Zhuge Liang Plans For The Three Kingdoms;
Nothing discouraged by two unsuccessful visits to the retreat of the sage whose advice he sought to secure, Liu Bei made preparations for a third visit.
His brothers disapproved, and Guan Yu said, "Brother, you have sought him twice. Surely this is showing even too much deference. I do not believe in this fame of his for learning. He is avoiding you and dare not submit to the test. Why so obstinately hold this idea?"
[e] Guan Zhong was priminister of Duke Huan of Qi. Guan Zhong made Qi a powerful state during the Spring and Autumn period. .....
[e] Lu Wang was a master strategist, founding minister of Zhou Dynasty, counselor to King Wen. Before joining King Wen, Lu Wang had been a fisher, who mediated on the river bank on political events. .....
"You are wrong, my brother. In the Spring and Autumn Period Prince Huan of Qi paid five visits to the Eastern Suburb before he got to see Guan Zhong*. And my desire to see Zhuge Liang is even greater than his."
"I think you are mistaken," said Zhang Fei. "How can this villager be such a marvel of wisdom? You should not go again and, if he will not come, I will bring him with a hempen rope."
"Have you forgotten the great King Wen's visit to Lu Wang*, the old man of the River Wei? If King Wen could show such deference to a wise man, where am I too deferential? If you will not go, your brother and I will go without you," said Liu Bei.
"If you two go, how can I hang back?" said Zhang Fei.
"If you go, then you must be polite."
Zhang Fei said he would not forget himself, and the three set out. When they were a quarter of mile from the little cottage, Liu Bei dismounted, deciding to show his respect by approaching the house on foot. Very soon he met Zhuge Jun, whom he saluted with great deference, inquiring whether his brother was at home.
"He returned last evening. You can see him today, General."
As Zhuge Jun said this, he went off with some swagger.
"Fortune favors me this time," said Liu Bei. "I am going to see the Master."
"That was a rude fellow," said Zhang Fei. "It would not have hurt him to have conducted us to the house. Why did he go off like that?"
"Each one has his own affairs," said Liu Bei. "What power have we over him?"
Soon the three stood at the door, and they knocked. The serving lad came out and asked their business.
Liu Bei said very deferentially, "I would trouble the servant of the genius, gentle page, to inform the Master that Liu Bei wishes to pay his respects to him."
"My master is at home, but he is asleep."
"In that case do not announce me."
Liu Bei bade his two brothers wait at the door quietly, and he himself entered with careful steps. There was the man he sought, lying asleep on the couch, stretched on a simple mat. Liu Bei saluted him with joined hands at a respectful distance.
The time passed and still the sleeper did not wake. The two brothers left without, beginning to feel impatient, also came in, and Zhang Fei was annoyed at seeing his revered elder brother respectfully standing by while another slept.
"What an arrogant fellow is this Master?" said he. "There is our brother waiting, while he sleeps on perfectly carelessly. I will go to the back of the place and let off a bomb and see if that will rouse him."
"No, no; you must do nothing of the kind," whispered Guan Yu, and then Liu Bei told them to go out again.
Just then Liu Bei noticed that the Master moved. He turned over as though about to rise, but, instead, he faced the wall and again fell asleep. The serving lad made as if he would rouse his master, but Liu Bei forbade him to be disturbed, and Liu Bei waited yet another weary hour. Then Zhuge Liang woke up repeating to himself the lines:
"Can any know what fate is his?
As he finished, he turned to the lad, saying, "Have any of the usual people come?"
"Liu Bei, the Uncle of the Emperor is here," said the boy. "He has been waiting a long time."
"Why did you not tell me?" said he, rising from the couch. "I must dress."
Zhuge Liang rose and turned into a room behind to dress. In a short time he reappeared, his clothing properly arranged, to receive his visitor.
Then Liu Bei saw coming toward him a young man of medium height with a refined face. He wore a head-wrap and a long crane-white gown. He moved with much dignity as though he was rather more than mortal.
Liu Bei bowed, saying, "I am one of the offshoots of the Han family, a simple person from Zhuo. I have long known the Master's fame, which has indeed thundered in my ear. Twice I have come to visit you, without success. Once I left my name on your writing table. You may have my note."
Zhuge Liang replied, "This hermit is but a dilatory person by temperament. I know I have to thank you for more than one vain visit, and I am ashamed to think of them."
These courteous remarks and the proper bows exchanged, the two men sat in their relative positions as host and guest, and the serving lad brought tea.
Then Zhuge Liang said, "From your letter I know that you grieve for both people and government. If I were not so young and if I possessed any talent, I would venture to question you."
Liu Bei replied, "Sima Hui and Xu Shu have both spoken of you. Can it be that their words were vain? I trust, O Master, that you will not despise my worthlessness but will condescend to instruct me."
"The two men you speak of are very profound scholars. I am but a peasant, a mere farmer, and who am I that I should talk of empire politics? Those two misled you when they spoke of me. Why do you reject the beautiful jewel for a worthless pebble?"
"But your abilities are world embracing and marvelous. How can you be content to allow time to pass while you idle away life in these secluded haunts? I conjure you, O Master, to remember the inhabitants of the empire and remove my crass ignorance by bestowing instruction upon me."
"But what is your ambition, General?"
Liu Bei moved his seat nearer to his host and said, "The Hans are sinking: Designing ministers steal away their authority. I am weak, yet I desire to restore the state to its right mind. But my ignorance is too vast, my means are too slender, and I know not where to turn. Only you, Master, can lighten my darkness and preserve me from falling. How happy should I be if you would do so!"
Zhuge Liang replied, "One bold person after another has arisen in various parts of the empire ever since the days of the rebel Dong Zhuo. Cao Cao was not so powerful as Yuan Shao, but he overcame Yuan Shao by seizing the favorable moment and using his soldiers properly. Now he is all-powerful: He rules an immense army and, through his control of the court, the various feudal lords as well. You cannot think of opposing him. Then the Suns have held their territory in the South Land for three generations. Their position in that old state of Wu may not appear too secure, but they have popularity to appeal to. You can gain support but win no success there.
"The Region of Jingzhou rests on the two Rivers Han and Mian to the north, and their interests lie in all to the south of these rivers. On the east they touch Wu, and on the west they extend to the ancient states of Ba and Shu. This is the area in which decisive battles have to be won, and one must hold it in order to be secure, and Heaven has virtually made it yours.
"The Region of Yizhou in the west is an important place, fertile and extensive, a country favored of Heaven and that through which the Founder of Han obtained the empire. Its ruler Liu Zhang is ignorant and weak. The people are noble and the country prosperous, but he does not know how to hold it all, and all the able people of the region are yearning for an enlightened prince.
"As you are a scion of the Family, well known throughout the land as trusty and righteous, a whole-hearted hero, who greatly desires to win the support of the wise, if you get possession of Yizhou and Jingzhou, if on the west you are in harmony with the Rong Tribes, on the south win over the ancient states of Yi and Viet, make an alliance with Sun Quan of Wu, and maintain good government, you can await confidently the day when Heaven shall offer you the desired opportunity. Then you may depute a worthy leader to go to the northeast while you take command of an expedition to the northwest, and will you not find the warmest welcome prepared for you by the people? This done, the completion of the task will be easy. The Hans will be restored. And these are my counsels in all these operations, if you will only undertake them."
[e] The River Lands were West River Land, which was the region of Yizhou, and East River Land, which corresponded to Hanzhong. Both River Lands were the mountainous lands west of Jingzhou.
Zhuge Liang paused while he bade the lad bring out a map. As this was unrolled Zhuge Liang went on, "There you see the fifty-four counties of the west. Should you wish to take the overlordship, you will yield the Heaven's favor to Cao Cao in the north, and you will relinquish the Earth's advantage to Sun Quan in the south. You, General, will hold the Human's heart and complete the trinity. Jingzhou is to be taken first as a home, the River Lands* next for the foundation of domination. When you are firmly established, you can lay your plans for the attainment of the whole empire."
As Zhuge Liang ceased his harangue, Liu Bei left his place and saluted him, saying, "Your words, O Master, render everything so clear that the clouds are swept aside and I see the clear sky. But Jingzhou belongs to Liu Biao, my kinsman, and Yizhou to another kinsman Liu Zhang. I could hardly take the lands from them."
"I have studied the stars and I know Liu Biao is not long for this world. Further, Liu Zhang is not the sort of man to endure. Both places will certainly fall to you."
Liu Bei bowed his acknowledgments. And so, in one conversation, Zhuge Liang proved that he, who had lived in complete retirement all his life, knew and foresaw the tripod division into which the empire was to break. True, indeed, is it that throughout all the ages no one has ever equaled his intelligence and mastery of the situation.
Behold, when Liu Bei frets that he is
"Though I be of small repute and scanty virtue," said Liu Bei, "I hope, O Master, you will not despise me for my worthlessness, but will leave this retreat to help me. I will assuredly listen most reverently to your words."
Zhuge Liang replied, "I have long been happy on my farm and am fond of my leisure. I fear I cannot obey your command."
Liu Bei wept. "If you will not, O Master, what will become of the people?"
The tears rolled down unchecked upon the lapel and sleeves of Liu Bei's robe. This proved to Zhuge Liang the sincerity of his desire, and Zhuge Liang said, "General, if you will accept me, I will render what trifling service I can."
Then Liu Bei was greatly delighted. He called in Guan Yu and Zhang Fei to make their bow and brought out the gifts he had prepared. Zhuge Liang refused all the gifts.
"These are not gifts to engage your services, but mere proof of my regard," said Liu Bei.
Then the presents were accepted. They all remained that night at the farm. Next day Zhuge Jun returned, and his brother said to him, "Uncle Liu Bei has come thrice to see me, and now I must go with him. Keep up the farm in my absence and do not let the place go to ruin. As soon as my work is accomplished, I will certainly return."
Then, turning from his humble home,
An old poem may be quoted here:
The Founder of Han seized his gleaming
After taking leave of Zhuge Jun, Liu Bei and his followers left for Xinye, with Zhuge Liang as companion. When they took up their abode there, Zhuge Liang was treated as a mentor, eating at the same table, sleeping on the same couch as Liu Bei. They spent whole days conversing over the affairs of the empire.
Zhuge Liang said, "Cao Cao is training his troops for naval service in Aquamarine Lake, and hence certainly intends to invade the country south of the Great River. We ought to send our spies to ascertain what Cao Cao and Sun Quan are really doing."
So spies were dispatched.
Now after Sun Quan succeeded to the heritage of his father and brother, he sent far and wide to invite people of ability to aid him. He established lodging places for them in Kuaiji in Wu, and directed Gu Yong and Zhang Hong to welcome and entertain all those who came. And year by year they flocked in, one recommending another. Among them were Kan Ze of Kuaiji, Yan Jun of Pengcheng, Xue Yong of Beishan, Cheng Bing of Runan, Zhu Huan of Wujun, Lu Ji of the same place, Zhang Wen of Wucheng, Luo Tong of Kuaiji, and Wu Can of Wushang. All these scholars were treated with great deference.
Many able leaders came also. Among them were Lu Meng of Runan, Lu Xun of Wujun, Xu Sheng of Langye, Pan Zhang of Dongjun, and Ding Feng of Lujiang. Thus Sun Quan obtained the assistance of many people of ability both in peace and war and all went well with him.
In the seventh year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 202), Cao Cao had broken the power of Yuan Shao. Then he sent a messenger to the South Land ordering Sun Quan to send his son to court to serve in the retinue of the Emperor. Sun Quan, however, hesitated to comply with this request, and the matter was the subject of much discussion. His mother, Lady Wu, sent for Zhou Yu and Zhang Zhao and asked their advice.
Zhang Zhao said, "Cao Cao wishes a son to be present at court as a hostage whereby he has a hold upon us, as formerly was the case with all the feudal chiefs. If we do not comply with this request, he will doubtless attack the region. There is some peril."
Zhou Yu said, "Our lord has succeeded to the heritage and has a large army of veterans and ample supplies. He has able officers ready to do his bidding. So why should he be compelled to send a hostage to any person? To send a hostage is to be forced into joining Cao Cao, and to carry out his behests, whatever they be. Then we shall be in his power. It would be better not to send, but rather to wait patiently the course of events and prepare plans to attack."
"That is also my opinion," said the Dowager.
So Sun Quan dismissed the messenger but did not send his son. Cao Cao resented this and had since nourished schemes against the South Land. But their realization had been delayed by the dangers on the north and, so far, no attack had been made.
Late in the eighth year (AD 203), Sun Quan led his armies against Huang Zu and fought on the Great River, where he was successful in several battles. One of Sun Quan's leaders, Ling Cao, led a fleet of light vessels up the river and broke into Xiakou but was killed by an arrow of Gan Ning, a general of Huang Zu. Ling Cao left a son, Ling Tong, fifteen years of age, who led another expedition to recover his father's corpse and was so far successful. After that, as the war was inclined to go against him, Sun Quan returned again to his own country.
Now Sun Quan's younger brother, Sun Yi, was Governor of Dangyang. He was a hard man and given to drink and, in his cups, very harsh to his people, ordering the infliction of severe floggings. Two of his officers, Military Inspector Gui Lan and Secretary Dai Yuan, bore their chief a grudge and sought to assassinate him. They took into their confidence one Bian Hong, of the escort, and the three plotted to kill their master at a great assembly of officials at Dangyang amid the banquets.
Sun Yi's wife, Lady Xu, was skilled in divination, and on the day of the great banquet she cast a most inauspicious lot. Wherefore she besought her husband to stay away from the assembly. But he was obstinate and went. The faithless guardsman followed his master in the dusk when the gathering dispersed, and stabbed him with a dagger.
The two prime movers at once seized Bian Hong and beheaded him in the market place. Then they went to Sun Yi's residence, which they plundered.
Gui Lan was taken with the beauty of the dead Governor's wife and told her, "I had avenged the death of your husband, and you must go with me."
Lady Xu pleaded, saying, "It is too soon after my husband's death to think of remarriage. But as soon as the thirty-day mourning sacrifices are over, I will be yours."
She thus obtained a respite, which she utilized to send for two old generals of her husband, Sun Gao and Fu Ying. They came and she tearfully told her tale.
"My husband had great faith in you. Now Gui Lan and Dai Yuan have compassed his death and have laid the crime on Bian Hong. They have plundered my house and carried off my servants. Worse than this, Gui Lan insists that I shall be his wife. To gain time I have pretended to favor this proposal, and I pray you now send the news to my husband's brother and beg him to slay these two miscreants and avenge this wrong. I will never forget your kindness in this life or the next."
And she bowed before them.
They wept also and said, "We were much attached to our master; and now that he has come to an untimely end, we must avenge him. Dare we not carry out your behests?"
So they sent a trusty messenger to Sun Quan.
On the day of the sacrifices Lady Xu called in her two friends and hid them in a secret chamber. Then the ceremonies were performed in the great hall. These over, she put off her mourning garb, bathed and perfumed herself, and assumed an expression of joy. She laughed and talked as usual, so that Gui Lan rejoiced in his heart, thinking of the pleasure that was to be his.
When night came she sent a servant girl to call her suitor to the Palace, where she entertained him at supper. When he had well drunk, she suggested that they should retire and led him to the chamber where her friends were waiting. He followed without the least hesitation.
As soon as she entered the room, she called out, "Where are you, Generals?"
Out rushed Sun Gao and Fu Ying, and the drunken Gui Lan, incapable of any resistance, was dispatched with daggers.
Next Lady Xu invited Dai Yuan to a supper, and he was slain in similar fashion. After that, she sent to the houses of her enemies and slew all therein. This done, she resumed her mourning garb, and the heads of the two men were hung as a sacrifice before the coffin of her husband.
Very soon her brother-in-law came with an army, and hearing the story of the deeds of the two generals from the widow, gave them the Commanderships and put them over Dangyang. When Sun Quan left, he took the widow to his own home so that she would be cared for. All those who heard of her brave conduct were loud in praise of her virtue:
Full of resource and virtuous, few in the
world are like her,
The brigandage that had troubled the South Land had all been suppressed, and a large fleet of seven thousand battleships was in the Great River ready for service. Sun Quan appointed Zhou Yu to be the Supreme Admiral and Commander-in-Chief over all military forces.
In the twelfth year (AD 207), the Dowager Wu, feeling her end approaching, called to her the two advisers Zhou Yu and Zhang Zhao and spoke thus: "I came of a family of the old Wu, but losing my parents in early life. My brother Wu Jing and I went into the old Yue, and then I married into this family. I bore my husband four sons, not without premonitions of the greatness to be theirs. With my first, Sun Ce, I dreamed of the moon and with my second, Sun Quan, of the sun, which omens were interpreted by the soothsayer as signs of their great honor. Unhappy Sun Ce died young, but Sun Quan inherited, and it is he whom I pray you both assist with one accord. Then may I die in peace."
And to her son she said, "These two you are to serve as they were your teachers and treat them with all respect. My younger sister and I both were wives to your father, and so she is also a mother to you, and you are to serve her after I am gone as you now serve me. And you must treat your sister with affection and find a handsome husband for her."
Then she died and her son mourned for her that year.
The following year, they began to discuss an attack upon Huang Zu.
Zhang Zhao said, "The armies should not move during the period of mourning."
However, Zhou Yu, more to the point, said, "Vengeance should not be postponed on that account. It could not wait upon times and seasons."
Still Sun Quan halted between two opinions and would not decide.
Then came Commander Lu Meng who said to his master, "While I was at Dragon Gorge, one leader of Huang Zu, Gan Ning from Lingjiang, offered to surrender. I found out all about him. He is something of a scholar, is forceful, fond of wandering about as a fighter-errant. He assembled a band of outlaws with whom he roamed over the rivers and lakes, where he would terrorize everybody. He wore a bell at his waist, and at the sound of this bell everyone fled and hid. He fitted his boats with sails of Xichuan brocade, and people called him the 'Pirate with Silken Sails.'
"Then he reformed. He and his band went to Liu Biao, but they left him when they saw he would never accomplish anything, and now they would serve under your banner, only that Huang Zu detains them at Xiakou. Formerly when you were attacking Huang Zu, he owed the recovery of Xiakou to this same Gan Ning, whom he treated without liberality. When Commander Su Fei recommended Gan Ning for promotion, Huang Zu said, 'He is unsuited for any high position as, after all, he is no more than a pirate.'
"So Gan Ning became a disappointed and resentful man. Su Fei tried to win him over to good humor and invited him to wine parties and said, 'I have put your name forward many times, but our chief says he has no place suitable for you. However, time slips away and man's life is not very long. One must make the most of it. I will put you forward for the magistracy of Exian, whence you may be able to advance.'
"So Gan Ning got away from Xiakou and would have come to you then, but he feared that he would not be welcomed, since he had assisted Huang Zu and killed Ling Cao. I told him you were always ready to welcome able people and would nourish no resentment for former deeds. After all, every person was bound to do his best for his master. He would come with alacrity if he only felt sure of a welcome. I pray you express your pleasure."
This was good news for Sun Quan and he said, "With his help, I could destroy Huang Zu."
Then Sun Quan bade Lu Meng bring Gan Ning to see him.
When the salutations were over, the chief said, "My heart is entirely captivated by your coming. I feel no resentment against you. I hope you will have no doubts on that score, and I may as well tell you that I desire some plan for the destruction of Huang Zu."
[e] Ba and Shu indicated the lands of two ancient states west of Jingzhou. These mountainous lands were often called West River Land.
Gan Ning replied, "The dynasty is decadent and without influence. Cao Cao will finally absorb the country down to the river unless he is opposed. Liu Biao provides nothing against the future, and his sons are quite unfitted to succeed him. You should lay your plans to oust him at once before Cao Cao anticipates you. The first attack should be made on Huang Zu, who is getting old and avaricious, so that everyone hates him. He is totally unprepared for a fight and his army is undisciplined. He would fall at the first blow. If he were gone, you would control the western passes and could conquer the lands of Ba and Shu*. And you would be securely established."
"The advice is most valuable," said Sun Quan, and he made his preparations.
Zhou Yu was appointed Commander-in-Chief; Lu Meng was Van Leader; Dong Xi and Gan Ning were Generals. Sun Quan himself would command the main army of one hundred thousand troops.
The spies reported that to Huang Zu who, at the news of an expedition against him, called his officers together to consult. He placed Su Fei in chief command. He also appointed Chen Jiu and Deng Long as Van Leaders, and prepared for general defense. He had two hundreds of warships under the command of Chen Jiu and Deng Long. On these he placed strong bows and stiff crossbows to the number of more than a thousand and secured the boats to heavy hawsers so that they formed a barrier in the river.
At the approach of the southern fleet, the drums beat for the ships to attack. Soon arrows and bolts flew thick, forcing back the invaders, who withdrew till several miles of water lay between them and the defenders.
"We must go forward," said Gan Ning to Dong Xi.
So they chose a hundred light craft and put picked men on them, fifty to a boat. Twenty were to row the boats and thirty to fight. These latter were armored swordsmen. Careless of the enemy's missiles these boats advanced, got to the defenders' fleet, and cut the hawsers of their ships so that they drifted hither and thither in confusion. Gan Ning leaped upon one boat and killed Deng Long. Chen Jiu left the fleet and set out for the shore. Lu Meng dropped into a small boat and went among the larger ships setting them on fire. When Chen Jiu had nearly reached the bank, Lu Meng reckless of death went after him, got ahead, and struck him full in the breast so that he fell.
Before long Su Fei came along the bank with reinforcements, but it was too late. The armies of the South Land had already landed, and there was no hope of repelling them. Su Fei fled into the open country, but he was made prisoner.
Su Fei was taken to Sun Quan who ordered that he be put into a cage-cart and kept till Huang Zu should be captured. Then he would execute the pair. And the attack was pressed on. Day and night they wrought to capture Xiakou.
For Huang Zu's fate, see next chapter.
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