It seems that there is much discussion about Zhao Yun at Chang Ban slope here recently. I thought to add two anecdotes about Zhao Yun’s duels here so that all you Zhao Yun lovers can enjoy them.
The first one is from a book called “Chang Ban Slope”, a volume from “San Guo Zhi Ping Hua”. I read it when I was in primary school in China. I don’t know how close this story is to the San Guo Zhi Ping Hua of the Yuan Dynasty from which LGZ got a lot of his ideas. I heard there is one copy of the Yuan Dynasty San Guo Zhi Ping Hua at a Japanese library, can someone verify that? This part of Chang Ban happened after Zhao Yun drove away the four captains Jiao Chu, Zhang Nan, Ma Yan adn Zhang Zi...
Cao Cao was furious at the display of Zhao Yun’s prowess against his captains. He exclaimed, “Are there no captains of mine who can defeat this enemy?” Meanwhile, a messenger approached and reported that Zhang Xiu had just arrived with his troops to join Cao Cao. Cao Cao was ecstatic at the news, for Zhang Xiu was nicknamed “Grandfather of the Spear” during his time. His skill at the spear was unmatched by anyone, and he was proven to be undefeated so far in duels. Cao Cao thus immediately sent orders to Zhang Xiu to the battlefield to face Zhao Yun. Zhang Xiu, eager to prove his loyalty to his new liege, obliged. He rode out to face Zhao Yun. After a few bouts, he realized that Zhao Yun was every bit his equal in the art of the spear. To get a quick victory, Zhang Xiu decided to use his killing move, “The One Hundred Spear Thrust”. He twirled his spear vigorously, until his spear head is blurry to the eye, and the tassel an umbrella of red. As Zhang Xiu charge towards Zhao Yun, Zhao Yun knew that he was doomed. How could he defend against this maneuver? Of the 100 spearheads Zhao Yun saw, one spearhead was to be the real spear. But which one? Facing such odds, Zhao Yun decided to gamble on a defense. He balanced E’dou, held his spear vertically, closed his eyes, and swiped the spear in front of his body just when Zhang Xiu engaged his final thrust. He closed his eyes because he knew that only the God of Fortune would decide his fate, and he didn’t want his vision to betray him. When Zhao Yun opened his eyes, he saw that Zhang Xiu’s spear thrust had landed squarely on the shaft of his own spear! Zhao Yun muttered, “How Fortune smiles on me today, all thanks to the young lord!” Zhang Xiu was shocked, for Zhao Yun was the first and the only one to survive his killing move. He wanted to withdraw, but Zhao Yun challenged him. “Now you have tested your best skill, would you have the courage to face mine?” Zhang Xiu reined his horse, and replied, “Please proceed!” Zhao Yun’s spear style is of his own invention. He had learned to imitate the deadly strikes of many different snakes. In the end, Zhao Yun invented 7 killing moves after 7 different snakes. These 7 are the Cobra, the Viper, the Sidewinder, the Rattle Snake, the 3 Step Snake, … (sorry, I can’t remember the rest of them). Zhao Yun thus decided to take Zhang Xiu’s life with the Rattle Snake. He first held his pear awkwardly, with his hands only 1/4 of spear’s length away from the spearhead. As he started to twirl this spear with this unusual grip, the rear end of the spear started to quiver and swirl in a wide arc, and the head of the spear moved quietly in a small circle. Zhang Xiu watched this magnificent display of martial dexterity with amazement and admiration. He was weary of the butt of the Zhao Yun’s spear. Even though it is only a blunt piece of metal, it nonetheless possessed a killing blow. And there, in a wide arc, the tail of Zhao Yun’s spear struck, like hammer, towards Zhang Xiu’s head. Zhang Xiu raised his spear to parry... But just as quickly, the tail recoiled back, and like lightening, the deadly head of Zhao Yun’s spear took its prey. With his spear raised over his head, Zhang Xiu had no means of evasion. He stared at the spear that was thrust though his body, and smiled. It was indeed an honor for him to fall in front of our hero in such a valiant effort. From this moment forward, Zhao Yun was nicknamed “The King of the Spear”
I find a couple of points interesting on this story: 1. Zhao Yun is crowned as the General Luck of the RTK period (this dubious honor is often bestowed upon big, fat, but lovable simpletons who spend most of the time drinking, such as Niu Gao of Yue Fei’s stories, and Chen Yao Jin of the Sui Tang period. Many people thought Zhang Fei is the General Luck of RTK because he is big, fat, lovable, and had a drinking problem. Not so. Zhao Yun is the General Luck because of Chang Ban). 2. The Zhang Xiu of this story is the same one who killed Dian Wei, and almost got Cao Cao at Wan. Historically after the battle of Wan, he joined Lui Biao, and after Liu Biao, he surrendered to Cao Cao. He died as a retainer to Cao Cao. It made perfect sense for Cao Cao to send Zhang Xiu to duel Zhao Yun at Chang Ban, because he probably still held a grudge towards Zhang Xiu. Cao Cao wanted see two tigers fight, and whatever the outcome, he was happy about it.
The second story is also from San Guo Zhi Ping Hua, from the Volume “Jin Xi Chuan (Journey into Shu)”. I heard this on a radio broadcast in Shanghai. The story teller was a famous folk lore artist of reputable lineage in Southern China Ping Hua style. This volume dealt with Zhuge Liang’s invasion of Shu. This part is not covered at all in RTK, as LGZ focused only on Zhang Fei’s exploits.
The prefect of the castle was General Xiang Chong, and he was a champion of the halberd. He accepted the challenge of Zhao Yun. The two warriors exchanged a dozen bouts, and their strengths proved to be even. On their next pass, Xiang Chong decided to be more adventurous, he feigned an attack first, and then swung his halberd backhanded as he passed Zhao Yun on the opposite side. Zhao Yun was surprised by this move. He couldn’t see the halberd behind him, but he could hear the sound it made as it ripped though air, racing toward his head. He ducked, just in time to avoid the fatal blow. But the plume of his helmet was cut by Xiang Chong’s halberd. Never before had Zhao Yun suffered such humiliation on the battlefield! Zhao Yun muttered to himself, “What a quick sword! No wonder the Military Advisor wanted me to capture this talent alive. But first, let me show him what I can do!” On the next pass, Zhao Yun attacked aggressively. A little overwhelmed, Xiang Chong dodged the last thrust from Zhao Yun by leaning backward on his horse’ back. But just as he thought that Zhao Yun had passed him, Zhao Yun’s spear suddenly whipped backwards, and hammered toward his helmet. Xiang Chong couldn’t react to this attack, as he was about rise from his position. He heard a cracking sound on his forehead, and he knew that his skull had been shattered by Zhao Yun’s blow. But to his surprise, as he continued to rise, he felt no pain in this head, and he found that he was very much alive! He felt around this helmet, and discovered that the adorning jade that was on the front of his helmet was completely shattered! What supreme control of power Zhao Yun possessed! His must use the exact force to produce this effect. An ounce more, Xiang Chong would be dead, and an ounce less, the jade would stay in tact, and Xiang Chong will not be awed. And Xiang Chong was awed indeed! His army retreated back to the castle, and two sides rested for the night. The next day, Zhuge Liang asked Zhao Yun, “Now that you have faced the valiant Xiang Chong in battle, do you still believe that you can defeat him, and capture him unharmed?” Zhao Yun, “Yes, and I will do what you ask of me today!” He rode out to and challenged Xiang Chong again. Xiang Chong, undaunted, accepted the challenge. Suddenly, Zhao Yun halted Xiang Chong, and asked, “My dear general, yesterday’s duel proved that we are equals when we use our own weapons. It’s useless for us to continue this way. Tell me, are you well versed in all of the 18 classic weapons?” Xiang Chong replied, “Of course I am! What do you propose?” Zhao Yun said, “Then we both chose a different weapon, and duel again. This will be more interesting! You pick first.” Xiang Chong said, “I accept. Do you mind lending me your spear? How wonderful would it be if the famed Zhao Yun would fall by his own spear!” “Then take it!” replied Zhao Yun, “and now I must ask you for your halberd in exchange!” After the weapon’s exchange, the warriors squared off again. Do you wonder what Zhao Yun is doing? Actually Zhao Yun is very close to Guan Yu and Zhang Fei for many years. He pestered Guan Yu to teach him the Spring Autumn Halberd style for many months. Finally Guan Yu gave up and granted the request. Zhao Yun was a quick learner. He learned all the moves perfectly, except the last move, “the dragging sword trick” (the same trick Guan Yu tried on Huang Zhong once.) Why? Guan Yu had a pair of phoenix eyes. They were extremely slanted. He could see behind him easily without fully turning his head. Thus he would surprise and cut down the enemy behind him accurately. Zhao Yun’s eyes are different, they are big and round, and they certainly cannot see behind Zhao Yun’s head. As Zhao Yun practiced the dragging sword trick, he always missed his mark. In the end, Zhao Yun gave up on the dragging sword trick, and invented his own move, the sudden reverse charge trick. To perform this trick, he trained his horse to stop and make a quick turn around in surprising speed. He then could face the unprepared opponent and a cut him down. When Zhao Yun suggested the weapon switch to Xiang Chong, he had already decided to use this move to capture Xiang Chong. During the ensuing duel, Zhao Yun pretended that he was not trained on the halberd at all, and fled. Xiang Chong gave chase. Just as he was about to catch up, suddenly Zhao Yun’s horse reversed direction, and the mighty halberd was brought down upon him. Xiang Chong parried, but he was knocked out of his saddle by the blow, and thus Xiang Chong was captured by Zhao Yun. Some legends maintain that after Guan Yu’s demise, Zhao Yun retired from the spear, and picked up the halberd as his weapon of choice in the latter half of his military career.
Xiang Chong, although barely mentioned in SGYY, was a prominent military figure in Shu. He served originally under Liu Zhang, but then followed Liu Bei. He achieved very high military rank, and was left to be in charge of Shu’s military affairs, when Zhuge Liang started his northern expeditions. It was mentioned in Zhuge Liang’s Chu Shi Biao (“military edict”). When Zhuge Liang invaded Shu, he took two routes. Zhang Fei invaded by land. The elder General Yan Yan surrendered to him at Ba, and after that, Zhang Fei didn’t have to do much fighting, because all the other cities didn’t want to fight Yan Yan, and they all surrendered. Zhuge Liang took Zhao Yun, and invaded along the Yang Zi River. They didn’t have the luxury of Yan Yan, and therefore they had to fight for every fort and city. That is the reason why Zhang Fei beat Zhuge Liang in getting to Liu Bei first. Considering that Zhuge Liang had only one prominent general with him on this expedition, Zhao Yun had to battle considerably to help Zhuge Liang achieve his goals. So in a way, Zhao Yun is almost as instrumental as Zhang Fei in conquering Shu. It’s just not mentioned in SGYY. Whether Zhao Yun used a spear or halberd, or switched between the two, no one really knew, but it’s certainly a very interesting twist. Don’t you think?