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CHAPTER IIIC.

K'UNG-MING PROPOSES TO RENEW THE ATTACK ON WEI: CHIANG WEI DEFEATS AN ARMY BY MEANS

OF A FORGED LETTER. It was in the autumn of the sixth year that the Wei army was defeated, with very great loss, by Lu Hsün of Wu. Ts'ao Hsiu's mortification brought on an illness from which he died in Loyang. By command of the king he received most honourable burial.

Then Ssúma I brought the army home again. The other officers went to welcome him and asked why he hurried home after a defeat, which affected him also as Master of the Forces. He replied that he came for reasons of strategy, because of K‘ung-ming's probable intentions. They listened and smiled; for they thought he was afraid.

Letters from Wu came to Shu proposing a joint attack on Wei and detailing their recent victory. In these letters two feelings were gratified—that of telling the story of their own grandeur and prowess, and furthering the design of a treaty of peace. The king was pleased and sent the letters to K'ungming in Hanchung.

At that time the army was in excellent state, the men hardy, the horses strong. There were plentiful supplies of all kinds. K‘ung-ming was just going to propose a new war.

On receipt of the letter he made a great banquet to discuss an expedition. A severe gale came on from the north-east and brought down a fir tree in front of the general's shelter. It was an inauspicious omen to all the officers, and they were troubled. K‘ung-ming cast lots to know what portent was intended, and announced the loss of a great leader. They hardly believed him. But before the banquet ended two sons of Chao Yün came and wished to see K‘ung-ming.

K‘ung-ming, deeply affected, threw aside his wine cup and cried, “That is it; Chao Yün is gone."

When the two young men came in they prostrated themselves and wept; their father had died the night before at the third watch. Kung-ming staggered and burst into lamentation.

“My friend is gone; the country has lost its great beam and I my right arm."

Those about him joined in, wiping away their tears. K‘ung-ming bade the two young men go in person to Ch'êngtu to bear the sad tidings to the king. And the king also wept.

"Tzu-lung was my saviour and friend; he saved my life when I was a child in the time of great confusion,” cried the king.

An edict was issued creating the late general "Marquis of Shun-pʻing” and permitting burial on the east of Chinp'ing Hill. A temple was ordered to his memory and sacrifices.

From Ch‘angshan came a captain, tiger-bold,
In wit and valour he was fitting mate
For Kuan and Chang, his exploits rivalling
E'en theirs. Han Waters and Tangyang recall
His name. Twice in his stalwart arms he bore
The prince, his well-loved leader's son and heir.
In storied page his name stands out, writ large,
Fair record of most brave and loyal deeds.

The king showed his affectionate gratitude to the late leader, not only in according him most honourable burial, but in kindness to his sons, the elder, Tóung, being made a "Fiercelyenergetic" Chunglong General and the younger Kuang Ya-mên General. He also set guards over the tomb.

When the two sons had left, the ministers reported to the king that the dispositions of the army were complete, and the leader proposed to march against Wei without delay. Talking this over with one and another, the king found the courtiers much inclined to a cautious policy and somewhat fearful. And the doubts entered into the king's mind so that he could not decide. Then came a memorial from K‘ung-ming, and the messenger, Yang I, was called into the presence and gave it to the king. He spread it on the imperial table and read: “The late Emperor was anxious lest the rebels should set up a rival empire and the legitimate Ruler's domain be restricted. Wherefore he laid upon me, thy minister, to destroy them. Measuring my powers by his perspicacity he knew that I should attack and oppose my talents, inadequate as they might be, to their strength, for, if I did not, the royal domain would be destroyed. It was a question whether to await destruction without effort, or to attack? Wherefore he assigned me the task confidently. Thenceforward this task occupied all my thoughts.

“Considering that the south should be made secure before the north could be attacked, I braved the heat of summer and plunged deep into the wilds. Sparing not myself nor regarding privation, urged by the one consideration, that the royal domain should not be confined to the capital of Shu, I faced dangers in obedience to the late Emperor's behest. But there are critics who may say that I failed. Now the rebels have been weakened in the west and have become involved in the east. The rule of war is to take advantage of the enemy's weakness, and so now is the time to attack. I shall discuss the various circumstances in order.

“The enlightenment of the Founder of the Hans rivalled the glory of the sun and moon; his counsellors were profound as the ocean abyss. Nevertheless, he trod a hazardous path and suffered losses, only attaining repose after passing through great dangers. Your Majesty does not reach his level, nor do your counsellors equal Chang Liang and Ch'ên P‘ing, yet, while they desire victory, they would sit idle, waiting till the empire should become settled. This attitude is beyond my comprehension.

“Liu Yu and Wang Lang each occupied a district. They passed their time in talking of tranquillity and discussing plans, quoting the sayings of the sages till they were filled with doubts and obsessed with difficulties. So this year was not the time to fight, nor next year the season to punish, and, thus talking, it came about that Sun Ts'ê grew powerful and possessed himself of all Chiangtung. This sort of behaviour I cannot understand. "In craft Ts'ao Ts'ao surpassed all men.

He could wield armies like the great strategists of old, Sun Wu and Wu Ch‘i. Yet he was hemmed in in Nanyang, was in danger at Wuch'ao, was in difficulties at Ch‘ilien, was hard pressed in Liyang, was nearly defeated at Peishan and nearly killed at Ch'angkuan. Yet, after all these experiences, there was a temporary and artificial state of equilibrium. How much less can I, a man of feeble powers, bring about a decision without running risks? I fail to understand.

“Ts'ao Tsʻao failed in five attacks on Changpa, and four times crossed the Ch'aohu without success. He employed Li Fu, who betrayed him, and put his trust in Hsiahou, who was defeated and died. His late Majesty always regarded Ts'ao Ts'ao as an able man, and yet he made such mistakes. How then can I, in my worn-out condition, necessarily conquer? I do not understand why.

"Only one year has elapsed since I went into Hanchung, yet we have lost Chao Yün, Yang Chün, Ma Yü, Yen Chih, Ting Li, Pai Shou, Liu Ho, Têng Tsung, and others, and leaders of rank and captains of stations, to the number of near four score, all men unsurpassed in dash and valour, and more than a thousand of the irregular horse and trained cavalry of the Sou (aborigines) of Ts'ung and the Tanguts of Tsinghai (Gobi Desert), whose martial spirit we have fostered these ten years all about us, and not only in one district. If we delay much longer, two-thirds of this will have dissipated, and how then shall we meet the situation? I do not understand delay.

"The people are poor and the army exhausted indeed, and confusion does not cease. If confusion does not cease, then, whether we go on or stand still the drain is the same. Yet it seems that attack should not be made yet! Is it that the rebels

are to be allowed to obtain a permanent hold on some province? I do not understand the arguments.

"A stable condition of affairs is indeed difficult to obtain. Once, when the late Emperor was defeated in Ch'u, Ts'ao Ts'ao patted himself on the back and said that the empire was settled. Yet, after that, the late Emperor obtained the support of Wu and Yüeh on the east, took Pa and Shu on the west and undertook an expedition to the north, wherein Hsiahou lost his life. So Ts'ao Tséao's calculations proved erroneous, and the affairs of Han seemed about to prosper. But, still later, Wu proved false to pledges, our Kuan was defeated, we sustained a check at Tzūkuei-and Ts'ao P'ei assumed the imperial style. Such events prove the difficulty of forecast. I shall strive on to the end, but the final result, whether success or failure, whether gain or loss, is beyond my powers to foresee."

The king was convinced, and by edict directed K'ung-ming to start on the expedition. He marched out with thirty legions of well-trained men, Wei Yen leading the first division, and made all haste to Ch‘êntsʻang.

The news soon reached Loyang, and Ssúma I informed the King of Wei, who called his council. Then Ts'ao Chên stepped forth and said, “I failed to hold Shênsi, and my disgrace is terrible to bear. But now I beg to be given another command that I may capture Chuko Liang. Lately I have found a stalwart soldier for a leader, a man who wields a sixty catty sword, rides a swift and savage steed, bends the two hundred catty bow and carries hidden about him when he goes into battle three meteor maces with which his aim is certain. So valorous is he that none dare stand against him. He comes from Shênsi and is named Wang Shuang. I would recommend him for my leader of the van.'

Ts‘ao Jui approved at once and summoned this marvel to the hall. There came a tall man with a dusky complexion, hazel eyes, strong as a bear in the hips and with a back supple as a tiger's.

"No need to fear anything with such a man," said Ts'ao Jui, laughing

He gave the new hero rich presents, a silken robe and golden breastplate, and gave him the title "Tiger-majesty" General. And he became leader of the van of the new army.

Ts'ao Chên took leave of his master and left the court. He collected his fifteen legions of veterans and, in consultation with Kuo Huai and Chang Ho, decided upon the districts and the points to be guarded.

The first companies of the army of Shu sent out their scouts as far as Ch'ênts'ang. They came back and reported that a rampart had been built and behind it was a captain named Hao Chao in command. The rampart was very strong and

was further defended by “deerhorns.” And they thought it would be well to give up all thought of taking it and go out to Ch‘ishan by T'aipailing, where was a practicable, though winding, road.

But K'ung-ming said, “Due north of Ch'ênts ang is Chieht‘ing, so that I must get this city in order to advance."

Wei Yen was sent to surround the city and take it. He went, but days passed without success. Therefore he returned and told his chief the place was impregnable. In his anger, K‘ung-ming was going to put his general to death, but a certain Yin Hsiang, who said he was a close friend of Hao's, suddenly asked to be allowed to try the effect of persuasion.

“How do you think you will persuade him?" said K‘ungming. “What will you say?

“We are both from Shensi and pledged friends from boyhood. If I can get to see him I will so lay matters before him that he must surrender."

He got permission to try, and rode quickly to the wall. Then he called out, "Friend Hao, your old chum Yin has come to see you."

A sentry on the wall told Hao Chao, who bade them let the visitor enter and bring him up on the wall.

“Friend, why have you come?" asked Hao.

"I am in the service of Shu, serving under K‘ung-ming as an assistant in the tactical department. I am treated exceedingly well, and my chief has sent me to say something to you."

Hao was rather annoyed, and said, "Chuko is our enemy. I serve Wei while you serve Shu. Each serves his own lord. We were brothers once, but now we are enemies; so do not say any more.

And the visitor was requested to take his leave. He tried to reopen the conversation, but his friend left him and went up on the tower. The Wei soldiers hurried him on to his horse and led him to the gate. As he passed out he looked up and saw his friend leaning on the guard rail. He pulled up his horse, pointed with his whip at Hao, and said, "My friend and worthy brother, why has your friendship become so thin?"

"Brother, you know the laws of Wei,” replied Hao. "I have accepted their bounty, and if that leads to death, so be it. Say no more, but return quickly to your master and tell him to come and attack. I am not afraid.”

So the abashed Yin had to return and report failure. “He would not let me begin to explain," said he. "Try again,” said Kʻung-ming. “Go and really talk to him."

So the go-between soon found himself once more at the foot of the wall. Hao presently appeared on the tower, and Yin shouted to him, “My worthy brother, please listen to my words

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