With the anniversary of my first bio (Dong Zhuo) approaching, I figured that I would post this in celebration along with some other stuff. This is a little shorter than part 1 (part 1 was 30+ pages of A4 when printed, this is a mere 25). Comments are welcome as always:
Upon reaching the capital, all officers who had participated in the expedition were rewarded and the next day Cao Cao memorialised the services of Liu Bei. Liu Bei was presented to the Emperor, was recognised as being the Emperor's uncle (22) and was given the rank of General of the Left Army and Lord of Yicheng. When Cao Cao returned to his palace his advisors came to see him, warning that it is of no advantage that Liu Bei is seen as the Emperor's uncle. Cao said, "Liu Bei may be recognized as uncle, but he is under my orders since I control the decrees of the Throne. He will be all the more ready to obey. Beside I will keep him here under the pretence of having him near his sovereign, and he will be entirely in my hands. I have nothing to fear. The man I fear is Yang Biao, who is a relative of the two Yuan brothers. Should Yang Biao conspire with them, he is an enemy within and might do much harm. He will have to be removed." So Cao Cao sent a secret messenger to say that Yang Biao was in league with Yuan Shu, and so Yang Biao was arrested and imprisoned. However the Governor of Behai, Kong Rong, was at Xuchang and he remonstrated with Cao Cao, pointing out that the charge was obviously false and that the people would know of Cao's involvement. Mengde had no choice but to relinquish the charges but he took away Yang Biao's offices and banished him to his family's estate in the countryside. Zhao Yan, the Court Counsellor, sent a memorial to the throne impeaching Cao Cao for his actions against Yang Biao, but Cao had Zhao Yan arrested and executed. Cheng Yu advised taking a more definite position; that of Chief of the Feudatory Princes. Mengde felt that there would be many in the court that would object and he intended to propose a royal hunt to find out the best path to follow.
When the Prime Minister proposed the hunting expedition, the Emperor said he feared it was an improper thing to do. Cao Cao replied, "In ancient times rulers made four expeditions yearly at each of the four seasons in order to show their strength. They were called Sou, Miao, Xien, and Shou, in the order of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Now that the whole country is in confusion, it would be wise to inaugurate a hunt in order to train the army. I am sure Your Majesty will approve." The Emperor agreed and joined the hunting party. Liu Bei and his brothers rode with the imperial train while Cao Cao, mounted on a horse called Flying Lightning, rode even with the Emperor. The hunt took place in Xutian over an area of one hundred square miles. While riding towards the hunting ground, the Emperor saw a deer and fired three arrows at it, but not one hit. He then turned to Cao Cao and asked him to try. Cao replied, "Lend me Your Majesty's bow," The Prime Minister fired an arrow that hit the deer in the shoulder, disabling it. The crowd of officers saw the Emperor's arrow stuck in the deer and assumed that the Emperor had killed the deer. They all started shouting "Wan Shui! O Emperor!" (23) Cao Cao pushed past the Emperor to acknowledge the congratulations. Liu Bei congratulated Cao on the amazing shot (24), to which Mengde replied with a smile, "It is only the enormous good fortune of the Son of Heaven!" He then turned and felicitated the Emperor, but did not return the bow. The hunt finished with a huge banquet, and when the entertainment was over, everyone returned to the capital.
Days later Cao Cao heard that the State Uncle, Dong Cheng, was having an audience with the Emperor. The Prime Minister made his way to the palace immediately and arrived as Dong Cheng was leaving. Cao asked where Dong Cheng had been, to which Cheng replied, "His Majesty summoned me into the Palace and has given me this robe and beautiful girdle." Cao Cao became suspicious and asked to inspect the robe and girdle. After closely scrutinising the objects, Mengde put them on, turned to his attendants and said, "How is it for length?" "Beautiful!" they replied. Turning to Dong Cheng, Mengde asked, "Will you give these to me?" but the State Uncle refused, offering another robe instead. "Is there not some intrigue connected with these presents? I am sure there is." said Cao Cao (25). Dong Cheng trembled and replied, "If you are so set on it, then I must give it up." but the Prime Minister said, "How could I take away what our Prince has given you? It was all a joke." and returned both the robe and girdle.
One day Cao Cao sent Xu Chu and Zhang Liao with an escort to bring Liu Bei to him. When he arrived, Mengde led him to his private garden and said, "That is a big business you have in hand at home. The growth of vegetables that you are trying to learn is very difficult." (26) He continued, "I happened to notice the green plums on the trees today, and suddenly my thoughts went back to a year ago when we were fighting Zhang Xiu. We were marching through a parched county, and everyone was suffering from thirst. Suddenly I lifted my whip, and pointing at something in the distance I said, 'Look at those fruitful plum trees in the forest ahead.' The soldiers heard it, and it made their mouths water. Seeing the plums kindles my appreciation. I owe something to the plums, and we will repay it today. I ordered the servants to heat some wine very hot and sent to invite you to share it." The two men sat in a small spring pavilion in a plum garden where they enjoyed the wine. As they drank, the weather gradually changed and clouds gathered. The servants pointed out that one of the clouds looked like a dragon, so both host and guest leaned over the balcony to inspect it. "Do you understand the evolution of dragons? A dragon can assume any size, can rise in glory or hide from sight. Bulky, it generates clouds and evolves mist; attenuated, it can scarcely hide a mustard stalk or conceal a shadow. Mounting, it can soar to the empyrean; subsiding, it lurks in the uttermost depths of the ocean. This is the midspring season, and the dragon chooses this moment for its transformations like a person realizing his own desires and overrunning the world. The dragon among animals compares with the hero among people. You, General, have travelled all lakes and rivers. You must know who are the heroes of the present day, and I wish you would say who they are." Liu Bei replied, "I am just a common dullard. How can I know such things?" Thanks to your kindly protection I have a post at court. But as to heroes I really do not know who they are." "You may not have looked upon their faces, but you must have heard their names." replied Mengde. "Yuan Shu of the South of River Huai, with his strong army and abundant resources: Is he one?" asked Liu Bei. Cao Cao laughed, "A rotting skeleton in a graveyard. I shall put him out of the way shortly." Liu Bei tried again, "Well, Yuan Shao then. The highest offices of state have been held in his family for four generations, and his clients are many in the empire. He is firmly posted in Jizhou, and he commands the services of many able people. Surely he is one."
"A bully, but a coward. He is fond of grandiose schemes, but is devoid of decision. He makes for great things but grudges the necessary sacrifice. He loses sight of everything else in view of a little present advantage. He is not one."
"There is Liu Biao of Jingzhou. He is renowned as a man of perfection, whose fame has spread on all sides. Surely he is a hero."
"He is a mere semblance, a man of vain reputation. No; not he."
"Sun Ce is a sturdy sort, the chief of all in the South Land. Is he a hero?"
"He has profited by the reputation of his father Sun Jian. Sun Ce is not a real hero."
"What of Liu Zhang of Yizhou?"
"Though he is of the reigning family, he is nothing more than a watch dog. How could you make a hero of him?"
"What about Zhang Xiu, Zhang Lu, Han Sui, and all those leaders?"
Cao Cao clapped his hands and laughed very loudly, saying, "Paltry people like them are not worth mentioning."
"With these exceptions I really know none."
"Now heroes are the ones who cherish lofty designs in their bosoms and have plans to achieve them. They have all-embracing schemes, and the whole world is at their mercy."
"Who is such a person?" said Liu Bei.
Cao Cao pointed his finger first at his guest and then at himself, saying, "The only heroes in the world are you and I."
Liu Bei gasped and dropped his chopsticks in fright, just as a loud clap of thunder boomed overhead. Stooping to pick up the utensils he said, "What a shock! And it was quite close." (27)
Soon Guan Yu and Zhang Fei arrived and took their usual places to await Liu Bei. Cao Cao asked them why they had come, to which they replied, "We heard that you, Sir, had invited our brother to a wine party, and we came to amuse you with a little sword play." (28) but Cao Cao declined. Soon afterwards the three brothers took their leave.
The next day Cao Cao again invited Liu Bei and while they were drinking, Man Chong came to present his report on Yuan Shao's activities. Yuan Shao had killed Gongsun Zan and was now in the process of forging an alliance with his brother, Yuan Shu. (29) Yuan Shu was now marching north and if he succeeded in conquering the north of the Yellow River then the two brothers would control adjoining regions. Liu Bei offered to lead an army to intercept Yuan Shu, to which Cao Cao replied, "Memorialise the Emperor tomorrow, and I will give you an army." The next day, Liu Bei's expedition was approved, and so Mengde gave him command of fifty thousand soldiers along with generals Zhu Ling and Lu Zhao. Soon after Liu Bei had departed, Guo Jia and Cheng Yu came to see Cao and asked why Liu Bei had been allowed to leave. "He is going to cut off Yuan Shu," replied Cao Cao. Cheng Yu replied, "Formerly, when he was Imperial Protector of Yuzhou, we recommended that he should be put to death, but you would not hear of it. Now you have given him an army. You have allowed the dragon to reach the sea, the tiger to return to the mountains. What control will you have in future?" Guo Jia agreed, saying, "Even if you would not put him to death, you need not have let him go. As the proverb says, 'Relax opposition for one day and age-long harm ensues.' You must admit the truth of this." The Prime Minister realised that the advice was good so he sent Xu Chu with five hundred horsemen to bring Liu Bei back. When Xu Chu returned, it was with only the horsemen he had been given and Liu Bei's reply: "When a general has once taken the field, even the royal command is of no effect. I bade farewell to the Emperor, I received the Prime Minister's commands, and there can be nothing further to talk about." Cao Cao was still hesitant to take any action and said to his advisors, "Two of my people are with him. He will not dare do anything unfriendly, I think. Beside, I sent him and I cannot go back on my own orders." and so Liu Bei was not pursued.
Liu Bei's campaign was a success as Yuan Shu died and his army was broken. Yuan Shu's family fled to Lujiang where the magistrate, Xu Liu, killed them and took their possessions including the Imperial Hereditary Seal. Xu Liu brought the seal to Cao Cao and was made the Governor of Gaoling as reward for his service. Shortly afterwards, Zhu Ling and Lu Zhao returned to the capital. (30) Cao was angry that the two men had returned without Liu Bei and wanted them executed, but Xun Yu reasoned with him and the two men were pardoned. On Xun Yu's advice, Cao Cao sent secret orders to Che Zhou, the Deputy Imperial Protector of Xuzhou, to destroy Liu Bei. However Che Zhou's plan failed and he was killed when his confident, Chen Deng, betrayed him. Liu Bei feared retribution from Cao Cao and wrote to Yuan Shao seeking protection.
One day, Cao Cao was in bed with a bad headache when one of his servants brought a piece of paper to him. The paper was a manifesto issued by Yuan Shao accusing Cao Cao of numerous crimes. The manifesto read:
"A perspicacious ruler wisely provides against political vicissitudes; a loyal minister carefully foresees the difficulties in the assertion of authority. Wherefore a person of unusual parts precedes an extraordinary situation, and of such a person the achievements will be extraordinary. For indeed the ordinary person is quite unequal to an extraordinary situation.
"In former days, after having gained ascendancy over a weakling emperor of the powerful Qin Dynasty, Prime Minister Zhao Gao wielded the whole authority of the Throne, overruling the government. All dignity and fortune came through him, and his contemporaries were restrained so that none dared to speak openly. Slowly but surely evolved the tragedy of the Wangyi Palace, when the Emperor was slain and the Imperial Tablets perished in the flames. Zhao Gao, the author of these crimes, has ever since been held up to obloquy as the arch example of an evil doer.
"In the later days of Empress Lu of the Hans, after the death of the Supreme Ancestor, the world saw Lu Chan and Lu Lu, brothers of the Empress and fellows in wickedness, monopolizing the powers of government. Within the capital, they commanded two armies, and without they ruled the feudal states of Liang and Zhao. They arbitrarily controlled all state affairs and decided all questions in the council chamber and the court. This dominance of the base and declension of the noble continued till the hearts of the people grew cold within them.
"Thereupon Zhou Bo, Lord of Jiang, and Liu Zhan, Lord of Zhuxu, asserted their dignity and let loose their wrath. They destroyed the contumacious ministers and restored their ruler to his royal state. Thus they enabled the kingly way to be re-established and the glory to be manifested. Here are two instances where ministers asserted their authority.
"This Cao Cao, now Minister of Works, forsooth, had for ancestor a certain eunuch named Cao Teng, fitting companion of Xu Huan and Zuo Guan. All three were prodigies of wickedness and insatiably avaricious and, let loose on the world, they hindered ethical progress and preyed upon the populace. This Cao Teng begged for and adopted Cao Cao's father who, by wholesale bribery, wagons of gold and cartloads of jewels presented at the gates of the influential, contrived to sneak his way into considerable office where he could subvert authority. Thus Cao Cao is the depraved bantling of a monstrous excrescence, devoid of all virtue in himself, ferocious and cunning, delighting in disorder and revelling in public calamity.
"Now I, Yuan Shao, a man of war, have mustered my armies and displayed my might that I may sweep away and destroy the evil opponents of government. I have already had to deal with Dong Zhuo, the ruffian who invaded the official circle and wrested the government. At that time I grasped my sword and beat the drums to restore order in the east. I assembled warriors, selected the best, and took them into my service. In this matter I came into relations with this Cao Cao and conferred with him to further my scheme. I gave him command of a subordinate force and looked to him to render such petty service as he was equal to. I suffered his stupidities and condoned his shortcomings, his rash attacks and facile retreats, his losses and shameful defeats, his repeated destruction of whole armies. Again and again I sent him more troops and filled the gaps in his depleted ranks. I even addressed a memorial to the Throne for him to be appointed Imperial Protector of Yanzhou. I made him feel as he were a tiger. I added to his honours and increased his authority, hoping that eventually he would justify himself by a victory against Dong Zhuo such as Qin used Meng Ming against Jin.
"But Cao Cao availed himself of the opportunity to overstep all bounds, to give free rein to violence and evil. He stripped the common people, outraged the good, and injured the virtuous. Bian Rang, Governor of Jiujiang, was a man of conspicuous talent and of worldwide reputation. He was honest in speech and correct in demeanour. He spoke without flattery. Cao Cao put him to death and his head was exposed, and his family utterly destroyed. From that day to this scholars have deeply mourned, and popular resentment has steadily grown. One person raised his arm in anger, and the whole countryside followed him. Whereupon Cao Cao was smitten at Xuzhou, and his territory was snatched by Lu Bu. He fled eastward without shelter or refuge.
"My policy is a strong trunk and weak branches, a commanding central government and obedient feudal lords. Also I am no partisan. Therefore I again raised my banners, donned my armour, and moved forward to attack. My drums rolled for an assault on Lu Bu, and his multitudes incontinently fled. I saved Cao Cao from destruction and restored him to a position of authority. Wherein I must confess to showing no kindness to the people of Yanzhou, although it was a great matter for Cao Cao.
"Later it happened that the imperial cortege moved east, and a horde of rebels of Dong Zhuo's faction rose and attacked. The course of government was hindered. At that moment my territory was threatened from the north, and I could not leave it. Wherefore I sent one of my officers, Xu Xun, to Cao Cao to see to the repair of the dynastic temples and the protection of the youthful sovereign. Thereupon Cao Cao gave the rein to his inclinations. He arbitrarily ordered the removal of the court to Xuchang. He brought shame upon the Ruling House and subverted the laws. He engrossed the chairmanship of the three highest offices and monopolized the control of the administration. Offices and rewards were conferred according to his will; punishment was at his word. He glorified whole families of those he loved; he exterminated whole clans of those he hated. Open critics were executed; secret opponents were assassinated. Officials locked their lips; wayfarers only exchanged glances. Chairs of boards recorded levies, and every government official held a sinecure.
"The late Yang Biao, a man who had filled two of the highest offices of state as Chairs of two boards, because of some petty grudge was, though guiltless, charged with a crime. He was beaten and suffered every form of cruelty. This arbitrary and impulsive act was a flagrant disregard of constitutional rules.
"Another victim was the Counselor Zhao Yan. He was faithful in remonstrance, honest in speech, endowed with the highest principles of rectitude. He was listened to at court. His words carried enough weight with the Emperor to cause him to modify his intention and confer reward for outspokenness. Desirous of diverting all power into his own hands and stifle all criticism, Cao Cao presumed to arrest and put to death this censor, in defiance of all legal procedures.
"Another evil deed was the destruction of the tomb of Prince Xiao of Liang, the brother of the late Emperor. His tomb should certainly have been respected, even its mulberries and sweetgum trees, its cypresses and its pines. Cao Cao led soldiers to the cemetery and stood by while it was desecrated, the coffin destroyed and the poor corpse exposed. They stole the gold and jewels of the dead. This deed brought tears to the eyes of the Emperor and rent the hearts of all people. Cao Cao also appointed new offices---Commander Who Opens Grave Mounds and General Who Seeks for Gold---whose tracks were marked by desecrated graves and exhumed bodies. Indeed, while assuming the position of the highest officer of state, he indulged the inclination of a bandit, polluting the empire, oppressing the people, a bane to gods and humans.
"He added to this by setting up minute and vexatious prohibitions so that there were nets and snares spread in every pathway, traps and pitfalls laid in every road. A hand raised was caught in a net; a foot advanced was taken in an entanglement. Wherefore the people of his regions, Yanzhou and Yuzhou, waxed desperate and the inhabitants of the metropolis groaned and murmured in anger.
"I have investigated the cases of evil deeds in the regions, but I have been unable to reform him. I have given him repeated opportunities hoping that he would repent. But he has the heart of a wolf, the nature of a wild beast. He nourishes evil in his bosom and desires to pull down the pillars of the state, to weaken the House of Han, to destroy the loyal and true, and to stand himself conspicuous as the chief of criminals.
"Formerly, when I attacked the north, Gongsun Zan, that obstinate bandit and perverse brave, resisted my might for a year. Before Gongsun Zan could be destroyed, this Cao Cao wrote to him that, under the pretence of assisting my loyal armies, he would covertly lead them to destruction. The plot was discovered through his messengers, and Gongsun Zan also perished. This blunted Cao Cao's ardour, and his plans failed.
"Now he is camped at the Ao Granaries, with the Yellow River to strengthen his position. Like the mantis in the story, that threatened the chariot with its forelegs, he thinks himself terrible. But with the dignity and prestige of Han to support me, I confront the whole world. I have spearmen by millions, horsemen by hundreds of thousands, fierce and vigorous warriors strong as Chong Huang and Wu Huo, those heroes of antiquity. I have enlisted expert archers and strong bowmen. In Bingzhou my armies have crossed the Taihang Range, and in Qingzhou they have forded River Ji and River Ta. They have coasted down the Yellow River to attack his van, and from Jingzhou the armies of Liu Biao have descended to Wancheng and Wangye to smite his rearguard. Thunder-like in the weight of their march, tiger-like in the alertness of their advance, they are as flames let loose among light grass, as the blue ocean poured on glowing embers. Is there any hope that he escapes destruction?
"Of the hordes of Cao Cao, those who can fight are from the north or from other camps, and they all desire to return home. They weep whenever they look to the north. The others belong to Yanzhou or Yuzhou, being remnants of the armies of Lu Bu and Zhang Yang. Beaten, stern necessity forced them to accept service, but they take it only as a temporary expedient. They who have been wounded hate each other. If I give the signal to return and send my drums to the mountaintops, and wave the white flag to show them they may surrender, they will melt away like dew before the sun, and no blood will be shed. The victory will be mine.
"Now the Hans are failing and the bonds of empire are relaxed. The sacred dynasty has no supporter; the ministers are not strong enough to cope with the difficulties. Within the capital the responsible ministers are crestfallen and helpless. There is no one to rely upon. Such loyal and high-principled people as are left are browbeaten by a tyrannical minister. How can they manifest their virtue?
"Cao Cao has surrounded the Palace with seven hundred veterans, the ostensible object being to guard the Emperor, but the covert design being to hold him prisoner. I fear this is but the first step in usurpation, and so I take my part. Now is the time for loyal ministers to sacrifice their lives, the opportunity for officers to perform meritorious deeds. Can I fail to urge you?
"Cao Cao has forged commands to himself to undertake the control of government affairs and, in the name of the state, sends out calls for military assistance. I fear lest distant regions may obey his behest and send troops to help him, to the detriment of the multitude and their everlasting shame. No wise person will do so.
"The forces of four regions---Bingzhou, Jizhou, Qingzhou, and Youzhou---are moving out simultaneously. When this call reaches Jingzhou, you will see their forces cooperate with those of Liu Biao. All regions and counties ought to organize volunteers and set them along their borders to demonstrate their force and prove their loyal support of the dynasty. Will not this be rendering extraordinary service?
"The rank of lordship, with feudal rights over five thousand households and a money reward of five millions, will be the reward of the one who brings the head of Cao Cao. No questions will be asked of those who surrender. I publish abroad this notice of my bounty and the rewards offered that you may realize that the dynasty is in real danger." (31)
Upon finishing reading the manifesto, Cao Cao became very frightened and broke into a cold sweat. He leapt out of bed and asked Cao Hong, "Who wrote this?" Cao Hong replied, "They say it is Chen Lin's brush." Cao Cao laughed, "They have the literary gift; they would rather have the military to back it up. This fellow may be a very elegant writer, but what if Yuan Shao's fighting capacity falls short?" and then called his advisors together to establish a plan. Having agreed on going to war with Yuan Shao, Mengde drew up two armies; the first consisted of fifty thousand troops under Liu Dai and Wang Zhong, and was to attack Liu Bei at Xuzhou, while the second army consisted of two hundred thousand men and was led by Cao Cao himself. This second army was to attack Yuan Shao at Liyang. Cheng Yu said to the Prime Minister, "Liu Dai and Wang Zhong are unequal to their task." Cao Cao replied, "I know. They are not meant to fight Liu Bei. It is merely a feint. They have orders not to make any real attack till I have overcome Yuan Shao. Then Liu Bei will be next." The armies marched out and when Cao's army reached Liyang, they made a fortified camp and observed the enemy. After two months of inaction, Cao Cao gave orders to his commanders: Zang Ba was to put pressure on Qingzhou and Xuzhou; Yu Jin and Li Dian were to deploy troops along the Yellow River while Cao Ren was to be stationed at Guandu. With the orders issued, Cao Cao returned to Xuchang.
Liu Dai and Wang Zhong returned from Xuzhou and explained to Cao Cao that Liu Bei did not wish to fight the Prime Minister, but that he had been forced to kill Che Zhou (32). Mengde grew extremely angry and shouted, "You shameful traitors, what use are you?" and ordered the guards to execute them. Kong Rong objected to the death penalty and said, "You knew these two were no match for Liu Bei, and if you put them to death because they failed, you will lose the hearts of your people." Cao Cao reconsidered and spared the two men, but they were stripped of rank and office. The Prime Minister was intent on leading an army against Liu Bei immediately, but Kong Rong advised waiting for better weather while arranging peace with Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao. Mengde agreed, sending Liu Ye to negotiate peace with Zhang Xiu. Due to his feud with Cao Cao, Zhang Xiu was not inclined towards an alliance, but on the advice of Jia Xu (33) he travelled to the capital and formally submitted. Xiu came before Mengde and bowed low, but Cao Cao took him by the hand and raised him saying, "Forget that little fault of mine, I pray, General!" (34) Zhang Xiu was made General Who Possesses Prowess, while Jia Xu was appointed Counsellor. Cao Cao then directed his secretaries to write letters to Liu Biao, asking for his support. Jia Xu suggested sending a famous scholar to appeal to Liu Biao and Kong Rong recommended the services of Mi Heng for this task.
Cao Cao summoned Mi Heng and after the greetings were over, Mi Heng was not invited to sit down. Looking up, the guest said with a sigh, "Wide as is the universe, it cannot produce the person." Cao Cao replied, "Under my command are scores of people whom the world call heroes. What do you mean by saying there is not the person?" "I should be glad to hear who they are," said Mi Heng. "Xun Yu, Xun You, Guo Jia, and Cheng Yu are all people of profound skill and long views, superior to Xiao He (35) and Chen Ping (36). Zhang Liao, Xu Chu, Li Dian, and Yue Jin are bravest of the brave, better than Cen Peng (37) and Ma Wu (38). Lu Qian and Man Chong are my secretaries; Yu Jin and Xu Huang are my van leaders; Xiahou Dun is one of the world's marvels, Cao Ren is the most successful leader of the age. Now say you there are not the people?" said the Prime Minister. "Sir, you are quite mistaken," said Mi Heng with a smile. "I know all these things you call people. Xun Yu is qualified to pose at a funeral or ask after a sick man; Xun You is fit to be a tomb guardian; Cheng Yu might be sent to shut doors and bolt windows; and Guo Jia is a reciter of poems; Zhang Liao might beat drums and clang gongs; Xu Chu might lead cattle to pasture; Yue Jin would make a fair reader of elegy; Li Dian could carry dispatches and notices; Lu Qian would be a fair armourer; Man Chong could be sent to drink wine and eat brewers' grains; Yu Jin might be of use to carry planks and build walls; Xu Huang might be employed to kill pigs and slay dogs; Xiahou Dun should be styled 'Whole Body General,' and Cao Ren should be called 'Money-grubbing Governor.' As for the remainder, they are mere clothes shelves, rice sacks, wine vases, flesh bags." Cao Cao grew angry and asked, "And what special gifts have you?" The scholar replied, "I know everything in heaven above and the earth beneath. I am conversant with the Three Religions and the Nine Systems of Philosophy. I could make my prince the rival of Kings Yao and Shun, and I myself could compare in virtue with Confucius and Mencius. Can I discuss on even terms with common people?" Zhang Liao, who was present, raised his sword to cut down Mi Heng but Cao Cao stopped him and said, "I want another drummer boy to play on occasions of congratulation in the court. I will confer this office upon him." Mi Heng accepted the position and left. Zhang Liao then asked Cao Cao why he had saved Mi Heng, to which Cao replied, "He has something of a reputation which is empty, but people have heard of him and so, if I put him to death, they would say I was intolerant. As he thinks he has ability, I have made him a drummer to mortify him."
Soon afterwards, Cao Cao held a huge banquet at the capital and so the drummers were all ordered to wear new clothes but Mi Heng attended clad in old, worn garments. The attendants asked him why he had not worn the new clothes he had been given, but Mi Heng's only reply was to remove all of his clothes. The banquet guests covered their faces while Mi Heng stood before them naked. "Why do you behave so rudely at court?" asked Cao Cao. "To flout one's prince and insult one's superiors is the real rudeness," cried Mi Heng. "I bare my natural body as an emblem of my purity." The Prime Minister replied, "So you are pure! And who is foul?", to which Mi Heng retorted, "You do not distinguish between the wise and the foolish, which is to have foul vision. You have never read the Odes or the Histories, which is to have foul speech. You are deaf to honest words, which is to have foul ears. You are unable to reconcile antiquity with today, which is to be foul without. You cannot tolerate the nobles, which is to be foul within. You harbour thoughts of rebellion, which is to have a foul heart. I am one of the most famous scholars in the empire, and you make me a drummer boy, that is as Yang Huo belittling Confucius or Zang Cang vilifying Mencius. You desire to be chief and arbitrator of the great nobles, yet you treat me thus!" Fearing for Mi Heng's life, Kong Rong intervened saying, "Mi Heng is only guilty of a misdemeanour. He is not a man likely to disturb your dreams, Illustrious Sir." Mengde pointed at Mi Heng and said, "I will send you to Jingzhou as my messenger and if Liu Biao surrenders to me, I will give you a post at court." but the scholar was unwilling to go, so Cao Cao ordered two of his men to prepare three horses. Mi Heng was set on the middle horse and was dragged along by the other two (39). Shortly afterwards Liu Biao's Commander, Han Song, arrived at the capital. Cao Cao gave Han Song rank and made him Governor of Lingling. Xun Yu disagreed with The Prime Minister's decision to reward a man who was obviously sent as a spy while a renowned scholar, like Mi Heng, was not tested and sent to his death. "Mi Heng shamed me too deeply before all the world, you need say no more." replied Cao Cao. Han Song was then sent back to Jingzhou so that he could tell Liu Biao of how well he was treated. However, after some time there was still no sign of Liu Biao joining Cao Cao, so the Prime Minister began to think of attacking Jingzhou but Xun Yu dissuaded him by saying, "Yuan Shao is not subjugated; Liu Bei is not destroyed. To attack Liu Biao would be to neglect the vital to care for the immaterial. Destroy the two chief enemies first, and the Han River is yours at one blow."
One night, a man named Quin Quington came to Cao Cao's palace seeking an audience. The man had been a servant under Dong Cheng but had been beaten earlier that day for talking with one of Dong's concubines, so had now come to warn the Prime Minister that Dong Cheng planned to assassinate him. Mengde took the man to a secret chamber where the servant said, "Wang Zifu, Wu Zilan, Chong Ji, Wu Shi, Ma Teng, and my master have been meeting secretly. My master has a roll of white silk, with writing on it, but I do not know what it means. Yesterday, Ji Ping bit off one of his fingers as a pledge of fidelity. I saw that." Quin Quington was kept in secret chambers while Cao Cao took to his bed, feigning a headache (40), and sent for the court's physician, Ji Ping, as usual. When the physician arrived, Cao asked him to prepare a potion for him but knew that it would be poisoned. When Ji Ping presented the potion Cao Cao made excuses not to drink it and sitting up said, "You are a scholar and know what is the correct thing to do. When the master is ill and takes drugs, the attendant first tastes them; when a man is ill, his son first tastes the medicine. You are my confidant and should drink first. Then I will swallow the remainder." Ji Ping dashed forward, seized Cao Cao by the ear and tried to pour the potion down his throat by Cao resisted and the potion was spilt. The bricks that had been touched by the potion all split open. The servants seized the assassin and the Prime Minister said to him, "I am not ill. I only wanted to test you. So you really thought to poison me!" The prisoner was then escorted to the inner apartments to be interrogated, where Mengde said to him, "I thought you were a physician. How dare you try to poison me? Someone incited you to this crime. If you tell me, I will pardon you." Ji Ping would not give up his fellow conspirators and instead railed at Cao Cao: "You are a rebel. You flout your Prince and injure your betters. The whole empire wishes to kill you. Do you think I am the only one?" The Prime Minister asked the prisoner over and over to give up the others, but Ji Ping only replied that no one else was involved. Mengde became angry and ordered the jailers to beat the assassin, but after two watches, he began to fear that the prisoner may die and bade the jailers to cease and remove him.
The next day Cao Cao held a banquet and all of the courtiers, including the conspirators, attended except Dong Cheng, who claimed to be ill. After several courses of food, the host said to the guests, "There is not much to amuse us today, but I have a man to show you that will sober you." Ji Ping was brought in securely fastened in a wooden collar and placed where all the guests could see him. The Prime Minister continued, "You officials do not know that this man is connected with a gang of evil doers who desire to overturn the government and even injure me. However, Heaven has defeated their plans, but I desire that you should hear his evidence." and then he ordered the jailers to beat the prisoner. Ji Ping was beaten unconscious by the jailers who then revived him by throwing water in his face. The prisoner cried, "Cao Cao, you rebel! What are you waiting for? Why not kill me?" "The conspirators were only six at first; you made the seventh. Is that true?" replied Mengde. The beating of the prisoner continued but he still would not betray his fellow conspirators so the Prime Minister ordered him to be taken away.
When the banquet came to an end, the four conspirators, Minister Wang Zifu, General Wu Zilan, Commander Chong Ji and Court Counsellor Wu Shi, were invited to remain for supper and they dared not refuse. Cao Cao said to them, "There is something I want to speak about, so I have asked you to stay for a time longer. I do not know what you four have been arranging with Dong Cheng." "Nothing at all," said Wang Zifu. "And what is written on the white silk?" asked Cao. They all said they knew nothing about it so Mengde had Quin Quington brought in. Quin Quington said to the accused men, "You five very carefully chose retired places to talk in, and you secretly signed a white roll. You cannot deny that." Wang Zifu replied, "This miserable creature was punished for misbehaviour with one of Uncle Dong Cheng's maids, and now because of that he slanders his master. You must not listen to him." Cao Cao replied, "Ji Ping tried to pour poison down my throat. Who told him to do that if it was not Dong Cheng?" The men said that theyy knew nothing about who it was. "So far," said Cao Cao, "matters are only beginning, and there is a chance of forgiveness. But if the thing grows, it will be difficult not to take notice of it." The four men were then led away by the guards and put into prison.
The next day Cao Cao with a large armed escort went to Dong Cheng's and asked, "Why did you not come last night?" "I am not quite well yet and have to be very careful about going out," replied the State Uncle. "One might say you were suffering from national sorrow, eh?" said Mengde. "Have you heard of the Ji Ping affair?" he continued. "No. What is it?" asked Dong Cheng. Cao Cao smiled coldly, saying, "How can it be you do not know?" as Ji Ping was brought in by the jailers. "This man," said Cao Cao, pointing to Ji Ping, "has implicated Wang Zifu and three others, all of whom are now under arrest. There is one more whom I have not caught yet." Turning towards the physician, he continued, "Who sent you to poison me? Quick, tell me!" Ji Ping replied, "Heaven sent me to slay a traitor!" Mengde became angry and asked the prisoner, "You were born with ten fingers. How is it you have now only nine?" Ji Ping replied, "I bit off one as a pledge when I swore to slay a traitor." Cao Cao then had the jailers cut off the assassins other fingers. "Now they are all off. That will teach you to make pledges." but the prisoner retorted, "Still I have a mouth that can swallow a traitor and a tongue that can curse him." The Prime Minister ordered the jailers to cut out Ji Ping's tongue, but before they did the prisoner cried, "Do not. I cannot endure any more punishment, I shall have to speak out. Loosen my bonds." The jailers were ordered to free the prisoner and Ji Ping stood up, turned towards the Emperor's palace and bowed, saying, "It is Heaven's will that thy servant has been unable to remove the evil." Then he turned and smashed his head into the steps and died.
Cao Cao had his men bring Quin Quington in and said to Dong Cheng, "Do you know this man, Uncle?" "Yes," cried Dong Cheng. "So the runaway servant is here. He ought to be put to death!" Cao replied, "He just told me of your treachery. He is my witness. Who would dare kill him?" The State Uncle pleaded, "How can you, the First Minister of State, heed the unsupported tale of an absconding servant?" "But I have Wang Zifu and the others in prison," said Cao Cao. "And how can you rebut their evidence?" He then ordered his men to search Dong Cheng's bedroom where they found the decree that had been hidden in the girdle along with the pledge signed by the conspirators. "You mean rat!" cried Cao Cao. "You dared do this?" He then ordered the whole household to be arrested and Ji Ping's body to be quartered and exposed in the city as a warning. (41) Mengde returned to his palace and called his advisors together to discuss deposing the Emperor and setting up a successor. Cheng Yu spoke strongly against this, saying, "Illustrious Sir, the means by which you impress the world and direct the government is the command of the House of Han. In these times of turmoil and rivalry among the nobles, such a step as the deposition of the ruler will certainly bring about civil war and is much to be deprecated." Cao Cao considered this and abandoned the idea. However, Dong Cheng and the other four conspirators were executed along with every member of their households; over seven hundred people in all.
However, Cao Cao was not satisfied and was determined to slay Dong Cheng's sister who was a consort to the Emperor. Marching into the Forbidden City, sword in hand, he confronted the Emperor who was sitting with the Consort Dong and Empress Fu. "Does Your Majesty know that Dong Cheng conspired against me?" he said. "Dong Zhuo died long ago," replied the Emperor. "Not Dong Zhuo! Dong Cheng!" roared Cao Cao. "Really I did not know!" the Emperor replied. "So the cut finger and the blood written decree are all forgotten, eh?" asked Mengde. The guards were then ordered to seize Consort Dong while the Emperor asked that she be spared as she was five months pregnant. Cao Cao would not spare her and said, "If Heaven had not interposed and defeated the plot, I should be a dead man. How could I leave this woman to work evil to me by and by?" The Emperor continued to plead for her life but The Prime Minister would not yield. "Do you wish me to spare her offspring to avenge the mother?" he said as he ordered her to be taken out and strangled. As he left the palace, Cao Cao gave strict orders to the guards: "Anyone of the imperial relatives by marriage who enter the palace will be put to death, and the guards will share the same punishment for lack of zeal." To ensure the orders were carried out, he appointed three thousand of his own Imperial Guards, under Cao Hong, to guard the palace.
Cao Cao then met with Cheng Yu, to whom he said, "The conspirators in the capital have been removed, but there are yet two others, Ma Teng and Liu Bei. These must not be left." Cheng Yu replied, "Ma Teng is strong in the west and would not be easily captured. He might be enticed to the capital by suave words and kindly praises, when he would be at your mercy. Liu Bei is at Xuzhou, strongly posted in an ox-horn formation, and not to be lightly attacked. More than this, Yuan Shao is at Guandu, and his one desire is to attack you. Any attempt on the east will send Liu Bei to Yuan Shao for help, and Yuan Shao will come here at once. Then what will you do?" Cao replied, "You are wrong. Liu Bei is a bold warrior. If we wait till he is fully fledged and winged, he will be more difficult to deal with. Yuan Shao may be strong, but he is not to be feared. He is too undeciding to act." As they discussed this Guo Jia came in, so Cao Cao put it to him: "If I attack Liu Bei, then Yuan Shao is to be feared. What do you think of it?" Guo Jia said, "Yuan Shao by nature is dilatory and hesitating, and his various advisers are jealous of each other. He is not to be feared. Liu Bei is getting together a new army and has not yet won their hearts. You could settle the east in one battle." "This advice is in harmony with my thinking," said the Prime Minister. An army was drawn up of two hundred thousand troops and then marched in five divisions to Xuzhou.
On the way to Xiaopei a tornado occurred and tore down one of Cao Cao's banners. Cao called his advisers together for their interpretation of this omen and was told that it foretold a night raid. Accordingly, preparations were made: the army was drawn up into nine parts, one was left to camp while the other eight were placed in ambush. During the night an army led by Zhang Fei approached the camp and fell into Mengde's trap. Many of Zhang Fei's soldiers had formally served under Cao Cao and quickly surrendered to their old master, so Zhang Fei was forced to retreat to the Mangdang Hills. Liu Bei's army, which was in reserve, was also scattered and he was forced to flee for Qingzhou, which was under the control of Yuan Shao. After capturing Xiaopei, Cao Cao's army marched on Xuzhou, which fell after a short fight. Mengde entered the city, restored order and pacified the people before turning his attention to Xiapi. Xun Yu said, "Guan Yu is there, in charge of his brother's family, and he will defend the city to the last. If you do not take it quickly, Yuan Shao will get it." Cao Cao replied, "I have always loved Guan Yu, both for his warlike abilities and his principles. I would engage him to enter my service. I would rather send someone to talk him into surrender." "He will not do that," said Guo Jia. "His sense of right is too solid. I fear anyone who went to speak with him would suffer." Zhang Liao stepped forward and volunteered to speak with Guan Yu but Cheng Yu proposed a plan: "Since Guan Yu is far braver than ordinary warriors, he can only be overreached by superior cunning. Now send some of the captured soldiers who have lately been of Liu Bei's army into Xiapi, where they shall say they have come back. They shall thus be our allies on the inside. Then an attack and a feigned defeat will entice Guan Yu to a distance from the city. And his return road shall be cut." Cao Cao accepted this and a few score of troops were sent to the city. Mengde then sent Xiahou Dun with five thousand toops against the city and Guan Yu came out to meet him. After ten bouts Xiahou Dun fled but made occasional stands in order to draw the enemy further from the city where Xu Huang and Xu Chu joined the fight. Guan Yu's path of retreat was cut off so he set up camp on a low hill of the Tushan Mountains from which he saw that he was completely surrounded and that the city had been captured.
Cao Cao sent Zhang Liao to convince Guan Yu to surrender, and after long talks Guan Yu agreed provided three conditions were met: Guan Yu's loyalty was to the Han and would submit to the Emperor, not Cao Cao; secondly was that Liu Bei's wives were to be looked after and only Guan Yu could approach them and thirdly that Guan Yu would be allowed to rejoin Liu Bei if he heard of where his brother was. When Zhang Liao returned he related the three conditions to The Prime Minister. When Cao heard that Guan Yu would only submit to the Hans, he laughed saying, "As I am a minister of Han, so am I Han. I grant that." Zhang Liao then related the second condition to which Mengde replied, "I will give them twice the regular amount for an Uncle of the Emperor. As for securing them from molestation, that is simple. The ordinary domestic law is enough. Why should there be any doubt?" However, when Zhang Liao told of the third condition that would allow Guan Yu to leave at any time, Cao Cao shook his head, saying, "Then I am merely to feed Guan Yu. What is the use of this? I cannot consent." Zhang Liao reminded the Prime Minister of the saying 'The difference in behaviour brought about by difference of treatment' and suggested that Cao Cao could win the heart of Guan Yu by treating him well. "What you say is much to the point. I will grant the three conditions," said Cao Cao.
Zhang Liao went to inform Guan Yu and returned requesting that the army withdraw three miles so that Guan Yu could re-enter the city to tell Liu Bei's wives of what had been agreed. Xun Yu objected to this but Cao Cao ordered the army to retire saying, "He will certainly not break faith, he is too high principled." Soon afterwards Guan Yu, with a small escort, left the city and came to the Prime Minister's camp. "I have so long admired your loyalty and high principles that this happy meeting gratifies the desire of my whole life," Cao Cao said to Guan Yu. "As the Prime Minister has granted the three requests which my friend petitioned for on my behalf, there is now but little to discuss," said Guan Yu. Cao replied, "As I have spoken, so be it. I could not break faith," The defeated general continued, "Whenever I hear where Uncle Liu Bei is, I must certainly go to him, even if through fire and water. It may be that there will be no time nor opportunity of saying farewell. I trust you will understand the reason." "If Liu Bei should prove to be alive, you must certainly be allowed to go to him. But I fear that in the confusion he may have lost his life. You may set your mind at rest and let me make enquiries." replied Cao Cao. A banquet was then held in Guan Yu's honour and the next day the army began the march back to the capital. On the way there, the army rested at a post station and so Cao Cao assigned Guan Yu the same apartment as the ladies under his protection in the hopes that Guan Yu would forget his duty. However, Guan Yu stood in front of the apartment door the whole night with a lit candle in his hand, not once yielding to fatigue. Cao Cao was impressed and his respect for Guan Yu grew.
Upon reaching the capital, Cao Cao assigned Guan Yu and the ladies a place of residence and then brought Guan Yu before the Emperor (42). The next day, Mengde held a great banquet for Guan Yu where gifts of silk, silver and gold were presented to the guest, but he gave them instead to Liu Bei's wives. From then onwards, every three days a small banquet was held in Guan Yu's honour and large banquets every five days. Cao Cao also presented Guan Yu with ten lovely serving girls but they too were sent to the ladies under his protection. One day Cao noticed that Guan Yu's robe was old and frayed and so had a new one made for him, but Guan Yu took it and put it on beneath the tattered robe. "Why so very thrifty?" laughed Cao Cao. "It is not thrift," replied Guan Yu. "The old robe was a gift from my brother, and I wear it because it reminds me of him. I could not allow the new gift to eclipse his old one." Mengde sighed saying, "How very highly principled!"
One day, during a banquet, Cao Cao noticed that Guan Yu looked sad and tearful so asked his guest why. Guan Yu explained that his sisters-in-law had been weeping for his brother and that he felt sad. Mengde attempted to cheer him with wine but Guan Yu continued to be upset. Cao asked, "How many hairs in your beard?" to which Guan Yu replied "Some hundreds, perhaps. In the autumn a few fall out, but in the winter it is fullest. Then I use a black silk bag to keep the hairs from being broken," Cao Cao had a bag made for Guan Yu to protect his beard.
On another occasion, Cao noticed that Guan Yu's horse was very thin and out of condition. The Prime Minister had his attendants bring out Red Hare (43), which he presented to Guan Yu. Guan Yu bowed many times and thanked Cao Cao over and over again until Cao became displeased and said, "I have given you many things, lovely handmaids and gold and silks and never won a bow of gratitude from you before. This horse seems to please you better than all the rest. Why do you think so poorly of the damsels and so much of the steed?" Guan Yu replied, "I know the horse: It can travel five hundred miles a day, and I am very lucky to get him. Now as soon as I find out where my brother is, I can get to him in a single day," said Guan Yu. Mengde immediately began to regret the gift (44). He then said to Zhang Liao, "I have treated Guan Yu pretty liberally, but he still cherishes the desire to leave me. Do you know if it is really so?" Zhang Liao went to see Guan Yu and soon returned confirming that Guan Yu was still firm in his decision to leave when he knew of Liu Bei's whereabouts. Cao Cao sighed and said, "To serve one's chief with unswerving fidelity is a proof of the highest principle of all," Xun Yu said, "He spoke of performing some act of service before leaving. If he gets no chance of such a thing, he will not be able to go." to which Cao Cao agreed.
An urgent message arrived at the capital from the Governor of Dongjun, Liu Yue, reporting that Yuan Shao had marched an army to Liyang. Guan Yu offered to lead the van bur The Prime Minister replied, "I scarcely dare put you to such inconvenience, but presently, if need arises, I will call upon you." Cao Cao quickly mobilised his armies and marched out one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers in three directions. Mengde arrived at Baima with fifty thousand troops, encamped in a position supported by hills and then set out to observe the enemy force. The enemy army consisted of one hundred thousand veterans led by Yan Liang. Cao Cao was terrified and returned to his camp where he immediately summoned Song Xian and said to him, "You are one of Lu Bu's famous veteran generals. Can you give battle to this Yan Liang?" Song Xian agreed to try and engaged the enemy general, but was cut down after only three bouts. Wei Xu asked to go against Yan Liang to avenge his comrade and The Prime Minister agreed, but with the first blow, Wei Xu was killed. Xu Huang rode out next but was forced to flee after twenty bouts and so Cao Cao withdrew his army. Cheng Yu suggested sending Guan Yu against the enemy general but Mengde was unsure, "I am afraid that if he is given an opportunity to perform that return service he spoke of, he will leave me." but Cheng Yu suggested, "If Liu Bei is still alive, he is with Yuan Shao. If you get Guan Yu to defeat Yuan Shao's army, Yuan Shao will look askance at Liu Bei and put him to death. Liu Bei gone, where can Guan Yu go?" Cao Cao was satisfied by this argument and sent for Guan Yu at once.
When Guan Yu arrived at Baima, Cao Cao told him what had happened and then they went to observe the enemy army from a hilltop. "See how formidable these soldiers of the North of Yellow River are," said Cao Cao. "There under that grand umbrella, in that embroidered robe and that silver breastplate and riding on horseback and gripping that huge sword is Yan Liang." Guan Yu rose and said, "I am a poor thing, but I will go over and bring you his head if you like." He quickly mounted, rode straight into the enemy's lines and with one swift blow killed Yan Liang. Guan Yu dismounted, cut off the dead general's head and then rode back to his own camp. Panic-stricken, Yuan Shao's troops made no attempt to fight and were easily defeated by Cao Cao's army. Many horses, weapons and military supplies were captured while great numbers of the enemy were killed. Guan Yu returned and laid the head of Yan Liang at the feet of Cao Cao, who said, "You are more than human, General!" but Guan Yu dismissed his achievement: "What have I done to talk about? My brother, Zhang Fei, did the same thing in an army of a hundred legions, and did it as easily as picking something from his own pocket." Mengde turned to those around him and said, "If you meet this Zhang Fei, be careful." and made them write his name on the overlap of their robes so that they would remember. Cao Cao's respect for the humble general doubled and so he obtained the title Lord of Hanshou for Guan Yu.
News came that Yuan Shao's army had positioned itself above Yenjin so Cao Cao led out an army to oppose the enemy. However, he ordered the army to about face so that the rearguard led the army and even the supply wagons were placed in the vanguard. When questioned about this unorthodox order by Lu Qian, the Prime Minister said, "When the supplies are in rear, they are liable to be plundered. So I have put them first." Lu Qian continued, "But if you meet the enemy and they steal them?" Cao Cao replied, "Wait till the enemy appears. I shall know what to do." As the army moved along the river towards Yenjin, the vanguard raised a great shout and so Cao sent to see what was happening. The messenger soon returned, reporting that the enemy army (45) was approaching and that the supply train had been abandoned. Cao Cao pointed to two mounds and said, "We will take refuge here for the present." When the army reached the mounds, they were ordered to remove their armour and rest while the horses were turned loose. Soon Cao's officers reported that Wen Chou's force was approaching and they advised catching the horses in order to retreat to Baima. Xun You said to them, "These are a bait for the enemy. Why retire?" Cao Cao glanced across at him and said, "He understands. Do not say anything." With the supply carts in their possession, Wen Chou's men broke rank to capture the horses. Seeing this, the Prime Minister gave the order to attack.
Cao Cao's army quickly surrounded the enemy and threw them into confusion. As his men trampled each other in blind panic, Wen Chou was forced to flee. Cao Cao stood at the top of one of the mounds observing the battle and saw the flight of the enemy commander. "There is one of the most famous generals of the north. Who can capture him?" he shouted. Zhang Liao and Xu Huang both mounted their horses and set off after Wen Chou. Mengde continued to observe from the hilltop, watching as Wen Chou drove off both of his pursuers but ultimately fell to Guan Yu (46). With Wen Chou dead Cao Cao gave the signal for a general advance, driving half of the northern army into the river where they drowned. The supply carts and horses were quickly recovered. Xiahou Dun was sent to defend the strategic points of Guandu while the Prime Minister withdrew the bulk of his army to the capital.
Upon reaching the capital, Cao Cao held many banquets in honour of the service rendered by Guan Yu. He also told Lu Qian that putting the supplies in front of the army was bait to draw the enemy to their destruction. "Only Xun You understood that," said Cao Cao in conclusion. During the banquet a messenger brought news of another uprising of the Yellow Scarves in Runan, which Cao Hong was struggling to hold. Guan Yu offered to march to Runan to aid Cao Hong but Cao Cao was hesitant: "You have already rendered noble services for which you have not been properly requited. I could hardly trouble you again." Guna Yu protested and so Mengde allowed him to go, giving him fifty thousand troops with Yu Jin and Yue Jin as generals under him. Xun Yu advised against this saying, "He always cherishes the idea of returning to Liu Bei. He will leave you if he hears any news. Do not let him go on this expedition." Cao Cao replied, "If he does well this time, I will not let him go into battle again."
Guan Yu recaptured Runan with ease and was welcomed back to the capital by Cao Cao. However, soon Yu Jin reported that Guan Yu had heard that Liu Bei was with Yuan Shao and so Zhang Liao was sent to see Guan Yu. When Zhang Liao returned with the news that Guan Yu was intending to leave, Cao Cao said "I must find a way to keep him here." Soon Gaun Yu arrived at the Prime Minister's palace to say farewell, but Cao knew why he was coming and gave orders to not allow him in. The next day Guan Yu came to see Cao Cao several times but could not gain entry to the palace so instead he wrote a letter to The Prime Minister:
"As a young man I entered the service of the Imperial Uncle, and pledged myself to share his fortunes. Heaven and Earth witnessed this oath. When I lost the city, I made three requests which you granted. Now I hear my brother is with Yuan Shao and I, remembering our pledge, cannot but go to him. Though your bounty is great, I forget not the bond of the past; wherefore I write this letter of farewell trusting that when you have read it, you will be content for me to postpone to another season the proof of my gratitude."
When Cao Cao received the letter he exclaimed, "So he has left!" The gate warden then reported that Guan Yu had forced his way out, and was gone with a carriage, a horse, and a score of guards. Next came the servants from his house to report that he had left, taking nothing of the treasure, nor any of the waiting maids. Everything was left in the house, even his seal of Lordship was there. His only escort were the few soldiers of his original force. General Cai Yang stepped forward and offered to bring Guan Yu back to the capital but Cao Cao said to him, "He does not forget his old leader, and he was perfectly open in all his actions. He is a gentleman, and you would do well to follow his example," The Prime Minister then sent away Cai Yang. Cheng Yu advised capturing Guan Yu rather than allowing him to join Yuan Shao, but Cao Cao was adamant: "He had my promise, and can I break my word? Each has his master. Do not pursue." He then turned to Zhang Liao and said, "He has rejected all I gave him, so bribes were powerless with him in whatever shape. I have the greatest respect for such as him. He has not yet gone far, and I will try to strengthen his attachment to me and make one appeal to sentiment. Ride after him and beg him to stop till I can come up and bid farewell and offer him a sum of money for his expenses and a fighting robe, that he may remember me kindly in after days." Zhang Liao then set off alone while Cao Cao followed leisurely with an escort.
When Cao Cao caught up with Guan Yu, he saw that the fleeing general was ready to fight and so ordered his escort to open out into two lines so that Guan Yu would see that they were unarmed. As he reached the bridge that Guan Yu had taken position on, Mengde asked, "Why do you go in such haste, Guan Yu?" Guan Yu said, "I informed you in writing that since my lord was in the North of Yellow River, I had to leave at once. I went to your palace again and again but was refused admittance. So I wrote a letter of farewell, sealed up the treasure, resigned my lordship seal, and left everything for you. I hope you recall the promise you once made me." Cao Cao replied, "My desire is to keep my word with all people. I cannot go back on my word. However, you may find the journey expensive, and therefore I have here prepared a sum of money to help you." Then he held out a packet of gold but Guan Yu refused to take it. "Why should you refuse this? It is but an insignificant return for great services." asked Mengde. "My services have been all trifling, not worth mentioning." was the reply. "Really, Guan Yu, you are the most high-principled of humans. I am very sorry my luck is too poor to retain you at my side. Pray accept just this robe to show you I am not quite ungrateful," said Cao Cao. With that, one of his generals presented to Guan Yu the robe, which was accepted with caution. Guan Yu turned to Cao and said, "I thank you, Sir Prime Minister, for the robe and trust we shall meet again." and then rode away to the north. Xu Chu turned to Cao Cao and asked, "He is a very rude man, why do you not take him prisoner?" Cao Cao replied, "He was absolutely alone facing scores of us. He was justified in being suspicious. But my word has gone forth, and he is not to be pursued."
The Prime Minister and his escort returned to the capital, where he was very sad when he thought of the loss of Guan Yu. However, it occurred to him that the commanders of the passes might not let Guan Yu through as he had no official orders. So a messenger was sent with a letter to show to the guards so that Guan Yu would be able to leave without incident. After the first messenger had left, Mengde thought over the situation further and sent a second messenger to ensure that if Guan Yu had already experienced difficulties then he was not to be arrested. Soon after the second messenger had left, word came that Guan Yu had been stopped by commanders on his journey and had been forced to slay them. Cao Cao sent Zhang Liao in pursuit of Guan Yu with orders stating that Guan Yu was to be allowed passage despite his crimes.(47) Cai Yang again came before the Prime Minister asking that he be allowed to pursue Guan Yu. One of the commanders that Guan Yu had slain was Cao Yang's nephew and he demanded vengeance. However Mengde would not grant him permission and as way of a compromise, sent the angry general to attack Liu Bei at Runan. (48)
"If you do not turn your back on me, I shall not on you." - Cao Cao to Pang De