Yuan Shao Fights Gongsun Zan At The River
[e] The Yangtze or Yangzi river, which flows from west to east to the Pacific at Shanghai.
At the close of the last chapter Sun Jian was surrounded. However, aided by Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, and Han Dang, he eventually fought his way through, though with the loss of more than half his troops. Sun Jian he returned to the South Land, southeast of the Great River*. Henceforward Sun Jian and Liu Biao were open enemies.
Yuan Shao was in Henei. Being short of supplies, he sent to borrow from the Imperial Protector of Jizhou, Han Fu, whence he obtained the wherewithal to support his army.
Then one of Yuan Shao's advisers, Peng Ji, said to him, "You are really the strongest power here about. Why then depend upon another for food? Jizhou Region is rich and wide. Why not seize it?"
"I have no good plan," replied Yuan Shao.
"You could secretly send a letter to Gongsun Zan, asking him to attack, promising him your support. Imperial Protector Han Fu of Jizhou, being incapable, must ask you to take over his region, and you will get it without lifting a finger."
So the letter was sent. When Gongsun Zan saw therein the proposal to make a joint attack and divide the territory, he agreed to give his help. In the meantime Yuan Shao had sent to warn Han Fu of Gongsun Zan's threat. Han Fu sought advice from Advisers Xun Chang and Xin Ping.
Xun Chang said, "Governor Gongsun Zan of Beiping is commanding a huge and strong army. If he came to attack us, we could not stand against him, especially if he had the help of Liu Bei and his brothers. At present, Yuan Shao is bolder than most, and he has many able and famous leaders under him. You cannot do better than ask him to assist in administering this region. Yuan Shao will certainly treat you with generosity, and you need have no fear from Gongsun Zan."
Han Fu agreed and sent a message to Yuan Shao by the hand of Guan Chun.
But the commander of the palace, Geng Wu, remonstrated with his master, saying, "Yuan Shao is a needy man with a hungry army and as dependent on us for existence as an infant in arms on its mother. Stop the flow of milk and the infant dies. Why should you hand the region over to him? It is nothing less than letting a tiger into the sheepfold."
Han Fu replied, "I am one of the clients of the Yuan family, and I know the abilities of Yuan Shao, which is far better than mine. Why are you all so jealous? The ancients counseled yielding to the sage."
Geng Wu sighed, "Jizhou is lost!"
When the news got abroad, more than thirty officers of Jizhou left their employment and the city. However, Geng Wu and Guan Chun hid in the suburbs to await the arrival of Yuan Shao.
[e] Each region had a capital, which was often of the same name with the region.
They had not long to wait. Some days later, Yuan Shao with his soldiers came, and Geng Wu and Guan Chun tried to assassinate him with knives. This attempt failed. Yuan Shao's generals, Yan Liang and Wen Chou, beheaded Geng Wu and Guan Chun instantly. Thus both of them died, and the object of their hatred entered Jizhou City*.
Yuan Shao's first act was to confer on Han Fu a high sounding title---General Who Demonstrates Grand and Vigor Courage in Arms---, but the administration was entrusted to four of Yuan Shao's confidants---Tian Feng, Ju Shou, Xu You, and Peng Ji---who speedily deprived the Imperial Protector of all power. Full of chagrin, Han Fu soon abandoned all, even his family, and rode alone to take refuge with the Governor of Chenliu, Zhang Miao.
Hearing of Yuan Shao's invasion, Gongsun Zan sent his brother, Gongsun Yue, to see the usurper and demand his share of the region.
"I want to see your elder brother himself. He and I have things to discuss," said Yuan Shao.
Thus Gongsun Yue was sent back. But after traveling some fifteen miles on the homeward road, Gongsun Yue saw a group of soldiers appear.
"We are guards of Prime Minister Dong Zhuo!" cried the soldiers.
Instantly, Gongsun Yue was killed by a flight of arrows. Those of Gongsun Yue's followers who escaped carried the news to their late master's brother.
Gongsun Zan was very angry and said, "Yuan Shao prevailed on me to attack, and now he has taken possession. Also he pretends the murderers of my brother were not his people. Shall I not avenge my brother's injury?"
Gongsun Zan brought up all his force to the attack. Learning the movement, Yuan Shao sent out his army, and they met at River Pan. They halted on opposite sides of the river, over which was a bridge.
Gongsun Zan took his station on the bridge and cried to his enemy, "Renegade, how dared you mislead me?"
Yuan Shao rode to the other end of the bridge and, pointing at Gongsun Zan, replied, "Han Fu yielded place to me because he was unequal to the rule. What concern is it of yours?"
Gongsun Zan replied, "Formerly you were regarded as loyal and public spirited, and we chose you chief of the confederacy. Now your deeds prove you cruel and base and wolf-hearted in behavior. How can you look the world in the face?"
"Who will capture him?" cried Yuan Shao in a rage.
At once Wen Chou rode out with his spear set. Gongsun Zan rode down the bridge to the enemy's side, where the two engaged. Ten bouts showed Gongsun Zan the terrible power of Wen Chou, and so he drew off. The enemy came on. Gongsun Zan took refuge within his formation, but Wen Chou cut his way in and rode this way and that, slaying right and left. The four best of Gongsun Zan's generals offered joint battle, but one fell under the first stroke of the doughty warrior, and the other three fled. Wen Chou followed clearing through to the rear of the army. Gongsun Zan made for the mountains.
Wen Chou forced his horse to its utmost pace, crying hoarsely, "Down! Dismount and surrender!"
Gongsun Zan fled for life. His bow and quiver dropped from his shoulders, his helmet fell off, and his hair streamed straight behind him as he rode in and out between the sloping hills. Then his steed stumbled and he was thrown, rolling over and over to the foot of the slope.
Wen Chou was now very near and poising his spear for the thrust. Then suddenly came out from the shelter of a grassy mound on the left a general of youthful mien, but sitting his steed bravely and holding a sturdy spear. He rode directly at Wen Chou, and Gongsun Zan crawled up the slope to look on.
The new warrior was of middle height with bushy eyebrows and large eyes, a broad face and a heavy jowl, a youth of commanding presence. The two exchanged some fifty bouts and yet neither had the advantage. Then Gongsun Zan's rescue force came along, and Wen Chou turned and rode away. The youth did not pursue.
Gongsun Zan hurried down the hill and asked the young fellow who he was.
He bowed low and replied, "My name is Zhao Yun from Changshan. I first served Yuan Shao; but when I saw that he was disloyal to his prince and careless of the welfare of the people, I left him and I was on my way to offer service to you. This meeting in this place is most unexpected."
Gongsun Zan was very pleased, and the two went together to the camp, where they at once busied themselves with preparations for a new battle.
Next day Gongsun Zan prepared for fight by dividing his army into two wings. He had five thousand cavalry in the center, all mounted on white horses. Gongsun Zan had formerly seen service against the northern frontier tribes, the Qiang Peoples, where he always placed his white horses in the van of his army, and thus he had won the sobriquet of General Who Commands White Horses. The tribes held him so much in fear that they always fled as soon as the white horses, their sacred creatures, appeared.
On Yuan Shao's side Yan Liang and Wen Chou were Leaders of the Van. Each had one thousand of archers and crossbowmen. They were set out half on either side, those on the left to shoot at Gongsun Zan's right and those on the right to shoot at his left. In the center was Qu Yi with eight hundred bowmen and ten thousand of foot and horse. Yuan Shao took command of the reserve force in the rear.
In this fight Gongsun Zan employed his new adherent Zhao Yun for the first time and, as Gongsun Zan did not feel assured of Zhao Yun's good faith, put him in command of a company at the rear. The Van Leader was Yan Guang, and Gongsun Zan himself commanded the center. He took his place on horseback on the bridge beside an enormous red standard on which was displayed the word Commanding General in gold embroidery.
From sunrise to noon the drums rolled for the attack, but Yuan Shao's army made no move. Qu Yi made his bowmen hide under their shields. They heard the roar of explosions, the whistling of arrows, and the rattle of the drums, as Yan Guang approached from the other side, but Qu Yi and his men lay closer than ever and never stirred. They waited till Yan Guang had got close on them and then, as the sound of a bomb rent the air, the whole eight hundred men let fly their arrows in a cloud. Yan Guang was quite taken aback and would have retired, but Qu Yi rode furiously toward him, whirled up his sword and cut him down.
So Gongsun Zan's army lost that battle. The two wings that should have come to the rescue were kept back by the bowmen under Yan Liang and Wen Chou. Yuan Shao's troops advanced right up to the bridge. Then Qu Yi rode forward, slew the standard bearer, and hacked through the staff of the embroidered banner. Seeing this, Gongsun Zan turned his steed and galloped away.
Qu Yi followed. But just as he caught up the fugitive, there came prancing forth Zhao Yun, who rode directly at him with spear ready to strike. After a few bouts Qu Yi was laid in the dust. Then Zhao Yun attacked the soldiers and turned the tide. Plunging forward on this side, dashing in on that, he went through as if there were no antagonists and, seeing this, Gongsun Zan turned and came again into the fight. The final victory was on his side.
From the scouts sent to find out how the battle went, Yuan Shao heard the good news of Qu Yi's success in slaying the standard bearer, capturing the flag, and his pursuit. So Yuan Shao took no further care but rode out with his General Tian Feng and a few guards to look on at the enemy and enjoy his victory.
"Ha ha!" Yuan Shao laughed. "Gongsun Zan is an incapable."
But even as Yuan Shao spoke, he saw in front the redoubtable Zhao Yun. His guards hastened to prepare their bows, but before they could shoot, Zhao Yun was in their midst, and men were falling before him wherever he went. The others fled. Gongsun Zan's army then gathered round and hemmed in Yuan Shao.
Tian Feng then said to his master, "Sir, take refuge in this empty building here!"
But Yuan Shao dashed his helmet to the ground, crying, "The brave one rather faces death in the battle than seeks safety behind a wall!"
This bold speech gave new courage to his soldiers who now fought fiercely and with such success that Zhao Yun could nowhere force his way in. Yuan Shao was soon reinforced by the arrival of his main body and Yan Liang, and the two armies pressed forward. Zhao Yun could only just get Gongsun Zan safe out of the press. Then they fought their way back to the bridge. But Yuan Shao's troops still came on and fought their way across the bridge, forcing multitudes of their adversaries into the water, where many were drowned.
Yuan Shao was leading in person and his troops still advanced. But not more than two miles, for soon a great shouting was heard behind some hills, whence suddenly burst out a body of troops led by Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei.
At Pingyuan they had heard of the struggle between their protector and his enemy, Yuan Shao, and had at once set out to help. Now the three riders, each with his peculiar weapon, flew straight at Yuan Shao, who was so frightened that his soul seemed to leave his body and fly beyond the confines of heaven.
His sword fell from his hand and he fled for his life. He was chased across the bridge when Gongsun Zan called in his army, and they returned to camp.
After the usual greetings Gongsun Zan said, "If you had not come to our help, we should have been in very bad case."
Liu Bei and Zhao Yun were made acquainted with each other, and a warm affection sprang up from the very first so that they were always together.
Yuan Shao had lost that battle, and Gongsun Zan would not risk another. They strengthened their defenses, and the armies lay inactive for over a month. In the meantime news of the fighting had reached Capital Changan, and Dong Zhuo was told.
His adviser, Li Ru, went to see his master and said, "The two active leaders of today are Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan, who are at grips at River Pan. Pretend you have an imperial command to make peace between them, and both will support you out of gratitude for your intervention."
"Good!" said Dong Zhuo.
So he sent the Imperial Guardian, Ma Midi, and the Minister of the Palace Bureau, Zhao Qi, on the mission. When these men were arriving at the North of Yellow River, Yuan Shao sent out to welcome them thirty miles from his headquarters and received the imperial command with the greatest respect. Then the two officers went to Gongsun Zan and made known their errand. Gongsun Zan sent letters to his adversary proposing friendship. The two emissaries returned to report their task accomplished. Gongsun Zan drew off his army. He also sent up a memorial eulogizing Liu Bei, who was raised to the rank of Governor of Pingyuan.
The farewell between Liu Bei and Zhao Yun was affecting. They held each other's hands a long time, their eyes streaming with tears, and could not tear themselves apart.
Zhao Yun said with a sob, "I used to think Gongsun Zan a true hero, but I see now that he is no different from Yuan Shao. They are both alike."
"But you are now in his service. We shall surely meet again," said Liu Bei.
Both men wept freely as they separated.
Now Yuan Shu in Nanyang, hearing that his brother had come into Jizhou, sent to beg a thousand horses. The request was refused and enmity sprang up between the brothers. Yuan Shu also sent to Jingzhou to borrow grain, which Imperial Protector Liu Biao would not send. In his resentment, Yuan Shu wrote to Sun Jian trying to get him to attack Liu Biao. The letter ran like this:
"When Liu Biao stopped you on your way home, it was at the instigation of my brother. Now the same two have planned to fall upon your territories southeast of the Great River, wherefore you should at once strike at Liu Biao. I will capture my brother for you and both resentments will be appeased. You will get Jingzhou, and I shall have Jizhou."
"I cannot bear Liu Biao," said Sun Jian as he finished reading this letter. "He certainly did bar my way home, and I may wait many years for my revenge if I let slip this chance."
He called a council.
"You may not trust Yuan Shu. He is very deceitful," said Cheng Pu.
"I want revenge on my own part. What care I for his help?" said Sun Jian.
He dispatched Huang Gai to prepare a river fleet, arm and provision them. Big warships were to take horses on board. The force soon set out.
News of these preparations came to Liu Biao, and he hastily summoned his advisers and warriors.
Kuai Liang told him to be free from anxiety, and said, "Put General Huang Zu at the head of the Jiangxia army to make the first attack and you, Sir, support him with the forces from Xiangyang. Let Sun Jian come riding the rivers and straddling the lakes: What strength will he have left after arriving here?"
So Liu Biao bade Huang Zu prepare to march, and a great army was assembled.
Here it may be said that Sun Jian had four sons, all the issue of his wife who was of the Wu family. Their names in order were Sun Ce, Sun Quan, Sun Yi, and Sun Kuang. Sun Jian had a second wife who was the sister of his first wife. And the second wife bore him a son and a daughter, the former called Sun Lang, the latter Sun Ren. Sun Jian had also adopted a son from a Yu family and named him Sun Hu. And he had a younger brother named Sun Jing.
As Sun Jian was leaving on this expedition, his brother Sun Jing with all his six sons stood in front of Sun Jian's steed and dissuaded him, saying, "Dong Zhuo is the real ruler of the state, for the Emperor is a weakling. The whole country is in rebellion, everyone is scrambling for territory. Our area is comparatively peaceful, and it is wrong to begin a war merely for the sake of a little resentment. I pray you, brother, think before you start."
Sun Jian replied, "Brother, say no more. I desire to make my strength felt throughout the empire, and shall I not avenge my injuries?"
"Then father, if you must go, let me accompany you," said the eldest son Sun Ce.
This request was granted, and father and son embarked to go to ravage the city of Fankou.
Now Huang Zu had placed archers and crossbowmen along the river bank. When the ships approached, a flight of arrows met them. Sun Jian ordered his troops to remain under cover in the ships, which then sailed to and fro, drawing the fire for three days. Several times the ships pretended to land, and this drew showers of arrows from the bank. At last the arrows of the defenders were all shot away and Sun Jian, who collected them, found he had many myriads. Then with a fair wind Sun Jian's troops shot them back to the enemy. Those on the bank were thrown into great disorder and retired. The army then landed. Two divisions led by Cheng Pu and Huang Gai set out for Huang Zu's camp along different roads, and between them marched Han Dang. Under this triple attack Huang Zu was worsted. He left Fankou and hastened to Dengcheng.
Leaving the ships under the command of Huang Gai, Sun Jian led the pursuing force. Huang Zu came out of his city and drew up for battle in the open country. When Sun Jian had disposed his army, he rode out to the standard. Sun Ce, clad in armor, placed himself beside his father.
Huang Zu rode out with two generals---Zhang Hui from Jiangxia and Chen Sheng from Xiangyang.
Flourishing his whip, Huang Zu abused his enemy, "You swarm of rebels from Changsha! Why do you invade the land of a scion of the ruling house?"
Zhang Hui challenged to combat, and Han Dang went out to accept. The two champions fought thirty bouts, and then Chen Sheng, seeing his fellow general becoming exhausted, rode to his aid. Sun Jian saw Chen Sheng coming, laid aside his spear, reached for his bow, and shot an arrow wounding Chen Sheng in the face. He fell from his horse. Panic seized upon Zhang Hui at the fall of his comrade, and he could no longer defend himself. Then Han Dang with a slash of his sword clove Zhang Hui's skull in twain.
Both having fallen, Cheng Pu galloped up to make prisoner of Huang Zu, who threw off his helmet, slipped from his steed, and mingled for safety among his troops. Sun Jian led on the attack and drove the enemy to the Han River where he ordered Huang Gai to move the fleet upriver and moor there.
Huang Zu led his defeated troops back and told Liu Biao, saying, "Sun Jian was too strong for my army."
Kuai Liang was called in to advise, and he said, "Our newly defeated soldiers have no heart for fighting now. Therefore we must fortify our position, while we seek help from Yuan Shao. Then we can extricate ourselves."
"A stupid move!" said Cai Mao. "The enemy is at the city gates: Shall we fold our hands and wait to be slain? Give me troops and I will go out and fight to the finish."
So Cai Mao was placed in command of ten thousand troops and went out to the Xian Hills where he drew up his battle line. Sun Jian led the invaders, now flushed with success.
When Cai Mao approached, Sun Jian looked at him and said, "He is brother-in-law to Liu Biao. Who will capture him?"
Cheng Pu set his iron-spined lance and rode out. After a few bouts Cai Mao turned and fled. Sun Jian's army rode in and slaughtered till corpses filled the countryside, and Cai Mao took refuge in Xiangyang.
Kuai Liang said, "Cai Mao ought to be put to death by military law. This defeat was due to his obstinacy."
But Liu Biao was unwilling to punish the brother of his newly wedded wife.
Sun Jian surrounded Xiangyang and assailed the walls daily. One day a fierce gale sprang up, and the pole bearing his standard was broken.
"Very inauspicious!" said Han Dang. "We ought to go back."
Sun Jian said, "I have won every battle and the city is on the point of falling. Shall I return because the wind felled a flagstaff?"
He flouted the advice and attacked the walls still more vigorously.
Within the city the defenders had seen an omen. Kuai Liang told Liu Biao, "Last night I saw that a great star fall into the sky corresponding to Sun Jian's territory. I calculated that it inferred the fall of Sun Jian."
Then Kuai Liang advised Liu Biao to seek help from Yuan Shao as quickly as possible.
So Liu Biao wrote. Then he asked who would undertake to fight his way through the blockade with the letter. One Lu Gong, a warrior of great strength, offered himself for this service.
Kuai Liang said, "If you undertake this service, listen to my advice. You will have five hundred soldiers: Choose good bowmen. Dash through the enemy's formation and make for Xian Hills. You will be pursued; but send a hundred soldiers up the hill to prepare large stones, and place a hundred archers in ambush in the woods. These are not to flee from the pursuers but to beguile them along devious ways round to the place where the boulders have been prepared. There stones will be rolled down and arrows shot. If you succeed, fire off a series of bombs as a signal, and the armies in the city will come out to help. If you are not pursued, get away as fast as possible. Tonight will be suitable as there is very little moon. Start at dusk."
Lu Gong having received these directions, prepared his force to carry them out. As soon as day began to close in, he went quietly out at the east gate.
Sun Jian was in his tent when he heard shouting, and a soldier came to report: "There was a group of horsemen going out from the city!"
Sun Jian at once mounted and rode out with thirty horsemen to discover the cause. Lu Gong's troops had already hidden themselves in the thick woods. Sun Jian rode ahead of his escort, and soon he found himself alone and close to the enemy. He called out to them to halt. Lu Gong at once turned back and came as if to fight. But they had only exchanged a single pass when Lu Gong again fled, taking the road among the hills. Sun Jian followed but soon lost sight of his foe.
Sun Jian turned up the hill. Then the gongs clanged and down the hills fell showers of stones, while from among the trees the arrows flew in clouds. Sun Jian was hit by several arrows and a huge stone crushed in his head. Both he and his steed were killed. Sun Jian was only thirty-seven years old at his death.
His escort was overpowered and every man of them slain. Then Lu Gong let off a series of bombs, the sign of success, as agreed. At this signal Huang Zu, Kuai Yue, and Cai Mao led three armies out of the city and fell upon the Changsha troops, throwing them into the utmost confusion.
When Huang Gai heard the sound of battle, he led up the troops from the ships. He met Huang Zu and took Huang Zu prisoner after a brief fight.
Cheng Pu set out to bear the sad news to Sun Ce. While he was seeking a way out, he came across Lu Gong. Cheng Pu at once put his horse at full speed and engaged Lu Gong. After a few bouts Lu Gong went down under a spear thrust. The battle became general and continued till daylight broke, when each drew off his army. Liu Biao withdrew into the city.
When Sun Ce returned to the river, he heard that his father had perished in the fight, and his body had been carried within the enemy's walls. He uttered a great cry, and the army joined him with wailing and tears.
"How can I return home leaving my father's corpse with them?" cried Sun Ce.
Huang Gai said, "We have Huang Zu as our prisoner. Let one enter the city and discuss peace, giving up our prisoner for our lord's body."
He had barely finished speaking when an officer in the army, Huan Ji, offered himself as messenger, saying, "I am an old friend of Liu Biao. I volunteer to take the mission."
Sun Ce agreed. So Huan Ji went and peace was discussed.
Liu Biao told Huan Ji, saying, "The body is already laid in a coffin and ready to be delivered as soon as Huang Zu returned. Let us both cease fighting and never again invade each other's territories."
Huan Ji thanked him and took his leave.
But as Huan Ji went down the steps, Kuai Liang suddenly broke in, saying, "No, no! Let me speak and I will see to it that not a single enemy can survive. I pray you first put this man to death and then to employ my means."
The fate of the ambassador will be disclosed in a later chapter.
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