Most people who have read the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms
recognize Pang Tong, a strategist who is upheld as "equal" to the Sleeping Dragon according to his nominal title although perhaps slightly inferior to him in the longrun. Whether it's because of his unique style name, important feats (in the novel) of assisting Liu Bei's conquest of Yizhou and enacting the "chain" tactic at Yiling or just because Pang Tong happens to appear in Dynasty Warriors 5 and get one of the best movesets in that game, most people have heard of Pang Tong. Personally Pang Tong's one of my favorite characters and so I decided to do a biography of him based on his exploits in the novel. Another less notable person I decided to create a biography for, or rather work off of one I had previously made, is King Mulu, just because I liked the Nanman chapters a lot and particularly admired Wu Tugu and King Mulu. King Mulu is most famous for sending wild beasts into battle. Perhaps because of what is listed about him in the novel, Koei decided to implement elephants and tigers in their Dynasty Warriors games. Moreover the famous "juggernauts" or at least something quite similar to them, that Zhuge Liang invented in the novel, appear in one of the battles that Mulu fought in. Thus even though perhaps his name is not known, some of the stereotypes associated with the Nanman because of the Dynasty Warriors series are somewhat based around King Mulu's character in Romance of the Three Kingdoms
. Anyways without further ado here are the bios. Any opinions, criticism, feedback, questions, comments and so on and so forth are greatly appreciated!
Pang Tong (Shiyuan)
Lifespan AD-C. 178-213
Pang Tong was the nephew of Pang Degong and went by the Taoist name “Young Phoenix.” He was a man of extraordinary appearance and peerless ability. Pang Tong lived in Xiangyang and befriended Sima Hui, who he once talked all day with while the two picked mulberries from Sima Hui’s tree. Sima Hui admired Pang Tong so much that he called the man ‘brother’ and frequently invited him and his uncle to his recluse home. Although Pang Tong came from Xiangyang, he fled east when war began to ravage his homelands (1). At this time Cao Cao had tried to get Sun Quan to surrender but, at the behest of part of his military staff, Sun Quan refused this and instead aligned himself with Liu Bei, deciding to work with him to oppose Cao Cao. In the Southeast Pang Tong met Lu Su, an officer serving under Sun Quan. Lu Su promptly recommended Pang Tong to Zhou Yu, who Sun Quan had appointed Commander-in-Chief over the joint Wu and Shu navies. Zhou Yu sought advice for how to deal with Cao Cao and spoke with Lu Su about the matter. Previously Pang Tong had said to Lu Su, “You must use fire against him [Cao Cao]. But the river is wide and if one ship is set on fire, the others will scatter unless they are fastened together so that they must remain in one place. That is the one road to success,” and Lu Su advised Zhou Yu as Pang Tong had told him earlier. Zhou Yu thought about these words of wisdom and said to Lu Su, “The only person who can manage this is Pang Tong himself.” Lu Su however reminded Zhou Yu of Cao Cao’s clever and wily nature and so Zhou Yu decided, for the time being, not to send Pang Tong to carry out the ploy.
Zhou Yu saw an opportunity to carry out Pang Tong’s ruses however when Cao Cao sent Jiang Gan as a spy to find out Wu’s plans and motives. Zhou Yu thought of a way to trick Cao Cao and gave Pang Tong orders to temporarily dwell in a small hut located in the Western Hills. When Jiang Gan landed on the shore near Wu’s encampments, Zhou Yu met him with an angry expression and bade his attendants to send him to a small house in the Western Hills near Pang Tong’s abode before Jiang Gan could say a word in his defense. Pang Tong spent his time in quiet and undisturbed study while meanwhile Jiang Gan was miserable, rarely eating or drinking anything. One starry night however, while Pang Tong read from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
, Jiang Gan approached Pang Tong’s small hut and knocked on the door. Pang Tong opened it and, after Pang Tong introduced himself, Jiang Gan remarked, “How often have I heard you talked about! You are famous. But why are you hidden away in this spot?” “That fellow Zhou Yu is too conceited to allow that anyone else has any talent, and so I live here peacefully. But who are you, Sir?” asked Pang Tong in response to Jiang Gan’s question. Jiang Gan told Pang Tong his name and Pang Tong welcomed him. The two men then went inside Pang Tong’s residence and sat down to chat. “With your gifts, you would succeed anywhere,” said Jiang Gan. “If you would enter Cao Cao's service, I would recommend you to him,” urged Jiang Gan further. “I have long desired to get away from here. And if you, Sir, will present me, there is no time like the present. If Zhou Yu heard of my wish, he would kill me, I am sure,” said Pang Tong in response to Jiang Gan’s offer. Satisfied with Pang Tong’s answer, Jiang Gan and Pang Tong made their way in secret down the hill to the bank of the river where Jiang Gan had landed. Earlier, Jiang Gan had hidden the vessel that he had used to cross the river, in a secret spot before coming to confront Zhou Yu. Now, Jiang Gan and Pang Tong found the boat in which Jiang Gan had come and so the two men embarked on their voyage, and moved speedily towards Cao Cao’s central camp on the northern coast of the river. Debarking, Jiang Gan went to see Cao Cao and told him the story of how he came to meet Pang Tong. Cao Cao, who held Pang Tong in high esteem, decided to come speak with Pang Tong personally and the two talked for a while. “Zhou Yu in his youth is conceited, annoys his officers and rejects all their advice: I know that. But your fame has been long known to me, and now that you have been gracious enough to turn my way, I pray you not to be thrifty of your advice,” pleaded Cao Cao. “I, too, know well that you are a paragon of military strategy but I should like to have one look at your disposition,” said Pang Tong.
Cao Cao then summoned assistants to bring them horses and the two rode side by side to a hill, where they could view a great amount of the landscape. “If Wu Qi, the Great General, came to life again, he could not do better, nor could Sun Zi, the Famed Strategist, do better if he reappeared! All accords with the precepts. The camp is beside the hills and is flanked by a forest. The front and rear are within sight of each other. Gates of egress and ingress are provided, and the roads of advance and retirement are bent and broken,” praised Pang Tong after looking around and observing the area. But Cao Cao was not completely satisfied with this overwhelming approval and replied, “Master, I entreat you not to over-praise me, but to advise as to where I can make further improvements.” Pang Tong and Cao Cao then rode to Cao Cao’s naval camp. Here, Cao Cao had many cruisers and battleships all lined up in a formation suited for defending the lighter ships, which lay surrounded by the rest of Cao Cao’s armada. In Cao Cao’s naval camp there were channels and fixed stations. Pang Tong surveyed all this and, smiling, he once more commended Cao Cao. “Sir Prime Minister, if this is your method of warfare, you enjoy no empty reputation,” said Pang Tong. Pang Tong then decided to appease Cao Cao more and, pointing to the northern shore, he shouted, “Zhou Yu! Zhou Yu! You are finished. You will have to die.” This all pleased Cao Cao mightily and the two men rode back to his tent where they discussed warfare and drank many cups of wine. Eventually Pang Tong inquired, “Have you any capable doctors in your army?” Cao Cao asked Pang Tong why he had raised this particular issue and Pang Tong replied, “There is a lot of illness among the marines, and you ought to find some remedy.” It so happened that at this time Cao Cao’s men suffered from illness and Cao Cao felt quite worried about the issue (2). He thus beseeched Pang Tong to give him guidance on the matter.
“Your marine force is excellent, but there is just one defect. It is not quite perfect. The river is wide, and the tides ebb and flow. The winds and waves are never at rest. Your troops from the north are unused to ships, and the motion makes them ill. If your ships, large and small, were classed and divided into thirties, or fifties, and joined up stem to stem by iron chains and boards spread across them, to say nothing of soldiers being able to pass from one to the next, even horses could move about on them. If this were done, then there would be no fear of the wind and the waves and the rising and falling tides,” said Pang Tong wisely. Cao Cao greatly respected this advice and thanked his guest. “I could never defeat the land of the south without this scheme of yours!” exclaimed Cao Cao. Cao Cao then commanded blacksmiths to chain his ships together. Pang Tong further told Cao Cao, “I know many bold people on the other side who hate Zhou Yu. If I may use my little tongue in your service, I can induce them to come over to you. If Zhou Yu be left alone, you can certainly take him captive. And Liu Bei is of no account.” Cao Cao promised great rewards for Pang Tong if he rendered this service to him but Pang Tong only asked for mercy to be given to the people of the Southlands and beseeched Cao Cao to issue another document that would protect his own family. Cao Cao agreed to both of these requests and gave a contract agreeing to give both the Southlands’ citizens and Pang Tong’s family his protection, to Pang Tong. Using guile, Pang Tong had thus fooled Cao Cao. By chaining his ships, Cao Cao’s fleet now was susceptible to the fire ploy that Wu had prepared at Pang Tong’s advice. Pang Tong now took his leave of Cao Cao but on the way to his boat, a man in a Taoist robe, with a bamboo comb in his hair, approached Pang Tong.
The man said, “You are very bold. Huang Gai is planning to use the 'personal injury ruse', and Kan Ze has presented the letter of pretended desertion. You have proffered the fatal scheme of chaining the ships together lest the flames may not completely destroy them. This sort of mischievous work may have been enough to deceive Cao Cao, but I saw it all.” Now, Pang Tong began to grow fearful at the prospect of the stranger betraying his plan. As Pang Tong turned to look at this man, however, he saw it was his old friend Xu Shu, who had formerly worked as a tactician in Liu Bei’s employ. Xu Shu had been forced to serve Cao Cao because one of Cao Cao’s vassals had forged a letter that was supposedly written by Xu Shu’s mother. This letter stated that Xu Shu’s mother was being held hostage by Cao Cao and would be killed if Xu Shu did not come to work for Cao Cao. Because of Cao Cao’s blackmail and the later discovery that Cao Cao had lied to him, Xu Shu harbored enmity towards Cao Cao and, although nominally in his service, hardly assisted Cao Cao in any substantial way. Xu Shu waited for Pang Tong’s reply. “It would be a pity if you upset my plan. The fate of the people of all the eighty-one southern counties is in your hands,” said Pang Tong to his old acquaintance. “And what of the fate of these eight hundred thirty thousand soldiers and horse of the north?” replied Xu Shu. “Do you intend to wreck my scheme, Xu Shu?” flat-out asked Pang Tong. Xu Shu had expected this question and said, “I have never forgotten the kindness of Uncle Liu Bei, nor my oath to avenge the death of my mother at Cao Cao's hands. I have said I would never think out a plan for him. So am I likely to wreck yours now, old friend? But I have followed Cao Cao's army thus far; and after they shall have been defeated, good and bad will suffer alike and how can I escape? Tell me how I can secure safety, and I shall sew up my lips and go away.” Pang Tong instructed Xu Shu to spread rumors of an army led by Han Sui and Ma Teng marching from Xi Liang to attack Cao Cao. With cunning, Pang Tong had thus helped Xu Shu escape Cao Cao’s wrath and assisted in securing the victory for Wu and Shu in the Battle of Chi Bi.
After Chi Bi, Liu Bei seized land for himself in Jing using plans formulated by his strategist Zhuge Liang and the skill of his officers. Zhuge Liang greatly angered Zhou Yu on three occasions and Zhou Yu grew very ill, his sickness and the rate at which he began to perish expedited by becoming frustrated numerous times by Zhuge Liang. Zhou Yu passed away after an abortive attempt to conquer Yizhou. Pang Tong went to attend the funeral, held in Chai Sang, and there he saw Zhuge Liang, the very man who had infuriated Zhou Yu, pouring the libation for the funeral and reading a poem of lamentation. As Zhuge Liang went to leave, Pang Tong approached him and put his hand on Zhuge Liang’s shoulder. “You exasperated literally to death the man whose body lies up there. To come here as a mourner is an open insult to the South Land. It is as good as to say they have no other left,” teased Pang Tong with a smile. Zhuge Liang recognized the truth in this and laughed. The two geniuses went hand-in-hand to Zhuge Liang’s ship and talked for a great deal of time. Before Zhuge Liang boarded his vessel he gave his friend a letter and said to him, “I do not think that Sun Quan will use you as you merit. If you find life here distasteful, then you may relocate to Jingzhou and help to support my master. He is liberal and virtuous and will not disdain what you have spent your life in learning.” Zhuge Liang then departed to go to Jingzhou and Pang Tong went back to the Southlands. After Zhou Yu had been buried in his native lands, Lu Su was deemed the successor for the position of commander-in-chief. Lu Su objected to this position however and said to Sun Quan, “Zhou Yu was not right in recommending me, for I have not the requisite ability and am unfitted for this post. But I can commend to you a certain able man, conversant with all knowledge, and a most capable strategist, not inferior to the old Guan Zhong or Yue Yi, one whose plans are as good as those of Sun Zi and Wu Qi, the most famous masters of the Art of War. Zhou Yu often took his advice, and Zhuge Liang believes in him. And he is at hand.”
Sun Quan asked for the name of this man and Lu Su told Sun Quan that he was referring to Pang Tong. Sun Quan invited Pang Tong to the palace and after the two greeted each other Sun Quan asked, “What have you studied, and what are you master of?” Pang Tong anticipated this question and cleverly explained, “One must not be narrow and obstinate; one must change with circumstances.” Sun Quan then asked, “How does your learning compare with that of Zhou Yu?” “My learning is not to be compared with his in the least. Mine is far greater,” replied Pang Tong snidely. This statement however made Sun Quan mad, for he could not stand to hear his general Zhou Yu belittled. Sun Quan also disliked Pang Tong’s looks for, with bushy eyebrows, a turned up nose and a stubby beard, Pang Tong was quite odd on the exterior. Sun Quan dismissed Pang Tong and, with a sigh, Pang Tong left the palace. After Sun Quan explained his reasons for not appointing Pang Tong to Lu Su, Lu Su came over to Pang Tong. Pang Tong hung his head and sighed multiple times without saying anything. “I fear you are doomed to constant disappointment here, there is nothing you can hope for, eh?” remarked Lu Su. When Pang Tong remained silent, Lu Su continued, “With your wonderful gifts, of course you will be successful whithersoever you may go. You may take my word for that. But to whom will you go?” Pang Tong said suddenly, “I think I will join Cao Cao.” “That would be hinging a gleaming pearl into darkness. Rather go to Liu Bei, who would appreciate you and employ you fittingly,” replied Lu Su. Pang Tong had been kidding and he told this to Lu Su. Lu Su then said, “I will give you a letter to Liu Bei. And if you go to him, you must try to keep up peace between him and my lord and get them to act together against Cao Cao.” Pang Tong then gleefully took the letter offered to him by Lu Su and made his way to Jingzhou City. When he arrived, Zhuge Liang was off inspecting the area but he was nevertheless received into the household of Liu Bei. Pang Tong saluted Liu Bei but did not bow. “You have come a long and arduous journey,” said Liu Bei, a bit disappointed that Pang Tong had not been properly courteous to him. Pang Tong cut right to the point, rather than producing the letters given to him by Zhuge Liang or Lu Su, saying, “I hear, O Imperial Uncle, that you are welcoming the wise and receiving scholars, wherefore I have come to join your service.” “The country is decently peaceful now, and unfortunately there is no office vacant. But away to the northeast there is a small magistracy, Leiyang, which needs a chief. I can allow you that post until there should be something more fitting,” offered Liu Bei. Although Pang Tong thought this welcome poor, he realized that he had no choice but to accept and he left to go to his new post.
Pang Tong, upon arriving at his new position, found the job to be boring and indulged himself in wine and pleasure, rather than collecting taxes or administering justice. News of Leiyang falling into disorder made Liu Bei’s blood boil and the enraged ruler said to his staff, “Here is this stiff-necked pedant throwing my administration into disorder.” Liu Bei sent his brash general Zhang Fei and his tactful officer Sun Qian to inspect the county and look into disorders and irregularities in governance. The two inquisitors showed up in Leiyang where the guards at the boundary and officials welcomed them. Pang Tong however decided not to speak with Zhang Fei or Sun Qian. Zhang Fei asked where the magistrate was and an official answered, “Ever since his arrival, a hundred days ago and more, he has attended to no business, but spends his days from morn to night in wine-bobbing and is always intoxicated. Just now he is sleeping off a debauch and is not yet risen.” This news incensed Zhang Fei who would have simply removed Pang Tong from his office had not Sun Qian said, “Pang Tong is a man of great ability, and it would be wrong to deal with him thus summarily. Let us inquire into it. If he is really so guilty, we will punish his offense.” Zhang Fei and Sun Qian then went to the magistracy and summoned Pang Tong before them. Pang Tong came out looking disorderly and drunk, which only further raised Zhang Fei's ire. “My brother took you for a decent person, and sent you here as magistrate. How dare you throw the affairs of the county into disorder!” growled Zhang Fei furiously. “Where would be the difficulty in dealing with the business of a trifling county like this? I pray you, General, sit down for a while till I have settled the cases,” replied Pang Tong after further questioning. Pang Tong then ordered his clerks to bring in people who wished to settle legal disputes. By afternoon Pang Tong had finished clearing up the disorders and problems that had built up over a hundred days. He had been scribbling rapidly before but now put down his pen and said to Zhang Fei, “Where is the disorder? When I can take on Cao Cao and Sun Quan as easily as I can solve problems like this, what attention from me is needed for the business of this paltry place?”
Zhang Fei was astonished at Pang Tong’s diligence and precision and, rising from his seat, he said, “You are indeed a marvel, Master. I have not treated you respectfully enough, but now I shall commend you to my brother with all my might.” Pang Tong then showed the letter that Lu Su had given him and, after Zhang Fei inquired why Pang Tong had not produced this letter when he first met Liu Bei, Pang Tong replied, “If I had a chance, I would have shown Liu Bei this letter. But is it likely that one would just take advantage of a letter of commendation to make a visit?” Zhang Fei then turned to his colleague Sun Qian and said to him, “You just saved a wise man for us.” The two inspectors then returned to Liu Bei and told him what had occurred. Liu Bei acknowledged his fault and admitted, “I have been wrong. I have behaved unjustly to a learned person.” Zhang Fei then gave the letter that Lu Su wrote earlier to Liu Bei. Liu Bei looked at the letter, which read: “Pang Tong is not the sort of person to be met with on any day's march. Employ him in some capacity where great aptitude is required, and his powers will declare themselves. Beware of judging him by his looks, or you may lose the advantage of his abilities, and some other will gain him. This would be a misfortune.” Liu Bei felt sorry for doubting Pang Tong when it was announced that Zhuge Liang had returned. After the usual salutations, Zhuge Liang asked, “Is Directing-Instructor Pang Tong quite well?” Liu Bei replied, “He is in charge of Leiyang, where he is given to wine and neglects his business.” Zhuge Liang laughed, saying, “My friend Pang Tong has incredible talent and ten times my knowledge. When a person of transcendent abilities is sent to a paltry post, he always turns to wine and laziness out of simple dissatisfaction.” Liu Bei then wasted no time and called for Zhang Fei to bring Pang Tong to Jingzhou City. When Pang Tong arrived, Liu Bei met him at the foot of the steps of his court and apologized. Pang Tong produced the letter that Zhuge Liang previously gave him which simply noted: “As soon as the Young Phoenix shall arrive, he should be given an important post.” Liu Bei rejoiced as he read it and commented, “Water Mirror said of the two men, Sleeping Dragon and Young Phoenix, that any man who obtained the help of either of them could restore the empire when he would. As I now have them both, surely the Hans will rise again.” Then Liu Bei gave Pang Tong the position of Vice Directing Instructor and General and Zhuge Liang and Pang Tong set to work training and organizing the army (3).
One day a visitor from the West, under the service of Liu Zhang and holding the rank of charioteer, came to visit Liu Bei. This man’s name was Zhang Song and Liu Bei had heard of his talents and opted to treat him with utmost respect. Liu Bei held a banquet in Zhang Song’s honor but at the feast Liu Bei refrained from saying anything about his ambitions to subjugate the West. Zhang Song hoped to press the issue and said after awhile, “How many counties are there in Jingzhou, where you are now, O Imperial Uncle?” Zhuge Liang answered him, also commenting that Liu Bei’s position in Jing was for the most part temporary. “The South Land is large, yet their six territories and their eighty-one counties do not satisfy them. The people are strong and the land is fruitful,” acknowledged Zhang Song. Hearing these words regarding the possible subjugation of Shu, Pang Tong knew where the conversation was going and said, “Our lord, being of the dynastic family, has never occupied a territory of the empire. Those others, rebellious as they are, may indeed seize upon as much territory as they are strong enough to hold. People of reasons do not approve such wrongs...” “Noble Sirs, pray say no more. What virtue have I that I should expect anything from the future?” countered Liu Bei modestly. Liu Bei continued to disapprove of such ambitious schemes and for the next three days of wine parties and banquets with Zhang Song, nobody dared to speak about a Western expedition. In three days time the visitor left. Zhang Song went back to the Riverlands where he convinced Liu Zhang to allow Liu Bei to settle in the West and ward off an invasion coming from Zhang Lu, a warlord situated North of Shu in Hanzhong. Fa Zheng, an emissary of Liu Zhang’s sent Liu Bei a letter from Liu Zhang that greatly pleased Liu Bei. Fa Zheng was invited to a banquet and, like Zhang Song, was treated with the utmost respect. The topic of a possible Riverlands expedition was once more brought up. Liu Bei dismissed the topic again but said however, “Let me reflect for a time and take advice.” After Liu Bei said this, the banquet was ended not much later.
“You must decide on the matter---not to decide is foolish. You are of high intelligence, my lord, and why do you hesitate?” asked Pang Tong once the party had ended. In response Liu Bei asked, “What should my reply be?” Pang Tong said, “You know these surroundings---Sun Quan in the east and Cao Cao in the north---, and with them you cannot attain your ends. Now before you lies a populous, fertile, and rich land, a base with the greatest possibilities. You have the promise of assistance from two men within, and it seems like a gift of providence. Why hesitate?” Liu Bei realized that Yizhou was accessible to him but replied; “Now there are two men in the world as mutually antagonistic as fire and water. My opposite is Cao Cao. He is impetuous and I am long suffering; he is cruel and I am humane; he feigns while I am true. In all particulars I act the direct contrary to him. I refuse to risk the loss of the confidence and trust of the world for a trifling advantage.” (4) Pang Tong smiled at these sentiments and his lord’s righteousness and replied, “My lord's words are quite in accord with abstract rectitude, but such ideas scarcely suit these days of rebellion. There are other ways of fighting than with warlike weapons, but to adhere too obstinately to the idea of abstract rectitude is to do nothing. One must be an opportunist, annex the weak and attack the willfully deluded, seize the recalcitrant and protect the docile. These were the teachings of the great Kings Tang and Wu. If after the settlement you reward with righteousness and make of the land a great country, will you be guilty of a breach of trust? Remember if you do not take it now, another will.” (5) Liu Bei finally relented, realizing the truth of what Pang Tong had said and replied, “These words are as jewels. They should be engraved on my very heart.” Liu Bei then organized the campaign, ordering Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei, Guan Yu and Zhao Yun to guard Jingzhou while he, Pang Tong, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan went off to march in a Western campaign. Pang Tong was placed in control as commander of the whole army, which consisted of about 50,000 troops. The expedition was begun in winter. Liu Bei’s armies met with a force led by Meng Da, another general of the Riverlands who had with him at the time some five thousand soldiers. These troops of Meng Da had been ordered to act as escort to Liu Bei’s army. Through Meng Da, Liu Bei informed Liu Zhang that he had started in his campaign to defend Liu Zhang against Zhang Lu. Liu Zhang then sent orders to the provincial administrators to entertain Liu Bei and his forces well on Liu Bei’s march. Liu Zhang himself also went out to visit Liu Bei, commanding an army of 30,000 under his command that carried supplies and wagons laden with other valuable objects. A meeting between Liu Bei and Liu Zhang was to take place at Fucheng. Before Liu Bei’s army arrived here however, Fa Zheng had secretly shown Pang Tong a letter written by Zhang Song recommending to Liu Bei the idea of assassinating Liu Zhang in the city. “Say nothing about this. After the two Lius have met, there may be opportunities, but this is too early to talk. Any plot would leak out,” advised Pang Tong hastily. Thus nothing was said about any scheme to assassinate Liu Zhang for the time being.
Liu Bei’s army continued unmolested to Fucheng, where Liu Bei and Liu Zhang met with each other within the city. After Liu Bei returned to his tent, Pang Tong inquired as to how the meeting went and what Liu Bei’s impression of Liu Zhang was. “He seems to be a very honest man,” said Liu Bei. “He is good enough, but some of his servants are discontented at this turn of affairs, and I would not guarantee there will be no murders. If you took my advice, you would have Liu Zhang assassinated at the return banquet. A hundred ruffians behind the arras, a signal from you, and the deed would be accomplished. All that would be required then would be a rush on Capital Chengdu. No sword need be drawn, no arrow fitted to the string,” suggested Pang Tong. Liu Bei however would not hear of such diabolical scheming and replied, “He is a clansman of my house and has treated me with sincerity. I am a newcomer and so far unknown in this land. Such a deed would be abhorrent to the entire world, and these people would resent it. I will not establish myself by such means.” “The idea is not mine. It originated in a private letter from Zhang Song, who says it will have to be done some time,” noted Pang Tong. At this point Fa Zheng overheard the debate and said, “This is not for ourselves. It is the will of heaven.” But Liu Bei once more repeated his argument and bluntly stated, “Liu Zhang and I are of the same house, and I would tremble at the notion of harming him.” “Sir, you are wrong. If you act not as we propose, then Zhang Lu will take Shu in revenge for the death of his mother. What is there for you at the end of your long march? Advance, and success is yours; retreat, and you have nothing. And delays are most dangerous. At any moment this scheme may leak out, and another will reap the profit. This is the day when Heaven smiles on you. Act before Liu Zhang suspects you. Establish yourself,” urged Fa Zheng. Pang Tong backed Fa Zheng up but Liu Bei continued to refuse such a plan. The next day another banquet ensued at Fucheng and Pang Tong once again talked about assassinating Liu Zhang with Fa Zheng. “Since our master will have nothing to do with our strategy, we had better set Wei Yan's sword-play to work and take advantage of the confusion to kill Liu Zhang,” said Pang Tong to Fa Zheng. It so happened that Wei Yan came in shortly afterward with his sword drawn and he offered to fence for everybody’s amusement. Thereupon Pang Tong called forth some armed guards and positioned them near Wei Yan to join in this ‘friendly’ match. The officers of Liu Zhang stared at the array in bafflement and wondered why these preparations might be made. But one of them, a certain general of Liu Zhang’s named Zhang Ren, boldly drew his sword and remarked, “An opponent is needed to make fencing a success, so Wei Yan and I will display our skill at the same time.” The two then started fighting but in the middle of this bout Wei Yan glanced at Liu Feng, who presently came over to his side with weapon drawn. Soon three commanders from Liu Zhang’s side followed suit and assembled near Zhang Ren.
At this time Liu Bei began to worry that this match might be slowly turning into a brawl between the two forces. Liu Bei took the sword of a lowly servant and cried, “We brothers have perhaps honored our meeting with a little too much wine. There is nothing to say against that, but this is no Hongmen Banquet, where murder was done. Put up your swords, or I will slay you!” (6) Liu Zhang then had his servants confiscate the weapons that his generals carried. Disarmed, the officers of Liu Zhang sulkily withdrew from the banquet. The arranged banquet then went on without much happening except for the usual occurrences to be expected at such a social event. When Liu Bei returned to his camp however he blamed Pang Tong for what transpired during the day. “Why did you endeavor to force me into committing a great wrong?” demanded Liu Bei. “There must be no repetition of this!” he ordered. Pang Tong then sighed and retired, sullen that his plot had failed and he now faced the wrath of his fuming lord. Shortly after this banquet, information came that Zhang Lu was preparing a force to lead an attack on the Western Riverlands by capturing Jiameng Pass. Pang Tong then went with the rest of Liu Bei’s army to defend the area. At this time however Liu Bei learned that his wife, Lady Sun, the sister of Sun Quan, had fled to once more reunite with her brother. He also received news that Cao Cao and Sun Quan were warring at Ruxu. Liu Bei decided to consult Pang Tong on the matter. “The victor of Ruxu, whoever it is, will assuredly possess himself of our region of Jingzhou,” said Liu Bei about the issue. But Pang Tong dismissed the subject and poured out his true feelings on his concern regarding the defense of Jiameng, which he deemed to be difficult without reinforcements from Liu Zhang. Said Pang Tong in response to Liu Bei, “You need not trouble about Jingzhou, as I doubt the South Land or the Middle Land will try to take it so long as Zhuge Liang is there. But, my lord, write to Liu Zhang telling him you wish to return on account of this threatening danger. It will be a plausible excuse. You may say that on account of Cao Cao's attack, Sun Quan has sent to you for help, and that as his country and yours are neighbors and dependent upon each other for safety you cannot refuse. Further, you will assure him that there is no danger of any invasion by Zhang Lu. However, we have too few troops for our purpose and insufficient grain, so you must also urge your relative to send you thirty or forty thousand of veterans and a plentiful supply of food. He will not refuse, and with more soldiers and provisions we can do as we please.”
Liu Bei liked this idea and sent a messenger to Chengdu. But Liu Zhang only sent four thousand or so men with little military experience and a paltry sum of grain, along with a letter that angered Liu Bei, causing him to tear up the letter and curse at the message-bearer who brought these items. Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, “You have hitherto laid too much stress on humanity and righteousness. However, that is all over now, and all affection between you two is at an end, now that you have torn up that letter.” Liu Bei replied, “Yes. And since that is so, what next?” “I have three schemes ready in my mind. You may choose which pleases you. The first, and best, is to send an army forthwith and seize Chengdu. The second is to capture and put to death the two generals of the River Fu Pass. They are the two most famous fighting men in this land. If you give out that you are returning to Jingzhou, they will assuredly come to say farewell. Seize and put them to death, and Fucheng will be in your possession in no time. Chengdu will follow soon. The third plan is to drop this role you have been playing, go back to Jingzhou and make a regular invasion. But if you ponder these schemes too long, you will get into such straits that nothing can save you,” replied Pang Tong. In response Liu Bei answered, “Of your three schemes, O Instructor, I find the first too summary and the last too slow. I choose the second scheme, which is neither.” Pang Tong’s second scheme involved sending a messenger to Gao Pei and Yang Huai prompting them to come forth and say farewell to Liu Bei at his invitation. These two men hoped to eliminate Liu Bei in such a meeting and so they responded to the invitation, though not immediately. On the way down to Fu River, Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, “You have need to be on your guard against those two if they come to bid you farewell. If they do not come, then the Pass must be attacked without delay.” As Pang Tong mentioned this a violent gust of wind knocked over the leading flag of the army and Liu Bei asked what this portended. “This signifies the coming of a surprise attack. Those two intend to assassinate you, so be on your guard,” said Pang Tong. At Pang Tong’s behest, Liu Bei put on double armor and readied his hand in case he might need to draw his sword. After this Pang Tong gave an order to the two generals under his command, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, who had accompanied Liu Bei’s army on the Riverlands trip. “However many soldiers come down from the Pass, see to it that none return,” decreed Pang Tong.
Therefore Pang Tong’s plan was put into action. The two generals of the Riverlands, Yang Huai and Gao Pei, came to Liu Bei’s encampment, bearing gifts of wine and sheep. Pang Tong stood near his lord Liu Bei as these two men entered the tent, equipped with hidden daggers. Liu Bei presented the two criminals with wine to drink and then said to them, “I have a secret matter to talk over with you.” The troops that escorted Yang Huai and Gao Pei on their mission now were sent away to the midst of the camp. Once they had left Liu Bei shouted, “My generals, lay hands upon these two rebels!” Then Liu Feng and Guan Ping rushed into the tent and seized each man. Pang Tong gave Liu Feng and Guan Ping permission to search the captives and the hidden weapons were found. Pang Tong issued the order for execution but Liu Bei was hesitant to confirm the sentence. Pang Tong insisted that their misdemeanors warranted execution and, in one swift move, Liu Feng and Guan Ping killed the two men. In a short time the troops of Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, who had been previously given orders from Pang Tong, also managed to round up all the soldiers who went with Yang Huai and Gao Pei on their assassination mission. Due to Pang Tong’s foresight, not a single soldier had opportunity to slip away. Pang Tong announced to these prisoners, “If you will now show the way so that our troops may capture Fu Pass, you shall be rewarded.” The captured troops appreciated the fact that Liu Bei would not execute or imprison them and consented to help Liu Bei’s army take the pass.. That night the renegade escort troops led Liu Bei’s army to Fucheng. When these men came to Fu they yelled to the guards to open the gate and, hearing the voices of their comrades, the guards gladly obliged. Liu Bei’s army thus was given entrance into the city and, understanding that they had been fooled, the defenders of the Pass surrendered to Liu Bei. Pang Tong then had the army patrol and protect the pass so as to maintain what had been captured. For the next few days, Liu Bei’s officers celebrated with feasting and parties. At one such event Liu Bei turned to Pang Tong and said, “This is what one might call a joyful occasion.”
Pang Tong refuted this point however and replied, “To employ warlike weapons in making an attack upon the possession of another is not using them in the best way, nor is the result of such an attack the most proper occasion for rejoicing.” At this point Liu Bei had become intoxicated and Pang Tong’s capricious response flustered him. “The success of King Wu of Zhou was celebrated with music. I suppose weapons were not well used on that occasion either. Why do you talk so wide of reason? Why don’t you retire to your lodgings and think about what you just said?” replied Liu Bei. Pang Tong simply laughed and left the table. As the banquet was coming to a close, Liu Bei’s attendants helped their lord to his own chamber. The day after Liu Bei summoned Pang Tong and apologized for his impoliteness. “I drank too much last night and spoke rudely. Pray forgive me,” requested Liu Bei. Pang Tong seemed to not be angry or hateful to Liu Bei and continued talking in good spirits as usual. “Really I was the only one to blame yesterday,” continued Liu Bei. Pang Tong thought he had erred as well however and said, “We both slipped up. It was not only you, my lord.” Thus the two made amends with one another and were once more on good terms. In due time, Liu Bei began to ponder his next move and decided it to be an opportune time to attack the city of Luo. Liu Bei took council with Pang Tong once more. Liu Bei’s two generals Huang Zhong and Wei Yan however began to bicker. “You two must not quarrel,” said Pang Tong. “There are two camps to be taken and two generals to fight. Take one each and let each lead his own troops. The first to capture his camp shall be held to have rendered the better service and to have acquired the most glory,” finished Pang Tong, setting the stage for a contest between the two officers and thus inspiring each of them to do their best for Liu Bei. Although at the time this seemed to satisfy both parties, Pang Tong still felt wary about their competitive nature and said to Liu Bei, “You, my lord, should follow them lest they should squabble on the way.” As a result of Pang Tong’s advice, disaster was prevented and both generals were successful, despite a minor mishap that caused Wei Yan to fall into a trap. Nevertheless Huang Zhong and Wei Yan were stationed in control of the camps and Wei Yan’s error was forgiven. Liu Bei asked Pang Tong for advice at this time because Sun Quan had formed a league with Zhang Lu that secretly planned to take Jiameng Pass. Pang Tong turned to Meng Da and asked, “You are a native of Shu and well skilled in its topography. What can be done to make the Pass secure?” “Let me take a certain man named Huo Jun with me, and I will defend it myself and answer for its safety,” replied Meng Da.
Having eased his lord’s fears, Pang Tong returned to his lodging to rest. Shortly after however, Pang Tong’s doorkeeper told Pang Tong that a visitor had come. Pang Tong went out to receive him and saw at his door a giant of a man with short hair and the type of clothing worn by peasants. “Who may you be, Master?” asked Pang Tong. The visitor ignored the question however and boorishly ambled over to the sofa, which he lazily reclined on. Pang Tong repeated his query but the guest simply said, “Do let me rest a little. Then I will talk with you about everything in the world.” This man’s response mystified Pang Tong who thought this man might be a spy. When Pang Tong brought food for the visitor, the stranger ravenously gobbled it all down and then soon after fell asleep. Pang Tong was puzzled and sent for Fa Zheng to come and give him advice on the matter. “Surely it can be no other than Peng Yang,” commented Fa Zheng. When Fa Zheng came to Pang Tong’s house, the visitor jumped up and excitedly greeted Fa Zheng. The two began laughing and gleefully talking with one another. Fa Zheng formally introduced him to Pang Tong, who now treated the visitor with all the respect due to an esteemed guest. Pang Tong asked why Peng Yang had come to his residence and the man replied, “To save a myriad of your soldiers' lives. I will explain fully when I see General Liu Bei.” Pang Tong thus sent for Liu Bei, who came in to see the visitor. Peng Yang inquired as to how many men Liu Bei had and Liu Bei told him. After hearing this information, Peng Yang said, “As a leader you cannot be ignorant of the lie of the land. Your camps over there are on River Fu. If the river be diverted and the enemy hold your army in front and rear, not a soul can escape.” Liu Bei heeded this advice and garrisoned his officers Huang Zhong and Wei Yan to block against the cutting of the river. His army thus prevented an attempt by Ling Bao, an officer of Liu Zhang, to divert the river. A banquet was held in honor of Peng Yang. Not much later a letter came from Zhuge Liang that read, “I have been making some astrological calculations. This is the last year of the cycle; the bowl of the Dipper is in the western quarter, and the planet Venus approaches Luocheng. The configuration is inimical to leaders, and the utmost caution is necessary.” This letter mimicked an earlier warning by Peng Yang but Pang Tong was paranoid of Zhuge Liang and thought that his friend had a jealous desire to stop him from continuing his campaign in the Riverlands and winning glory. Because of this Pang Tong opposed this and said, “I also have made calculations, and I read the signs to mean that the time is favorable for you to get possession of this land, and no evil is foreshown. Therefore be not of doubtful heart, my lord, but advance boldly.” Liu Bei had learned to trust Pang Tong and was won over by his argument.
Pang Tong then asked Fa Zheng what roads led to Luo. Fa Zheng drew a map for Pang Tong and this was found to be consistent with another one that Zhang Song had previously given to Liu Bei. Fa Zheng also said, “North of the mountains is a high road leading to the east gate. South of the mountains is another path leading to the west gate. Both these roads are suitable for the advance of an army.” Taking into account Fa Zheng’s words, Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, “With Wei Yan to lead the way, I will go along the southern road, while you, my lord, will advance along the high road, with Huang Zhong in the van. We will attack Luocheng at the same time.” “I was drilled as a mounted archer and am accustomed to by-roads, wherefore, O Instructor, I think you should take the high road and let me take the other,” replied Liu Bei. Pang Tong said in response, “There will be opposition on the high road, and you are the best to deal with it. Let me take the by-road. When a soldier goes into battle, he may be killed, or he may be wounded. He accepts whichever is his fate. But should one hesitate because of a dream?” Liu Bei once more could not agree and said, “The real reason of my hesitation is the letter from Zhuge Liang. Wherefore I wish you to remain and guard River Fu Pass. Do you agree to that?” Pang Tong smiled and simply said, “Zhuge Liang has indeed filled your mind with doubts. The real thing is that he is unwilling to let me have the merit of accomplishing a great undertaking alone. That is why he has written this. And your doubts and hesitations have produced the dream. But I see nothing ill omened, and I am prepared for any sacrifice and mean just what I say. Pray, my lord, say no more, but prepare to set forth.” Finally Liu Bei, seeing how sure his tactician was of the matter, decided to march. Liu Bei and Pang Tong occupied the rear of the army and they went to follow Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, who led the van, Pang Tong’s horse shied and stumbled, tossing Pang Tong from his saddle. Liu Bei leaped off his horse and grabbed the creature’s bridles. “Why do you ride this wretched beast?” asked Liu Bei. Pang Tong was taken aback by his usually faithful horse’s actions and said in reply, “I have ridden him a long time, and he has never done this before.” “A shying steed risks a person's life. Ride my horse, which is thoroughly trained and will never fail you. Give me yours,” ordered Liu Bei.
So Pang Tong exchanged equines with Liu Bei. Pang Tong thanked Liu Bei saying, “I am deeply affected by your kindness, I could never repay you if I suffered death a thousand times.” Eventually Liu Bei and Pang Tong came to a crossroads and Pang Tong went off on his own towards his destination. Pang Tong hastened forward down a dark road with dense thickets and thick foliage. It became more and more difficult to advance and Pang Tong began to worry, his heart starting to beat faster and faster as he progressed down the path. Alarmed, Pang Tong stopped his horse and asked if anybody knew the name of the place where they were. One of the recent recruits of Liu Bei reported, “This is called 'The Fallen Phoenix Slope.'” Pang Tong shuddered. “An evil omen for me, since Young Phoenix is my Taoist name. There is no luck for me here!” said Pang Tong uneasily. Pang Tong gave the order to retreat but unfortunately for him enemy units commanded by Zhang Ren happened to be hidden in ambush. As Pang Tong happened to be riding on Liu Bei’s beautiful white horse, Zhang Ren and his soldiers targeted Pang Tong. The roar of a bomb caught him by surprise and all at once missiles that were thick as swarming locusts, coming from the enemy’s bowstrings, flew towards him. A great deal of arrows wounded the so-called “Young Phoenix.” At Fallen Phoenix Slope, poor Pang Tong perished at the age of thirty-six. In the fateful battle, over half of the soldiers under Pang Tong’s command fell to Zhang Ren’s surprise attack. A somber song was written referring to Pang Tong, a great commander and worthy advisor who had met his end all too soon:
They were two, the Phoenix and the Dragon,
And they would travel far to the west;
But on the road thither
The Phoenix died on the mountain slope.
The wind drives off the rain,
The rain sends off the wind.
It was the day of the Han restoration,
When the west was attained,
But in the attainment
The Dragon was alone.
(1)-The specific lines in the novel mentioning Pang Tong are “This Pang Tong was from Xiangyang. And he had gone to the east of the river to get away from the strife.” It is unclear when exactly Pang Tong relocated to the Southlands although it probably happened around the time when Liu Bei began fleeing from Cao Cao or slightly before then.
(2)-Quite a few sources record information regarding an epidemic affecting Cao Cao’s men and the effect of the disease-harboring marshlands of Jing which also greatly damaged Cao Cao’s forces. Sickness negatively affected both the forces of Cao Cao and Cao Pi. Dr. Rafe de Crispigny also mentions these things in Chapter Seven of his book, Generals of the South
(3)-Pang Tong and Zhuge Liang afterwards both held the rank of ‘Jun Shi Zhong Lang Jiang.’ Later Pang Tong was in charge of the army’s movements into Yizhou and Zhuge Liang held authority over the other half of the army stationed in Jingzhou.
(4)-Liu Bei is recorded as saying something along the same lines in Pang Tong’s Sanguozhi biography as well.
(5)-King Tang of the Shang dynasty, who was born with the name Zi Lu, was considered to be a good ruler in Chinese history. He is said to have ruled from 1617 BC – 1588. Pang Tong references King Tang because he famously took advantage of the weakness of the faltering Xia dynasty, initiating over 10 wars against this declining faction and eliminating King Jie of Xia in a final victory in 1600. After taking control King Tang lowered taxes and conscription and thus acted virtuous as a king despite his scheming and aggressive military policy. King Wu of Zhou on the other hand was the first king of the Zhou line and completed his father’s goal of conquering the Shang dynasty. King Wu assembled over 800 dukes at a meeting in Meng Jin to plan for an attack on King Di Xin of Shang. At this time the Shang government was weakening and so King Wu struck and destroyed the Shang forces at Muye, where his army slaughtered the Shang forces despite being outnumbered. After this fight the Shang king committed suicide and the Zhou dynasty was proclaimed, which lasted over five hundred years.
(6)-The Hongmen Banquet was an occurrence that happened prior to the Han-Chu conflict, which was a series of battles between the King of then Western Chu, Xiang Yu, and the man who later founded the Han dynasty, Liu Bang. Liu Bang and Xiang Yu at the time were both fighting against Qin and Liu Bang had entered Qin’s capital Xianyang. This did not go over well with Xiang Yu although Xiang Ba wanted to mediate between the two warlords and prevent a fight between them from arising. The two met at Xiang Yu’s camp at Hongmen and, during a banquet, Fan Zeng, an advisor under Xiang Yu ordered a general named Xiang Chang to perform a sword dance and attempt to behead Liu Bang. Before Xiang Chang could murder Liu Bang, Xiang Yu’s uncle, Xiang Ba, rushed in to parry Xiang Chang’s blow and prevent the assassination from occurring. Liu Bang’s officer Fan Kuai rushed in and, in the ensuing confusion, slipped away and headed back to his camp.
King Mu Lu
Lifespan AD ?-225
Mu Lu was the King of the Bana Ravine and was famous in his native lands as a powerful sorcerer. He dressed in fine silks decorated with many exotic gold and pearl ornaments. On his belt he carried two swords and in battle, Mu Lu rode atop a magnificent white elephant. King Mu Lu cared for and trained a pack of various wild animals, including tigers, leopards, wolves and venomous snakes. These beasts loved their owner and playfully frolicked about behind King Mu Lu wherever he went.
After Zhuge Liang defeated the King of the Mang tribe, Meng Huo, on 5 separate occasions, Meng Huo became distressed and gathered his clan to address them in a meeting. Meng Huo asked what could be done to finally beat Zhuge Liang. A man in the assembly piped up and said, “I know of a man able to defeat Zhuge Liang.” Surprised at this sudden and confident statement, all the people present at the conference turned to the speaker, who was none other than Chief Dai Lai, the brother of Meng Huo’s wife and head of the eight Southern Mang Tribes. Chief Dai Lai went on, “I am of course referring to Mu Lu, King of the Bana Ravine. He is a master of witchcraft who can muster up windy tempests and invoke the rain. He rides upon an elephant and is attended by tigers, leopards, wolves, scorpions and all manner of other critters. Besides this, he has under his authority some thirty thousand superhuman soldiers. He is very bold as well. O King, write him a letter and send him presents, which I will deliver. If he will consent to lend his aid, what fears have we of Shu?” Meng Huo liked this plan and so drafted a letter to send for the highly recommended chieftain of the Bana Ravine. When King Mu Lu came, Meng Huo bowed low before him and explained how Zhuge Liang had managed to capture him on multiple occasions. Mu Lu promised to avenge the Mang king’s losses and, after attending a banquet, marched off to battle mounted on his trusty pachyderm. King Mu Lu was met by foot soldiers commanded by Zhao Yun and Wei Yan.
Both of these Shu officers came out to the frontlines of their arrays to examine their unusual opponents. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. The Mang banners and weapons were all amazing. The troops in Mu Lu’s regiment carried sharp, pointed knives on their belts. Although sunburned, a majority of the warriors in Mu Lu’s band fought in the nude. Finally signals were given to the army not by drum or trumpet but by gong, a method quite foreign to the Shu officers. From between the flags of his army, King Mu Lu emerged, sitting upon his elephant and with his dual blades fastened to his waist. In his hand he held a bell and from time to time would ring it or recite an incantation. To the surprise and dismay of the Riverland troops, Mu Lu’s spells caused the wind to suddenly howl and stones started rolling around the two armies. Sand and dust began to fly into the air and the Shu troops heard noises that sounded like a deluge pouring forth from the heavens. One of King Mu Lu’s men then rang a horn and out of the blue rushed in tigers, leopards, wolves, serpents and all sorts of other creatures. The Shu troops knew not what to do and so Mu Lu and the rest of the Mangs pursued their adversaries all the way to the city of Three Rivers, hacking and cutting down their enemies as they went.
The next day King Mu Lu’s spies saw the soldiers of Shu camped at the entrance to the Silver Pit Ravine. They then returned to their leader and told him about Shu’s whereabouts. King Mu Lu, after his previous victory just the day before, had become complacent and now thought himself perfectly invincible. This time King Mu Lu brought Meng Huo with him so that Meng Huo could observe his force’s power in action. As Mu Lu drew closer to the Silver Pit Ravine, a figure dressed in Daoist robes and sitting comfortably inside a light chariot appeared in the distance. Meng Huo recognized this man and said to his ally, “That is Zhuge Liang in that small vehicle. If we can only capture him, our task is done.” Mu Lu understood and began to summon up stormy winds once more. As in the last battle, Mu Lu’s wild creature companions roared and ran towards the Shu army. This time however the tides of war had changed. Zhuge Liang waved his feather fan in the opposite direction and the violent gusts blew the other way. Then, from amidst Zhuge Liang’s lines, burst forth fire-breathing contraptions disguised as terrible fiends. The animals under King Mu Lu’s sway turned tail and fled at the sight of these horrid things, running in the direction of King Mu Lu’s soldiers and trampling them down as they sped away into the distance. Zhuge Liang’s troops then fell upon King Mu Lu’s army with beating drums and blaring trumpets. The sudden attack and various reversals of King Mu Lu’s tactics caused Mu Lu’s troops to panic and as a result King Mu Lu was killed in the ensuing melee.