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CHAPTER 54. The Dowager Marchioness Sees Her Son−In−Law At A Temple; The Imperial Uncle Takes A Worthy Consort.

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

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Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang went out of the city to
welcome the envoy of the South Land and led him to
the guest−house. After the usual greetings, Lu Su
said, “Hearing of the death of your nephew, my lord
Sun Quan has prepared some gifts and sent me to
take his place at the funeral sacrifices. General Zhou
Yu also sends regards to the Imperial Uncle and to
you, Master Zhuge Liang.”
Both rose at once and thanked him for the
courtesy. Then the gifts were handed over and a
banquet prepared, and while it was in progress, the
guest brought up the real object of his visit.
“You said, Sir, that Jingzhou should be returned
to us after the death of Liu Qi. Now that that event
has happened, rendition becomes due, and I should
be glad to know when the transfer can take place.”
“We will discuss that later; in the meantime let us
go on with our wine,” said Liu Bei.
So the feasting continued. Some time later Lu Su
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returned to the subject, but this time his host
remained silent.
However, Zhuge Liang, changing color, said, “Lu
Su, you are unreasonable. You could not wait till
some other has to explain this matter to you. From
the very foundation of the empire by our illustrious
ancestor, the great heritage has descended in due
course till today when, unhappily, evil doers have
risen among the powerful and they have seized upon
such portions as they could. But with God’s favor and
help, unity is nearly restored. My lord is a scion of
the Imperial House, a great great grandson of
Emperor Myers. Now, as the Emperor’s Uncle,
should he not have a share of the empire? Moreover,
Liu Biao was my lord’s elder brother, and there is
certainly nothing extraordinary in one brother’s
succession to another’s estate.
“What is your master? The son of a petty official
on the banks of the River Qiantang, absolutely
without merit so far as the state is concerned. Just
because he is powerful, he holds actual possession
of six territories and eighty−one counties, which has
whetted his insatiable appetite till he now desires to
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swallow the whole empire. The land is the estate of
the Liu family and my lord, who is of that name, has
no share thereof, while your master, whose name is
Sun, would dispute with, and even fight him. Beside,
at the battle at the Red Cliffs my lord did good
service and acquired great merit while his
commanders risked their lives. Was it solely the
strength of your southern soldiers that won that
fight? Had I not brought that southeast wind that
meant so much for Zhou Yu, could he have done
anything? Had the South Land been conquered, it is
needless to say that the two paramount beauties
would now be gracing the Bronze Bird Palace, and
as for yourself and other officers, insignificant though
your families be, could you have been sure to
survive? Just now my lord did not reply because he
was willing to believe rather that a scholar of your
abilities would understand without a detailed
explanation, and I trust now that you will.”
This speech absolutely shut the guest’s mouth for
a time, and he said no word in reply. But after an
interval he said, “What you say, Zhuge Liang, I think
i s d e v o i d o f r e a s o n , a n d m e a n s m u c h
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unpleasantness for me.”
“What unpleasantness?” asked Zhuge Liang. The
guest replied, “When Liu Bei was in serious straits at
Dangyang, I conducted you across the river and
introduced you to my lord. I opposed Zhou Yu when
he was going to capture Jingzhou, and then it came
to agreement that the place was to be ours when the
young man died. And I pledged myself to that. Now
how can I go back and say you break your promise?
Both my lord and Zhou Yu will hold me guilty. I would
not mind death so much, but I fear that my master
will be very wrathful and make war on the Imperial
Uncle, who will have no place of refuge and he will
look ridiculous in the eyes of the world for no
Replied Zhuge Liang, “I care not for Cao Cao with
his million troops and the Emperor in name at his
back, and do you think I fear such a youngster as
Zhou Yu? However, as it may cause you some loss
of consideration, I will try to persuade my master to
put the matter in writing and give you a paper to the
effect that he is temporarily occupying Jingzhou as a
base; and when he can obtain possession of some
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other city, this shall be returned to you. What think
you the South Land would say to this?”
“Wait till what other place was obtained?” said Lu
“My master can scarcely think of attacking the
Middle Land yet, but Liu Zhang in Yiazhou is
ignorant and weak, and my master will attack him. If
he gets the western region, then this place will be
given up to you.”
Lu Su had no alternative and accepted the offer.
Liu Bei with his own hand wrote the pledge and
sealed it. Zhuge Liang being named as guarantor
also signed the document.
“Since I belong to this side of the compact and
one can hardly have a guarantor of the same party, I
would trouble you, Lu Su, also to sign. It will look
better when you reach the South Land again,” said
Zhuge Liang.
Lu Su said, “I know that your master is perfectly
honorable and will adhere to the bargain.”
And so Lu Su signed. Then he received the
document in formal style and took his departure. He
was sent off with every mark of great respect, both
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Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang attending him to his boat.
There the Directing Instructor delivered him a last
exhortation, “When you see your master, speak
discreetly and explain fully so as not to create a bad
impression. If he rejects our document, we may get
angry and we will take his whole country. The one
thing now is for our two houses to live in harmony
and not give our common enemy, Cao Cao, an
opportunity against us.”
Lu Su went down into his ship. He reached
Chaisang and there saw Zhou Yu, who said, “Well,
how did you speed with your demand for Jingzhou?”
“Here is the document,” said Lu Su, giving it to
Zhou Yu to read.
“You have been victimized by Zhuge Liang,” said
Zhou Yu, stamping his foot with irritation. “In name it
may be temporary occupation, but in fact it is
humbug. They say the place is to be returned when
they get the west. Who knows when that will be?
Suppose ten years; then it will be ten years before
they give us Jingzhou. What is the use of such a
document as this? And you are a guarantor of its due
performance! If they do not give us the city, you get
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into trouble. Suppose our lord finds you in the wrong,
what then?”
Lu Su was dumbfounded. When he had
somewhat recovered his self−possession, he said, “I
think Liu Bei will be true to me.”
“You, my friend, are simple and sincere; Liu Bei is
a scoundrel adventurer; and Zhuge Liang is a
slippery customer. They and you are utterly
different.” “What then is to be done?” cried Lu Su
“You are my dear friend, and your kindness in
freely offering your store of grain to relieve my army
is still fresh in my memory. Of course I will save you.
Do not be anxious, but wait a few days till we get
news of what is doing on the north of the river, and
then we can decide upon a plan.”
Lu Su passed some very uneasy days. Then the
scouts came back saying that in Jingzhou everything
seemed in excellent order and the white flags were
flying everywhere, while outside the city they were
building a magnificent mausoleum for Lady Gan, wife
of Liu Bei. All the soldiers were in mourning.
When Zhou Yu knew who was dead, he said to
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Lu Su, “My scheme is made. You will see Liu Bei just
stand still to be bound, and we shall get Jingzhou
like turning a hand.”
“What is the main spring of your plan?” said Lu
“Liu Bei will want to remarry, and our lord has a
sister, Princess Sun Ren. She is a veritable amazon,
whose women guards number many hundreds, all
armed with weapons of war. Her apartments also are
full of such things. I will write to our lord to send an
intermediary to arrange that the lady shall wed Liu
Bei at her family home, and thus we shall entice Liu
Bei to Nanxu. But instead of marrying a wife, Liu Bei
will find himself a prisoner, and then we will demand
Jingzhou as ransom. When they have handed over
the region, I shall find something else to say and
nothing will fall on your head.”
Lu Su was very grateful. Then Zhou Yu wrote
letters to his master, and a swift boat was chosen to
take Lu Su to see the Marquis of Wu.
After the lending of Jingzhou had been discussed,
Lu Su presented the document given him by Liu Bei.
“What is the use of such nonsense as this?” said
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Sun Quan, when he had read it.
“There is another letter from General Zhou Yu;
and he says that if you will employ his scheme, you
can recover Jingzhou,” replied Lu Su.
Having read that letter, Sun Quan was more
pleased and began to consider who was the best
person to send. Suddenly he cried, “I have it; Lu Fan
is the man to send.”
Sun Quan called Lu Fan and said to him, “I have
just heard that Liu Bei has lost his wife. I have a
sister whom I should like to marry to him and so
make a bond of union between our two houses. Thus
we should be united against Cao Cao and in support
of the House of Han. You are the one man to be
intermediary, and I hope you will go to Jingzhou and
see to this.”
Under these orders, Lu Fan at once began to
prepare his ships for the voyage and soon started.
Liu Bei was greatly distressed at the death of
Lady Gan, fretting for her day and night. One day
when he was talking with his adviser, they
announced the arrival of Lu Fan who had come on a
mission from the South Land.
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“One of Zhou Yu’s devices,” said Zhuge Liang
smiling, “and it is all on account of this region. I will
just retire behind the screen and listen. But you, my
lord, agree to whatever the messenger proposes.
Then let the messenger be taken to the guest−house
while we arrange what is to be done.”
So the envoy was introduced. Bows having been
exchanged, host and guest being seated in due
order and the tea drunk; Liu Bei opened the
“You must have some commands for me, Sir,
since you come thus.”
“News has just been received that you, O Imperial
Uncle, have just been bereaved of your consort. I
venture to hope you would not object to an
advantageous match, and I have come to propose
one. Are you disposed to listen?”
“To lose one’s wife in middle age is truly a great
misfortune,” said Liu Bei. “While her body is still
warm, I cannot listen to proposals for another
Lu Fan said, “A man without a wife is like a house
without a ridge pole. At your age, one should not live
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an incomplete life. I am come on the part of Marquis
Sun Quan, who has a sister, beautiful as she is,
accomplished and well fitted to be a mate for you.
Should the two families become allied as formerly
were Qin and Jin, then that ruffian Cao Cao would
never dare so much as look this way. Such an
alliance would be to the benefit of both our houses
and of the state. I hope, O Imperial Uncle, that you
will fairly consider the proposal. However, since the
young girl’s mother is dotingly fond of her, the mother
does not wish her to go far away, and so I must ask
you to come into our country for the wedding.”
“Does the Marquis know of your coming?”
“How dare I come without his knowledge?”
“I am no longer young,” said Liu Bei. “I am fifty
and grizzled. This fair damsel, the sister of the
Marquis, is now in the flower of her youth and no
mate for me.”
“Although the damsel is a woman, yet in mind she
surpasses many a man, and she has said she will
never wed any one who is unknown to fame. Now,
Sir, you are renowned throughout the four seas.
Marriage with you would be the chaste maiden
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mating with the born gentleman. Of what
consequence is the difference in age?”
“Sir, stay here awhile and I will give you a reply
tomorrow,” said Liu Bei.
So that day the envoy was entertained at a
banquet and then conducted to the guest−house to
repose, while, late as it was, Liu Bei and Zhuge
Liang discussed their plans.
“I knew what he had come about,” said the
adviser. “While he was talking, I consulted the oracle
and obtained an excellent sign. Wherefore you may
accept the proposal and send Sun Qian back with
this envoy to arrange the details. When the promise
has been ratified, we will choose a day and you shall
go to complete the ceremony.”
“How can I thus go into enemy territory? Zhou Yu
has wanted to slay me for a long time.”
“Let Zhou Yu employ all his ruses; think you he
can get beyond me? Let me act for you, and his
calculations will always fail halfway. Once Sun
Quan’s sister is in your power, there will be no fear
for Jingzhou.”
Still Liu Bei doubted in his mind. However, Sun
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Qian was sent to the South Land, with definite
instructions, and traveled thither with Lu Fan. At the
interview Sun Quan said, “I wish my sister could
induce Liu Bei to live here with us. He would come to
no harm.”
Sun Qian took his leave; and returning to
Jingzhou, he told the bridegroom elect, saying, “Sun
Quan’s sole desire is for our lord to go over and
complete the marriage.”
However, Liu Bei feared and would not go.
Zhuge Liang said, “I have prepared three plans,
but I need Zhao Yun to carry them out. He will be
sent as your guard.”
So Zhuge Liang called in Zhao Yun, gave him
three silken bags, and whispered in his ear, saying,
“Here are three schemes enclosed in three bags.
When you escort our lord to the South Land, you will
take these with you and act as they direct.”
Zhao Yun hid the three silken bags in his breast
so that they should be at hand when required.
Zhuge Liang next sent the wedding gifts, and
when these had been received, the preliminaries
were settled.
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It was then the early winter of the fourteenth year
of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 209); and the bridegroom
elect, his escort, and the intermediary, left the city of
Jingzhou with a fleet of ten fast ships to sail down
the river to Nanxu. Zhuge Liang remained to guard
and rule the region.
But Liu Bei was far from feeling comfortable. They
arrived and the ships were made fast. This done, the
time had come for the first of the silken bags to be
opened. And so it was; and thereupon Zhao Yun
gave each of his five hundred guards his
instructions, and they went their several ways. Next
Zhao Yun told Liu Bei what he was to do: to pay his
visit first to the State Patriarch Qiao, who was the
father−in−law of Sun Ce and of Zhou Yu.
The State Patriarch Qiao resided in Nanxu and to
his house, leading sheep and bearing wine jars, went
the bridegroom elect. Having made his obeisance,
Liu Bei explained that as Lu Fan had arranged, he
had come to marry a wife.
In the meantime the five hundred guards, all in
gala dress, had scattered over the city place buying
all sorts of things, as they said, for the wedding of Liu
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Bei with the daughter of the Sun House. They spread
the news far and wide and the whole town talked
about it.
When Sun Quan heard of Liu Bei’s arrival, he
bade Lu Fan wait upon him and take him to the
guest−house. Meanwhile the State Patriarch Qiao
went to the Dowager Marchioness, mother of Sun
Quan, to congratulate her on the happy event.
“What happy event?” ejaculated the old lady.
“The betrothal of your beloved daughter to Liu
Bei. And he has arrived too, as surely you know.”
“My poor old self does not know;” said the
Dowager, “I have heard nothing of all this.”
She at once summoned her son and also sent her
servants out into the town to see what was going
about. They quickly returned to say: “The whole city
know of the coming wedding, and the bridegroom is
now at the guest−house. Moreover, he has come
with a large escort, and they are spending freely,
buying pork and mutton and fruits, all in readiness for
the wedding feasting. Lu Fan and Sun Qian are the
intermediaries on each side, and they are in the
guest−house too.”
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The Dowager Marchioness was terribly taken
aback and upset so that, when Sun Quan arrived, he
found his mother beating her breast and weeping
“What has disturbed you, Mother?” asked he.
“What you have just done,” said she. “You have
treated me as a nonentity. When my elder sister lay
dying, what did she tell you?”
Sun Quan began to be frightened, but he said
boldly, “Please speak out plainly, Mother; what is this
great sorrow?”
“When a son is grown he takes a wife, and when
a girl is old enough she goes to her husband. And
that is right and proper. But I am the mother, and you
ought to have told me that your sister was to become
the wife of Liu Bei. Why did you keep me in the
dark? It was my place to promise her in marriage.”
“Whence comes this story?” said the Marquis,
really much frightened.
“Do you pretend ignorance? There is not a soul in
the city who does not know! But you have succeeded
in keeping me in the dark.”
“I heard it several days ago,” said the State
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Patriarch Qiao. “And I came just now to offer my
“There is no such thing,” said Sun Quan. “It is just
one of the ruses of Zhou Yu to get hold of Jingzhou.
He has used this means to inveigle Liu Bei here and
hold him captive till Jingzhou is restored to us. And if
they will not give it back, then Liu Bei will be put to
death. That is the plot. There is no real marriage.”
But the Dowager was in a rage and vented her
wrath in abusing Zhou Yu.
She said, “Zhou Yu is a pretty sort of governor
over the six territories and eighty−one counties if he
cannot find any means of recovering one region
except making use of my child as a decoy. Truly this
is a fine deed, to spoil the whole of my child’s life and
condemn her to perpetual widowhood, because he
wants to use the fair damsel ruse to slay a man! Who
will ever come to talk of marriage with her after this?”
Said the State Patriarch Qiao, “By this means you
may indeed recover Jingzhou, but you will be a
shameful laughing stock to all the world. What can
be done?”
Sun Quan had nothing to say; he could only hang
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his head, while the Dowager abused his general.
The State Patriarch Qiao tried to soothe her,
saying, “After all Liu Bei, the Imperial Uncle, is a
scion of the reigning family. You can do nothing
better now than to welcome him as a son−in−law
and not let this ugly story get abroad.”
“I am afraid their ages do not match,” interposed
Sun Quan.
“Liu Bei is a very famous man,” said the State
Patriarch Qiao. “There can be no shame in having
such a son−in−law.”
“I have never seen him,” said the Dowager.
“Arrange that I may get a look at him tomorrow at the
Sweet Dew Temple. If he displeases me, you may
work your will on him. But if I am satisfied with him,
then I shall simply let the girl marry him.”
Now Sun Quan was above all things filial and at
once agreed to what his mother said. He went out,
called in Lu Fan, and told him to arrange a banquet
for the morrow at the temple so that the Dowager
Marchioness might see the bridegroom.
“Why not order Jia Hua to station some men in
the wings of the temple? Then if the Dowager be not
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pleased, we can call them out and fall upon him,”
said Lu Fan.
Accordingly the ambush was prepared and five
hundred ruffians posted to act as the Dowager’s
attitude might determine.
When the State Patriarch Qiao took his leave and
had reached his house, he sent to tell Liu Bei,
saying, “Tomorrow the Marquis and the Dowager
Marchioness wished to see you. So be careful!”
Liu Bei and his faithful henchman discussed their
Zhao Yun said, “The morrow bodes rather ill than
well. However, your escort shall be there.”
Next day the Dowager Marchioness and the State
Patriarch Qiao went to the Temple of Sweet Dew as
had been arranged. Sun Quan came with a number
of his strategists; and when all were assembled, Lu
Fan was sent to the guest−house to request Liu Bei
to come. He obeyed the summons, but as a
precaution he put on a light coat of mail under his
brocaded robe. His followers too took their swords
upon their backs and followed close. He mounted his
steed, and the cavalcade set out for the temple. At
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the door of the temple he met Sun Quan on whom
the visitor’s brave demeanor was not lost. After they
had exchanged salutations, Sun Quan led Liu Bei
into the presence of his mother.
“Just the son−in−law for me!” said the Dowager
delighted with the appearance of Liu Bei.
“He has the air of an emperor and a look like the
sun,” remarked the State Patriarch Qiao. “When one
remembers also that his fair fame has spread over
the whole earth, you may well be congratulated on
getting such a noble son−in−law.”
Liu Bei bowed, in acknowledgment of his
reception. Soon after they were all seated at the
banquet in the temple, Zhao Yun entered and took
his place beside Liu Bei.
“Who is this?” asked the Dowager.
“This is Zhao Yun of Changshan.”
“Then he must be the hero of Dangyang, who
saved the little Liu Shan.”
“Yes; this is he,” replied Liu Bei.
“A fine general!” said the Dowager, and she gave
him wine.
Presently Zhao Yun said to his master, “I have
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seen a lot of armed ruffians hidden away in the
purlieus of the temple. They can be there for no
good, and you should ask the Dowager to get them
sent away.”
Thereupon Liu Bei knelt at the feet of the
Dowager and, weeping, said, “If you would slay me,
let it be here.” “Why do you say this?” asked she.
“Because there are assassins in hiding in the
wings of the temple; what are they there for if not to
kill me?”
The Dowager wrathfully turned on Sun Quan,
“What are armed men doing there today when Liu
Bei is to become my son−in−law and the pair are my
son and daughter?”
Sun Quan said he did not know and sent Lu Fan
to inquire. Lu Fan put the blame on Jia Hua. The
Dowager summoned him and upbraided him
severely. He had nothing to say, and she told them
to put him to death.
But Liu Bei interceded, saying, “The general’s
death will do me harm and make it hard for me to
stay at your side.”
The State Patriarch Qiao also interceded, and
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she only ordered the general out of her presence.
His subordinates also scattered and ran like
frightened rats.
By and bye, strolling out of the banquet room into
the temple grounds, Liu Bei came to a boulder.
Drawing his sword he looked up to heaven and
prayed, saying, “If I am to return to Jingzhou and
achieve my intent to become a chief ruler, then may I
cleave this boulder asunder with my sword; but if I
am to meet my doom in this place, then may the
sword fail to cut this stone.”
Raising his sword he smote the boulder. Sparks
flew in all directions, and the boulder lay split in
It happened that Sun Quan had seen the blow,
and he said, “Why do you thus hate that stone?”
Liu Bei replied, “I am near my fifth decade and
have so far failed to rid the state of evil; I greatly
regret my failure. Now I have been accepted by the
Dowager as her son−in−law, and this is a critical
moment in my life. So I implored of Heaven a portent
that I might destroy Cao Cao as I would that boulder
and restore the dynasty. You saw what happened.”
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“That is only to blind me,” thought Sun Quan.
Drawing his own sword, he said, “And I also ask of
Heaven an omen, that if I am to destroy Cao Cao, I
may also cut this rock.”
So he spoke. But in his secret heart he prayed, “If
I am to recover Jingzhou and extend my borders,
may the stone be cut in twain.”
He smote the stone and it split in twain. And to
this day there are cross cuts in the stone, which is
still preserved.
One who saw this relic wrote a poem:
The shining blades fell and the rock was shorn
The metal rang clear and the sparks widely flew.
Thus fate then declared for the dynasties two
And the tripartite rule there began.
Both put up their swords and returned hand in
hand to the banquet hall. After some more courses,
Sun Qian gave his master a warning look, and Liu
Bei said, “I pray you excuse me as my drinking
powers are very small.”
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Wherefore Sun Quan escorted him to the gate.
As they walked down looking at high land and rolling
river spreading in glorious panorama before their
eyes, Liu Bei exclaimed, “Really this is the finest
scene in the whole world! 1”
These words are recorded on a tablet in the
Temple of the Sweet Dew, and one who read them
wrote a poem:
From the river−side hills the rain clears off,
And the black clouds roll away,
And this is the place of joy and mirth
And never can sorrow stay.
And here two heroes of ages past
Decided their parts to play,
And the lofty heights flung back wind and wave
Then, as they do today.
Yes, they stood both entranced by the beautiful
scene. And gradually along the vast river the wind
whipped the waves into snowy foam and raised them
high toward heaven. And in the midst of the waves
appeared a tiny leaf of a boat riding over the waves
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as if all was perfect calm.
“The northern people are riders and the southern
people sailors; it is said quite true,” sighed Liu Bei.
Sun Quan hearing this remark took it as a
reproach to his horsemanship. Bidding his servants
lead up his steed, Sun Quan leaped into the saddle
and set off, full gallop, down the hill. Then wheeling
he came up again at the same speed.
“So the southerners cannot ride, eh?” said Sun
Quan laughing.
Not to be outdone, Liu Bei lifted the skirts of his
robe, jumped upon his horse and repeated the feat.
The two steeds stood side by side on the
declivity, the riders flourishing their whips and
Thence forward that hillside was known as the
“Slope Where the Horses Stood,” and a poem was
written about it:
Their galloping steeds were of noble breed,
And both of spirit high,
And the riders twain from the hill−crest gazed
At the river rolling by.
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One of them mastered the western mountains.
One ruled by the eastern sea;
And the hill to this very day
Still is the Slope Where the Horses Stood.
When they rode side by side into Nanxu, the
people met them with acclamations. Liu Bei made
his way to the guest−house and there sought advice
from Sun Qian as to the date of the wedding.
Sun Qian advised, “It should be fixed as early as
possible so that no further complications could
So next day Liu Bei went to the State Patriarch
Qiao and told him in plain words, “Many the people
of the place mean harm to me, and I cannot stay
here long. I must return soon.”
“Do not be anxious,” said the State Patriarch
Qiao. “I will tell the Dowager Marchioness, and she
will protect you.” Liu Bei bowed to express his
The State Patriarch Qiao saw the Dowager, and
she was very angry when she heard the reason for
Liu Bei’s desire to leave.
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“Who would dare harm my son−in−law?” cried
But she made Liu Bei move into the library of the
Palace as a precaution, and she chose a day for the
celebration of the wedding. But his soldiers could not
keep guard at the library and were removed from his
commands. Liu Bei explained to his hostess, and
when she understood this, she gave her son−in−law
and his people rooms in her own Palace so that he
might be quite safe.
Liu Bei was very happy, and there were fine
banquets, and the bride and bridegroom duly
plighted their troth. And when it grew late and the
guests had gone, the newly wedded pair walked
through the two lines of red torches to the nuptial
To his extreme surprise, Liu Bei found the
chambers furnished with spears and swords and
banners and flags, while every waiting−maid had
girded on a sword.
Walls hung with spears the bridegroom saw,
And armed waiting−maids;
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His heart fell back on all its fears
Of well−laid ambuscades.
What happened will be related in the next
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