Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义)

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Attributed to
Luo Guanzhong
(Circa 1300–1400)
Translated by
C.H. Brewitt-Taylor
Edited by
Snow N. Snow

Chapter 29

The Little Chief of the South Slays Gan Ji
The Green Eyed Boy Lays Hold on the South Land

Sun Ce gradually became supreme on the southeast of the Great River. In the fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 199), he took Lujiang by the defeat of the Governor Liu Xun. He dispatched Yu Fan with a dispatch to Governor Hua Xin of Yuzhang, and Hua Xin surrendered. Thence Sun Ce’s renown increased, and he boldly sent a memorial on his military successes to the Emperor by the hand of Zhang Hong.

Cao Cao saw in Sun Ce a powerful rival and said, “He is a lion difficult to contend with.”

So Cao Cao betrothed his niece, daughter of Cao Ren, to Sun Kuang, the youngest brother of Sun Ce, thus connecting the two families by marriage. Cao Cao also retained Zhang Hong near him in the capital.

Then Sun Ce sought the title of Grand Commander, one of the highest offices of state, but Cao Cao prevented the attainment of this ambition, and Sun Ce keenly resented it. Henceforward his thoughts turned toward an attack on Cao Cao.

About this time the Governor of Wujun, Xu Gong, sent a secret letter to the capital to Cao Cao, saying:

Sun Ce is a turbulent fellow of the Xiang Yu [Xiang Ji] type. The government ought, under the appearance of showing favor to him, to recall him to the capital, for he is a danger in the southern regions.”

But the bearer of this letter was captured on the Great River and sent to Sun Ce, who immediately put him to death. Then Sun Ce treacherously sent to ask the author of the letter to come and consult over some affair. The unsuspecting Xu Gong came.

Sun Ce produced the letter, saying, “So you wish to send me to the land of the dead, eh?”

And thereupon the executioners came in and strangled Xu Gong. The family of the victim scattered, but three of his clients determined to avenge him if only they could find some means of attacking Sun Ce.

One day Sun Ce went hunting in the hills to the west of Dantu. A stag was started, and Sun Ce pressed after it at topmost speed and followed it deep into the forest. Presently he came upon three armed men standing among the trees. Rather surprised to see them there, he reined in and asked who they were.

“We belong to Han Dang’s army and are shooting deer,” was the reply.

So Sun Ce shook his bridle to proceed. But just as he did so, one of the men thrust at him with a spear and wounded his thigh. Sun Ce drew the sword at his side, dashed forward, and tried to cut down the aggressor. The blade of his sword suddenly fell to the ground, only the hilt remaining in his hand. Then one of the assassins drew his bow, and an arrow wounded Sun Ce in the cheek. Sun Ce plucked out the arrow and shot at the offender, who fell, but the other two attacked him furiously with their spears, shouting, “We are Xu Gong’s men and his avengers!”

Sun Ce then understood. But he had no weapons save his bow against them. He tried to draw off, keeping them at bay striking with his bow. But the fight was getting too much for him, and both he and his steed were wounded in several places. However, just at the critical moment, Cheng Pu and some of his own officers came up, and they minced the assassins into pieces.

But their lord was in a sorry plight. His face was streaming with blood, and some of the wounds were very severe. They tore up his robe and therewith bound up his wounds, and they carried him home.

A poem in praise of the three avengers says:

O Sun Ce was a warrior and a stranger he to fear.
But he was basely murdered while hunting of the deer.
Yet were they leal who slew him, to avenge a murdered lord.
Self immolated like Yu Rang, they dreaded not the sword.

Badly wounded, Sun Ce was borne to his home. They sent to call the famous physician Hua Tuo, but he was far away and could not be found. However, a disciple of his came, and the wounded man was committed to his care.

“The arrowheads were poisoned,” said the physician, “and the poison has penetrated deep. It will take a hundred days of perfect repose before danger will be past. But if you give way to passion or anger, the wounds will not heal.”

Sun Ce’s temperament was hasty and impatient, and the prospect of such a slow recovery was very distasteful. However, he remained quiet for some twenty of the hundred days. Then came Zhang Hong from the capital, and Sun Ce insisted on seeing and questioning him.

Cao Cao fears you, my lord, very greatly,” said Zhang Hong, “and his advisers have exceeding respect for you—all except Guo Jia.”

“What did Guo Jia say?” asked the sick chieftain.

Zhang Hong remained silent, which only irritated his master and caused him to demand to be told. So Zhang Hong had to speak the truth.

He said, “The fact is Guo Jia told Cao Cao that he needed not fear you, that you were frivolous and unready, impulsive and shallow, just a stupid swaggerer who would one day come to his death at the hands of some mean person.”

This provoked the sick man beyond endurance.

“The fool, how dare he say this of me?” cried Sun Ce. “I will take Xuchang from Cao Cao, I swear.”

It was no more a question of repose. Ill as he was, he wanted to begin preparations for an expedition at once. They remonstrated with him, reminded him of the physician’s orders and urged him to rest.

“You are risking your priceless self in a moment’s anger,” said Zhang Zhao.

Then arrived Chen Zhen, the messenger from Yuan Shao, and Sun Ce would have him brought in.

He said, “My master wishes to ally himself with the South Land in an attack on Cao Cao.”

Such a proposal was just after Sun Ce’s heart. At once he called a great meeting of his officers in the wall tower and prepared a banquet in honor of the messenger. While this was in progress, Sun Ce noticed many of his officers whispering to each other, and they all began to go down from the banquet chamber. He could not understand this and inquired of the attendants near him what it meant.

They told him, “Saint Gan Ji has just gone by, and the officers have gone down to pay their respects to him.”

Sun Ce rose from his place and went and leaned over the railing to look at the man. He saw a Daoist priest in snowy garb leaning on his staff in the middle of the road, while the crowd about him burnt incense and made obeisance.

“What wizard fellow is this? Bring him here!” said Sun Ce.

“This is Gan Ji,” said the attendants. “He lives in the east and goes to and fro distributing charms and draughts. He has cured many people as everybody will tell you, and they say he is a saint. He must not be profaned.”

This only angered Sun Ce the more, and he told them to arrest the man at once or disobey at their peril. So there being no help for it, they went down into the road and hustled the saint up the steps.

“You madman! How dare you incite people to evil?” said Sun Ce.

“I am but a poor priest of the Langye Mountains. More than half a century ago, when gathering simples in the woods, I found near the Yangqu Spring a book called The Way of Peace. It contains a hundred and more chapters and taught me how to cure the diseases of humans. With this in my possession I had only one thing to do: To devote myself to spreading its teachings and saving humankind. I have never taken any thing from the people. Can you say I incite people to evil deeds?”

“You say you take nothing: Whence came your clothes and your food? The fact is you are one of the Yellow Scarves, and you will work mischief if you are left alive.”

Then turning to his attendants, Sun Ce ordered, “Take him away and put him to death.”

Zhang Zhao interceded, “The Daoist Saint has been here in the east these many years. He has never done any harm and does not deserve death or punishment.”

“I tell you I will kill these wizard fellows just as I would cattle.”

The officials in a body interceded, even the guest of honor, Chen Zhen, but in vain. Sun Ce refused to be placated. He ordered Gan Ji to be imprisoned.

The banquet came to an end, and Chen Zhen retired to his lodging. Sun Ce also returned to his palace.

His treatment of the Daoist Holy Man was theme of general conversation and soon reached the ears of his mother.

Lady Wu sent for her son to the ladies’ apartments and said to him, “They tell me you have put Saint Gan Ji in bonds. He has cured many sick people, and the common folk hold him in great reverence. Do not harm him!”

“He is simply a wizard who upsets the multitude with his spells and craft. He must be put to death,” replied Sun Ce.

Lady Wu entreated him to stay his hand, but he was obstinate.

“Do not heed the gossip of the streets, Mother,” said he. “I must be judge of these matters.”

However, Sun Ce sent to the prison for Gan Ji in order to interrogate him. Now the gaolers, having a great respect for Gan Ji and faith in his powers, were very indulgent to him and did not keep him in the collar. However when Sun Ce sent for him, they put on him with collar and fetters all complete.

Sun Ce had heard of their indulgence and punished the gaolers, and ordered the prisoner thereafter to be put in constant torture. Zhang Zhao and many others, moved by pity, made a petition which they humbly presented, and they offered to become surety for him.

Sun Ce said to them, “Gentlemen, you are all great scholars, but why do you not understand reason? Formerly in Jiaozhou was Imperial Protector Zhang Jing, who was deluded by these vicious doctrines into beating drums, twanging lyres, burning incense, and such things. He wore a red turban and represented himself as able to ensure victory to an army. But he was slain by the enemy. There is nothing in all this, only none of you will see it. I am going to put this fellow to death in order to stop the spread of this pernicious doctrine.”

Lü Fan interposed, saying, “I know very well this Gan Ji can control the weather. It is very dry just now, why not make him pray for rain as an amercement?”

“We will see what sort of witchcraft he is equal to,” said Sun Ce.

Thereupon he had the prisoner brought in, loosed his fetters, and sent him up to an altar to intercede for rain.

The docile Daoist Gan Ji prepared to do as he was bidden. He first bathed himself, then dressed himself in clean garments. After that he bound his limbs with a cord and lay down in the fierce heat of the sun. The people came in crowds to look on.

Said Gan Ji, “I will pray for three spans high of refreshing rain for the benefit of the people, nevertheless I shall not escape death thereby.”

The people said, “But if your prayer be efficacious, our lord must believe in your powers.”

“The day of fate has come for me, and there is no escape.”

Presently Sun Ce came near the altar and announced that if rain had not fallen by noon, he would burn the priest. And to confirm this he bade them prepare the pyre.

As it neared noon a strong wind sprang up, and the clouds gathered from all quarters. But there was no rain.

“It is near noon,” said Sun Ce. “Clouds are of no account without rain. He is only an impostor.”

Sun Ce bade his attendants lay the priest on the pyre and pile wood around him and apply the torch. Fanned by the gale the flames rose rapidly. Then appeared in the sky above a wreath of black vapor, followed by roaring thunder and vivid lightning, peal on peal and flash on flash. And the rain fell in a perfect deluge. In a short time the streets became rivers and torrents. It was indeed a three-span fall.

Gan Ji, who was still lying upon the pile of firewood, cried in a loud voice, “O Clouds, cease thy rain, and let the glorious sun appear!”

Thereupon officials and people helped the priest down, loosened the cord that bound him, and bowed before him in gratitude for the rain.

But Sun Ce boiled with rage at seeing his officers and the people gathered in groups and kneeling in the water regardless of the damage to their clothing.

“Rain or shine are as nature appoints them, and the wizard has happened to hit upon a moment of change. What are you making all this fuss about?” cried he.

Then he drew his sword and told the attendants to smite the Daoist Saint therewith. They all besought him to hold his hand.

“You want to follow Gan Ji in rebellion, I suppose,” cried Sun Ce.

The officers, now thoroughly cowed by the rage of their lord, were silent and showed no opposition when the executioners seized the Daoist Saint and beheaded him.

As the head fell, they saw just a wreath of black smoke drift away to the northeast where lay the Langye Mountains.

The corpse was exposed in the market place as a warning to enchanters and wizards and such people. That night there came a very violent storm, and when it calmed down at daylight, there was no trace of the body of Gan Ji. The guards reported this, and Sun Ce in his wrath sentenced them to death. But as he did so, he saw Gan Ji calmly walking toward him as if the Daoist Saint were still alive. Sun Ce drew his sword and darted forward to strike at the wraith, but he fainted and fell to the ground.

They carried him to his chamber, and in a short time he recovered consciousness.

His mother, Lady Wu, came to visit him and said, “My son, you have done wrong to slay the holy one, and this is your retribution.”

“Mother, when I was a boy, I went with Father to wars, where people are cut down as one cuts reed stalks. There is not much retribution about such doings. I have put this fellow to death and so checked a great evil. Where does retribution come in?”

“This comes of want of faith,” she replied. “Now you must avert the evil by meritorious deeds.”

“My fate depends on Heaven. Wizards can do me no harm, so why avert anything?”

His mother saw that it was useless to try persuasion, but she told his attendants to do some good deeds secretly whereby the evil should be turned aside.

That night about the third watch, as Sun Ce lay in his chamber, he suddenly felt a chill breeze, which seemed to extinguish the lamps for a moment, although they soon brightened again; and he saw in the lamp light the form of Gan Ji standing near his bed.

Sun Ce said, “I am the sworn foe of witchcraft, and I will purge the world of all such as deal in magic. You are a spirit, and how dare you approach me?”

Reaching down a sword that hung at the head of his bed, he hurled it at the phantom, which then disappeared. When his mother heard this story, her grief redoubled. Sun Ce, ill as he was, went to see his mother and did his utmost to reassure her.

She said, “Confucius [Kong Qiu] the Teacher says: ‘How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them!’ and ‘Prayer has been made to the spirits of the upper and lower worlds.’ You must have faith. You sinned in putting Saint Gan Ji to death, and retribution is sure. I have already sent to have sacrifices performed at the Jade Pure Monastery, and you should go in person to pray. May all come right!”

Sun Ce could not withstand such a mandate from his mother so, mustering all his strength, he managed to get into a sedan chair and went to the monastery, where the Daoists received him respectfully and begged him to light the incense. He did so, but he returned no thanks. To the surprise of all, the smoke from the brazier, instead of floating upwards and dissipating, collected in a mass that gradually shaped itself into an umbrella, and there on the top sat Gan Ji.

Sun Ce simply spat abuse and went out of the temple. As he passed the gates, lo! Gan Ji stood there gazing at him with angry eyes.

“Do you see that wizard fellow?” said he to those about him.

They said they saw nothing. More angry than ever, he flung his sword at the figure by the gate. The sword struck one of his escorts who fell. Sun Ce told them to bury the man. But as he went out of the courtyard, he saw Gan Ji walking in.

“This temple is nothing more than a lurking place for sorcerers and wizards and such people,” said Sun Ce.

Whereupon he took a seat in front of the building and sent for five hundred soldiers to pull the place down. When they went up on the roof to strip off the tiles, Sun Ce saw Gan Ji standing on the main beam flicking tiles to the ground. More angry than ever, Sun Ce told them to drive out the priests belonging to the place and burn it. They did so, and when the flames rose their highest, Sun Ce saw the dead Daoist Gan Ji standing in the midst of the fire.

Sun Ce returned home still in a bad humor, which increased when he saw the form of Gan Ji standing at his gate. He would not enter but mustered his army and went into camp outside the city walls. And there he summoned his officers to meet him and talk over joining Yuan Shao in an attack on Cao Cao.

They assembled, but they remonstrated with him and begged him to consider his precious health. That night he slept in the camp and again saw Gan Ji, this time with his hair hanging loose. Sun Ce raged at the vision without cessation.

Next day his mother called him into the city and he went. She was shocked at the change in his appearance: He looked so utterly miserable. Her tears fell.

“My son,” said Lady Wu, “how wasted you are!”

He had a mirror brought and looked at himself. He was indeed so gaunt and thin that he was almost frightened and exclaimed, “How do I come to look so haggard?”

While he spoke, Gan Ji appeared in the mirror. He struck it and shrieked. Then the half healed wounds reopened and he fainted.

He was raised and borne within. When he recovered consciousness, he said, “This is the end. I shall die.”

He sent for Zhang Zhao and his other chief officers and his brother, Sun Quan, and they gathered in his chamber.

He gave them his dying charge, saying, “In the disordered state of the empire, the domains of Wu and Yue, with its strong defense of the three rivers and resourceful lands, has a brilliant future. You, Zhang Zhao, must assist my brother.”

So saying Sun Ce handed his seal to Sun Quan, saying, “For manipulating the might of Wu so as to make it the deciding force among the factions and then obtaining the whole empire, you are not so suited as I. But in encouraging the wise and confiding in the able and getting the best out of everyone for the preservation of this land, I should not succeed as you will. Remember with what toil and labor your father and I have won what we possess, and take good care thereof.”

Sun Quan wept as he knelt to receive the seal, and the dying Sun Ce turned to his mother, saying, “Mother, the days allotted of Heaven have run out, and I can no longer serve my tender mother. I have given over the seal to my brother and trust that you will advise him early and late, and see that he lives worthy of his predecessors.”

“Alas! Your brother is full young for such a task,” said his mother, weeping. “I know not what may happen.”

“He is far abler than I and fully equal to the task of ruling. Should he have doubts upon internal affairs, he must turn to Zhang Zhao; for outer matters he must consult Zhou Yu. It is a pity Zhou Yu is absent so that I cannot give him my charge face to face.”

To his brothers Sun Ce said, “When I am gone, you must help your brother. Should any discord arise in the family, let the others punish the wrongdoer and let not his ashes mingle with those of his ancestors in the family vaults.”

The young men wept at these words.

Then he called for his wife, Lady Qiao, and said, “Unhappily we have to part while still in the full vigor of life. You must care for my mother. Your sister will come to see you presently, and you can ask her to tell her husband, Zhou Yu, to help my brother in all things and make my brother keep to the way I have taught him to walk in.”

Then Sun Ce closed his eyes and soon after passed away. He was only twenty-six.

People called him first of the chieftains,
The east had felt his might,
He watched like a tiger crouching.
Struck as a hawk in flight.
There was peace in the lands he ruled.
His fame ran with the wind.
But he died and left to another.
The great scheme in his mind.

As his brother breathed his last, Sun Quan sank by the bed and wept.

“This is not the time to mourn,” said Zhang Zhao. “First see to the funeral ceremonies and that the government is safe.”

So the new ruler dried his tears. The superintendence of the funeral was confided to Sun Jing, and then Zhang Zhao led his young master to the hall to receive the felicitations of his officers.

Sun Quan was endowed with a square jaw and a large mouth; he had green eyes and a purple beard.

Formerly, when Minister Liu Wan had gone to Wu to visit the Sun family, he said of the family of brothers, “I have looked well at them all, and they are all clever and perspicacious, but none of them have the very ultimate degree of good fortune. Only the second, Sun Quan, has the look of a deep thinker. His face is remarkable, and his build unusual, and he has the look of one who will come to great honor.”

When Sun Quan succeeded to his brother and his brother’s might, there was still some reorganization to be done. Soon Zhou Yu had arrived at Wujun.

The young ruler received him very graciously and said, “I need have no anxiety now that you have come.”

Zhou Yu had been sent to hold Baqiu. When he heard that his chief had been wounded, he thought it well to return to see how he was. But Sun Ce had died before Zhou Yu could arrive. He hurried to be present at the funeral.

When Zhou Yu went to wail at the coffin of his late chief, Lady Wu, the dead man’s mother, came out to deliver her son’s last injunctions.

When she had told him the last charge, Zhou Yu bowed to the earth, saying, “I shall exert the puny powers I have in your service as long as I live.”

Shortly after Sun Quan came in, and, after receiving Zhou Yu’s obeisance, said, “I trust you will not forget my brother’s charge to you.”

Zhou Yu bowed, saying, “I would willingly suffer any form of death for you.”

“How best can I maintain this great charge which I have inherited from my father and brother?”

“He who wins people, prospers; he who loses them, fails. Your present plan should be to seek people of high aims and farseeing views, and you can establish yourself firmly.”

“My brother bade me consult Zhang Zhao for internal administration, and yourself on external matters,” said Sun Quan.

Zhang Zhao is wise and understanding and equal to such a task. I am devoid of talent and fear to take such responsibility, but I venture to recommend to you as a helper one Lu Su, a man of Linhuai. This man’s bosom hides strategy, and his breast conceals tactics. He lost his father in early life and has been a perfectly filial son to his mother. His family is rich and renowned for charity to the needy. When I was stationed at Juchao, I led some hundreds of soldiers across Linhuai. We were short of grain. Hearing that the Lu family had two granaries there, each holding three thousand carts, I went to ask for help. Lu Su pointed to one granary and said, ‘Take that as a gift.’ Such was his generosity!

“He has always been fond of fencing and horse archery. He was living in Que. His grandmother died while he was there, and he went to bury her in Dongcheng, and then his friend, Liu Ziyang, wished to engage him to go to Chaohu and join Zheng Bao. However, he hesitated about that and has not gone yet. You should invite him without loss of time.”

Sun Quan at once sent Zhou Yu to engage the services of this man, and Zhou Yu set out. When the obeisance was over, Zhou Yu laid before Lu Su the inducements that his own master held out.

Lu Su replied, “I have been engaged by Liu Ziyang to go to Chaohu, and I am just starting thither.”

Said Zhou Yu, “Of old Ma Yuan said to Emperor Guangwu [Liu Xiu], ‘This is an age when not only do princes select their ministers, but ministers must also choose their princes.’ Now our General Sun Quan calls to him the wise and treats his officers well. Thus he engages the help of the wonderful and gets the services of the extraordinary in a way that few others do. But if you are not engaged elsewhere, come with me to the South Land as the best thing to do.”

Lu Su returned with Zhou Yu and saw Sun Quan, who treated him with the greatest deference and with him discussed affairs very fully. The conference proved so interesting that it went on all day and neither felt fatigue.

One day at the close of the usual reception, Sun Quan kept Lu Su to dine with him. They sat up late and by and by slept on the same couch as would the closest of friends.

In the dead of night Sun Quan said to his bedfellow, “The dynasty is failing, and everything is at sixes and sevens. I have received a great charge from my father and brother, and I am thinking of imitating the actions of the celebrated Protectors of Reign, Wen and Huan, and becoming the leader of the feudal lords, and I pray you instruct me.”

Lu Su replied, “Of old the Liu Bang [Gaozu], the Liu Bang [Gaozu], wished to honor and serve Emperor Yi of Qin, but could not on account of Xiang Yu [Xiang Ji]’s evildoings. Now Cao Cao can be compared with Xiang Yu [Xiang Ji]: How can you be the protector of the Emperor? My humble opinion is that the Hans have fallen beyond hope of recovery and Cao Cao cannot be destroyed, and that the only key to your big schemes is to secure your present position in order to keep the master hand and control the combinations among the others. Now take advantage of the turmoil in the north to smite Huang Zu and attack Liu Biao in Jingzhou. Thereby you will command the whole length of the Great River. Then you may consolidate the empire and become the Son of Heaven. This was how the Liu Bang [Gaozu] acted.”

Hearing this Sun Quan was very greatly pleased. He threw on some clothing, got up, and thanked his newly-found adviser. Next day Sun Quan gave Lu Su costly gifts and sent robes and silks to his mother.

Lu Su then recommended a friend of his to Sun Quan’s notice, a man of wide reading and great ability. He was also a filial son. His name was Zhuge Jin, and he came from Nanyang. Sun Quan treated Zhuge Jin as a superior guest. This man dissuaded Sun Quan from making common cause with Yuan Shao, but advised him rather to favor Cao Cao, against whom he could plan when occasion served. Sun Quan therefore sent back the messenger Chen Zhen with dispatches that broke off all negotiations.

Hearing of Sun Ce’s death, Cao Cao was for sending an expedition against the south.

But Zhang Hong dissuaded him, saying, “It would be mean to take advantage of the period of mourning. And if you should not overcome him, you will make him an enemy instead of being a friend. It would be preferable to treat him generously.”

So Cao Cao memorialized the Throne and obtained for Sun Quan the title of General and Governor of Kuaiji, while Zhang Hong was appointed Commander under Sun Quan.

And a seal of office was sent to Sun Quan by Zhang Hong. The new appointment pleased Sun Quan, and he was greatly glad to get Zhang Hong back again. Then Zhang Hong was sent to act jointly with Zhang Zhao in the administration.

Zhang Hong was the means of getting another into Sun Quan’s service. His friend was Gu Yong, a disciple of the Historian Cai Yong. Gu Yong was a man of few words and an abstainer from wine. He was very correct in all things. Sun Quan appointed Gu Yong Deputy Governor.

Henceforward Sun Quan’s rule was very prosperous, and he waxed mightily in influence and won the love of all the people.

When Chen Zhen had returned and related the events in the South Land and told of the honors that Cao Cao had obtained for Sun Quan in return for his support, Yuan Shao was very wroth, and he set about preparing for an attack on Xuchang with a force of seven hundred thousand northern soldiers.

Although in the south they rest from war,
They rattle the spears beneath the northern star.

Later it will be seen which side conquered.