Chapter 36

Shan Fu's Strategy: Fankou Is Captured;
Xu Shu's Affection: Zhuge Liang Is Recommended.

In hot anger, Cao Ren lost no time in marching out to avenge the loss of so many of his army. He hastily crossed the River Yu to attack Xinye and trample it in the dust.

When San Fu got back into the city, he said to Liu Bei, "When Cao Ren, now at Fancheng, hears of his losses, he will try to retrieve them and will come to attack us."

"What is the counter move?" asked Liu Bei.

"As he will come with all his force, his own city will be left undefended. We will surprise it."

"By what ruse?"

The adviser leaned over and whispered to his chief. Whatever the plan was, it pleased Liu Bei, who made arrangements. Soon the scouts reported Cao Ren crossing the river with a mighty host.

"Just as I guessed," said San Fu, hearing of it.

Then he suggested that Liu Bei should lead out one army against the invaders. Liu Bei did so, and, when the formation was complete, Zhao Yun rode to the front as champion and challenged the other side.

Li Dian rode out and engaged. At about the tenth bout Li Dian found he was losing and retired toward his own side. Zhao Yun pressed after him, but was checked by a heavy discharge of arrows from the wings. Then both sides stopped the battle and retired to their camps.

Li Dian reported to his chief: "Our enemy are brave, very full of spirit, and we will be hard to overcome. We had better retreat to Fancheng and wait for reinforcements."

Cao Ren angrily replied, "You damped the army's spirit before we started, and now you betray us. You have been bought, and you deserve death."

Cao Ren called in the executioners, and they led away their victim. But the other officers came to intercede, and Li Dian was spared. However, he was transferred to the command of the rear, while Cao Ren himself led the attack.

Next day the drums beat an advance and Cao Ren, having drawn up his soldiers, sent a messenger over to ask if Liu Bei recognized his plan of battle array.

So San Fu went on a hill and looked over it.

Then he said to Liu Bei, "The arrangement is called 'The Eight Docked Gates,' and the names of the gates are Birth, Exit, Expanse, Wound, Fear, Annihilation, Obstacle, and Death. If you enter by one of the three Birth, Exit, or Expanse you succeed. If by one of the gates Wound, Fear, or Annihilation, you sustain injuries. The other two gates Obstacles and Death will bring the end. Now, though the eight gates are all there quite correct, the central key-post is lacking, and the whole formation can be thrown into confusion by entry from the southeast and exit due west."

Wherefore certain orders were issued and Zhao Yun, leading five hundred troops, rode out on his prancing steed to break the array. He burst in, as directed, at the southeast and, with great clamor and fighting, reached the center. Cao Ren made for the north, but Zhao Yun, instead of following him, made a dash westward and got through. Thence he turned round to the southeast again and smote till Cao Ren's army was in disarray. Liu Bei gave a general advance signal, and the victory was complete. The beaten enemy retired.

San Fu forbade pursuit, and they returned. The loss of the battle convinced Cao Ren of the wisdom of his colleague Li Dian, and he sent for Li Dian to consult.

"They certainly have some very able person in Liu Bei's army since my formation was so quickly broken," said Cao Ren.

"My chief anxiety is about Fancheng," said Li Dian.

"I will raid their camp this night," said Cao Ren. "If I succeed, we will decide upon what should be done next. If I fail, we will return to Fancheng."

"Their camp will be well prepared against such a thing, and you will fail," said Li Dian.

"How can you expect to fight successfully when you are so full of doubts?" said Cao Ren, angrily.

He held no more converse with his cautious colleague, but himself took command of the van and set out. Li Dian was relegated to the rear. The attack on the enemy's camp was fixed for the second watch.

Now as San Fu was discussing plans with his chief a whirlwind from the northeast went by, which San Fu said, "There will be a raid on the camp tonight."

"How shall we meet it?" said Liu Bei.

"The plans are quite ready," was the reply.

San Fu whispered them to the chief. So at the second watch, when the enemy arrived, they saw fires on all sides, the stockades and huts burning. Cao Ren understood at once that all hope of a surprise was vain, and he turned to get away as quickly as possible. This was the signal for Zhao Yun to fall on, and that cut Cao Ren's return road. He hastened north toward the river, and reached the bank, but, while waiting for boats to cross the stream, up came Zhang Fei and attacked.

By dint of great efforts and with the support of Li Dian, Cao Ren got into a boat, but most of the soldiers were drowned in the stream. As soon as he got to the farther shore, he bolted for Fancheng. He reached the wall and hailed the gate, but, instead of a friendly welcome, he heard the rolling of drums, which was soon followed by the appearance of a body of troops. Guan Yu led them.

"I took the city a long time ago!" shouted Guan Yu.

This was a severe shock to Cao Ren, who turned to flee. As soon as he faced about, Guan Yu attacked and killed many of his force. The remnant hastened to Xuchang. On the road the beaten general wondered who had advised his opponents with such success, and he asked the natives for the answer.

While the defeated Cao Ren had to find his way back to the capital, Liu Bei had scored a great success. Afterwards he marched to Fancheng, where he was welcomed by Magistrate Liu Mi, himself a scion of the ruling family, who had been born in Changsha. Liu Mi received Liu Bei as a guest in his own house and gave banquets and treated him exceedingly well.

In the train of the Magistrate, Liu Bei saw a very handsome and distinguished-looking young man, and asked who he was.

Liu Mi replied, "He is my nephew, Kou Feng, son of Lord Kou of Luo. I have taken care of him after his parents died."

Liu Bei had taken a great liking for the lad and proposed to adopt him. His guardian was willing, and so the adoption was arranged. The young man's name was changed to Liu Feng. When Liu Bei left, he took his adopted son with him. Liu Feng was then made to bow before Guan Yu and Zhang Fei as uncles.

Guan Yu was doubtful of the wisdom of adopting another son, saying, "You have a son. Why do you think it necessary to adopt another? It may cause confusion."

"How? I shall treat him as a father should, and he will serve me as befits a son."

Guan Yu was displeased.

Then Liu Bei and San Fu began further discussions of strategy, and they decided to leave Zhao Yun with one thousand soldiers to guard Fancheng, and they returned to Xinye.

In the meantime Cao Cao's defeated generals had gone back. When they saw the Prime Minister, Cao Ren threw himself on the ground weeping and acknowledging his faults. He told the tale of his losses.

"The fortune of war," said Cao Cao. "But I should like to know who laid Liu Bei's plans."

"That was San Fu," said Cao Ren.

"Who is he?" asked Cao Cao.

Cheng Yu said, "The man is not San Fu. When young this man was fond of fencing and used to take up the quarrels of other people and avenge their wrongs. At the end of Emperor Ling, he killed a man to avenge his friend, and then he let down his hair, muddled his face, and was trying to escape when a lictor caught him and questioned him. He would not reply. So they carted him through the streets beating a drum and asking if anyone recognized him. Nobody dared own to knowing him, even if they did so. However, his comrades managed to release him secretly, and he ran away under some other name. Then he turned to study and wandered hither and thither wherever scholars were to be found. He was a regular disputant with Sima Hui. His real name is Xu Shu and he comes from Yingchuan. San Fu is merely an assumed name."

"How does he compare with yourself?" asked Cao Cao.

"Ten times cleverer."

"It is a pity. If able people gather to Liu Bei, his wings will soon grow. What is to be done?"

"Xu Shu is there now. But if you wanted him, it would not be difficult to call him," replied Cheng Yu.

"How could I make him come?" said Cao Cao.

"He is noted for his affection for his mother. His father died young, leaving his mother a widow with one other son. Now that son is dead, and his mother, Lady Xun, has no one to care for her. If you sent and got his mother here and told her to write and summon her son, he would surely come."

Cao Cao sent without loss of time and had the old lady brought to the capital, where he treated her exceedingly well.

Presently he said, "I hear you have a very talented son, who is now at Xinye helping on that rebel Liu Bei against the government. There he is like a jewel in a muck heap: It is a pity. Supposing you were to call him, I could speak of him before the Emperor, and he might get an important office."

Cao Cao bade his secretaries bring along paper and ink, with which Lady Xun could write to her son.

"What sort of a man is Liu Bei?" asked she.

Cao Cao replied, "A common sort of person from Zhuo, irresponsible enough to style himself Imperial Uncle, and so claiming some sort of connection with the Hans. He is neither trustworthy nor virtuous. People say he is a superior man as far as externals go, but a mean man by nature."

Lady Xun answered in a hard voice, "Why do you malign him so bitterly? Everyone knows he is a descendant of one of the Han princes and so related to the House. He has condescended to take a lowly office and is respectful to all people. He has a reputation for benevolence. Everyone, young and old, cowherds and firewood cutters, all know him by name and know that he is the finest and noblest man in the world. If my son is in his service, then has he found a fitting master. You, under the name of a Han minister, are really nothing but a Han rebel. Contrary to all truths, you tell me Liu Bei is a rebel, whereby you try to induce me to make my son leave the light for darkness. Are you devoid of all sense of shame?"

As Lady Xun finished speaking, she picked up the inkstone to strike Cao Cao. This so enraged him that he forgot himself and the need for caution and bade the executioners lead off the old woman and put her to death.

Adviser Cheng Yu, however, stopped this act, saying, "This old lady wished to die. But if you kill her, your reputation will be damaged and hers enhanced. Beside that will add a keen desire for revenge to the motives which led Xu Shu to labor in the interest of Liu Bei. You had better keep her here so that Xu Shu's body and his thoughts may be in different places. He can not devote all his energies to helping our enemy while his mother is here. If you keep her, I think I can persuade the son to come and help you."

So the outspoken old lady was saved. She was given quarters and cared for. Daily Cheng Yu went to ask after her health, falsely claiming to being a sworn brother of her son's, and so entitled to serve her and treat her as a filial son would have done. He often sent her gifts and wrote letters to her so that she had to write in reply. And thereby he learned her handwriting so that he could forge a "home" letter. When he could do this without fear of detection, he wrote one and sent it by the hand of a trusty person to Xinye.

One day a man arrived inquiring for one San Fu. He claimed to have a letter from home for him. The soldiers led the man to San Fu. The man said he was an official carrier of letters and had been told to bring this one. San Fu quickly tore it open and read:

"On your brother's death recently I was left alone: No relative was near, and I was lonely and sad. To my regret, the Prime Minister Cao Cao inveigled me into coming to the capital, and now he says you are a rebel, and he has throw me into bonds. However, thanks to Cheng Yu, my life has been spared so far, and, if you would only come and submit too, I should be quite safe. When this reaches you, remember how I have toiled for you and come at once, that you may prove yourself a filial son. We may together find some way of escape to our own place and avoid the dangers that threaten me. My life hangs by a thread, and I look to you to save me. You will not require a second summon."

Tears gushed from Xu Shu's eyes as he read, and with the letter in his hand he went to seek his chief, to whom he told the true story of his life.

"I heard that Liu Biao treated people well and went to him. I happened to arrive at a time of confusion. I saw he was of no use, so I left him very soon. I arrived at the retreat of Sima Hui the Water Mirror late one night and told him, and he blamed me for not knowing a master when I saw one. Then he told me of you and I sang that wild song in the streets to attract your attention. You took me; you used me. But now my aged mother is the victim of Cao Cao's wiles. She is in prison, and he threatens to do worse. She has written to call me, and I must go. I hoped to be able to render you faithful service, but, with my dear mother a captive, I should be useless. Therefore I must leave you and hope in the future to meet you again."

Liu Bei broke into loud moans when he heard that his adviser was to leave.

"The bond between mother and son is divine," said Liu Bei, "and I do not need to be reminded where your duty lies. When you have seen your venerable mother, perhaps I may have again the happiness of receiving your instruction."

Having said farewell, Xu Shu prepared to leave at once. However, at Liu Bei's wish, he consented to stay over the night.

Then Sun Qian said privately to his master, "Xu Shu is indeed a genius, but he has been here long enough to know all our secrets. If you let him go over to Cao Cao, he will be in his confidence, and that will be to our detriment. You ought to keep him at all costs and not let him go. When Cao Cao sees Xu Shu does not come, he will put the mother to death, and that will make Xu Shu the more zealous in your service, for he will burn to avenge his mother's death."

"I cannot do that. It would be very cruel and vile to procure the death of his mother that I might retain the son's services. If I kept him, it would lead to a rupture of the parental lien, and that would be a sin I would rather die than commit."

Both were grieved and sighed.

Liu Bei asked the parting guest to a banquet, but he declined, saying, "With my mother a prisoner I can swallow nothing, nay, though it were brewed from gold or distilled from jewels."

"Alas! Your departure is as if I lost both my hands," said Liu Bei. "Even the liver of a dragon or the marrow of a phoenix would be bitter in my mouth."

They looked into each other's eyes and wept. They sat silent till dawn. When all was ready for the journey, the two rode out of the city side by side. At Daisy Pavilion they dismounted to drink the stirrup cup.

Liu Bei lifted the goblet and said, "It is my mean fortune that separates me from you, but I hope that you may serve well your new lord and become famous."

Xu Shu wept as he replied, "I am but a poor ignorant person whom you have kindly employed. Unhappily I have to break our intercourse in the middle, but my venerable mother is the real cause. Though Cao Cao use all manner of means to coerce me, yet will I never plan for him."

"After you are gone, I shall only bury myself in the hills and hide in the forests," said Liu Bei.

Xu Shu said, "I had in my heart for you the position of leader of the chieftains, but my plans have been altogether upset by my mother. I have been of no advantage to you, nor should I do any good by remaining. But you ought to seek some person of lofty wisdom to help you in your great enterprise. It is unseemly to be downcast."

"I shall find none to help better than you, my master."

"How can I permit such extravagant praise?" said Xu Shu. "I am only a useless blockhead."

As he moved off, he said to the followers, "Officers, I hope you will render the Princely One good service, whereby to write his name large in the country's annals and cause his fame to glow in the pages of history. Do not be like me, a person who has left his work half done."

They were all deeply affected. Liu Bei could not bring himself to part from his friend. He escorted him a little further, and yet a little further, till Xu Shu said, "I will not trouble you, O Princely One, to come further. Let us say our farewell here."

Liu Bei dismounted, took Xu Shu by the hands, and said, "Alas! We part. Each goes his way, and who knows if we shall meet again?"

His tears fell like rain and Xu Shu wept also. But the last goodbyes were said. When the traveler had gone, Liu Bei stood gazing after the little party and watched it slowly disappear. At the last glimpse he broke into lamentation.

"He is gone! What shall I do?"

One of the trees shut out the traveler from his sight, and Liu Bei pointed at it, saying, "Wish that I could cut down every tree in the countryside!"

"Why?" said his officers.

"Because they hinder my sight of Xu Shu."

Suddenly they saw Xu Shu galloping back.

Said Liu Bei, "He is returning: Can it he that he is going to stay?"

So he hastened forward to meet Xu Shu, and when they got near enough, he cried, "This return is surely for no slight reason."

Checking his horse, Xu Shu said, "In the turmoil of my feelings, I forgot to say one word. There is a person of wonderful skill living about seven miles from the city of Xiangyang. Why not seek him?"

"Can I trouble you to ask him to visit me?"

[e] Lu Wang was a master strategist, founding minister of Zhou Dynasty, counselor to King Wen. Before joining King Wen, Lu Wang had been a fisher, who mediated on the river bank on political events. .....

[e] Zhang Liang was Liu Bang's counselor. .....

[e] Guan Zhong was priminister of Duke Huan of Qi. Guan Zhong made Qi a powerful state during the Spring and Autumn period. .....

[e] Yue Yi was a great general of Yan. Yue Yi helped Yan overcome Qi, which was a dominant state during the Warring States period. .....

"He will not condescend to visit you. You must go to him. But if he consents, you will be as fortunate as the Zhou when they got the aid of Lu Wang*, or the Han when Zhang Liang* came to help."

"How does the unknown compare with yourself?"

"With me? Compared with him I am as a worn-out carthorse to a palomino, an old duck to a phoenix. This man often compares himself with the ancient sages Guan Zhong* and Yue Yi* but, in my opinion, he is far their superior. He has the talent to measure the heavens and mete the earth. He is a man who overshadows every other in the world."

"I would know his name."

"He belongs to Langye, and his name is Zhuge Liang. He is of the family of the former General Zhuge Feng. His father, Zhuge Gui, was the Deputy Governor of Taishan but died young, and the young fellow went with his uncle Zhuge Xuan to Jingzhou. Imperial Protector Liu Biao was an old friend of his uncle, and Zhuge Liang became settled in Xiangyang. Then his uncle died, and he and his younger brother, Zhuge Jun, returned to their farm in Nanyang and worked as farmers. They used to amuse themselves with the composition of songs in the Liangfu style.

"On their land was a ridge of hills called the Sleeping Dragon, and the elder of the brothers took it as a name and called himself Master Sleeping Dragon. This is your man. He is a veritable genius. You ought really to visit him. And if he will help you, you need feel no more anxiety about peace in the empire."

"Water Mirror spoke that time of two persons, Sleeping Dragon and Young Phoenix, and said if only one of them could be got to help me all would be well. Surely he, whom you speak of, is one of them."

"Young Phoenix is Pang Tong of Xiangyang, and Sleeping Dragon is Zhuge Liang."

Liu Bei jumped with delight, "Now at last I know who the mysterious ones are. How I wish they were here! But for you I should have still been an unclued man," said he.

Someone has celebrated in verse this interview where Xu Shu from horseback recommended Zhuge Liang:

[hip, hip, hip]
Liu Bei heard that his able friend
Must leave him, with saddened heart,
For each to the other had grown very dear,
Both wept when it came to part.
But the parting guest then mentioned a name
That echoed both loud and deep,
Like a thunder clap in a spring-time sky,
And there wakened a dragon from sleep.
[yip, yip, yip]

Thus was Zhuge Liang recommended to Liu Bei, and Xu Shu rode away.

Now Liu Bei understood the speech of the hermit Water Mirror, and he woke as one from a drunken sleep. At the head of his officers, he retook the road to the city and having prepared rich gifts set out, with his brothers, for Nanyang.

Under the influence of his emotions at parting, Xu Shu had mentioned the name and betrayed the retreat of his friend. Now he thought of the possibility that Zhuge Liang would be unwilling to play the part of helper in Liu Bei's scheme, so Xu Shu determined to go to visit him. He therefore took his way to Sleeping Dragon Ridge and dismounted at the cottage.

Asked why he had come, Xu Shu replied, "I wished to serve Liu Bei of Yuzhou, but my mother has been imprisoned by Cao Cao, and has sent to call me. Therefore I have had to leave him. At the moment of parting I commended you to him. You may expect him speedily and I hope, Sir, you will not refuse your aid but will consent to use your great talents to help him."

Zhuge Liang showed annoyance and said, "And so you have made me a victim of the world's sacrifice."

So saying, Zhuge Liang shook out his sleeves and left the room. The guest shamefacedly retired, mounted his horse, and hastened on his way to the capital to see his mother.

[hip, hip, hip]
To help the lord he loved right well,
He summoned the aid of another
When he took the distant homeward way
At the call of a loving mother.
[yip, yip, yip]

What was the sequel will appear in the following chapters.

<< Back to Chapter 35 Main  Next to Chapter 37 >>