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CHAPTER 79. Brother Oppressing Brother: Cao Zhi Composes Poems; Nephew Harming Uncle: Liu Feng Receives Punishment.

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

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All eyes turned toward the speaker, High Minister
Jia Kui, and the young prince commanded him to
undertake the mission. So he went out of the city and
sought to speak with Cao Zhang. Cao Zhang came
quickly to the point.
“Who has the late Prince’s seal?” asked he.
Jia Kui replied seriously, “There is an eldest son
to a house, and an heir−apparent to a state. Such a
question from your lordship is unbecoming.”
Cao Zhang held his peace, and the two
proceeded into the city to the gates of the palace.
There Jia Kui suddenly asked him, “You come as a
mourner or as a rival claimant?”
“I am come as a mourner; I never had any ulterior
motive.”
“That being so; why bring in your soldiers?”
Whereupon Cao Zhang ordered his escort to
retire, and entered the city alone. When the Cao
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brothers met, they fell into each other’s arms and
wept. Then Cao Zhang yielded command of all his
army, and he was directed to go back to Yanling and
guard it. He obediently withdrew.
Cao Pi, being now firmly established, changed
the name of the period of his rule to the Prolonged
Repose Era, the First Year (AD 220). He made Jia
Xu Grand Commandant, Hua Xin Prime Minister,
and Wang Lang High Minister, and made many
promotions. To the late Prince, he gave the
posthumous title of the King of Great Might, and
buried him in Gaoling.
To the superintendence of the building of King
Cao’s tomb, Cao Pi nominated Yu Jin, but with
malevolent intent. For when Yu Jin reached his post,
he found the walls of the rooms decorated with chalk
sketches depicting the drowning of the seven armies
and the capture of himself by Guan Yu. Guan Yu
was looking very dignified and severe. Pang De was
refusing to bow to the victor, while Yu Jin himself
was lying in the dust pleading for his life.
Cao Pi had chosen this method of putting Yu Jin
to open shame, because Yu Jin had not preferred
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death to the dishonor of capture, and had sent an
artist on purpose to depict the shameful scenes.
When Yu Jin saw them, shame and rage alternately
took possession of him till he fell ill. Soon after he
died.
War waged he for many a year,
Yet fell prey to craven fear.
None can know another’s heart,
Drawing tigers, with bones start.
Soon after the accession, Hua Xin memorialized
the Prince of Wu, saying, “The Lord of Yanling has
cut himself loose from his army and gone quietly to
his post, but your other two brothers did not attend
the funeral of their father. Their conduct should be
inquired into and punished.”
Cao Pi took up the suggestion and sent
commissioners to each. They who were sent to the
younger quickly returned to report: “Cao Xiong, the
Lord of Xiaohuai, had hanged himself rather than
suffer for his fault.”
Cao Pi ordered honorable burial for Cao Xiong
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and gave him the posthumous title of Prince of
Xiaohuai.
Soon after, the envoy to Linzi returned to report:
“The Lord of Linzi, Cao Zhi, is spending his time in
dissipation, his especial boon companions being two
brothers named Ding Zhengli and Ding Jingli. They
were very rude. When we presented ourselves, Cao
Zhi sat bolt upright, but would not say a word. Ding
Zhengli used insulting words, saying, ‘King Cao
intended our lord to succeed, but was turned there
from by the slanderous tongues of certain among
you. As soon as he is dead, your master begins to
think of punishment for his own flesh and blood.’
“The other brother Ding Jingli said, ‘In intellect our
lord leads the age, and he ought to have been heir to
his father. Now, not only does he not succeed, but
he is treated in this harsh way by a lot of courtiers of
your sort, ignorant of what genius means.’
“And then Cao Zhi, in a fit of anger, had ordered
his lictors to beat the chief envoy and turn him out.”
This treatment of his messenger annoyed Cao Pi
greatly, and he dispatched a force of three thousand
Imperial Tiger Guards under Xu Chu to arrest his
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brother and all his immediate surroundings. When
Xu Chu arrived Linzi, the gate commander stopped
him. Xu Chu slew that general and entered the city,
unchallenged. He went to the residence and found
Cao Zhi and all his companions dead drunk; so he
bound them, put them into carts, and sent them to
court in Yejun. He also arrested all the officers of the
palace.
Cao Pi’s first order was to put to death Ding
Zhengli and Ding Jingli. The two brothers were not
wholly base; they had a reputation for learning, and
many were sorry for them.
Cao Pi’s mother, Lady Bian, was alarmed at the
severity of the new rule, and the suicide of her
youngest son wounded her deeply. When she heard
that Cao Zhi had been arrested and his comrades
put to death, she left her palace and went to see her
eldest son. As soon as he saw her, the Prince
hastened to meet her. She began to weep.
“Your brother has always had that weakness for
wine, but we let him go his way out of consideration
for his undoubted ability. I hope you will not forget he
is your brother and that I bore you both. Spare his
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life that I may close my eyes in peace when I set out
for the deep springs.”
“I also admire his ability, Mother, and have no
intention to hurt him. But I would reform him. Have
no anxiety as to his fate,” said Cao Pi.
So the mother was comforted and withdrew. The
Prince then went to a private room and bade them
call his brother.
Said Hua Xin, “Surely the Princess−Mother has
just been interceding for your brother; is it not so?”
“It is so,” replied the Prince.
“Then let me say that Cao Zhi is too clever to be
content to remain in a humble station. If you do not
remove him, he will do you harm.” “I must obey my
mother’s command.”
“People say your brother simply talks in literature.
I do not believe it myself, but he might be put to the
test. If he bears a false reputation, you can slay him;
if what they say is true, then degrade him, lest the
scholars of the land should babble.”
Soon Cao Zhi came, and in a state of great
trepidation bowed low before his elder brother,
confessing his fault.
Three Kingdoms Romance
The Prince addressed him, saying, “Though we
are brothers, yet the proper relation between us of
prince and minister must not be overlooked. Why
then did you behave indecorously? While the late
Prince lived, you made a boast of your literary
powers, but I am disposed to think you may have
made use of another’s pen. Now I require you to
compose a poem within the time taken to walk seven
paces, and I will spare your life if you succeed. If you
fail, then I shall punish you with rigor.”
“Will you suggest a theme?” asked Cao Zhi.
Now there was hanging in the hall a black and
white sketch of two bulls that had been fighting at the
foot of a wall, and one of them had just fallen dead
into a well. Cao Pi pointed to the sketch and said,
“Take that as the subject. But you are forbidden to
use the words ‘two bulls, one bull, fighting, wall’s
foot, falling, well and dead.’“
Cao Zhi took seven paces and then recited this
poem:
Two butcher’s victims lowing walked along,
Each head bore curving bones, a sturdy pair,
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They met just by a hillock, both were strong,
Each would avoid a pit new dug there.
They fought unequal battle, for at length
One lay below a gory mass, inert.
It was not that they were of unequal strength
Though wrathful both, one did not strength exert.
This exhibition of skill amazed the Prince and the
whole court. Cao Pi thought he would use another
test, so he bade his brother improvise on the theme
o f t h e i r f r a t e r n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p , t h e w o r d s
“brotherhood” or “brother” being barred. Without
seeming to reflect, Cao Zhi rattled off this rhyme:
They were boiling beans on a beanstalk fire;
Came a plaintive voice from the pot,
“O why, since we sprang from the selfsame root,
Should you kill me with anger hot?”
The allusion in these verses to the cruel treatment
of one member of a family by another was not lost
upon Cao Pi, and he dropped a few silent tears.
The mother of both men came out at this moment
Three Kingdoms Romance
from her abiding place and said, “Should the elder
brother thus oppress the younger?”
The Prince jumped from his seat, saying, “My
mother, the laws of the state cannot be nullified.”
Cao Zhi was degraded to the rank of Lord of
Anxiang. He accepted the decision without a murmur
and at once left his brother’s court by horse. Cao Pi’s
accession was the signal for a set of new laws and
new commands. His behavior toward Emperor Xian
was more intemperate than his father’s had ever
been.
The stories of his harshness reached Chengdu
and almost frightened Liu Bei, who summoned his
counselors to discuss what he should do.
Said he, “Since the death of Cao Cao and the
accession of his son, the position of the Emperor has
changed for the worse. Sun Quan acknowledges the
lordship of Wei, and its influence is becoming too
great. I am disposed to destroy Sun Quan in revenge
for the death of my brother. That done. I will proceed
to the Capital District and purge the whole land of
rebellion. What think you?”
Then Liao Hua stood out from the ranks of
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officers and threw himself upon the earth, saying
with tears, “Liu Feng and Meng Da were the true
cause of the death of your brother and his adopted
son; both these renegades deserve death.”
Liu Bei was of the same opinion and was going to
send and arrest them forthwith, but here Zhuge
Liang intervened and gave wiser advice.
“That is not the way; go slowly or you may stir up
strife. Promote these two and separate them. After
that you may arrest.”
The Prince of Hanzhong saw the prudence of this
procedure and stayed his hand. He raised Liu Feng
to the Governorship of Mianzhu, and so separated
the two delinquents.
Now Peng Yang and Meng Da were old friends.
Hearing what was afoot, the former hastened home
and wrote warning his friend. The letter was confided
to a trusty messenger to bear to Meng Da. The
messenger was caught as he went out of the city
and carried before Ma Chao, who thus got wind of
the business. He then went to Peng Yang’s house,
where, nothing being suspected, he was received
kindly and wine was brought in. The two drank for
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some time. When Ma Chao thought his host
sufficiently off his guard, he said, “The Prince of
Hanzhong used to look on you with great favor; why
does he do so no longer?”
The host began to rave against his master.
“The obstinate old leather−belly! But I will find
some way to pay him out.”
In order to see to what lengths he would go, Ma
Chao led him on, saying, “Truth to tell, I have long
hated the man too.”
“Then you join Meng Da and attack, while I will
win over the people of Eastern and Western Lands
of Rivers. That will make it easy enough,” said Peng
Yang.
“What you propose is very feasible, but we will
talk it over again tomorrow,” said Ma Chao, and took
leave.
Taking with him the captured man and the letter
he carried, Ma Chao then proceeded to see the
Prince, to whom he related the whole story. Liu Bei
was very angry and at once had the intended traitor
arrested and put in prison, where he was examined
under torture to get at full details.
Three Kingdoms Romance
While Peng Yang lay in prison, bitterly but vainly
repentant, Liu Bei consulted his adviser.
“That fellow Peng Yang meant to turn traitor; what
shall I do with him?” “The fellow is something of a
scholar, but irresponsible,” replied Zhuge Liang. “He
is too dangerous to be left alive.”
Thereupon orders were given that he should be
allowed to commit suicide in gaol. The news that
Peng Yang had been made away frightened his
sympathizer and friend, Meng Da, and put him in a
quandary. What would he better do on the top of
this? Liu Feng’s promotion and transfer to Mianzhu
arrived, and frightened him still more. So he sought
advice from two friends and commanders, the
brothers Shen Dan and Shen Yi, who lived in
Shangyong.
“My friend Peng Yang and I did much for the
Prince of Hanzhong. But now Peng Yang is dead,
and I am forgotten. More than that, the Prince wishes
to put me to death. What can I do?” said Meng Da.
Shen Dan replied, “I think I can find a plan that
will secure your safety.”
“What is it?” asked Meng Da, feeling happier.
Three Kingdoms Romance
“Desertion. My brother Shen Yi and I have long
desired to go over to Wei. You just write the Prince
of Hanzhong a memorial resigning your service and
betake yourself to the Prince of Wei, who will
certainly employ you in some honorable way. Then
we two will follow.”
Meng Da saw that this was his best course, so he
wrote a memorandum, which he gave to the
messenger who had brought the recent dispatches
to take back with him. That night Meng Da left his
post and went to Wei.
The messenger returned to Chengdu, handed in
Meng Da’s memorial and told the story of his
desertion. The Prince was angry. He tore open the
letter and read:
“In the humble opinion of thy servant, O Prince,
you have set out to accomplish a task comparable
with that of Yi
Yin, and to walk in the meritorious footsteps of Lu
Wang in building the fame of Kings Wen and Huan.
When the great design was rough−hewn, you had
the support of the lands of the states of Wu and Chu,
Three Kingdoms Romance
wherefore many people of ability incontinently joined
you. Since I entered your service, I have committed
many faults; and if I recognize them, how much more
do you see them! Now, O Prince, you are
surrounded by famous people, while I, useless as a
helper at home and inept as a leader abroad, should
be shamed were I to take a place among them.
“It is well known that when Fan Li saw certain
eventualities, he went sailing on the lakes, and Zi
Fan acknowledged his faults and stayed by the
rivers. Inasmuch as one cannot take means of
safeguarding one’s self at the critical and dangerous
moment, I desire—as is my duty—to go away as I
came, untainted. Moreover, I am stupid and without
use or merit, merely born in these days as the sport
of circumstances.
“In the days of old, Shen Sheng, though perfectly
filial, incurred the suspicions of his father and died; Zi
Xu, though perfectly loyal, was put to death. Meng
Tian, though he extended the borders of Qin,
suffered the extreme penalty; and Yue Yi, though he
destroyed the might of Qi, was the victim of calumny.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Whenever I have read of these men, I have been
moved to tears, and now I am in like case and the
more mortified.
“Lately Jingzhou was overwhelmed, and I, an
officer of rank, failed in my duty, not one in a
hundred behaving as I should. Only I return Fangling
and Shangyong and seek service abroad. Now I
desire you, O Prince, graciously to understand, to
sympathize with thy servant and to condone the step
he is about to take. Really I am but a mean man,
incapable of great deeds. I know what I am doing,
and I dare to say it is no small fault.
“They say that dissolution of bonds should not
occasion recrimination, and the dismissed servant
should take leave without heart−burning. I have
taken your orders many times, and now, O Prince,
you must act yourself. I write this with extreme
trepidation.”
But the reading gave rise to great anger in the
breast of the Prince.
“The unmerited fellow!” said he. “He turns traitor
and dares to insult me by sending a letter of
farewell.”
Three Kingdoms Romance
Liu Bei was just giving orders to send a force to
seize the deserter, when Zhuge Liang interposed,
saying, “You would better send Liu Feng to capture
him and let the two tigers worry each other to
weakness. Whether Liu Feng succeeds or fails, he
will have to come to the capital, and you can kill him.
Thus will you cut off two evils.”
Liu Bei took his advice. Orders were sent to
Mianzhu, and Liu Feng obediently led out his troops.
Now Meng Da arrived when Cao Pi was holding a
great council. When the attendants told him that
General Meng Da of Shu had come, Cao Pi
summoned him to enter and said to him, “Is not this
an insincere surrender?”
Meng Da replied, “I was in fear of death for not
having relieved Guan Yu. That is my only reason for
coming.”
However, Cao Pi did not trust him. When they
reported that Liu Feng was coming to arrest him,
with a large army, and had attacked Xiangyang and
was challenging Meng Da to battle, Cao Pi said,
“You seem to be true. Go then to Xiangyang and
take Liu Feng. If you bring me his head, I shall no
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longer doubt.”
Meng Da replied, “I will convince him by
argument; no soldiers will be needed. I will bring him
to surrender too.”
So Meng Da was made General Who Establishes
Strong Arms, Lord of Pingyang, and Governor of
Xincheng, and sent to guard Xiangyang and Fankou.
Now there were two generals there already,
Xiahou Shang and Xu Huang, who engaged in
reducing the surrounding territories. Meng Da
arrived, met his two colleagues, and was told that Liu
Feng was fifteen miles from the city. Whereupon
Meng Da wrote him a letter urging him to surrender.
But Liu Feng was in no mood to surrender; instead
he tore up the letter and put the messenger to death.
“The renegade has already made me offend
against my duty to my uncle, and now would sever
me from my father so that I shall be reproached as
disloyal and unfilial,” said Liu Feng.
Meng Da went out with his army to give battle. Liu
Feng rode to the front, pointed with his sword at his
opponent and railed against him.
“Death is very near you,” replied Meng Da, “yet
Three Kingdoms Romance
you continue blindly in the way of foolishness and
will not understand.”
Liu Feng rode out flourishing his sword. He
engaged Meng Da, who ran away before the conflict
had well begun. Liu Feng pursued hotly to seven
miles. Then he fell into an ambush and found himself
attacked on two sides by Xiahou Shang and Xu
Huang. Also Meng Da returned to the attack. Liu
Feng was forced to fly. He made straight for
Shangyong, pursued all the way. When he reached
the city and hailed the gate, he was met by a volley
of arrows.
“I have surrendered to Wei,” cried Shen Dan from
the city tower. It was impossible to attack the city, as
the army of Wei was close behind, and having no
resting place, he set off for Fangling. He arrived
there to find the banners of Wei set out along the
walls. Then he saw Shen Yi wave a signal from the
tower, and at once there appeared from the shelter
of the wall a body of soldiers led by Xu Huang.
Then Liu Feng made for home. But he was
pursued, and only a hundred riders of his remained
to him when he regained Chengdu.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Seeking an interview with his father, he found but
scant sympathy, for in response to his petition, made
prostrate, and weeping, Liu Bei said, “Shameful son!
How are you come to see me at all?”
“My uncle’s mishap was not due to my refusal of
help, but because Meng Da thwarted me.”
“You eat as a man, you dress as a man; but you
have no more the instincts of a man than an image
of clay or wood. What mean you by saying another
wretch thwarted you?”
Liu Bei bade the executioners expel Liu Feng and
put him to death. But the Prince felt some
compunction later when he heard of Liu Feng’s
treatment to the messenger who had brought Meng
Da’s letter inviting him to become a traitor. And he
gave way to grief for the death of Guan Yu until he
fell ill. So no military movements were made.
After he had succeeded to the princedom, Cao Pi
raised all his officers to high rank and had an army
prepared of three hundred thousand, and
maneuvered them over the southern territories and
made great feasts in the county of Qiao in the old
state of Pei, which was the land of his ancestors. As
Three Kingdoms Romance
the grand army passed by, the aged villagers lined
the roads offering gifts of wine, just as when the
Founder of the Hans returned home to Pei.
When it was announced that the Regent Marshal
Xiahou Dun was near death, Cao Pi hastened back
to Yejun, but arrived too late to see him. He put on
mourning for the great leader and instituted
magnificent funeral ceremonies.
In the late summer of this same year, it was
reported that a phoenix had been seen to bow at
Shiyi, and a linlion had appeared at Linzi, while a
yellow dragon was observed in Yejun. Whereupon
Imperial Commander Li Fu and Minister Xu Zhi
discussed these appearances, and putting them all
together they concluded, saying, “Those splendid
signs presage that Wei is about to supplant Han, and
the altar of abdication should be set up.”
Presently a deputation of forty high officers, both
military and civil, led by Hua Xin, Wang Lang, Xin Pi,
Jia Xu, Liu Ye, Liu Yi, Chen Jiao, Chen Qun, and
Huan Jie went into the Palace and proposed to
Emperor Xian that he should abdicate and yield to
the Prince of Wei, Cao Pi.
Three Kingdoms Romance
It is time to set up the throne of Wei,
And steal the land from the Hans.
The next chapter will record the Emperor’s reply.

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