Translation:Romance of the Three Kingdoms/Chapter 1

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59093Translation:Romance of the Three KingdomsChapter 1
Three brave men swear an oath of allegiance at the feast in the peach gardens; our heroes' first achievement is the vanquishing of the Yellow Turbans.
wikisourceLuo Guanzhong
Oath of the Peach Garden
Chapter 1

Three brave men swear an oath of allegiance at the feast in the peach gardens; our heroes' first achievement is the vanquishing of the Yellow Turbans.

Dinning and spinning Changjiang's waters eastward flow,
its sprays drowning each and every hero.
Right and wrong, winning and losing, become empty at one head's turning;
Like before, the mountains shall remain green;
Times the evening sun set red, how many have there been?
The white-haired fishermen and woodcutters on the river's strands,
Accustomed as they are to gazing at the autumn moon and the spring winds,
Over a jar of murky liquour, they'll happily by chance meet each other;
From the past and in the present how many things
Shall be left to their laughter-filled talkings?[1]


It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide. At the end of the Zhou Dynasty, seven kingdoms vied for supremacy, and became part of the Qin Dynasty. Similarly, after the Qin Dynasty was destroyed, Chu and Han vied for supremacy, and became a part of the Han Dynasty. The Han Dynasty had ruled over a unified empire ever since Emperor Gaozu chopped a white serpent in half.[2] Later on, Emperor Guangwu reestablished control of the country.[3] After that, control of the empire was maintained through the generations until the time of Emperor Xian, whereupon the empire divided into three kingdoms. If one were to deduce the origins of the Han Dynasty's decline, one might start with Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling. Emperor Huan imprisoned many gentlemen of talent, and put the palace eunuchs on a pedestal.[4] Then Emperor Huan passed away, and Emperor Ling ascended the throne. Commander-in-Chief Dou Wu and Grand Tutor Chen Fan were two of his closest advisors. When eunuchs such as Cao Jie began to abuse their power, Dou Wu and Chen Fan plotted the assassination of the head eunuchs. However, their secret was revealed, and Dou Wu and Chen Fan were assassinated instead. From then on, the eunuchs became more depraved than ever.



On the 15th day of the fourth lunar month, during the second year of Jianning,[5] the emperor was presiding at court in the Hall of Warmth and Virtue.[6] He was just climbing onto his throne when a strong gust of wind suddenly blew in from the corner of the hall, whereupon he saw a big green snake fly down from the rafters, and coil up on the seat. The emperor fainted from fright; his attendants rushed him off to his inner palace, and the palace officials scattered. In an instant, the snake vanished. It began to rain and thunder violently, then it began to hail. This did not stop until late in the evening, by which time the storm had ruined countless homes and buildings. In the second lunar month, during the fourth year of Jianning,[7] there was an earthquake in Luoyang. Ocean water had also swept inland, and many of the residents near the coast had been carried out to sea by a great tidal wave. In the first year of Guanghe,[8] a female chicken turned into a male chicken. On the first day of the sixth lunar month,[9] a black haze, more than ten zhang in length,[10] drifted into the Hall of Warmth and Virtue. In autumn during the seventh lunar month[11] a rainbow was seen in the imperial palace, and in the side of a mountain in Wuyuan County,[12] a huge rift was created.[13] All kinds of unlucky events continued to occur.


Cai Yong

The emperor issued an edict to his ministers, requesting the reasons for these calamities. Court Advisor Cai Yong submitted his written response in which he argued that the rainbow and the chicken incidents were both caused by the excessive meddling in state affairs by the women and the eunuchs of the court. His wording was rather blunt. The emperor sighed in despair upon reading the written reply, so he got up to go change his clothes. Cao Jie managed to sneak a peak from his vantage point behind the emperor, and reported all of the details to the emperor's attendants. As a result, an excuse was found to charge Yong with wrongdoing, and he was banished to his hometown. Later Zhang Rang, Zhao Zhong, Feng Xu, Duan Gui, Cao Jie, Hou Lan, Jian Shuo, Cheng Kuang, Xia Yun, and Guo Sheng all conspired to form a faction; they were called the "Ten regular attendants." The emperor venerated Zhang Rang in particular, even calling him "dad." The running of the government became more and more corrupt after that. This caused people from all over the empire to consider rebellion, and bandits began to pop up everywhere.


Zhang Jue

At that time, there lived three brothers in Julu Commandery: Zhang Jue, Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang. Zhang Jue had failed to land a posting from the governor of the province where he lived. He had gone into the mountains to gather some medicinal herbs, when he came across an old man; the old man had a youthful countenance, and was carrying a walking stick fashioned from the hardened stalk of a goosefoot plant. The old man beckoned Jue into a cave, presented him with a book in three volumes which had come from the heavens, then said, "This book is called The Essential Art of Great Peace. Once you have mastered its contents, you will represent the heavens in spreading this knowledge, and thereby save all of mankind. If you start to have second thoughts, there will be terrible consequences for you." Jue enquired as to the old man's name. The old man said, "I am the old immortal spirit from the southern lands."[14] With that, the old man vanished into thin air.


  呼風喚雨太平道中平元年正月疫氣流行張角符水治病自稱大賢良師徒弟雲游四方念咒次後徒眾 --- , --- 渠帥將軍訛言:「蒼天黃天」。甲子天下大吉」。白土甲子大門家家供奉大賢良師張角名字金帛結交中涓內應商議:「民心民心乘勢天下可惜。」一面約期舉事一面使弟子大將軍何進調兵下獄
China during the Three Kingdoms period

Upon receiving this book, Jue practiced night and day. Eventually, he could summon the wind and rain, and came to be known as the Great Peace Daoist. Within the first lunar month, during the first year of Zhongping, [15] an epidemic had spread throughout the country side. Zhang Jue made charmed water,[16] which he used to cure the peoples' sickness. He gave himself the title of great and virtuous teacher. Jue had developed a following of more than five hundred people, who spread to the four-corners of the empire. All of them had learned how to write magic charms and chant spells. Later on as he gathered more followers, Jue organized his disciples into 36 chapters --- a large chapter numbered well over 10,000 people, whereas a small chapter might contain six or seven thousand, --- and each chapter had its own commander, who was called a general. Rumors abounded that, "The blue skies of spring are now dead, and the yellow skies of summer are upon us."[17] People were also saying, "This is the 'Yang Wood Rat' year, first year of the sixty year cycle,[18] a hugely auspicious turn of events in the world." Zhang Jue ordered his followers to take a piece of chalk and write "Yang Wood Rat" on the outer gate of their houses. People from the households of eight administrative regions --- Qingzhou, Youzhou, Xuzhou, Jizhou, Jingzhou, Yangzhou, Yanzhou and Yuzhou --- all worshiped the great and virtuous teacher Zhang Jue. Jue secretly sent one of his cronies, Ma Yuanyi, to offer gifts of gold and fine cloth to the eunuch Feng Xu, in order to establish friendly relations, so that he could have an inside man.[19] Jue discussed the situation with his two brothers, saying, "The hardest thing is to win over the peoples' hearts. Right now, the people are already on our side. If we do not seize this opportunity to take over the world, it will truly be a pity." Shortly thereafter, yellow banners were made in secret, while he settled upon a date to launch his offensive. He also dispatched his disciple Tang Zhou to deliver a letter to Feng Xu. Instead, Tang Zhou went straight to the authorities and reported the plot. The emperor ordered Commander-in-chief He Jin to dispatch troops to arrest Ma Yuanyi, who was subsequently beheaded. Following that, He Jin rounded up Feng Xu and his ilk, and threw them all in prison.


  張角星夜舉兵自稱天公將軍, --- 將軍將軍。 --- :「聖人順從天意太平。」四方百姓黃巾張角浩大官軍望風而靡何進火速降詔各處備禦討賊立功一面中郎將盧植皇甫嵩朱雋精兵

After Zhang Jue had heard that the plot was exposed, he worked both day and night to build his army. He called himself general of the heavens, --- Zhang Bao was called general of the earth, and Zhang Liang was called general of the people. --- They proclaimed to the multitudes that, "The end of the Han is at hand; the great saint has arrived; all of you must abide by the will of heaven in order to accommodate the great peace." Four to five hundred thousand common people, from the four corners of the empire, tied yellow turbans around their heads, and followed Zhang Jue into rebellion. The bandit rebels wielded a huge amount of power, and easily routed the government troops in battle after battle. He Jin petitioned the emperor to quickly issue an edict, ordering defensive preparations in every region, so that a campaign could be launched against the bandit rebels. In addition, he dispatched Lu Zhi, Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun --- all three of them being commanders of their own team of palace guards --- to launch campaigns against the bandit rebels from three different directions.



Let us now take a moment to talk about Zhang Jue's army, which was advancing on the borders of Youzhou. The governor of Youzhou was Liu Yan, whose family came from Jingling County, which was a part of the Jiangxia Commandery. Liu was a descendant of the Han Prince, Gong of Lu. When he heard that the bandit army was approaching, he summoned his assistant, Captain Zou Jing, so that they could discuss the matter. Jing said, "The bandit army is large, but our army is small. Your excellency, you should quickly enlist conscripts in order to meet the enemy." Liu Yan concurred, and immediately issued an official announcement calling for troops to be conscripted. The notice had made its way to Zhuo County, where it caught the attention of a certain hero who was living there.


chariot with umbrella

This person was not especially fond of scholarly pursuits; he was relaxed and peaceful by nature, a man of few words whose facial expression never revealed his joy or his anger. He had great ambition, and was particularly adept at forging relationships with men of outstanding ability. He grew to a height of eight chi.[20] His ears drooped down to his shoulders, and his hands went past his knees. He could see his ears with his own eyes. He had a striking face, like one of the jade ornaments which adorn so many hats,[21] with lips that were red and plump. He was the descendant of Liu Sheng, Prince Jing of Zhongshan, and he was also a distant descendant of Emperor Jing of Han. His surname was Liu, and his given name was Bei; his style name was Xuande.[22] A long time ago, Liu Zhen, son of Liu Sheng, was granted the title of Ting Marquis Zhuolu by Emperor Wu of Han. Later on, he failed to pay his annual tribute,[23] and so he lost his Marquis status. As a result, this branch of the family had remained in Zhuo County. Xuande's grandfather was Liu Xiong, and his father was Liu Hong. Hong had been recommended by the local government to an official post, based on his record of filial piety and honesty. He took up the post, but died early. Xuande lost his father at a young age, but showed extreme filial piety in attending to his mother. His family was poor; they sold straw sandals and wove straw mats for a living. Their home was in Lousang Village of the same county.[24] To the southeast of their home, was a large mulberry tree, which rose to a height of five zhang.[25] The tree was thickly covered with leaves like the umbrella over a horse drawn chariot. The fortune tellers all said, "This family will definitely produce a man of importance."


Gongsun Zan

When Xuande was little, he used to play with children at the foot of a tree, saying, "If I become the Son of Heaven,[26], I should mount my chariot by this tree." His uncle Liu Yuanqi said in amazement, "This child has an extraordinary soul!" Seeing as Xuande was from a poor family, his uncle would often supplement their income. When he was fifteen, his mother sent him away for school. His teachers included Zheng Xuan and Lu Zhi, and he made friends with fellow classmates, such as Gongsun Zan. By the time that Liu Yan had posted his conscription notice, Xuande was already 28 years of age. When he saw the announcement that day, his heart became heavy and he let out a long sigh. Right afterward, a man said sternly, "An able bodied man not lifting a finger for his country! What's with the long sigh?"


Zhang Fei

Xuande turned around to look at the man, who stood at a height of eight chi,[27] had a leopard-like head, eyes like jade bracelets,[28] a neck like that of a swallow's, and a mustache that reminded one of tiger whiskers.[29] He had a booming voice, and was as forceful as a pack of galloping horses.[30] Xuande thought he looked strange, and asked his name. The man replied, "My surname is Zhang, my given name is Fei, and my style name is Yide.[31] My family has lived in the Zhuo Commandery for generations. I am the landlord of a large estate;[32] I also sell wine and butcher pigs. I am particularly adept at forging relationships with men of outstanding ability. I just now saw you sigh after looking at the announcement, so I asked the reason." Xuande said, "Actually, I am a descendant of the house of Han. My surname is Liu, and my given name is Bei. Today, when I heard that the Yellow Turbans were calling for rebellion, I had a great desire to go smash those bandits, and appease the citizenry. I felt frustrated that I was powerless to do anything,[33] so I let out a long sigh, that's all." Fei responded, "I am a man of considerable means. I should recruit a local militia, and we should undertake this great task together. What do you think?" Xuande was ecstatic, and they both went in to the village tavern so that they could have a drink together.


Guan Yu

While they were drinking, they spotted a large fellow pushing a cart. The man stopped for a moment in the doorway, then entered into the tavern and sat down. The man called out to the server, "Pour me a drink and be quick about it, I'm in a hurry to get to town so that I can join the army." Xuande took a look at the man, who stood at a height of nine chi,[34] and had a two chi long beard;[35] his face was the color of a dark jujube,[36] with lips that were red and plump; his eyes were like those of a crimson phoenix,[37] and his eyebrows resembled reclining silkworms.[38] He had a dignified air, and looked quite majestic. Xuande invited the man to sit with them, and inquired as to his name. The man said, "My surname is Guan, my given name is Yu, my style name was Shouchang,[39] but then I changed it to Yunchang.[40] I am from Xieliang in the Hedong Commandery. Because there was a man from a wealthy family who was acting like a big shot and bullying everybody, I ended up killing him. I had to become a fugitive, and have been living the life of an itinerant mercenary for the past five or six years. When I heard that this area was recruiting soldiers to go smash bandit rebels, I came especially to join up." When Xuande told the man of his plans, Yunchang was overjoyed. They all went to Zhang Fei's estate to discuss these important matters.


Oath of the Peach Garden

Fei said, "There is a peach garden in the rear of my estate, and the flowers are now in full bloom; tomorrow, we should conduct a sacrificial ceremony to heaven and earth. We three should become brothers, joining forces with a common purpose, and later we will be able to accomplish great deeds." Xuande and Yunchang both responded in unison, "An excellent idea!" The following day, they prepared sacrificial offerings such as a black bull and a white horse. The three of them all burned incense, and performed double obeisance. They all took an oath, saying, "When saying the names Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, although the surnames are different, yet we have come together as brothers. From this day forward, we shall join forces for a common purpose, and come to each other's aid in times of crisis. We shall avenge the nation from above, and pacify the citizenry from below. We seek not to be born on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. We merely hope to die on the same day, in the same month and in the same year. May the gods of heaven and earth attest to what is in our hearts. If we should ever do anything to betray our friendship, may the gods in heaven strike us dead." Having completed the oath, Xuande was declared to be eldest brother, followed by Guan Yu, with Zhang Fei as the most junior brother. They made thorough offerings to heaven and earth, and then butchered the bull. They also brought out some wine, and gathered together all of the brave men of the county. They recruited more than three hundred men, so they proceeded to get thoroughly drunk in the peach garden. The day after, they gathered their weapons, but became frustrated that they had no horses to ride.


Green Dragon Crescent Blade

As they were thinking about what to do, someone reported, "There are two visitors coming toward the estate; there are a bunch of attendants with them, and they are leading a pack of horses." Xuande exclaimed, "The heavens have blessed us!" The three men went out of the compound to receive the visitors. As it turns out, the two visitors were big-time merchants from Zhongshan: one of them named Zhang Shiping, and one of them named Su Shuang. Each year, they traveled north to sell horses, but had to turn back this time because of the bandit rebels. Xuande invited the two of them to come in, and arranged a full banquet in their honor. He then proceeded to explain how he planned to fight the bandit rebels and pacify the citizenry. The two visitors were overjoyed, and wanted to supply fifty good horses for the cause; they also donated 500 taels of gold and silver,[41] and 1000 catties of bintie steel,[42] which was suitable for manufacturing weapons and other implements. Xuande bid farewell to the two visitors, and then ordered a good blacksmith to craft a pair of straight swords for each hip. Yunchang designed the Green Dragon Crescent Blade, also called Frost Blade, which weighed in at 82 catties.[43] Zhang Fei designed a 1.8 zhang lance,[44] the tip of which was refined steel. They were all outfitted with full-body armor. After they had gathered together more than 500 fighting men, they went to see Zou Jing. Zou Jing escorted them on a formal call to Commandery governor Liu Yan. As the three men were finishing with their formal visit, it was observed that the two of them had the same surname. When Xuande mentioned his family lineage, Liu Yan was overjoyed, and thereupon recognized Xuande as his nephew.


  不數日黃巾統兵來犯涿郡劉焉鄒靖玄德統兵前去破敵玄德欣然領軍前進大興山相見披髮黃巾抹額當下相對玄德出馬, --- 雲長翼德, --- 揚鞭大罵:「逆賊何不!」

After not more than a few days, someone reported that the Yellow Turban bandit leader Cheng Yuanzhi was leading an army of 50,000 men, and that they were headed towards Zhuo Commandery. Liu Yan ordered Zou Jing to have Xuande and his two companions lead their force of 500 men; they were to advance on the enemy and destroy them. Xuande and his two companions cheerfully led their troops, advancing all the way to the foot of the Daxing Hills, where they met up with the bandit rebels. The bandit rebels all had disheveled hair, with yellow turbans tightly tied around their foreheads. The two armies immediately squared off. Xuande rode his horse out onto the field with Yunchang on his left, and Yide on his right. He raised his riding crop, and shouted abuses in a loud voice, "Traitorous rebels, why don't you surrender before it's too late!"


Zhang Fei's weapon may have looked something like the one in this Qing Dynasty handscroll, but slightly longer

Cheng Yuanzhi was furious, so he dispatched Deng Mao, his second in command, to mount an offensive. Zhang Fei raised his 1.8 zhang snake lance,[45] and thrust it straight out, piercing the center of Deng Mao's chest with exact precision,[46] who then doubled over and fell from his horse. Having witnessed Deng Mao's demise, Cheng Yuanzhi whipped his horse into action. Raising his sword above his head with a flourish, he went straight after Zhang Fei. Yunchang swung around his large blade, and rode out on his horse at full gallop. Cheng Yuanzhi was completely taken aback at the sight of this, and was unable to react in time. He was cut in two at the point where Yunchang had raised his blade. People in later generations wrote a poem in praise of the two:



The heroes exposed the sharp tips of their weapons this morning, one testing his long lance, the other testing his blade.
They displayed their power as they set out for the first time, and the names of these three shall be exalted from this day forward.



All of the bandit rebels saw that Cheng Yuanzhi had been slain, so they threw away their weapons and fled. Xuande led his army in pursuit. There were so many that surrendered, they could not keep count. Triumphantly, they returned. Liu Yan personally came to welcome them back, and to present the troops with gifts in recognition of their deeds. The next day, an official communique was received from Gong Jing, Commandery governor of Qingzhou. It described how the Yellow Turbans had laid siege to the town, and pleaded for assistance. Liu Yan conferred with Xuande. Xuande told him, "I am willing to go and help them." Liu Yan ordered Zou Jing to lead an army of 5,000 men, and head for Qingzhou, accompanied by Xuande, Guan and Zhang. When the bandit rebels saw that reinforcements had arrived, they divided their forces, and haphazardly mounted an attack. Xuande was hopelessly outnumbered, so he retreated for 30 li,[47] and made camp. Xuande discussed the matter with Guan and Zhang, saying, "The bandit rebels are many, and we are few. The only way we can win is if we take them by surprise." He then gave 1,000 soldiers to Lord Guan, and had him hide out on the left side of a hill. Zhang Fei took 1,000 soldiers, and hid out on the right side of the hill. The signal would be the sounding of the gongs, upon which time they would all meet up in unison.



The next day, Xuande and Zou Jing led their army forward, with much shouting and banging of gongs. When the bandit rebels engaged them in battle, Xuande led his army in retreat. The bandit rebels seized the opportunity to give chase. They had just crossed over a ridge, when the gongs from Xuande's armies all sounded in unison. The two armies on the left and right came out simultaneously, and Xuande commanded his soldiers to turn around and attack. Having been attacked from three different routes, the bandit rebels suffered a major blow. They were driven all the way to the foot of the city walls of Qingzhou, when Commandery governor Gong Jing led militia troops outside of the city walls to assist in the fighting. The power of the bandit rebels was now greatly diminished, and many of them were slaughtered; the siege of Qingzhou was over. People in later generations wrote a poem in praise of Xuande:



He prepared a divinely inspired plan; two tigers[48] must still yield to one dragon.[49]
His exploits were already legendary, despite being new on the scene; it is only natural that he would divide his ding tripod,[50] and share the pieces with the orphaned and the destitute.

ding tripod



Gong Jing had finished handing out the rewards for meritorious deeds to all of the troops, so Zou Jing wanted to return. Xuande said, "I recently heard that the palace guard commander Lu Zhi was fighting the bandit rebel leader Zhang Jue in Guangzong. I was a former pupil of Lu Zhi, so I would like to go and help him." Thereupon, Zou Jing returned home with his army; Xuande, Guan and Zhang set out for Guangzong, leading their core cadre of 500 men. They arrived in Lu Zhi's camp, and entered his tent to pay their respects. When they told him their reason for coming, Lu Zhi was overjoyed. He stayed behind with them outside of the tent so that he could listen to their story.[51]



At the time, Zhang Jue's bandit rebel forces numbered one hundred fifty thousand, while Zhi's forces numbered fifty thousand. They were battling it out in Guangzong, still with no clear victor. Zhi discussed the matter with Xuande, saying, "We have the enemy surrounded here, but the two younger brothers, Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao,[52] are both in Yingchuan, camped out opposite the forces of Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun. You could take your main force, augmented with an extra thousand of my government troops, and advance towards Yingchuan. Once you find out what is going on down there, you could set a date to surround and capture the enemy." Xuande accepted the mission, and marched his troops night and day toward Yingchuan. When they arrived, they found Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun locked in battle against the bandit rebels. The battle was not going well for the bandit rebels, and they had retreated to Changshe, where they had to rely on straw for setting up camp.[53] Song and Jun began to scheme, saying, "The bandit rebels are relying on straw for setting up camp, we should use fire to attack them." They immediately ordered their soldiers to each grab a bundle of straw, and then sneak up on the enemy and ambush them. That night, strong winds began to blow. After the second watch,[54] they all lit their fires in unison. Song and Jun each led a unit of soldiers in an attack. The flames from the bandit rebel stronghold rose high into the sky, and the bandit rebels began to panic. They didn't even take the time to saddle their horses, or don their armor; they just scattered in all four directions. The killing lasted until daybreak, at which time Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao snuck out with their surviving forces on whatever escape routes they could find.


Cao Cao

Suddenly, they saw a bunch of soldiers on horseback, all of them with red banners. When they arrived, they completely blocked the road. At the head was their leader; his height was seven chi,[55] and he had narrow eyes, with a long beard. His official title was Captain of the Cavalry; he was from Qiao Commandery in the Kingdom of Pei. His surname was Cao, his given name was Cao, and his style name was Mengde.[56] Cao's father was Cao Song, whose original surname was Xiahou; because he was the adopted son of Cao Teng, the emperor's personal secretary, he assumed the surname of Cao. Cao Song's son was Cao, whose childhood name was Aman;[57] his other childhood name was Jili.[58] When Cao was little, he liked to go out hunting, and enjoyed singing and dancing; he had tenacity, and was extremely cunning. Cao had an uncle who observed that Cao did not apply himself at all.[59] The uncle was angry at the boy, so he mentioned it to Cao Song. As Song was scolding Cao, Cao suddenly hatched a plan: later on, he saw his uncle coming, and pretended to collapse onto the ground, as if he had suffered a stroke. When his uncle frantically told Song what had happened, Song hurried over to see what was wrong with the boy, but found Cao in perfect health. Song said, "Your uncle said that you had suffered a stroke, are you all better now?" Cao replied, "I never had that illness in the first place; it's because uncle doesn't love me anymore that he lied about me." Song believed the boy's story. Afterwards, even though his uncle would report that Cao had misbehaved, Song would not even listen. Because of this, Cao was able to do whatever he wanted without a care in the world.



At the time, there lived a person named Qiao Xuan, who said to Cao, "The world is descending into chaos; only a man of outstanding ability can save us. Are you the one who will pacify the countryside?" When He Yong from Nanyang visited with Cao, he said, "The house of Han will soon fall, this is the person who will pacify the world." Xu Shao of Ru'nan was well known as an astute judge of character. Cao went to see him, and asked him, "What kind of person am I?" Shao did not answer. When he asked again, Shao replied, "You are a capable minister during times of peace, and a master of treachery during times of chaos." Cao was overjoyed upon hearing these words. When he was twenty years old, he was recommended by the local government to an official post, based on his record of filial piety and honesty. He had an entry level post at first, but then was transferred, and became Captain of the North in Luoyang.[60] Immediately after he assumed his new post, he placed more than a dozen multi-colored sticks at each of the four gates of the county.[61] Anyone who violated a prohibition, regardless of prestige or wealth, would be punished. Jian Shuo, the emperor's personal attendant, had an uncle who was carrying his sword around past dark.[62] Cao arrested him while on night patrol, and had him flogged. Because of this, nobody from inside or outside of the county dared break the rules, and his reputation for ferocity became legendary. Later, he was made the governor of Dunqiu.[63] Because the Yellow Turbans had begun their campaign, he was made Captain of the Cavalry, and was put in charge of a force of five thousand, which included horses and foot soldiers. He was to proceed to Yingchuan and assist with the fighting. It just so happened that as Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao were fleeing in defeat, Cao Cao had managed to intercept them, and thereupon launched a massive killing spree. More than ten thousand were beheaded; they also seized a huge amount of banners, gongs and horses. However, Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao had escaped the killing fields; after Cao paid a visit to Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun, he immediately led his troops in hot pursuit of Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao.



Let us now take a moment to talk about Xuande, who was on his way to Yingchuan with Guan and Zhang. They heard the shouts and screams of battle, and also saw the fires lighting up the skies. They hastily led their troops into the area, but when they arrived, the bandit rebels had already fled in defeat. Xuande visited with Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun, and told them of Lu Zhi's plans. Song said, "Zhang Liang and Zhang Bao are all but finished; you must head for Guangzong, and go after Zhang Jue. Xuande, you should travel night and day so that you can render assistance."


Dong Zhuo

Xuande obeyed orders, and immediately led his force back to where they just came from. After they had gone about half way, they saw a bunch of army horses escorting a prison wagon; inside of the wagon was none other than Lu Zhi. Xuande was shocked, and scrambled off of his horse to ask what happened. Zhi said, "I had Zhang Jue surrounded, and was about to break through his lines, but because Jue resorted to sorcery, I was unable to achieve a victory. The court sent the eunuch Zuo Feng to investigate, but he demanded a bribe from me. My answer to him was, 'We're short of army rations as it is; where am I supposed to find extra money just so I can get into the good graces of the emperor's emissary?' Zuo Feng was displeased, and sent back a petition to the court. He said that I was dug in behind a high fortress and refused to fight. He also said that I had a lax fighting spirit; because of this, the court was furious, and sent palace guard commander Dong Zhuo to lead the army in my place. I was then arrested, and am being brought back to the capital to stand trial.



Upon hearing this, Zhang Fei flew into a rage; he wanted to kill the escorting soldiers in order to rescue Lu Zhi. Xuande rushed to stop him, saying, "The royal court naturally has the support of the people; how can you be so rash?" The soldiers surrounded Lu Zhi and departed. Lord Guan said, "Palace guard Lu has already been arrested, and someone else will be leading the army. If we go with them, we will not have anyone that we can count on for support. It would be better to return to Zhuo Commandery. Xuande followed his suggestion, and headed his troops north.



They had not yet traveled two days, when suddenly they heard a thunderclap of shouting from the other side of the hills. Xuande raced his horse, along with Guan and Zhang, to the top of a tall bluff to see what was happening. They watched as the Han army was suffering a major defeat; even further away, they could see the Yellow Turbans approaching, covering all of the hills and the plains with their vast numbers. On their banners in large script, it read, "general of the heavens." Xuande exclaimed, "It's Zhang Jue! Let's hurry and join in the fighting."



The three of them led their soldiers as fast as they could go. Zhang Jue was right in the middle of annihilating Dong Zhuo and his men. The three of them took advantage of the situation,[64] and mounted a charge. Jue's army broke down in disarray, and fled more than 50 li in defeat.[65] The three of them rescued Dong Zhuo, and returned him to his stronghold. Zhuo asked the three of them what post they currently held. Xuande replied, "Private citizen." Zhuo regarded him as a lightweight, and refused to show him any respect. Xuande left, but Zhang Fei was furious, saying, "We came all the way out here, and got our hands bloody to rescue this vermin, and he still shows us no respect; if I don't kill him, my anger will not easily be assuaged!" He then took out his sword and started to head back into the tent to kill Dong Zhuo. It was a case of:

Human emotions are powerful, from ancient times until now; who would have thought that a hero could be a private citizen? How can a plain-spoken man like Yide possibly kill all of the two-faced people of the world!

What exactly became of Dong Zhuo? Did he survive? Keep reading, and all will be explained.


  1. The title of this poem is, "The Immortals by the River ()." It was composed by the Ming Dynasty poet Yang Shen (1488-1559).
  2. From a story in the Records of the Grand Historian:
    c. 109 BCE - 91 BCE: Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, Chapter 8, Biography of Emperor Gaozu of Han (史記/卷8 高祖本紀)

    Back when the Emperor Gaozu of Han was still a district leader for Pi County, he was put in charge of escorting some convicts to Mount Li (to build the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang). A lot of the convicts fled along the way. He estimated that he would surely lose all of them by the time he would arrive at his destination (causing him to fear for his life, because allowing the convicts to escape was a capital crime at that time). He (became a fugitive and) made his way to a swamp in the western part of Feng County (near Xuzhou), where he stopped for a drink (of wine). That evening, he set free all of the remaining convicts, saying, "You can all go, I will go on alone from here!" A dozen or so of the braver convicts wanted to go with him. The future Emperor Gaozu was getting tipsy, and decided to take the path through the swamp that same evening, ordering a man to scout out ahead. (Before long), the forward scout returned, and gave his report, saying, "There is a great serpent blocking the path up ahead, I would like to turn back." The future Emperor Gaozu was drunk, and said, "You're (supposed to be) a warrior, what are you afraid of!" The future emperor then went on ahead, drew his sword, and cut the serpent into two pieces. (After that), the road was cleared. After traveling several li, he could not hold his liquor any longer, and lay down to go to sleep. When the people bringing up the rear got to the spot where the serpent was, they came across an old woman weeping. When they asked her why she was weeping, she said, "Someone killed my son, so I am weeping." They asked her, "Why was your son killed?" She replied, "My son is the son of the White Emperor (one of the five legendary Emperors, the Emperor of the West), transformed into a serpent. He was blocking the road, but has now been cut into two pieces by the son of the Red Emperor (another of the five legendary Emperors, the Emperor of the South), and so I weep." They thought the old woman was not telling the truth, so they were going to give her a thrashing, but she suddenly disappeared. When the people who were bringing up the rear finally caught up to the future emperor, the future emperor was already awake again. When they told the future Emperor Gaozu what had happened, the future emperor was quite amused, and very pleased with himself. After that, all of them gradually began to fear the future emperor.

  3. The Han Dynasty enjoyed continuous rule from 206 BCE - 220 CE, except for a brief period between 9-23 CE, in which Wang Mang established the Xin Dynasty. Emperor Guangwu reestablished control of the country in 25, after a period of civil war. For a more detailed account, read the Wikipedia article about Wang Mang.
  4. For a more detailed account, see: Disasters of Partisan Prohibitions#The first Disaster of Partisan Prohibitions.
  5. 28 May, 169; Jiànníng (建寧, establishing tranquility, 168 – 172) was a Chinese era name from the reign of Emperor Ling of Han. Precise dates for the novel were all calculated using this website (in Chinese), which converts dates all the way back to the Han Dynasty. For more information about the traditional Chinese calendar, see: Chinese calendar.
  6. Located in the palace at Luoyang
  7. 24 Mar - 22 Apr, 171
  8. 6 Feb, 178 - 25 Jan, 179; Guānghé (光和, bright peace, 178-184) was a Chinese era name from the reign of Emperor Ling of Han.
  9. 3 Jul, 178
  10. One zhang (丈) was approximately 2.31 meters, so ten zhang was approximately 23.1 meters (75.7911 feet). The conversions in this translation are based on the Chinese Wikipedia's article on Weights and Measures (度量衡). Depending on the time frame in the story, either the Eastern Han Dynasty or the Three Kingdoms standards will be used.
  11. 2 Aug - 30 Aug, 178
  12. Wuyuan County is located in present day Bayan Nur, Inner Mongolia. There have been at least five major earthquakes in Bayan Nur over the last two thousand years.(see: this document on page 96, or do a search for 五原山岸)
  13. The result of an earthquake.
  14. Another name for Zhuangzi. After his death, Zhuangzi was deified by his followers. They said that he would later travel to the north, and ascend to the heavens as an immortal in a blaze of fire. In the first year of the Tianbao era (742), Emperor Xuanzong of Tang gave Zhuangzi the appellation true man from the southern lands. (三國演義校注, page 10, note 24, ISBN 957911305X)
  15. 19 Jan - 18 Feb 185; Zhōngpíng (中平, middle peace, 184-189) was a Chinese era name from the reign of Emperor Ling of Han.
  16. A Daoist priest would burn writing which was deemed to have magical properties, and then mix the ashes with water.
  17. Blue skies represents the Han Dynasty, Yellow skies represents Zhang Jue, leader of the Yellow Turban Rebellion.
  18. 185 was the year of the "Yang Wood Rat" (甲子), first year of the sexagenary cycle.
  19. Zhang Jue wanted Feng Xu to be the inside man within the palace who could act as his spy, and help him to coordinate an attack.
  20. One chi is approximately 23.1 cm, eight chi is approximately 1.848 meters (6.063288 feet).
  21. In other words, he was very handsome.
  22. Literal meaning: mysterious virtue.
  23. During the Han Dynasty, a Marquis was expected to send an annual tribute of gold to the imperial treasury. The tribute was for use in state rituals.
  24. Lousang Village literally translates to: village of towering mulberry trees.
  25. One zhang was approximately 2.31 meters, five zhang was approximately 11.55 meters (37.89555 feet).
  26. i.e. the emperor
  27. One chi was approximately 23.1 cm, eight chi was approximately 1.848 meters (6.063288 feet).
  28. i.e. he was fierce looking, with big round eyes
  29. i.e. he looked like someone important
  30. i.e. he had an intimidating presence
  31. Literal meaning: guardian of virtue.
  32. i.e. a large estate owned by a single landlord, which would have had a small village or hamlet for the purpose of administering the affairs of its tenant farmers
  33. Being that he was from a poor family.
  34. One chi was approximately 23.1 cm, nine chi was approximately 2.079 meters (6 feet, 9.85 inches).
  35. One chi was approximately 23.1 cm, two chi was approximately 46.2 cm (~18 inches).
  36. i.e. his face had a dark red hue to it, like the color of dark jujube fruit
  37. i.e. the corners of his eyes were turned up
  38. i.e. they were long and tapered
  39. Literal meaning: long like old age
  40. Literal meaning: long like a cloud
  41. One tael was approximately 13.8 grams, 500 taels was approximately 6.9 kilograms (~15.2145 pounds).
  42. One catty was approximately 220 grams, and 1000 catties was approximately 220 kilograms (~481.1 pounds).
  43. One catty was approximately 220 grams, 82 catties was approximately 18.04 kilograms (~39.7782 pounds).
  44. One zhang (丈) was approximately 2.31 meters, 1.8 zhang was approximately 4.158 meters (~13 feet 5.35 inches).
  45. The term "snake" most likely referred to the length of the lance, rather than the shape of its head.
  46. Literal meaning: at the (exact) spot where (Zhang Fei) raised (the lance) with his hands
  47. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 30 li would have been 12.474 km (~7.746354 miles).
  48. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are compared to Tigers. In other words, like the Tiger, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are brave and fierce, but are not brilliant strategists like Xuande.
  49. Xuande is compared to a dragon because of his brilliant strategies (the dragon being symbolic of wisdom and cunning).
  50. In Chinese history and culture, possession of a ding tripod is often associated with power and dominion over the land. Therefore, the ding tripod is often used as an implicit symbol of power.
  51. After the formalities were over, they all exited the tent. However, Lu Zhi stayed with them, rather than returning to whatever he was doing before they came.
  52. i.e. the two younger brothers of Zhang Jue
  53. i.e. they had to rely on straw as building material for the living quarters and other structures
  54. i.e. after 11:00 pm
  55. One chi was approximately 23.1 cm, seven chi was approximately 1.617 meters (~5.305377 feet).
  56. Literal meaning: the most virtuous
  57. Literal meaning: little deceiver
  58. Literal meaning: lucky
  59. The uncle was his father's younger brother.
  60. The person in this post was in charge of the northern district of a city. Ordinarily, this would be a rather lowly position (equivalent to the deputy governor of a county). However, it would have been considered a prestigious assignment for such a young man, since Luoyang was the capital.
  61. The sticks were for flogging.
  62. The uncle was Jian Shuo's father's younger brother.
  63. This is technically a promotion. However, Dunqiu was a rather remote location that was far away from the capital. In other words, it is possible that he was reassigned as a result of Jian Shuo's displeasure at seeing his uncle treated in such a harsh manner.
  64. i.e. took advantage of the fact that Zhang Jue was distracted
  65. One li was approximately 415.8 meters, 50 li would have been 20.79 km (~12.91059 miles).