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CHAPTER 114. Driving To The South Gate, Cao Mao Plunges Into Death; Abandoning Stores, Jiang Wei Defeats The Wei Army.

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

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When the order to retreat was given, Liao Hua
said, “A leader in the field is independent and need
not obey even the command of his prince.”
Zhang Yi said, “The country begins to resent
these many years of war; rather take the occasion of
the victory you have just won to return and pacify the
“It is good,” said Jiang Wei.
A systematic and orderly retirement began. The
army of Wei, loth to forgo an opportunity, followed,
but the absence of the least confusion gave them no
As he saw his enemy disappearing in perfect
order, Deng Ai sighed, “Jiang Wei is a worthy
inheritor of the warlike methods of Zhuge Liang.”
Deng Ai did not pursue but returned to his camp
on Qishan.
On his return to Chengdu, Jiang Wei had
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audience with the Latter Ruler, whereat he inquired
why he had been commanded to return.
The Latter Ruler replied, “Because you have been
so long on the frontier, noble Sir; I thought the
soldiers must be weary. There was no other reason.”
“Your Majesty, thy servant had got his camps on
Qishan and was on the eve of complete success. To
leave off thus in the middle just played into the hands
of our enemies. Surely Deng Ai found means of
sowing distrust in me.”
The Latter Ruler sat lost in thought, and silent.
Jiang Wei continued, “I am pledged to destroy
those rebels and prove my devotion to my country.
Your Majesty should not listen to the babble of mean
persons till distrust grows in your heart.”
“I do not distrust you,” said the Latter Ruler after a
long pause. “You may return into Hanzhong and
await the next favorable opportunity.”
Jiang Wei left the court and betook himself into
Hanzhong to the army.
Dang Jun went back to the Qishan camp and
reported his success.
Deng Ai and Sima Wang rejoiced, saying, “In the
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Lands of Rivers, trouble is not far off when the ruler
and his servants do not live in harmony.”
They sent Dang Jun to Luoyang to tell his own
story to Sima Zhao, who also rejoiced, for he
ardently desired to subdue Shu.
On this matter he consulted Jia Chong,
Commander of the Central Guard.
“What do you think of an attack upon Shu?”
“Not to be considered,” said Jia Chong. “The
Emperor does not trust you, and your departure
would be the beginning of trouble for you. Last year,
when a yellow dragon was seen in the well and all
the officers were felicitating the Emperor upon such
a very auspicious occurrence, the Emperor said, ‘It is
not auspicious; just the reverse. The dragon
symbolizes the ruler. To be neither in heaven, nor on
earth among the people, but to be in a well, is a dark
portent and bodes evil.’ He wrote some verses, and
one stanza undoubtedly points to you, my lord. It
“The dragon like a prisoner is,
No longer leaps he in the abyss.
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He soars not to the Milky Way
Nor can he in the meadows play;
But coiled within a dismal well,
With slimy creatures he must dwell,
Must close his jaws, his claws retract,
Alas! Quite like myself in fact.”
The recital of the poem annoyed Sima Zhao.
“This fellow is very like Cao Fang, and if I do not
remove him he will hurt me,” said he.
“I will see to it for you,” said Jia Chong.
In the fifth year of Sweet Dew, in Wei calendar
(AD 261), during the fourth month, in summer, Sima
Zhao had the effrontery to go to court armed.
However, the Ruler of Wei received him with
exaggerated courtesy.
The courtiers said, “The services of the Regent
Marshal are so magnificent, and his virtue so high
that he should be rewarded with the title ‘Duke of Jin’
and the Nine Gifts of Honors.”
Cao Mao hung his head and kept silent.
And Sima Zhao himself said discontentedly, “My
father and my brother have all given great services
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to Wei, and yet I deserves not being a mere Duke of
“Should I dare not do what you requested?” said
Cao Mao.
“That poem about the Lurking Dragon called us
slimy creatures; what sort of politeness is that?” said
Sima Zhao.
The Ruler of Wei had nothing to say, and the
haughty minister left the chamber, smiling cruelly.
Cao Mao retired, taking with him Ministers Wang
Shen, Wang Jing, and Wang Ye, and they went to a
privy chamber to consult. Cao Mao was very sad.
He said, “There is no doubt that Sima Zhao
intends to usurp the throne; everybody knows that.
But I will not sit thereon patiently awaiting the
indignity of being pushed off. Cannot you gentlemen
help me to kill
“He may not be slain,” said Wang Jing. “That will
not do. In the old state of Lu, King Zhao could not
bear with the Ji family, and ran away, thus losing his
country. But this Sima Zhao and his family have
been in power very long and have innumerable
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supporters, many of whom are quite independent of
any act of his whether loyal or disloyal. They support
him under any conditions. Your Majesty’s guards are
few and weak and incapable; not the ones for any
desperate effort. It would be most lamentable if Your
Majesty could not bear this trial. The correct course
is to wait and not act hastily.”
“If I can bear this, what cannot I bear?” said Cao
Mao. “But I will do something, and if I die, what
He went into the private apartments and spoke to
the Empress Dowager.
Wang Shen, Wang Jing, and Wang Ye sat
outside talking.
“This matter is coming to a head, and unless we
want to be put to death and all our loved ones with
us, we would better go and warn Sima Zhao,” said
Wang Shen.
This advice angered Wang Jing, and he said,
“The prince’s sorrow is the minister’s shame, and a
shamed minister dies. Dare you contemplate
Wang Jing would have nothing to do with this visit
Three Kingdoms Romance
to Sima Zhao, but the other two went to the Prime
Minister’s palace to betray their prince.
Shortly after, Cao Mao appeared, called the
officer of the guard, Jiao Bo, and bade him muster
his force, as many as he could. Jiao Bo got together
about three hundred, and this little force marched out
to the beating of a drum as escort to a small
carriage, in which sat the Ruler of Wei gripping his
sword. They proceeded south.
Wang Jing stepped to the front and prayed Cao
Mao to stay his steps and not go.
“To go against Sima Zhao with such a force is
driving the sheep into the tiger’s jaws. To die such a
death is a vain sacrifice. You can do nothing,” said
Wang Jing.
“Do not hinder me. I have made up my mind,”
replied the Ruler of Wei, heading toward the Dragon
Presently Jia Chong came in sight. He was armed
and mounted on a fine horse. Beside him rode two
generals, Cheng Zu and Cheng Ji, and behind him
followed a body of mail−clad guards, who shouted
one to another as they rode.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Then Cao Mao held up his sword and cried, “I am
the Son of God. Who are you thus breaking into the
forbidden precincts? Are you come to murder your
lawful ruler?”
The soldiers suddenly stopped, for they were
palace guards.
Then Jia Chong shouted to Cheng Ji, saying,
“What did Duke Sima Zhao train you for if not for this
day’s work?”
Cheng Ji took his halberd and turned to Jia
Chong, saying, “Death or capture?”
“Duke Sima Zhao said the man had to die,”
replied Jia Chong.
Cheng Ji rushed toward the carriage.
“Fool! How dare you?” cried the Ruler of Wei.
But the shout was cut short by a thrust from the
halberd full in the breast; another thrust, and the
point came out at the back, so that Cao Mao lay
there dead beside his carriage. Jiao Bo coming up to
strike a blow in defense was also slain, and the little
escort scattered.
Wang Jing, who had followed, upbraided Jia
Chong, shouting, “Rebel and traitor! How dare you
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kill the Emperor?”
Jia Chong got angry and bade his lictors arrest
Wang Jing and stop his tongue.
When they told Sima Zhao, he went into the
Palace, but the Emperor was dead. He assumed an
air of being greatly shocked and beat his head
against the carriage, weeping and lamenting the
while. He sent to tell all the officials of high rank.
When Imperial Guardian Sima Fu saw the dead
body of the Emperor, he threw himself beside it, his
head resting thereon, and wept, saying, “It is my fault
that they slew Your Majesty!”
Sima Fu had a coffin brought, and the remains
were laid therein and borne to the west side hall.
Therein Sima Zhao entered and summoned the chief
officers to a council. They came, all but Minister
Chen Tai. Sima Zhao noticed his absence and sent
the Chair of the Secretariat Xun Yi, his uncle, to call
Chen Tai wept aloud, saying, “Gossips often
class me and my uncle together. Yet today is my
uncle less virtuous than I.”
However, Chen Tai obeyed the summons and
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came, dressed in the coarse white cloth of mourning,
and prostrated himself before the bier. Sima Zhao
feigned to be grieved also.
“How can this day’s work be judged?” said Sima
“If only Jia Chong be put to death, that will only be
a slight atonement to satisfy the empire,” replied
Chen Tai.
Sima Zhao was silent and thought long before he
spoke. Then he said, “How about a little less
“That is only the beginning; I know not other
punishments less severe.”
“Cheng Ji is the ungodly rebel and actual criminal;
he should suffer the death of shame; and his family,
too,” said Sima Zhao.
Thereupon Cheng Ji broke out into abuse of Sima
Zhao and reviled him, saying, “It was not my crime; it
was Jia Chong who passed on your own orders.”
Sima Zhao bade them cut out his tongue and put
him to death. They did so; and Cheng Ji and his
brother Cheng Zu were both put to death in the
market place, and their families were exterminated.
Three Kingdoms Romance
“The Emperor must die,” thus spoke Sima Zhao
full plain
In Jia Chong’s hearing; and the Emperor was
Although they killed Cheng Ji, who dealt the blow,
The author of the crime we all well know.
Wang Jing’s whole household were imprisoned.
He himself was standing in the courthouse when he
saw his mother, Lady Zhao, being brought up a
He knocked his head on the ground and wept,
saying, “O unfilial son to bring distress upon a gentle
But his mother laughed.
“Who does not die?” cried she. “The only thing to
be feared is not dying the proper death. Who would
regret dying like this?”
When next day the family were led out to
execution, both mother and son smiled as they went
past. But the whole city wept tears of sorrow.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Mother Yuan was famous at the rise of Han,
Mother Zhao was distinguished at the end of Wei,
With purest virtue and unfaltering heart,
With resolution stern she played her part.
Her fortitude was great as Taishan Mountains,
Her life but as the floating down did count,
Like mother like son, their fame never will die,
So long as shall endure the earth and sky.
Imperial Guardian Sima Fu proposed that the
body of the late Emperor should receive a royal
funeral, and Sima Zhao consented. Jia Chong and
those of his party urged Sima Zhao to assume the
Throne and replace Wei, but he refused.
“Formerly King Wen had two−thirds of the empire,
and yet he supported and served the state of Yin to
its end. Wherefore Confucius called him ‘Complete of
Virtue.’ Emperor Cao of Wei would not replace the
Hans, nor will I accept an abdication of Wei.”
Those who heard this felt that in these words was
an implication that he intended to place his own son
Sima Yan on the throne, and they ceased to urge
him to act.
Three Kingdoms Romance
In the sixth month of that year, Cao Huang, Duke
of Changdao, was raised to the throne as Emperor,
the period−style being changed to Wonderful
Beginning, the first year (AD 260). Cao Huang was a
son of Cao Yu, Prince of Yan, and a grandson of
Cao Cao.
Sima Zhao was made Prime Minister and Duke of
Jin (an ancient state). Beside, he received gifts of
one hundred thousand gold coins and ten thousand
rolls of silk. All the officers were promoted or
received honors.
When these doings in Wei were told in Shu, Jiang
Wei seized upon them as pretext for another war, to
punish Wei for the deposition of its ruler. So letters
were written calling upon Wu to help, and a memorial
was sent to the Throne. The army raised was one
hundred fifty thousand, and there were many carts
with boxes made to fit them. Liao Hua and Zhang Yi
were the Leaders of the Van. Liao Hua was to march
to the Ziwu Valley, and Zhang Yi to the Luo Valley,
while Jiang Wei took the Xie Valley road. They
marched at the same time and hastened toward
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Deng Ai was still on the Qishan Mountains
training the Wei soldiers when he heard that the Shu
armies were once more on the war path. He called
his officers together.
And Military Adviser Wang Guan said, “I have a
plan to propose, but I will not tell it openly. However,
I have written it down for your consideration.”
Deng Ai took the envelop, opened, and read it.
“Though excellent, I fear it is not enough to
beguile the leader of Shu,” said Deng Ai as he
finished reading.
“I am willing to stake my life on it,” said Wang
Guan, “and I will lead the way.”
“Since you have such confidence you may try.
You ought certainly to succeed.”
So five thousand troops were put under the
leadership of Wang Guan, and they set out for the
Xie Valley, where they fell in with the scouts of Jiang
Wei’s force.
Seeing these, their leader, Wang Guan, shouted,
“We are deserters: tell your leader.”
So the scouts told Jiang Wei, who replied, “Hold
up the soldiers, letting their leader only come to me.”
Three Kingdoms Romance
Wang Guan went forward and kneeled before
Jiang Wei, saying, “I am a nephew of Wang Jing,
and I hate Sima Zhao for what he has done to the
Emperor and my family, and I wish to join you and
my five thousand soldiers with me. I also desire to be
sent against the rebel crew that I may avenge my
Then said Jiang Wei, “Since you are sincere in
your desertion, I must be sincere in my treatment of
you. The one thing my army needs is grain. There is
plenty at the border of the Lands of Rivers; and if you
can transport it to Qishan, I can go straightway and
take the Qishan camps of Deng Ai.”
This reply rejoiced Wang Guan, who saw that
Jiang Wei was just going to walk into the trap. So he
agreed at once.
“But you will not need five thousand troops to see
after the transport. Take three thousand and leave
two thousand as guides for me.”
Wang Guan, thinking that suspicions would be
raised if he refused, took the three thousand of his
troops and marched away, and the other two
thousand were attached to the army of Shu.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Then Xiahou Ba was announced, and, when he
was come in, he said, “O Commander, why have you
believed the tale of this Wang Guan? In Wei I never
heard that Wang Guan was related to Wang Jing,
though it is true I never made particular inquiries.
You should look to it, for there is much pretense in
his story.”
“I know Wang Guan is false,” said Jiang Wei, with
a smile. “That is why I have taken away many of his
force. I am meeting trick with trick.”
“How do you know for certain he is a false?”
“Sima Zhao is as crafty as Cao Cao. If he slew all
Wang Jing’s family, would he have left a nephew and
sent that nephew to the pass beyond his own reach
with soldiers? You saw this, as did I.”
So Jiang Wei did not go out by the Xie Valley, but
he set an ambush there ready for any move of Wang
Guan. And indeed, within ten days, the ambush
caught a man with a letter from Wang Guan to Deng
Ai telling him what had come about. From the letter
and the bearer thereof, Jiang Wei learned that Wang
would divert a convoy of grain to the Wei camps
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on the twentieth and Deng Ai was to send troops to
Yunshan Valley to help.
Jiang Wei beheaded the courier. Then he sent
another letter to Deng Ai by a man dressed as a Wei
soldier, the date being altered to the fifteenth instead
of the twentieth.
As a preparation, Jiang Wei ordered many
wagons to be emptied of their grain and laden with
inflammables, covered with green cloth. The two
thousand Wei soldiers were ordered to show flags
belonging to the Shu transport corps. Then Jiang
Wei and Xiahou Ba went into the valleys in ambush,
while Jiang Shu was ordered to march to the Xie
Valley, and Liao Hua and Zhang Yi were sent to
capture Qishan.
The letter, apparently from Wang Guan, was
sufficient for Deng Ai, and he wrote back to say it
was agreed. So on the fifteenth day, Deng Ai led out
fifty thousand veteran troops and moved in sight
near Yunshan Valley. And the scouts saw endless
carts of grain and fodder in the distance zigzagging
through the mountains. When Deng Ai got closer, he
distinguished the uniforms of Wei.
Three Kingdoms Romance
His staff urged him, saying, “It is getting dark; O
General, hurry to help Wang Guan escort the convoy
out of the valley.”
“The mountains ahead are hazardous,” said the
general. “If by any chance an ambush has been laid,
we could hardly escape. We will wait here.”
But just then two horsemen came up at a gallop
and said, “Just as General Wang Guan was crossing
the frontier with the convoy, he was pursued, and
reinforcements are urgently needed.”
Deng Ai, realizing the importance of the request,
gave orders to press onward. It was the first watch,
and a full moon was shining as bright as day.
Shouting was heard behind the hills, and he could
only conclude it was the noise of the battle in which
Wang Guan was engaged.
So Deng Ai dashed over the hills. But suddenly a
body of troops came out from the shelter of a grove
of trees, and at their head rode the Shu leader, Fu
“Deng Ai, you are stupid! You have just fallen into
the trap set for you by our general. Dismount and
prepare for death!”
Three Kingdoms Romance
Deng Ai halted and turned to flee. Then the
wagons burst into flame. That flame was a signal,
and down came the army of Shu. He heard shouts
all round him, “A thousand ounces of gold for anyone
who captures Deng Ai, and a lordship of ten
thousand households as well!”
Terrified, Deng Ai dropped his arms, threw aside
his armor, slipped from his steed, mingled with the
footmen, and with them scrambled up the hills. The
generals of Shu only looked for him among the
mounted leaders, never guessing that he had got
away among the common soldiers. So he was not
Jiang Wei gathered in his victorious army and
went to meet Wang Guan and his convoy.
Having made all arrangements, as he thought,
complete, Wang Guan was patiently awaiting the
development of his scheme, when a trusted
subordinate came and told him that the ruse had
been discovered and Deng Ai had already suffered
defeat. Wang Guan sent out some scouts, and the
report was confirmed, with the addition that the Shu
armies were coming against him. Moreover, clouds
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of dust were rising. There was no way of escape, so
Wang Guan ordered his troops to set fire to the
convoy, and soon huge flames were rising high into
the air.
“The case is desperate,” cried Wang Guan. “It is a
fight to the death!”
He led his force westward, but the army of Shu
came in pursuit. Jiang Wei thought Wang Guan
would try at all costs to get back to his own side, but
instead, Wang Guan went on toward Hanzhong; and
as his troops were too few to risk a battle, Wang
Guan ordered them to burn and destroy all military
stations and even the Plank Trail as he went.
Fearing the loss of Hanzhong, Jiang Wei made all
haste along the by−roads after Wang Guan.
Surrounded on all sides, Wang Guan jumped into the
Black Dragon River and so died. Those of his
soldiers who survived were slain by Jiang Wei.
Though a victory had been won and Wang Guan
killed, it was costly. Many wagons and much grain
had been lost, and the Plank Trail had been
destroyed. Jiang Wei led his army into Hanzhong.
Deng Ai made his way back to Qishan. From
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there he reported his defeat to the Ruler of Wei and
asked for degradation as a penalty. However, Sima
Zhao saw that Deng Ai had rendered good services,
so he did not degrade the general, but, on the other
hand, sent him magnificent gifts, which Deng Ai
distributed to the families of the soldiers who had
been killed. Sima Zhao also sent him fifty thousand
troops as reinforcement lest Shu should attack
Jiang Wei set about the restoration of the Plank
Trail ready for the next expedition.
Repair the roads for marching feet to tread,
The strife will only cease when all are dead.
The next chapter will tell who won.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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