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CHAPTER 61. In The River, Zhao Yun Recovers Liu Shan; With One Letter, Sun Quan Repulses Cao Cao.

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

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In spite of the persuasion of Pang Tong and Fa
Zheng, Liu Bei steadily refused to sanction the
assassination of his host at the banquet, Imperial
Protector Liu Zhang, even if thereby he was to gain
possession of the Western Land of Rivers.
The next day there was another banquet, this
time in the city of Fucheng, whereat host and guest
unbosomed themselves freely to each other and
became exceedingly friendly and affectionate.
All were mellow with wine, and Pang Tong,
talking with Fa Zheng, said, “Since our master will
have nothing to do with our scheme, we would better
set Wei Yan’s sword−play to work and take
advantage of the confusion to kill Liu Zhang.”
Wei Yan came in shortly afterward, with his sword
d r a w n , a n d s a i d , “ T h e r e b e i n g n o o t h e r
entertainment at this banquet, may I show you a little
fencing to amuse you?”
Thereupon Pang Tong called up some of the
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armed guards and ranged them along the lower part
of the hall till Wei Yan should fall on.
At these preparations the officers of Liu Zhang
stared with questioning eyes toward the chief seats
at the upper end, and one of them, Zhang Ren, drew
his sword, saying, “An opponent is needed to make
fencing a success, so he and I will display our skill at
the same time.”
So they began. Presently, at a glance from Wei
Yan, Liu Feng came up and took position at his side.
At once three of the commanders of the west
followed suit, saying, “And we three will come in too;
it may add to your amusement and help to raise a
But to Liu Bei matters began to take on a serious
look. Drawing a sword of a servant, he stood out in
the banquet hall and cried, “We brothers have
perhaps honored our meeting with a little too much
wine; there is nothing to say against that, but this is
no Hongmen Banquet, where murder was done. Put
up your swords, or I will slay you!”
“Why wear swords at all at a meeting of two
brothers?” cried Liu Zhang, at the same time telling
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his servants to surround his officers and take away
their weapons.
Disarmed, they sulkily withdrew, and then Liu Bei
called all the generals of Liu Zhang to the upper end
of the banquet hall, gave them wine, and said, “You
need have no doubts; we two brothers, of the same
bone and blood, have talked over the great design,
and we are one in purpose.”
The officers bowed and retired.
Liu Zhang took his guest by the hand, saying,
“Brother, I shall never forget your kindness.” They
sat drinking till late, both feeling very happy. When at
length Liu Bei reached his camp, he blamed his
strategist for having caused the confusion.
“Why did you endeavor to force me into
committing a great wrong?” said Liu Bei. “There must
be no repetition of this.”
Pang Tong retired, sighing.
When Liu Zhang reached his own camp, his
leaders waited on him and said, “Sir, you saw the
real meaning of that occurrence at the banquet, we
suppose. We think it prudent for you to retire at once
into the city.”
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“My brother is different from ordinary humans,”
replied Liu Zhang.
“He may not incline toward murder himself, but
those about him have but one desire—that is to
exploit this land of ours to their own advantage.”
“Do not try to sow dissension between us and
make us quarrel,” said their chief.
A n d L i u Z h a n g t o o k n o h e e d o f t h e i r
remonstrance. One day, when he and Liu Bei were
enjoying together relaxation from cares of state, the
news came that Zhang Lu was about to invade the
Western Land of Rivers at the Jiameng Pass.
Thereupon the Imperial Protector begged Liu Bei to
go and defend it. Liu Bei consented and left
immediately with his own especial band.
At once Liu Zhang’s officers took advantage of
the guest’s departure to urge the Imperial Protector
to place his own trusty generals in command at
various strategic points, so as to guard against any
attempts of the visitors to seize the land. At first Liu
Zhang was unwilling and refused, but as they prayed
him most earnestly to do this he yielded and
consented to take some steps to safeguard himself.
Three Kingdoms Romance
He sent Yang Huai, Commander of Baishui, and Gao
Pei to garrison River Fu Pass.
So Liu Zhang returned to Chengdu and his guest,
Liu Bei, went away to the point where invasion
threatened. Arrived there, Liu Bei soon won the
hearts of the people by the strict discipline he
maintained over his army and by his gracious
News of these doings in the west duly reached
the south, and Sun Quan summoned his counselors
as to his countermove.
Then Gu Yong spoke, saying, “I have an infallible
plan to propose. Liu Bei and his army are now far
away and separated from us by difficult country.
Therefore he cannot return quickly, and my advice is
to occupy the passes so that he cannot get through.
Then send all your force against Jingzhou and
Xiangyang, and they will surely fall to you.”
“The plan seems excellent,” said Sun Quan.
But just then a voice was heard from behind the
screen, crying, “You may just put to death the man
who proposed that scheme for trying to compass the
death of my daughter.”
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Every one started with surprise. It was the
Dowager Marchioness’ voice. Further, Lady Wu
looked very angry as she entered, saying, “What is
to become of my only daughter, who is the wife of
Liu Bei?”
She turned her wrathful eyes to Sun Quan and
said, “You were heir to your father and brother and
obtained possession of all these lands without the
least effort. Yet you are dissatisfied and would forget
the claims of your own flesh and blood and sacrifice
your sister for the sake of adding a little to your
“No, no!” murmured Sun Quan, ashamed. “I
would never think of going contrary to my mother’s
wishes and orders.”
He abruptly dismissed the assembly, and when
they had gone the old lady, still nursing her wrath,
retired to her own apartments.
Left alone beneath the portico, Sun Quan sighed
“This chance missed! When will Jingzhou be
mine?” thought he.
While still deep in reverie, Zhang Zhao came up,
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saying, “What grieves my lord?”
“No great matter; only this last failure to gain my
“The difficulty may be easily removed,” said
Zhang Zhao. “Choose some trusty man and charge
him with a secret letter to Princess Sun Ren saying
that her mother is dangerously ill. Give him five
hundred men as escort and tell him to make his way
privily into Jingzhou City and deliver the letter.
Hearing her mother wants her, she will rush home at
once, and she might bring with her the only son of
Liu Bei. Liu Bei will be glad enough to exchange
Jingzhou for his son. If he will not, you can still send
the army.”
“That sounds like a good plan,” said Sun Quan.
“Further, I have the man to carry it out successfully.
He is that Zhou Shan, who was a bold one. He used
to accompany my brother in his youth. He is the man
to go.”
“Keep it a secret, then,” said Zhang Zhao, “and let
Zhou Shan start quickly.”
It was decided that Zhou Shan should take with
him about five hundred soldiers disguised as
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ordinary traders. He had five vessels and distributed
his men among them, while weapons were hidden in
the holds. Papers were was forged to look like
veritable authority in case they were asked.
Zhou Shan set out along the river route for the
city of Jingzhou and was not long on the way. He
anchored his ships under the bank, landed, and went
into the city to the residence, where he bade the
doorkeepers announce him. He was admitted and
led into the presence of Lady Sun and presently
gave her the secret letter. When she read that her
mother was in danger of death, she began to weep
bitterly and questioned the messenger closely.
Zhou Shan invented a story, saying, “The
Dowager Marchioness is really fretting for a sight of
yours; and if you do not go quickly, it will be too late.
The Dowager Marchioness also wants to see little
Liu Shan once before she dies.”
Lady Sun replied, “You know that the Imperial
Uncle is far away on military service, and I ought to
inform the chief of the army before returning home.”
“But what will you do if the chief says he must
inform your husband and await his consent?” said
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Zhou Shan.
“If I went without asking permission—but I fear
that is impossible.” “My ships are all ready in the
river, and you have only to drive through the city,”
said Zhou Shan.
Naturally the news of her mother’s illness greatly
disturbed the young wife. In a short time her carriage
was ready, and she mounted, taking Liu Shan with
her. She took an escort of thirty guards, all armed,
and was soon at the river side and had embarked
before the palace people could report what she was
But just as the ships were starting, a voice was
heard, shouting, “Do not start yet; let me bid my lady
The voice was Zhao Yun’s; he had just returned
from an inspection trip, and they had at once told him
of Lady Sun’s sudden departure. As soon as he had
recovered from his surprise, he dashed down to the
river bank like a whirlwind, with only half a dozen
followers. He arrived only just in time; the boat was
starting, and Zhou Shan stood in the prow, a long
spear in his hand.
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“Who are you that you dare hinder the
movements of your mistress?” cried Zhou Shan.
Zhou Shan bade his soldiers cast off and get
under way, and also to prepare their weapons to
fight. The ship moved off with a fair wind and a
strong current beneath her keel.
But Zhao Yun followed along the bank.
“My lady may go or not as she pleases,” cried he,
“but I have one word to say to her.”
Zhou Shan turned a deaf ear and only urged his
soldiers to get greater speed on the ship. Zhao Yun
followed down the bank for some three or more
miles. Then he saw a fishing boat made fast to the
bank. He at once dismounted, cast off the rope, took
his spear, and leaped into the boat. Then he made
the two men row him toward the vessel in which sat
Lady Sun.
As he approached, the soldiers of the South Land
threatened him with their spears. Thereupon he
threw his spear into the bottom of the boat, drew the
glittering steel blade he wore, dashed aside the
opposing spears, and leaped upon the larger vessel.
The guards of the South Land fell back in surprise
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and fear, and Zhao Yun went down into the body of
the ship. There sat Lady Sun with little Liu Shan in
her arms.
“Why this rude intrusion?” said she angrily.
The warrior sheathed his sword and said humbly,
“Whither may my mistress be going, and why goes
she privily?”
“My mother is ill and on the point of death; I had
no time to inform any person of my departure,” said
Lady Sun.
“But why take the young master if you are going
merely to see a sick person?” said Zhao Yun.
“Liu Shan is my son, and I would not leave him
behind to be neglected.”
“Mistress, you have acted wrongly. My lord has
but this one son of his body, and I rescued the child
lord from among many thousand troops of Cao Cao
in the great battle at Long Slope Bridge in Dangyang.
There is no reason for you to take him away.”
Lady Sun took refuge in anger. “You leave my
family affairs alone, you common soldier!” cried she.
“My lady, if you will go, then go, but leave the young
master behind.”
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“You are a rebel, jumping on board the ship like
that!” cried Lady Sun.
“If you will not leave the young lord behind, I
refuse to let you go, come what may,” said Zhao
Lady Sun called in her maids to seize him, but he
just pushed them off. Then he took the boy from her
arms and ran out to the prow of the ship. He tried to
get the vessel in to the bank, but no one would aid
him, and he thought it would be wrong to begin to
slay indiscriminately. He knew not what to do in such
a quandary. And Lady Sun was screaming to her
maids to take the boy away from him. But he kept
too firm a grip on the child, and the good sword in his
other hand kept every one at bay.
Zhou Shan was at the helm, giving all his
attention to getting the ship out into the current and
away down the river. He steered for the middle of the
stream, where the wind was strong. Zhao Yun, one
hand taken up with holding the boy, was quite unable
to get the vessel in toward the shore.
Just as things looked most desperate, Zhao Yun
saw a string of ships filing out from a creek lower
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down the stream, flags fluttering and drums beating.
He thought that certainly all was over and he was
about to fall a victim to a stratagem of the South
Land, when he noticed a mighty warrior standing in
the prow of the leading craft. He was armed with a
long spear, and it was Zhang Fei.
Zhang Fei also shouted, “Sister−in−Law! Leave
the child lord.”
Zhang Fei had been out scouting when he heard
the news of his sister−in−law’s sudden departure,
and he at once made for the River Yu with the
intention of intercepting her flight. He had arrived just
in the nick of time to cut off the ships of the South
Land. Very soon, sword in hand, he had boarded the
vessel. As Zhang Fei came on board, Zhou Shan
drew his sword and advanced toward him, but one
sweep of Zhang Fei’s blade laid him on the deck
dead. And the grim warrior hung his head at the feet
of Lady Sun.
“Why this very unseemly behavior?” cried Lady
Sun, now quite frightened.
“Sister,” said Zhang Fei, “you thought very little of
my brother when you set out on this mad journey.
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That was behaving rudely.”
“My mother is very ill; it is a matter of life and
death,” cried she. “If I had waited for your brother’s
permission to go, I should have been too late. If you
do not let me go now, I will throw myself into the
Zhao Yun and Zhang Fei took counsel together.
They said to each other, “It is hardly the correct thing
for servants to force their lord’s wife into committing
suicide. Suppose we keep the child and let the
vessel go.”
Then they said, “O Lady, we cannot allow the wife
of our exalted brother to die a death of shame, and
so we will take our leave. We trust you will not forget
our brother and that you will return quickly.”
Taking the child with them, they left the vessel,
and the five ships of the South Land continued their
voyage down stream. One poet has praised the
conduct of Zhao Yun:
Before, Zhao Yun saved Liu Shan,
What time his mother died;
Again like service he performs,
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Upon the Great River’s tide.
The soldiers of Wu all in the ship,
Were stricken down with fear
Search all the world, you never find
Of bold Zhao Yun the peer.
Another has eulogized Zhang Fei:
At Long Slope Bridge,
With rage Zhang Fei boiled,
Like wild beast roared,
And warriors recoiled.
From danger now
His prince is saved.
On history’s page
His name is graved.
Quite satisfied with their success, the two warriors
sailed homeward. Before they had gone far, they met
Zhuge Liang with a squadron of ships. He was very
pleased to find they had recovered the child, and
they three joyfully returned to Jingzhou, whence an
account of the whole adventure was written to Liu
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When Lady Sun reached her home, she related
the story of the death of Zhou Shan and the carrying
off of the child. Naturally Sun Quan was very wrath
at the miscarriage of his scheme, and he resolved to
attack Jingzhou in revenge for his messenger’s
“Now that my sister has returned home, there is
no longer any family tie to prevent the attack, and I
will take full measure of revenge for the death of my
general,” said Sun Quan.
So he called the council to consider the
But before they could decide upon any plan, their
deliberations were suddenly cut short by the news
that Cao Cao was coming down upon the South
Land with four hundred thousand troops, burning to
avenge his defeat at the Red Cliffs. All thoughts now
turned toward repelling his attack.
Adviser Zhang Hong, who had retired to his home
ill, had just died, and his testament was sent to his
lord to read. Therein he advised Sun Quan:
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“My lord, the seat of government should be
removed to the old land of Moling, where the scenery
seems to bear the
impress of kingly dignity, befitting a person who
cherishes the ambition of founding an enduring
Sun Quan read this document out to his
councilors at this meeting, not without many tears in
memory of the writer.
He told them, saying, “Zhang Hong was sincere
till his death. I cannot withstand his last advice!”
And Sun Quan at once gave orders to build a
walled city named Shidou in Moling, and changed
the name of the land to Jianye. Henceforth he
intended to make his capital there.
As a protection against Cao Cao, Admiral Lu
Meng proposed building a rampart at River Ruxu.
Some other officers opposed this, saying, “When
the enemy appears, you will have to land in order to
attack him, and after that you will return to your
ships. What is the use of a rampart?”
Lu Meng replied, “One must prepare against
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possibilities. Soldiers vary in keenness and
sometimes lose battles. If an urgent occasion arises,
the soldiers may be unable to reach the water’s
edge, and how then are they to embark? They will
then need shelter.” Sun Quan said, “Provision
against eventualities, such as he proposes, is good.
Against a distant risk provide, and sorrow walks not
by your side.”
So they sent soldiers to build ramparts at River
Ruxu, and as the work ceased not day or night the
wall was soon completed.
In the capital Cao Cao’s influence and glory
waxed daily greater. High Counselor Dong Zhao
proposed that the title of duke should be conferred
upon him.
Dong Zhao said, “In all history, no one has
rendered such services as you have, O Prime
Minister, not even Duke Zhou or Lu Wang. These
thirty years you have exposed yourself to all risks,
been combed by the wind and bathed by the rain,
and you have swept evil from the empire, succored
the distressed, and restored the Hans. Who of all
statesmen can rank with you? It would be fitting for
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you to become the Duke of Wei ((name of an old
state)) and receive the Nine Dignities, that your merit
and virtue be known to all.”
Now the Nine Dignities, or signs of honor, were:
.1. Chariots: Gilded chariots drawn by eight
.2. Court dresses: Dragon−embroidered robes,
headdresses, and shoes;
.3. Music at banquets: By royal bands;
.4. Red doors: Symbols of wealth;
.5. Inner staircase: Protection for every step;
.6. Imperial Tiger Guard: Three hundred at the
.7. Imperial axes: Commanding and ceremonial
.8. Bow and arrows: Red−lacquered bow with a
hundred arrows;
.9. Libation vessels: Jade tablets and libation
However, all the courtiers were not of one mind.
Said High Adviser Xun Yu, “This should not be
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done, O Prime Minister. You raised a force by an
appeal to the innate sense of righteousness of the
people, and with that force you restored the Han
authority. Now you should remain loyal and humble.
The virtuous person loves people with a virtuous love
and would not act in this way.”
Cao Cao did not take this opposition kindly.
Dong Zhao said, “How can we disappoint the
hopes of many because of the words of one?”
So a memorial went to the Throne, and Cao
Cao’s ambitions and desires were gratified with the
title of Duke of Wei. The Nine Dignities were added.
“I did not think to see this day!” said Xun Yu,
This remark was repeated to the newly created
Duke and angered him. He took it to mean that Xun
Yu would no longer aid him or favor his designs.
In the winter of the seventeenth year of Rebuilt
Tranquillity (AD 212), Cao Cao decided to send an
army to conquer the South Land, and he ordered
Xun Yu to go with it. Xun Yu understood from this
that Cao Cao wished his death, so he declined the
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appointment on the plea of illness. While Xun Yu
was at home, he received one day a box such as
one sent with presents of dainties. It was addressed
in Cao Cao’s own handwriting. Opening it, Xun Yu
found therein nothing. He understood; he took
poison and died. He was fifty−two years of age.
Xun Yu’s talents were to all men known,
That was sad that at the door of power he tripped.
Posterity is wrong to class him with the noble
Zhang Liang,
For, nearing death, he dared not face his lord of
News of Xun Yu’s death came to Cao Cao in the
form of the ordinary letter of mourning by his son,
Xun Yun. Then Cao Cao was sorry and gave orders
for an imposing funeral. He also obtained for the
dead man the posthumous title of lordship.
The northern army reached River Ruxu, whence
Cao Cao sent a reconnaissance of thirty thousand
troops led by Cao Hong down to the river.
Soon Cao Hong reported: “The enemy’s fleet
blankets the river, but no sign of movements.”
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Feeling suspicious, Cao Cao led his army to the
river to watch the enemy and deploy his troops. On
the river he saw displayed a fleet of ships all
arranged in admirable order, the divisions being
marked by distinctive flags. The equipment glittered
in the sunlight. In the center was a large ship
whereon was a huge umbrella, and beneath the
shade sat Sun Quan in the midst of his staff.
“That is the sort of son to have;” said Cao Cao in
admiration, “not such piglets and puppies as Liu
Suddenly, at the explosion of a bomb, the ships
got under way and came flying toward him, while a
force moved out of River Ruxu. Cao Cao’s soldiers at
once retired in great haste. A company led by the
green−eyed, red−bearded Sun Quan made straight
for Cao Cao, who hastily retreated. But Cao Cao was
sore pressed by other Sun Quan’s commanders,
Han Dang and Zhou Tai, and it had gone hard with
him but that Xu Chu came to his rescue and fought
with the troops of the South Land till his master could
escape. Xu Chu fought some score bouts before he
could draw off and return to his own aide.
Three Kingdoms Romance
When Cao Cao returned to camp, he conferred
rich rewards upon his henchman who had saved
him, and he reprimanded his other leaders for their
too hasty retirement.
“You blunt the keen spirits of the army; and if you
do such a thing again, I will put you to death,” said
Cao Cao.
About midnight that night there arose great
commotion at the gates of the camp; and when Cao
Cao went outside, he found that the enemy had crept
up secretly and started a conflagration. The soldiers
of the South Land forced their way into the stockade
and went hither and thither, slaying till morning
broke. Then Cao Cao and his army retired.
Cao Cao was greatly distressed by this
misfortune. He was sitting in his tent poring over the
Book of War when Cheng Yu came in to see him.
“O Prime Minister,” said Cheng Yu, “you who
know so thoroughly the art of war, have you
forgotten the maxim to strike quickly? You had your
army ready, but you postponed action and allowed
your enemies to build the ramparts at River Ruxu.
Now you will find it hard to capture the place. It
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would be better now to retreat on the capital and
await a more propitious moment.”
Cao Cao listened, but said nothing; after a time
Cheng Yu went away. Cao Cao remained seated in
his tent, leaning on a small table by his side. And he
fell asleep. Suddenly he heard a sound as of a
rushing stream or galloping squadrons of horse, and
out of the river in front of him arose a huge red sun,
so bright that his eyes were dazzled by it. Looking up
at the sky, he saw two other suns as if reflections of
this one. And as he wondered, the first sun suddenly
flew up and then dropped among the hills in front of
his camp with a roar like thunder.
This woke him. He was in his tent and had been
dreaming, and the sentry at his tent door was just
reporting noon.
Soon he had his horse saddled and rode out, with
a small escort, toward the spot he had seen in his
dream. As he stood gazing around him, an army of
horse came along with Sun Quan at their head. Sun
Quan wore a glittering helmet and was clad in silver
Seeing his chief enemy, Sun Quan showed no
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sign of haste or dismay, but reined in his steed on a
rise and, pointing with his whip at Cao Cao, said,
“Behold the all−powerful minister who holds the
capital in the hollow of his hand! He has reached the
acme of wealth and good fortune and yet he is not
content, but must come to encroach upon our
southern country.”
Cao Cao replied, “You are disobedient, and the
command of the Emperor is to exterminate you!”
“What words!” cried Sun Quan with a laugh. “Are
you not ashamed? Everyone knows that you control
every act of the Emperor and you tyrannize over the
nobles. I am no rebel against the dynasty, but I do
desire to capture you and reform the government.”
Cao Cao grew angry at this speech and bade his
generals go over and take Sun Quan prisoner. But
before they could obey, Han Dang and Zhou Tai,
Chen Wu and Pan Zhang led out two armies of
soldiers from left and right at the sound of beating
drums, and arrows and crossbow bolts began to fall
like raindrops around Cao Cao. He turned to retire,
and the archers and bowmen followed him.
However, presently appeared Xu Chu, with the Tiger
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Guard, who rescued Cao Cao and took him back to
his camp. The army of the South Land had scored a
victory, and they marched back to River Ruxu.
Alone in his camp, Cao Cao thought, “This Sun
Quan certainly is no ordinary man, and by the
presage of the sun in my dream he will become an
He began to think it would be well to retire from
the expedition, only that he feared the troops of the
South Land would exult over him. So the two armies
remained facing each other a whole month, fighting
occasional skirmishes and battles in which victory fell
sometimes to the one and sometimes to the other.
And so it went on till the new year, and the spring
rains filled the watercourses to overflowing, and the
soldiers were wading in deep mud. Their sufferings
were extreme, and Cao Cao became sad at heart. At
the council board his officers were divided, some
being for retirement and others anxious to hold on till
the warm weather. Their chief could not make up his
Then there came a messenger from the South
Land bearing a letter of Sun Quan, which read:
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“You and I, O Prime Minister, are both servants of
Han, but you are careless for the tranquillity of the
people and
think only of battle, thereby causing great
suffering. Is this conduct worthy of a kindly person?
“But spring with its heavy rains is at hand, and
you would be wise to retire while you can. If not, you
may expect a repetition of the misfortune at the Red
Cliffs. It would be well to consider this.”
And on the back of the letter was a note in two
lines running thus: “No tranquillity for me while you
Cao Cao read the letter and laughed. “Sun Quan
speaks the truth!” said he.
He rewarded the messenger and issued orders to
retreat. The Governor of Lujiang, Zhu Guang, was
left to guard Huancheng; the army marched for the
Sun Quan returned to Moling.
At a meeting of his advisers he said, “Cao Cao
has marched north, Liu Bei is at Jiameng Pass; why
should I not lead the army that has just repulsed the
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northern forces to take Jingzhou?”
Thereupon Zhang Zhao offered another plan,
saying, “Do not move a soldier; I know how to keep
Liu Bei from returning to Jingzhou.”
Cao Cao’s army march away,
Sun Quan’s thoughts then southward stray.
The scheme proposed by Zhang Zhao will be
unfolded in the next chapter.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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