First, a song that goes:
Roll, roll long river departing to the East.
Let the waves wash the exhausted heros.
True or false, win or loss, all is vain.
The green mountain has remained,
How many setting red suns?
White-haired fishermen and woodcutters on the river banks,
Are accustomed to the fall moon and the spring wind.
A bottle of wine makes a pleasant meeting,
And from then to now, there's been how much
to laugh and chat about?
It's said that all great power, when divided too long must collect, and when collected too long must divide: At the end of the Zhou Dynasty, seven states split in battle until Qin triumphed. After its overthrow, Chu and Han battled, and so began Han.
Han rose up with their ancestor's slaying the white serpent to promote justice, uniting all under heaven. Afterwards they took pleasure in war, until the time of Emperor Xian, when the country was divided into 3. But the real causes of the decline began with the dangers in the reigns of the 2 [preceding] emperors, Huan and Ling.
Huan imprisoned good people and trusted the eunuchs. When Huan died, Ling ascended to the throne. Grand General Dou Wu and Imperial Tutor Chen Fan tried to work together as assistants. At that time there was a eunuch Cao Jie who sought power, and Dou Wu and Chen Fan planned to have him put to death, but they were not secretive enough, and they came to bad ends. So the power of the eunuchs grew even stronger.
In the second year of Established Calm (AD169), on an unknown day, the emperor went in state to the Hall of Temperate Virtue. Approaching the throne, suddenly a strange wind rose up from the castle's corners, only to see a giant green snake descending from the rafters and coiling up right upon the seat! The emperor collapsed in surprise, and his attendants rushed him into the palace, while the rest of the officials fled. Then the serpent disappeared. But a huge thunderstorm, adding hail, fell half the night before stopping, damaging countless homes.
In second month of the fourth year of Established Calm, LuoYang had an earthquake; also the sea flooded and the people who lived along the shore were all dragged into the sea by huge waves.
In the first year of Radiant Harmony, female chickens changed into males. On the first day of the sixth month, black smoke more than 100 feet long flew into the Hall of Temperate Virtue. In the seventh month of fall, rainbows were seen in the Jade Hall. Further, the slopes of the Five Original Mountains completely collapsed. The evil omens went on and on like this, without stopping.
The emperor called together his officials to ask the cause of the strange disasters. A court official named Cai Yong thought that rainbows falling and chickens changing were caused by the feminine influence in the government, speaking quite frankly. The emperor heaved a sigh, and went to change his clothes. Cao Jie was in the back, stealing glances, and he informed his collaborators. Then they framed Cai Yong for a crime, and he was forced to return to the fields. After that, Zhang Rang, Zhao Zhong, Feng Xu, Duan Gui, Cao Jie, Hou Lan, Jian Shuo, Cheng Kuang, Xia Yun, and Guo Sheng, 10 rivals in wickedness, were called 'the ten regular attendants'. The emperor respected Zhang Rang so much that he even called him papa. Thus, the days of the dynasty's rule had passed, and the people pondered rebellion, and bandits swarmed the land.
At this time in Julu County, there were 3 brothers named Zhang Jue, Zhang Bao, and Zhang Liang. Zhang Jue was an unranked scholar. While in the mountains picking medicine, he met an old man, with green eyes and a childish face, holding a pigweed staff, who called him into a cave, and heavenly writings, three rolls worth, awarded him, saying, "These are called the Vital Art of Peace, take them, proclaim a new age, and save the people everywhere; but if the people are not with you, you will be punished." Jue respectfully asked his name. The old man spoke, "I am the old spirit of the Southern Motherland." And the words done, with a whiff of air, he vanished.
Jue took these books, studying day and night, until he could call wind and command rain, and he was called the Peace Priest. In the first month of the first year of Central Peace, a plague spread, and Zhang Jue traveled distributing holy water, which helped people control the sickness, and calling himself his holy excellence teacher. Jue had more than 500 disciples who traveled wide as clouds and who could all write charms and say spells. As the days passed, his disciples grew ever more. He set up 37 levels, the biggest with more than 10,000 people, and the the smaller ones with 6 or 7 thousand each. Each level had a commandeer, who was called General. They blasphemed, "The time of the blue heaven is over. The age of the golden heaven has arrived," or saying, "A new epoch begins. May all beings be blessed." and commanding people to write the characters for the new year on their doors. People from Qing, You, Xu, Ji, Jing, Yang, Yan, Yu, 8 states, all the households, served in the name of His Holy Excellence Teacher Zhang Jue. Jue sent his associate Ma Yuan Yi to secretly offer gold and silk to connect with the eunuch Feng Xu, who he believed could get him in. He discussed the issue with his 2 brothers, saying, "The hard part is winning the people's hearts. Now the people's hearts are already in accord, and were we not to use this power to seize all, it would honestly be a shame." So on one side, they began making yellow flags, and planned a time to start the matter. On the other side, he sent his follower Tang Zhou to rush a report to Feng Xu. On his journey through the province, Tang Zhou let out about the rebellion. The emperor called General He Jin to move troops to capture Ma Yuan Yi, and he was beheaded. Afterwards Feng Xu and many more were cast into prison.
Once Zhang Jue learned of the situation, he raised his armies by night, and called himself, honorable general of heaven -- Zhang Bao was called the honorable general of earth, and Zhang Liang was called honorable general of people. Raising his voices to the masses, he said,
"Today, the fortune of Han is over!
Your messiah has come!
Serve to achieve the will of heaven!
that you may find peace."
People from all over put on yellow scarves to join Zhang Jue's revolt, 4 or 5 hundred thousand. The criminals' power grew stronger, and the official troops turned tail and ran like the wind. He Jin called for the emperor's immediate edict (of retreat?), while commanding every area to prepare defenses, and march against the criminals; On each side were dispatched the expert generals Lu Zhi, HuangFu Song, and Zhu Jun, leading elite troops to attack them from 3 sides.
Zhang Jue then marched his troops together, and first attacked the border section of YouZhou (near modern day HeBei and BeiJing). The governor of YouZhou was Liu Yan, who came from Jiang Xia in Jing Ling (HuBei), and was a descendent of the Han king Lu Gong; when he heard of the rebel army's impending arrival, he called his officer Zou Jing for advice. Jing said, "The rebels are many and our forces are few. We had better announce immediate recruitments to oppose the enemy." Liu Yan listened to his advice, then promptly issued the call for good soldiers. One announcement was placed in the country of Zhuo where it attracted from the county a hero.
This man was no big reader. He had a calm disposition, was sparing with words, and didn't let on whether pleased or angry. He was ambitious, and especially liked to meet the heros of this world. He stood 7 and a half feet tall, while his ears drooped to his shoulders, and his hands went past his knees; his eyes could watch his ears, his face was like prize jade, and his lips as if wearing lipstick.
He was the descendent of the (pacifist?) Jing King of Zhong Shan Liu Sheng, a lost grandchild of the house of the Han Emperors. His name was Liu Bei, but he was called Xuan De (mysterious virtue).
In the old days, the son of Liu Sheng, Liu Zhen, during the Han Military Epoch, was appointed as a duke of ZhuoLu, but because of missing money, was demoted, losing his position in the county. Xuan De's grandfather was Liu Xiong, and his father Liu Hong, who passed his examinations and received an appointment, but died young. Xuan was left alone so early, but he cared for his mother faithfully. The family was poor so he sold sandals and weaved mats. The family remained in the same county, in the village of LouSang (Mulberry Place). In the southwest corner of the yard, there was a gigantic mulberry tree, more than 50 feet tall, from a far, it could be imagined as a car canopy. A soothsayer had prophesized, "This home will produce someone great."
When Xuan De was young, and playing with the neighborhood children beneath the tree, he would say "I am the emperor, riding in my chariot". His uncle took note, saying "This is no ordinary boy," and since his family was poor, often supplied him with some support. When he was 15, his mother sent him out to be educated. His teachers included Zheng Xuan and Lu Zhi. He also became friends with Gong Sun Zan. When Liu Yan issued the edict calling for soldiers Xuan De was just 28 years old.
When he saw the announcement, he sadly let out a long sigh. Behind him, a man said sternly, "If you don't exert yourself for your country, what's the point in sighing?"
Turning Xuan De looked at the man: a leopard's head, with large eyes, a swallow's chin, and tiger's whiskers, a voice like tremendous thunder, forceful like a galloping horse. Xuan De noted his unusual appearance, and asked his name.
The other answered, "They call my family Zhang, and my name is Fei, but I am known as Yi De (wing virtue). Abiding in ZhuoJun, depending on a small farm to sell wine, and butcher pigs, I especially like to befriend the heros of this world. Just now I noted your sighs as you looked at this sign, and so I asked."
Xuan De said, "I am a descendent of the house of Han, surnamed Liu, called Bei. Having now heard that the Yellow Scarfs have begun their rebellion, I have the desire to smash the thieves and save the people, but loathe my lack of strength, so I sigh."
Fei said, "I have decent resources, so as to recruit our local heros, so what say we work together?"
Xuan De was overjoyed, and they thus went together to a village shop to drink.
Just in the middle of their drink, they saw a large Han pushing a cart, rest at the front door of the shop; entering the shop and taking a seat, he called for wine: "And be quick about it, for I am headed into the city to enlist." Xuan De looked him over: 9 feet tall with a 2 foot beard, a face like a fat date, lips that looked painted, red phoenix eyes, curled silkworm eyebrows: his appearance was majestic, his might imposing. Xuan De then invited him to sit with them and asked his name. The other man said, "My surname is Guan, called Yu, known as Shou Chang (Life Long), later changed to Yun Chang (Cloud Long), coming from good folk East of the river. Because a powerful personage there relied on his position to exploit people, I killed him. Now I have fled over rivers and lakes for 5 or 6 years. Now having heard that they are recruiting troops to break the rebellion, I have come to enlist." Xuan De then told him of his own plans. Yun Chang was greatly pleased. Together they went to Zhang Fei's village to discuss matters.
Fei said, "Behind my village, there is a peach garden. When the flowers open, it is really magnificent. Tomorrow, in this garden, let us offer sacrifices to heaven and earth, and we three will be united in brotherhood, working together with one heart, and afterwards we will design our plans."
Xuan De and Yun Chang replied in unison, "That's excellent."
The following day, in the peach garden, after preparing a black bull and a white horse among other offerings, the three men burnt incense, prayed and swore: "So say Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei, though of different surnames, now become brothers, and work together with one heart, saving each other from distress, supporting each other when in danger; We will serve our country and secure our citizens. We ask not for the same day of birth, but desire the same day of death. Emperor of Heaven and Queen of Earth, bear witness to our hearts. If we turn our backs on justice, or forget to practice kindness, may heaven's agents smite us." The oath completed, Xuan De was acknowledged as the elder brother, with Guan Yu next, and Zhang Fei as the youngest. The sacrifice finished, they turned to butchering more beef and preparing wine, and all the brave men of the village, making more than 300, drank together until they were drunk. When day came, they gathered military equipment, but were disappointed they had no horses to ride.
This was a serious dilemma, but people reported, "2 visitors have been led here by one of our companions; with a herd of horses, they have come to the village." Xuan De said, "Thus heaven assists us!" The three men went out of the village to welcome them. As it turned out, the 2 men were major traders from Zhong Shan. One was named Zhang ShiPing, and other was named Su Shuang. Every year they went north to trade horses, but because of the difficulties with the spread of bandits had just turned back. Xuan De invited the 2 men to the village, served them with wine, and told them of their plans to march against the bandits to protect the people. The 2 men were extremely pleased and offered to give them 50 excellent horses, as well as 500 pieces of gold and silver, and 1000 pounds of fine iron to use for tools.
After Xuan De thanked them and bid them farewell, he ordered fine craftsmen to make 2 swords. Yun Chang made a green dragon crescent moon blade called Cold Color Saw, weighing 82 pounds. Zhang Fei made a 10 foot 8 pointed steel spear. Each was covered in complete body armor.
Altogether more than 500 brave men of the area gathered to appear before Zou Jing. Zou Jing led them to see the governor Liu Yan. After the 3 men presented themselves, each gave his name. When Xuan De mentioned his ancestry, Liu Yan was very pleased, and acknowledged Xuan De as a nephew.
It was not many days before men reported that the Yellow Scarf bandit general Cheng Yuan Zhi together with 50,000 soldiers had come to attack ZhuoJun. Liu Yan ordered Zou Jing to lead Xuan De and 3 others together with 500 soldiers in the advance attack. Xuan De gladly led the troops forward up to the foot of the DaXing mountains where they encountered the bandits. The hordes of bandits had wild hair, with their yellow scarves wrapped around their foreheads.
As the 2 armies faced each other, Xuan De rode out, with Yun Chang on his left, and Yi De on his right, vehemently scolding, "Traitorous rebels, why not surrender sooner?"
Cheng YuanZhi was infuriated and dispatched General Fu DengMao to the battle. Zhang Fei lifted his 10 foot 8 serpent spear and rode straight out; his hand flew true and pierced DengMao right through the heart. Cheng YuanZhi, seeing DengMao cut down, drove his horse forward brandishing his blade straight for Zhang Fei. Yun Chang waved his blade, leaping forward on his horse. Cheng YuanZhi saw him, and was immediately terrified. Unable to respond, Yun Chang's blade hit the mark, and he was chopped in 2. Later generations have poems celebrating these 2 men:
The heros' skill still recognized today,
one with his spear and one with his blade.
First facing the general, their might was unveiled.
Now on all sides their names are acclaimed.
When the bandit hoards saw Cheng YuanZhi decapitated, they threw down their spears and fled. Xuan De led the pursuit. Countless numbers surrendered, and they returned in victory. Liu Yan himself welcomed them and rewarded the hard work of the officers.
The next day, they received word from the governor of Qing Zhou, Gong Jing, saying the Yellow Scarf bandits' siege of the city would soon capture them, and begging for assistance. Liu Yan and Xuan De discussed the situation. Xuan De said, "We are ready and willing to save them." Liu Yan orderd Zou Jing to lead 5000 soldiers, with Xuan De, Guan, Zhang, to Qing Zhou.
The bandit hoards saw the rescue troops approaching, and split them in the wild fighting. Xuan De's few troops could not attain victory, and retreated some 15 km to make camp. Xuan De spoke with Guan and Zhang, "The bandits are many, and we few. We must lay an ambush, and thus seize victory."
So Sir Guan led 1000 soldiers to hide behind the hills on the left, and Zhang Fei led 1000 soldiers to hide behind the hills on the right. When the gongs gave the signal, they would rush out simultaneously to give support.
The next day, Xuan De and Zou Jing led the troops forward with a great fanfare of drums. As the bandit hoard welcomed the battle, Xuan De then led his troops to retreat. The bandit hoard seized the opportunity to pursue them, but as they came over the mountain ridge, Xuan De's troops sounded the gongs, and the two forces rushed out from the left and right. Xuan De signaled the resumption of the slaughter. The bandit hoard was crushed by the three-sided attack. They fled towards Qing Zhou, but Governor Gong Jing led his militia out of the city to help in the battle. The bandits' power was demolished, and vast numbers annihilated, and so the siege of Qing Zhou was resolved. Later generations have poems celebrating Xuan De:
Apt strategy achieves miraculous feats,
As 2 tigers yield to a single dragon.
From the start deploying mighty deeds,
The divided empire should have been yours alone.
After Gong Jing had given the troops bonuses, Zou Jing wanted to return home. Xuan De said, "We recently heard that Imperial Commander Lu Zhi is battling with the bandit leader Zhang Jue as Guang Zong. In former times, he was my teacher, so I wish to go help him." So Zou Jing led his own troops home, while Xuan De with Guan and Zhang led their original 500 men to Guang Zong. Arriving amidst his troops, they entered his tent and saluted, stating their intentions. Lu Zhi was extremely pleased, and they remained with him in his tent to listen to his preparations.
At that time, Zhang Jue's bandit hoard counted 150,000 men, while Zhi's soldiers were only 50,000. They held each other off at Guang Zong, with neither able to achieve a decisive victory. Zhi told Xuan De, "I have the bandits surrounded here. The bandit brothers Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao are at the Ying River. Huang FuSong and Zhu Jun are encamped across from them. You can lead these men, and another 1000 I can aid you with, to scout out information and prepare for the assault."
Xuan De followed the order, and led the troops under a starry night to the Ying River. At that time, Huang FuSong and Zhu Jun were commanding troops to repel the bandits, and the battle was not to the bandits' advantage, and they had retreated to ChangShe, and set up camp in a grassy area. Song plotted with Jun: "The bandits have set up camp in the grass, so we can use fire to attack them."
Thus, they commanded all the officers and every man to take a bundle of grass and secretly prepared their ambush.
That night a great wind suddenly rose up. Nearing midnight, just as they started the fire, Song and Jun led their troops to attack the bandit camp, and as the flames reached to heaven, the bandit hoard panicked, with no time to saddle their horses, no time to don their armor, they scattered in all directions. The slaughtering continued until the following day. Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao managed to lead their utterly devastated officers to sneak away.
Suddenly appeared a leopard like calvary, flying red flags, blocking their path. At their head was a glittering general, 7 feet tall, with thin eyes and long whiskers, commander of the officers of the Capital Cavalry, a native of PeiGuo, QiaoJun, surnamed Cao, also named Cao, called Meng De. Cao's father was Cao Song, originally titled Prince Xia. Since he had been raised by the eunuch Cao Tseng, he had thus taken the name. Cao Song gave birth to Cao, who was called Aman in his youth, and also know as Ji Li (Auspicious Advantage). In Cao's youth, he liked to go hunting, and enjoyed music and dancing. He was cunning and extremely adaptable. He had an uncle who, seeing his excessive habits, would get angry with him, and speak to Cao Song. Song reproached Cao. Cao then immediately hatched a plot: Seeing his uncle approaching, he pretended to fall on the ground, as if he were suffering from a fit. His uncle hastened to tell Song, and Song quickly came to see, but Cao was completely fine.
Song said, "Your uncle said you had some fit, but now you have already recovered?"
Cao said, "I've never had any such sickness. Having lost my uncle's affection, he spreads such rumors."
Song believed his words. Afterwords, though the uncle would only say what Cao did, Song completely refused to believe him. Thus, Cao was able to act outlandishly and without restraint.
A mystic among the people of the time told Cao: "The world will be cast into disarray, and generation decimating abilities will not suffice. Won't you be he who brings peace?" He Yong of NanYang saw Cao, saying, "When the house of Han is over, it will have to be this man who brings peace." Xu Shao of RuNan was known for his insight. Cao went to see him, asking, "What kind of man am I?" Shao did not answer. After being asked again, Shao said, "While the emperor controls the empire, an able vassal; When revolution rages, a wicked hero." Cao Cao was delighted to hear these words. At 22, he passed the second level examinations to become an official, and was posted outside of the northern capital of LuoYang. As soon as he reached his post, he had all kinds of clubs hung up in the 4 county gates. All violators, regardless of the reputations or connections, were punished. The uncle of the eunuch Jian Shuo was carrying a sword at night, and Cao's patrol apprehended him and gave him the club punishment. After that, no one dared break the rules, and his mighty name caused considerable excitement. Afterwards he became the magistrate of Dun Qiu. Because of the rise of the Yellow Scarves, he had joined the capital's calvary and led 5000 troops, and had previously come to the Ying River to help in the fight.
Just as Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao were being defeated, Cao Cao blocked their escape, immediately attacking, beheading thousands, seizing their flags, and extreme amounts of gold, drums, and horses. Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao however escaped from the fatal battle. Cao saw Huang FuSong and Zhu Jun, and then immediately led troops to pursue Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao.
Meanwhile, Xuan De was leading Guan and Zhang towards the Ying River, and they heard the sound of the death cries and saw the lights of the fire illuminating the sky. They hastened their soldiers forward, but the bandits had already been defeated and dispersed. Xuan De met with Huang FuSong and Zhu Jun and told them Lu Zhi's intentions. Song said, "Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao's power has been exhausted, but they will head to Guang Zong to support Zhang Jue. You should look to assist him this very night."
Xuan De accepted the order, and so led his troops back. Halfway back, they encountered a party of horsemen delivering a cage, and the prisoner inside was in fact Lu Zhi. Xuan De was greatly shocked, and quickly dismounted and asked the cause of this misfortune. Zhi said, "I had Zhang Jue surrounded, so that this time he would finally be smashed, but due to his use of wicked arts, was not yet able to defeat him. The royal court sent the eunuch Zuo Feng to investigate, and he demanded a bribe. I replied 'Soldiers' provisions are limited. In peace, might there be enough surplus money for offerings to angels?' Zou Feng was infuriated and returned to the court saying that I hid in the camp without fighting, and discouraged the soldiers, and so the court was outraged, and sent commander Dong Zhuo to replace me as general of the troops, and I am being taken back to the capital to answer the charges."
Zhang Fei having heard this flew into a rage and wanted to chop the cage guards to pieces and rescue Lu Zhi. Xuan De quickly stopped him, saying, "The court must follow its official course. How would we dare to interfere?" So the soldiers carried Lu Zhi on. Honorable Guan said, "Commander Lu has been arrested, and someone else commands the troops, so I suppose there's little reason to go there; Why not return to ZhuoJun?" Xuan De heeded his words, and thus led their troop northward.
Not even 2 days on the road, they suddenly heard behind the hills the sound of cries and clash of battle. Xuan De quickly led Guan and Zhang to a high ridge where they could look down, and they saw Han troops facing a heavy defeat, behind them swarming over the mountains and filling the passes, the Yellow Scarves covered the ground as they came. On their flags was written "General Heavenly Prince". Xuan De said, "It's Zhang Jue. Quickly to the battle!"
The 3 men flew upon their horses leading their men out to the battle. Zhang Jue was just on the verge of decimating Dong Zhuo, and hastening to ensure his advantage, when he suddenly encountered the 3 men's charge, throwing his troops into disarray, and driving them back 25 km. The three men rescued Dong Zhuo and returned to his camp. Zhuo asked the 3 men their titles. Xuan De answered, "Just people." Zhuo was then extremely casual and impolite to them. Xuan De went out, and Zhang Fei was very angry, saying "We ourselves just come upon this bloody battle and rescued this lackey, and then he is so impolite to us. If I don't kill him, it will be difficult to appease my anger." Then we wanted to take his sword into the tent and kill Dong Zhuo.
People's arrogance of old is still the same today.
Who will recognize the heros are just common folk?
To appease the hasty like Zhang Fei,
One would execute all the world's dolts.
How the outcome of Dong Zhuo's destiny comes about will be shown in the following chapters.