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CHAPTER 108. In The Snow, Ding Feng Wins A Victory; At A Banquet, Sun Jun Executes A Secret Plan.

| Articles of Ancient China, English Version - Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel | March 7, 2011

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As has been said, Jiang Wei, in his retreat, fell in
with a force under Sima Shi, barring his road. It
came about thus. After Jiang Wei invaded
Yongzhou, Guo Huai had sent a flying messenger to
the capital, and the Ruler of Wei summoned Sima Yi
for advice. It had then been decided to send
reinforcements to Yongzhou, and fifty thousand
troops had marched, led by the son of the Prime
Minister. On the march Sima Shi had heard that the
Shu army had been beaten back, and he had
concluded they were weak. So he decided to meet
them on the road and give battle. Near the Yangping
Pass, however, the roads had been lined with troops
armed with the multiple crossbows designed by
Zhuge Liang. Since Zhuge Liang’s death, large
numbers of these weapons had been made, and the
bolts from them, which went in flights of ten, were
poisoned. Consequently the Wei losses were very
heavy, and Sima Shi himself barely escaped with
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life. However, eventually he returned to Luoyang.
From the walls of Qushan, the Shu general, Gou
An, watched anxiously for the expected help. As it
came not, he ultimately surrendered. And Jiang Wei,
with a loss of twenty to thirty thousand soldiers,
marched back into Hanzhong.
In the third year of Domestic Calm (AD 251), in
the eighth month, Sima Yi fell ill. His sickness
increased rapidly, and, feeling that his end was near,
he called his two sons to his bedside to hear his last
words.
“I have served Wei many years and reached the
highest rank possible among ministers. People have
suspected me of ulterior aims, and I have always felt
afraid of that. After my death the government will be
in your hands, and you must be doubly careful.”
Sima Yi passed away even as he said these last
words. The sons informed the Ruler of Wei, who
conferred high honors upon the dead and advanced
his sons, Sima Shi to the rank of Regent Marshal
with the leadership of the Chairs of the Boards, and
Sima Zhao to the rank of Commander of the Flying
Cavalry.
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The Ruler of Wu, Sun Quan, had named his son
Sun Deng as his heir. His mother was Lady Xu. But
Sun Deng died, and the second son Sun He was
chosen his successor. His mother was Lady Wang.
A quarrel arose between Sun He and Princess
Quan, who maligned him and intrigued against him,
so that he was set aside. Sun He died of
mortification. Then the third son Sun Liang was
named the Heir Apparent; his mother was Lady Pan.
At this time Lu Xun and Zhuge Jin were both
dead, and the business of the government, great and
small, was in the hands of Zhuge Ke, son of Zhuge
Jin.
In the first year of Grand Beginning (AD 251), on
the first of the eighth month, a great storm passed
over Wu. The waves rose to a great height, and the
water stood eight feet deep over the low−lying lands.
The pines and cypresses, which grew at the
cemetery of the Imperial Ancestors of Wu, were
uprooted and carried to the South Gate of Jianye,
where they stuck, roots upward, in the road.
Sun Quan was frightened and fell ill. In the early
days of the next year his illness became serious,
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whereupon he called in Imperial Guardian Zhuge
Ke and Regent Marshal Lu Dai to hear the
declaration of his last wishes. Soon after he died, at
the age of seventy−one. He had reigned for
twenty−four years. In Shu−Han calendar it was the
fifteenth year of Long Enjoyment (AD 252).
A hero, green−eyed and red−bearded,
He called forth devotion from all.
He lorded the East without challenge
Till death’s one imperative call.
Zhuge Ke immediately placed his late lord’s son
Sun Liang on the throne, and the opening of the new
reign was marked by the adoption of the style Great
Prosperity, the first year. A general amnesty was
proclaimed. The late ruler received the posthumous
style of Sun Quan the Great Emperor and was
buried in Jiangling.
When these things were reported in the Wei
capital, Sima Shi’s first thought was to attack the
South Land.
But his plans were opposed by First Secretary Fu
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Gu, saying, “Remember what a strong defense to
Wu is the Great River. The country has been many
times attacked by our ancestors, but never
conquered. Rather let us all hold what we have till
the time be expedient to possess the whole empire.”
Sima Shi replied, “The way of Heaven changes
thrice in a century, and no three−part division is
permanent. I wish to attack Wu.”
Sima Zhao, his brother, was in favor of attack,
saying “The occasion is most opportune. Sun Quan
is newly dead, and the present ruler is a child.”
An expedition was decided upon. Wang Chang,
General Who Conquers the South, was sent with
one hundred thousand troops against Nanjun.
Guanqiu Jian, General Who Guards the South, was
given one hundred thousand troops to go against
Wuchang. Hu Zun, General Who Conquers the East,
led one hundred thousand troops against Dongxing.
They marched in three divisions. Sima Zhao was
made Commander−in−Chief of the campaign.
In the winter of that year, the tenth month, Sima
Zhao marched the armies near to the Wu frontiers
and camped. Sima Zhao called together Wang
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Chang, Guanqiu Jian, Hu Zun, and various other
commanders to decide upon plans.
He said, “The county of Dongxing is most
important to Wu. They have built a great rampart,
with walls right and left to defend Lake Chaohu from
an attack in the rear. You gentlemen will have to
exercise extreme care.”
Then he bade Wang Chang and Guanqiu Jian
each to take ten thousand troops and place
themselves right and left, but not to advance till
Dongxing had been captured. When that city had
fallen, these two were to go forward at the same
time. Hu Zun was to lead the van. The first step was
to construct a floating bridge to storm the rampart.
The two walls should then be captured.
News of the danger soon came to Wu, and Zhuge
Ke called a council to take measures.
Then said Ding Feng, General Who Pacifies the
North, “Dongxing is of the utmost importance as its
loss would endanger Wuchang.”
“I agree with you,” said Zhuge Ke. “You say just
what I think. You should lead three thousand
marines up the river in thirty ships, while on land Lu
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Ju, Tang Zi, and Liu Zan will follow in three directions
with ten
thousand troops each. The signal for the general
attack will be a cluster of bombs.”
Ding Feng received the command, and, with three
thousand marines and thirty battleships, he sailed in
the Great River to Dongxing.
Hu Zun, the Van Leader of Wei, crossed on the
floating bridge, took and camped on the rampart. He
then sent Huan Jia and Han Zong to assault the left
and right flanking forts, which were held by the Wu
Generals Quan Yi and Liu Lue. These forts had high
walls and strong, and made a good resistance, so
that the Wei force could not overcome. But Quan Yi
and Liu Lue dared not venture out to attack so strong
a force as was attacking them.
Hu Zun made a camp at Xutang. It was then the
depth of winter and intensely cold. Heavy snow fell.
Thinking that no warlike operations were possible in
such weather, Hu Zun and his officers made a great
feast.
In the midst of the feasting came one to report:
“Thirty ships are coming in the river.”
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Hu Zun went out to look and saw them come into
the bank. He made out a hundred troops on each.
As they were so few, he returned to the feast and
told his officers, “Only three thousand sailors; there
is nothing to be alarmed at.”
Giving orders to keep a careful watch, they all
returned to enjoy themselves.
Ding Feng’s ships were all drawn up in line. Then
he said to his officers, “Today there is indeed a
grand opportunity for a brave soldier to distinguish
himself. We shall need the utmost freedom of
movement, so throw off your armor, leave your
helmets, cast aside your long spears, and reject your
heavy halberds. Short swords are the weapons for
today.”
From the shore the soldiers of Wei watched the
Wu marines with amusement, taking no trouble to
prepare against an attack. But suddenly a cluster of
bombs exploded, and simultaneously with the roar
Ding Feng sprang ashore at the head of his troops.
They dashed up the bank and made straight for the
Wei camp.
The soldiers of Wei were taken completely by
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surprise and were helpless. Han Zong grasped one
of the halberds that stood by the door of the
commander’s tent, but Ding Feng stabbed him in the
breast, and he rolled over. Huan Jia went round and
came up on the left. Just as he poised his spear to
thrust, Ding Feng gripped it under his arm. Huan Jia
let go and turned to flee, but Ding Feng sent his
sword flying after him and caught him in the
shoulder. He turned and was thrust through by Ding
Feng’s spear.
The three companies of Wu marines went to and
fro in the camp of Wei slaying as they would. Hu Zun
mounted a horse and fled. His troops ran away
across the floating bridge, but that gave way and
many were thrown into the water and drowned. Dead
bodies lay about on the snow in large numbers. The
spoil of military gear that fell to Wu was immense.
Sima Zhao, Wang Chang, and Guanqiu Jian,
seeing the Dongxing front had been broken, decided
to retreat.
Zhuge Ke marched his army to Dongxing, and he
made great feastings and distribution of rewards in
celebration of victory.
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Then he said to his leaders, “Sima Zhao has
suffered a defeat and retreated to the north. It is time
to take the Middle Land.”
So he told his officers that this was his intention,
and also sent away letters to Shu to engage the aid
of Jiang Wei, promising that the empire should be
divided between them when they had taken it.
An army of two hundred thousand troops was told
off to invade the Middle Land. Just as it was starting,
a stream of white vapor was seen emerging from the
earth, and as it spread it gradually enveloped the
whole army so that people could not see each other.
“It is a white rainbow,” said Jiang Yan, “and it
bodes ill to the army. I advise you, O Commander, to
return and not march against Wei.”
“How dare you utter such ill−omened words and
blunt the keenness of my army?” cried Zhuge Ke,
angrily.
He bade the lictors take Jiang Yan out and put
him to death. But Jiang Yan’s colleagues interceded
for him, and he was spared, but he was stripped of
all rank. Orders were issued to march quickly.
Then Ding Feng offered a suggestion, saying,
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“Wei’s chief defense is Xincheng; it would be a
severe blow to Sima Shi to capture it.”
Zhuge Ke welcomed this suggestion and gave
orders to march on Xincheng. They came up and
found the city gates closed, wherefore they began to
besiege the city. The commander in the city, Zhang
Te, saw the legions of Wu at the walls, held a strict
defense.
A hasty messenger was sent to Luoyang, and
First Secretary Yu Song told the Prime Minister,
Sima Shi.
Yu Song said, “Zhuge Ke is laying siege to
Xincheng; the city should not try to repulse the
attack, but simply hold out as long as possible. When
the besiegers have exhausted their provisions, they
will be compelled to retire. As they retreat, we can
smite them. However, it is necessary to provide
against any invasion from Shu.”
Accordingly Sima Zhao was sent to reinforce Guo
Huai so as to keep off Jiang Wei, while Guanqiu Jian
and Hu Zun kept the army of Wu at bay.
For months the army of Zhuge Ke battered at
Xincheng without success. He urged his generals to
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strenuous efforts, threatening to put to death anyone
who was dilatory. At last his attacks looked like
succeeding, for the northeast corner of the wall
seemed shaken.
Then Zhang Te, the commander of Xincheng,
thought of a device. He sent a persuasive
messenger with all the register documents to Zhuge
Ke.
And the messenger said, “It is a rule in Wei that if
a city holds out against attack for a hundred days
and reinforcement has not arrived, then its
commander may surrender without penalty to his
family. Now Xincheng has held out for over ninety
days, and my master hopes you will allow him to
withstand the few days necessary to complete the
hundred, when he will yield. Here are all register
documents that he desires to tender first.”
Zhuge Ke had no doubts that the story was
genuine. He ordered the army to retreat temporarily,
and the defenders enjoyed a rest. But all Zhang Te
really desired was time wherein to strengthen the
weak angle of the wall. As soon as the attacks
ceased, the defenders pulled down the houses near
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the corner and repaired the
wall with the material.
As soon as the repairs were complete, Zhang Te
threw off all pretense and cried from the wall, “I have
half a year’s provisions yet and will not surrender to
any curs of Wu.”
The defense became as vigorous as before the
truce. Zhuge Ke was enraged at being so tricked,
and urged on the attack. But one day one of the
thousands of arrows that flew from the rampart
struck him in the forehead, and he fell. He was borne
to his tent, but the wound inflamed, and he became
very ill.
Their leader’s illness disheartened the troops,
and, moreover, the weather became very hot.
Sickness invaded the camp, so that soldiers and
leaders alike wished to go home. When Zhuge Ke
had recovered sufficiently to resume command, he
urged on the attack, but the generals said, “The
soldiers are sick and unfit for battle.”
Zhuge Ke burst into fierce anger, and said, “The
next person who mentions illness will be beheaded.”
When the report of this threat got abroad, the
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soldiers began to desert freely. Presently
Commander Cai Lin, with his whole company, went
over to the enemy. Zhuge Ke began to be alarmed
and rode through the camps to see for himself.
Surely enough, the soldiers all looked sickly, with
pale and puffy faces.
The siege had to be raised, and Zhuge Ke retired
into his own country. But scout brought the news of
retreat to Guanqiu Jian who led the Wei grand army
to follow and harass Zhuge Ke’s march and inflicted
a severe defeat.
Mortified by the course of events, Zhuge Ke did
not report his return to the Ruler of Wu, but
pretended illness.
Sun Liang, the Ruler of Wu, went to the residence
to see his general, and the officers came to call. In
order to silence comment, Zhuge Ke assumed an
attitude of extreme severity, investigating every one’s
conduct very minutely, punishing rigorously any fault
or shortcoming and meting out sentences of
banishment, or death with exposure, till every one
walked in terror. He also placed two of his own
cliques—Zhang Yue and Zhu En—over the royal
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guards, making them the teeth and claws of his
vengeance.
Now Sun Jun was a son of Sun Gong and a great
grandson of Sun Jing, brother of Sun Jian. Sun Quan
loved him and had put him in command of the
guards. Sun Jun was enraged at being superseded
by Zhang Yue and Zhu En, the two creatures of
Zhuge Ke.
Minister Teng Yin, who had an old quarrel with
Zhuge Ke, said to Sun Jun, “This Zhuge Ke is as
cruel as he is powerful. He abuses his authority and
no one is safe against him. I also think he is aiming
at something yet higher and you, Sir, as one of the
ruling family ought to put a stop to it.”
“I agree with you, and I want to get rid of him,”
replied Sun Jun. “Now I will obtain an edict
condemning him to death.”
Both went in to see the Ruler of Wu, Sun Liang,
and they laid the matter before him.
“I am afraid of him, too,” replied Sun Liang. “I
have wanted to remove him for some time, but have
found no opportunity. If you would prove your loyalty,
you would do it for me.”
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Then said Teng Yin, “Your Majesty can give a
banquet and invite him, and let a few braves be
ready hidden behind the curtains. At a signal, as the
dropping of a wine cup, they might jump out and slay
him, and
all further trouble would be avoided.”
Sun Liang agreed.
Zhuge Ke had never been to court since his
return from the unfortunate expedition. Under a plea
of indisposition he had remained moping at home.
One day he was going out of his reception room
when he suddenly saw coming in a person dressed
in the mourning white.
“Who are you?” said he, rather roughly.
The person seemed too terror−stricken to reply or
resist when he was seized. They questioned him,
and he said, “I was in mourning for my father newly
dead, and had come into the city to seek a priest to
read the liturgy. I had entered by mistake, thinking it
was a temple.”
The gate wardens were questioned. They said,
“There are scores of us at the gate, which is never
unwatched. We have not seen a man enter.”
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Zhuge Ke raged and had the mourner and the
gate wardens put to death. But that night he was
restless and sleepless. By and by he heard a rending
sound that seemed to come from the reception hall,
so he arose and went to see what it was. The great
main beam had broken in two.
Zhuge Ke, much disturbed, returned to his
chamber to try once more to sleep. But a cold wind
blew, and, shivering in the chilly air, he saw the
figures of the mourner and the gate wardens he had
put to death. They advanced toward him holding
their heads in their hands and seemed to threaten
him. He was frightened, and fell in a swoon.
Next morning, when washing his face, the water
seemed tainted with the smell of blood. He bade the
maid throw it away and bring more; it made no
difference, the odor was still there. He was perplexed
and distressed. Then came a messenger with an
invitation to a royal banquet. He had his carriage
prepared. As he was passing through the gate, a
yellow dog jumped up and caught hold of his
garment and then howled lugubriously.
“The dog even mocks me,” said he, annoyed, and
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he bade his attendants take it away.
Then he set out for the palace. Before he had
gone far, he saw a white rainbow rise out of the earth
and reach up to the sky. While he was wondering
what this might portend, his friend Zhang Yue came
up and spoke a word of warning.
“I feel doubtful about the real purpose of this
banquet,” said Zhang Yue, “and advise you not to
go.”
Zhuge Ke gave orders to drive home again; but
before he had reached his own gate, the two
conspirators—Sun Jun and Teng Yin—rode up and
asked, “O Commander, why are you turning back?”
“I feel unwell and cannot see the Emperor today,”
replied Zhuge Ke.
They replied, “This court is appointed to be held
especially to do honor to you and the army. You
have not yet reported, and there is a banquet for
you. You may be ill, but you really must go to court.”
Zhuge Ke yielded, and once more set his face
toward the palace. Sun Jun and Teng Yin went with
him, and his friend Zhang Yue followed. The banquet
was spread when he arrived, and after he had made
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his obeisance he went to his place.
When the wine was brought in, Zhuge Ke,
thinking it might be poisoned, excused himself from
drinking on account of his state of health.
“Will you have some of the medicated wine
brought from your own residence?” said Sun Jun.
“Yes; I could drink that,” replied he.
So a servant was sent for a supply that he might
drink with the other guests.
After several courses, the Ruler of Wu made an
excuse and left the banquet hall. Sun Jun went to the
foot of the hall and changed his garments of
ceremony for more homely garb, but underneath
these he put on armor. Then suddenly he raised his
keen sword and ran up the hall, shouting, “The
Emperor has issued an edict to slay a rebel!”
Zhuge Ke, startled so that he dropped his cup,
laid his hand upon his sword. But he was too late; his
head rolled to the floor. His friend Zhang Yue drew
his sword and rushed at the assassin, but Sun Jun
evaded the full force of the blow and was only
wounded in the left finger. Sun Jun slashed back at
Zhang Yue and wounded him in the right arm. Then
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the braves dashed in and finished Zhang Yue.
The braves were then sent to arrest Zhuge Ke’s
family, while the bodies of Zhuge Ke and Zhang Yue
were hastily rolled in matting, thrown into a cart,
taken to the outside of the south gate, and tossed
into a rubbish pit.
While Zhuge Ke was absent in the palace, his
wife sat in the women’s quarters at home feeling
strangely unquiet. Presently a maid came in and,
when she drew near, his wife said, “Why does your
clothing smell of blood?”
To her horror the maid suddenly transformed into
a weird creature with rolling eyes and gritting teeth,
that went dancing about the room and leaping till it
touched the roof−beams, shrieking all the time, “I am
Zhuge Ke, and I have been slain by that bastard Sun
Jun.”
By this time the whole family were frightened and
began wailing. And a few minutes later the residence
was surrounded by a crowd of armed guards sent to
murder the inmates, whom they bound, carried off to
the market place, and put to the sword. These things
occurred in the tenth month of the second year of
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Great Prosperity (AD 254).
Before Zhuge Jin died, he had a premonition that
his son’s ability would lead him into trouble and that
he would not safeguard his family. Others had also
predicted an early death. Zhang Qi, High Minister in
Wei, used to say to Sima Shi, “Zhuge Ke will die
soon.” And when asked why, Zhang Qi replied, “Can
a person live long when his dignity endangers that of
his lord?”
After the conspiracy, Sun Jun became Prime
Minister in place of his victim. He was also placed in
command of all the military forces, and became very
powerful. The control of all matters was in his hands.
In Chengdu, when the letter of Zhuge Ke asking
help from Jiang Wei arrived, Jiang Wei had audience
with the Latter Ruler and requested authority to raise
an army against the north.
The army fought, but fought in vain,
Success may crown a new campaign.
Who were victorious will appear in the next
chapter.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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