The following is based on the accounts in Lou Guan Zhong
, Romance of the Three Kingdoms
During the final years of the 2nd century A.D., the land of China was falling apart; the emperor of the Han was ineffective, the court was filled with strife and virtually ruled by the ten Eunuchs. In effect, the Han Dynasty had lost the Mandate of Heaven, it's time was drawing to a close.
In the area of Chulu were the Zhang (Chang) family, of which there where three brothers. Zhang Jiao (Chang Chio), Zhang Bao (Chang Pao) and Zhang Liang (Chang Liang). Jiao was simple medicine man. As he was cutting herbs in the forest one day he met another man. This man, Hsien of the Southern Land of Glory, gave Jiao three volumes of the Book of Heaven. These where the Way of Peace and gave Zhang Jiao the power to free the land from the plagues that bestrode it. Jiao studied the book day and night and before long could perform magical feats. He became the Mystic of the Way of Peace.
When a great plague swept across China, Jiao began to distribute charmed cures, capable of curing the recipitent from the sickness. He quickly gathered disciples, each being trained as he was and each being able to distribute cures. The fame of Jiao grew quickly. eventually he had enough followers to set up 36 circuits, the leaders of each circuit taking the title of general. The Yellow Turbans became a formadible Daoist sect almost overnight. As his fame grew, so did Jiao's ambition. He began to talk of removing the blue heaven of the Han and replacing it with his own yellow heaven. The armies of Jiao where not one cohesive force, but generally where formed as individual armies, each with their own plans and designs.
One of Jiao's followers, Ma Yuan-i was dispatched to gain the support of the ten eunuchs. As soon as the support was garuanteed Jiao began to plan his rebellion. Yellow flags where prepared and a day was chosen. When Yuan-i returned to the then chief eunuch Feng Hsu with the plans, he was captured by the emperor's General He Jin (Ho Chin) (also the Supreme Commander of China). Yuan-i was executed and Feng Hsu was imprisoned. Jiao was then forced to begin his rebellion immediately.
The support from the people was overwhelming. Those wearing the Yellow Turban grew in numbers dailing, until the size of Jiao's legions where immense. Imperial troops generally retreated at the first word of the Yellow Turbans approaching. He Jin, memorialized general preparations for war and dispatched three generals. These where Huangfu Song (Huangfu Sung), Lu Zhi (Lu Chih) and Zhu Jun (Chu Chien) marched in three directions towards the Yellow Turbans.
Zhang Jiao himself led his forces north into Yuchow, land of the Prefect Liu Yan (Liu Yen). Here the rebel army of Cheng Yuanzhi (Cheng Yuan-chih) was beaten by the forces of Tsou Ching and Liu Bei (Liu Pei). The forces of Ching and Bei followed up the victory by destroying the rebels besieging Chingchou. Bei would meet then rebels again as he became a major part in fighitng them.
So the Yellow Turbans where forced to focus on central China, fighting in a stalemate against the three generals of He Jin. Lu Zhi in Kuangtsung had fought Zhang Jiao's troops, but neither side was able to gain a victory. In Yingchuan, Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang were fighting strongly against Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun. Here the situation was different, the imperial armies where pushing the rebels back, and the Yellow Turbans where forced to retreat to Changshe. Using fire, Song broke the rebel armies outside the city. The recently arrived Cao Cao (Tsao Tsao) and Liu Bei where able to help completely rout the rebels. Bao and Liang where forced to fall back.
As one portion of the army was defeated, the main portion under Jiao had managed to secure victories. Imperial intrigue had resulted in the replacement of Lu Zhi by Dong Zhou (Tung Cho) and now the imperial lines where being pushed back. As Zhou's troops where being slaughtered by the rebels, Liu Bei arrived just in time again. Smashing into the rear of Jiao's troops, the turbans where routed. Dong Zhou was rescued and the rebels where forced to retreat again. Liu Bei himself returned to Huangfu Song. The battle between Dong Zhou and Zhang Jiao would continue on though.
Huangfu Song, Cao Cao and Liu Bei now attacked the renewed forces of Zhang Bao, Zhang Liang. Bei's brother Zhang Fei (Chang Fei) defeated the rebel officer Gao Sheng (Kao Sheng) in personal combat. As Sheng fell, the general advance of the imperial armies was announced. Zhang Bao though, using the magic learned from his bother, routed the armies of Huangfu Song, and the imperial armies where thrown back. On the next day though, Liu Bei led the forces of Bao into an ambush, and using the blood of sacrificed animals, they countered Bao's spells. The rebels where routed from the field and fled. Bao, though wounded by Liu Bei fortified himself in Yangcheng. Liang fled in the general direction of his brother Jiao.
Huangfu Song was also given Dong Zhou's position after the later suffered yet another defeat. So Song led his troops towards where Zhou's forces where fighting. Before he arrived though, Jiao had died. Zhang Liang managed to add his brothers armies to his own. When Huangfu Song and Zhang Liang met in battle, Song managed seven consecutive victories. Liang was killed at Chuyang and Huangfu Song dug up Jiao's coffin, sending the head of Jiao to the capitol (Luoyang or Loyang) as a trophy. Now Song pressed harder upon the forces of Zhang Bao at Yangcheng. Eventually Bao was killed by one of his own officers, one Yan Yu and the city was taken back by the imperial forces.
Only three rebels remained with substantial forces. Han Zhong (Han Chung), Zhou Hong (Chao Hung) and Sun Zhang (Sun Chung) began to loot and plunder, calling themselves the avengers of Zhang Jiao. Zhu Jun was sent with Liu Bei to the city of Wancheng, which was currently under attack by the rebels. By the time the imperial forces had arrived though the rebels had taken the city. As a siege was prepaired, the young officer Sun Jian (Sun Chien) arrived to assist. Together the three assualted the city, leaving the east gate upon for the defenders to escape from.
(Note :: This tactic of leaving an avenue of escape is based on Sun Tzu
's tactic of deadly ground
. By giving the enemy an avenue
, you keep them from fighting a battle to the death which would greatly improve their overall strength. See The Art of War
and Sun Tzu
Sun Jian killed Zhou Hong in the assualt on the south gate. After some time, the rebels fled north. There they where attacked by Liu Bei. Although the rebels tried to flee him too, Bei managed to force them to fight. He killed the officer Sun Zhang and as the main forces under Zhu Jun arrived, a great slaughter ensued. Finally the remaining rebels surrendered. The district of Nanyang had become the last place to be cleansed of the Yellow Turbans.
Unfortunately though the turbans where defeated by the imperial forces, they had accomplished one thing. The taste of war had now been felt and the Han Dynasty had been hurt that one last time. The Yellow Turbans through their failed rebellion had still managed to break the Han Dynasty's control on China.
Note :: All names in parentheses () are alternate spellings, or in some cases familiar names that are used very often in the novel.
Thanks to calypso's crush for informing me that the Yellow Turbans became the model of what not to do, a model that Daoist groups would try not to repeat from then after.