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CHAPTER 51. Cao Ren Fights The South Land’s Troops; Zhuge Liang Angers Zhou Yu.

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

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Guan Yu would have died there but for his elder
brother, who said to Zhuge Liang, “We three pledged
ourselves to live and die together. Although my
brother Guan Yu has offended, I cannot bear to
break our oath. I hope you will only record this
against him and let him atone later for the fault by
some specially meritorious service.”
So the sentence was remitted.
In the meantime, Zhou Yu mustered his officers
and called over his soldiers, noted the special
services of each, and sent full reports to his master.
The soldiers who had surrendered were all
transported across the river. All this done they
spread the feast of victory.
The next step was to attack and capture Nanjun.
The van of the army camped on the river bank.
T h e r e w e r e f i v e c a m p s a n d t h e
Commander−in−Chief’s tent was in the center. He
summoned his officers to a council. At this moment
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Sun Qian arrived with congratulations from Liu Bei.
Zhou Yu received him and, having saluted in
proper form, Sun Qian said, “My lord sent me on this
special mission to felicitate the General on his great
virtue and offer some unworthy gifts.”
“Where is Liu Bei?” asked Zhou Yu.
“He is now encamped at Youkou, the mouth of
River You.”
“Is Zhuge Liang there?” asked Zhou Yu, taken
“Both are there,” said Sun Qian.
“Then return quickly, and I will come in person to
thank them.”
The presents handed over, Sun Qian was sent
back forthwith to his own camp. Then Lu Su asked
Zhou Yu why he had started when he heard where
Liu Bei was camped.
“Because,” replied Zhou Yu, “camping at the
mouth of River You means that he has the intention
of taking Nanjun. Having spent much military energy
and spared no expenditure, we thought the territory
should fall to us easily. Those others are opposed to
us, and they wish to get the advantage of what we
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have already accomplished. However, they must
remember that I am not dead yet.”
“How can you prevent them?” asked Lu Su.
“I will go myself and speak with them. If all goes
well, then, let it be so; in case it does not, then I shall
immediately settle up with Liu Bei without waiting for
Nanjun to be taken.”
“I should like to accompany you,” said Lu Su.
The General and his friend started, taking with
them a guard of three thousand light horse. Having
arrived at Youkou, they sought out Sun Qian, who, in
turn, went in to see Liu Bei and told him Zhou Yu had
come to render thanks.
“Why has he come?” asked Liu Bei of his
Directing Instructor.
“He is not likely to come out of simple politeness.
Surely he has come in connection with Nanjun.”
“But if he brings an army, can we stand against
it?” asked Liu Bei.
“When he comes, you may reply thus and thus.”
Then they drew up the warships in the river and
ranged the soldiers upon the bank; and when the
arrival of Zhou Yu was formally announced, Zhao
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Yun, with some horsemen, went to welcome him.
When Zhou Yu saw what bold soldiers they looked,
he began to feel uncomfortable, but he went on his
way. Being met at the camp gates by Liu Bei and
Zhuge Liang, he was taken in to the chief tent, where
the ceremonies were performed and preparations for
a banquet had been made.
Presently Liu Bei raised his cup in felicitation on
the recent victory gained by his guest. The banquet
proceeded, and after a few more courses Zhou Yu
said, “Of course you are camped here with no other
idea than to take Nanjun?”
Liu Bei said, “We heard you were going to take
the place and came to assist. Should you not take it,
then we will occupy it.”
Zhou Yu laughed, saying, “We of the South Land
have long wished for this territory. Now that it is
within our grasp, we naturally shall take it.”
Liu Bei said, “There is always some uncertainty.
Cao Cao left Cao Ren to guard the region, and you
may be certain that there is good strategy behind
Cao Ren, to say nothing of his boldness as a warrior.
I fear you may not get it.”
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“Well, if we do not take it then, Sir, you may have
it,” said Zhou Yu.
“Here are witnesses to your words,” said Liu Bei,
naming Lu Su, Zhuge Liang, and those at table. “I
hope you will never repent what you have just said.”
Lu Su stammered and seemed unwilling to be
cited as one of the witnesses, but Zhou Yu said,
“When the word of a noble person has gone forth, it
is ended; he never regrets.”
“This speech of yours, Sir, is very generous,”
interjected Zhuge Liang. “The South Land shall try
first; but if the place does not fall, there is no reason
why my lord should not capture it.”
The two visitors then took their leave and rode
As soon as they had left, Liu Bei turned to Zhuge
Liang and said, “O Master, you bade me thus reply
to Zhou Yu; but though I did so, I have turned it over
and over in my mind without finding any reason in
what I said. I am alone and weak, without a single
foot of land to call my own. I desired to get
possession of Nanjun that I might have, at least, a
temporary shelter, yet I have said that Zhou Yu may
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attack it first, and if it falls to the South Land, how
can I get possession?”
Zhuge Liang laughed and replied, “First I advised
you to attack Jingzhou, but you would not listen; do
you remember?”
“But it belonged to Liu Biao, and I could not bear
to attack it then. Now it belongs to Cao Cao I might
do so.”
“Do not be anxious,” replied the adviser. “Let
Zhou Yu go and attack it; some day, my lord, I shall
make you sit in the high place thereof.”
“But what design have you?”
“So and so,” said Zhuge Liang, whispering.
Liu Bei was satisfied with the reply, and only
strengthened his position at Youkou.
In the meantime Zhou Yu and Lu Su returned to
their own camp, and the latter said, “Why did you tell
Liu Bei that he might attack Nanjun?”
“I can take it with a flick of my finger,” replied
Zhou Yu, “but I just manifested a little pretended
Then he inquired among his officers for a
volunteer to attack the city. Jiang Qin offered himself,
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and was put in command of the vanguard, with Xu
Sheng and Ding Feng as helpers. He was given five
thousand of veterans, and they moved across the
river. Zhou Yu promised to follow with supports.
On the other side Cao Ren ordered Cao Hong to
guard Yiling, and so hold one corner of an ox−horn
defense. When the news came that the South Land’s
force had crossed the River Han, Cao Ren said, “We
will defend and not offer battle.”
But General Niu Jin said impetuously, “To let the
enemy approach the walls and not offer battle is
timidity. Our troops, lately worsted, need heartening
and must show their mettle. Let me have five
hundred of veterans, and I will fight to a finish.”
Cao Ren could not withstand this offer, and so the
five hundred went out of the city. At once Ding Feng
came to challenge the leader, and they fought a few
bouts. Then Ding Feng pretended to be defeated,
gave up the fight, and retreated into his own lines.
Niu Jin followed him hard. When he had got within
the South Land’s formation, at a signal from Ding
Feng, the army closed round and Niu Jin was
surrounded. He pushed right and left, but could find
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no way out. Seeing Niu Jin in the toils, Cao Ren, who
had watched the fight from the wall, donned his
armor and came out of the city at the head of his
own bold company of horsemen and burst in among
the forces of the South Land to try to rescue his
colleague. Beating back Xu Sheng, Cao Ren fought
his way in and presently rescued Niu Jin.
However, having got out, Cao Ren saw several
score of horsemen still in the middle unable to make
their way out, whereupon he turned again to the
battle and dashed in to their rescue. This time he
met Jiang Qin on whom Cao Ren and Niu Jin made
a violent attack. Then the brother Cao Chun came up
with supports, and the great battle ended in a defeat
for the troops of the South Land.
So Cao Ren went back victor, while the unhappy
Jiang Qin returned to report his failure. Zhou Yu was
very angry and would have put to death his hapless
subordinate but for the intervention of the other
officers. Then Zhou Yu prepared for another attack
where he himself would lead. But Gan Ning said,
“General, do not be in too great hurry; let me go first
and attack Yiling, the supporting angle of the
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ox−horn formation. After that the conquest of Nanjun
will be easy.”
Zhou Yu accepted the plan and Gan Ning, with
three thousand troops, went to attack Yiling.
When news of the approaching army reached
him, Cao Ren called to his side Chen Jiao, who said,
“If Yiling be lost, then Nanjun is lost too. So help
must be sent quickly.”
Thereupon Cao Chun and Niu Jin were sent by
secret ways to the aid of Cao Hong. Cao Chun sent
a messenger to the city to ask that they should
cause a diversion by a sortie at the time the
reinforcements should arrive.
So when Gan Ning drew near, Cao Hong went
out to meet and engage him. They fought a score of
rounds, but Cao Hong was overcome at last, and
Gan Ning took the city. However, as evening fell the
reinforcements under Cao Chun and Niu Jin came
up, and the captor was surrounded in the city he had
taken. The scouts went off immediately to tell Zhou
Yu of this sudden change of affairs which greatly
alarmed him.
“Let us hasten to his rescue,” said Cheng Pu.
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“Our place is of the greatest importance,” said
Zhou Yu, “and I am afraid to leave it undefended lest
Cao Ren should attack.”
“But Gan Ning is one of our first leaders and must
be rescued,” said Lu Meng.
“I should like to go myself to his aid, but whom
can I leave here in my place?” said Zhou Yu.
“Leave Ling Tong here;” said Lu Meng, “I will
push on ahead, and you can protect my advance. In
less than ten days we shall be singing the paean of
“Are you willing?” said Zhou Yu to the man who
was to act for him.
Ling Tong said, “If the ten−day period is not
exceeded, I may be able to carry on for that time; I
am unequal to more than that.”
Ling Tong’s consent pleased Zhou Yu who
started at once, leaving ten thousand troops for the
defense of the camp.
Lu Meng said to his chief, “South of Yiling is a
little−used road that may prove very useful in an
attack on Nanjun. Let us send a party to fell trees
and barricade this road so that horses cannot pass.
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In case of defeat, the defeated will take this road and
will be compelled to abandon their horses, which we
shall capture.”
Zhou Yu approved and the men set out. When
the main army drew near Yiling, Zhou Yu asked who
would try to break through the besiegers, and Zhou
Tai offered himself. He girded on his sword, mounted
his steed, and burst straight into the Cao Hong’s
army. He got through to the city wall.
From the city wall Gan Ning saw the approach of
his friend Zhou Tai and went out to welcome him.
Zhou Tai told him the Commander−in−Chief was on
the way to his relief, and Gan Ning at once bade the
defenders prepare from within to support the attack
of the rescuers.
When the news of the approach of Zhou Yu had
reached Yiling, Cao Hong, Cao Chun, and Niu Jin
had sent to tell Cao Ren, who was at Nanjun, and at
the same time they prepared to repel the assailants.
When the army of the South Land came near,
they at once attacked. Simultaneously Gan Ning and
Zhou Tai went out to attack on two sides, and the
troops of Cao Hong were thrown into confusion. The
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soldiers of the South Land fell on lustily, and the
three leaders all fled by a bye road, but, finding the
way barred with felled trees and other obstacles,
they had to abandon their horses and go afoot. In
this way the troops of the South Land gained some
five hundred steeds.
Zhou Yu, pressing on as quickly as possible
toward Nanjun, came upon Cao Ren and his army
marching to save Yiling. The two armies engaged
and fought a battle which lasted till late in the
evening. Then both drew off, and Cao Ren withdrew
into the city.
During the night he called his officers to a council.
Then said Cao Hong, “The loss of Yiling has brought
us to a dangerous pass; now it seems the time to
open the guide−letter of the Prime Minister, and see
what plans he arranged for our salvation in this peril.”
“You but say what I think,” replied Cao Ren.
Whereupon he tore open the guide−letter and
read it. His face lighted up with joy, and he at once
issued orders to have the morning meal prepared at
the fifth watch. At daylight the whole army moved out
of the city through three gates, but they left a
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semblance of occupation in the shape of banners on
the walls.
Zhou Yu went up to the tower of observation and
looked over the city. He saw that the flags along the
battlements had no guards behind them, and he
noticed that all troops carried bundles at their waists
behind so that they were ready for a long march.
Thought Zhou Yu to himself, “Cao Ren must be
prepared for a long march.”
So Zhou Yu went down from the tower of
observation and sent out an order for two wings of
the army to be ready. One of these was to attack
and, in case of its success, the other was to pursue
at full speed till the clanging of the gongs should call
them to return. He took command of the leading
force in person, and Cheng Pu commanded the
other. Thus they advanced to attack the city.
The armies being arrayed facing each other, the
drums rolled out across the plain. Cao Hong rode
forth and challenged, and Zhou Yu, from his place by
the standard, bade Han Dang respond. The two
champions fought near two score bouts, and then
Cao Hong fled. Thereupon Cao Ren came out to
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help him, and Zhou Tai rode out at full speed to meet
him. These two exchanged a half score passes and
then Cao Ren tied.
Cao Ren’s army fell into confusion. Thereupon
Zhou Yu gave the signal for the advance of both his
wings, and the forces of Cao Ren were sore smitten
and defeated. Zhou Yu pursued to the city wall, but
Cao Ren’s troops did not enter the city. Instead, they
went away northwest. Han Dang and Zhou Tai
pressed them hard.
Zhou Yu, seeing the city gates standing wide
open and no guards upon the walls, ordered the
raiding of the city. A few score horsemen rode in
first, Zhou Yu followed and whipping his steed. As he
galloped into the enclosure around the gate, Chen
Jiao stood on the defense tower. When he saw Zhou
Yu enter, in his heart he applauded the god−like
perspicacity of the Prime Minister Cao Cao.
Then was heard the clap−clap of a watchman’s
rattle. At this signal the archers and crossbowmen let
fly, and the arrows and bolts flew forth in a sudden
fierce shower, while those who had won their way to
the van of the inrush went headlong into a deep
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trench. Zhou Yu managed to pull up in time, but
turning to escape, he was wounded in the left side
and fell to the ground. Niu Jin rushed out from the
city to capture the chief, but Xu Sheng and Ding
Feng at the risk of their lives got him away safe.
Then the troops of Cao Ren dashed out of the city
and wrought confusion among the troops of the
South Land, who trampled each other down and
many more fell into the trenches. Cheng Pu tried to
draw off, but Cao Ren and Cao Hong came toward
him from different directions, and the battle went
hardly against the soldiers of Zhou Yu, till help came
from Ling Tong, who bore back their assailants.
Satisfied with their success, Cao Ren led his forces
into the city, while the losers marched back to their
own camp.
Zhou Yu, sorely wounded, was taken to his own
tent and the army physician called in. With iron
forceps, he extracted the sharp bolt and dressed the
wound with a lotion designed to counteract the
poison of the metal. But the pain was intense, and
the patient rejected all nourishment.
The physician said, “The missile had been
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poisoned, and the wound will require a long time to
heal. You, General, must be kept quiet and
especially free from any irritation, which will cause
the wound to reopen.”
Thereupon Cheng Pu gave orders that each
division was to remain in camp. Three days later, Niu
Jin came within sight and challenged the men of the
South Land to battle, but they did not stir. The enemy
hurled at them taunts and insults till the sun had
fallen low in the sky, but it was of no avail and Niu
Jin withdrew.
Next day Niu Jin returned and repeated his
insulting abuse. Cheng Pu dared not tell the
wounded general. The third day, waxing bolder, the
enemy came to the very gates of the stockade, the
leader shouting that he had come for the purpose of
capturing Zhou Yu.
Then Cheng Pu called together his officers and
they discussed the feasibility of retirement into the
South Land that they might seek the opinion of Sun
Ill as he was, Zhou Yu still retained control of the
expedition. He knew that the enemy came daily to
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the gates of his camp and reviled him, although none
of his officers told him. One day Cao Ren came in
person, and there was much rolling of drums and
shouting. Cheng Pu, however, steadily refused to
accept the challenge and would not let any one go
Then Zhou Yu summoned the officers to his
bedside and said, “What mean the drums and the
“The soldiers are drilling,” was the reply.
“Why do you deceive me?” said Zhou Yu angrily.
“Do I not know that our enemies come day by day to
our gates and insult us? Yet Cheng Pu suffers this in
silence and makes no use of his powers and
He sent for Cheng Pu and, when he arrived,
asked him why he acted thus.
“Because you are ill, and the physician said you
were on no account to be provoked to anger.
Wherefore, although the enemy challenged us to
battle, I kept it from you.”
“And if you do not fight, what think you should be
done?” said Zhou Yu.
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And they all said they desired to return to the
South Land till he had recovered from his wound,
when they would make another expedition.
Zhou Yu lay and listened. Suddenly he sprang up,
crying, “The noble person who has eaten of his lord’s
bounty should die in his lord’s battles; to return to
one’s home dead and wrapped in a horse’s hide is a
happy fate. Am I the sort of people to bring to nought
the grand designs of my country?” So speaking he
proceeded to gird on his armor and he mounted his
horse. The wonder of the officers only redoubled
when their General placed himself at the head of
some hundreds of horsemen and went out of the
camp gates toward the enemy, then fully arrayed.
Cao Ren, their general, stood beneath the great
At sight of the opponents, Cao Ren flourished his
whip and began to hurl abuse at them, “Zhou Yu,
you babe! I think your fate has met you. You dare not
face my army.”
The stream of insult never ceased. Presently
Zhou Yu could stand it no longer. Riding out to the
front he cried, “Here I am, base churl; look at me!”
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The whole Cao Ren’s army were taken aback.
But Cao Ren turned to those about him and said,
“Let us all revile him!”
And the whole army yelled insults.
Zhou Yu grew angry and sent Pan Zhang out to
fight. But before he had delivered his first blow, Zhou
Yu suddenly uttered a loud cry, and he fell to the
ground with blood gushing from his mouth.
At this Cao Ren’s army rushed to the battle, and
the army of the South Land pressed forward to meet
them. A fierce struggle waged around the General’s
body, but he was borne off safely and taken to his
“Do you feel better?” asked Cheng Pu anxiously.
“It was a ruse of mine,” whispered Zhou Yu in
“But what avails it?”
“I am not suffering, but I did that to make our
enemies think I was very ill and so oppose them by
deceit. I will send a few trusty men to pretend
desertion and tell them I am dead. That will cause
them to try a night raid on the camp, and we shall
have an ambush ready for them. We shall get Cao
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Ren easily.”
“The plan seems excellent,” said Cheng Pu.
Soon from the tent there arose the sound of
wailing as for the dead. The soldiers around took up
the cry and said one to another, “The General is
dead of his wound,” and they all put on the symbols
of mourning.
Meanwhile Cao Ren was consulting with his
officers. Said he, “Zhou Yu lost his temper, and that
has caused his wound to reopen and brought on that
flow of blood. You saw him fall to the ground, and he
will assuredly die soon.”
Just then there came in one who said that a few
men had come over from the enemy asking to be
allowed to join the army of Cao Ren; among them
were two of Cao Cao’s men who had been made
Cao Ren sent for the deserters and questioned
them. They told him, saying, “Zhou Yu’s wound
reopened at his anger, and he died in the camp that
day. The leaders are all clothing in white and in
mourning. We desert because we have been put to
shame by the second in command.”
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Pleased at this news, Cao Ren at once began to
arrange to make a night attack on the camp and, if
possible, get the head of the dead general to send to
the capital.
“Success depends upon promptitude, so act
without delay,” said Chen Jiao. Niu Jin was told off
as Van Leader, Cao Ren himself led the center,
while the rear was commanded by Cao Hong and
Cao Chun. Chen Jiao and a small force were left to
guard Nanjun.
At the first watch they left the city and took the
way toward Zhou Yu’s camp. When they drew near,
not a soldier was visible in the camp, but flags and
banners and spears were all there, evidently to keep
up an appearance of preparation. Feeling at once
that they had been tricked, they turned to retreat.
But a bomb exploded and this was the signal for
an attack on all four sides. Han Dang and Jiang Qin
pressed in from the east; Zhou Tai and Pan Zhang,
from the west; Chen Wu and Lu Meng, from the
north; and Xu Sheng and Ding Feng, from the south.
The result was a severe defeat for the raiders, and
the army of Cao Ren was entirely broken and
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scattered abroad so that no one part of the beaten
army could aid the other.
Cao Ren, with a few horsemen got out of the
press and presently met Cao Hong. The two leaders
ran away together, and by the fifth watch they had
got near Nanjun. Then they heard a beating of
drums, and Ling Tong appeared barring the way.
There was a small skirmish, and Cao Ren went off at
an angle. But he fell in with Gan Ning, who attacked
him vigorously. Cao Ren dared not go back to
Nanjun, but he made for Xiangyang along the main
road. The forces of the South Land pursued him for a
time and then desisted.
Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu then made their way to
Nanjun where they were startled to see flags on the
walls and every sign of occupation.
Before they had recovered from their surprise,
there appeared one who cried, “Pardon, General; I
had orders from the Directing Instructor to take this
city. I am Zhao Yun of Changshan.”
Zhou Yu was fiercely angry and gave orders to
assault the city, but the defenders sent down flights
and flights of arrows, and his troops could not stay
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near the rampart. So he withdrew and took counsel.
In the meantime he decided to send Gan Ning with a
force of several thousand to capture Jingzhou City,
and Ling Tong with another army to take Xiangyang.
Nanjun could be taken later.
But even as these orders were being given, the
scouts came in hurriedly to report, saying, “After
Nanjun fell, Zhuge Liang, suddenly forging a military
commission, induced the guards of Jingzhou to leave
it and go to the rescue of Cao Ren. Whereupon
Zhang Fei occupied the town.”
Soon after another messenger came, saying,
“Xiahou Dun, at Xiangyang, received from Zhuge
Liang dispatches, supported by a commission in due
form, saying that Cao Ren was in danger and
needed help, whereupon Xiahou Dun marched off,
and Guan Yu seized that city.”
Thus the two cities that Zhou Yu wanted had
fallen, without the least effort, into the hands of his
rival Liu Bei.
“How did Zhuge Liang get this military
commission with which he has imposed on the
generals?” asked Zhou Yu.
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Cheng Pu replied, “He seized that of Chen Jiao
and so has got all this region into his power.”
Zhou Yu uttered a great cry, for at that moment
his wound had suddenly burst open.
A city falls, but not to us the gain;
The guerdon is another’s; ours the pain.
The next chapter will say what befell Zhou Yu.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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