Chapter 11


Let us now turn to the person who had offered the suggestion. He was from Qu County, Donghai Commandery. His surname was Mi, his given name was Zhu and his style name was Zizhong.[1] He belonged to a wealthy family, and had travelled to Luoyang in order to buy and sell goods. He had boarded his carriage and was returning to his home town, when he encountered a married woman along the road. The woman asked to ride along in his chariot, so Zhu got out and started walking, allowing the woman to ride in the carriage. The woman invited Zhu to ride along with her in the carriage. Zhu got in, but sat perfectly upright, and did not cast any sideways glances. After travelling a few li, the woman took her leave. Before departing, she said to Zhu, "I am the fire goddess of the south. I have received a decree from our heavenly father to burn down your house. However, I was moved by your kind treatment of me. That's why I told you flat out. You should return quickly and move your household possessions. I will be coming in the evening." After she finished speaking, she disappeared. Zhu was shocked, and rushed home. He gathered up everything in his house, and hurriedly moved out. That night, as expected, a fire broke out in the kitchen area, burning the house to the ground. Because of this, Zhu began spreading his wealth around and helping the poor and destitute. Later on, Tao Qian hired him as an assistant. On this day, he offered a suggestion, saying, "I am willing to personally go to Beihai Commandery and ask Kong Rong to raise an army that could assist us. Furthermore, someone else should go to Qingzhou and ask Tian Kai to assist us. If both of their armies arrive in unison, Cao will have no choice but to retreat."

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Qian followed his suggestion, and subsequently wrote two letters, asking which of his subordinates would be daring enough to travel to Qingzhou to request assistance. One person responded to the call, and volunteered to go. Everyone looked at this person. He was from Guangling, his surname was Chen, his given name was Deng, and his style name was Yuanlong.[2] After first dispatching Chen Yuanlong to Qingzhou, Tao Qian then ordered Mi Zhu to deliver a letter to Beihai. Qian personally led the effort to guard the city and prepare for the coming attack.

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Let us now turn to Kong Rong in Beihai, whose style name was Wenju,[3] and was from Qufu in the State of Lu. He was the 20th lineal descendant of Confucius. His father was Kong Zhou, captain of Mount Tai Commandery. Rong was clever, even as a child. When he was ten years old, he paid a visit to Li Ying, governor of Henan Commandery. When the gate guards challenged him, Rong said, "I have generational ties with Minister Li," and walked in to see him. Ying asked him, "How are your ancestors related to my ancestors?" Rong said, "A long time ago, Confucius asked Laozi about ritual etiquette; doesn't that mean that I have a connection with you that spans the generations?[4]" Ying was greatly impressed with the boy.

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After a while, Chief Counselor Chen Wei arrived. Ying pointed to Rong, and said, "This is a gifted child." Wei said, "If one is smart as a child, it does not necessarily mean that one will be smart as an adult." Rong replied, "It sounds as though you must have been smart as a child." Wei and the others all chuckled, saying, "When this boy grows up, he shall be a great talent in his time." From then on, Rong began to make a name for himself. He later was made commander of the palace guards, then was rapidly promoted to governor of Beihai. He especially enjoyed visitors. He often would say, "It is my wish that I am constantly hosting a guest of honor, and that the wine jug never goes empty." He had been in Beihai for six years, and was extremely popular among the people.

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On this particular day, he had been sitting with guests, when someone reported that Mi Zhu had arrived from Xuzhou. Rong invited him in and asked why he had come. Zhu took out Tao Qian's letter, and said, "Cao Cao has besieged our city and the situation is now dire. We were hoping that you could render assistance." Rong said, "I have close ties with Tao Gongzu. What's more, you have come to me as well. How can I not go? It's just that I have no beef with Cao Mengde. I will first send someone with a letter requesting a peaceful resolution. If he does not comply, then I will raise an army." Zhu said, "Cao Cao relies heavily on military might. He most certainly will not want to make peace." Rong simultaneously called for soldiers to be recruited, while at the same time sending someone to deliver the letter.

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While they were discussing the situation, someone came in to report that the ragtag army of the Yellow Turban rebel leader Guan Hai was arriving by the tens of thousands. Kong Rong was shocked, and hastily called for his main forces to exit the city and meet the bandits in battle. Guan Hai took to the field on his horse, saying, "I know that Beihai has a lot of grain stores. If I can borrow ten thousand dan,[5] I will immediately withdraw my forces. Otherwise, I will destroy your city and not a single person, old or young, will be left alive!" Kong Rong yelled back, I am a minister of the Great Han. I am in charge of protecting the lands of the Great Han. How can I possibly hand over my rice stores to bandits!" Guan Hai was furious and, with a flourish of his broad sword, charged on his horse straight at Kong Rong. Kong Rong's general, Zong Bao, raised his spear and rode out on his horse. After not more than a few rounds, Zong Bao was cut down from his horse by Guan Hai's sword. Kong Rong's army devolved into mass chaos, then fled back into the city. Guan Hai surrounded the city on all sides with his men. Kong Rong's heart became heavy. It goes without saying that Mi Zhu became worried as well.

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Taishi Ci

The following day, Kong Rong climbed to the top of the city wall and looked out into the distance. When he saw the vastness of the bandit force, he became even more worried. Suddenly, he spotted a man outside of the city walls who had raised his spear and was charging on his horse into the ranks of the bandits. The man was attacking with fearless abandon. When the man reached the walls of the city, he shouted, "Open the gates!" Not recognizing the man, Kong Rong did not dare open the gates. When the bandits had pressed to the banks of the city's moat, the man turned around and stabbed dozens of men, causing them to fall from their horses. The bandits retreated. Rong hastily ordered the gates opened, and the man was led inside. The man dismounted from his horse and ditched his spear. He climbed straight to the top of the city wall, then paid his respects to Kong Rong. When Rong asked for the man's name, the man said, "I am from Huang County, Donglai Commandery. My surname is two syllables: Taishi.[6] My given name is Ci and my style name is Ziyi.[7] My mother has been a major recipient of your kind care. Yesterday, when I returned home from Liaodong in order to visit my relatives, I found out that these bandits were attempting to plunder your city. My mother said, 'We have been the recipient of His Excellency's kind care on multiple occasions. You must go to his aid.' That is why I have come alone on my horse." Kong Rong was overjoyed. As it turns out, even though Kong Rong did not know Taishi Ci by sight, he nevertheless was aware that this man was a hero. Because Ci had left home, leaving his aged mother living 20 li outside of the city,[8] Rong had frequently sent someone with grains and silks to give to Ci's mother. Ci's mother was grateful for Rong's kindness, so she especially sent for Ci to come to Rong's aid.

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Presently, Kong Rong gave Taishi Ci the royal treatment, showering him with gifts of armor, a saddle and a horse. Ci said, "I would like to borrow 1,000 of your elite troops. I shall exit the city and kill the bandits." Rong said, "Even though you are brave, the bandit force is quite substantial. You must not be too rash in going out there." Ci said, "My mother is grateful for your profound kindness. That is why she especially sent for me. If I cannot help you to break out of this encirclement, I will be too ashamed to face my mother. I am willing to fight to the death." Rong said, "I have heard that Liu Xuande is a great hero of our age. If we could get him to come to our assistance, this encirclement would vanish all by itself. Unfortunately, there is nobody that I can send." Ci said, "If you write a letter, I will deliver it to him with all due haste." Rong was delighted. He wrote the letter and gave it to Ci. Ci donned his armor and mounted his horse. He attached his bow and arrows to his belt, and carried an iron spear in his hand. After he was well fed and properly dressed, he dashed out of the city gates on his horse. When he approached the moat, the bandit leader led his men in an attack. Ci stabbed and killed several people in a row with his spear, breaking free of the encirclement. Guan Hai knew that someone had left the city, and anticipated that it was surely for the purpose of seeking relief troops. Accordingly, he personally led several hundred cavalry into the fray and surrounded Ci on all sides. Ci leaned his spear against something, then took up his bow and arrow. He shot in all directions. None failed to fall from their horses in concert with the twang of his bow string. The bandit forces did not dare give chase.

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After Taishi Ci escaped, he travelled night and day toward Pingyuan in order to see Liu Xuande. After they had exchanged pleasantries, Ci explained in detail how Kong Beihai had been surrounded and was seeking help. He then presented the letter. After Xuande finished reading the letter, he asked Ci, "Who are you?" Ci said, "I am Taishi Ci. I come from a remote area of Donghai Commandery. Kong Rong is not a member of my family, and we don't come from the same hamlet. However, we have made it a point to forge a bond with each other on the basis of mutual aspirations and mutual goodwill. I also share his concerns and worries. Now that Guan Hai has staged a rebellion, Beihai is in a state of siege, cut off from the outside with nowhere to turn. The people there are in imminent danger. He heard about your outstanding benevolence and righteousness, and that you were capable of helping someone who is in peril. Because of this, he specifically ordered me to disregard my own safety and break out of the encirclement in order to come and ask for your assistance." Xuande gazed at him intently, and replied, "Kong Beihai knows that there is a Liu Bei in this world?" Accordingly, he picked out 3,000 elite troops, then advanced with Yunchang and Yide toward Beihai.

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When Guan Hai saw the relief army approaching, he personally led his troops out to meet the enemy. Because he saw that Xuande's army was small, he did not take them seriously. When Xuande, along with Guan, Zhang and Taishi Ci, advanced to the front of the battle lines, Guan Hai angrily charged forward. Taishi Ci was about to advance as well, but Yunchang had already begun to charge straight at Guan Hai. When the two of their horses met, everyone began cheering and shouting. Everyone wondered how Guan Hai could possibly be a match for Yunchang. Within a dozen or so bouts, up came the Green Dragon Blade, cutting Guan Hai down from his horse. Taishi Ci and Zhang Fei both rode out in unison, spears held out in parallel, on a murderous charge into the enemy line. Xuande dispatched his soldiers in a surprise attack. Kong Rong had been observing the battle from the top of the city's wall. He saw how Taishi Ci, Guan and Zhang had gone on a rampage against the bandits. They were like tigers entering into a flock of sheep. They were unstoppable. It was at that point that Kong Rong dispatched his own troops out of the city. A pincer attack ensued, causing the bandits to suffer a major defeat. Countless numbers of them surrendered, while the rest scattered in defeat.

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Kong Rong welcomed Xuande into the city. Then, after exchanging pleasantries, he threw a banquet in order to celebrate. Mi Zhu was then brought in to meet with Xuande. Mi Zhu gave a detailed account of how Zhang Kai had killed Cao Song, how Cao Cao had now set his army loose to plunder and surround Xuzhou, and how Mi Zhu had come here to ask for assistance. Xuande said, "Tao Gongzu is a benevolent gentleman. I would not have expected that he could be the recipient of this kind of baseless accusation." Kong Rong said, "You are personally related the house of Han. Cao Cao is now harming the citizenry. He is using his might to bully the weak. Why not go with me in order to help out?" Xuande said, "I would not dare to decline such an offer. However, I only have a small contingent of troops. I'm afraid that it is difficult for me to act so rashly." Kong Rong said, "Although my reason for rescuing Tao Gongzu has to do with my long time friendship with him, it is also rooted in my sense of justice. Could it be merely that you don't share that sense of justice?" Xuande said, "Since you insist, why don't you go ahead of me. Allow me to go to Gongsun Zan and ask for somewhere between three and five thousand troops. After that, I will come." Rong said, "Don't break your promise." Xuande said, "What kind of a person do you take me for? The great sage said, 'From of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if people have no faith in a person, there is no standing for that person.' I will either be allowed to borrow the troops or not. Either way, I will be there with you."

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Kong Rong gave his consent. He instructed Mi Zhu to go on ahead of him and report back to Xuzhou. Rong then prepared to set out himself. Taishi Ci expressed his thanks, saying, "I came here, at my mother's insistence, in order to help out. How fortunate it is that everything turned out alright. There is a person named Liu Yao, who is governor of Yangzhou. He is from the same commandery as me. He has sent a letter to me, summoning me to him. I don't dare to not go. Perhaps I shall see you again someday." Rong tried to reward him with money and goods, but Ci declined the gifts, then left. When his mother saw him, she said, "I am happy that you were able to repay Beihai's kindness!" She then sent off Ci to Yangzhou.

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It goes without saying that Kong Rong raised an army. Let us now turn to Xuande, who went to Beihai to see Gongsun Zan so that he could explain how he wanted to help save Xuzhou. Zan said, "There is no enmity between Cao Cao and you. Why bother to exert yourself on behalf of these people?" Xuande said, "I have already told them that I would, and I don't dare go back on my word." Zan said, "I will loan you a force of 2,000 men." Xuande said, "I would also like to borrow Zhao Zilong for the expedition." Zan gave his consent, then Xuande, Guan and Zhang set out toward Xuzhou, leading with the main force of 3,000 men, while Zilong brought up the rear with the other 2,000 men.

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Let us now turn to Mi Zhu, who had reported back to Tao Qian how, in Beihai, he was able to enlist Liu Xuande to help out. Additionally, Chen Yuanlong reported back that Tian Kai of Qingzhou was happily leading troops to come and assist. Tao Qian's mind was put to rest. As it turned out, the two armies of Kong Rong and Tian Kai had been afraid of the ferocity of Cao's army, and had been camped out far away. They did not dare make a hasty advance. When Cao Cao saw that both armies had arrived, he divided his forces, and did not dare advance on the city.

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Let us now turn to Liu Xuande, whose army had now arrived, and was meeting with Kong Rong. Rong said, "Cao's military might is considerable. Moreover, Cao is adept in the use of military force. We must not attack prematurely. We must first observe what he does, before advancing our own forces." Xuande said, "I'm just afraid that, since the city is without supplies, it will be difficult for it to hold out for long. I have ordered Yunchang and Zilong to lead 4,000 men. These men will serve under your command. I will make a dash through Cao's camp, along with Zhang Fei, and head for Xuzhou so that I can consult with provincial governor Tao." Kong Rong was overjoyed. He then met up with Tian Kai in order to prepare for an attack on two fronts. Yunchang and Zilong brought their troops over to Kong Rong's location.

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That same day, Xuande and Zhang Fei led one thousand men in a skirmish on the flank of Cao's camp. While they were advancing, drums began to thunder from within the camp, as wave upon wave of soldiers came pouring out. They were being led by a general. It was Yu Jin. He pulled back the reins of his horse, and shouted, "Where did you madmen come from?! Where do you think you are going?!" Zhang Fei saw him, but did not answer him. He simply charged straight at Yu Jin. Their two horses met, but after several rounds, Xuande drew his pair of straight swords and drove his men in a forward charge. Yu Jin suffered a major defeat. Zhang Fei chased him all the way to the outer walls of Xuzhou. From the top of the city walls, Tao Qian could see red banners with large white writing that said, "Liu Xuande of Pingyuan." Seeing this, he hastily ordered the gates opened. When Xuande entered the city, he was met by Tao Qian. The two of them headed to the city government offices. After exchanging pleasantries, a banquet was arranged, by way of rewarding the troops for their efforts.

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Tao Qian became heartened when he observed Xuande's dignified bearing and forthright speech, so he ordered Mi Zhu to hand over the tablet and seal of Xuzhou to Xuande. Xuande was stunned, saying, "What is your purpose in giving me this?" Qian said, "Even though the world is now in a state of turmoil, the imperial family still commands respect. You are a member of the House of Han and are well positioned to shore up the nation. I am old and feeble. I would prefer to relinquish control of Xuzhou. Please don't turn me down. I could write a letter petitioning the imperial court." Xuande rose from his seat and gave a salute, saying, "Although I am a descendent of the Han Dynasty, I am a man of little accomplishment or virtue. I am merely a magistrate of Pingyuan County. I am not qualified to take over such a position. I came to help out because I felt that it was the right thing to do. Could it be that you are saying these things because you suspect me of harboring intentions of gobbling up your territory? If this is what you were thinking, then heaven forbid!" Once again entreating him, Qian said, "These are my true feelings." However, Xuande wouldn't dream of accepting. Mi Zhu stepped in and said, "The enemy is now at our doorstep. We should be devising a strategy for making them withdraw. After peace is once again established, you can yield your post then, if you want." Xuande said, "I will send a letter to Cao Cao, advising him to make peace. If Cao doesn't comply, it will not be too late to slaughter his forces." With that, a notification was forwarded to all three camps, instructing them to hold their position. He then sent someone to deliver a letter to Cao Cao.

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Let us now turn to Cao Cao, who was with his troops. He had been discussing matters with his generals, when someone reported that a challenge letter had arrived from Xuzhou. When Cao tore it open and read it, he discovered that it was a letter from Liu Bei. The letter said something to the effect of:

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Ever since I paid my respects to you when we were outside of the pass,[9] we have each gone our separate ways, and I have not had the opportunity to be of service to you. Recently, your honorable father, Marquis Cao, met his end because of Zhang Kai's treachery. In point of fact, Tao Gongzu is blameless in the matter. At present, the remnants of the traitorous Yellow Turbans are stirring up trouble in the countryside. Moreover, Dong Zhuo's remaining supporters have forcibly occupied the capital. My hope is that Your Excellency will first attend to the emergency within the imperial court, and leave personal grudges for later. Were you to withdraw your forces from Xuzhou in order to come to the aid of the nation during this time of crisis, not only would it be good for Xuzhou, it would also be good for the nation!

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After Cao Cao read the letter, he fumed, "Who does this Liu Bei think he is, daring to send me a letter advising me what to do! He must be trying to mock me in this letter!" He ordered that the messenger be executed, and then ordered a full-scale attack on the city. Guo Jia admonished Cao, saying, "Liu Bei has come a long distance in order to lend his assistance. We should first extend courtesy to him, before we use military force. Your Excellency should respond with polite words, in order to make Bei lower his guard. Then, if we advance and attack the city, the city can be taken." Cao followed Jia's advice, politely imploring the messenger to stay and wait for the response letter to be issued.

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While they were talking things over, a messenger on horseback suddenly arrived reporting a "catastrophe!" When Cao asked what had happened, the messenger reported that Lü Bu had already brought Yanzhou to its knees, and had entered and occupied Puyang. As it turned out, after the fiasco with Li and Guo,[10] Lü Bu escaped through Wu Pass and sought out Yuan Shu. Shu blamed Lü Bu for constantly shifting his loyalties and refused to take him in. Lü Bu next sought out Yuan Shao, who did take him in, and together with Bu, defeated Zhang Yan at Changshan. Bu started to get cocky and became arrogant in his dealings with Yuan Shao's officers and enlisted men. Shao was about to have him killed, so Bu left and sought out Zhang Yang, who took him in. Around that time, Pang Shu, who had been residing in the city of Chang'an and was secretly hiding Lü Bu's wife and kids, arranged for their return to Lü Bu. When Li Jue and Guo Si found out, they executed Pang Shu and sent a letter to Zhang Yang, instructing him to kill Lü Bu. As a result, Bu abandoned Zhang Yang and sought out Zhang Miao. As luck would have it, Zhang Miao's younger brother Zhang Chao brought Chen Gong to see Zhang Miao. Gong advised Miao, saying, "The world is now in disarray, and heroes are joining forces. You are in charge of a vast area, yet are under someone else's thumb. Is that not despicable? Cao Cao is now advancing eastward and Yanzhou is empty. Lü Bu is an exceptionally brave warrior in our time. If we were to join forces with him in taking Yanzhou, we could expand our power and influence." Zhang Miao was overjoyed. He ordered Lü Bu to bring Yanzhou to its knees, and to then occupy Puyang. Other than Juancheng, Dong'e and Fan Counties, where a plan to fight to the death was devised by Xun Yu and Cheng Yu, all of the other areas were forced to surrender. Cao Ren fought in a number of battles, but was unable to achieve a victory, and therefore had sent an urgent dispatch to Cao Cao.

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Cao was shocked when he heard the report, saying, "If Yanzhou is lost, I will no longer have a home to return to. I must come up with a plan and fast!" Guo Jia said, "Now would be a good time to send Liu Bei a favor. You can then withdraw your forces and take back Yanzhou." Cao concurred, and immediately sent a letter of reply to Liu Bei. Cao broke camp and withdrew his forces.

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Let us now turn to the messenger, who had returned to Xuzhou and entered the city to see Tao Qian. Handing Qian the letter, the messenger explained that Cao's forces had already withdrawn. Qian was overjoyed, and sent someone to invite Kong Rong, Tian Kai, Yunchang, Zilong et al. to come into the city for a big a meeting. After the banquet had concluded, Qian invited Xuande to sit at the seat of honor. He then clasped his hands in front of his chest as a gesture of courtesy, and addressed everyone present, saying, "I am old, and my two sons lack the talent to handle important affairs of state. Lord Liu is a descendant of the imperial household. He is a man of great integrity and broad talent. He should take charge of Xuzhou. I would like to retire to a life of leisure, so that I can restore my health." Xuande said, "Kong Wenju compelled me to come to the aid of Xuzhou out of a sense of justice. If I were to now occupy it for no good reason, the world will judge me to be without any sense of justice." Mi Zhu said, "The house of Han is now in a state of decline, and the world is turned upside down. If you desire to make a name for yourself, now is the time. Xuzhou is full of wealth and there are hundreds of thousands households. You must accept this position. You mustn't demure." Xuande said, "This is the kind of offer that I dare not accept." Chen Deng said, "The venerable Tao suffers from a number of maladies, and is unable to govern; you must not decline this offer." Xuande said, "Yuan Gonglu's 's family have occupied the highest positions within the government for four generations.[11] Of the places controlled by him, Shouchun is the closest. Why not cede control to him?" Kong Rong said, "Yuan Gonglu is a deadbeat; he's not even worth mentioning! If the heavens grant you an opportunity like this, and you don't accept, you will always regret it."

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After Xuande continued to persist in his unwillingness to accept the offer, Tao Qian began to cry, saying, "If you abandon me and leave, I will go to my grave with regret in my heart!" Yunchang said, "Seeing as Tao Qian is offering to relinquish the post to you, you could temporarily take charge of Xuzhou." Zhang Fei said, "It's not as though we are forcing him to give us his lands. His intentions are good in relinquishing his post to you; what's the point of insisting on declining his offer?" Xuande said, "Do you all want me to devolve into a scoundrel without a sense of justice?" Tao Qian repeatedly tried to relinquish his post, but Xuande simply would not accept. Tao Qian said, "Since you insist on not accepting my offer, there is a place near here called Xiaopei, where you could station your troops. Please post your soldiers there for the time being, in order to protect Xuzhou, alright?" They all implored Xuande to remain in Xiaopei, so Xuande complied with their wishes. After Tao Qian had finished rewarding the troops, Zhao Yun departed. Wiping the tears from his eyes, Xuande shook hands with him as they said goodbye to each other. Kong Rong and Tian Kai also bid farewell, leading their own armies back to where they had come from. Xuande, Guan and Zhang led their main army to Xiaopei, where they repaired the city walls, in order to appease the local citizenry.

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Let us now turn to Cao Cao, who was returning with his army. Cao Ren came out to greet him. He explained that Lü Bu was a force to be reckoned with, and that moreover, Chen Gong was assisting him. Yanzhou and Puyang were already lost, but the city walls of Juancheng, Dong'e and Fan Counties were still intact, thanks to the fierce efforts of Xun Yu and Cheng Yu. Cao said, "In my estimation, Lü Bu is all brawn and no brains. He's not even worth worrying about." He then instructed his men to pitch camp. After that, he consulted with his advisors. Lü Bu knew that Cao Cao was returning with his army, and that Cao had already passed by Teng County. Bu summoned his two lieutenants, Xue Lan and Li Feng, saying, "I have wanted to make use of you two for a while. Take an army of 10,000 men, and guard Yanzhou with your life. I will personally lead an army to advance on and smash Cao's forces."

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The two men did as they were told. Chen Gong hastily came to see Bu, saying, "I see that you are abandoning Yanzhou; where are you going?" Bu said, "I will concentrate my troops in Puyang so that I can triple the strength of my forces." Gong said, "That's a bad idea. There is no way that Xue Lan will be able to hold onto to Yanzhou. 180 li due south of here,[12] the roads leading toward Mount Tai are hazardous. We could hide 10,000 of our elite troops there. Cao's army knows that they have lost Yanzhou, so they will be advancing in double time for sure. If we wait until after they've passed the halfway point, we could take them in one swift blow." Bu said, "I'm stationing troops in Puyang because I have something else in mind. How could you possibly know what I'm planning?" In the end, he didn't heed Chen Gong's advice, but instead left Xue Lan in charge of defending Yanzhou. Bu then set out.

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When Cao Cao's army arrived at the hazardous roads leading toward Mount Tai, Guo Jia said, "We must not advance; I'm afraid that there may be a hidden army waiting in ambush for us." Cao Cao smiled and said, "Lü Bu lacks a strategic mind. That's why he left Xue Lan in charge of defending Yanzhou, while he headed off for Puyang; how could he possibly have the foresight to hide his men here?" He instructed Cao Ren, "Take your army and surround Yanzhou. I will advance toward Puyang and quickly attack Lü Bu."

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When Chen Gong heard that Cao's army was approaching, he came up with a brilliant plan, saying, "Cao's army will be tired after such a long journey. Now is a good time to quickly attack, before they have a chance to regain their strength." Bu said, "I have single-handedly conquered the length and breadth of this country. Why would I worry about Cao Cao! I'll wait until they pitch camp, then I will capture him personally."

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Zhang Liao

Let us now turn to Cao Cao, whose army had pitched camp near Puyang. The following day, he led everyone out and formed them into battle lines outside of the city. Cao halted his horse beneath the banners at the entrance to his camp. In the distance, he could see that Lü Bu's army was arriving. Lü Bu rode out in front of his own battle lines. Eight of his fiercest generals arranged themselves on either side. The first general was from Mayi, Yanmen Commandery. His surname was Zhang, his given name was Liao, and his style name was Wenyuan.[13] The second general was from Huayin, Mount Tai Commandery. His surname was Zang, his given name was Ba, and his style name was Xuangao.[14] Between these two, they commanded an additional six fierce generals: Hao Meng, Cao Xing, Cheng Lian, Wei Xu, Song Xian and Hou Cheng. Bu's army numbered 50,000; the sound of its beating drums shook the earth.

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Cao pointed to Lü Bu and said, "I have no grudge against you. Why have you seized my lands?" Bu said, "The lands of the house of Han are the property of everyone. You must think you're the only one entitled to them!" He then ordered Zang Ba to ride out on his horse and challenge the enemy. Yue Jin emerged from Cao's ranks in order to meet the challenge. The two men's horses clashed, as each raised their spears in unison. After more than thirty bouts, there was still no clear victor. Xiahou Dun slapped his horse into action in order to lend assistance. Zhang Liao emerged from Lü Bu's battle lines in order to intercept and kill Dun. Lü Bu became enraged by all of this. He raised his halberd and rode his horse at full gallop out from his own battle lines. Both Xiahou Dun and Yue Jin fled. Lü Bu took advantage of the moment in order to press his attack, causing Cao's army to suffer a major defeat. Cao's army retreated 30 to 40 li,[15] before Lü Bu withdrew his own forces.

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After Cao Cao lost the battle, he returned to camp and consulted with his generals. Yu Jin said, "I climbed a hill today so that I could get a better view of the area. Lü Bu had a camp to the west of Puyang that did not have many soldiers. Tonight, those generals will surely be unprepared, having just been routed by our army. We could lead our men in an attack on them. If we can capture their camp, then Bu's soldiers will be terrified for sure. This is the best course of action." Cao followed his advice, taking with him his six generals --- Cao Hong, Li Dian, Mao Jie, Lü Qian, Yu Jin and Dian Wei --- as well as 20,000 horses and men, on an all night advance along a small side road.

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Let us now turn to Lü Bu, who was in his camp, rewarding his troops. Chen Gong said, "Our western camp is in a critical location. What would we do if Cao Cao attacked it?" Bu said, "He lost a battle today, what makes you think he would he dare to come?" Gong said, "Cao Cao is a man who is extremely good at using soldiers; we must prevent him from attacking us while unawares." Accordingly, Bu appointed Gao Shun, along with Wei Xu and Hou Cheng, to lead a force toward Bu's western camp in order to protect it.

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  卻說曹操黃昏時分引軍西四面不能抵擋四散奔走曹操四更高順引軍入來曹操軍馬高順三軍混戰天明西呂布背後高順侯成趕來當頭呂布親自引軍來到于禁樂進[[w:Lü Bu 呂布]]不住一彪張遼臧霸使曹洪不利西一彪郝萌曹性去路死戰當先梆子驟雨不能前進無計誰人!」

Let us now turn to Cao Cao, who had led his army at dusk to Bu's western camp, then stormed in from all sides. The camp's soldiers were unable to hold their ground, and scattered in all four directions. Cao Cao had captured the camp. It was close to the fourth watch before Gao Shun had arrived with his troops,[16] fighting his way in. Cao Cao personally led a force of men and horses to intercept. His army ran straight into Gao Shun's. The three armies were intermingled, and fought each other indiscriminately. As dawn approached, the sound of drums shook the earth from the west. Someone reported that Lü Bu had arrived, personally leading a rescue force. Cao Cao gave up on the camp and left. Following in pursuit was Gao Shun, Wei Xu and Hou Cheng, when Lü Bu arrived personally with his army. Yu Jin and Yue Jin both tried to hold back Lü Bu, all to no avail. Cao headed north. A group of soldiers came out from behind a hill, with Zhang Liao on the left and Zang Ba on the right. Cao ordered Lü Qian and Cao Hong to fight them, but it was not going well. Cao then departed to the west. Suddenly, the sound of thunderous shouting could be heard, as another group of soldiers arrived. Bu's four other generals --- Hao Meng, Cao Xing, Cheng Lian and Song Xian --- had blocked Cao's path. They were all locked in a life and death struggle, with Cao leading the charge. Arrows rained down on them from the direction of the sound of watchman clappers.[17] Cao was unable to advance, and had run out of ideas for how to escape. He yelled out, "Somebody save me!"

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The short-handle halberds probably looked like the upper-half of the long-handle halberd being held by Lü Bu in this picture. The shorter handle made them suitable for throwing like an axe.

One of Cao's generals burst forth from the cavalry. It was Dian Wei. He was carrying twin long-handle iron halberds in his hands. He shouted, "Fear not, my lord!" He jumped down from his horse, propped up his twin long-handle halberds, then grabbed about a dozen or so short-handle halberds.[18] He addressed his attendants, saying, "Call out to me when the bandits are within ten paces of me!" He then strode forward, braving the arrows as he went. Dozens of Bu's cavalrymen gave chase, whereupon Wei's attendants yelled out, "Ten paces!" Wei said, "Call out to me when they are within five paces!" Again, Wei's attendants yelled out, "Five paces!" Wei then threw the short-handle halberds, striking the enemy one by one. With each throw, he managed to fell another man from his horse. Not a single short-handle halberd missed its mark. A dozen people were killed in this way. The rest all fled. Wei jumped back onto his horse, once again grabbed his twin long-handle iron halberds, then charged forward. Four of Bu's generals --- Hao, Cao, Song[19] and Hou --- could not keep Wei at bay, so they all fled. Dian Wei tore into the enemy, causing them to scatter. After Wei had rescued Cao Cao, the rest of Cao's generals arrived as well. Together, they all searched for the road back to camp.

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Just as the evening began to descend upon them, they could hear a din of shouting from behind them. Lü Bu was charging at them on his horse, halberd in hand, shouting, "Cao, you scoundrel, halt this instant!" At this point, the men and horses were exhausted. Everyone looked at each other wearily, not knowing what to do. They all wanted to flee. It was a case of:

Although they were temporarily able to break out of their encirclement, it may be much more difficult for them to keep a formidable enemy from giving chase.

Don't know whether Cao Cao lived or died? Keep reading, and all will be explained.

Notes edit

  1. Literal meaning: second son
  2. Literal meaning: first dragon
  3. Literal meaning: promoting civility
  4. Li Ying was a lineal descendant of Li Er (李耳), commonly thought to be Laozi's real name.
  5. One dan is equal to 26.4 kilograms, ten thousand dan is equal to 264,000 kilograms (119,749.61 pounds).
  6. Two syllable surnames are relatively uncommon in Chinese culture.
  7. Literal meaning: one who's name represents righteousness
  8. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 20 li would have been 8.316 km (~5.1673 miles).
  9. See: Chapter 5.
  10. See Chapter 9.
  11. For four generations, Yuan Shao's ancestors had occupied one of the 三公 posts (Three Excellencies: the three highest civil posts in the country):
  12. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 180 li would have been 74.844 km (~46.478124 miles).
  13. Literal meaning: far-reaching civility
  14. Lliteral meaning: large and tall
  15. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 30 li would have been 12.474 km (~6.73542117 miles); 40 li would have been 16.632 km (~10.3351 miles).
  16. between 1:00am and 3:00am
  17. The watchmen for Lü Bu's side were using wooden clappers to sound the alarm.
  18. The short-handle halberds were identical to the long-handle ones, making them suitable for short range fighting, or for throwing like an axe.
  19. Song Xian ()