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CHAPTER 46. Using Strategy, Zhuge Liang Borrows Arrows; Joining A Ruse, Huang Gai Accepts Punishment.

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

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Lu Su departed on his mission and found Zhuge
Liang seated in his little craft.
“There has been so much to do that I have not
been able to come to listen to your instructions,” said
Lu Su.
“That is truly so,” said Zhuge Liang, “and I have
not yet congratulated the Commander−in−Chief.”
“What have you wished to congratulate him
“Why Sir, the matter upon which he sent you to
find out whether I knew about it or not. Indeed I can
congratulate him on that.”
Lu Su turned pale and gasped, saying, “But how
did you know, Master?”
“The ruse succeeded well thus played off on
Jiang Gan. Cao Cao has been taken in this once, but
he will soon rise to it. Only he will not confess his
mistake. However, the two men are gone, and your
country is freed from a grave anxiety. Do you not
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think that is a matter for congratulation? I hear Mao
Jie and Yu Jin are the new admirals, and in their
hands lie both good and evil for the fate of the
northern fleet.”
Lu Su was quite dumbfounded; he stayed a little
time longer passing the time in making empty
remarks, and then took his leave.
As he was going away, Zhuge Liang cautioned
him, saying, “Do not let Zhou Yu know that I know
his ruse. If you let him know, he will seek some
chance to do me harm.”
Lu Su promised; nevertheless he went straight to
his chief and related the whole thing just as it
“Really he must be got rid of;” said Zhou Yu, “I
have quite decided to put the man out of the way.”
“If you slay him, will not Cao Cao laugh at you?”
“Oh, no; I will find a legitimate way of getting rid of
him so that he shall go to his death without
“But how can you find a legitimate way of
assassinating him?”
“Do not ask too much; you will see presently.”
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Soon after all the officers were summoned to the
main tent, and Zhuge Liang’s presence was desired.
He went contentedly enough.
When all were seated, Zhou Yu suddenly
addressed Zhuge Liang, saying, “I am going to fight
a battle with the enemy soon on the water: what
weapons are the best?”
“On a great river arrows are the best,” said Zhuge
“Your opinion and mine agree. But at the moment
we are short of them. I wish you would undertake to
supply about a hundred thousand arrows for the
naval fight. As it is for the public service, you will not
decline, I hope’“
“Whatever task the Commander−in−Chief lays
upon me, I must certainly try to perform,” replied
Zhuge Liang. “May I inquire by what date you require
the hundred thousand arrows?”
“Could you have them ready in ten days?”
“The enemy will be here very soon; ten days will
be too late,” said Zhuge Liang.
“In how many days do you estimate the arrows
can be ready?”
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“Let me have three days; then you may send for
your hundred thousand.”
“No joking, remember!” said Zhou Yu. “There is
no joking in war time.”
“Dare I joke with the Commander−in−Chief? Give
me a formal military order; and if I have not
completed the task in three days, I will take my
Zhou Yu, secretly delighted, sent for the
secretaries and prepared the commission then and
there. Then he drank to the success of the
undertaking and said, “I shall have to congratulate
you most heartily when this is accomplished.”
“This day is too late to count,” said Zhuge Liang.
“On the third from tomorrow morning send five
hundred small boats to the river side to convey the
They drank a few more cups together, and then
Zhuge Liang took his leave.
After he had gone, Lu Su said, “Do you not think
there is some deceit about this?”
“Clearly it is not I! It is he who has signed his own
death warrant,” said Zhou Yu. “Without being
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pressed in the least, he asked for a formal order in
the face of the whole assembly. Even if he grew a
pair of wings, he could not escape. Only I will just
order the workers to delay him as much as they can,
and not supply him with materials, so that he is sure
to fail. And then, when the certain penalty is incurred,
who can criticize? You can go and inquire about it all
and keep me informed.”
So off went Lu Su to seek Zhuge Liang, who at
once reproached him with having blabbed about the
former business.
Zhuge Liang said, “He wants to hurt me, as you
know, and I did not think you could not keep my
secret. And now there is what you saw today and
how do you think I can get a hundred thousand
arrows made in three days? You will simply have to
rescue me.”
“You brought the misfortune on yourself, and how
can I rescue you?” said Lu Su.
“I look to you for the loan of twenty vessels,
manned each by thirty people. I want blue cotton
screens and bundles of straw lashed to the sides of
the boats. I have good use for them. On the third
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day, I have undertaken to deliver the fixed number of
arrows. But on no account must you let Zhou Yu
know, or my scheme will be wrecked.”
Lu Su consented and this time he kept his word.
He went to report to his chief as usual, but he said
nothing about the boats. He only said, “Zhuge Liang
is not using bamboo or feathers or glue or varnish,
but has some other way of getting arrows.”
“Let us await the three days’ limit,” said Zhou Yu,
puzzled though confident.
On his side Lu Su quietly prepared a score of light
swift boats, each with its crew and the blue screens
and bundles of grass complete and, when these
were ready, he placed them at Zhuge Liang’s
Zhuge Liang did nothing on the first day, nor on
the second. On the third day at the middle of the
fourth watch, Zhuge Liang sent a private message
asking Lu Su to come to his boat.
“Why have you sent for me, Sir?” asked Lu Su.
“I want you to go with me to get those arrows.”
“Whither are you going?”
“Do not ask; you will see.”
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Then the twenty boats were fastened together by
long ropes and moved over to the north bank. The
night proved very foggy and the mist was very dense
along the river, so that one person could scarcely
see another. In spite of the fog, Zhuge Liang urged
the boats forward as if into the vast fairy kingdom.
There is a poem on these river fogs:
Mighty indeed is the Great River!
Rising far in the west, in the Omei and Min
Plowing its way through Wu, east flowing,
Swelled by its nine tributary streams, rolling down
from the far north,
Aided and helped by a hundred rivulets swirling
and foaming,
Ocean receives it at last welcoming, joyful, its
Therein abide sea nymphs and water gods,
Enormous whales a thousand fathoms long,
Nine−headed monstrous beasts, reptiles and
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Demons and uncouth creatures wondrous
In faith it is the home and safe retreat
Of devils and sprites, and wondrous growths,
And eke the battle ground of valiant humans.
At times occur strange strife of elements,
When darkness strives on light’s domains that
Whereat arises in the vaulted dome of blue
White wreaths of fog that toward the center roll.
Then darkness falls, too dense for any torch
Illumine; only clanging sounds can pass.
The fog at first appears, a vaporous wreath
Scarce visible. But thickening fast, it veils
The southern hills, the painted leopard’s home.
And spreads afar, until the northern sea
Leviathans are amazed and lose their course.
And denser yet it touches on the sky.
And spreads a heavy mantle over the earth.
Then, wide as is the high pitched arch of heaven,
Therein appears no single rift of blue.
Now mighty whales lead up their spouses to sport
Upon the waves, the sinuous dragons dive
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Deep down and, breathing, swell the heaving sea,
The earth is moist as with the early rains,
And spring’s creative energy is chilled.
Both far and wide and high the damp fog spreads,
Great cities on the eastern bank are hid,
Wide ports and mountains in the south are lost,
Whole fleets of battle ships, a thousand keels,
Hide in the misty depths; frail fishing boats
High riding on a wave are seen—and lost.
The gloom increases and the domed sky
Grows dark and darker as the sun’s light fails.
The daylight dies, dim twilight’s reign begins,
The ruddy hills dissolve and lose their hue.
The skill of matchless King Yu would fail to sound
The depth and height; and Li Lou’s eye, though
Could never pierce this gloom.
Now is the time, O sea and river gods, to use
your powers.
The gliding fish and creeping water folk
Are lost; there is no track for bird or beast.
Fair Penglai Isles are hidden from our sight,
The lofty gates of heaven have disappeared.
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Nature is blurred and indistinct, as when
A driving rain storm hurries over the earth.
And then, perhaps, within the heavy haze,
A noisome serpent vents his venom foul
And plagues descend, or impish demons work
Their wicked wills.
Ills fall on humans but do not stay,
Heaven’s cleansing breath sweeps them sway,
But while they last the mean ones cry,
The nobler suffer silently.
The greatest turmoil is a sign
Of quick return to state benign.
The little fleet reached Cao Cao’s naval camp
about the fifth watch, and Zhuge Liang gave orders
to form line lying prows west, and then to beat the
drums and shout.
“But what shall we do if they attack us?”
exclaimed Lu Su.
Zhuge Liang replied with a smile, “I think their
fleet will not venture out in this fog; go on with your
wine and let us be happy. We will go back when the
fog lifts.”
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As soon as the shouting from the river was heard
by those in the camp, the two admirals, Mao Jie and
Yu Jin, ran off to report to Cao Cao, who said,
“Coming up in a fog like this means that they have
prepared an ambush for us. Do not go out, but get all
the force together and shoot at them.”
He also sent orders to the ground camps to
dispatch six thousand of archers and crossbowmen
to aid the marines.
The naval forces were then lined up shooting on
the bank to prevent a landing. Presently the soldiers
arrived, and ten thousand and more soldiers were
shooting down into the river, where the arrows fell
like rain. By and bye Zhuge Liang ordered the boats
to turn round so that their prows pointed east and to
go closer in so that many arrows might hit them.
Zhuge Liang ordered the drums to be kept
beating till the sun was high and the fog began to
disperse, when the boats got under way and sailed
down stream. The whole twenty boats were bristling
with arrows on both sides.
As they left, Zhuge Liang asked all the crews to
shout derisively, “We thank you, Sir Prime Minister,
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for the arrows.”
They told Cao Cao, but by the time he came, the
light boats helped by the swift current were seven
miles long down the river and pursuit was
impossible. Cao Cao saw that he had been duped
and was very sorry, but there was no help for it.
On the way down Zhuge Liang said to his
companion, “Every boat must have five or six
thousand arrows and so, without the expenditure of
an ounce of energy, we must have more than ten
myriad arrows, which tomorrow can be shot back
again at Cao Cao’s army to his great inconvenience.”
“You are really superhuman,” said Lu Su. “But
how did you know there would be a thick fog today?”
“One cannot be a leader without knowing the
workings of heaven and the ways of earth. One must
u n d e r s t a n d t h e s e c r e t g a t e s a n d t h e
interdependence of the elements, the mysteries of
tactics and the value of forces. It is but an ordinary
talent. I calculated three days ago that there would
be a fog today, and so I set the limit at three days.
Zhou Yu would give me ten days, but neither
artificers nor material, so that he might find occasion
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to put me to death as I knew; but my fate lies with
the Supreme, and how could Zhou Yu harm me?”
Lu Su could not but agree. When the boats
arrived, five hundred soldiers were in readiness on
the bank to carry away the arrows. Zhuge Liang
bade them go on board the boats, collect them and
bear them to the tent of the Commander−in−Chief.
Lu Su went to report that the arrows had been
obtained and told Zhou Yu by what means.
Zhou Yu was amazed and sighed sadly, saying,
“He is better than I; his methods are more than
Thick lies the fog on the river,
Nature is shrouded in white,
Distant and near are confounded,
Banks are no longer in sight.
Fast fly the pattering arrows,
Stick in the boats of the fleet.
Now can full tale be delivered,
Zhuge Liang is victor complete.
When, shortly after his return, Zhuge Liang went
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to the tent of the Commander−in−Chief, he was
welcomed by Zhou Yu, who came forward to greet
him, saying, “Your superhuman predictions compel
one’s esteem.”
“There is nothing remarkable in that trifling trick,”
replied he.
Zhou Yu led him within and wine was brought.
Then Zhou Yu said, “My lord sent yesterday to
urge me to advance, but I have no master plan
ready; I wish you would assist me, Master.” “But
where should I, a man of poor everyday ability, find
such a plan as you desire?”
“I saw the enemy’s naval camp just lately, and it
looked very complete and well organized. It is not an
ordinary place to attack. I have thought of a plan, but
I am not sure it will answer. I should be happy if you
would decide for me.”
“General,” replied Zhuge Liang, “do not say what
your plan is, but each of us will write in the palm of
his hand and see whether our opinions agree.”
So brush and ink were sent for, and Zhou Yu first
wrote on his own palm, and then passed the pen to
Zhuge Liang who also wrote. Then getting close
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together on the same bench, each showed his hand
to the other, and both burst out laughing, for both
had written the same word, “Fire.”
“Since we are of the same opinion,” said Zhou
Yu, “there is no longer any doubt. But our intentions
must be kept secret.”
“Both of us are public servants, and what would
be the sense of telling our plans? I do not think Cao
Cao will be on his guard against this, although he
has had two experiences. You may put your scheme
into force.”
They finished their wine and separated. Not an
officer knew a word of the general’s plans.
Now Cao Cao had expended a myriad arrows in
vain and was much irritated in consequence. He
deeply desired revenge.
Then Xun You proposed a ruse, saying, “The two
strategists on the side of the enemy are Zhou Yu and
Zhuge Liang, two men most difficult to get the better
of. Let us send some one who shall pretend to
surrender to them but really be a spy on our behalf
and a helper in our schemes. When we know what is
doing, we can plan to meet it.”
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“I had thought of that myself,” replied Cao Cao.
“Whom do you think the best person to send?”
“Cai Mao has been put to death, but all his clan
and family are in the army, and his two younger
brothers are junior generals. You have them most
securely in your power and may send them to
surrender. The ruler of the South Land will never
suspect deceit there.”
Cao Cao decided to act on this plan, and in the
evening summoned Cai Zhong and Cai He to his
tent, where he told them, saying, “I want you two
pretend to surrender to the South Land so that you
can gather intelligence and sent it back. When all
done, you will be richly rewarded. But do not betray
“Our families are in Jingzhou, and that place is
yours,” replied they. “Should we dare betray? You
need have no doubts, Sir. You will soon see the
heads of both Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang at your
Cao Cao gave them generous gifts; and soon
after the two men, each with his five hundred
soldiers, set sail with a fair wind for the opposite
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Now as Zhou Yu was preparing for the attack, the
arrival of some northern ships was announced. They
bore the two younger brothers of Cai Mao, who had
come as deserters.
They were led in and, bowing before the general,
said, weeping, “Our innocent brother has been put to
death, and we desire vengeance. So we have come
to offer allegiance to you. We pray you appoint us to
the vanguard.” Zhou Yu appeared very pleased and
made them presents. Then he ordered them to join
Gan Ning in leading the van. They thanked him and
regarded their scheme as already a success.
But Zhou Yu gave Gan Ning secret orders,
saying, “They have come without their families, and
so I know their desertion is only pretense. They have
been sent as spies, and I am going to meet their
ruse with one of my own. They shall have some
information to send. You will treat them well, but
keep a careful guard over them. On the day our
soldiers start the offense, they shall be sacrificed to
the flag. But be very careful that nothing goes
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Gan Ning went away; and Lu Su came to tell
Zhou Yu, saying, “Every one agrees in thinking the
surrender of Cai Zhong and Cai He feigned and they
should be rejected.”
“But they wish to revenge the death of their
brother,” said the General. “Where is the pretense? If
you are so suspicious, you will receive nobody at all.”
Lu Su left much piqued and went to see Zhuge
Liang to whom he told the story. Zhuge Liang only
“Why do you smile?” said Lu Su.
“I smile at your simplicity. The General is playing
a game. Spies cannot easily come and go, so these
two have been sent to feign desertion that they may
act as spies. The General is meeting one ruse with
another. He wants them to give false information.
Deceit is not to be despised in war, and his scheme
is the correct one to employ.”
Then Lu Su understood. That night as Zhou Yu
was sitting in his tent, Huang Gai came to see him
Zhou Yu said, “You have surely some wise plan
to propose that you come at night like this.”
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Huang Gai replied, “The enemy are more
numerous than we, and it is wrong to delay. Why not
burn them out?”
“Who suggested that to you?”
“I thought of it myself, nobody suggested it,”
replied Huang Gai.
“I just wanted something like this, and that is why
I kept those two pretended deserters. I want them to
give some false news. The pity is that I have no one
to feign desertion to the other side and work my
“But I will carry out your plan,” said Huang Gai.
“But if you cannot show some injury, you will not
be believed,” said Zhou Yu.
“The Sun family have been very generous to me,
and I would not resent being crushed to death to
repay them,” said Huang Gai.
The General thanked him saying, “If you would
not object to some bodily suffering, then our country
would indeed be happy.”
“Kill me; I do not mind,” repeated Huang Gai as
he took his leave. Next day the drums called all the
officers together to the General’s tent, and Zhuge
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Liang came with the others.
Zhou Yu said, “The enemy’s camps extend about
one hundred miles so that the campaign will be a
long one. Each leader is to prepare supplies for three
Scarcely had he spoken when Huang Gai started
up, crying, “Say not three months; be ready for thirty
months, and even then it will not be ended. If you
can destroy them this month then all is well. If you
cannot, then it were better to take Zhang Zhao’s
advice, throw down your weapons, turn to the north
and surrender.”
Zhou Yu’s anger flared up and he flushed, crying,
“Our lord’s orders were to destroy Cao Cao, and
whoever mentioned the word surrender should be
put to death. Now, the very moment when the two
armies are to engage, you dare talk of surrender and
damp the ardor of my army! If I do not slay you, how
can I support the others?”
He ordered the lictors to remove Huang Gai and
execute him without delay.
Huang Gai then flamed up in turn, saying, “This is
the third generation since I went with General Sun
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Jian, and we overran the southeast; whence have
you sprung up?”
This made Zhou Yu perfectly furious, and Huang
Gai was ordered to instant death. But Gan Ning
Said he, “He is a veteran officer of the South
Land; pray pardon him!”
“What are you prating about?” cried Zhou Yu.
“Dare you come between me and my duty?”
Turning to the lictors, Zhou Yu ordered them to
drive Gan Ning forth with blows.
The other officials fell on their knees entreating
pity for Huang Gai.
“He is indeed most worthy of death, but it would
be a loss to the army; we pray you forgive him.
Record his fault for the moment, and after the enemy
shall have been defeated then put him to death.”
But Zhou Yu was implacable. The officers
pleaded with tears. At length he seemed moved,
saying, “Had you not interceded, he should certainly
have suffered death. But now I will mitigate the
punishment to a beating. He shall not die.”
Zhou Yu turned to the lictors and bade them deal
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the culprit one hundred blows. Again his colleagues
prayed for remission, but Zhou Yu angrily pushed
over the table in front of him and roared to the
officers to get out of the way and let the sentence be
So Huang Gai was stripped, thrown to the
ground, and fifty blows were given. At this point the
officers again prayed that he be let off.
Zhou Yu sprang from his chair and pointing his
finger at Huang Gai said, “If you dare flout me again,
you shall have the other fifty. If you are guilty of any
disrespect, you shall be punished for both faults!”
With this he turned into the inner part of the tent,
growling as he went, while the officers helped their
beaten colleague to his feet. He was in a pitiable
state. His back was cut in many places, and the
blood was flowing in streams. They led him to his
own quarters and on the way he swooned several
times. His case seemed most pitiable.
Lu Su went to see the suffering officer and then
called on Zhuge Liang in his boat. Lu Su related the
story of the beating and said, “Though the other
officers have been cowed into silence, I think thought
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you, Sir, might have interceded. You are a guest and
not under Zhou Yu’s orders. Why did you stand by
with your hands up your sleeves and say never a
“You insult me,” said Zhuge Liang smiling.
“Why do you say that? I have never insulted you;
never since the day we came here together.”
“Do you not know that terrible beating was but a
ruse? How could I try to dissuade Zhou Yu?”
Then Lu Su began to perceive, and Zhuge Liang
continued, saying, “Cao Cao would not be taken in
unless there was some real bodily suffering. Zhou Yu
is going to send Huang Gai over as a deserter, and
Zhou Yu will see to it that the two Cao Cao’s spies
duly tell the tale. But when you see the General, you
must not tell him that I saw through the ruse. You
say that I am very angry like the others.”
Lu Su went to see Zhou Yu and asked, “Why
have you so cruelly beaten a proved and trusty
“Do the officers resent it?” asked Zhou Yu.
“They are all upset about it.”
“And what does your friend think?”
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“Zhuge Liang also resents it in his heart, and
thinks you have made a mistake.”
“Then I have deceived him for once,” said Zhou
Yu gleefully.
“What mean you?” cried Lu Su.
“That beating that Huang Gai got is part of my
ruse. I am sending him to Cao Cao as a deserter,
and so I have supplied a reason for desertion. Then I
am going to use fire against the enemy.”
Lu Su kept silence, but he recognized that Zhuge
Liang was again right. Meanwhile Huang Gai lay in
his tent, whither all his colleague officers went to
condole with him and inquire after his health. But
Huang Gai would say never a word; he only lay
sighing deeply from time to time.
But when the Strategist Kan Ze came, Huang Gai
told them to bring him to the room where he lay.
Then he bade the servants go away, and Kan Ze
said, “Surely you must have some serious quarrel
with the General.”
“I have none,” said Huang Gai.
“Then this beating is just part of a ruse?”
“How did you guess?” said Huang Gai.
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“Because I watched the General, and I guessed
about nine tenths of the truth.”
Huang Gai said, “You see I have been very
generously treated by the Sun family, all three of
them, and have no means of showing my gratitude
except by offering to help in this ruse. True I suffer,
but I do not regret that. Among all those I know in the
army, there is not one I am intimate with except
yourself. You are true and I can talk with you as a
“I suppose you wish me to present your surrender
letter to Cao Cao; is that it?”
“Just that; will you do it?” said Huang Gai.
Kan Ze consented joyfully.
Even the warrior’s body is but a stake in the
The friend so ready to help him proves that their
hearts are the same.
Kan Ze’s reply will be read in the next chapter.
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