirled his blade and came to meet him, and they two fought a hundred bouts. And as they fought, the lust of battle seemed to grow and both armies were lost in amazement.

But the army of Wei began to fear for their champion, and the gongs sounded the retirement. At the same time Guan Ping began to think of his father’s fatigue, and his gongs clanged too. So that both armies drew off at the same time.

“People rumor Guan Yu is a mighty man of war. Today I really believe that,” said Pang De, when he had got back among his own line.

Then his chief, Yu Jin, came to see him and said, “O General, you fought the great combat of a hundred bouts, which ended indecisively. I think it would be prudent to retire out of his way, and therefore blunting his spirit.”

But Pang De replied haughtily, “What makes you so soft? Yet the Prince gave you the command of the seven armies! But tomorrow I will fight again and that to the death. I swear I will never give way.”

Yu Jin could not overcome Pang De’s decision, so he went back to his own camp.

When Guan Yu had got back to his camp, he extolled Pang De, saying, “His swordsmanship is perfect. He is my worthy enemy.”

“The new-born calf fears not the tiger,” said Guan Ping. “But if you slay this fellow, my father, you have only killed a common soldier of the Qiang tribes beyond the frontier. If any accident occurs, then you will have the reproach of not having considered your brother’s charge.”

“How can my resentment be assuaged save by the death of this man?” returned Guan Yu. “I have decided to fight, so say no more.”

Next day Guan Yu took the field first, and Pang De quickly came out. Both arrayed their troops and then went to the front at the same moment. This time neither spoke, but the combat began forthwith. It went on for fifty bouts, and then Pang De pulled his horse, sheathed his sword, and fled. Guan Yu went in pursuit, and Guan Ping followed lest there should be need of him.

Guan Yu roared out reviling to his flying foe, “Traitor! You want to use the ‘swinging-horse stab’, but here I am, never afraid of that.”

But the fact was that Pang De had only pretended to try for a foul stroke in order to cover a resort to his bow. He pulled in his horse, fitted an arrow to the string, and was just on the point of shooting when Guan Ping, who was sharp-eyed, shouted out a warning.

“The bandit is going to shoot!”

Guan Yu saw it, but the bowstring twanged, and the arrow came flying. He was not nimble enough to avoid it, and it wounded his left arm. Guan Ping at once went to his father’s assistance and led him away to the camp. Pang De wished to follow up this advantage and came back whirling his sword, but, ere he could strike, the gongs of his own side rang out. He thought there was something amiss in the rear and stopped.

The signal for retreat had been sounded by Yu Jin out of jealousy, for he had seen that Guan Yu had been wounded, and he grudged his colleague the glory which would eclipse his own. Pang De obeyed, but when he got back, he wanted to know why retreat had been sounded on the very verge of a great success.

“Why did the gongs clang?” asked Pang De.

“Because of our Prince’s warning. Though Guan Yu was wounded, I feared some trick on his part. He is very cunning.”

“I should have killed him if you had not done that,” said Pang De.

“Haste makes slow going. You can postpone your fight with him,” said Yu Jin.

Pang De, though ignorant of the real reason why he was made to miss success at the critical moment, was still very vexed.

Guan Yu went back to camp, and the arrow-head was puled out of the wound. Happily it had not penetrated very deeply, and the usual remedies against injuries by metal were applied.

Guan Yu was very bitter against his enemy and declared, “I swear I will have my revenge for this arrow.”

“Never mind anything but recovering now,” said his officers. “Rest and get well; then you may fight again.

Before long, Pang De renewed his challenge, and Guan Yu was for going out to fight; however, he yielded to the entreaties of his officers. And when Pang De set his soldiers to reviling the warrior, Guan Ping saw to it that his father never heard it. After ten days of challenges hurled uselessly at an army that ignored them, Pang De took council with Yu Jin.

“Evidently Guan Yu is helpless from the effects of that arrow-wound. We ought to advance all our seven armies against him while he is ill and destroy his camp. Thereby we shall relieve Fancheng.”

Thus spoke Pang De, but jealousy of the glory that might accrue to his next in command again made Yu Jin urge caution and obedience to the command of the Prince of Wei. Yu Jin refused to move his army in spite of Pang De’s repeated persuasion. Still more, Yu Jin led the armies to a new camping ground behind the hills some three miles north of Fancheng. There his own army prevented communication by the main road, while he sent Pang De into a valley in the rear so that Pang De could do nothing.

To Guan Ping’s great joy, Guan Yu’s wound soon healed. Soon after they heard of Yu Jin’s new camp, and as Guan Ping could assign no reason for the change, and suspected some ruse, he told his father, who went up to a high place to reconnoiter.

Looking round, Guan Yu noted that there seemed much slackness about everything—from flags to soldiers—in Fancheng, that the relief armies were camped in a valley to the north, and that River Xiang seemed to run very swiftly. After impressing the topography on his mind, he called the guides and asked the name of the gully about three miles north of the city.

“Zengkou Stream,” was the reply.

He chuckled.

“I shall capture Yu Jin,” said he.

Those with him asked how he knew that.

He replied, “Why, how can any fish last long in such a trap?”

Those in his train gave but little weight to what he said, and presently he went back to his own tent. It was just then the time for the autumn rains, and a heavy downpour came on, lasting several days. Orders were given to get ready boats and rafts and such things. Guan Ping could not think what such preparations meant in a dry land campaign. So he asked his father.

“Do you not know even?” replied his father. “Our enemies have camped in difficult ground instead of the open country and are crowded in the dangerous valley there. After some days of this rain, River Xiang will swell, and I shall send people to dam up all the outlets and so let the water rise very high. When at its highest, I shall open the dams and let the water out over Fancheng. That valley will be flooded too, and all the soldiers will become aquatic animals.”

The Wei armies had camped in the gully, and after several days of heavy rain, Army Inspector Cheng He ventured to speak to his commander.

He said, “The army is camped near the mouth of a stream in a depression. There are hills around us, but they are too far off to keep the water away. Our soldiers are already suffering from these heavy rains, and, moreover, they say the Jingzhou troops have moved to higher ground. More than that, at River Han they are preparing boats and rafts so that they can take advantage of the floods if there are any. Our army will be in great danger, and something should be done.”

But Yu Jin scoffed at his words, saying, “You fool! Do you want to injure the spirit of our soldiers? Talk no more, or your head will be fallen.”

Cheng He went away greatly ashamed.

Then Cheng He went to Pang De, who saw the force of his words and said, “What you said is excellent. If Yu Jin will not move camp tomorrow, I myself will do so.”

So Cheng He left it at that.

That night there came a great storm. As Pang De sat in his tent, he heard the sound as of ten thousand horses in stampede and a roar as of the drums of war seeming to shake the earth. He was alarmed, left his tent, and mounted his charger to go and see what it meant. Then he saw the rolling waters coming in from every side and the seven armies flying from the flood, which speedily rose to the height of ten spans. Yu Jin, Pang De, and several other officers sought safety by rushing up the hills.

As day dawned, Guan Yu and his marines came along in large boats with flags flying and drums beating. Yu Jin saw no way of escape, and his following was reduced to about fifty or sixty soldiers. They all said they surrendered. Guan Yu made them strip and then took them on board.

After that he went to capture Pang De, who was standing on a hillock with Dong Heng, Dong Chao, Cheng He, and his five hundred troops, all without armors. Pang De saw his archenemy approach without a sign of fear, and even went boldly to meet him. Guan Yu surrounded the party with his boats, and the archers began to shoot. When more than half the troops had been struck down, the survivors became desperate.

Dong Heng and Dong Chao pressed their chief to give in, saying, “We have lost more than half of our men. Surrender is the only course!”

But Pang De only raged, saying, “I have received great kindness from the Prince. Think you that I will bow the head to any other?”

Pang De cut down Dong Heng and Dong Chao right in the battlefield and then shouted, “Anyone who says surrender shall be as these two!”

So the survivors made a desperate effort to beat off their enemies, and they held their own up to midday. Then Guan Yu’s marines redoubled their efforts, and the arrows and stones rained down upon the defenders, who fought desperately hand to hand with their assailants.

“The valorous leader fears death less than desertion; the brave warrior does not break faith to save his life!” cried Pang De. “This is the day of my death, but I will fight on to the last. And you, General, should fight to your end, too.”

So Cheng He pressed on till he fell into the water by an arrow of Guan Yu, and then the soldiers yielded.

Pang De fought on. Then one of the boats happened to close in to the bank. With a tremendous leap Pang De lighted on it and slashed at the marines, killing ten of them. The others jumped overboard and swam away. Then Pang De one hand still holding his sword, tried to maneuver the boat across the river to Fancheng. But there came drifting down a raft, which collided with and upset his boat so that he was struggling in the water. Next a general on the raft jumped into the water, gripped him, put him on the boat again.

The captor was Zhou Cang, a skillful waterman who, having lived in Jingzhou for many years, was thoroughly expert in boat navigation. Beside, he was very powerful and so was able to make Pang De a prisoner.

In this flood perished the whole of the seven armies, except the few that saved themselves by swimming. These latter, having no way of escape, surrendered to the victors.

[hip, hip, hip]
In the depth of night rolled the war drums,
Summoning the warriors as to battle;
But the enemy was no man,
For the waters had risen and the flood came.
This was the plan of Guan Yu, the crafty,
To drown his enemies. More than human
was he in cunning. The ages hand on his fame
As his glory was told in his own day.
[yip, yip, yip]

Guan Yu then returned to the higher ground, where his tent was pitched and therein took his seat to receive his prisoners. The lictors brought up Yu Jin, who prostrated himself humbly.

“How dared you think to oppose me? To execute you would be like killing a hog. It would be soiling weapons for nothing,” said Guan Yu, stroking his beard.

Yu Jin was hound and sent to the prison in Jingzhou.

“I will decide your fate when I return,” said Guan Yu.

The general having thus dealt with the chief, Pang De was sent for. He came, pride and anger flashing from his eyes. He did not kneel but stood boldly erect.

“You have a brother in Hanzhong, and your old chief was Ma Chao, also in high honor in Shu. Would you not better join them?”

“Rather than surrender to you, I would perish beneath the sword,” cried Pang De.

He reviled his captors without ceasing till, losing patience at last, Guan Yu sent him to his death. Pang De was beheaded. He stretched out his neck for the headsman’s sword. Out of pity he was honorably buried.

The floods were still out, and taking advantage of them, the troops of Jingzhou boarded the boats to move toward Fancheng, which now stood out as a mere island with waves breaking against the walls.

The force of the waters being great, the city wall was beginning to give way, and the whole population, male and female, aged and young, were carrying mud and bricks to strengthen it. Their efforts seemed vain, and the leaders of Cao Cao’s army were very desperate.

Some of the generals went to see Cao Ren, who said, “No ordinary person’s strength can fend off today’s danger. If we can hold out till nightfall, we may escape by boat. We shall lose the city, but we shall save our skins.”

But Man Chong interposed before the boats could be got ready.

He said, “No! No! Though the force of these mountainous waters is great, we only have to wait ten days or so, and the flood will have passed. Though Guan Yu has not assaulted this city, yet he has sent another army to Jiaxia, which indicates he dares not advance lest we should fall upon his rear. Remember, too, that to retire from this city means the abandonment of everything south of the Yellow River. Therefore I decide that you defend this place.”

Cao Ren saluted Man Chong as he concluded his harangue, saying, “What a tremendous error I should have committed had it not been for you, Sir!”

Then riding his white charger he went up on the city walls, gathered his officers around him, and pledged himself not to surrender.

“The Prince’s command being to defend this city, I shall defend it to the last. And I shall put to death anyone who even mentions abandonment,” said he.

“And we desire to defend it to out last gasp,” chimed in his officers.

Then they saw to it that the means of offense were good. Many hundreds of archers and crossbowmen were stationed on the wall and kept watch night and day. The old and the young of ordinary people were made to carry earth and stones to strengthen the wall.

After some ten days the flood was at an end. Then the news of Guan Yu’s success against the Wei campaign got abroad, and the terror of his name spread wider and wider. About the same time, too, his second son, Guan Xing, came to visit his father in camp. Guan Yu thought this a good opportunity to send his report of success to Capital Chengdu and entrusted to Guan Xing a dispatch mentioning each officer’s services and requesting promotion for them. Guan Xing accordingly took leave of his father and left.

After Guan Xing’s departure, the army was divided into two halves, one under Guan Yu to attack Fancheng, and the other to go to Jiaxia.

One day Guan Yu rode over to the north gate. Halting his steed, he pointed with his whip toward the defenders on the wall, and called out, “You lot of rats will not give in then! What are you waiting for?”

Cao Ren, who was among his soldiers on the wall, saw that Guan Yu had no armor on, so he ordered his men to shoot. The archers and bowmen at once sent a great flight of arrows and bolts that way. Guan Yu hastily pulled the reins to retire, but an arrow struck him in the arm. The shock of the blow made him turn in the saddle, and he fell from his horse.

[hip, hip, hip]
Just now a mighty army perished
By the river’s overflow;
A crossbow bolt from the city wall
Lays a valiant warrior low.
[yip, yip, yip]

What further befell Guan Yu will be told in the next chapter.

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