“Slay them, root and branch,
” cried Yuan Shao, “or they will ruin you!”
“I have decided,” said He Jin, coldly. “Say no more.”
Within a few days He Jin became Chair of the Secretariat,
and his associates received high offices.
Now Empress Dong summoned the eunuch
Zhang Rang and his party to a council.
Said she, “It was I who first brought forward the sister of He Jin.
Today her son is on the throne, and all the officials are her friends,
and her influence is enormous. What can we do?”
Zhang Rang replied, “Your Highness should administer the state from
‘behind the veil’; create the late Emperor’s son Liu Xian a prince; give your brother,
the Imperial Uncle Dong Chong, a high rank,
and place him over the army; and use us. That will do it.”
Empress Dong approved. Next day she held a court and issued an edict in the sense
proposed. She made Liu Xian Prince of Chenliu and Dong Chong
General of the Flying Cavalry*, and she allowed the eunuchs again to participate state affairs.
When Empress He saw this, she prepared a banquet to
which she invited her rival Empress Dong.
In the middle of the feast, when all were well warmed with wine,
Empress He rose and offered a cup to her guest, saying,
“It is not fitting that we two should meddle in state affairs. In the beginning of the Han Dynasty,
when Empress Lu laid hands upon the government, all her clans were put to death*.
We ought to remain content, immured in our palaces,
and leave state affairs to the state officials.
That would be well for the country, and I trust you will act thus.”
But Empress Dong only got angry, saying,
“You poisoned Lady Wang out of jealousy. Now,
relying upon the fact that your son sits on the throne and that
your brother is powerful, you speak these wild words.
I will command that your brother be beheaded,
and that can be done as easily as I turn my hand!”
Empress He in her turn became wroth and said,
“I tried to persuade you with fair words. Why get so angry?”
Yuyang being now tranquil,
Liu Bei’s services were reported to
the Throne, and he received full pardon for the insult to the imperial
inspector. He was made Deputy Magistrate of Xiami, then Commanding
Officer of Gaotang. Then Gongsun Zan praised Liu Bei’s former services,
and he was promoted to Magistrate of Pingyuan. This place was very prosperous,
and Liu Bei recovered something of his old manner before the days of adversity.
Liu Yu also received preferment and was promoted to Grand Commander.
In the summer of the six year of Central Stability (AD 189),
Emperor Ling became seriously ill and summoned He Jin into the Palace
to arrange for the future. He Jin had sprung from a humble family of
butchers, but his sister had become a concubine of rank and borne a son to
the Emperor, named Liu Bian. After this she became Empress He,
and He Jin became the powerful Regent Marshal*.
The Emperor had also greatly loved a beautiful girl, Lady Wang,
who had borne him a son named Liu Xian. Empress He had poisoned
Lady Wang from jealousy, and the baby had been given into the care
of Empress Dong, who was the mother of Emperor Ling. Lady Dong
was the wife of Liu Chang, Lord of Jiedu. As time went on and the
Emperor Huan had no son of his own, he adopted the son of Liu Chang,
who succeeded as the Emperor Ling. After his accession, Emperor Ling had
taken his own mother into the Palace to live and had
conferred upon her the title of Empress Dowager.
Empress Dong had always tried to persuade her son to name Liu Xian as the
Heir Apparent, and in fact the Emperor greatly loved the boy and was
disposed to do as his mother desired. When his end was near, one of the eunuchs,
Jian Shuo, said, “If Liu Xian is to succeed, He Jin must be killed to prevent countermoves.”
The Emperor saw this too. He placed Jian Shuo in command of
the eight armies of the West Garden in order to check Liu Bian’s
supporters. And he summoned He Jin to come to him.
But at the very gate of the Forbidden City, He Jin was warned of his
And they wept bitterly.
The Emperor turned angrily to Liu Tao, saying,
“You also have servants: Why can’t you bear with mine?”
And thereupon the Emperor called to the guards to eject Liu Tao and put him to death.
Liu Tao cried aloud, “My death matters nothing.
The pity is that Han Dynasty, after four centuries of reign, is falling fast!”
The guards hustled him away and were just about to carry out the
Emperor’s order when a minister stopped them, shouting,
“Strike not! Wait till I have spoken with His Majesty.”
It was the Minister of the Interior, Chen Dan. He went in to
the Emperor, to whom he said,
“For what fault is Counselor Liu Tao to be put to death?”
“He has vilified my servants and has insulted me,” said the Emperor.
“All the empire would eat the flesh of the eunuchs if they could,
and yet, Sire, you respect them as if they were your parents.
They have no merit, but they are created nobles. Moreover,
Feng Xu was in league with the Yellow Scarves.
Unless Your Majesty looks to it, the state will crumble!”
“There was no proof against Feng Xu,” replied the Emperor. “
About the Ten Eunuchs, are there none faithful among them?”
Chen Dan beat his forehead on the steps of the throne and did
not desist from remonstrance. Then the Emperor grew angry and
commanded his removal and imprisonment with Liu Tao.
That night Liu Tao and Chen Dan were murdered.
Then the eunuchs sent a forged edict to Sun Jian making
him Governor of Changsha, with orders to suppress
the rebellion of Ou Xing. In less than two months
Sun Jian reported the county all tranquil. For this he was created Lord of Wucheng.
Further, Liu Yu was made Imperial Protector of
Youzhou to move against Yuyang and suppress Zhang Ju and
Zhang Chun. Liu Hu of Daizhou recommended Liu Bei to Liu Yu. Liu Yu
welcomed Liu Bei and gave him rank of commander and sent him against
“Noble Sir, save me!” cried the inspector.
Now Liu Bei had always been kindly and gracious,
wherefore he bade his brother release the officer and go his way.
Then Guan Yu came up, saying, “Brother, after your magnificent services you only
got this petty post, and even here you have been insulted by this fellow.
A thorn bush is no place for a phoenix. Let us slay this fellow,
leave here, and go home till we can evolve a bigger scheme.”
Liu Bei contented himself with hanging the official seal about the inspector’s neck, saying,
“If I hear that you injure the people, I will assuredly kill you. I now spare your life, and I return to you the seal. We are going.”
The inspector went to the governor of Dingzhou and complained, and orders were issued
for the arrest of the brothers, but they got away to Daizhou and
sought refuge with Liu Hu, who sheltered them because of Liu Bei’s noble birth.
By this time the Ten Regular Attendants had everything in their hands,
and they put to death all who did not stand in with them. From every officer
who had helped to put down the rebels they demanded presents; and if
these were not forthcoming, he was removed from office. Imperial
Commanders Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun both fell victims to these intrigues and
were deprived from offices, while on the other hand the eunuchs
received the highest honors and rewards. Thirteen eunuchs were ennobled,
including Zhao Zhong* who was added to the rank of General of the Flying Cavalry;
Zhang Rang* possessed most of the prize farms around the capital.
The government grew worse and worse, and everyone was irritated.
Rebellions broke out in Changsha led by Ou Xing, and in Yuyang led by
Zhang Ju and Zhang Chun. Memorials were sent up in number as snow flakes in
winter, but the Ten suppressed them all. One day the Emperor was at a feast in
one of the gardens with the Ten, when Court Counselor Liu Tao
suddenly appeared showing very great distress. The Emperor asked what the matter was.
“Sire, how can you be feasting with these when the empire is at the last gasp?” said Liu Tao.
“All is well,” said the Emperor. “Where is anything wrong?”
Said Liu Tao, “Robbers swarm on all sides and plunder the cities.
And all is the fault of the Ten Eunuchs who sell offices and injure the
people, oppress loyal officials and deceive their superiors. All virtuous
ones have left the services and returned to their places, and are building and
guarding their positions. More regional offices have been sought than imperial
appointments. Central authority is being undermined by local interests. Misfortune is before our very eyes!”
Hearing these things Zhu Jun
pressed harder yet upon Yangcheng, and the
approaching break-up of the rebellion became evident. Then one of Zhang Ba’s
officers, Yan Zheng, killed his leader and brought the head in token of submission.
Thus rebellion in that part of the country was stamped out, and Zhu Jun made
his report to the government.
However, the embers of the Yellow Scarves still smoldered. Three other rebels,
Zhao Hong, Han Zhong, and Sun Zhong, gathered some thirty thousand rebels
and began to murder and rob and burn, calling themselves the avengers of Master Zhang Jue.
The court commanded the successful Zhu Jun to lead his veteran and successful
troops to destroy the rebels. He at once marched toward the city of Wancheng
which the rebels were holding. When Zhu Jun arrived, Han Zhong went to
oppose him. Zhu Jun sent Liu Bei and his brothers to attack the southwest
corner of the city. Han Zhong at once led the best of his troops to defend
the city. Meanwhile Zhu Jun himself led two thousand of armored horsemen
to attack the opposite corner. The rebels, thinking the city being lost, abandoned
the southwest and turned back into the city to help the defenders. Liu Bei pressed
hotly in their rear, and they were utterly routed. They took refuge in the city which
was then invested. When famine pressed upon the besieged, they sent a messenger
to offer to surrender, but Zhu Jun refused the offer.
Said Liu Bei to Zhu Jun, “Seeing that the founder of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang the
Supreme Ancestor, could welcome the submissive and receive the favorable, why reject these?”
“The conditions are different,” replied Zhu Jun. “In those old days disorder was
universal and the people had no fixed lord*. Wherefore submission was welcomed
and support rewarded to encourage people to come over. Now the empire is united,
and the Yellow Scarves are the only malcontents. To receive their surrender is not to
encourage the good. To allow brigands, when successful, is to give way to every
license, and to let them surrender when they fail is to encourage brigandage.
Your plan is not a good one.”
Liu Bei replied, “Not to let brigands surrender is well. But the city is
surrounded as by an iron barrel. If the rebels’ request be refused, they will be
desperate and fight to the death, and we can hardly withstood a myriad of such
Lu Zhi explained,
“I had surrounded the rebels and was on the point of smashing them, when Zhang
Jue employed some of his supernatural powers and prevented my victory. The court sent down Eunuch
Zhuo Feng to inquire into my failure, and that official demanded a bribe. I told him how hard pressed we
were and asked him where, in the circumstances, I could find a gift for him. He went away in wrath and
reported that I was hiding behind my ramparts and would not give battle and that I disheartened my army.
So I was superseded by Dong Zhuo, and I have to go to the capital to answer the charge.”
This story put Zhang Fei into a rage. He was for slaying the escort and setting free Lu Zhi. But Liu Bei checked him.
“the government will take the due course,” said Liu Bei. “You must not act hastily！”
And the escort and the three brothers went two ways.
It was useless to continue on that road to Guangzong, so Guan Yu proposed to go back to Zhuo, and they retook the road.
Two days later they heard the thunder of battle behind some hills. Hastening to the top, they beheld the government soldiers
suffering GREat loss, and they saw the countryside was full of Yellow Scarves. On the rebels’ banners were the words Zhang Jue the Lord of Heaven written large.
“We will attack this Zhang Jue！” said Liu Bei to his brothers, and they galloped out to join in the battle.
Zhang Jue had worsted Dong Zhuo and was following up his advantage. He was in hot pursuit when the three brothers dashed
into his army, threw his ranks into confusion, and drove him back fifteen miles. Then the brothers returned with the rescued general to his camp.
“What offices have you？” asked Dong Zhuo, when he had leisure to speak to the brothers.
“None,” replied they.
“We have just rescued this menial in a bloody fight,” cried Zhang Fei, “and now he is rude to us！ Nothing but his death can slake my anger.”
the seer made no reply,
and again and again Cao Cao pressed the question.
then Xu Shao replied, “In peace you are an able subject； in chaos you are a crafty hero！”
Cao Cao GREatly rejoiced to hear this.
Cao Cao graduated at twenty and earned a reputation of piety and integrity. He began his career as
Commanding Officer in a county within the Capital District. In the four gates of the city he guarded,
he hung up clubs of various sorts, and he would punish any breach of the law whatever the rank of the
offender. Now an uncle of Eunuch Jian Shuo* was found one night in the streets with a sword and was
arrested. In due course he was beaten. Thereafter no one dared to offend again, and Cao Cao’s name
became heard. Soon he became a magistrate of Dunqiu.
At the outbreak of the Yellow Scarves, Cao Cao held the rank of General and was given command of five
thousand horse and foot to help fight at Yingchuan. He just happened to fall in with the newly defeated
rebels whom he cut to pieces. Thousands were slain and endless banners and drums and horses were captured,
together with huge sums of money. However, Zhang Ba and Zhang Lian got away； and after an interview with
Huangfu Song, Cao Cao went in pursuit of them.
Meanwhile Liu Bei and his brothers were hastening toward Yingchuan, when they heard the din of battle and saw
flames rising high toward the sky. But they arrived too late for the fighting. They saw Huangfu Song and Zhu Jun to whom they told the intentions of Lu Zhi.
“the rebel power is quite broken here,” said the commanders, “but they will surely make for Guangzong to join Zhang Jue. You can do nothing better than hasten back.”
Liu Bei was twenty-eight when the outbreak
As a child, Liu Bei played with the other village children beneath this tree, and he would climb up into it, saying, “I am the Son of Heaven,
and this is my chariot！” His uncle, Liu Yuanqi, recognized that Liu Bei was no ordinary boy and saw to it that the family did not come to actual want.
When Liu Bei was fifteen, his mother sent him traveling for his education. For a time he served Zheng Xuan and Lu Zhi as masters. And he became GREat friends with Gongsun Zan.
Liu Bei was twenty-eight when the outbreak of the Yellow Scarves called for soldiers. The sight of the notice saddened him, and he sighed as he read it.
Suddenly a rasping voice behind him cried, “Sir, why sigh if you do nothing to help your country？”
Turning quickly he saw standing there a man about his own height, with a bullet head like a leopard’s, large eyes, a swallow pointed chin,
and whiskers like a tiger’s. He spoke in a loud bass voice and looked as irresistible as a dashing horse. At once Liu Bei saw he was no ordinary man and asked who he was.
“Zhang Fei is my name,” replied the stranger. “I live near here where I have a farm； and I am a wine seller and a butcher as
well； and I like to become acquainted with worthy people. Your sighs as you read the notice drew me toward you.”
Liu Bei replied, “I am of the Imperial Family, Liu Bei is my name. And I wish I could destroy these Yellow Scarves and restore peace to the land, but alas！ I am helpless.”
“I have the means,” said Zhang Fei. “Suppose you and I raised some troops and tried what we could do.”
This was happy news for Liu Bei, and the two betook themselves to the village inn to talk over the project. As they were drinking,
a huge, tall fellow appeared pushing a hand-cart along the road. At the threshold he halted and entered the inn to rest awhile and he called for wine.
and deep red lips. He had eyes like a phoenix’s and fine bushy eyebrows like silkworms. His whole appearance was dignified and awe-inspiring. Presently, Liu Bei crossed over, sat down beside him and asked his name.
Let bugles cry our victory!
The woods are black and a wind assails the grasses,
Yet the general tries night archery —
And next morning he finds his white-plumed arrow
Pointed deep in the hard rock.
High in the faint moonlight, wildgeese are soaring.
Tartar chieftains are fleeing through the dark —
And we chase them, with horses lightly burdened
And a burden of snow on our bows and our swords.
Let feasting begin in the wild camp!
Let bugles cry our victory!
Let us drink, let us dance in our golden armour!
Let us thunder on rivers and hills with our drums!
A SONG OF THE SOUTHERN RIVER
Since I married the merchant of Qutang
He has failed each day to keep his word….
Had I thought how regular the tide is,
I might rather have chosen a river-boy.
I left home young. I return old;
Speaking as then, but with hair grown thin;
And my children, meeting me, do not know me.
They smile and say: “Stranger, where do you come from?”
A bridge flies away through a wild mist,
Yet here are the rocks and the fisherman’s boat.
Oh, if only this river of floating peach-petals
Might lead me at last to the mythical cave!
ON THE MOUNTAIN HOLIDAY
THINKING OF MY BROTHERS IN SHANDONG
All alone in a foreign land,
I am twice as homesick on this day
When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain,
Each of them a branch-and my branch missing.
AT HIBISCUS INN
PARTING WITH XIN JIAN
With this cold night-rain hiding the river, you have come into Wu.
In the level dawn, all alone, you will be starting for the mountains of Chu.
Answer, if they ask of me at Loyang:
One-hearted as ice in a crystal vase.
A SONG OF A PURE-HEARTED GIRL
Lakka-trees ripen two by two
And mandarin-ducks die side by side.
If a true-hearted girl will love only her husband,
In a life as faithfully lived as theirs,
What troubling wave can arrive to vex
A spirit like water in a timeless well?
A TRAVELLER’S SONG
The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother
Makes clothes for the body of her wayward boy;
Carefully she sews and thoroughly she mends,
Dreading the delays that will keep him late from home.
But how much love has the inch-long grass
For three spring months of the light of the sun?
ON A GATE-TOWER AT YUZHOU
Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?
And where, behind me, are the coming generations?
I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,
And I am all alone and my tears fall down.
AN OLD AIR
There once was a man, sent on military missions,
A wanderer, from youth, on the You and Yan frontiers.
Under the horses’ hoofs he would meet his foes
And, recklessly risking his seven-foot body,
Would slay whoever dared confront
Those moustaches that bristled like porcupinequills.
…There were dark clouds below
the hills, there were white clouds above them,
But before a man has served full time, how can he go back?
In eastern Liao a girl was waiting, a girl of fifteen years,
Deft with a guitar, expert in dance and song.
…She seems to be fluting, even now, a reed-song of home,
Filling every soldier’s eyes with homesick tears.
A FAREWELL TO MY FRIEND CHEN ZHANGFU
In the Fourth-month the south wind blows plains of yellow barley,
Date-flowers have not faded yet and lakka-leaves are long.
The green peak that we left at dawn we still can see at evening,
While our horses whinny on the road, eager to turn homeward.
…Chen, my friend, you have always been a great and good man,
With your dragon’s moustache, tiger’s eyebrows and your massive forehead.
In your bosom you have shelved away ten thousand volumes.
You have held your head high, never bowed it in the dust.
…After buying us wine and pledging us, here at the eastern gate,
And taking things as lightly as a wildgoose feather,
Flat you lie, tipsy, forgetting the white sun;
But now and then you open your eyes and gaze at a high lone cloud.
…The tide-head of the lone river joins the darkening sky.
The ferryman beaches his boat. It has grown too late to sail.