Translation:Romance of the Three Kingdoms
by Luo Guanzhong, translated from Chinese by Wikisource
Chapter 13
Li Jue and Guo Si take up arms against each other; Yang Feng and Dong Cheng work together to rescue the emperor.
590874Translation:Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Chapter 13
Li Jue and Guo Si take up arms against each other; Yang Feng and Dong Cheng work together to rescue the emperor.
Luo Guanzhong
Chapter 13

Li Jue and Guo Si take up arms against each other; Yang Feng and Dong Cheng work together to rescue the emperor.


Let us now turn to Cao Cao, who had defeated Lü Bu at Dingtao. Bu subsequently gathered up his defeated army near the ocean. All of his generals met up with him; they all wanted to engage Cao Cao in one more battle for supremacy. Chen Gong said, "Cao's army is strong right now. We must not engage him in battle for the time being. Let us first find a place of refuge, so that we may live to fight another day." Bu said, "How would it be if we threw in our lot with Yuan Shao once again?" Gong said, "You should first send someone to Jizhou in order to find out where things stand. After that, we can go." Bu went along with this suggestion.

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Let us now turn to Yuan Shao in Jizhou, who had heard that Cao Cao and Lü Bu were locked in a stalemate. His advisor Shen Pei came in and said, "Lü Bu is a jackal; if he was able to take Yanzhou, he will surely make a play for Jizhou. It would be better to help Cao to defeat him. Only then can we rest easy." Shao thereupon sent Yan Liang, along with 50,000 troops, to aid Cao Cao. When a spy learned this news, he raced back to report it to Lü Bu. Bu was taken aback, and discussed the matter with Chen Gong. Gong said, "I have heard that Liu Xuande has recently taken charge of Xuzhou. We could throw in our lot with him." Bu went along with this suggestion, and made his way toward Xuzhou.

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Someone reported this to Xuande. Xuande said, "Bu is a brave warrior; we should go out to greet him." Mi Zhu said, "Lü Bu is like a vicious tiger; we cannot take him in. If we do, he will bring harm to our people." Xuande said, "Previously, had it not been for Bu attacking Yanzhou, how could we have averted a disaster for this commandery? He has now been weakened and is seeking refuge from us; how is it possible that he could have an ulterior motive?" Zhang Fei said, "Brother, your heart is too big. Nevertheless, we must still be prepared."

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Xuande led his delegation 30 li outside of the city in order to greet Lü Bu.[1] The two of them rode side-by-side back into the city. After they arrived at the government office complex, and had exchanged pleasantries, they sat down together. Bu said, "After I and Minister over the Masses Wang pulled off the plot to assassinate Dong Zhuo, I fell victim to a coup d'état, staged by Jue and Si. As a result, I ended up drifting out to the east of the pass. However, there were a number of nobles with whom I didn't get along. Recently, because that scoundrel Cao ruthlessly invaded Xuzhou, he had to deal with you coming to Tao Qian's rescue. Because I had attacked Yanzhou during the same period of time, I was able to divide his forces. However, I unexpectedly fell victim to a sneaky trick, and lost a number of my men. I would now like to throw in my lot with you, so that together we can accomplish great things. May I ask your thoughts about such an arrangement?" Xuande said, "A short time ago, after provincial governor Tao passed away, there was no one that could take charge of Xuzhou, so I was convinced to temporarily administer provincial affairs. It is fortunate that you have now arrived. I should step down and let you take over." With that, he handed his official tablet and seal to Lü Bu. Lü Bu was about to accept, when he saw Guan and Zhang, standing behind Xuande, glaring at him. Bu feigned a smile and said, "How does being a brave warrior qualify me to be a provincial governor?" Xuande tried once again to step down. Chen Gong said, "'A strong guest does not impose his will on a host.' No need to worry." It was only then that Xuande ceased his efforts. He then threw a banquet in Bu's honor, and also prepared living quarters for him.

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The next day, Lü Bu reciprocated by inviting Xuande to a banquet of his own. Xuande, Guan and Zhang all went together. After a few drinks, Bu invited Xuande into the rear hall. Guan and Zhang followed after them. Bu ordered his wife and children to pay obeisance to Xuande, but Xuande repeatedly demurred. Bu said, "There's no need for you to be deferential, junior brother." After Zhang Fei heard this, he shot an angry look at Bu and said, "My senior brother has a royal pedigree. How dare you call my senior brother 'junior brother'! Who do you think you are? Come on! I challenge you to a 300 round duel!" Xuande promptly silenced Fei, while Lord Guan advised him to get some air outside. Xuande apologized to Lü Bu, saying, "My junior colleague made some outrageous statements after having had too much to drink. Please don't take any offense, senior brother." Bu remained silent. The banquet ended that instant; Bu escorted Xuande to the exit. Zhang Fei rode up on his horse, spear in hand, shouting, "Lü Bu! I challenge you to a 300 round duel!" Xuande commanded Lord Guan to advise Zhang to stop.

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The following day, Lü Bu came to take his leave of Xuande, saying, "Although you have not forsaken me, I fear that I will not be able to get along with your junior associates. I should go elsewhere." Xuande said, "If you leave, it will be a major failure on my part. My junior brother caused you offense; someday I shall make him apologize. Not far from here is a village called Xiaopei. It is where I housed my army in the past. I know it's not much to offer, but perhaps you could stay there for a while. What do you think? There should be enough food and military supplies there to meet your needs." Lü Bu thanked Xuande, then personally led his army toward the safe haven of Xiaopei. It goes without saying that Xuande made his displeasure known to Zhang Fei.

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Let us now turn to Cao Cao, who had pacified the area to the east of the mountains. He petitioned the court to be granted the title: General, Establisher of Virtue and Marquis of Fei Ting. At that time, Li Jue had promoted himself to Grand Marshal and Guo Si had promoted himself to commander in chief. Neither man showed the least bit of restraint and no one within the court dared to say a word about it. Grand Commandant Yang Biao and Minister of Finance Zhu Jun both secretly petitioned Emperor Xian, saying, "Cao Cao now commands an army of more than 200,000 men, along with dozens of cunning ministers and brave generals. If we could persuade such a man to come to the aid of our nation, we could get rid of these traitorous factions, for the benefit of the whole world." Emperor Xian wept, saying, "I have been bullied for a long time by these two thugs. If they could be killed, it truly would be a great thing!" Biao said to the emperor, "I have a plan. First, turn the two thugs against one another, then invite Cao Cao to bring in his army and kill them both. This would rid us of the thug faction and stabilize the court." Emperor Xian said, "How will such a plan be carried out?" Biao said, "I have heard that Guo Si's wife is extremely jealous. We could have someone employ a stratagem of spreading disinformation within Si's wife's quarters. After that, the two thugs will turn on one another."

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The emperor wrote a secret decree that he sent to Yang Biao. Biao then secretly sent his wife to enter Guo Si's quarters, on the pretext of an unrelated matter, so that she could take advantage of the opportunity to warn Si's wife, saying, "I have heard that General Guo and Grand Marshal Li's wife are having an affair, and that they are madly in love. If the Grand Marshal finds out, it will certainly spell disaster. You would do well to prevent him from going out." Si's wife was shocked, saying, "No wonder he has been staying out all night long without coming home! He has been up to no good! If you had not said something, I would never have known. I must take care to put a stop to it." As Biao's wife took her leave, Si's wife again thanked her profusely.

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After a few days, Guo Si once again prepared to depart for a banquet at Li Jue's home. His wife said, "Jue is unpredictable. What's more, this town isn't big enough for the two of you. What am I supposed to do if he poisons you after you get drunk?" Si did not want to heed her, but she insisted that he not go. By that evening, Jue had sent someone to deliver a meal. Si's wife secretly put poison in the food before allowing it to be brought in. Si was about to eat the food, when his wife said, "This food has come from the outside; how can you be so cavalier about eating it?" She then fed some of the food to the dog. The dog immediately died, and from then on, Si became suspicious of Jue.

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One day, after morning court had adjourned, Li Jue insisted on inviting Guo Si over to his residence for a drink. After the evening festivities had ended, as Si was drunkenly heading home, his stomach suddenly started to hurt. His wife said, "You've been poisoned by him for sure!" She immediately ordered him to be doused with animal urine, so that he would vomit. Si angrily said, "After all that I have accomplished with Li Jue, he now plots my demise for no reason. If I don't act first, I will fall prey to his treachery." With that, he gathered together all of his main armored troops in order to mount an attack against Li Jue. This was promptly reported to Jue, who was likewise enraged, saying, "How dare Guo Aduo pull something like this!" With that, he ordered his main armored troops to kill Guo Si. Taken together, both armies numbered in the tens of thousands. They fought each other with reckless abandon beneath the city walls of Chang'an. This also became an opportunity for them to pillage the residents.

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Jue's nephew Li Xian led a group of soldiers that surrounded the imperial compound. They placed the Son of Heaven into one carriage and made the empress lie prostrate in another carriage. Jia Xu and Zuo Ling were in charge of escorting the carriages. The rest of the palace attendants all left on foot. As they burst through a rear service door, they ran straight into Guo Si's soldiers, who let loose a barrage of arrows on them. A great number of palace attendants were killed. Li Jue then took advantage of the confusion to mount an attack, causing Guo Si's soldiers to retreat. The carriages were rushed out of the city, despite the protestations of its passengers, and taken to Li Jue's camp. Guo Si led his troops into the palace, took as hostages the rest of the palace maids, then set fire to the palace. The following day, when Guo Si found out that Li Jue had kidnapped the Son of Heaven, he led his soldiers on an attack of his camp, to the shock and horror of the emperor and empress. Later on, someone wrote a poem about it, saying:

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     Emperor Guangwu reestablished control of the country, reviving the age of the Han; twelve emperors ruled in continuous succession before him, and twelve after.
     But then, Huan and Ling were lacking in principles, and the nation went into decline; the eunuchs and the ministers made a naked grab for power.[2]
     He Jin lacked the ability to scheme, yet he controlled the offices of the three senior ministers;[3] in order to drive out the palace rats, he brought in a conniving wretch.
     The jackals and otters were driven out, merely to be replaced by tigers and wolves; a traitor from Xizhou caused a major calamity.
     Ever devoted to the emperor, Wang Yun prevailed upon a young beauty to use her feminine charms to cause a rift between Dong and .[4]
     The rebel leader having been vanquished, peace was again restored to the empire; who knew that Li and Guo would end up despising each other.
     The two men struggled mightily for what little was left of the ravished nation; famine beset the cloistered apartments of the palace; there was constant anxiety over the fighting.
     The people's hearts had turned away from the Mandate of Meaven; and so, heroes established separatist regimes across the country by force of arms.
     Future rulers should take heed of these events; do not casually allow the throne to sit empty.
     The citizens were ravaged, their guts and brains spilled on the ground; in the decimated countryside, the people cursed the rivers of blood.
     When we look back into the annals of history, we cannot help but be sorrowed; we lament the sadness that has occurred throughout the ages.
     A ruler should sear this admonition into his brain; he who wields the mightiest sword will always hold the reins of power.

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Let us now turn to Guo Si, whose army had arrived at Li Jue's camp. Li Jue emerged from his camp in order to engage his former colleague in battle. Si's army was at a disadvantage, so they withdrew for the time being. Jue then had the emperor and empress, along with their carriages, moved to Fort Mei, placing his nephew Li Xian in charge of guarding them. He cut off all contact with messenger eunuchs, so that imperial decrees could not be delivered. Food and water were only provided sporadically, and all of the emperor's attendants suffered from malnourishment. The emperor ordered someone to ask Jue to supply the emperor with five hu of rice[5] and five sets of beef bones for beef stew, so that he could give it to his attendants. Jue became angry and said, "You eat everyday, why are you asking for more?" He then gave the emperor rotten meat and stale rice. The food stank to high heaven and was inedible. The emperor cursed him, saying, "I can't believe this traitorous scoundrel is actually bullying me like this!" The emperor's attendant Yang Biao addressed the emperor, saying, "Jue is savage by nature. You must be patient. It is useless to resist.". The emperor then lowered his head and was silent, his tears soaking his sleeve.

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Suddenly, an attendant reported to the emperor, saying, "An army of men and horses is approaching. They are here to rescue you. Their countless spears and swords glisten in the sunshine. The clamor of their gongs and drums shake the earth." The emperor instructed him to find out who it was. It was Guo Si. The emperor became worried as he began to hear the sound of shouts and hollers from outside the fortess walls. As it turns out, Li Jue had taken his army out to meet Guo Si. Li Jue pointed his riding-crop at Guo Si, and cursed, "I did not treat you poorly; how is it that you have plotted against me?" Si said, "You are a traitor. Why should I not kill you!" Jue said, "I have brought the emperor here for his safety. How can you take me for a traitor?" Si said, "You have kidnapped the emperor. How can you think of it has protecting the emperor?" Jue said, "There is no need to say anything further! We can leave our two armies out of this. Let us fight each other, just you and me. Whoever wins can take possession of the emperor." The two of them engaged each other in combat, right in front of their respective lines. They fought ten rounds, but still there was no clear victor. Suddenly, Yang Biao rode up on his horse, shouting, "Generals, please stand down. I would like to especially invite all of the officials to come and help negotiate a truce between the two of you." Jue and Si thereupon returned to their camps.

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Yang Biao and Zhu Jun gathered together more than 60 court bureaucrats. The entire group first made their way to Guo Si's camp in order to begin the peace negotiations. However, Guo Si had them all placed under guard instead. The officials protested, saying, "We came here in good faith. Why are you treating us like this?" Si said, "If Li Jue can kidnap the Son of Heaven, why can't I kidnap the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers!" Biao said, "One has kidnapped the Son of Heaven and one has kidnapped the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers. What is the meaning of this?" Si became enraged and drew his straight sword in order to kill Biao. It was only after Commander of the Palace Guard Yang Mi intervened, that Si released Yang Biao and Zhu Jun. The rest were all placed under guard within his camp. Biao said to Jun, "To serve the nation as an official, yet to be unable to rescue the emperor, is to be born in vain!" After he finished speaking, the two of them embraced and began to weep. Nightfall descended upon the land. Jun returned home, fell ill, and died. After that, Jue and Si fought non-stop for more than 50 days. Countless numbers were killed.

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Let us now turn to Li Jue, whose favorite pastime was sorcery. He would often have a sorceress bang drums in the midst of the army in order to conjure the spirits. Jia Xu repeatedly advised him against this practice, but he would not listen. Yang Qi, the emperor's trusted attendant, secretly petitioned the emperor, saying, "I have observed that Jia Xu, while remaining a loyal subordinate to Li Jue, has in truth not yet forsaken his emperor. Your Highness should try to work with him."

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While they were talking, Jia Xu arrived. The emperor dismissed his attendants. Then, with tears in his eyes, he began to plead with Xu, saying, "If you are able to take pity on the Han Dynasty, will you save my life?" Xu prostrated himself before the emperor, saying, "That is my desire. Your Highness, speak of this no more. I will think of something." The emperor stopped crying and thanked him.

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After a while, Li Jue came in to see the emperor. He was wearing a sword. The emperor's face became ashen. Jue addressed the emperor, saying, "Guo Si has been disloyal; he has imprisoned the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers. He would have kidnapped you as well, had it not been for me." The emperor clasped his hands together and expressed his thanks, at which point, Jue departed. Next, Huangfu Li came in to see the emperor.[6] The emperor knew that Li was a capable speaker, and was from the same area as Li Jue. The emperor asked him to shuttle between the two sides in order to negotiate a truce. Li readily agreed and set out for Si's camp in order to persuade Si. Si said, "If Li Jue releases the Son of Heaven, I will release the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers."

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Houyi and his wife Chang'e

Huangfu Li came to see Li Jue, and said, "Because you and I are both from Xiliang, the emperor especially ordered me to come and negotiate a truce between you and Guo Si. Si is abiding by the emperor's wishes. Will you?" Jue said, "I have the distinction of having defeated Lü Bu. I have helped in the administration of the government for four years and have received a number of accolades.. Everybody knows that Guo Aduo is little more than a horse thief. Not only that, he had the audacity to kidnap the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers, as well as to oppose me. I swear to you that I will kill him! Take a look at how many soldiers I have. Do you think I have enough men to defeat Guo Aduo?". Huangfu Li answered him, saying, "Not necessarily. In ancient times, Houyi of Youqiang relied too much on his skills as an archer. He did not anticipate future adversities, which led to disaster. More recently, you have witnessed for yourself how powerful Senior Grand Tutor Dong was, and how Lü Bu plotted against him, despite the generous favors Bu received from him. In the blink of an eye, Bu had hung his head from the gates of the capital. Therefore, strength, by itself, is not enough. You are a senior general who holds the battle-axe and tally of authority.[7] Members of your family have all risen to positions of prominence. It cannot be said that you have been treated shabbily by your country. As things currently stand, Guo Aduo has kidnapped the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers and you have kidnapped the emperor. In the end, which one of you shall be deemed to have the upper hand?"

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Li Jue became enraged and drew his straight sword, saying, "Did the Son of Heaven send you to humiliate me? I'll cut off your head first!" Captain of the Cavalry Yang Feng admonished him, saying, "If you kill an emissary of the emperor's, without first having vanquished Guo Si, it will give Si a valid reason to raise an army. All of the members of the nobility will come to his aid." Jia Xu also strongly warned him against taking any rash actions. It was only then that Jue stopped himself. Xu then urged Huangfu Li to leave. Huangfu Li yelled, "Li Jue is violating an imperial edict. He wants to kill the emperor and establish himself as ruler!" Jue's trusted attendant Hu Miao quickly stopped him, saying, "You mustn't say such things! I fear that it will be injurious to your health." Huangfu Li rebuked him, saying, "Hu Jingcai![8] You are also a servant of the court. How is it that you can help this traitor? 'If a ruler is humiliated, then his servant must die,'[9] If I am killed by Li Jue, then so be it!" He continued to curse at him. When the emperor found out what was happening, he hastily ordered Huangfu Li to return to Xiliang.

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Let us now turn to Li Jue's army, a majority of whom were from Xiliang, and moreover were reliant on Qiang soldiers for assistance. Huangfu Li had spread the word among the people of Xiliang, saying, "Li Jue has plotted insurrection. Those who follow him are traitors, and the consequences will be severe." Many of the people from Xiliang heeded Huangfu Li's words and had lost their will to fight. When Jue heard about what Huangfu Li had been saying, he became furious, and sent Captain of the Imperial Guard Wang Chang to go after him. Chang knew that Huangfu Li was a loyal subject, so he did not give chase. Instead, he reported back, saying, "I don't know where Huangfu Li went." Jia Xu also sent a secret message to the Qiang people, which said, "The Son of Heaven knows that you are all loyal to him, and that you have labored through many battles. He secretly decrees that you return to your commandery. In the future, you shall be rewarded handsomely." As it turns out, the Qiang people resented Li Jue for not granting them any titles of nobility or any rewards. Consequently, they heeded Xu's words and withdrew their troops.

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Xu secretly petitioned the emperor, saying, "Li Jue is greedy and lacks strategy. His troops have abandoned him and he is running scared. We could reel him in by granting him a major rank of nobility." The emperor then issued a decree, making Jue Grand Marshal. Jue was overjoyed, and said, "I have the sorceress to thank for this. She conjured spirits and prayed!" He then gave the sorceress a generous reward, but did not reward his principal generals. Captain of the Cavalry Yang Feng was outraged, and said to Song Guo, "We have put our lives on the line, and have braved arrows and rocks. How is it that our efforts do not merit the same recognition as the sorceress?" Song Guo said, "Why don't we kill this traitor and rescue the Son of Heaven?" Feng said, "You start a fire within the ranks as a signal, and I will lead my troops out to meet up with you."

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The two of them agreed, and carried out their plan that evening at the second watch.[10] However, contrary to their expectations, their plans did not stay secret. Someone informed Li Jue. Jue was furious, and ordered someone to arrest Song Guo, so that he could be put to death. Yang Feng led out his troops, but did not see the beacon-fire. Li Jue personally led out his troops, and ran into Yang Feng. The two sides fought a pitched battle in the middle of camp until the fourth watch.[11] Feng was not victorious, so he led his troops in the direction of Xi'an. From that point on, Li Jue's military power gradually began to diminish. Moreover, Guo Si began to attack more often. A lot of people were killed. Then, somebody came to Jue and reported, "Zhang Ji commands a large army. He has come from Shaanxi in order to negotiate a truce between the two of you. He has declared that he shall attack anyone who does not comply." Jue tried to ingratiate himself by first sending someone to Zhang Ji in order to agree to peace. Guo Si had no choice but to promise to stand down as well. Zhang Ji reported to the emperor. He asked the Son of Heaven to drive the imperial carriage to Hongnong. Delighted, the emperor said, "I have missed living in the eastern capital for some time now. How fortunate that I now have a chance to return there!" He promoted Zhang Ji to General of Fast Cavalry. By way of giving thanks, Ji presented all of the officials with grain, wine and meat. Si released the Three Excellencies and the nine ministers from his camp, and Jue prepared the imperial carriage for the journey east. He assigned several hundred imperial bodyguards, all of them armed with halberds, to perform escort duties.

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The emperor's carriage passed by Xinfeng, arriving in Baling. The metallic winds of autumn were gusting at the time.[12] Suddenly, a loud commotion could be heard, as several hundred soldiers came onto the bridge and blocked the way of the emperor's carriage. In a stern voice, they asked, "Who approaches?" A trusted attendant named Yang Qi rode his horse onto the bridge, saying, "The emperor's carriage is passing this way. Who dares to block his way?" Two generals came forward and said, "We are guarding this bridge, by order of general Guo, in order to prevent enemy spies from passing this way. Since you claim that this is the emperor's carriage, we must personally see the emperor before believing you." Yang Qi raised the pearl curtains. The emperor then intoned, "I am the emperor, why have my subjects not made way?" The generals all shouted, "Long live the emperor!" They then moved aside so that the emperor could pass.

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The two generals reported back to Guo Si, saying, "The emperor's carriage has already left." Si said, "I was trying to play a trick on Zhang Ji, so that I could kidnap the emperor and take him back to Fort Mei. How could you just let him go like that?" He then had the two generals beheaded. He raised an army in order to give chase. Just when the emperor's carriage reached Huayin County, thunderous shouting could be heard behind them. They were saying, "Stop the emperor's carriage!" In tears, the emperor exclaimed to his senior ministers, "No sooner than I left the wolf's lair, do I run into the tiger's mouth. What is going on!" Everybody looked dejected. As the rebel army advanced, the sound of war drums could suddenly be heard. A general and his army emerged from behind the mountains. Out in front was a large banner, inscribed with the words, "Yang Feng of the Great Han." He led an army of more than one thousand men on a murderous assault. It so happened that Yang Feng had garrisoned his army behind the Zhongnan Mountains, after having lost his battle with Li Jue. When he heard that the emperor's carriage was coming, he came especially to offer it his protection.

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Xu Huang

Presently, the armies formed into ranks. Si directed Cui Yong to ride out onto the field. Cui Yong cursed at Yang Feng, calling him a traitor. Feng was outraged. Looking back into the ranks, he said, "Where is Gongming?" A general carrying a large axe in his hand galloped out on his formidable horse and charged straight at Cui Yong. The two horses engaged each other, but Cui Yong was cut down from his horse after only one round. Yang Feng took advantage of the situation and mounted an attack. Si's army suffered a major defeat and had to retreat more than 20 li.[13] Feng then rounded up his troops and went to see the Son of Heaven. The emperor praised him, saying, "Rescuing me was no small feat!" Feng fell to the ground in obeisance and thanked him. The emperor said, "Which one killed the traitorous general?" Feng then had the general in question kneel before the emperor's carriage, and said, "This man is from Yang County, Hedong Commandery. His surname is Xu, his given name is Huang, and his style name is Gongming.[14] The emperor commended him. Yang Feng escorted the emperor's carriage until Huayin, where they stopped for the evening. General Duan Wei provided them with food and clothing. That night, the Son of Heaven slept in Yang Feng's camp.

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Having lost in battle, Guo Si directed his army to attack the enemy's camp the following day. Xu Huang rode out ahead on his horse, and found that Guo Si's main army had surrounded them on all sides, with the Son of Heaven and Yang Feng trapped in the middle. Just as their situation started to seem hopeless, a large commotion suddenly arose from the southeast. A general was leading his army from horseback on a murderous charge, causing the bandit group to flee in disarray. Xu Huang took advantage of the situation and mounted an attack. Si's army suffered a major defeat. The person that had come to see the Son of Heaven was his father-in-law Dong Cheng. The emperor tearfully recounted to him all that had happened. Cheng said, "Don't worry, Your Majesty. I and General Yang promise that we will kill the two rebels and bring peace to the nation." The emperor gave the order to depart at once for the eastern capital. The emperor's carriage travelled night and day toward Hongnong.

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Let us now turn to Guo Si, whose defeated army was now in retreat. Along the way, he ran into Li Jue. Si said, "Yang Feng and Dong Cheng have rescued the emperor's carriage, and have departed for Hongnong. If they make it to the east of the mountains, they will be able to establish a firm foothold, and will be able to tell the whole world of their plight. This will cause all of the members of nobility to come after us, which could put the lives of our parents, siblings, and children in jeopardy." Jue said, "Zhang Ji is presently in control of Chang'an. We must not act rashly. You and I should combine our forces. If we can kill the Han ruler in Hongnong, we can divide the nation between us. After that, the sky is the limit." Si happily agreed to the plan. The two men combined forces, looting along the way, leaving desolation in their wake. When Yang Feng and Dong Cheng found out that the rebel army was approaching in the distance, they gathered up their troops and fought a major battle with the rebels at Dongjian.

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Jue and Si conferred with each other, "They are many and we are few. Our only chance of winning is to attack indiscriminately." Then, with Li Jue on the left and Guo Si on the right, their armies swarmed over the mountains and plains. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng both fought desperately, but they only managed to escape with the carriage of the emperor and empress. The rest of the government officials, palace attendants, imperial instruments of authority, papers, records, and all of the emperor's personal effects were abandoned. Guo Si led his army into Hongnong in order to pillage whatever they could get their hands on. Cheng and Feng escorted the emperor to the north of the pass, with Jue and Si following close on their heels. Cheng and Feng sent someone to negotiate a truce with Jue and Si while, at the same time, sending off a secret imperial decree to Hedong. The decree requested emergency assistance from the armies of three former White Wave generals: Han Xian, Li Yue and Hu Cai. Li Yue also happened to be a notorious bandit, but Cheng and Feng had no choice. When the three men heard that the Son of Heaven would be granting them pardons as well as official ranks, how could they not come? They gathered up their main forces and went to meet with Dong Cheng, so that they could together take back Hongnong.

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Wherever Li Jue and Guo Si went, they plundered the local populace. The old and the weak were killed, and the strong ones were conscripted into their armies. Whenever encountering the enemy, they would force the citizen conscripts out in front, calling them the "army that does not fear death." The bandits had become quite formidable. Li Yue's army arrived, engaging the rebels at Weiyang.[15] Guo Si ordered his men to discard clothing and other items on the ground. When Yue's army saw all the clothing on the ground, they broke formation in order to collect it. Their ranks fell into complete disarray. The two armies of Jue and Si attacked them from all sides. Yue's army suffered a major defeat. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng were unable to block the enemy's advance, and escorted the emperor northward, with the rebels in hot pursuit. Li Yue said, "The situation is dire! The Son of Heaven should get on a horse and go on ahead!" The emperor said, "I cannot abandon the hundreds of court officials."

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The emperor's retinue followed behind, sobbing all the while. Hu Cai had been killed in all the confusion. When Cheng and Feng saw that the rebels were fast approaching, they asked the Son of Heaven to abandon his carriage and walk. When they arrived at the bank of the Yellow River, Li Yue and his men were able to find a small boat that was suitable for use as a ferry. It was precisely at this time that the weather had turned bitterly cold. The emperor and empress each struggled to prop up the other as they made their way to the river's edge. The enemy was almost upon them, but the banks of the river were high above the water and they were unable to get down to the boat. Yang Feng said, "We could take the reins off of the horses and tie them together. One end could be fastened around the emperor's waist, so that he could be hoisted down to the boat." Fu De, the older brother of the empress, emerged from the crowd carrying ten or more bolts of white silk. He said, "I managed to gather up this silk in all the confusion. We can tie it all together in order to hoist him down." Army captain Shang Hong made a harness for the emperor and empress, then ordered his men to first lower the emperor to the boat. With the emperor now on board, Li Yue stood at the bow of the boat, straight sword in hand. Fu De made his way down to the boat with the empress on his back. On the bank, some of the people who were not able to board the boat fought to keep hold of the boat ties. Li Yue slashed at them, causing them to fall into the water. Once the emperor and empress were across, he sent back the boat for the rest. Many fought to get aboard, only to end up with their fingers chopped off. The crying and wailing shook the heavens.

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After everyone had been ferried across the river, little more than ten of the emperor's attendants remained. Yang Feng managed to find an oxcart. He used the cart to transport the emperor to Dayang. Their food supplies exhausted, they stayed that night at a small house with a tiled roof. An old farmer came in with some millet for the emperor and empress to eat. The grains were so coarse, they could not swallow them. The following day, the emperor issued a decree promoting Li Yue to General who Conquers the North and Han Xian to General who Conquers the East. With that, the emperor set out again. Two prominent officials found the emperor's entourage, tearfully kneeling in front of his cart. It was Grand Commandant Yang Biao and Minister Coachman Han Rong. The emperor and empress both cried. Han Rong said, "The traitors Jue and Si will most likely believe what I tell them. I will risk my life in order to try and convince them to call off their troops. Until then, take care of yourself, Your Majesty."

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After Han Rong left, Li Yue asked the emperor to rest for a while in Yang Feng's camp. Yang Biao asked the emperor to set up a capital in Anyi County. The emperor travelled to Anyi, a rather harsh and desolate place, with no large buildings. The emperor and empress both lived in a thatched cottage with no doors. A fence of thorns was erected on all four sides for protection. The emperor and his ministers discussed official business in the thatched cottage. The generals posted troops along the perimeter of the fence in order to suppress potential intrusions. Li Yue and his cronies tried to monopolize power. If any of the officials committed even the slightest offense, he or one of his men would curse and beat that individual in the presence of the emperor. He intentionally sent murky wine and coarse food to the emperor. The emperor forced himself to accept it. Li Yue and Han Xian also jointly signed imperial petitions to promote over 200 individuals, nearly all of whom were convicted criminals, military underlings, witch doctors and other hangers-on. These men were given official positions such as Captain and Imperial Oversight Advisor. The demand for official seals was so high, they had to resort to using awls to carve the seal inscriptions. It was a thoroughly sordid affair.

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Let us now turn to Han Rong, who had gone to persuade Jue and Si to call off their pursuit. The two rebels agreed, and released all of the officials and palace attendants that they had detained. That year was marked by famine. The populace was reduced to eating wild herbs. The corpses of people who had died of starvation littered the countryside. Henei Commandery Governor Zhang Yang donated rice and meat to the emperor and his retinue. Hedong Commandery Governor Wang Yi donated silk for clothing. Because of this, the emperor was somewhat better off than the rest. Dong Cheng and Yang Feng talked things over. They wanted to send people to repair the palace at Luoyang, while arranging for the emperor's carriage to return to the eastern capital. Li Yue did not agree with their plan. Dong Cheng said to Li Yue, "Luo Yang is the place where the Sons of Heaven had originally established the capital. Anyi is a small place. How could it possibly accommodate the emperor and his court? It makes more sense to arrange for the emperor to return to Luoyang." Li Yue said, "You all arrange for the emperor to go. I'm staying here."

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Cheng and Feng arranged for the emperor to get underway. Li Yue secretly ordered someone to inform Li Jue and Guo Si that he wanted to join forces with them in order to kidnap the emperor. When Dong Cheng, Yang Feng and Han Xian learned of his plot, they arranged for their soldiers to escort the emperor non-stop to Ji Pass.[16] When Li Yue heard about this, he decided to not wait for the armies of Jue and Si to arrive. Instead, he led his main force in pursuit. By around the fourth watch,[17] his army had arrived at the foot of Mount Ji.[18] He yelled out, "Stop the imperial carriage! It's Li Jue and Guo Si! It scared the Emperor Xian so much, it caused him to shake. The firelight from all of the torches lit up the mountain. It was a case of:

Last time, two bandits split everything between them; this time, three bandits join forces and become one.

Don't know how the Han Son of Heaven got out of this bind? Keep reading, and all will be explained.

Notes edit

  1. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 30 li would have been 12.474 km (~7.746354 miles).
  2. The first lines of the poem are a recap of the opening paragraph of Chapter 1.
  3. This is a refrain of a line in a poem from Chapter 3.
  4. See Chapter 8.
  5. One hu was equivalent to 20 liters. five hu was equivalent to 100 liters (21.997 gallons).
  6. Huangfu Li is the nephew of Huangfu Song.
  7. See Chapter 10.
  8. i.e. Hu Miao. Jingcai is Hu Miao's style name.
  9. A quote from Guoyu.
  10. between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm
  11. between 1:00am and 3:00am
  12. According to the Chinese concept of Wu Xing (five phases), metal is the phase that represents Autumn.
  13. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 20 li would have been 8.316 km (~5.164 miles).
  14. Gongming literally means: Shining fairness.
  15. Records of Three Kingdoms describes the same episode as having taken place in Caoyang (曹陽 - southwest of present day Shan County, Henan). Therefore, it is now generally thought that "Weiyang" may have actually been a copy error.
  16. Ji Pass is west of present day Jiyuan and south of present day Mount Wangwu.
  17. between 1:00am and 3:00am
  18. Near Ji Pass.