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DEATH OF WANG SHUANG;
K'UNG-MING'S VICTORY AT CH ENTSʻANG. Now Ssúma I spoke to the king, saying, “I have said repeatedly that K‘ung-ming would come against us by way of Ch‘ènts'ang; wherefore I set Hao Chao to guard it. If an enemy did invade, he could easily obtain his supplies by that road; but with Hao and Wang on guard there he will not dare to come that way. It is very difficult to get supplies any other way. Therefore I can give the invaders a month to exhaust their food. Hence their advantage lies in forcing a battle; ours is postponing it as long as possible. Wherefore I pray Your Majesty to order Ts'ao Chên to hold passes and positions tenaciously and on no account to seek battle. In a month the enemy will have to retreat, and that will be our opportunity."
Jui was pleased to hear so succinct a statement, but he said, "Since, Noble Sir, you foresaw all this so plainly, why did you not lead an army to prevent it?"
“It is not because I grudged the effort, but I had to keep the army here to guard against Lu Hsün of Wu. Sun Chüan will declare himself 'Emperor' before long. If he does, I think Your Majesty will attack him, and I shall be ready to cross over the frontier. The army is prepared.”
Just then one of the courtiers announced despatches from Ts'ao Chên on military affairs, and Ssúma closed his speech, saying, “Your Majesty should send someone especially to caution the general to be careful not to be tricked by K'ungming, not to pursue rashly and never to penetrate deeply into the enemy country.”
The king gave the order, and he sent the command by the hand of the T'ai-ch'ang Han Chi and gave him authority to warn Ts'ao Chên against giving battle. Ssèma escorted the royal messenger out of the city and, at parting, said "I am giving this magnificent opportunity to obtain glory to Ts'ao Chên, but do not tell him the suggestion was mine; only quote the royal command. Tell him that defence is the best, pursuit is to be most cautious, and he is not to send any impetuous man to follow up the enemy.
Ts'ao Chên was deep in affairs connected with his army when they brought news of a royal messenger, but he went forth to bid him
welcome, and when the ceremonial receipt of the edict had come to an end, he retired to discuss matters with Kuo Huai and Sun Li.
“Ssúma's idea,” said Kuo with a laugh. "But what of the idea ?” asked Ts'ao.
"It means that the man who perfectly understands Chuko Liang's plans and who will eventually have to be called in to defeat them is our friend Ssŭma."
“But if the Shu army holds its ground?”
“We will send Wang Shuang to reconnoitre and keep on the move along the by-roads so that they dare not attempt to bring up supplies. They must retreat when they have no more to eat, and we shall be able to beat them."
Then said Sun Li, “Let me go out to Ch‘ishan as if to escort a convoy, only the carts shall be laden with combustibles instead of grain. We will sprinkle sulphur and nitre over wood and reeds. The men of Shu will surely seize the convoy and take it to their own camp, when we will set fire to the carts. When they are blazing, our hidden men can attack.”
"It seems an excellent plan," said Ts'ao Chên, and he issued the requisite orders: Sun to pretend to escort a convoy; Wang to prowl about the by-roads; Kuo to command in the Chi Valley. Also Chang Hu, son of Chang Liao, was made leader of the van, and Yo Lin, son of Yo Chin, was his second. These two were to remain on guard in the outermost camp.
Now at Ch‘ishan Kʻung-ming sought to bring on a battle, and daily sent champions to provoke a combat. But the men of Wei would not come out.
Then K'ung-ming called Chiang Wei and certain others to him and said, "I do not know what to do. The enemy refuse battle, because they know we are short of food. We can get none by way of Ch'ênts'ang, and all other roads are very difficult. I reckon the grain we brought with us will not last a month."
While thus perplexed, they heard that many carts of provisions for Wei were in the west and the convoy was commanded by Sun Li.
“What is known of this Sun?" asked Kʻung-ming.
A certain man of Wei replied, “He is a bold man. Once he was out hunting on Great Rock Hill, and a tiger suddenly appeared in front of his master's chariot. He jumped off his horse and despatched the beast with his sword. He was rewarded with a leadership. He is an intimate friend of Ts'ao Chên.”
“This is a ruse." said K‘ung-ming. “They know we are short of food, and those carts are only a temptation. They are laden with combustibles. How can they imagine that I shall be deceived by this sort of thing when I have fought them with fire so many times? If we go to seize the convoy they will come and raid our camp. But I will meet ruse with ruse.
Then he sent Ma Tai, with three companies, to make his way to the enemy's store camp and, when the wind served, to
start a fire. When the stores were burning, the soldiers of Wei would come to surround the camp of Shu. He also sent Ma Chung and Chang I to halt near the camp so that they might attack. These having gone, he called Kuan Hsing and Chang Pao, and said, “The outermost camp of Wei is on the main road. This night, when the enemy see a blaze, our camp will be attacked, so you two are to lie in wait on the two sides of the Wei camp and seize it when they have left."
Calling Wu Pan and Wu I, he said, “You are to lie in wait outside the camp to cut off the retreat of the men of Wei.”
All these arrangements made, Kʻung-ming betook himself to the summit of Ch'ishan to watch the results.
The men of Wei heard that their enemies were coming to seize the grain convoy and ran to tell Sun Li, who sent on a message to Ts'ao Chên. Ts'ao sent to the chief camp to the officers on guard and told them to look out for a signal blaze. That would mean the coming of the men of Shu, and then they were to issue forth and carry out certain instructions.
Watchers were sent on the tower to look out for the promised blaze. Meanwhile Sun Li marched over and hid in the west hills to await the coming of the men of Shu. That night, at the second watch, Ma Tai came with his three companies all silent, the men with gags, the horses with a lashing round their muzzles. They saw tier after tier of carts on the hills, making an enclosure like a walled camp, and on the carts were planted many flags.
They waited. Presently the south-west wind came up, and then the fire was started. Soon all the carts were in a blaze that lit up the sky. Sun saw the blaze and could only conclude that the men of Shu had arrived and his own side were giving the signal, so he dashed out to attack. But soon two parties of soldiers were heard behind him closing in. These were Ma Chung and Chang I, who soon had Sun as in a net. Then he heard a third ominous roll of drums, which heralded the approach of Ma Tai from the direction of the blaze.
Under these several attacks the men of Wei quailed and gave way. The fire grew more and more fierce. Men ran and horses stampeded, and the dead were too many to count. Sun Li made a dash through the smoke and fire of the battle and got away.
When Chang Hu and Yo Lin saw the fire they threw open the gates of their camp and sallied forth to help defeat the men of Shu by seizing their camp. But when they reached the camp they found it empty. So they set out to return. That was the moment for Wu Pan and Wu I to appear and cut off their retreat. However, they fought bravely and got through. But when at length they reached their own camp they were met by arrows flying thick as locusts. For Kuan and Chang had taken possession in their absence.
They could only set out for headquarters to report their mishap. As they neared Tsʻao Chên's camp they met another remnant marching up. They were Sun Li's men, and the two parties went into camp together and told the tale of their victimisation. Ts'ao Chên thereafter looked to his defences and attacked no more.
Thus victorious, the men of Shu went to K'ung-ming, who at once despatched secret directions to Wei Yen. Then he gave orders to break camp and retreat. This move was not understood, and Yang I asked the leader why he retired after a victory so damaging to the enemy.
"Because we are short of food," said Kʻung-ming. “Our success lay in swift victory, but the enemy will not fight, and thus they weaken us day by day. Though we have worsted them now they will soon be reinforced, and their light horse can cut off our provisions. Then we could not retreat at all. For a time they will not dare look at us, and we must take the occasion to do what they do not expect, and retreat. But I am solicitous about Wei Yen, who is on the Ch'ênts'ang road to keep off Wang Shuang. I fear he cannot get away. I have sent him certain orders to slay Wang, and then the men of Wei will not dare to pursue.
So the retreat began, but to deceive the enemy the watchmen were left in the empty camp to beat the watches through the night.
Ts'ao Chên was depressed at his recent misfortune. Then they told him Chang Ho had come. Chang came up to the gate, dismounted and entered. When he saw Ts'ao Chên he said, “I have received a royal command to come and enquire into your arrangements."
“Did you take leave of friend Ssúma?” asked Ts'ao.
Chang said, “His instructions to me were to stay away if you were victor, to come if you were not. It seems that our side has missed success. Have you since found out what the men of Shu are doing?”
So he sent out some scouts, and they found empty camps. There were flags flying, but the men had been gone two days. Ts'ao Chên was disgusted.
When Wei Yen received his secret orders he broke up camp that night and hastened toward Hanchung. Wang Shuang's scouts heard this and told their chief, who hurried in pursuit. After about twenty li he came in sight of Wei Yen's ensigns. As soon as he got within hailing distance he shouted, "Do not flee, Wei Yen.'
But no one looked back, so he again pressed forward. Then he heard one of his men behind him shouting, “There is a blaze in the camp outside the wall; I think it is some wile of the enemy.”
Wang Shuang pulled up and, turning, saw the fire. He therefore tried to draw off his men. Just as he passed a hill, a horseman sudenly came out of a wood.
“Here is Wei Yen," shouted the horseman.
Wang Shuang was too startled to defend himself and fell at the first stroke of Wei Yen's sword. His men thought this was only the beginning of an ambush and serious attack, so they scattered; but really Wei Yen only had thirty men with him, and they moved off leisurely toward Hanchung.
No man could better Kʻung-ming's foresight keen;
Now we may tell the secret orders sent to Wei Yen. He was to keep back thirty men and hide beside Wang Shuang's camp till that warrior left. Then the camp was to be set on fire. After that the thirty were to wait till Wang's return to fall upon him. The plan being successfully carried out, Wei Yen followed the retreating army into Hanchung and handed over his command.
Here nothing will be said of the feastings that took place in Hanchung, but the story will return to Chang Ho, who, failing to come up with the retiring enemy, presently returned to camp.
Hao Chao sent a letter to say that Wang Shuang had met his end. This loss caused Ts'ao Chên deep grief, so that he became ill and had to return to Loyang. He left Chang Ho, Sun Li and Kuo Huai to guard the approaches to Ch‘angan.
At a court held by Sun Ch‘üan, King of Wu, a certain spy reported the doings in the west and the results of Chuko Liang's expeditions. Thereupon certain ministers urged on Sun Ch'üan that he should attack Wei and try to gain the capital. However, Sun Ch'üan could not make up his mind, and Chang Chao endeavoured to prove to him that his hour was come by this memorial:
“I have heard that a phenix has lately appeared in the hills east of Wuch'ang and bowed; that a yellow dragon has been seen in the Great River. My lord, your virtue matches that of Tang and Yü and your understanding is on a level with that of Kings Wên and Wu. Wherefore you should now proceed to the imperial style and then raise an army to maintain your authority."
And many other officers supported Chang Chao's proposal. They finally persuaded Sun Ch‘üan to decide upon a day. They prepared an altar on the south of Wuch'ang, and on that day his courtiers formally requested him to ascend to the high place and assume the style of “Emperor.”