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CHAPTER 32. Jizhou Taken: Yuan Shang Strives; River Zhang Cut: Xun You Schemes.

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

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Yuan Shang was puffed up with pride after his
victory over Shi Huan and, without deigning to wait
the arrival of his brothers, he marched out with thirty
thousand troops to Liyang to meet the army of Cao
Cao. Zhang Liao came out to challenge him, and
Yuan Shang, accepting the challenge rode out with
spear set. But he only lasted to the third bout when
he had to give way. Zhang Liao smote with full force
and Yuan Shang, quite broken, fled pell−mell to
Jizhou. His defeat was a heavy shock to his father
Yuan Shao, who had a severe fit of hemorrhage at
the news and swooned.
Lady Liu, his wife, got him to bed as quickly as
possible, but he did not rally; and she soon saw it
was necessary to prepare for the end. So she sent
for Shen Pei and Peng Ji that the succession might
be settled. They came and stood by the sick man’s
bed, but by this time he could no longer speak; he
only made motions with his hands.
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When his wife put the formal question, “Is Yuan
Shang to succeed?”
Yuan Shao nodded his head. Shen Pei at the
bedside wrote out the dying man’s testament.
Presently Yuan Shao uttered a loud moan, a fresh fit
of bleeding followed, and he passed away.
Born of a line of nobles famous for generations,
He himself in his youth was wayward always and
Vainly he called to his side generals skilled and
Gathered beneath his banner countless legions of
For he was timid at heart, a lamb dressed as a
Merely a cowardly chicken, phoenix−feathered
but spurless.
Pitiful was the fate of his house; for when he
Brother with brother strove and quarrels arose in
the household.
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Shen Pei and some others set about the
mourning ceremonies for the dead man. His wife,
Lady Liu, put to death five of his favorite concubines,
and such was the bitterness of her jealousy that, not
content with this, she shaved off the hair and slashed
the faces of their poor corpses lest their spirits
should meet and rejoin her late husband in the land
of shades beneath the Nine Golden Springs. Her son
followed up this piece of cruelty by slaying all the
relatives of the unhappy concubines lest they should
avenge their death.
Shen Pei and Peng Ji declared Yuan Shang
successor with the titles of Regent Marshal and
Supreme Imperial Protector of the four regions of
Jizhou, Qingzhou, Youzhou, and Bingzhou and sent
in a report of the death of the late Imperial Protector.
At this time Yuan Tan, the eldest son, had already
marched out his army to oppose Cao Cao; but
hearing of his father’s death, he called in Guo Tu and
Xin Ping to consult as to his course of action.
“In your absence, my lord,” said Guo Tu, “the two
advisers of your younger brother will certainly set
him up as lord, wherefore you must act quickly.”
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“Those two, Shen Pei and Peng Ji, have already
laid their plans,” said Xin Ping. “If you go, you will
meet with some misfortune.”
“Then what should I do?” asked Yuan Tan.
Guo Tu replied, “Go and camp near the city, and
watch what is taking place while I enter and inquire.”
Accordingly Guo Tu entered the city and sought
an interview with the young Imperial Protector.
“Why did not my brother come?” asked Yuan
Shang after the usual salutes.
Guo Tu said, “He cannot come as he is in the
camp unwell.”
“By the command of my late father I take the
lordship. Now I confer upon my brother the rank of
General of the Flying Cavalry, and I wish him to go at
once to attack Cao Cao, who is pressing on the
borders. I will follow as soon as my army is in order.”
“There is no one in our camp to give advice,” said
Guo Tu. “I wish to have the services of Shen Pei and
Peng Ji.”
“I also need the help of these two,” said Yuan
Shang. “And as I am always working at schemes, I
do not see how I can do without them.”
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“Then let one of these two go,” replied Guo Tu.
Yuan Shang could do no other than accede to
this request, so he bade the two men cast lots who
should go. Peng Ji drew the lot and was appointed,
receiving a seal of office. Then he accompanied Guo
Tu to the camp. But when he arrived and found Yuan
Tan in perfect health, he grew suspicious and
Yuan Tan angrily refused to accept his
resignation and was disposed to put him to death,
but Guo Tu privately dissuaded him, saying, “Cao
Cao is on the borders, and Peng Ji must be kept
here to allay your brother’s suspicions. After we have
beaten Cao Cao, we can at once make an attempt
on Jizhou.”
Yuan Tan agreed and forthwith broke up his
camp to march against the enemy. He reached
Liyang and lost no time in offering battle. He chose
for his champion Wang Zhao and, when he rode out,
Cao Cao sent Xu Huang to meet him. These two had
fought but a few bouts when Wang Zhao was slain.
At once Cao Cao’s army pressed forward, and Yuan
Tan suffered a severe defeat. Yuan Tan drew off his
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army and retired into Liyang, whence he sent to his
brother for reinforcements.
Yuan Shang and his adviser Shen Pei discussed
the matter and only five thousand troops were sent.
Cao Cao hearing of the dispatch of this meager force
sent Li Dian and Yue Jin to waylay them, and the
half legion was destroyed. When Yuan Tan heard of
the inadequate force sent and their destruction, he
was very wrath and roundly abused Peng Ji.
Peng Ji replied, “Let me write to my lord and pray
him to come himself.”
So Peng Ji wrote and the letter was sent. When it
arrived, Yuan Shang again consulted Shen Pei who
said, “Guo Tu, your elder brother’s adviser, is very
guileful. Formerly he left without discussion because
Cao Cao was on the border. If Cao Cao be defeated,
there will certainly be an attempt on you. The better
plan is to withhold assistance and use Cao Cao’s
hand to destroy your rival.” Yuan Shang took his
advice and no help was sent. When the messenger
returned to Liyang without success, Yuan Tan was
very angry and showed it by putting Peng Ji to death.
He also began to talk of surrendering to Cao Cao.
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Soon spies brought news of this to Yuan Shang, and
again Shen Pei was called in.
Yuan Shang said, “If Yuan Tan goes over to Cao
Cao, they will both attack Jizhou, and we shall be in
great danger.”
Finally Shen Pei and Xu You were left to take
care of the defense of the city, and Yuan Shang
marched his army to the rescue of his brother.
“Who dares lead the van?” said Yuan Shang.
Two brothers named Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang
volunteered, and thirty thousand troops were given
them. They were the first to reach Liyang.
Yuan Tan was pleased that Yuan Shang had
decided to play a brotherly part and come to his aid,
so he at once abandoned all thought of going over to
the enemy. He being in the city, Yuan Shang
camped outside, making that an ox−horn formation
of their strategic position.
Before long Yuan Xi, the second brother, and
their cousin, Gao Gan, arrived with their legions and
also camped outside the city.
Engagements took place daily, and Yuan Shang
suffered many defeats. On the other hand Cao Cao
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was victorious and elated. In the second month of
the eighth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 203), Cao
Cao made separate attacks on all four armies and
won the day against each. Then the Yuans
abandoned Liyang, and Cao Cao pursued them to
Jizhou, where Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang went into
the city to defend it, while their brother and cousin
camped about ten miles away making a show of
great force.
When Cao Cao had made many attacks without
success, Guo Jia proffered the following plan.
He said, “There is dissension among the Yuans
because the elder has been superseded in the
succession. The brothers are about equally strong
and each has his party. If we oppose them; they
unite to assist each other; but if we have patience,
they will be weakened by family strife. Wherefore
send first a force to reduce Liu Biao in Jingzhou, and
let the fraternal quarrels develop. When they have
fully developed, we can smite them and settle the
Cao Cao approved of the plan. So leaving Jia Xu
as Governor of Liyang and Cao Hong as guard at
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Guandu, the army went away toward Jingzhou.
The two brothers Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang
congratulated each other on the withdrawal of their
enemy, and their brother Yuan Xi and their cousin
Gao Gan marched their armies back to their own
Then the quarrels began. Yuan Tan said to his
confidants Guo Tu and Xin Ping, “I, the eldest, have
been prevented from succeeding my father, while the
youngest son, born of a second wife, received the
main heritage. My heart is bitter.”
Said Guo Tu, “Camp your army outside, invite
your brother and Shen Pei to a banquet, and
assassinate them. The whole matter is easily
And Yuan Tan agreed. It happened that Adviser
Wang Xiu came just then from Qingzhou whom Yuan
Tan took into his confidence. Wang Xiu opposed the
murder plan, saying, “Brothers are as one’s limbs.
How can you possibly succeed if at a moment of
conflict with an enemy you cut off one of your
hands? If you abandon your brother and sever
relationship, whom will you take in all the world as a
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relation? That fellow Guo Tu is a dangerous
mischief−maker, who would sow dissension between
brothers for a momentary advantage, and I beg you
to shut your ears and not listen to his persuasions.”
This was displeasing to Yuan Tan, and he angrily
dismissed Wang Xiu, while he sent the treacherous
invitation to his brother.
Yuan Shang and Shen Pei talked over the matter.
Shen Pei said, “I recognize one of Guo Tu’s
stratagems and if you go, my lord, you will be the
victim of their plot. Rather strike at them at once.”
Whereupon Yuan Shang rode out to battle. His
brother Yuan Tan, seeing him come with fifty
thousand troops, knew that his treachery had been
discovered, so he also took the field. When the
forces were near enough, Yuan Tan opened on
Yuan Shang with a volley of abuse.
“You poisoned my father and usurped the
succession; now you come out to slay your elder
The battle went against Yuan Tan. Yuan Shang
himself took part in the fight, risking the arrows and
the stones. He urged on his troops and drove his
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brother off the field. Yuan Tan took refuge in
Pingyuan. Yuan Shang drew off his army to his own
Yuan Tan and Guo Tu decided upon a new
attack, and this time they chose General Cen Bi as
Leader of the Van. Yuan Shang went to meet him.
When both sides had been arrayed and the banners
were flying and the drums beating, Cen Bi rode out
to challenge and railed at his opponent. At first Yuan
Shang was going to answer the challenge himself,
but Lu Kuang had advanced. Lu Kuang and Cen Bi
met but had fought only a few bouts when Cen Bi
fell. Yuan Tan’s soldiers were once more defeated
and ran away to Pingyuan. Shen Pei urged his
master to press for the advantage, and Yuan Tan
was driven into the city, where he fortified himself
and would not go out. So the city was besieged on
three sides.
Yuan Tan asked his strategist what should be
done next, and Guo Tu said, “The city is short of
food, the enemy is flushed with victory, and we
cannot stand against them. My idea is to send some
one to offer surrender to Cao Cao and thus get him
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to attack Jizhou. Your brother will be forced to return
thither, which will leave you free to join in the attack.
We may capture Yuan Shang. Should Cao Cao
begin to get the better of your brother’s army, we will
lend our force to help Yuan Shang against Cao Cao;
and as Cao Cao’s base of supply is distant, we shall
drive him off. And we can seize on Jizhou and begin
our great design.”
“Supposing this scheme be attempted, who is the
man for a messenger?”
“I have one Xin Pi, Xin Ping’s younger brother; he
is the magistrate here in this very place. He is a
fluent speaker and good scholar and suited to your
So Xin Pi was summoned and came readily
enough. Letters were given him and an escort of
three thousand soldiers took him beyond the border.
He traveled as quickly as possible.
At that time Cao Cao’s camp was at the Xiping
Pass and he was attacking Liu Biao, who had sent
Liu Bei out to offer the first resistance. No battle had
yet taken place.
Soon after his arrival, Xin Pi was admitted to the
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Prime Minister’s presence; and after the ceremonies
of greeting, Cao Cao asked the object of the visit.
Xin Pi explained that Yuan Tan wanted assistance
and presented his dispatches. Cao Cao read them
and told the messenger to wait in his camp while he
called his officers to a council.
The council met. Cheng Yu said, “Yuan Tan has
been forced into making this offer because of the
pressure of his brother’s attack. Put no trust in him.”
Lu Qian and Man Chong said, “You have led your
armies here for a special purpose; how can you
abandon that and go to assist Yuan Tan?”
“Gentlemen, not one of you is giving good
advice,” interposed Xun You. “This is how I regard it.
Since there is universal trouble, in the midst of which
Liu Biao remains quietly content with his position
between the River Zhang and the River Han, it is
evident that he has no ambition to enlarge his
borders. The Yuans hold four regions and have
many legions of soldiers. Harmony between the two
brothers means success for the family, and none can
foresee what will happen in the empire. Now take
advantage of this fraternal conflict and let them fight
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till they are weakened and have to yield to our Prime
Minister. Then Yuan Shang can be removed, and
when the times are suitable, Yuan Tan can be
destroyed in his turn. Thus peace will ensue. This
present combination of circumstances is to be taken
advantage of to full measure.”
Cao Cao realized the truth of this and treated Xin
Pi well.
At a banquet Cao Cao said, “But is this surrender
of Yuan Tan real or false? Do you really think that
Yuan Shang’s army is sure to overcome him?”
Xin Pi replied, “Illustrious Sir, do not inquire into
the degree of sincerity; rather regard the situation.
The Yuans have been suffering military losses for
years and are powerless without, while their
strategists are put to death within. The brothers seize
every chance to speak evil of each other and their
country is divided. Add to this famine, supplemented
by calamities and general exhaustion, and
everybody, wise as well as simple, can see that the
catastrophe is near and the time ordained of Heaven
for the destruction of the Yuans is at hand. Now you
h a v e a f o r c e a t t a c k i n g t h e c a p i t a l o f
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Jizhou—Yejun—and if Yuan Shang will not return to
give aid, the place of refuge is lost. If he helps, then
Yuan Tan will follow up and smite him, making use of
your power to destroy the remnant of his brother’s
army, just as the autumn gale sweeps away the
fallen leaves. Now Liu Biao’s Jingzhou is rich, the
government peaceful, the people submissive, and it
cannot be shaken. Moreover, there is no greater
threat to it than the North of Yellow River. If that be
reduced, then the task is complete. I pray you, Sir,
think of it.”
“I am sorry that I did not meet you earlier,” said
Cao Cao, much gratified with this speech.
Forthwith orders were given to return and attack
Jizhou. Liu Bei, fearing this retirement was only a
ruse, allowed it to proceed without interference and
himself returned to Jingzhou.
When Yuan Shang heard that Cao Cao had
crossed the Yellow River, he hastily led his army
back to Yejun, ordering Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang to
guard the rear.
Yuan Tan started from Pingyuan with a force in
pursuit. He had proceeded only a dozen miles when
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he heard a bomb and two bodies of troops came out
in front of him and checked his progress. Their
leaders were Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang.
Yuan Tan reined in and addressed them, saying,
“While my father lived, I never treated you badly; why
do you support my brother and try to injure me?” The
two generals had no reply to make, but they
dismounted and bowed before him yielding
Yuan Tan said, “Do not surrender to me but to the
Prime Minister.”
And he led them back to camp, where he waited
the arrival of Cao Cao and then presented the pair.
Cao Cao received them well. He promised his
daughter to Yuan Tan to wife, and he appointed the
two brothers as advisers.
When Yuan Tan asked Cao Cao to attack Jizhou,
the reply was “Supplies are short and difficult to
transport. I must turn the waters of River Ji into the
White River whereby to convey my grain and
afterwards I can advance.”
Ordering Yuan Tan to remain in Pingyuan, Cao
Cao retired into camp at Liyang. The two brothers Lu
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Xiang and Lu Kuang, who were renegades from
Yuan Shang, were now raised to noble rank and
followed the army as supernumeraries.
Guo Tu noted this advancement and said to Yuan
Tan, “He has promised you a daughter to wife. I fear
that bodes no good. Now he has given titles of
nobility to the two Lus and taken them with him. This
is a bait for the northern people, and at the same
time he intends evil toward us. You, my lord, should
have two generals’ seals engraved and send them
secretly to the brothers so that you may have friends
at court ready for the day when Cao Cao shall have
broken your brother’s power, and we can begin to
work against him.”
The seals were engraved and sent. As soon as
the Lu brothers received them, they informed Cao
Cao, who smiled, saying, “He wants your support so
he sends you seals as officers. I will consider it as
soon as Yuan Shang has been dealt with. In the
meantime you may accept the seals till I shall decide
what to do.”
Thenceforward Cao Cao planned Yuan Tan’s
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Shen Pei and his master also discussed the
current situation. Yuan Shang said, “Cao Cao is
getting grain into the White River, which means an
attack on Jizhou; what is to be done?”
Shen Pei replied, “Send letters to Yin Kai,
Commander of Wuan, bidding him camp at
Maocheng to secure the road to Shangdang, and
direct Ju Gu, son of Ju Shou, to maintain Handan as
a distant auxiliary. Then you may advance on
Pingyuan and attack Cao Cao.”
The plan seemed good. Yuan Shang left Shen
Pei and Chen Lin in charge of Yejun, appointed two
Commanders Ma Yan and Zhang Yi as Van Leaders,
and set out hastily for Pingyuan.
When Yuan Tan heard of the approach of his
brother’s army, he sent urgent messages to Cao
Cao, who said to himself, “I am going to get Jizhou
this time.”
Just at this time it happened that Xun You came
down from the capital. When he heard that Yuan
Shang was attacking his brother Yuan Tan, he
sought Cao Cao and said, “You, Sir, sit here on
guard; are you waiting till Heaven’s thunder shall
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strike the two Yuans?”
“I have thought it all out,” said Cao Cao.
Then he ordered Cao Hong to go and fight
against Yejun, while he led another army against Yin
Kai in Maocheng. Yin Kai could make no adequate
defense and was killed by Xu Chu. His soldiers ran
away and presently joined Cao Cao’s army. Next
Cao Cao led the army to Handan, and Ju Gu came
out to fight him. Zhang Liao advanced to fight with Ju
Gu, and after the third encounter Ju Gu was
defeated and fled. Zhang Liao went after him, and
when their two horses were not far apart, Zhang Liao
took his bow and shot. The fleeing warrior fell as the
bowstring twanged. Cao Cao completed the rout,
and Ju Gu’s force was broken up.
Now Cao Cao led his armies to an attack on
Yejun. Cao Hong had arrived before; and a regular
siege began. The army encompassed the city and
began by throwing up great mounds. They also
tunneled subterranean ways.
Within the city Shen Pei turned his whole care to
the defense and issued the severest commands. The
Commandant of the East Gate, Feng Li, got
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intoxicated and failed to keep his watch for which he
was severely punished. Feng Li resented this,
sneaked out of the city, went over to the besiegers,
and told them how the place could be attacked.
“The earth within the Pearly Gate is solid enough
to be tunneled, and entrance can be effected there,”
said the traitor.
So Feng Li was sent with three hundred men to
carry out his plan under cover of darkness.
After Feng Li had deserted to the enemy, Shen
Pei went every night to the wall to inspect the
soldiers on duty. The night of the sapping he went
there as usual and saw that there were no lights
outside the city and all was perfectly quiet.
So he said to himself, “Feng Li is certain to try to
come into the city by an underground road.”
Whereupon he ordered his troops to bring up
stones and pile them on the cover of the tunnel
opening. The opening was stopped up and the
attacking party perished in the tunnel they had
Cao Cao having failed in this attempt abandoned
the scheme of underground attack. He drew off the
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army to a place above the River Huan to await till
Yuan Shang should return to relieve the city.
Yuan Shang heard of the defeat of Yin Kai and Ju
Gu, and the siege of his own city, and bethought
himself of relieving it. One of his commanders, Ma
Yan, said, “The high road will surely be ambushed;
we must find some other way. We can take a
by−road from the Western Hills and get through by
River Fu, whence we can fall upon Cao Cao’s camp.”
The plan was acceptable and Yuan Shang started
off with the main body, Ma Yan and Zhang Yi being
rear guard.
Cao Cao’s spies soon found out this move, and
when they reported it, he said, “If Yuan Shang
comes by the high road, I shall have to keep out of
the way; if by the Western Hills’ by−road, I can settle
him in one battle. And I think he will show a blaze as
a signal to the besieged that they may make a sortie.
I shall prepare to attack both.”
So Cao Cao made his preparations. Now Yuan
Shang went out by River Fu east toward Yangping;
and near this he camped. Thence to Yejun was five
miles. River Fu ran beside the camp. He ordered his
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soldiers to collect firewood and grass ready for the
blaze he intended to make at night as his signal. He
also sent Li Fu, a civil officer, disguised as an officer
of Cao Cao’s army, to inform Shen Pei of his
Li Fu reached the city wall safely and called out to
the guards to open. Shen Pei recognized his voice
and let him in. Thus Shen Pei knew of the
arrangements for his relief, and it was agreed that a
blaze should be raised within the city so that the
sortie could be simultaneous with Yuan Shang’s
attack. Orders were given to collect inflammables.
Then said Li Fu, “As your food supply is short, it
would be well for the old people, the feeble soldiers
and the women to surrender. This will come upon
them as a surprise, and we will send the soldiers out
behind them.”
Shen Pei promised to do all this, and next day
they hoisted on the wall a white flag with the words
“The populace of Jizhou surrender!” on it.
“Ho ho! This means no food,” said Cao Cao.
“They are sending away the non−combatants to
escape feeding them. And the soldiers will follow
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behind them.”
Cao Cao bade Zhang Liao and Xu Huang laid an
ambush of three thousand troops on both sides while
he went near the wall in full state. Presently the
gates were opened and out came the people
supporting their aged folks and leading their little
ones by the hand. Each carried a white flag. As soon
as the people had passed the gate, the soldiers
followed with a rush.
Then Cao Cao showed a red flag, and the
ambushing soldiers led by Zhang Liao and Xu Huang
fell upon the sortie. The troops tried to return and
Cao Cao’s force made a direct attack. The chase
continued to the drawbridge, but there Cao Cao’s
force met with a tremendous shower of arrows and
crossbow bolts which checked the advance. Cao
Cao’s helmet was struck and the crest carried away.
His leaders came to pull him back, and the army
As soon as Cao Cao had changed his dress and
mounted a fresh horse, he set out at the head of the
army to attack Yuan Shang’s camp.
Yuan Shang led the defense. The attack came
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simultaneously from many directions, the defenders
were quite disorganized and presently defeated.
Yuan Shang led his troops back by the Western Hills
and made a camp under their shelter. Thence he
sent messengers to urge Ma Yan and Zhang Yi to
bring up the supports. He did not know that Cao Cao
had sent Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang to persuade these
two into surrender and that they had already passed
under Cao Cao’s banner, and he had conferred upon
them the title of lordship.
Just before going to attack the Western Hills, Cao
Cao sent Lu Xiang, Lu Kuang, Ma Yan, and Zhang
Yi to seize the source of Yuan Shang’s supplies.
Yuan Shang had realized he could not hold the hills,
so he went by night to Lankou. Before he could get
camped, he saw flaring lights springing up all around
him and soon an attack began. He was taken aback
and had to oppose the enemy with his men half
armed, his steeds unsaddled. His army suffered and
he had to retreat another fifteen miles. By that time
his force was too enfeebled to show any resistance,
and as no other course was possible, he sent the
Imperial Protector of Yuzhou, Yin Kui, to Cao Cao’s
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camp and ask that he might surrender.
Cao Cao feigned to consent, but that night he
sent Zhang Liao and Xu Huang to raid Yuan Shang’s
camp. Then it became flight, abandoning everything,
seals, emblems of office, and even personal clothing.
Yuan Shang made for the Zhongshan Mountains.
Then Cao Cao came to attack Jizhou City, and to
help out this Xun You suggested drowning the city by
turning the course of the River Zhang. Cao Cao
adopted the suggestion and at once sent a small
number of men to dig a channel to lead the water to
the city. All told, it was seventeen miles.
Shen Pei saw the diggers from the city wall and
noticed that they made only a shallow channel. He
chuckled, saying to himself, “What is the use of such
a channel to drown out the city from a deep river?”
So he made no preparations to keep out the
water. But as soon as night came on, Cao Cao
increased his army of diggers tenfold and by daylight
the channel was deepened to twenty spans and the
water was flowing in a great stream into the city
where it already stood some spans deep. So this
misfortune was added to the lack of food.
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Xin Pi now displayed the captured seal and
garments of Yuan Shang hung out on spears, to the
great shame of their late owner, and called upon the
people of the city to surrender. This angered Shen
Pei, who avenged the insult by putting to death on
the city wall the whole of the Xin family who were
within the city. There were eighty of them, and their
severed heads were cast down from the walls. Xin Pi
wept exceedingly.
Shen Pei’s nephew Shen Rong, one of the gate
wardens, was a dear friend of Xin Pi, and the murder
of Xin Pi’s family greatly distressed him. He wrote a
secret letter offering to betray the city and tied it to
an arrow, which he shot out among the besiegers.
The soldiers found it, gave it to Xin Pi who took it to
his chief.
Cao Cao issued an order: “The family of the
Yuans should be spared when the city should be
taken and that no one who surrendered should be
put to death.”
The next day the soldiers entered by the west
gate, opened for them by Shen Rong. Xin Pi was the
first to prance in on horseback and the army
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When Shen Pei, who was on the southeast of the
city, saw the enemy within the gates, he placed
himself at the head of some horsemen and dashed
toward them. He was met and captured by Xu Huang
who bound him and led him outside the city. On the
road they met Xin Pi, who ground his teeth with rage
at the murderer of his relatives and then struck the
prisoner over the head with his whip, crying, “Murder!
Blood drinker! You will meet your death.”
Shen Pei retorted, “Traitor! Seller of the city! I am
very sorry I was not to have slain you before.”
When the captive was taken into Cao Cao’s
presence, Cao Cao said, “Do you know who opened
the gate to let me in?”
“No; I know not.”
“It was your nephew Shen Rong who gave up the
gate,” said Cao Cao.
“He was always unprincipled; and it has come to
this!” said Shen Pei.
“The other day when I approached the city, why
did you shoot so hard at me?”
“I am sorry we shot too little.”
Three Kingdoms Romance
“As a faithful adherent of the Yuans, you could do
no otherwise. Now will you come over to me?”
“Never; I will never surrender.”
Xin Pi threw himself on the ground with
lamentations, saying, “Eighty of my people murdered
by this ruffian; I pray you slay him, O Prime Minister!”
“Alive, I have served the Yuans;” said Shen Pei,
“dead, I will be their ghost. I am no flattering
time−server as you are. Kill me!”
Cao Cao gave the order; they led him away to put
him to death. On the execution ground he said to the
executioners, “My lord is in the north, I pray you not
to make me face the south.”
So Shen Pei knelt facing the north and extended
his neck for the fatal stroke.
Who of all the official throng
In the North was true like Shen Pei?
Sad his fate! He served a fool,
But faithful, as the ancient humans.
Straight and true was every word,
Never from the road he swerved.
Faithful unto death, he died
Three Kingdoms Romance
Gazing toward the lord he’d served.
Thus died Shen Pei and from respect for his
character Cao Cao ordered that he be buried
honorably on the north of the city.
The Prime Minister then entered the city of Yejun.
As he was starting, he saw the executioners hurrying
forward a prisoner who proved to be Chen Lin.
“You wrote that manifesto for Yuan Shao. If you
had only directed your diatribe against me, it would
not have mattered. But why did you shame my
forefathers?” said Cao Cao.
“When the arrow is on the string, it must fly,”
replied Chen Lin.
Those about Cao Cao urged him to put Chen Lin
to death, but he was spared on account of his genius
and given a civil post.
Now Cao Cao’s eldest son was named Cao Pi. At
the taking of the cities he was eighteen years of age.
When he was born a dark purplish halo hung over
the house for a whole day. One who understood the
meaning of such manifestations had secretly told
Cao Cao that the halo belonged to the imperial class
Three Kingdoms Romance
and portended honors which could not be put into
At eight the lad could compose very skillfully and
he was well read in ancient history. Now he was an
adept at all military arts and very fond of fencing. He
had gone with his father on the expedition to Jizhou.
When Yejun had fallen, he led his escort in the
direction of the Yuan family dwelling, and when he
reached it, he strode in, sword in hand. When some
commander would have stayed him, saying that by
order of the Prime Minister no one was to enter the
house, Cao Pi bade them begone. The guards fell
back and he made his way into the private rooms,
where he saw two women weeping in each other’s
arms. He went forward to slay them.
Four generations of honors, gone like a dream,
Fate follows on ever surely, though slow she
The fate of the two women will be told in the next
Three Kingdoms Romance

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