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CHAPTER 18. Giving Counsels, Jia Xu Directs A Great Victory; Braving Battlefield, Xiahou Dun Loses An Eye.

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

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Jia Xu, as he had guessed the enemy’s intention,
had also devised a countermove. So he went to his
chief and said, “I saw Cao Cao very carefully
reconnoitering round about the city. He certainly
noticed that the southeast corner of the wall had
been lately restored with mud bricks of a different
kind, and that the fencing barrier is badly out of
repair. He will try to effect an entrance there.
Wherefore he is making a feint attack at the opposite
point. He is piling up straw and making ostentatious
preparations whereby to cajole us into withdrawing
from the real point of attack to defend the northwest.
His troops will scale the walls in the darkness and try
to enter at the southeast.”
“Supposing your surmise correct, what do you
advise?” asked Zhang Xiu.
“The countermove is plain. You issue an order for
our best and bravest soldiers to fill their bellies, to
take only the lightest outfit and conceal themselves
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in the houses near the southeast corner. Then
disguise the townspeople as soldiers and send them
to pretend to defend the northwest. Tonight we will
let the enemy climb up the walls and enter the city
and, once they are fairly within, give the signal and
the concealed soldiers will rush out upon them. We
may even capture Cao Cao himself.”
The stratagem was decided upon. Soon the
scouts told Cao Cao: “The defenders of the city have
moved to the northwest where noisy preparations for
defense are going on. The opposite corner is left
“They have fallen into my trap!” said Cao Cao
He ordered his troops to prepare shovels and
hooks and all the gear needed for scaling walls, and
all day they kept up the attack on the northwest
But at the second watch they dispatched the
veterans to the opposite corner, where they climbed
the wall, broke up the fencing barrier, and got into
the city apparently without disturbing any of the
guards. There was no sign of life anywhere as they
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entered. But just as they were leaving the wall,
suddenly a bomb exploded and they found
themselves in an ambush. They turned to retire, but
Zhang Xiu immediately fell on the rear and began a
slaughter. Cao Cao’s troops were totally defeated
and fled out of the gate into the country. Zhang Xiu
kept up the pursuit till daybreak, when he retired into
the city again.
Cao Cao then rallied his army and mustered his
soldiers. He had lost fifty thousand and much
baggage, while two of his generals, Lu Qian and Yu
Jin were wounded.
Cao Cao being thus worsted, Jia Xu advised
Zhang Xiu to write off to Liu Biao to cut off Cao Cao’s
retreat so that he might be utterly destroyed.
Liu Biao was preparing an army for this purpose
when a scout came to say that Sun Ce had
encamped in the river at Hukou.
Kuai Liang said, “This move of Sun Ce in the river
is part of Cao Cao’s strategy, and there will be
never−ending regret if Cao Cao is allowed to escape.
An immediate expedition is necessary.”
Wherefore Liu Biao moved out with his army to
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Anzhong to block Cao Cao, leaving Huang Zu to
hold Jingzhou’s points of vantage. Zhang Xiu, having
been informed of the movement of Liu Biao, went
with Jia Xu to smite Cao Cao on the rear.
In the meantime Cao Cao’s army, marching very
leisurely, had arrived at Xiangyang.
Walking one day beside River Yu, he suddenly
uttered a great cry, and when his officers asked the
reason thereof he replied, “I remembered that here,
only a year ago, I lost my great general: Dian Wei. Is
that not a reason to grieve?”
Thereupon Cao Cao gave orders to halt while he
should make a great sacrifice and mourn for his lost
leader. At the ceremony he himself burned incense
and wailed and prostrated himself. The army was
much affected by his devotion. After the sacrifices to
the lost hero, he sacrificed to the names of his
nephew Cao Amin and his eldest son Cao Ang, both
of whom had died at the same time. He also
sacrificed to his lost soldiers and even to his Dawan
steed which had been killed by an arrow.
Next day Xun Yu wrote to tell Cao Cao that Liu
Biao had gone to help Zhang Xiu and was camped at
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Anzhong, thereby cutting his road of retreat.
Cao Cao replied to the letter, saying, “I have been
marching only a short distance each day and of
course knew of the pursuit. But my plans are laid
and, as I am near Anzhong, my enemy will be
broken. You need not have any fears.”
Then Cao Cao hastened his march till he came
near where Liu Biao had taken position. Zhang Xiu
still shortened the distance. Cao Cao ordered his
men during the night to open a secret way through a
pass, where he laid an ambush.
With the first light of dawn Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu
met. As Cao Cao’s force looked small, they thought
he had retired so they boldly advanced into the pass
to smite him. Then the ambush was opened and
both the attackers’ forces were cut up. The fighting
ended; Cao Cao’s soldiers went outside the pass
and encamped.
The two leaders on the other side restored order
among their beaten troops and then held a
“How could we have foreseen such a wicked
ruse?” said Liu Biao.
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“Let us try again,” said Zhang Xiu.
Wherefore they joined forces at Anzhong.
But Xun Yu discovered through his spies that
Yuan Shao was preparing an attack on Capital
Xuchang, so he at once wrote to Cao Cao who,
much disturbed by this news, set out homeward right
away. When Zhang Xiu heard this through his
scouts, he wished to follow the retreating army.
Jia Xu opposed it and said, “It will lead to a
However, Liu Biao said, “It is wrong to lose such a
And so finally pursuit was decided upon. They
had not marched more than four miles before they
came upon Cao Cao’s rearguard, who fought with
great vigor and bravery so that the pursuers were
beaten off and went home discomfited.
Zhang Xiu said to Jia Xu, “This defeat comes
from my not following your advice.”
“Now set your army in order and pursue,” said Jia
“But we have just suffered defeat!” cried both
leaders. “Do you now counsel pursuit?”
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“Yes, and the result will be a great victory if you
go now. I will venture my head on that,” said Jia Xu.
Zhang Xiu had confidence, but Liu Biao was
afraid and would not accompany him. So one army
only started in pursuit.
However, this was enough. Cao Cao’s rear−guard
was thoroughly routed and abandoned their wagons
and their baggage in their hasty flight. Zhang Xiu
pursued, but suddenly a troop came out from the
shelter of some hills and checked him. Fearful to try
further, he hastened back to Anzhong.
The other general, Liu Biao, asked the adviser to
explain his apparent inconsistency, saying, “When
our veteran and brave soldiers were going to pursue
those who retreated, you said our men would lose
the day; and when defeated men pursued the
victors, you foretold victory. You were right in both
cases, but we wish you would enlighten us.”
“It is easy to explain. You, Generals, although
skilled leaders, are not a match for our enemy.
Though Cao Cao had lost a battle, he had able
generals to keep the rear and guard against pursuit.
Our soldiers are good, but not a match for them.
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That is how I knew. For as much as Cao Cao’s
hurried retreat was due to trouble in the capital, and
he had beaten off our attack, I knew he would retire
at his utmost speed and not take his usual
precautions. I ventured to take advantage of his
Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu could not but affirm his
complete understanding of the conditions. On the
advice of Jia Xu then Liu Biao returned to Jingzhou,
while Zhang Xiu took up his position at Xiangyang so
that each strengthened the other as the lips protect
the teeth from cold.
When Cao Cao, during his retreat, heard that his
army was being pursued, he hastily turned back to
support the rearguard. Then he saw the pursuing
army draw off.
The soldiers of the beaten rearguard said, “Had it
not been for the troops that came out of the hills, we
should all have been lost.”
“What troops?” asked Cao Cao in surprise.
The leader of the troops then advanced, slung his
spear and, dismounting, made a low obeisance. He
was Li Tong, Imperial Commander, from Jiangxia.
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Cao Cao asked him why he had come.
Li Tong replied, “I was in command at Runan
when I heard of the struggle going on, so I came to
lend you any help I could.”
To show his gratitude, Cao Cao conferred upon Li
Tong the title Lord Who Renders High Services, and
confirmed him in his command as the defense of
Runan against Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu. Then Li
Tong expressed his thanks and took his leave. On
his return to the capital, Cao Cao presented a
memorial on the good services rendered by Sun Ce,
and the Emperor made him Lord of Wu ((an ancient
state)) with the title General Who Destroys Rebels.
The messenger bearing the decree bore also the
order to repress Liu Biao.
Cao Cao went to his palace and there received
the ceremonial calls of congratulation. These
finished, Xun Yu asked, saying, “You, Sir, marched
very leisurely to Anzhong; how came it that you felt
certain of victory?”
Cao Cao replied, “My soldiers, who retire and find
their retreat cut off, fight vigorously and desperately.
I retired slowly to entice the enemy into following
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whereby I could do as I wished with them. Basing my
movements on these considerations I felt secure.”
Xun Yu bowed his head in admiration.
When Guo Jia entered, Cao Cao said, “Why so
late, Sir?”
The visitor drew a letter from his sleeve, saying to
his master, “Yuan Shao sends this expressing he
desires to send an army to attack Gongsun Zan and
wishes you to lend provisions and troops.”
“I heard Yuan Shao was going to attack Xuchang;
I suppose my return has made him change his
intention,” said Cao Cao.
Then he opened the letter and read it. It was
couched in very arrogant terms.
“Yuan Shao is so exceedingly rude that I will
attack him,” said Cao Cao. “Only I think I am not
quite strong enough. What should be done?”
Guo Jia said, “My lord, you know well who lost,
and why, in the conflict between Liu Bang, the
Supreme Ancestor, and Xiang Yu, his rival; the
former won only by superior wisdom. Xiang Yu was
the stronger, but in the end he was overcome. Your
rival has ten weak points whereas you have ten
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strong ones, and, though his army is large, it is not
Then Guo Jia continued, “Yuan Shao is overmuch
devoted to ceremony and deportment; while you are
sympathetic and natural; this is an excellence in
conduct. He is antagonistic and drives; you are
conciliatory and lead; so you have the advantage of
popular approval. For many years the government
has been lax, and he makes it more so; you strive
vigorously after efficiency; this is the excellence of
able administration. He is outwardly liberal but
grudging at heart, and too given to nepotism; you
appear exacting, but you understand and use people
after their ability; this is the advantage of correct
appreciation. He is a visionary but lacking in
decision; you are a man of prompt decision and
direct action; this is an advantage in policy. He loves
to gather about him people of renown; you treat
people as you find them regardless of their
reputation; this is where you excel in moral virtue. He
is compassionate to those at hand, but careless
about those out of sight; your care is all−embracing;
this is where you excel in humanity. He lends a
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ready ear to calumny and is misled; you may be
flooded with evil counsel, but you preserve
independence; this is where you excel in
perspicacity. His sense of right and wrong is
confused; your appreciation is accurate and clear;
this is where you excel in administrative capacity. He
loves the make−believe force, but is ignorant of
military essentials; you would overcome with far
inferior numbers as you possess military genius; this
i s w h e r e y o u e x c e l i n w a r . W i t h y o u r t e n
superiorities, you will have no difficulty in overcoming
Yuan Shao.”
“How can I be worth as much as you say?” said
Cao Cao, smiling.
“What Guo Jia has said about the ten points in
your favor agrees exactly with what I think,” said Xun
Yu. “Yuan Shao’s army is not formidable in spite of
its size.” “The real and dangerous enemy is Lu Bu,”
said Guo Jia. “When Yuan Shao has gone north to
destroy Gongsun Zan, we ought to sweep away Lu
Bu and so clear away our danger from that side; for if
this is not done, our attack on Yuan Shao will be the
signal for an attempt on the capital. That would be
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most serious.”
Cao Cao saw things in the same light as his
advisers and began to discuss plans for an attack on
Lu Bu. Xun Yu was of opinion that they should first
secure the fidelity and aid of Liu Bei. So letters were
written, and they waited his assurance before
moving a soldier. Then, in order to reassure Yuan
Shao, his emissary was treated with great kindness,
and a memorial presented to the Emperor asking
extra honors for him. Yuan Shao was made Imperial
Protector of the four northern regions—Jizhou,
Qingzhou, Youzhou, and Bingzhou. With all this a
private letter was written by Cao Cao urging upon
him to attack Gongsun Zan and promising
assistance. So Yuan Shao’s army started.
In the meantime the two Chen Deng and Chen
Gui were playing their game. At every feast and
gathering in Xuzhou, they uttered the most fulsome
praises of Lu Bu. Chen Gong was greatly displeased
and took an opportunity to talk about them to his
“They flatter you to your face, but what is in their
hearts? You ought to be most carefully on your
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“Hold your tongue!” was the angry reply. “You are
simply slandering them without the slightest excuse.
You want to harm good people.”
“No ears for loyal words;” said Chen Gong, as he
went away sad at heart, “and we shall suffer.”
He thought seriously of abandoning Lu Bu, but
that would be too painful a wrench. Beside he feared
people would laugh at him.
So the days passed sorrowfully for him. One day,
with a few horsemen, he rode out to the country near
Xiaopei to hunt. On the high road he saw a
messenger galloping along in hot haste and began to
wonder what it might mean. He left the hunt, rode
across country, and intercepted the rider.
“Where are you from? Who sent you?” asked
Chen Gong.
The messenger made no reply for he knew to
what party his captors belonged. But they searched
him and found a letter, the secret reply to Cao Cao’s
letter from Liu Bei. The messenger and the letter
were both taken straight to Lu Bu. He questioned the
man, who said, “The Prime Minister sent me to bear
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a letter to Imperial Protector Liu Bei. I was now
taking back the reply. I know nothing more, and I am
ignorant of the contents of the letters.”
So Lu Bu tore it open and read:
“I have received your commands concerning the
destruction of Lu Bu, and dare I for a moment
venture to disregard
them? But my force is weak and I must act with
extreme circumspection. If you move your main
body, then I will hasten forward, and in the meantime
my army shall be got ready and weapons prepared. I
await your command.”
Lu Bu was really alarmed.
“The wretches!” cried he, “To dare to act thus!”
The unhappy messenger was put to death and
countermoves planned. Chen Gong and Zang Ba
went to enlist the help of the Taishan Mountains
bandits—Sun Guan, Wu Dun, Yin Li, and Chang
Xi—so that they would take Yanzhou in the east of
Huashang Mountains. Gao Shun and Zhang Liao
went to attack Liu Bei in Xiaopei. Song Xian and Wei
Three Kingdoms Romance
Xu went west to attack Runan and Yingchuan. And
Lu Bu took command of a large body of troops ready
to afford help wherever needed.
The departure of the army under Gao Shun
against Xiaopei was reported to Liu Bei who
assembled his officers at a council.
Sun Qian advised sending a message to the
capital to inform Cao Cao of their danger. In
response to the chief’s call, Jian Yong, a fellow
townsman of Liu Bei, offered to take the message.
Up to that moment Jian Yong had served as a
secretary. So a letter was written, and Jian Yong set
out at once on his journey.
Then preparations were made for defense: Liu
Bei commanding at the south gate; Sun Qian at the
north gate; Guan Yu at the west gate; and Zhang Fei
at the east gate. Mi Zhu and his brother Mi Fang
commanded the family guard in the center.
The two Mis were put in command of the house
guard because they were Liu Bei’s brothers−in−law;
he had taken a sister of Mi Zhu as a second wife.
Hence they were suitable men to guard the family.
In due course Gao Shun came to the south gate.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Liu Bei ascended the tower and said, “I have no
quarrel with your master, why do you come here with
an army?”
“You have plotted with Cao Cao to injure my
master as we know now; why should I not bind you?”
So saying Gao Shun gave the signal to attack.
But Liu Bei did not go out to repulse Gao Shun; he
only kept the gate fast closed.
Soon after, Zhang Liao led an attack on the west
gate, then kept by Guan Yu, who addressed Zhang
Liao from the wall.
“You are too good a man to waste yourself on
rebels,” said Guan Yu.
Zhang Liao hung his head and made no reply.
Guan Yu knew that Zhang Liao had a sound heart
and high principles and said no more, as he was
unwilling to wound Zhang Liao. Nor did he go out to
Zhang Liao then drew off and proceeded to the
east gate, and Zhang Fei went out to give battle.
Soon it was told Guan Yu, who came over quickly.
He saw Zhang Fei going out, but Zhang Liao was
already withdrawing. Zhang Fei wished to pursue,
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but his brother held him back.
“He is afraid and so has gone away; it would be
best to pursue,” said Zhang Fei.
“No,” said Guan Yu. “As a warrior he is not
inferior to either of us, but I have spoken a few
straight words, and he has sunk deep. He is
repentant and that is why he will not meet us.”
So Zhang Fei understood, and the gates were
shut and orders given for careful defense. When Jian
Yong, Liu Bei’s messenger, reached the capital, he
saw Cao Cao and told him what had happened. The
advisers were called to discuss a plan.
Cao Cao said, “I wish to attack Lu Bu. I fear not
Yuan Shao, but Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu may attack
me in the rear.”
Xun You, the nephew of Xun Yu, replied, “Both
these latter have been too recently defeated to do
anything so rash. But Lu Bu is a bold fighting man,
and if he joined forces with Yuan Shu and they set
themselves to conquer River Huai and River Si, the
problem would he difficult.”
Then spoke Guo Jia, “Let us take advantage of
the moment before they have fully made up their
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mind. Smite before they are fully prepared.”
And Cao Cao did so. An army of fifty thousand
w e r e s e n t i n a d v a n c e w i t h f o u r
commanders—Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Lu Qian,
and Li Dian. Cao Cao commanded the center army,
which marched by divisions, and Jian Yong brought
up the rear.
Soon the scouts informed Gao Shun. He sent
flying messengers to Lu Bu, who detached two
hundred horse with Hou Cheng, Cao Xing, and He
Meng to assist him. Gao Shun posted this
reinforcement and his army about ten miles from
Xiaopei to meet Cao Cao’s army. Lu Bu and the
main army also followed close.
When Liu Bei saw the enemy retiring from the
city, he knew Cao Cao’s army was close at hand. So,
making arrangements for guarding the city within, he
and his two brothers marched their troops out of the
city and made a camp, that they might be ready to
Now the division of Cao Cao’s army under Xiahou
Dun, having marched out in advance, first came into
touch with Gao Shun. Xiahou Dun at once rode out
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with spear set and offered a challenge. It was
accepted and the two leaders fought half a hundred
bouts. Then Gao Shun began to weaken and had to
turn back. He rode round to the rear of his array.
Xiahou Dun was not the man to quail, so he followed
right into the enemy’s country. Then Cao Xing, one
of Lu Bu’s generals, secretly strung his bow, fitted an
arrow and, when Xiahou Dun had come quite near,
shot at him. The arrow hit Xiahou Dun full in the left
eye. He shrieked, and putting up his head, pulled out
the arrow and with it the eye.
“Essence of my father, blood of my mother, I
cannot throw this away!” cried Xiahou Dun, and he
put the eye into his mouth and swallowed it.
Then resuming his firm grip of his spear, Xiahou
Dun went after this new enemy. There was no
escape for Cao Xing. He was overtaken and fell with
a fatal spear wound full in the face. Both sides were
stricken dumb with amazement.
Having thus slain the man who had wounded him,
Xiahou Dun rode back toward his own side. Gao
Shun went in pursuit and, waving on his army,
attacked so vigorously that he won the day. Xiahou
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Yuan defended for his elder brother as they fled. Lu
Qian and Li Dian led various divisions back to Jibei
and made a camp.
Gao Shun, having scored this victory, returned to
attack Liu Bei; and as Lu Bu opportunely arrived with
Zhang Liao, these three arranged their forces so that
each attacked one of the brothers.
Dauntless was Xiahou Dun, that warrior bold,
His courage had been proved of old;
But smitten sore one hapless day,
He might not in the battle stay.
The fate of Liu Bei will be told in the next chapter.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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