had been split into three separate empires in the few decade
s following the fall of the Han Dynasty
. The kingdoms were:
- Wei in the north, ruled by Cao Pi
- Shu in the west, ruled by Liu Bei
- Wu in the southeast, ruled by Sun Quan
Though Sun Quan and Liu Bei had managed to form an alliance against Cao Cao and thus his son Cao Pi, the continued occupation of Jing by Liu Bei proved a sore spot for Sun Quan. Eventually he would invade the area.
At the end of the campaign, Liu Bei's greatest general Guan Yu was captured and executed. This would prompt a huge war between Shu and Wu.
The First Ruler Desires Revenge
Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei had sworn brotherhood long ago in the peach garden oath. Together they swore to live together fight together and when the time came, to die together. Sun Quan had killed Guan Yu, one of the brothers was dead and revenge was desired.
Just one day after Liu Bei was declared emperor, he made his announcement of war with Wu. Though the great general Zhao Yun sought to dissuade Liu Bei, none could change his mind. So a request was sent to the Five Valleys, the Kingdom of the Man Tribe, for 5 legions and the Shu armies were prepared for war. Zhuge Liang requested that Liu Bei remain at home and let another lead this war. Liang almost persuaded the First Ruler to remain at home when Zhang Fei arrived at court to discuss the invasion. Together Liu Bei and Zhang Fei lamented the death of their brother. Zhuge Liang's words now fell on deaf ears. Together the two brothers were determined to destroy Wu.
Zhuge Liang was appointed regent and protector of the heir, the two Mas, (Ma Su and Ma Zhong) and Wei Yan were ordered to guard Hanchung and Zhao Yun was given the position of commissar or supplies. Other warriors, like Huang Zhong were appointed to join the attack. Zhang Fei was dispatched back to Liangzhou to gather his troops, together with the barbarian troops, the army would number 75 legions. Unfortunately, before even the troops could get under way, Zhang Fei was murdered by his troops.
A shift in the Political World
As Liu Bei's army settled into camp at Paitich'eng, word was received from the van that Zhuge Jin, an officer of Wu, had arrived asking to speak to Liu Bei. Zhuge Jin was admitted to meet with the ruler, mostly because of his brother's (Zhuge Liang) status in Shu. The envoy attempted to persuade Liu Bei to seek peace.
The First Ruler would not be persuaded though. The arguments only angered him more. Bei declared that he could not live in the same world as his brother's murderer and promised to destroy Sun Quan. Seeing as the talk was pointless, Zhuge Jin took his leave. Sun Quan, desperate for help, dispatched a message to Cao Pi to seek an alliance. The messenger greatly impressed Cao Pi and an agreement was met. Sun Quan was appointed "Prince of Wu" by Cao Pi. Though the officers of Wu had strong reservations, the title was accepted and the alliance began. Sun Quan now began to assemble his forces. A leader was found in one Sun Huan.
Battle is engaged.
Sun Huan's forces would first meet Shu forces under the command of Zhang Bao and Guan Xing. The leaders of the forces engaged in personal combat, but none could stand up to the powerful Zhang Bao. Seeing that no one seemed to be a match for this Zhang Bao, one of Sun Huan's minor officers, Tang Xiong, fired an arrow wounding Zhang Bao's horse. As the horse wheeled back to protection, Zhang Bao was thrown to the ground and lay there motionless. Li I now turned back around and went to kill the prostrate Zhang Bao, but as he raised his sword to kill Bao, Li I himself was killed by Guan Xing who had raced to the field to save his brother. Zhang Bao and Guan Xing now led the Shu unit side by side, and soundly defeated Sun Huan. As the day grew late, both groups drew off from combat.
The next day, combat would be engaged again. As before, the Wu officers could not stand up to the two heros from Shu and were forced to flee. The armies of Wu were routed and Tan Xiong was captured and executed.
Following the battle, the general of the van Wu Pan decided to make an attack on the weakened armies of Wu. Fearing the still as of yet unused Wu marines, he hatched a plot:
- Wu Pan would lead the main divisions against Sun Huan's camp.
- Zhang Bao and Guan Xing would each wait with 5 companies in ambush for the arrival of the marines.
- Several soldiers would be sent as fake deserters to let the marine leader Chu Jan know of the attack and thus lure the marines into the ambush.
Chu Jan's messenger to Sun Huan was intercepted by Guan Xing. Thus the main camp never knew of the attack. Chu Jan himself sent out a minor officer to lead a legion to help Sun Huan.
That night the attack began. Sun Huan's men were routed and forced to flee. The marines themselves fell into the ambush and the legion was destroyed. Chu Jan heard the news and became panic stricken moving the ships of the marines with the remaining forces under his command down river a ways.
As Sun Huan fled, he came to the city of Yiling and chose to make that his base of operations. Just as the Wu forces started to enter the city, their pursuers arrived. A siege at Yiling began.
Politics and maneuvers, the battle is redefined
Sun Quan, hearing of the defeat of Sun Huan's forces was distraught. But he eventually sent out another group of soldiers at the head of 10 legions to relieve Sun Huan.
The leaders where:
- Han Dang, the overall force leader.
- Zhou Tai as the second in command.
- Pan Zhang as van leader.
- Ling Tong as the rear-guard leader.
- Gan Ning as the leader of the reserves.
The ancient warrior redeems his pride.
Huang Zhong had been greatly hurt by a remark about old generals being useless, made by Liu Bei, and immediately left for the front to redeem himself. Zhong was over 70 by this time and it is evident that concerns for his age and especially his vitality in battle did have validity. As the relief forces of Wu approached, Huang Zhong galloped off at the head of his troops.
Zhong and Pan Zhang met in combat, but Pan Zhang could not defeat Huang Zhong. Finally he gave up and fled back to the Wu lines. Huang Zhong and his troops followed and dealt the troops of Wu a major defeat. Huang Zhong would follow this victory up the next day, pushing back the Wu forces. Unfortunately, as he turned to return to the Shu camp, because of a great storm, he was wounded in the arm by an arrow. The great Huang Zhong, one of the five Fierce Tiger generals would die a short time later.
Shu advances along all fronts
Huang Zhong had managed to hurt the Wu forces before his death. Now Liu Bei gathered his troops at Hsiaoting and began to prepare for a full assault on Wu. Huang Quan was given command of the marines, while Liu Bei himself would lead the land forces this time.
The forces of Shu and Wu met in a great battle this time, the main bodies of each army meeting in combat. Wu received the worst of it. Their lines were thrown into disarray, several of the Wu leaders fell in combat, including the famed Gan Ning. Guan Xing chased down Pan Zhang and recovered his father’s weapon, the “Black Dragon”. Wu had once again been thrown back, the forces defending Yiling would still receive no aid.
Sun Quan begs for peace
To say the war was going very bad for Wu would have been a severe understatement. They had lost a massive amount of forces. Han Dang and Zhou Tai had a bare remnant of their army left and Sun Huan was still trapped in Yiling. Finally Sun Quan tried again to request peace. Sending the two murderers of Zhang Fei (caged) along with their "trophy" (Zhang Fei’s head) back to Liu Bei. Sun Quan also offered the return of Chingchou, the Lady Sun (Liu Bei's wife), and an offer of alliance against Wei.
Liu Bei accepted the offerings, executed the two criminals and placed their remains for sacrifice in the honor of Zhang Fei. Though Zhang Bao and Liu Bei were happy to finally be able to honor Zhang Fei, it was not enough. The attack would continue. The messenger was barely spared death and fled back to Sun Quan.
Sun Quan was greatly distraught when the news of Liu Bei's continued wrath was returned. He sought for any leader to fight his enemies. A young man by the name of Lu Xun was put forward as the next to lead the armies of Wu. Many disagreed though, as Lu Xun was a scholar and not a soldier. At that time, Xun was in charge of Chingchou and close enough to be summoned easily. Though many tried to dissuade Sun Quan, he decided that Lu Xun would in fact be the leader of Wu's armies.
Since the officers of Sun Quan had been so distraught at the thought of Lu Xun taking command of the armies of Wu, Lu Xun himself was hesitant to take command. So an altar was constructed and, together with Sun Quan, Lu Xun ascended it before the officers and notables of Wu. There Sun Quan presented Lu Xun with Quan's own sword to be used against those who disregarded orders and gave Lu Xun complete control of the armies. None were able now to dispute who was in charge.
Unfortunately, Lu Xun would still have great troubles from his officers. None of them seemed willing to obey the orders of their new warlord.
Liu Bei, hearing that new supreme commander of Wu had been appointed asked about Lu Xun. The spies returned much information and the military advisor of the expedition, Ma Liang counseled Liu Bei to be careful, that Lu Xun was of the same stock as the great Zhou Yu of Wu. The consul did not dissuade Liu Bei and he advanced his troops. Moving forward like a great wave, they headed for every enemy position in their way.
Lu Xun went to the main point of the attack, where Han Dang was surveying the approaching forces. Xun once again counseled Han Dang not to attack the enemy, but only to defend, at which point Han Dang agreed in a passing way. The troops of Shu stopped before the redoubts and hurled insults toward their enemies. Lu Xun continued to counsel all to ignore those insults as he traveled from strong point to strong point.
So it was that Liu Bei did not get any of the fighting he was itching for and so drew off. Ma Liang continued to consul Liu Bei that Lu Xun was crafty and that the First Ruler must be prepared for any trick. Yet, time drew on and the summer got hotter and still no battles were fought. Finally some Shu officers requested that there was not enough water and the sun was too hot. They stated the army needed to be moved under the shade of a nearby forest.
Ma Liang was strongly against any such move, but Liu Bei agreed with the idea. To provide for defense during the move, Liu Bei placed eight companies in ambush. Wu Pan was given command to flee before the men of Wu and lead them into the ambushers. Ma Liang managed to beg the right to make a map of the current dispositions of the troops and to send them to Zhuge Liang, who was currently in eastern Shu observing the defenses in case Wei was to attack.
The Great Plan
Lu Xun heard through his spies of the movement of Liu Bei's troops and went to investigate. While he watched the movements of Liu Bei's troops, Zhou Tai requested permission for himself and Han Dang to attack Liu Bei's rear-guard under Wu Pan. Lu Xun stated that he expected Wu Pan to be part of an ambush and ordered that no one attack or pursue him. Finally after more time of waiting, a great host of Shu forces marched past. The officers saw that their leader had been right.
Ma Liang had finally finished the map of the armies and delivered it personally to Zhuge Liang. Liang, after hearing that it was the First Ruler's own plan was said to exclaim, "The life and the energy of the Hans are done indeed,". Liang immediately began to assemble a relief force, hoping only that he could get there in time. He also gave Ma Liang a strict list of commands to follow when the latter returned to Liu Bei.
Lu Xun perceived the time was right. He dispatched a few forces:
- Shunyu Tan was dispatched to attack the fourth camp along the southern defenses.
- Wu Sheng and Ding Feng were dispatched to help Shunyu Tan escape should the first force be defeated.
The force attacked the camp, but was driven off by the troops of Shamoke. Shunyu Tan was chased by three different units until he got to the five li mark and the hidden units could drive off pursuit. Demoralized and wounded Tan returned to camp. Still with an arrow sticking from him, he met with Lu Xun. Tan showed sadness at his failure, but Lu Xun informed Tan that the attack was only meant to test out the enemy.
The attack by Lu Xun happened that very night. The winds whipped up suddenly and the roar of fire approached the main camps of Shu's army. Within minutes several camps were on fire, the soldiers of Shu fled for Liu Bei's camp, trampling many of their own in their haste to get away. Behind those Shu troops were the forces of Wu, cutting down any enemy they saw. Liu Bei headed for the camp of Feng Hsi, but it too was ablaze.
Feng Hsi's escaping forces were forced in battle with Wu forces as they tried to flee, so Liu Bei was forced to retreat in a different direction. In front of the retreating forces appeared the troops of Ding Feng, now Liu Bei was surrounded by enemies, front and back. At that moment though, Zhang Bao and Fu Tong both arrived. The First Ruler was rescued and the retreat continued.
Liu Bei was continually forced into retreat. As the number of soldiers under his command continued to shrink, he was forced to flee further west. Finally the survivors of the Shu army were met by Zhou Yun, who led them to safety in the west, then acted as rear-guard for the retreat.
Lu Xun, hearing that Zhao Yun had arrived at the battle ordered his men to stop pursuit and retire. Zhao Yun himself located and killed Chu Jan, forcing all the rest of the Wu troops back and allowing Liu Bei to retreat to Paitich’eng with only 100 men.
Lu Xun did not pursue farther. He expected that Wei would use this chance to invade Wu. As he was returning to the capitol word was indeed sent that three armies from Wei were approaching Wu.
Ma Liang and Zhuge Liang did not manage to arrive before the defeat. They got to Paitich’eng to find the defeated remnants of Liu Bei's army and Zhao Yun in command of the defense of the city.
Liu Bei himself let despair overtake him. At the age of 63, the last great hope for the Han Dynasty died, leaving Zhuge Liang as regent for the young Liu Chen.