| Chapter 2 |
Zhang Fei Whips The Government Officer;
Dong Zhuo was born in the far northwest at Lintao in the West Valley Land. As the governor of Hedong, Dong Zhuo himself was arrogant and overbearing. But the day he had treated Liu Bei with contumely had been his last, had not Liu Bei and Guan Yu restrained their wrathful brother Zhang Fei.
"Remember he has the government commission," said Liu Bei. "Who are we to judge and slay?"
"It is bitter to take orders from such a wretch. I would rather slay him! You may stay here if you wish to, but I will seek some other place," said Zhang Fei.
"We three are one in life and in death; there is no parting for us. We will all go hence."
So spoke Liu Bei, and his brother was satisfied. Wherefore all three set out and lost no time in traveling until they came to Zhu Jun, who received them well and accepted their aid in attacking Zhang Ba. At this time Cao Cao had joined himself to Huangfu Song, and they were trying to destroy Zhang Lian, and there was a great battle at Quyang.
Zhang Ba was commanding some eighty thousand troops. The rebel had led his army to a strong position in the rear of the hills. An attack being decided upon, Liu Bei was the van leader. On the rebel side a general of Zhang Ba, Gao Sheng, came out to offer battle. Liu Bei sent Zhang Fei to smite Gao Sheng. Out rode Zhang Fei at full speed, his spear ready set. After a few bouts Zhang Fei wounded Gao Sheng, who was unhorsed. At this Liu Bei signaled the main army to advance.
Then Zhang Ba, while still mounted, loosened his hair, grasped his sword, and uttered his incantations. Thereupon began the wind to howl and the thunder to roll, while a dense black cloud from the heavens settled upon the field. And therein seemed to be horsemen and footmen innumerable, who swept to attack the imperial troops. Fear came upon them, and Liu Bei led off his troops, but they were in disorder and returned defeated.
Zhu Jun and Liu Bei considered the matter.
"Zhang Ba uses magic," said Zhu Jun. "Tomorrow, then, will I prepare counter magic in the shape of the blood of slaughtered swine and goats. This blood shall be sprinkled upon their hosts from the precipices above by soldiers in ambush. Thus shall we be able to break the power of their shamanic art."
So it was done. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei took each a thousand troops and hid them on the high cliffs behind the hills, and they had a plentiful supply of the blood of swine and goats and all manners of filthy things. And so next day, when the rebels with fluttering banners and rolling drums came out to challenge, Liu Bei rode forth to meet them. At the same moment that the armies met, again Zhang Ba began his magic and again the elements began to struggle together. Sand flew in clouds, pebbles were swept along the ground, black masses of vapor filled the sky, and rolling masses of foot and horse descended from on high. Liu Bei turned, as before, to flee and the rebels rushed on. But as they pressed through the hills, the trumpets blared, and the hidden soldiers exploded bombs, threw down filth and spattered blood. The masses of soldiers and horses in the air fluttered to the earth as fragments of torn paper, the wind ceased to blow, the thunder subsided, the sand sank, and the pebbles lay still upon the ground.
Zhang Ba quickly saw his magic had been countered and turned to retire. Then he was attacked on the flanks by Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, and in rear by Liu Bei and Zhu Jun. The rebels were routed. Liu Bei, seeing from afar the banner of Zhang Ba The Lord of Earth, galloped toward it but only succeeded in wounding Zhang Ba with an arrow in the left arm. Wounded though he was, Zhang Ba got away into the city of Yangcheng, where he fortified himself and was besieged by Zhu Jun.
|[e] General of the Flying Chariots was the second highest military office, just below Regent Marshal.|
[e] Imperial Protector was the highest office in an administrative region or zhou. Ancient China was divided into nine regions. Each region had a capital city, often of the same name. The nine regions were Bingzhou, Jingzhou, Jizhou, Liangzhou, Qingzhou, Xuzhou, Yizhou, Youzhou, and Yuzhou. Over the time more regions were created. During the Three Kingdoms period, there were already more than nine regions. A few of the new regions were Xizhou, Yangzhou, and Yongzhou. (see map)
Scouts, sent out to get news of Huangfu Song, reported: "Commander Huangfu Song had been very successful, and Dong Zhuo had suffered many reverses. Therefore the court put Huangfu Song in the latter's place. Zhang Jue had died before Huangfu Song's arrival. Zhang Lian had added his brother's army to his own, but no headway could be made against Huangfu Song, whose army gained seven successive victories. And Zhang Lian was slain at Quyang. Beside this, Zhang Jue's coffin was exhumed, the corpse beheaded, and the head, after exposure, was sent to Capital Luoyang. The common crowd had surrendered. For these services Huangfu Song was promoted to General of the Flying Chariots* and the Imperial Protector of Jizhou*.
"Huangfu Song did not forget his friends. His first act after he had attained to power was to memorialize the Throne concerning the case of Lu Zhi, who was then restored to his former rank for his meritorious conducts. Cao Cao also received advancement for his services and is preparing to go to Jinan to his new post."
Hearing these things Zhu Jun pressed harder yet upon Yangcheng, and the approaching break-up of the rebellion became evident. Then one of Zhang Ba's officers, Yan Zheng, killed his leader and brought the head in token of submission. Thus rebellion in that part of the country was stamped out, and Zhu Jun made his report to the government.
However, the embers of the Yellow Scarves still smoldered. Three other rebels, Zhao Hong, Han Zhong, and Sun Zhong, gathered some thirty thousand rebels and began to murder and rob and burn, calling themselves the avengers of Master Zhang Jue.
The court commanded the successful Zhu Jun to lead his veteran and successful troops to destroy the rebels. He at once marched toward the city of Wancheng which the rebels were holding. When Zhu Jun arrived, Han Zhong went to oppose him. Zhu Jun sent Liu Bei and his brothers to attack the southwest corner of the city. Han Zhong at once led the best of his troops to defend the city. Meanwhile Zhu Jun himself led two thousand of armored horsemen to attack the opposite corner. The rebels, thinking the city being lost, abandoned the southwest and turned back into the city to help the defenders. Liu Bei pressed hotly in their rear, and they were utterly routed. They took refuge in the city which was then invested. When famine pressed upon the besieged, they sent a messenger to offer to surrender, but Zhu Jun refused the offer.
Said Liu Bei to Zhu Jun, "Seeing that the founder of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang the Supreme Ancestor, could welcome the submissive and receive the favorable, why reject these?"
|[e] At the end of Qin Dynasty, anarchy ruled the empire. Uprisings were everywhere, and Liu Bang was one of the rebel leaders. .....|
"The conditions are different," replied Zhu Jun. "In those old days disorder was universal and the people had no fixed lord*. Wherefore submission was welcomed and support rewarded to encourage people to come over. Now the empire is united, and the Yellow Scarves are the only malcontents. To receive their surrender is not to encourage the good. To allow brigands, when successful, is to give way to every license, and to let them surrender when they fail is to encourage brigandage. Your plan is not a good one."
Liu Bei replied, "Not to let brigands surrender is well. But the city is surrounded as by an iron barrel. If the rebels' request be refused, they will be desperate and fight to the death, and we can hardly withstood a myriad of such men. Moreover, in the city there are many times that number, all doomed to death. Let us withdraw from one corner and only attack the opposite. They will all assuredly flee and have no desire to fight. We shall take them."
Zhu Jun saw that the advice was good and followed it. As predicted the rebels ran out, led by Han Zhong. The besiegers fell upon them as they fled, and Han Zhong was slain. The rebels scattered in all directions. But the other two rebel chieftains, Zhao Hong and Sun Zhong, came with large reinforcements, and as they appeared very strong, the imperial soldiers retired, and the new body of rebels reentered Wancheng.
|[e] Sun Zi (aka Sun Wu, Suntzu, Sun-tzu, Sun tzu) the author of the famed treatise The Art of War. A general of Wu in the Spring and Autumn period, Sun Zi made her the mightiest state during his lifetime by defeating Chu and conquering Yue. His treatise the Art of War is still avidly read today by many. .....|
Zhu Jun encamped three miles from the city and prepared to attack. Just then there arrived a body of horse and foot from the east. At the lead was one general with a broad open face, a body as an alert tiger's, and a torso as a lofty bear's. His name was Sun Jian. He was a native of Fuchun in the old state of Wu, a descendant of the famous Sun Zi the Strategist*.
When he was seventeen, Sun Jian was with his father on the River Qiantang and saw a party of pirates, who had been plundering a merchant, dividing their booty on the river bank.
"We can capture these!" said he to his father.
So, gripping his sword, he ran boldly up the bank and cried out to this side and that as if he was calling his men to come on. This made the pirates believe the soldiers were on them and they fled, leaving their booty behind them. He actually killed one of the pirates. In this way be became known and was recommended for office.
Then, in collaboration with the local officials, he raised a band of one thousand and helped to quell the rebellion of one Xu Chang, who called himself the Sun Emperor and had ten thousand supporters. The rebel's son Xu Hao was also slain with his father. For this Sun Jian was commended by Imperial Protector Zang Min in a memorial to the Throne, and he received further promotion to the post of magistrate of Yandu, then of Xuyi, and then of Xiapi.
When the Yellow Scarves rebellion began, Sun Jian gathered together the youths of his village, some of the merchant class, got a troop of one thousand five hundred of veteran soldiers and took the field. Now he had reached the fighting area.
Zhu Jun welcomed Sun Jian gladly and ordered him to attack the south gate of Wancheng. The north and the west gates were simultaneously attacked by Liu Bei and Zhu Jun, but the east gate was left free to give the rebels a chance of exit. Sun Jian was the first to mount the wall and cut down more than twenty rebels with his own sword. The rebels ran, but the leader Zhao Hong rode directly at Sun Jian with his spear ready to thrust. Sun Jian leaped down from the wall, snatched away the spear and with it knocked Zhao Hong from the horse. Then Sun Jian, mounting Zhao Hong's horse, rode hither and thither, slaying as he went.
The rebels fled north. Meeting Liu Bei, they declined to fight and scattered. But Liu Bei drew his bow, fitted an arrow, and shot their leader Sun Zhong, who fell to the ground. The main army of Zhu Jun came up, and after tremendous slaughter, the rebels surrendered. Thus was peace brought to the ten counties about the Nanyang area.
|[e] General of the Flying Cavalry was the second highest military office, just below Regent Marshal, and of the same rank as General of the Flying Chariots.|
Zhu Jun returned to Capital Luoyang, was promoted to the General of the Flying Cavalry*, and received the governorship of Henan. He did not forget those who had helped him to win victory. Thus he reported the merits of Liu Bei and Sun Jian to the Throne.
Sun Jian, having influential friends and connections to support him, quickly got an appointment to a post of Commander of Changsha and went to assume the new office. But Liu Bei, in spite of Zhu Jun's memorial, waited in vain for preferment, and the three brothers became very sad.
Walking along one day in the capital, Liu Bei met a court official, Zhang Jun, to whom he related his services and told his sorrows. Zhang Jun was much surprised at this neglect and one day at court spoke to the Emperor about it.
Said he, "The Yellow Scarves rebelled because the eunuchs sold offices and bartered ranks. There was employment only for their friends, punishment only for their enemies. This led to rebellion. Wherefore it would be well to slay the Ten Eunuchs and expose their heads and proclaim what had been done throughout the whole empire. Then reward the worthy. Thereby the land would be wholly tranquil."
But the eunuchs fiercely opposed this and said Zhang Jun was insulting the Emperor, and the Emperor bade the guards thrust Zhang Jun out.
However, the eunuchs took counsel together and one said, "Surely someone who rendered some service against rebels resents being passed over."
So they caused a list of unimportant people to be prepared for preferment by and by. Among them was Liu Bei, who received the post of magistrate of the county of Anxi, to which he proceeded without delay after disbanding his army and sending them home to their villages. He retained two dozens or so as escort.
The three brothers reached Anxi, and soon the administration of the county was so reformed and the rule so wise that in a month there was no law-breaking. The three brothers lived in harmony, eating at the same table and sleeping on the same couch. But when Liu Bei was in public sessions or in company of others, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei would stand in attendance, were it even a whole day.
Four months after their arrival, there came out a general order for the reduction of the number of military officers holding civil posts, and Liu Bei began to fear that he would be among those thrown out. In due course the inspecting official, Du Biao by name, arrived and was met at the boundary. But to the polite obeisance of Liu Bei, he made no return, save a wave of his whip as he sat on his horse. This made Guan Yu and Zhang Fei furious. But worse was to follow.
When the inspector had arrived at his lodging, he took his seat on the dais, leaving Liu Bei standing below. After a long time he addressed Liu Bei.
"Magistrate, what was your origin?"
Liu Bei replied, "I am descended from Prince Sheng of Zhongshan. Since my first fight with the Yellow Scarves rebels at Zhuo County, I have been in some thirty battles, wherein I gained some trifling merit. My reward was this office."
"You lie about your descent, and your statement of services is false!" roared the inspector. "Now the court has ordered the reduction of your sort of low class and corrupt officials."
Liu Bei muttered to himself and withdrew. On his return to the magistracy, he took council with his secretaries.
"This pompous attitude only means the inspector wants a bribe," said they.
"I have never wronged the people to the value of a single coin: Then where is a bribe to come from?"
Next day the inspector had the minor officials before him and forced them to bear witness that their master had oppressed the people. Liu Bei time after time went to rebut this charge, but the doorkeepers drove him away and he could not enter.
Now Zhang Fei had been all day drowning his sorrow in wine and had drunk far too much. Calling for his horse he rode out past the lodging of the inspector, and at the gate saw a small crowd of white-haired people weeping bitterly. He asked why.
They said, "The inspector has compelled the underlings to bear false witness against our magistrate, with the desire to injure the virtuous Liu Bei. We came to beg mercy for him but are not permitted to enter. Moreover, we have been beaten by the doorkeepers."
This provoked the irascible and half intoxicated Zhang Fei to fury. His eyes opened wide until they became circles; he ground his teeth; in a moment he was off his steed, had forced his way past the scared doorkeepers into the building, and was in the rear apartments. There he saw Imperial Inspector Du Biao sitting on high with the official underlings in bonds at his feet.
"Oppressor of the people, robber!" cried Zhang Fei. "Do you know me?"
But before the inspector could reply, Zhang Fei had had him by the hair and had dragged him down. Another moment he was outside and firmly lashed to the hitching post in front of the building. Then breaking off a switch from a willow tree, Zhang Fei gave his victim a severe thrashing, only staying his hand when the tenth switch was too short to strike with.
Liu Bei was sitting alone, communing with his sorrow, when he heard a shouting before his door. He asked what the matter was.
They told him, "General Zhang Fei had bound somebody to a post and was thrashing him!"
Hastily going outside, Liu Bei saw who the unhappy victim was and asked Zhang Fei the reason.
"If we do not beat this sort of wretch to death, what may we expect?" said Zhang Fei.
"Noble Sir, save me!" cried the inspector.
Now Liu Bei had always been kindly and gracious, wherefore he bade his brother release the officer and go his way.
Then Guan Yu came up, saying, "Brother, after your magnificent services you only got this petty post, and even here you have been insulted by this fellow. A thorn bush is no place for a phoenix. Let us slay this fellow, leave here, and go home till we can evolve a bigger scheme."
Liu Bei contented himself with hanging the official seal about the inspector's neck, saying, "If I hear that you injure the people, I will assuredly kill you. I now spare your life, and I return to you the seal. We are going."
The inspector went to the governor of Dingzhou and complained, and orders were issued for the arrest of the brothers, but they got away to Daizhou and sought refuge with Liu Hu, who sheltered them because of Liu Bei's noble birth.
|[e] Two of the Ten Regular Attendants|
By this time the Ten Regular Attendants had everything in their hands, and they put to death all who did not stand in with them. From every officer who had helped to put down the rebels they demanded presents; and if these were not forthcoming, he was removed from office. Imperial Commanders Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun both fell victims to these intrigues and were deprived from offices, while on the other hand the eunuchs received the highest honors and rewards. Thirteen eunuchs were ennobled, including Zhao Zhong* who was added to the rank of General of the Flying Cavalry; Zhang Rang* possessed most of the prize farms around the capital. The government grew worse and worse, and everyone was irritated.
Rebellions broke out in Changsha led by Ou Xing, and in Yuyang led by Zhang Ju and Zhang Chun. Memorials were sent up in number as snow flakes in winter, but the Ten suppressed them all. One day the Emperor was at a feast in one of the gardens with the Ten, when Court Counselor Liu Tao suddenly appeared showing very great distress. The Emperor asked what the matter was.
"Sire, how can you be feasting with these when the empire is at the last gasp?" said Liu Tao.
"All is well," said the Emperor. "Where is anything wrong?"
Said Liu Tao, "Robbers swarm on all sides and plunder the cities. And all is the fault of the Ten Eunuchs who sell offices and injure the people, oppress loyal officials and deceive their superiors. All virtuous ones have left the services and returned to their places, and are building and guarding their positions. More regional offices have been sought than imperial appointments. Central authority is being undermined by local interests. Misfortune is before our very eyes!"
At this the eunuchs pulled off their hats and threw themselves at their master's feet.
"If Minister Liu Tao disapproves of us," they said, "we are in danger. We pray that our lives be spared and we may go to our farms. We yield our property to help defray military expenses."
And they wept bitterly.
The Emperor turned angrily to Liu Tao, saying, "You also have servants: Why can't you bear with mine?"
And thereupon the Emperor called to the guards to eject Liu Tao and put him to death.
Liu Tao cried aloud, "My death matters nothing. The pity is that Han Dynasty, after four centuries of reign, is falling fast!"
The guards hustled him away and were just about to carry out the Emperor's order when a minister stopped them, shouting, "Strike not! Wait till I have spoken with His Majesty."
It was the Minister of the Interior, Chen Dan. He went in to the Emperor, to whom he said, "For what fault is Counselor Liu Tao to be put to death?"
"He has vilified my servants and has insulted me," said the Emperor.
"All the empire would eat the flesh of the eunuchs if they could, and yet, Sire, you respect them as if they were your parents. They have no merit, but they are created nobles. Moreover, Feng Xu was in league with the Yellow Scarves. Unless Your Majesty looks to it, the state will crumble!"
"There was no proof against Feng Xu," replied the Emperor. "About the Ten Eunuchs, are there none faithful among them?"
Chen Dan beat his forehead on the steps of the throne and did not desist from remonstrance. Then the Emperor grew angry and commanded his removal and imprisonment with Liu Tao. That night Liu Tao and Chen Dan were murdered.
Then the eunuchs sent a forged edict to Sun Jian making him Governor of Changsha, with orders to suppress the rebellion of Ou Xing. In less than two months Sun Jian reported the county all tranquil. For this he was created Lord of Wucheng.
Further, Liu Yu was made Imperial Protector of Youzhou to move against Yuyang and suppress Zhang Ju and Zhang Chun. Liu Hu of Daizhou recommended Liu Bei to Liu Yu. Liu Yu welcomed Liu Bei and gave him rank of commander and sent him against the rebels. He fought with and worsted them and entirely broke their spirit. Zhang Chun was cruel, and his leaders turned against him. One of his officers then slew him and brought in his head, after which the others submitted. The other leader Zhang Ju saw that all was lost and killed himself.
Yuyang being now tranquil, Liu Bei's services were reported to the Throne, and he received full pardon for the insult to the imperial inspector. He was made Deputy Magistrate of Xiami, then Commanding Officer of Gaotang. Then Gongsun Zan praised Liu Bei's former services, and he was promoted to Magistrate of Pingyuan. This place was very prosperous, and Liu Bei recovered something of his old manner before the days of adversity. Liu Yu also received preferment and was promoted to Grand Commander.
|[e] Regent Marshal was the highest military office, while Imperial Guardian highest civilian office.|
In the summer of the six year of Central Stability (AD 189), Emperor Ling became seriously ill and summoned He Jin into the Palace to arrange for the future. He Jin had sprung from a humble family of butchers, but his sister had become a concubine of rank and borne a son to the Emperor, named Liu Bian. After this she became Empress He, and He Jin became the powerful Regent Marshal*.
The Emperor had also greatly loved a beautiful girl, Lady Wang, who had borne him a son named Liu Xian. Empress He had poisoned Lady Wang from jealousy, and the baby had been given into the care of Empress Dong, who was the mother of Emperor Ling. Lady Dong was the wife of Liu Chang, Lord of Jiedu. As time went on and the Emperor Huan had no son of his own, he adopted the son of Liu Chang, who succeeded as the Emperor Ling. After his accession, Emperor Ling had taken his own mother into the Palace to live and had conferred upon her the title of Empress Dowager.
Empress Dong had always tried to persuade her son to name Liu Xian as the Heir Apparent, and in fact the Emperor greatly loved the boy and was disposed to do as his mother desired. When his end was near, one of the eunuchs, Jian Shuo, said, "If Liu Xian is to succeed, He Jin must be killed to prevent countermoves."
The Emperor saw this too. He placed Jian Shuo in command of the eight armies of the West Garden in order to check Liu Bian's supporters. And he summoned He Jin to come to him.
But at the very gate of the Forbidden City, He Jin was warned of his danger by Commander Pan Yin who said, "This must be a trap of Jian Shuo to destroy you!"
He Jin rushed back to his quarters and called many of the ministers to his side, and they met to consider how to put the eunuchs to death.
At this assembly a man spoke against the plot, "The influence of the eunuchs dates back a century and a half, during the reigns of Emperors Chong and Zhi. It has spread like a noxious weed in all directions. How can we hope to destroy it? Above all keep this plot secret, or our whole clans will be exterminated."
He Jin eyed down and saw General of Military Standards Cao Cao.
He Jin was very angry at this speech and cried, "What do inferiors like you know of the ways of government?"
And in the midst of the confusion Pan Yin came to say: "The Emperor is no more. The eunuchs have decided to keep the death a secret and forge a command to the Regent Marshal to come into the Palace to settle the succession. Meanwhile to prevent trouble they have inscribed the name of Prince Xian on the roll."
And as Pan Yin finished speaking, the edict arrived summoning He Jin.
"The matter for the moment is to set up the rightful heir," said Cao Cao. "We can deal with the traitors later."
"Who dare to join me in supporting the rightful heir---Prince Bian?" asked He Jin, the Regent Marshal.
At once one stood forward, crying, "Give me five thousand veterans, and we will break into the Palace, set up the true heir, slay the eunuchs, and sweep clean the government! Then peace will come to the empire."
The energetic speaker was Yuan Shao, son of the former Minister of the Interior Yuan Feng and nephew of Imperial Guardian Yuan Wei. Yuan Shao then held the rank of Imperial Commander.
He Jin mustered five thousand royal guards. Yuan Shao put on complete armor and took command. He Jin, supported by He Yong, Xun You, Zheng Tai, and more than thirty other ministers and high-rank officials, went into the Palace. In the hall where lay the coffin of the late Emperor, they placed Liu Bian on the throne. After the ceremony was over and all had bowed before the new Emperor, Yuan Shao went in to arrest Eunuch Jian Shuo. Jian Shuo in terror fled into the Palace garden and hid among the shrubs, where he was discovered and murdered by Guo Sheng, one of the Ten Eunuchs. The guards under Jian Shuo's command all surrendered.
Yuan Shao said, "Their gangs have broken. The most opportune moment is now to slay all the eunuchs!"
But Zhang Rang and the eunuchs of the Ten scented the danger and rushed to see Empress He.
They said, "The originator of the plan to injure your brother was Jian Shuo: Only he was concerned and no other. Now the Regent Marshal, on Yuan Shao's advice, wishes to slay everyone of us. We implore your pity, O Your Majesty!"
"Fear not!" said Empress He, whose son had just become Emperor, "I will protect you."
She sent for her brother, and said, "You and I are of lowly origin, and we owe our good fortune to the eunuchs. The misguided Jian Shuo is now dead, and need you really put all the others to death as Yuan Shao advises?"
And He Jin obeyed her wish. He explained to his party, saying, "The real offender, Jian Shuo, has met his fate, and his clan will be punished. But we need not exterminate the whole party nor injure his colleagues."
"Slay them, root and branch," cried Yuan Shao, "or they will ruin you!"
"I have decided," said He Jin, coldly. "Say no more."
Within a few days He Jin became Chair of the Secretariat, and his associates received high offices.
Now Empress Dong summoned the eunuch Zhang Rang and his party to a council.
Said she, "It was I who first brought forward the sister of He Jin. Today her son is on the throne, and all the officials are her friends, and her influence is enormous. What can we do?"
Zhang Rang replied, "Your Highness should administer the state from 'behind the veil'; create the late Emperor's son Liu Xian a prince; give your brother, the Imperial Uncle Dong Chong, a high rank, and place him over the army; and use us. That will do it."
|[e] General of the Flying Cavalry was the second highest military office, just below Regent Marshal, and of the same rank as General of the Flying Chariots.|
[e] Empress Lu was wife of Liu Bang, the Han Founder. After Liu Bang's death, she held imperial authority. She appointed members of her own family to highly important positions of state and clearly hoped to substitute her own family for the reigning Liu family. But these plans were frustrated on her death (BC 180). .....
Empress Dong approved. Next day she held a court and issued an edict in the sense proposed. She made Liu Xian Prince of Chenliu and Dong Chong General of the Flying Cavalry*, and she allowed the eunuchs again to participate state affairs.
When Empress He saw this, she prepared a banquet to which she invited her rival Empress Dong.
In the middle of the feast, when all were well warmed with wine, Empress He rose and offered a cup to her guest, saying, "It is not fitting that we two should meddle in state affairs. In the beginning of the Han Dynasty, when Empress Lu laid hands upon the government, all her clans were put to death*. We ought to remain content, immured in our palaces, and leave state affairs to the state officials. That would be well for the country, and I trust you will act thus."
But Empress Dong only got angry, saying, "You poisoned Lady Wang out of jealousy. Now, relying upon the fact that your son sits on the throne and that your brother is powerful, you speak these wild words. I will command that your brother be beheaded, and that can be done as easily as I turn my hand!"
Empress He in her turn became wroth and said, "I tried to persuade you with fair words. Why get so angry?"
"You low born daughter of a butcher, what do you know of offices?" cried Empress Dong.
And the quarrel waxed hot.
The eunuchs persuaded the ladies to retire. But in the night Empress He summoned her brother into the Palace and told him what had occurred. He went out and took counsel with the principal officers of state. Next morning a court was held and a memorial was presented, saying:
"Empress Dong, being the foster mother of Liu Xian, Prince of Chenliu, a regional prince---only a collateral---cannot properly occupy any part of the Palace. She is to be removed into her original fief of Hejian and is to depart immediately."
And while they sent an escort to remove Empress Dong, a strong guard was placed about the Imperial Uncle Dong Chong's dwelling. They took away his seal of office and he, knowing this was the end, killed himself in his private apartments. His dependents, who wailed his death, were driven off by the guards.
The eunuchs Zhang Rang and Duan Gui, having lost their patroness, sent large gifts to He Jin's younger brother, He Miao, and his mother, Lady Wuyang, and thus got them to put in a good word to Empress He so as to gain her protection. And so they gained favor once more at court.
|[e] A burial place of court officials and royal families.|
In the sixth month of that year, the secret emissaries of He Jin poisoned Empress Dong in her residence in the country. Her remains were brought to the capital and buried in Wen Tombs*. He Jin feigned illness and did not attend the funeral.
Commander Yuan Shao went one day to see He Jin, saying, "The two eunuchs, Zhang Rang and Duan Gui, are spreading the report outside that you has caused the death of the late empress and is aiming at the throne. This is an excuse for you to destroy them. Do not spare them this time, or you will pay like Dou Wu and Chen Fan, who in the previous reign missed their chance because the secret had not been kept, and they paid by their own deaths. Now you and your brother have many commanders and officers behind, so that the destruction of the eunuchs can be but an ease. It is a heaven-sent opportunity. Delay no further!"
But He Jin replied, "Let me think it over."
He Jin's servants overheard the discussion and secretly informed the intended victims, who sent further gifts to the younger brother He Miao.
Corrupted by these, He Miao went in to speak with his sister Empress He and said, "The General is the chief support of the new Emperor, yet he is not gracious and merciful but thinks wholly of slaughter. If he slays the eunuchs without cause, it may bring about revolution."
Soon after He Jin entered and told her of his design to put the eunuchs to death.
She argued with him, "Those officials look after palace affairs and are old servants. To kill the old servants just after the death of their master would appear disrespectful to the dynasty's ancestral temple."
And as He Jin was of a vacillating mind, he murmured assent and left her.
"What about it?" said Yuan Shao on meeting him.
"She will not consent. What can be done?"
"Call up an army and slay them. It is imperative. Never mind her consent!"
"That is an excellent plan," said He Jin. And he sent orders all round to march soldiers to the capital.
But Secretary Chen Lin objected, "Nay! Do not act without due consideration. The proverb says 'To cover the eyes and snatch at swallows is to fool oneself.' If in so small a matter you cannot attain your wish, what of great affairs? Now by virtue of the emperor and with the army under your hand, you are like prancing tiger and soaring dragon: You may do as you please. To use such enormous powers against the eunuchs would bring victory as easily as lighting up a furnace to burn a hair. Only act promptly: Use your powers and smite at once, and all the empire will be with you. But to summon forces to the capital, to gather many bold warriors into one spot, each with different schemes, is to turn our weapons against our own person, to place ourselves in the power of another. Nothing but failure can come of it, and havoc will ensue."
"The view of a mere book-worm," said He Jin with a smile.
Then one of those about He Jin suddenly clapped his hands, laughing, "Solving this issue is as easy as turning over one's hand! Why so much talk?"
The speaker was Cao Cao.
What Cao Cao said will be disclosed in later chapters.
<< Back to Chapter 1 Main Next to Chapter 3 >>