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CHAPTER 40. Lady Cai Discusses The Renunciation of Jingzhou; Zhuge Liang Burns Xinye.

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

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When Liu Bei asked how his adviser hoped to
repel Cao Cao, Zhuge Liang replied, “Xinye is a
small city and unfitted for our lengthy occupation. Liu
Biao is ill and failing fast, so this is the time to take
his region as a base where we may be safe against
Cao Cao.”
“You speak well, but Liu Biao has shown me
great kindness, and I could not bear to serve him an
ill turn.”
“If you do not take this opportunity, you will regret
it ever after,” said Zhuge Liang.
“I would rather perish than do what is wrong.”
“We will discuss it again,” replied Zhuge Liang.
When Xiahou Dun reached the capital, he
presented himself to his master in bonds and craved
death. But his master loosed him and let him tell his
tale. And he said, “I was the victim of Zhuge Liang’s
evil machinations; he attacked with fire.”
“As a soldier from your youth, you should have
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remembered that fire was a likely weapon in narrow
“Li Dian and Yu Jin reminded me; I am sorry
enough now.”
Cao Cao rewarded Li Dian and Yu Jin who had
warned their leader.
“Liu Bei as strong as he is now certainly is a
menace to our existence, and he must be quickly
destroyed,” said Xiahou Dun.
“He is one of my anxieties,” replied Cao Cao.
“Sun Quan is the other. The rest do not count. We
must take this chance to sweep the south clean.”
Then orders were issued to prepare an army of
five hundred thousand troops, in five divisions of ten
legions each. Each division had two leaders: Cao
Ren and Cao Hong were in command of the first
division; Zhang Liao and Zhang He, the second;
Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan, the third; Yu Jin and
Li Dian, the fourth. The fifth body was led by Cao
Cao himself. The van was commanded by Xu Chu.
The “horse” day of the seventh moon of the
thirteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity was fixed for
the march (AD 208).
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The High Minister, Kong Rong, offered a
He said, “Liu Bei and Liu Biao are both of the
Imperial House and should not be attacked without
grave reasons. Sun Quan in the six territories of the
South Land is terrible as a crouching tiger and, with
the Great River as his defense, he is very secure. If,
Sir Prime Minister, you undertake this unjustifiable
expedition, you will forfeit the respect of the world, I
fear.” “All three of them are disobedient ministers
and rebels, and how can I fail to punish them?”
replied Cao Cao.
Cao Cao was angry, and bade the adviser go
from his presence. Presently he gave formal orders
t h a t h e w o u l d p u t t o d e a t h a n y o n e w h o
remonstrated on the subject of his expedition.
Kong Rong went forth from the Palace sadly.
Casting his eyes up to heaven, he cried, “Where is
the chance of success when the perfectly inhumane
attacks the perfectly humane? He must be defeated.”
One of the clients of the Imperial Inspector Chi
Lu, whom Kong Rong had always treated
contemptuously and disdainfully, happened to hear
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this apostrophe and told his patron who carried the
tale to Cao Cao.
Chi Lu also added to it, saying, “Kong Rong
habitually speaks disrespectfully of the Chief Minister
and has been very friendly with Mi Heng. In fact the
insults that Mi Heng had hurled at you had been
deliberately arranged and intrigued by Kong Rong.
Kong Rong and Mi Heng seemed to admire each
other hugely, and Mi Heng used to say, ‘Confucius is
not dead, because Kong Rong is he,’ and the other
used to reply, ‘And his treasured disciple, Yan Hui,
has risen again, because Mi Heng is he.’“
Chi Lu’s tale angered Cao Cao, who ordered the
arrest execution of the high minister.
Now Kong Rong had two sons, both young, who
were sitting at home playing chess, when one of their
servants ran in and said, “Your father has just been
carried off for execution; why do you not run away?”
The youths replied, “When the nest is pulled
down, are the eggs left unbroken?”
Even at that moment the same executors came
and carried off the whole household. The two youths
were beheaded. The father’s corpse was exposed in
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the streets.
Minister Zhi Xi wept over the corpse. This public
exhibition of sympathy rekindled Cao Cao’s anger,
and he was going to punish it with death.
However, this additional punishment was
prevented by Adviser Xun Yu, who said, “You should
not slay a righteous man who came to mourn over
his friend’s corpse. Zhi Xi had often warned Kong
Rong against the danger Kong Rong’s severe
rectitude might lead him into.”
Zhi Xi took up the remains of father and sons and
buried them.
Kong Rong, who dwelt on the north sea shore,
A noble reputation bore;
With him all guests warm welcome found,
And ceaselessly the wine went round.
For skill in letters he was famed,
In speech, he dukes and princes shamed,
Historians his merits tell,
Recorders say that he did well.
After wreaking his wrath on Kong Rong, Cao Cao
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issued the order to march. Xun Yu was left in
command of the capital.
About this time the Imperial Protector of Jingzhou
became seriously ill, and he summoned Liu Bei to
his chamber. Liu Bei went accompanied by his two
brothers, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, and Directing
Instructor Zhuge Liang. Liu Biao said, “The disease
has attacked my very vitals and my time is short. I
confide my orphans to your guardianship. My sons is
unfit to succeed to my place, and I pray you, my
brother, administer the region after my death.”
Liu Bei wept, saying, “I will do my utmost to help
my nephews; what else could I do, indeed?”
Even at this moment came the news of the march
of Cao Cao’s armies, and Liu Bei, taking hasty leave
of his kinsman, was forced to hurry to his station.
The evil tidings aggravated the sick man’s condition,
and he began to make his last arrangements. In his
testament he appointed Liu Bei the guardian of his
son Liu Qi, who was to succeed in the lordship.
This arrangement greatly angered his wife, Lady
Cai. She closed the inner doors against all and
confided to her own partisans, of whom Cai Mao and
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Zhang Yun were her confidants, the keeping of the
outer gates.
The heir was at Jiangxia, and he came to make
filial inquiries as soon as his father’s condition
became serious.
But Cai Mao refused him admittance and said,
“Your father sent you to guard Jiangxia. Such a very
responsible post should by no means have been
quitted without orders. Suppose it was attacked,
what might not happen? If your father sees you, he
will be very angry, and it will make him worse. That
would be most undutiful, and you should return to
your command at once.”
Liu Qi stood out for some time, but admittance
was denied him in spite of his tears. So he returned
to his post. Meanwhile Liu Biao rapidly grew worse.
He anxiously looked for his son, but Liu Qi came not.
Suddenly Liu Biao uttered piercing shrieks and then
passed away.
When the Yuans were lords of the north,
And Liu Biao held the bank of the river,
It seemed, so strong were they both,
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That they would endure forever.
But the family affairs troubled their states,
And, meddling, confusion made;
It was mournful indeed to see
How quickly the houses decayed.
So Imperial Protector Liu Biao died. Then the
widow and her partisans took counsel together and
forged a testament conferring the lordship of
Jingzhou on the second son Liu Zong before they
published the news of the death.
The wrongful heir was then fourteen years of age.
But he was a cunning boy, so he assembled the
officials and said, “My father has passed away and
my elder brother is at Jiangxia. More than that, our
uncle is at Xinye. You have made me lord, but if my
brother and uncle come here with an army to punish
me for usurping the lordship, what explanation can I
At first no one replied. Then Adviser Li Gui rose
and said, “You speak well. Now hasten to send
letters of mourning to your brother and ask him to
come and take his inheritance. Also call upon Liu Bei
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to come and assist in the administration. Then shall
we be safe against our enemies—Cao Cao on the
north and Sun Quan on the south. I consider this the
most excellent plan.”
But Cai Mao replied harshly, “Who are you to
speak thus wildly and oppose the testament of our
late lord?”
Li Gui began to abuse him, saying, “You and your
party have fabricated this testament, setting aside
the rightful heir. Now the whole region is in the hands
of the Cai family; and if our dead lord knew your
doings, he would slay you!”
Cai Mao ordered the lictors to take Li Gui away to
execution. He was hurried out, but his tongue
ceased not.
So the younger son was placed in his father’s
seat, and the Cai clan shared among them the whole
military authority of the region. The defense of
Jingzhou was confided to Liu Xian and Deng Yi,
while Lady Cai and her son took up their residence in
Xiangyang so as to be out of the reach of the rightful
heir and his uncle. They interred the remains of the
late Imperial Protector on the east of Xiangyang,
Three Kingdoms Romance
near the bank of the Han River. No notice of the
death was sent to Liu Qi, the son, or to Liu Bei, his
Liu Zong arrived at Xiangyang, but, before he had
had time to recover from the fatigue of the journey,
the startling news of the approach of Cao Cao’s
great army came in. He summoned Kuai Yue and
Cai Mao and others to ask counsel.
One of the secretaries, Fu Xuan, offered his
advice, saying, “Not only are we threatened by a
great army from the north, but the elder son, who is
the real heir, at Jiangxia, and his uncle at Xinye, are
to be reckoned with. These two have not been
notified of the death, and they will resent that. We
shall be in sad case if they also march against us.
But if you will adopt my suggestion, then our people
will be as steady as Taishan Mountains and our
young lord’s position and rank will be assured.”
“What is your plan?” asked the young lord.
“To offer the whole region to Cao Cao, who will
treat our young master most liberally.”
“What advice!” said Liu Zong angrily. “Am I to
yield my heritage to another before I have even fairly
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succeeded to it?”
“ T h e a d v i c e i s g o o d , ” s a i d K u a i Y u e .
“Opportunism is a policy, and possibilities need
consideration. In the name of government, Cao Cao
is fighting against his neighbors. If our lord opposes
him, he will be termed contumacious. Beside, any
misfortune on our borders before our young lord is
well established will react upon the internal
administration, and our people will be panic−stricken
at the mere news of the approach of a hostile army.
How could we then offer any resistance?”
Liu Zong replied, “It is not that I disagree with you,
but I should be a laughing stock to the whole world
were I to abandon my heritage without an effort.”
He was interrupted by a speaker who said, “If
their advice is good, why not follow it?”
They turned toward the speaker who was a
certain Wang Can of Shanyang, a lean, cadaverous
individual much below the middle height of a man.
However, his talents did not conform to his
physical appearance. When he was yet a youth, he
went to visit Minister Cai Yong, then a vice−chairman
of the Secretariat; and although many guests of
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exalted rank were present, the host hastened to
welcome the newcomer with the greatest deference.
The others were astonished and asked why he was
so respectful to a mere youth.
“He is a young man with the highest gifts,” said
Cai Yong. Wang Can was widely read and had a
most retentive memory, better than any of his
contemporaries. If he glanced at a roadside
monument as he passed, he remembered every
word of the inscription. If he saw people playing
chess and the board was suddenly overthrown, he
could replace every pip in its proper place. He was a
good mathematician and his poems were exquisite.
At seventeen he was appointed a court official but
did not take up the appointment. When the
disturbance in the empire grew serious, he sought
refuge in Jingzhou, where he was received with
great honor as guest of the Imperial Protector.
What he said was this, “General, how do you
compare with Cao Cao?”
“Inferior,” replied Liu Zong.
Wang Can continued, “Cao Cao has many
soldiers and bold leaders; he is able and resourceful.
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He took Lu Bu at Xiapi and broke the power of Yuan
Shao at Guandu. He pursued Liu Bei into Longyou
and destroyed Mao Dun at White Wolf Hills. The
destruction of such firmly established men shows his
invincible character. Now he is on the way here, and
it will be very difficult to withstand him. The plan
proposed is the best you can expect, and you should
not delay and hesitate till it is too late for ought but
“Worthy Sir, you indeed speak to the point; I must
inform my mother,” said the young ruler.
But just then they saw his mother appear from
behind a screen; she had been listening to all that
was said.
“Why refer to me when three such gentlemen
coincide in their opinions?” said Lady Cai.
So Liu Zong decided, and the letter of surrender
was composed and entrusted to one Song Zhong to
convey secretly to Cao Cao. Song Zhong went
straight to Wancheng and presented the letter.
It was received with joy and the bearer well
rewarded. The submission was accepted, and Cao
Cao said, “Tell Liu Zong to go out to meet me in the
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open country, and he will be in perpetual tenure of
his land.”
Song Zhong left the city and took the homeward
way. He had nearly reached the ferry when he fell in
with a party of horse. On a closer look he saw the
leader was Guan Yu. The messenger tried to escape
observation, but was presently captured and taken to
the leader to be questioned. At first he prevaricated
but on being closely questioned told the whole story.
Then he was carried off to Xinye and made to retell
his story to Liu Bei who heard it with lamentations.
Zhang Fei said, “This being so, I propose that we
put this fellow to death, then cross the river, attack
Xiangyang, and make an end of the Cai tribe and Liu
Zong as well. Then we can attack Cao Cao.”
But Liu Bei replied, “Hold on. I have something
more to say.”
Then turning to the prisoner, Liu Bei shouted,
“When they did all this why did you not come to tell
me? As things are now, there is nothing to be gained
by killing you. You may go.”
Song Zhong stammered his thanks, threw his
arms over his head, and ran away. Liu Bei was very
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Presently Yi Ji from Jiangxia was announced. Liu
Bei was very fond of this man and went down the
steps to welcome him.
Then said Yi Ji, “The heir has heard that his
father is dead, but his stepmother and her family are
keeping back the news so that they may set up Liu
Zong. He knows the news is true, as he sent a
special messenger to find out. He thinks you, O
Prince, may not know and has sent me to inform
you, and his letter begs you to lead all the troops you
can to Xiangyang to help him assert his claims.”
Liu Bei opened and read the letter.
Then he said, “Yes; you know that the younger
son has usurped the lordship, but you have not
heard that he has already sent to offer Jingzhou to
Cao Cao.”
This news shocked Yi Ji, who asked, “How know
you this?”
Liu Bei told of the capture of Song Zhong.
Yi Ji said, “You can go to Xiangyang as if to
attend the mourning ceremonies and so draw Liu
Zong into coming out of the city to welcome you.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Then you can seize him, slay his party, and take the
“Your advice is good,” said Zhuge Liang, “and my
lord ought to take it.”
Liu Bei wept, saying, “In his last interview, my
brother confided his son and heir to my care. If I lay
hands upon another son and seize upon the
inheritance, how shall I be able to look my brother in
the face when I meet him by and by beyond the
“If you do not act in this way now, how will you
repel Cao Cao, who has already reached
Wancheng?” said Zhuge Liang.
“Our best plan is to take refuge in Fankou,”
replied Liu Bei.
Just about this time the spies came to say that
Cao Cao’s army had reached Bowang. So Yi Ji was
sent off with instructions to take measures for the
defense of Jiangxia, while Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang
discussed plans for meeting the enemy.
Zhuge Liang said, “My lord should not worry. We
have burned the army of Cao Cao at Bowang Slope,
so we will see them fallen into another ruse in Xinye.
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This is no place to live in; we will move over to
Then notices were posted at all the gates that all
the people, without any exception, were to follow
their ruler at once to the new city to escape danger.
Boats were prepared and the people sent away
under the direction of Sun Qian. Mi Zhu saw to the
safe conveyance of the families of the officials.
Then the officers assembled for orders.
Zhuge Liang gave directions, “Guan Yu is to go to
the upper of the White River with one thousand
troops. His men are to carry bags to fill with sand
and earth to dam the river till the enemy shall be
heard, about the third watch next day. Then the
waters are to be freed to drown one of the armies.
He is then to march down river.
“Zhang Fei is to go to the Boling Ferry, where the
current is slow. After the waters of the White River
have been let loose on Cao Cao’s soldiers, they will
try to get over the river at the ferry. They are to be
attacked by Zhang Fei and his one thousand troops.
“Zhao Yun is to divide three thousand troops into
four parties and take one to the east gate. The other
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three are for the other gates. The roofs of the houses
within the city walls are piled with sulfur, saltpeter,
and other combustibles. The intention is to set fire to
the city when the army of the enemy has entered it
for shelter. There will be a strong breeze next day in
the evening which will fan the flames. When this
wind begins to blow, fire arrows are to be shot into
the city from all sides. When the flames are high,
there is to be a great shouting outside to add to the
general terror. The east gate is to be left free for
escape, but the flying men are to be smitten after
passing the gate.
“Mi Fang and Liu Feng are to take command of
two thousand troops, one half with red flags and the
other half with blue. They are to go to Magpie Tail
Slope, about ten miles from the city and camp. When
they see the Cao Cao’s army coming along, the red
flags are to move left and the blue right to confuse
the enemy so that they shall be afraid to advance
further. Then an ambush is to be laid to smite the
enemy when the fire in Xinye starts. After that Mi
Fang and Liu Feng are to go to the river to meet us.
“After the battle, all generals shall gather at
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All the orders given, the various leaders went
their way to take up their positions and await the
burning of the city. Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei went
away to an eminence whence they could watch what
happened and where they would await the reports of
Cao Hong and Cao Ren, with their one hundred
thousand troops, preceded by Xu Chu leading three
thousand of mailed men, marched toward Xinye.
They formed a mighty host and reached Magpie Tail
Slope about noon. Looking ahead, they saw what
seemed a goodly army with many blue and red flags.
Xu Chu pressed forward. As he neared, the flags
moved from side to side, and he hesitated. He began
to think, “It could be an ambush; it is unwise to
Finally Xu Chu decided to go no farther and
called a halt, and he rode back to the main body to
see Cao Ren.
“Those troops are only make−believe,” said Cao
Ren. “Advance, there is no ambush. I will hasten up
the supports.”
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So Xu Chu rode to his own command again and
advanced. When he reached the wood where he had
seen the flags, he saw no one at all. It was then late
in the afternoon but he decided to move on. Then he
heard from the hills the sound of musical instruments
and, looking up, saw on the hill top two umbrellas
surrounded by many banners. There sat Liu Bei and
Zhuge Liang quietly drinking.
Angry at their coolness, Xu Chu sought for a way
up, but logs of wood and great stones were thrown
down, and he was driven back. Further, from the rear
of the hills came a confused roar. He could find no
way to attack and the sun began to set.
Then Cao Ren and Cao Hong arrived and
ordered an attack on Xinye that he might have a
place to rest in. They marched to the walls and found
the gates wide open. They entered and found a
deserted city. No one was visible.
“This shows they are done,” said Cao Hong.
“They have all run away, people and all. We may as
well occupy the city and rest our soldiers ready for
The soldiers were fatigued with marching and
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hungry as well, so they lost no time in scattering
among the houses and setting about preparing food
in the deserted kitchens. The leaders took up their
quarters in the state residence to rest.
After the first watch the wind began to blow. Soon
after the gate guards reported that a fire had started.
“The careless men have let sparks fly about,” said
Cao Ren. He thought no more about it just then, but
along came other reports of like nature, and soon he
realized that fires breaking out in all quarters were
not due to accident. So he gave orders to evacuate
the city. Soon the whole city seemed on fire and a
red glow hung in the sky. The army was beset with
fire fiercer than what Xiahou Dun had experienced at
Bowang Slope.
Thrice wicked was Cao Cao, but he was bold;
Though all in the capital he controlled,
Yet with this he was not content,
So southward his ravaging army went.
But, the autumn wind aiding, the Spirit of Fire
Wrought to his army destruction dire.
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Officers and troops dashing through the smoke
and fire in utter confusion sought some way of
escape, and hearing that the east gate was free,
they made for that quarter. Out they rushed
pell−mell, many being trodden down and trampled to
death. Those who got through took the road to the
But presently there was a shouting behind them,
and Zhao Yun’s company came up and attacked.
Then Cao Cao’s troops scattered, each fleeing for
his life. No stand was made. A little later Mi Fang
and Liu Feng came to take another toll. The fleeing
Cao Ren then had very few followers, and those left
him were scorched and burned.
They directed their way to the White River,
joyfully remembering that the river was shallow and
fordable. And they went down into the stream and
drank their fill, humans shouting and horses
Meantime Guan Yu, higher up its course, had
dammed the river with sandbags so that its waters
were collected in a lake. Toward evening he had
seen the red glow of the burning city and began to
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look out for his signal. About the fourth watch, he
heard down stream the sounds of soldiers and horse
and at once ordered the breaking of the dam. The
water rushed down in a torrent and overwhelmed the
men just then in the bed of the river. Many were
swept away and drowned. Those who escaped
made their way to where the stream ran gently and
got away.
Presently Cao Ren and his troops reached the
Boling Ferry in Boling. Here, where they thought
there would be safety, they found the road barred.
“You Cao Cao brigands!” shouted Zhang Fei.
“Come and receive your fate!”
Within the city the red flame leaps out;
On the river bank burning anger is met.
What happened will appear in later chapters.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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