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CHAPTER 39. At Jingzhou The Son Of Liu Biao Thrice Begs Advice; At Bowang Slope The Directing Instructor Plans His First Battle.

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

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Now Sun Quan fought against Xiakou. When
Huang Zu recognized that he was beaten and could
not maintain his position, he abandoned Jiangxia
and took the road to Jingzhou. Gan Ning, foreseeing
this, had laid an ambush outside the east gate of
Jiangxia. Soon after the fugitive, with a small
following, had burst out of the gate, he found his
road blocked.
From horseback, Huang Zu said, “I treated you
well in the past; why do you now press me so hard?”
Gan Ning angrily shouted, “I did good service for
you, and yet you treated me as a pirate. Now what
have you to say?”
There was nothing to be said, and Huang Zu
turned his horse to escape. But Gan Ning thrust
aside his troops and himself rode in pursuit. Then he
heard a shouting in his rear and saw General Cheng
Pu coming up. Fearing lest this other pursuer should
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overpass him and score the success he desired for
himself, Gan Ning fitted an arrow to his bow and shot
at the fugitive. Huang Zu was hit and fell from his
steed. Then Gan Ning cut off his head. After this,
joining himself to Cheng Pu, the two returned
bearing the ghastly trophy to their lord. Sun Quan
ordered them to place it in a box to be taken back
home and offered as a sacrifice to the manes of his
Having rewarded the soldiers for the victory and
promoted Gan Ning, Sun Quan next discussed the
advisability of sending a force to hold Jiangxia.
But his adviser, Zhang Zhao, said, “It is
impossible to try to hold one distant city alone. It is
better to return home and prepare for the expedition
that Liu Biao will surely send in revenge. We will
meet and defeat his worn army, push home the
attack, and capture his whole region.”
Sun Quan saw the advice was wise, so he left
Jiangxia and led his army home to the South Land.
Now Su Fei was still confined, but he got some
one to go to Gan Ning to beg him to plead for mercy.
Gan Ning had expected this although the prisoner
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had said no word, and he was averse from leaving
his friend and one−time protector to perish.
“I should not have forgotten him even if he had
said nothing,” said Gan Ning.
When the army had returned, Sun Quan gave
orders for Su Fei’s execution that his head might be
offered with that of Huang Zu.
Then Gan Ning went in to his lord and said,
weeping, “Long ago, if it had not been for Su Fei, my
bones would have been rotting in some ditch and
how then could I have rendered service under your
banner? Now he deserves death, but I cannot forget
his kindness to me, and I pray you take away the
honors you have bestowed on me as a set−off to his
Sun Quan replied, “Since he once showed
kindness to you, I will pardon him for your sake. But
what can be done if he run away?”
“If he be pardoned and escape death, he will be
immeasurably grateful and will not go away. If he
should, then will I offer my life in exchange.”
So the condemned man escaped death, and only
one head was offered in sacrifice. After the sacrificial
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ceremonies, a great banquet was spread in honor of
the victories. As it was proceeding, suddenly one of
the guests burst into loud lamentations, drew his
sword, and rushed upon Gan Ning. Gan Ning hastily
rose and defended himself with the chair on which
he had been sitting. The host looked at the assailant
and saw it was Ling Tong, whose father Ling Cao
had fallen under an arrow shot by Gan Ning. The son
was now burning to avenge his father’s death.
Hastily leaving his place, Sun Quan checked the
angry officer, saying, “If he slew your noble father,
then remember each was fighting for his lord for
whom he was bound to exert himself to the utmost.
But now that you both are under one flag and are of
one house, you may not recall an ancient injury. You
must regard my interests continually.”
Ling Tong beat his head upon the floor and cried,
saying, “But how can I not avenge this? It is a blood
feud and we may not both live under the same sky.”
The guests interfered, beseeching the man to
forgo his revenge, and at last he ceased from his
murderous intention. But he sat glaring wrathfully at
his enemy.
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So soon after Gan Ning was dispatched with five
thousand troops and one hundred warships to guard
Xiakou, where he was beyond the reach of Ling
Tong’s wrath. Then Sun Quan promoted Ling Tong,
and so he was somewhat appeased.
From about this time the South Land enlarged her
fleets, and soldiers were sent to various points to
guard the river banks. The brother of the chieftain,
Sun Kuang, was placed in command at Wujun, and
Sun Quan himself, with a large army, camped at
Zhou Yu, Commander−in−Chief of the army and
Supreme Admiral of the navy, was on the Poyang
Lake training the naval forces, and general
preparations were made for defense and attack.
By his spies, Liu Bei had tidings of the doings in
the lower portion of the Great River, and knew of the
death of Huang Zu. So he consulted Zhuge Liang as
to his action. While they were discussing matters,
there arrived a messenger from Liu Biao, begging
Liu Bei to go to see him.
Zhuge Liang advised him to go and said, “This
call is to consult you about avenging Huang Zu. You
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must take me with you and let me act as the
circumstances direct. There are advantages to be
Leaving Guan Yu in command at Xinye, Liu Bei
set forth, taking Zhang Fei with five hundred soldiers
as his escort.
On the way he discussed the course of action
with his adviser, who said, “First you must thank Liu
Biao for having saved you from the evil that Cai Mao
planned against you at Xiangyang. However, you
must not undertake any expedition against the South
Land but say you must return to Xinye to put your
army in good order.”
With this admonition Liu Bei came to Jingzhou
and was lodged in the guest−house. Zhang Fei and
the escort camped without the walls. In due course
Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang were received, and after the
customary salutations, Liu Bei apologized for his
conduct at the banquet.
The host said, “Worthy Brother, I know you were
the victim of a vile plot; and I should have put the
prime mover to death for it, had there not been so
universal a prayer for mercy. However, I remitted
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that penalty. I hope you do not consider that I was
“Cai Mao hall little to do with it; I think it was due
to his subordinates,” replied Liu Bei.
Liu Biao said, “Jiangxia is lost, as you know;
Huang Zu is dead. So I have asked you to come that
we might take measures of vengeance.”
“Huang Zu was harsh and cruel and never used
his people in the proper way: that was the real cause
of his fall. But have you reflected what Cao Cao may
do on the north if we attack the south?”
“I am getting old and weak, and I am unable to
manage affairs properly; will you aid me, Brother?
After I am gone you will have this region.”
“Why do you say this, my brother? Think you that
I am equal to such a task?”
Here Zhuge Liang glanced at Liu Bei who
continued, “But give me a little time to think it over.”
And at this point he took his leave. When they
had reached their lodging, Zhuge Liang said, “Why
did you decline his offer of the region.”
“He has always been most kind and courteous. I
could not take advantage of his weakness.”
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“A perfectly kind and gracious lord,” sighed Zhuge
Soon after the son of the Imperial Protector, Liu
Qi, was announced, and Liu Bei received him and
led him in.
The young man began to weep, saying, “My
mother cannot bear the sight of me. My very life is in
danger. Can you not save me, Uncle?”
“My worthy nephew, this is a family affair. You
should not come to me.”
Zhuge Liang who was present, smiled. Liu Bei
turned to him to know what he should do.
“This is a family affair; I cannot touch it!” replied
Zhuge Liang.
The young man soon left; and when Liu Bei was
saying good−bye, he whispered, “I will get Zhuge
Liang to return your call, and you can do so and so.
He will advise you.”
Liu Qi thanked him and left. Next day when the
call was to be returned, Liu Bei pretended to be
suffering from colic and made that an excuse to send
Zhuge Liang to return the call.
The adviser went, and when he had reached the
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Palace, dismounted, and was led in, Liu Qi
conducted him into one of the inner rooms and when
the tea had been brought, said, “I am an object of my
stepmother’s dislike; can you advise me what to do?”
“As a mere stranger guest, I can hardly have
anything to do with your own ‘bone and flesh’
matters. If I did, and the story got abroad, much
harm might ensue.”
With this he rose to take leave. But Liu Qi was
unwilling to say farewell. He said, “Your glory has
turned in my direction; you cannot mean to go away
so pointlessly.”
Liu Qi led his visitor into a private chamber and
had refreshments brought. While they ate and drank,
Liu Qi repeated his first request: what was he to do
since his stepmother disliked him.
“It is not the sort of thing I can advise in,” replied
Zhuge Liang, as he rose for the second time to take
“Master, if you will not reply, that is well. But why
incontinently leave me?”
So the adviser once more seated himself, and Liu
Qi said, “There is an ancient writing I should like to
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show you.”
And he led his visitor to a small upper room.
“Where is the writing?” said Zhuge Liang.
Instead of answering Liu Qi wept, saying, “My
stepmother cannot bear me; my life is in danger. O
Master, will you not say a word to save me?”
Zhuge Liang flushed and rose to go away. But he
found the ladder by which they had mounted had
been removed.
Again Liu Qi besought some advice, saying,
“Master, you fear lest it may get abroad! Is that why
you are silent? Here we are between earth and sky,
and what you say will come out of your mouth
directly into my ear. No other soul can hear. Now can
you tell me what to do?”
“Sow not dissension among relatives,” said Zhuge
Liang. “Is it possible for me to make any plan for
“Then is my life indeed in danger,” said the young
man. “I will die at your feet.”
So saying, Liu Qi pulled out a dagger and
threatened to make an end of himself.
Zhuge Liang checked him, saying, “There is a
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“I pray you tell me.”
“You have heard of the old tale of the brothers
Shen Sheng and Chong Er, have you not? Shen
Sheng stayed at home and died; his brother Chong
Er went away and lived in peace. Now that Huang Zu
is gone and Jiangxia is weakly defended, why do you
not ask to be sent there to guard it? Then you would
be out of the way of harm.”
Liu Qi thanked him. Then he called to his people
to restore the ladder, and he escorted Zhuge Liang
down to the level ground.
Zhuge Liang returned to Liu Bei and related the
whole interview. The young man soon acted on the
advice given him, but his father would not at first
consent to let him go. To settle his doubts Liu Biao
sent for Liu Bei, who said, “Jiangxia is important, and
your son is the most suitable man to defend it. You
must let him go. The southeast will be defended by
your son; the northwest I will look after.”
“I hear that Cao Cao has been training a naval
force, and I am afraid he has intentions against us.
We must be on our guard.”
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“I know all about it; you need feel no anxiety,”
said Liu Bei.
He took leave of his relative and went home while
Liu Qi received command of three thousand soldiers
and went to guard Jiangxia.
At this time Cao Cao suppressed the three
highest officers of state and exercised their functions
himself as the Prime Minister. He appointed as his
general secretaries Mao Jie and Cui Yan, and as
literary secretary Sima Yi. Sima Yi of Henei was
grandson of Sima Juan, Governor of Yingchuan; son
of Sima Fang, Governor of Jingzhao; and younger
brother of Sima Lang, Secretary General.
Cao Cao then called his officers to a council to
discuss an expedition against the south.
Xiahou Dun opened the debate, saying, “Liu Bei
is drilling his army at Xinye, and is a source of
danger. He should be destroyed.”
Accordingly Xiahou Dun was appointed
Commanding General, and four assistants—Yu Jin,
Li Dian, Xiahou Lan, and Han Hao—were given him.
With these he led one hundred thousand troops to
Bowang, whence he could observe Xinye.
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Xun Yu was opposed to this and said, “Liu Bei is
a famous warrior, and he has lately taken to himself
as his Directing Instructor Zhuge Liang. Caution is
Xiahou Dun replied, “Liu Bei is a mean rat. I will
certainly take him prisoner.”
“Do not despise him,” said Xu Shu. “Remember
he has Zhuge Liang to help him, and so he is like a
tiger who has grown wings.”
Cao Cao said, “Who is this Zhuge Liang?”
“ H e h a s t a k e n a T a o i s t c o g n o m e n o f
Sleeping−Dragon. He is a perfect genius, god and
devil combined, the greatest marvel of the age. Do
not despise him.”
“How does he stand as compared with you?”
asked Cao Cao.
“There is no comparison. I am a mere glow−worm
spark; he is the glory of the full moon,” replied Xu
“You are mistaken,” replied Xiahou Dun. “This
Zhuge Liang of yours is of no account. Who would
fear him? If I do not take him and his master
prisoners in the first battle, then here is my head, a
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free gift to our lord, the Prime Minister.”
“Hasten to comfort me with news of victory,” said
Cao Cao.
Xiahou Dun hastened to depart. The advent of
Zhuge Liang and the extravagant deference shown
him did not please Liu Bei’s sworn brothers who
grumbled, saying, “He is very young, although he is
clever and learned. Our brother really treats him too
well. We have not seen any evidence of his
wonderful skill.”
Liu Bei replied, “You do not know his worth. I
have him as if the fish has got into the water again.
Pray do not discuss this matter further, my brothers.”
They withdrew, silent but dissatisfied. One day a
man presented Liu Bei with a yak’s tail, and he at
once put it in his cap as an ornament. Zhuge Liang
came in and noticed it at once.
“Then you have renounced all ambitions, my lord;
you are just going to attend to this sort of thing,”
Zhuge Liang quietly remarked.
Liu Bei snatched off his cap and flung it away,
saying, “I was only amusing myself with the thing.”
“How do you think you stand compared with Cao
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Cao?” asked Zhuge Liang.
“Yes; your army is less than ten thousand, and
the chances are ten thousand to one that he will
attack. How can we meet him?”
“I am greatly distressed about it; but I see no
“You might recruit and I will train them. Then we
might be able to oppose him.”
So recruiting began and three thousand were
enlisted. Zhuge Liang set about drilling them
Soon they heard that Xiahou Dun was leading an
army of one hundred thousand troops against them.
When he heard it, Zhang Fei said to his brother,
Guan Yu, “We will get this Zhuge Liang to go and
fight them.”
Just at that moment they were summoned to their
brother, who asked their advice.
“Why not send the ‘Water,’ Brother?” said Zhang
“For method I rely on Zhuge Liang; but for action I
put my faith in you, my brothers. Are you going to fail
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They went out, and Zhuge Liang was called.
“I fear your brothers will not obey me,” said Zhuge
Liang. “Wherefore, if I am to direct the campaign,
you must give me a seal of office and a sword of
So Liu Bei gave him both. Armed with these
ensigns of power, Zhuge Liang assembled the
officers to receive their orders.
“We will go just to see what he will do,” said
Zhang Fei to Guan Yu.
In the assembly Zhuge Liang spoke, saying, “On
the left of Bowang are Yushan Hills. On the right is
Anlin Forest. There we will prepare an ambush.
Guan Yu will go to Yushan Hills with one thousand
soldiers. He is to remain there quiescent till the
enemy has passed; but when he sees a flame in the
south, that will be the signal to attack. He will first
burn their baggage train. Zhang Fei will go to a valley
behind Anlin Forest. When he sees the signal, he is
to go to the old stores depot at Bowang and burn
that. Liu Feng and Guan Ping will take five hundred
soldiers each, prepare combustibles and be ready
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with them beyond Bowang Slope. The enemy will
arrive about dusk, and then the two generals can
start the blare. Zhao Yun, now recalled from Fankou,
is to lead the attack, but he is to lose and not win.
And our lord is to command the reserve. See that
each one obeys these orders and let there be no
Then said Guan Yu, “All of us are to go out to
meet the enemy, but I have not yet heard what you
are going to do.”
“I am going to guard the city.”
Zhang Fei burst into a laugh, “We are to go out to
bloody battle, and you are to stay quietly at home
quite comfortable.”
“Here is the sword and here the seal!” replied the
strategist, displaying the emblems of authority.
“Disobedience of orders will be death.”
Liu Bei said, “Do you not understand that the
plans elaborated in a little chamber decide success
over thousands of miles? Do not disobey the
command, my brothers.”
Zhang Fei went out smiling cynically.
Guan Yu remarked, “Let us await the result. If he
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fails, then we can look to it.”
The brothers left. None of the officers understood
anything of the general line of strategy and, though
they obeyed orders, they were not without doubts
and misgivings.
Zhuge Liang said to Liu Bei, “You may now lead
your soldiers to the hills and camp till the enemy
shall arrive tomorrow evening. Then you are to
abandon the camp and move away retreating till the
signal is seen. Then you will advance and attack with
all force. Mi Zhu, Mi Fang, and I will guard the city.”
In the city Zhuge Liang prepared banquets to
celebrate the victory and also prepared the books to
record exceptional services.
Liu Bei noted all these things with not a little
trouble in his heart.
Cao Cao’s army of one hundred thousand troops
in due course reached Bowang. Then half of them,
the veterans, were told off for the first attack, and the
remainder were to guard the baggage train and
supplies. Thus they marched in two divisions. The
season was autumn and a chilly wind began to blow.
They pressed forward. Presently they saw a cloud
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of dust ahead of them, and Xiahou Dun ordered the
ranks to be reformed. He questioned the guides as
to the name of the place.
“The place in front is Bowang Slope, and behind
us is the River Luo,” was the reply.
Then Xiahou Dun rode to the front to reconnoiter,
leaving Yu Jin and Li Dian to finish setting out the
battle array.
Presently Xiahou Dun began to laugh and, when
they asked the cause of this merriment, he replied,
“Xu Shu praised Zhuge Liang to the very skies as
something more than human. But now that I see how
he has placed his soldiers and the stuff he has put
into his vanguard, it seems to me that he is sending
dogs or sheep against tigers and leopards. I bragged
a little when I said I would take him prisoner, but I am
going to make good my boast.”
Then he rode forward at full speed. Zhao Yun
rode to meet him, and Xiahou Dun opened a volley
of abuse, “You lot, followers of Liu Bei, are only like
wraiths following devils.”
This angered Zhao Yun and a combat began. In a
little time Zhao Yun turned and retreated as if he was
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worsted. Xiahou Dun pressed after him and kept up
the chase for some three miles. Then Zhao Yun
suddenly turned again and offered fight; but only to
retreat after a few passes.
Seeing these tactics Han Hao, one of Xiahou
Dun’s generals, rode up to his chief and urged him to
use caution, saying, “I fear he is trying to lead us into
an ambush.”
“With such antagonists as these, I should not fear
even Ten Ambushes,” replied Xiahou Dun, pressing
forward eagerly.
Just as he reached the slope he heard the roar of
a bomb and out came Liu Bei to attack.
“Here is your ambush,” said Xiahou Dun,
laughing. “I will get to Xinye this evening before I
have done.”
Xiahou Dun urged his soldiers forward, and his
opponents retired in measure as he advanced. As
evening came on, thick clouds overcast the whole
sky. The wind increased but the leader still urged his
troops after the retreating foe.
The two generals in the rear came to a narrow
part of the road with reeds and rushes thick all round
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“Those who despise the enemy are beaten,” said
Li Dian to Yu Jin. “Away south there the roads are
narrow, and streams and mountains make the
country difficult. The forests are dense, and if the
enemy used fire we should be lost.”
“You are right,” replied Yu Jin. “I will get on and
warn the Commanding General; perhaps he will
stop. You can halt those who come up.”
Yu Jin rode forward shouting at the top of his
voice, “Halt the train!”
Xiahou Dun saw him coming up and asked what
was the matter. Yu Jin said, “The roads here are
narrow and difficult. Around us are thick forests.
What if they use fire?”
Xiahou Dun’s ferocity had then somewhat abated
and he turned his steed toward his main body.
Then there arose a shout behind him. A rushing
noise came from in the reeds and great tongues of
flame shot up here and there. These spread and
soon the fire was in “the four quarters and the eight
sides,” and fanned by a strong wind.
Xiahou Dun’s troops were thrown into confusion
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and trampled each other down. Many perished. Zhao
Yun turned on them again to make a slaughter.
Xiahou Dun dashed through the fire and smoke to
Now Li Dian saw that things were going very
badly, so he turned to get back to Bowang but fell
upon a body of troops in the way, led by Guan Yu.
He desperately dashed into their midst and managed
to get clear. Yu Jin saw the supplies were being
destroyed and there was nothing left to guard, so he
escaped along a bye−path. Two other generals, who
came to try to save the baggage train, met Zhang
Fei; and Xiahou Lan was slain forthwith, but Han
Hao managed to flee. Next morning the countryside
was strewn with corpses and drenched with blood.
The armies met on Bowang Slope
And Zhuge Liang fought with fire;
A perfect strategist, he bent
All humans to his desire.
But poor Cao Cao, his enemy,
He trembled in his shoes
Before the man, who’d never fought
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But yet could armies use.
Xiahou Dun drew up the battered remains of his
army and led them back to Xuchang.
Zhuge Liang ordered his armies to collect; and as
Guan Yu and Zhang Fei rode homeward they
confessed, saying, “Zhuge Liang is really a fine
Before long they saw Mi Zhu and Mi Fang leading
out a small body of soldiers; among them was a light
carriage in which the Directing Instructor Zhuge
Liang was seating. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei
dismounted and bowed before him. The remaining
bodies came in. The spoil was distributed among the
soldiers and all returned to Xinye, where the
populace lined the roads to bid them welcome.
“We owe our lives to the Prince,” they cried to Liu
Said Zhuge Liang, “Xiahou Dun has been driven
off, but Cao Cao will come with a stronger force.”
“And what shall we do?” replied Liu Bei.
“My plan is quite ready,” said Zhuge Liang.
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Always battles, nowhere rest for horse or human;
Must rely on ruses, dodging where one can.
The plan prepared against Cao Cao will be
unfolded in the next chapter.
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