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 87

Conquering the South Mang, the Prime Minister Marches the Army
Opposing Heaven Troops, the King of the Mangs Is Captured

With Prime Minister Zhuge Liang’s administration of affairs in the two River Lands began a period of happiness and prosperity for the people. Tranquillity prevailed, and the state of society was well nigh perfect: Doors unbolted at night, property left by the roadside remaining untouched till the owner returned for it. Moreover, the harvests were rich year after year, and old and young, with fair, round bellies, well lined, simply sang with joy. The people hastened to fulfill their state duties and vied with each other in the performance of all arts. As a natural consequence all military preparations were perfect, the granaries bursting with grain and the treasury full to overflowing.

Such was the state of things when, in the third year of Beginning Prosperity (AD 225), the news came from Yizhou to the capital to report: “The Mang King, King Meng Huo, leading one hundred thousand Mang tribesmen, has invaded the south and is laying waste the country. Yong Kai, the Governor of Jianning, a descent of the Han Lord Yong Chi of Shifang, had joined King Meng Huo to rebel. Zhu Bao and Gao Ding, the Governors of Zangge and Yuesui, have yielded to the invaders. But the Governor of Yongchang, Wang Kang, is staunchly holding out. The three rebels—Yong Kai, Gao Ding, and Zhu Bao—who had joined the invaders, are now acting as guides and assisting in the attack on Yongchang, which has remained faithful. Governor Wang Kang, ably assisted by Lu Kai, his Deputy Governor, is making a all-out effort to defend the city with only its ordinary inhabitants as fighting men. The position is very desperate.”

When this news came, Zhuge Liang went into the Palace and thus memorialized to his lord, “The contumacy of the Mangs is a real danger to our state. I feel it incumbent upon me to lead an expedition to reduce the tribespeople to obedience.”

But the Latter Ruler was afraid, and said, “Sun Quan is in the east, and Cao Pi the north. If you abandon me and either of them comes, what shall I do?”

“Your Majesty need have no fear. We have just concluded a league of peace with Wu, and I think they will be true to their pledge. Li Yan in Baidicheng is quite a match for Lu Xun. Cao Pi’s recent defeat has taken the keenness out of his army, so that he will not feel inclined to make any expeditions further. Ma Chao is in command at the passes between Wei and Hanzhong. I shall also leave Guan Xing and Zhang Bao with forces to reinforce any point where danger may appear. I can assure Your Majesty that no untoward event will happen.

“I am going to sweep clean the Mang country, so that we may have a free hand to attack Wei when the day comes. Thus I shall be enabled to requite the honor paid me by your father the First Ruler, who came thrice to seek me and who doubled my obligation when he confided to me the care of his son.”

“Indeed I am young and ignorant,” replied the Latter Ruler, “and can only exist with you to decide for me.”

At that moment Counselor Wang Lian, a man of Nanyang, stepped forward, crying, “No, no, Sir; you may not go! The South Mang is a wild country reeking with malaria. It is wrong that an officer of state in such an exalted and responsible position should go away on a distant expedition. These rebels and tribespeople are but an irritation, not a disease, and an ordinary leader would be enough to send against them. He would not fail.”

Zhuge Liang replied, “This country of the Mangs is distant and mostly tribal. To pacify them will be difficult, and I feel I ought to go. When to be harsh and when to show leniency are matters to be decided on at the moment, and instructions cannot be easily given to another.”

Zhuge Liang steadily opposed all Wang Lian’s efforts to bring about a change of intention, and he soon took leave of the Latter Ruler and made ready to start.

Jiang Wan was Army Counselor of the expedition; Fei Yi, Secretary; Dong Jue and Fan Jian, Army Inspectors; Zhao Yun and Wei Yan, Commanders; Wang Ping and Zhang Yi, Deputy Commanders. Beside these were other half a hundred leaders and officers of Shu, and the whole force was five hundred thousand troops.

Soon after the force marched south to Yizhou, Guan Suo, the third son of Guan Yu, appeared and wished to see Zhuge Liang.

And Guan Suo said to him, “After the fall of Jingzhou, I was hidden by the Bao family from where I wanted to go to the River Lands to ask the First Ruler for a revenge for my father. But I fell in illness, which was long and severe, and I only just recovered. I was then traveling toward Chengdu to meet with the Latter Ruler, when I met the army in the south expedition. I know that vengeance has been taken on the murderers of my father. And now I want to present myself to the Prime Minster.”

Zhuge Liang was greatly affected to see him. He sent news of the young man’s arrival to the court and gave Guan Suo a post of Van Leader.

The army, foot and horse, marched in the best of order, eating when hungry, drinking when thirsty, camping at night, and moving by day. No plundering was permitted, and the people suffered not at all.

When Yong Kai and his fellow rebels heard that Zhuge Liang was marching against them, they called their troops together and formed three divisions, Gao Ding in the center, Yong Kai on the left, and Zhu Bao on the right. They mustered about fifty thousand troops in each army, and they went to oppose the march of the Shu army.

Gao Ding sent E Huan to lead the van. This E Huan was nine spans tall in stature, and savage of countenance. His weapon was a two-bladed halberd. He was very valiant and could face many warriors. He led his own cohort out in advance of the main body and fell in with the leading bodies of the Shu army immediately after they had got into Yizhou.

The two sides drew up for battle. The arrays being complete, Wei Yan rode out and vilified the rebels, shouting, “O malcontent! Be quick to surrender!”

Instead, E Huan galloped out and fought with Wei Yan. After a few bouts Wei Yan seemed to be bested and fled. But this was only a ruse. As E Huan followed, the gongs clanged and from left and right poured out Zhang Yi and Wang Ping. Wei Yan turned around, and three generals besieged and captured E Huan.

He was taken to the tent of Zhuge Liang, who bade his attendants loose his bonds, gave him wine, and comforted him.

Then Zhuge Liang asked, “Whom do you belong to?”

E Huan replied, “I am one of the generals under Gao Ding.”

“I know Gao Ding as a loyal and good sort, but he has been led away by this Yong Kai. Now I shall release you, but you are to bring Gao Ding to his senses and see to it that he comes to surrender and avoids grave disaster.”

E Huan thanked him and withdrew. He went to his own side and soon saw Gao Ding. He told Gao Ding what Zhuge Liang had said, and Zhuge Liang’s kindly feeling deeply affected Gao Ding.

Next day, Yong Kai came over to Gao Ding’s camp to visit him.

After the exchange of salutations, Yong Kai asked, “How did E Huan manage to return?”

Zhuge Liang released him out of pure kindness,” replied Gao Ding.

“This is a ruse of his to separate you from me: He wishes to make us enemies.”

Gao Ding almost believed this too, and he was much perplexed.

Just then the watchers reported that the leaders of Shu had come up and were offering battle. So Yong Kai led out thirty thousand troops to take up the challenge. But after the third encounter he fled. Wei Yan pursued him and smote for a distance of seven miles.

Next day Yong Kai challenged, but the soldiers of Shu refused to fight, and remained within their lines for three days. On the fourth day Yong Kai and Gao Ding divided their troops into two parts and came to attack the camp. Now Zhuge Liang had told Wei Yan to wait for this double attack, and so when it came to pass, both divisions fell into an ambush and suffered great loss, many being killed and more captured.

The prisoners were taken to the camp, and the soldiers belonging to the two leaders—Yong Kai and Gao Ding—were confined separately. Then Zhuge Liang told the soldiers to let it be known that only those belonging to Gao Ding would be spared, the others would be put to death. When time had been given for this story to spread among the prisoners, Yong Kai’s troops were brought up to the commander’s tent.

“Whose soldiers were you?” asked Zhuge Liang.

Gao Ding’s,” cried they all, falsely.

Then they were all pardoned, and, after being given wine and food, they were taken to the frontier and set free.

Next the real Gao Ding’s soldiers were brought forward, and the same question was put to them.

“We all really belong to Gao Ding’s command,” said they.

In like manner they were pardoned and refreshed with wine and food.

Then Zhuge Liang addressed them, saying, “Yong Kai has just sent a messenger to ask that he may surrender, and he offers to bring with him the heads of Gao Ding and Zhu Bao as a proof of merit. But I will not receive him, and you, since you are Gao Ding’s soldiers, shall be released and allowed to return to him. But let there be no ingratitude and fighting again, for if there is, I certainly will not pardon you next time.”

So they thanked their liberator and went away. As soon as they reached their own camp, they told the whole story. Then Gao Ding sent a spy to the camp of Yong Kai to find out what was doing. There the spy met those who had been released, and they were all talking about Zhuge Liang’s kindness, and many of them were inclined to desert their own camp for the other.

Although this seemed very satisfactory, yet Gao Ding did not feel convinced, and he sent another man to Zhuge Liang’s camp to try to verify the rumor. But this man was captured and taken before the Commander-in-Chief, who pretended that he thought the spy belonged to Yong Kai.

Zhuge Liang said to him, “Why has your leader failed to send me the heads of Gao Ding and Zhu Bao as he promised? You lot are not very clever, and what are you come to spy out?”

The soldier muttered and mumbled in confusion.

But Zhuge Liang gave the man wine and food, and then wrote a letter which he handed to the spy, saying, “You give this letter to your commander, Yong Kai, and tell him to get the job done quickly.”

The spy took the letter and got away. As soon as he reached camp, he gave the letter to Gao Ding and also the message.

Gao Ding read the missive and became very angry.

“I have ever been true to him, and yet he wants to kill me. It is hard to be either friendly or reasonable.”

Then he decided to take E Huan into his confidence, and called him.

E Huan was much prejudiced in favor of Zhuge Liang, and said, “Zhuge Liang is a most benevolent man, and it would be ill to turn our backs upon him. It is Yong Kai’s fault that we are now rebels, and our best course would be to slay him and betake ourselves to Zhuge Liang.”

“How could it be done?” asked Gao Ding.

“Invite him to a banquet. If he refuses, it means he is a traitor, and then you can attack him in front while I will lie in wait behind his camp to capture him as he runs away.”

They agreed to try this plan. The banquet was prepared, and Yong Kai invited. But as Yong Kai’s mind was full of suspicion from what his returned soldiers had said, he would not come. That night, as soon as darkness fell, Gao Ding attacked his camp.

Now the soldiers who had been released were imbued with the goodness of Gao Ding all quite ready to help him fight. On the other hand, Yong Kai’s troops mutinied against him, and so Yong Kai mounted his steed and fled. Before he had gone far, he found his road blocked by the cohort under E Huan, who galloped out with his halberd and confronted the fugitive. Yong Kai could not defend himself, and was struck down. E Huan decapitated him. As soon as they knew he was dead, his troops joined themselves to Gao Ding, who then went and surrendered to Zhuge Liang.

Zhuge Liang received Gao Ding sitting in state in his tent, but at once ordered the lictors to decapitate Gao Ding.

But Gao Ding said, “Influenced by your kindness, Sir, I have brought the head of my colleague as a proof of the sincerity of my surrender. Why should I die?”

“You come with false intent. Do you think you can hoodwink me?” said Zhuge Liang, laughing.

“What proof have you that I am false?”

Zhuge Liang drew a letter from his box, and said, “Zhu Bao sent this secretly to say he wished to surrender, and he said you and Yong Kai were sworn friends to death. How could you suddenly change your feelings and slay him? That is how I know your treachery.”

Zhu Bao only tried to make trouble,” cried Gao Ding, kneeling.

Zhuge Liang still refused to believe him, and said, “I cannot believe you without more solid proof. If you would slay Zhu Bao, I could take that as proving you were sincere in your surrender.”

“Do not doubt me. What if I go and capture this man?”

“If you did that, my doubts would be set at rest.”

Thereupon Gao Ding and his subordinate, E Huan, led away their troops to the camp of Zhu Bao. When they were about three miles from his camp, Zhu Bao appeared with a cohort. As soon as they recognized each other, Zhu Bao hastily came forward to parley.

But Gao Ding cried out to him, “Why did you write a letter to the Prime Minister and so intrigue with him to get me killed?”

Zhu Bao stared open mouthed and could not reply. Then E Huan rode out from behind his chief and struck Zhu Bao with his halberd so that he fell to the ground.

Thereupon Gao Ding shouted, “The soldiers should either yield or be slain!”

And they yielded in a body.

Gao Ding then went back to Zhuge Liang and offered the head of the man just slain.

Zhuge Liang laughed again. “I have made you kill both these as a proof of loyalty.”

Then he created Gao Ding Governor of Yizhou and chief of three territories, while E Huan was made General. Thus the three rebel divisions were disposed of and troubled the peace no more.

Governor Wang Kang of Yongchang then came out of the city and welcomed Zhuge Liang.

When Zhuge Liang had made his entry into that city, he called Wang Kang and asked, “Who has aided you in the defense of this city?”

The Governor said, “The safety of this city is due entirely to Lu Kai.”

So Lu Kai was called. He came and bowed.

Zhuge Liang said, “Long since I heard of you as a remarkable person of this area. We are greatly indebted to you for its safety. Now we wish to conquer the Mangs. Have you any advice to offer?”

Lu Kai then produced a map of the country and presented it, saying, “From the time of my appointment, I have felt certain that the southern tribespeople would rise against you, and so I sent secret agents to map out the country and find the strategic points. From that information I prepared this map, which I call ‘The Plan to Subdue the Mangs.’ I beg you, Sir, to accept it, as it may be of use.”

Zhuge Liang was very glad. He took Lu Kai into his service as Adviser and Army Guide. With Lu Kai’s help, Zhuge Liang advanced and penetrated deeply into the country.

While the army was advancing, there came a messenger from the court. When he appeared, Zhuge Liang saw it was Ma Su, and he was clothed in white. He was in mourning for his brother, Ma Liang, who had just died.

He said, “I come by special command of the Emperor with gifts of wine and silks for the soldiers.”

When the ceremonies proper on receipt of a mandate from the Emperor had been performed, and the gifts distributed as instructed, Ma Su was asked to remain to talk over matters.

Zhuge Liang said, “I have His Majesty’s command to conquer these Mangs. I hear you have some advice to offer, and I should be pleased if you would instruct me.”

“Yes. I have one thing to say that may be worth thinking over. These people refuse to recognize our supremacy, because they think their country is distant and difficult. If you should overcome them today, tomorrow they would revolt. Wherever your army marches, they are overcome and submit; but the day you withdraw the army and attack Cao Pi, they will renew their attack. In arms even it is best to attack hearts rather than cities; to fight with sentiment is better than to fight with weapons. It will be well if you can win them over.”

“You read my inmost thoughts,” said Zhuge Liang.

Then Ma Su was retained with the army as Adviser, and the army marched on.

When the King of the Mangs, King Meng Huo, heard how cleverly Zhuge Liang had got rid of Yong Kai, he called together the leaders of the “Three Ravines” to discuss matters. The chief of the first Ravine was Jinhuansanjie, of the second Dongtu Na, and of the third Ahui Nan.

These having come to the King’s place, he said to them, “Zhuge Liang of Shu and his Grand Army has invaded our country, and we must exert our united strength to drive out the invaders. You three must lead your forces, and whoever conquers the enemy shall be chief of chiefs.”

It was arranged that Jinhuansanjie should march in the center division, Dongtu Na on the left, and Ahui Nan on the right. Each division was fifty thousand tribesmen.

When the scouts made out that the Mang armies were coming, they at once told Zhuge Liang, who called Zhao Yun and Wei Yan to his side, but gave them no orders.

Next he sent for Wang Ping and Ma Zheng, and said to them, “I cannot send Zhao Yun and Wei Yan against the Mangs because they do not know the country. You two are to go, one against each wing, and the two veteran warriors shall support you. Get your troops ready and start tomorrow at dawn.”

Wang Ping and Ma Zheng took the orders and went out.

Then Zhang Yi and Zhang Ni were given orders: “You two are to march against the center army. You are to act with Wang Ping and Ma Zheng tomorrow. I want to send Zhao Yun and Wei Yan, but I am still afraid they do not know the country well.”

Zhang Yi and Zhang Ni also received the orders and went out.

Zhao Yun and Wei Yan now began to feel hurt.

Noticing this, Zhuge Liang said, “I have no wish to pass you over, you two, but I fear that if you get too deeply into the country and should fall victims to the Mangs, it will have an ill effect on the others.”

“But what if we did know the geography of the country?” said Zhao Yun.

“All I say to you is to be careful how you do anything,” replied Zhuge Liang.

The two soldiers left and went together to the camp of Zhao Yun.

Zhao Yun said, “We are greatly ashamed at being put in the background because we do not know the country. We cannot bear this.”

“Then let us ride out and survey,” said his colleague. “Let us capture a few natives and make them show us the road, and let us defeat these tribesmen.”

They rode off. Before they had gone far they saw a cloud of dust in the distance. Climbing a hill to get a better view, they saw a small party of mounted Mangs coming toward them. The two waited till they were near and then suddenly burst out. The Mangs, taken entirely by surprise, ran away all but a few, who yielded themselves prisoners. The two warriors returned to camp.

The prisoners were given wine and food. When they had satisfied their hunger, they were questioned.

Said they, “The camp of Chief Jinhuansanjie is just in front, just by the entrance to the mountains. Near the camp, running east and west, is the Five Valleys. The camps of the other two chiefs—Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan—are behind.”

Having listening to this information, Zhao Yun and Wei Yan got together five thousand troops, took the captured men as guides, and marched out about the second watch. It was a clear night, and the moon gave light to march by.

The first camp was reached about the fourth watch. The Mang soldiers were already awake and preparing their morning meal, as they intended to attack at daylight. Suddenly Zhao Yun and Wei Yan gave a signal of attack, and their troops poured forward. The vigorous and unexpected attack of the two generals threw the camp into confusion. Zhao Yun fought into the center of the camp and encountered Jinhuansanjie. Both leaders engaged, and Zhao Yun slew Jinhuansanjie by a spear thrust. Then Zhao Yun dismounted and cut off the head of the Chief.

Next Wei Yan took half the force and went west to the second camp, while Zhao Yun marched east to the third one. By the time they reached the camps, day had dawned. The Mangs also had news of Wei Yan’s coming, and drew up the camp to oppose. But when they had got clear, there was a great uproar behind them at the stockade gates, and confusion followed. The reason was the arrival of Wang Ping. Between the two bodies, the Mangs were beaten. Their Chief, Dongtu Na, forced his way out and got away. Wei Yan’s soldiers followed, but they could not catch him.

When Zhao Yun led his troops east to attack the third camp in the rear, Ma Zheng made an attack on the front. They scored a success, but the Chief Ahui Nan escaped.

They returned to headquarters, and Zhuge Liang said, “The three parties of Mangs have fled, and Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan escaped. Where is the head of Jinhuansanjie?”

Zhao Yun produced it. At the same time he reported: “Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan escaped by abandoning their horses and going over the hills. Therefore, they could not be followed.”

“They are already prisoners,” said Zhuge Liang with a laugh.

The fighting men could not credit it. But soon after Zhang Ni brought out Dongtu Na; and Zhang Yi, Ahui Nan.

When the Shu leaders expressed surprise and admiration, Zhuge Liang said, “I had studied the map and knew the positions of the camps. I taunted Zhao Yun and Wei Yan into making a supreme effort into the camp of Jinhuansanjie. At the same time I sent other forces under Wang Ping and Ma Zheng, with the purpose to support Zhao Yun and Wei Yan and to force Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan to flee. I felt certain the two chiefs would run away along those small roads, and I set soldiers under Zhang Ni and Zhang Yi on those roads to wait for them. They also were supported.”

They all bowed, saying, “The Prime Minister’s calculations are divine and incomprehensible.”

The two captive chiefs were then called. As soon as they appeared, Zhuge Liang loosed their bonds, gave them refreshments, and released them, bidding them offend no more. They thanked him for their liberty, and disappeared along a by-road.

Then Zhuge Liang said to his generals, “Tomorrow King Meng Huo will come in person to make an attack. We shall probably capture him.”

Then he summoned Zhao Yun and Wei Yan and gave them orders. They left, each with five thousand troops. Next he sent Wang Ping and Guan Suo away with instructions. And then he and other officers sat in his tent to wait for the result.

The King of the Mangs was sitting in his tent when the scouts told him that his three chiefs had been captured and their armies scattered. It made him very angry, and he quickly got his army ready to march. Soon he met Wang Ping and Guan Suo, and, when the armies were arrayed, Wang Ping rode out to the front, saber in his hand. The flaunting banners of the array formation of his foes then opened out, and he saw their ranks. Many generals were on horseback on both sides. In the middle was the King, who advanced to the front. He wore a golden, inlaid headdress; his belt bore a lion’s face as clasp; his boots had pointed toes and were green; he rode a frizzy-haired horse the color of a red hare; he carried at his waist a pair of swords chased with the pine amber.

He looked haughtily at his foes, and then, turning to his generals, said, “It has always been said that Zhuge Liang is a wonderful strategist, but I see that is false. Look at this array with its banners all in confusion and the ranks in disorder. There is not a weapon among all the swords and spears better than ours. If I had only realized this before, I would have fought them long ago. Who dares go out and capture a Shu general to show them what sort of warriors we are?”

At once a general rode toward the leader Wang Ping. His name was Mangya Chang. His weapon was a huge headsman’s sword, and he rode a dun pony. Riding up to Wang Ping, the two engaged.

Wang Ping only fought a short time, and then fled. King Meng Huo at once ordered his troops on in quick pursuit, and the troops of Shu retreated seven miles or so before the Mangs were near enough to fight. Just as the Mangs thought their enemies were in their power, a great shouting arose and two cohorts appeared, Zhang Ni from the left and Zhang Yi from the right, and attacked. The Mangs could not retreat, and as the force under Wang Ping and Guan Suo also turned upon them, the Mangs were surrounded and lost the day. King Meng Huo and some of his generals fought their way out and made for the Brocade Mountains. The troops of Shu followed and forced them forward, and presently there appeared, in front, Zhao Yun.

King Meng Huo hastily changed his route to go deeper into the mountains, but Zhao Yun’s soldiers spread around, and the Mangs could not make a stand. Here many were captured. King Meng Huo and a few horsemen got away into a valley, which, however, soon became too narrow for the horses to advance. King Meng Huo then left his horse and crawled up the mountains, but very soon he fell upon Wei Yan, who had been sent with five hundred troops to lie in wait in that very valley. King Meng Huo tried to struggle but soon was captured.

The King and his followers were taken to the main camp, where Zhuge Liang was waiting with wine and meat ready for the captives. But his tent was now guarded by soldiers all well armed with snow-glittering weapons, beside the lictors bearing the golden axes, a present from the Emperor, and other insignia of rank. The feather-hatted drummers and clarion players were in front and behind, and the Imperial Guards were extended on both sides. The whole was very imposing and awe-inspiring.

Zhuge Liang was seated at the top of it all and watched the captives as they came forward in crowds. When they were all assembled, he ordered their bonds to be loosed, and then he addressed them.

“You are all simple and well-disposed people who have been led into trouble by King Meng Huo. I know your fathers and mothers, your brothers and wives, and your children are anxiously watching from the doorways for your return, and they are cut to dear suffering that the news of defeat and capture has reached their ears. They are weeping bitter tears for you. And so I will set you all free to go home and comfort them.”

After they had been given food and wine and a present of grain, he sent them all away. They went off grateful for the kindness shown them, and they wept as they thanked Zhuge Liang.

Then the guards were told to bring the King before the tent. He came, bound, being hustled forward. He knelt in front of the Commander-in-Chief.

Zhuge Liang said, “Why did you rebel after the generous treatment you have received from our Emperor?”

“The two River Lands belonged to others, and your lord took it from them by force, and gave himself the title of Emperor. My people have lived here for ages, and you and your cohorts invaded my country without the least excuse. How can you talk of rebellion to me?”

“You are my prisoner. Will you submit or are you still contumacious?”

“Why should I submit? You happened to find me in a narrow place. That is all.”

“If I release you, what then?”

“If you release me I shall return, and when I have set my army in order, I shall come to fight you again. However, if you catch me once more, I will submit.”

The King’s bonds were loosed. He was clothed and refreshed, given a horse and caparisons, and sent with a guide to his own camp.

Once more the captured chieftain is let go,
To yield tribesmen are ever slow.

Further results of this war will be related in the next chapter.