Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 75


Guan Yu Has A Scraped-Bone Surgery;
Lu Meng Crosses The River In White Robe.

At the sight of Guan Yu falling from his charger, Cao Ren led his army out of the city to follow up with an attack, but Guan Ping drove him off and escorted his father back to camp. There the arrow was extracted, but the arrow head had been poisoned. The wound was deep, and the poison had penetrated to the bone. The right arm was discolored and swollen and useless.

Guan Ping consulted with the other leaders and proposed, saying, “As fighting is impossible for the moment, we should withdraw to Jingzhou, where my father’s wound can be treated.”

Having decided upon this, they went to see the wounded warrior.

“What have you come for?” asked Guan Yu when they entered.

“Considering that you, Sir, have been wounded in the right arm, we fear the result of the excitement of battle. Moreover, you can hardly take part in a fight just now, and we therefore propose that the army retire till you are recovered.”

Guan Yu replied angrily, “I am on the point of taking the city, and if I succeed, I must press forward to Capital Xuchang, and destroy that brigand Cao Cao, so that the Hans may be restored to their own. Think you that I can vitiate the whole campaign because of a slight wound? Would you dishearten the army?”

Guan Ping and his colleagues said no more, but somewhat unwillingly withdrew.

Seeing that their leader would not retire and the wound showed no signs of healing, the various generals inquired far and near for a good surgeon to attend their general.

One day a person arrived in a small ship and, having landed and come up to the gate of the camp, was led in to see Guan Ping. The visitor wore a square-cut cap and a loose robe. In his hand he carried a small black bag.

He said, “My name is Hua Tuo, and I belong to Qiao. I have heard of the wound sustained by the famous general and have come to heal it.”

“Surely you must be the physician who treated Zhou Tai in the South Land,” said Guan Ping.

“I am.”

Taking with him the other generals, Guan Ping went in to see his father. Guan Yu was engaging in a game of chess with Ma Liang, although his arm was very painful. But Guan Yu kept up appearances so as not to discourage the troops. When they told him that a physician had come, he consented to see him.

Hua Tuo was introduced, asked to take a seat and, after the tea of ceremony, was shown the injured arm.

“This was caused by an arrow,” said the doctor. “There is poison in the wound, and it has penetrated to the bone. Unless the wound is soon treated, the arm will become useless.”

“What do you propose to do?” asked Guan Yu.

“I know how to cure the wound, but I think you will be afraid of the remedy.”

“Am I likely to be afraid of that when I am not even afraid of death? Death is only a return home after all.”

Then Hua Tuo said, “This is what I shall do. In a private room I shall erect a post with a steel ring attached. I shall ask you, Sir, to insert your arm in the ring, and I shall bind it firmly to the post. Then I shall cover your head with a quilt so that you cannot see, and with a scalpel I shall open up the flesh right down to the bone. Then I shall scrape away the poison. This done, I shall dress the wound with a certain preparation, sew it up with a thread, and there will be no further trouble. But I think you may quail at the severity of the treatment.”

Guan Yu smiled.

“It all sounds easy enough,” said he. “But why the post and the ring?”

Refreshments were then served, and after a few cups of wine, the warrior extended his arm for the operation. With his other hand he went on with his game of chess. Meanwhile the surgeon prepared his knife and called a lad to hold a basin beneath the limb.

“I am just going to cut. Do not start,” said Hua Tuo.

“When I consented to undergo the treatment, did you think I was afraid of pain?”

The surgeon then performed the operation as he had pre-described. He found the bone much discolored, but he scraped it clean. When the knife went over the surface of the bone and made horrible sounds, all those near covered their eyes and turned pale. But Guan Yu went on with his game, only drinking a cup of wine now and again, and his face betrayed no sign of pain.

When the wound had been cleansed, sewn up and dressed, the patient stood up smiling and said, “This arm is now as good as it ever was. There is no pain. Indeed, Master, you are a marvel.”

“I have spent my life in the art,” said Hua Tuo, “but I have never seen such a patient as you, Sir. You are as if not from the earth but heaven.”

[hip, hip, hip]
Here as surgeons, there physicians, all boast their skill;
Bitter few are those that cure one when one’s really ill.
As for superhuman valor rivals Guan Yu had none,
So for holy touch in healing Hua Tuo stood alone.
[yip, yip, yip]

When the cure was well advanced, Guan Yu gave a fine banquet in honor of Hua Tuo and offered him a fee of a hundred ounces of gold.

But Hua Tuo declined it, saying, “I had come to treat you, O General, from admiration of your great virtue and not for money. Although your wound is cured, you must be careful of your health, and especially avoid all excitement for a hundred days, when you will be as well as ever you were.”

Then Hua Tuo, having prepared dressings for the wound, took his leave, refusing fees to the very last.

Having captured Yu Jin and accomplished the death of Pang De, Guan Yu became more famous and more fear-inspiring through the empire than even before. Cao Cao called together his advisers to help him decide upon what he should do.

Said Cao Cao, “I must acknowledge this Guan Yu as the one man who, in skill and valor, overtops the whole world. Lately he has obtained possession of Jingzhou and the territory near it, and has so become very terrible. He is a tiger with wings added. Pang De is no more; Yu Jin is his prisoner; the armies of Wei have lost their morale; and if he led his armies to Xuchang, we should be helpless. I can only think of avoiding the peril by removal of the capital. What think you?”

“No; do not take that step,” said Sima Yi, rising to reply. “Yu Jin and all the others you lost were victims of the flood and slain in battle. These losses do no harm at all to your great plan. The Suns and Lius are no longer friends since Guan Yu has accomplished his desire. You may send a messenger into Wu to foment the quarrel and cause Sun Quan to send his armies to attack the army of Guan Yu from the rear, promising that, when things are tranquil, you will reward the south to Sun Quan. In this way you will relieve Fancheng.”

Here Minister Jiang Ji said, “Sima Yi speaks well, and the messenger should lose no time. Do not move the capital and disturb the people.”

Cao Cao therefore did not carry out his first proposal.

But he was sad at the loss of Yu Jin, and spoke of him affectionately, “Yu Jin had followed me faithfully for thirty years, yet in that moment of truth he was less than Pang De.”

It was necessary to send someone with the letters to Wu and also to find another leader willing to face Guan Yu. Cao Cao had not long to wait for the latter, as an officer stepped out from the ranks of those in waiting and offered himself. It was Xu Huang.

Xu Huang’s offer was accepted, and he was given fifty thousand of veterans. Lu Qian was sent as his second, and the army marched to Yangling Slope, where they halted to see if any support was coming from the southeast.

Sun Quan fell in with the scheme of Cao Cao as soon as he had read Cao Cao’s letter. He at once prepared a reply for the messenger to take back, and then gathered his officers, civil and military, to consult. Zhang Zhao was the first speaker.

“We know Guan Yu has captured one leader and slain another. This has added greatly to his fame and reputation. Cao Cao was going to move the capital rather than risk an attack. We also know that Fancheng is in imminent danger. Cao Cao has asked for our help; but when he has gained his end, I doubt whether he will hold to his promise.”

Before Sun Quan had replied they announced the arrival of Lu Meng, who had come in a small ship from Lukou with a special message. He was at once called in and asked what it was.

Said Lu Meng, “The armies of Guan Yu being absent at Fancheng, the opportunity should be taken to attack Jingzhou.”

“But I wish to attack Xuzhou in the north. What of this plan?” said Sun Quan.

“It would be better to attack Jingzhou, and so get control of the Great River. Cao Cao is far away to the north and too occupied to regard the east. Xuzhou is weakly held and could be taken easily, but the lie of the land favors the use of an army rather than a navy force. If you capture it, it will not be easy to hold. But once you hold Jingzhou, you can evolve other schemes.”

“Really, my desire was to attack Jingzhou, but I wished to hear what you would say to the other plan. Now, Sir, make me a plan speedily, and I will act upon it.”

So Lu Meng took his leave and went back to Lukou. But soon they heard that Guan Yu had had beacon towers erected at short distances all along the Great River, and that the army of Jingzhou was being put into most efficient condition.

“If this is so, it is hard to make a plan that will ensure success,” said Lu Meng. “I have already advised my master to attack Jingzhou, but I am unable to meet this complication.”

Therefore he made illness an excuse to stay at home, and sent to inform Sun Quan, who was very distressed at the news.

Then said Lu Xun, “The illness is feigned. He is quite well.”

“If you know that so well, go and see,” said Sun Quan.

Away went Lu Xun and speedily arrived at Lukou, where he saw Lu Meng, who indeed appeared to be in perfect health. Nor did his face bear any signs of recent illness.

“The Marquis of Wu has sent me to inquire after your honorable complaint,” said Lu Xun.

“How distressed I am that the state of my wretched carcass has caused the Marquis the inconvenience of inquiring” replied Lu Meng.

“The Marquis placed a very heavy responsibility on your shoulders, but you are not making the best use of the opportunity. However, what is the real origin of your distress?”

Lu Meng sat gazing at his visitor a long time without replying.

“I have a little remedy,” said Lu Xun. “Do you think you might use it?”

Lu Meng dismissed the servants, and when the two were alone, he said, “This remedy, my friend, please tell me what it is.”

“Your ailment is due simply to the efficiency of the Jingzhou soldiers. I know how to keep the beacons from flaring, and I can make the defenders of Jingzhou come to you with their hands tied. Would that cure you?”

“My friend, you speak as if you saw into my inmost heart. Pray unfold your good scheme.”

“Guan Yu thinks himself too much of a hero for anyone to dare to face him, and his only anxiety is yourself. Now you must take advantage of this excuse you have made of illness actually to resign this post, so that the pretense may be kept up and another person be appointed to your place. Let this person, your successor, humbly praise Guan Yu till that general becomes so conceited that he will withdraw all the troops from Jingzhou to send them against Fancheng. When Jingzhou is left undefended then is our chance, and the city will fall into our hands.”

“The plan seems most excellent,” said Lu Meng.

Wherefore Lu Meng’s malady waxed worse, so that he was confined to bed. He gave Lu Xun his letter of resignation to carry back to Sun Quan. The messenger hastened back and explained the ruse to his master, who soon after issued a command for Lu Meng to retire and attend to the recovery of his health.

But Lu Meng came to Sun Quan to discuss the matter of a successor.

Sun Quan said to him, “As to the appointment at Lukou, you know Zhou Yu recommended Lu Su, who at his last moment proposed you. Now you ought to be able to mention some other talented and well-known officer to succeed you.”

“If you choose a well-known man, Guan Yu will certainly be on his guard against him. Now Lu Xun is deep and farseeing, but he has no widespread fame. Hence no particular notice would be taken of his appointment and no countermeasures taken. So he is the most suitable person to send.”

Sun Quan agreed and thereupon promoted Lu Xun to the rank of General of the Right Army and Admiral of the Right Fleet, and sent him to defend the port.

“I am very young,” said Lu Xun, “and feel unequal to such a post.”

“Lu Meng has proposed you, and you will not make any mistakes. Pray do not decline,” said Sun Quan.

So the appointment was made, and Lu Xun set out at once. When he had assumed charge of the cavalry, the infantry, and the marines, he set about drawing up a letter to Guan Yu, and he selected fine horses and beautiful silks and good wines and delicacies suitable for gifts to go with the letter. He sent all by the hand of a trusty messenger to Fancheng.

The news of the change of command reached Guan Yu when he lay ill from the effects of his wound and unable to conduct any military operations. Close upon the news came the letter and the gifts from Lu Xun, and the bearer was called in to see the warrior.

“Friend Sun Quan was not very prudent when he made a Commanding General out of a mere youth,” said Guan Yu, pointing to the messenger.

The messenger said, “General Lu Xun sends this letter and some presents, which he hopes you will accept. He also sends his felicitations, and would rejoice if the two houses could become friends.”

Guan Yu read the letter, which was couched in most modest language, and then threw back his head and laughed aloud. He bade the attendants receive the various gifts, and sent the bearer away.

The messenger forthwith returned to Lukou and reported to Lu Xun, “Guan Yu seemed very gratified, and he felt no anxiety and danger toward the South Land.”

Spies were sent out to report on proceedings, and they returned to say that half the troops of Jingzhou had been sent to assist in the siege of Fancheng. That city was to be seriously assaulted as soon as Guan Yu had recovered.

This news was promptly sent on to Sun Quan, who at once called in Lu Meng to decide upon the next move.

“Now is the favorable moment to get possession of Jingzhou,” said Sun Quan. “I propose to send you and my brother, Sun Jiao, to lead the army.”

This Sun Jiao was really only a cousin, as he was the second son of Sun Quan’s uncle, Sun Jing.

But Lu Meng objected. “My lord, if you think to employ me, then employ me only; if Sun Jiao, then Sun Jiao only. You cannot have forgotten that Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu were associate commanders, and although the final decision lay with Zhou Yu, yet the other presumed upon his seniority and there was some unfriendliness between the two. All ended well because Cheng Pu recognized the ability of his colleague and so supported him. I know I am not so clever as Zhou Yu, but Sun Jiao’s consanguinity will be a greater obstacle than mere length of service, and I fear he may not be wholly with me.”

Sun Quan saw the force of the contention, and appointed Lu Meng to sole command with Sun Jiao to help him in the commissariat. Lu Meng thanked his lord for his commission, soon got his thirty thousand marines together, and assembled eighty ships for the expedition.

Lu Meng dressed a number of sailors in the plain white costumes of ordinary merchants and put them on board to work his vessels. He concealed his veterans in the compartments. He selected seven generals—Han Dang, Jiang Qin, Zhu Ran, Pan Zhang, Zhou Tai, Xu Sheng, and Ding Feng—to serve under him and settled the order of their successive movements. The remainder of the forces was left with Sun Quan as supports and reserves. Letters were also written to Cao Cao that he might cooperate by sending his army to attack Guan Yu in the rear, and to Lu Xun that he would act in concert.

Then the sailors in plain white dress navigated the ships to River Xunyang as quickly as possible, and then crossed to the north bank.

When the beacon-keepers came down to question them, the men of Wu said, “We are traders forced into the bank by contrary winds.”

And they offered gifts to the beacon-keepers, who accepted them and let the ships come to an anchor close to the shore.

At about the second watch the soldiers came out of hiding in the holds of the transports, suddenly fell upon the beacon-keepers and made them prisoners, officers and soldiers. Next the signal for a general landing was given, and all the soldiers from the eighty ships went ashore. The guard stations were attacked, and all the troops captured and carried off to the ships, not one being allowed to escape. Then the force of Wu hurried off to the city of Jingzhou, having so far carried out their plans that no one knew of their coming.

Nearing Jingzhou, Lu Meng spoke kindly to his captives, and gave them gifts and comforted them in order to induce them to get the gates opened for him to enter the city. He won them over to his side, and they promised to aid him. They would show a flare as a signal that the gates were free. So they went in advance and arrived at the gates about midnight. They called the watch. The wardens of the gate, recognizing their voices, opened for them. Once within, they shouted and lit the flares. Immediately the soldiers of Wu came in with a rush and were soon in possession.

The first order issued by Lu Meng was to spare the people. Instant death should be the punishment for any murder or robbery. The various officials in the city were retained in their offices and continued their functions. Special guards were set over Guan Yu’s family dwelling, and none dared break open any other house. A messenger was sent with tidings to Sun Quan.

One very wet day Lu Meng, with a few horsemen as escort, was going round the walls and visiting the gates. One of the soldiers took from a passer-by a broad-brimmed hat and put it on over his helmet to keep his armor dry. Lu Meng saw it, and the offender was seized. He was a fellow-villager of Lu Meng, but that did not save him.

“You are an old acquaintance, but you knew my order. Why did you disobey it?”

“I thought the rain would spoil my uniform, and I took the hat to protect it. I did not take it for my own advantage, but to protect state property. Spare me, O General, for the sake of our common dwelling-place.”

“I know you were protecting your armor, but still it was disobedience to the order against taking anything from the people.”

The soldier was beheaded, and his head exposed as a warning. But when all was over, Lu Meng had the body buried decently and wept at the grave for the loss of his friend. Never after this was there the least laxity of discipline.

When Sun Quan visited the city, Lu Meng met him at the boundary and led him to the official residence, where Sun Quan issued rewards and commendations. This done, Sun Quan ordered Pan Jun to take charge of the new possession. Yu Jin, who was in prison, was freed and sent back to Cao Cao. When the people had been comforted and the soldiers rewarded, there was a great banquet in honor of the success of the expedition.

Then said Sun Quan to Lu Meng, “We have got the city of Jingzhou, but now Fu Shiren is holding Gongan and Mi Fang Nanjun. How can we get these two territories?”

Suddenly Yu Fan started up and offered his services.

“You will need neither bows nor arrows,” said Yu Fan, “unless my little tongue is worn out. I can persuade Fu Shiren to surrender.”

“Friend Yu Fan, how will you do it?” asked Sun Quan.

“Fu Shiren and I are very old friends, ever since we were boys. If I explain the matter to him, I am sure he will come over to this side.”

So Yu Fan, with an escort, left quickly for Gongan, where his friend was in command.

Now when Fu Shiren heard of the capture of Jingzhou, he closed his gates. Yu Fan arrived, but was refused entrance. So Yu Fan wrote a letter, attached it to an arrow, and shot it over the city wall. A soldier picked it up and took it to his commander, who found therein much persuasion to surrender.

Having read all this, he thought within himself, “I think I should do well in surrender, for at his departure Guan Yu was very bitter against me.”

Without further ado, he bade the wardens open the gate, and his friend came in. After their greetings they talked of old times, and Yu Fan praised Sun Quan’s magnanimity and liberality and greatness generally. So finally Fu Shiren decided to exchange masters and went away, taking with him his seal of office. He was presented to Sun Quan, who reappointed him to the command of Gongan under its new lord.

Lu Meng thought the appointment imprudent and said to Sun Quan, “Guan Yu is yet unconquered. We should not put Fu Shiren in Gongan. Instead, send him to Nanjun to induce his former colleague and fellow Mi Fang to join him in desertion to the enemy.”

Lu Meng’s advice was followed, and Fu Shiren was recalled.

“Go to Nanjun and win over Mi Fang, and I will reward you richly,” said Sun Quan.

Fu Shiren accepted the mission and duly left for Nanjun.

[hip, hip, hip]
Jingzhou’s defenders failed when tried,
So Wang Fu’s words were justified.
[yip, yip, yip]

For the events of the journey see the next chapter.

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