Born in Yiyang, I was fascinated by warfare as a young lad. I had often wanted to prod someone with a sharp stick on a horse, and took great interest into training myself to fight. I thought I was the best fighter there could be, and was often rebuked by my parents when I tried to provoke my brother into a duel by prodding him with my sharp stick (luckily, my brother dodged them all, for he had hemophilia).
I grew up dueling the village kids, and had successfully poked three in the eye, gave one a wounded leg, and prodded one in such an area that he could’ve become sterile had I poked further to the left.
When I was a young man, I decided to join up with Liu Biao of Jingzhou. There, I learned the real ways of military, and realized I had to catch up on a lot of things. In the first week, I was beaten so that I returned home with a black eye and a sore chest. But as the weeks wore on, I realized that I could not beat the men by strength (for they were all older than me) but instead by being agile. They were all wide around the waist, and so I thought that would be the perfect plan. I picked up my wooden sword and thwacked a man with it as I dodged his grips swiftly.
Slowly, the men began to see my potential, and started showing respect for me. Delighted, I dueled each one of them and beat each one soundly. The men began to fear me, and I strutted around proudly with my trusty wooden sword (which I named Heaven’s Butt-Spanker).
One day, I was called on to quell a rebellion in Xiangyang, and I led my men to the field with our wooden swords that I had trained them to use. Of course, the men thought using wooden swords was absurd. But in the first battle, they learned the idea wasn’t absurd: It was suicidal. The rebels came quickly to the field with their steel swords, at which I scoffed. I ordered a general charge, but my men were quivering in their boots, and most were slain as we retreated. At that moment, I learned the real meaning of losing. I decided to use steel swords to match up with the rebels’ swords and formulate an ingenious plan.
The plan would be that we would lead the rebels into a trap, at which I will lead an ambush party to surprise the rebels with our bows and arrows. The plan worked, and the rebels were defeated. I was named Prefect of Xiangyang for that achievement.
Later, I was told that Liu Bei, of whom I have heard to be a virtuous man, was fleeing through Jingzhou. I planned to meet him, but instead Liu Bei went to Liu Qi. Dismayed, I canceled the preparations to greet him.
At around that time, I was called to Liu Biao’s residence for a personal talk. Amazed that someone with such a high rank like him would want to talk to me, I donned my finest clothes and arrived at his house. He invited me in, and we performed the ceremonial greetings. Then, he told me to sit down, and to drink the tea.
I, being very weary and thirsty from the trip, drank the tea as mannered yet as fast as I could. Liu Biao suddenly became, for some reason, enraged, and asked me why I was drinking his tea. Confused, I said that he invited me to drink. He thought this a lie, for some strange reason that I don’t know, and told me to eat the food he had brought out. As I lifted my chopsticks to eat, he stood up indignantly and cried, “Why are you eating my food uninvited you manner-less pig?” Even more startled, I asked why he was acting this way, at which he angrily told his servants to drive me away with swords and sticks. I hastily mounted my horse and rode away.
Very alarmed and muddled when I got home, I thought why Liu Biao was acting so strange. I decided he was a madman, and stole away into the night. I fled towards Han Xuan in the south of Jingzhou.
Han Xuan treated me well, and all was fine until Guan Yu attacked Changsha. I was excited, for Guan Yu was Liu Bei’s sworn brother. But I hid it inside, for Han Xuan would execute me. Han Xuan sent a buddy of mine named Huang Zhong to attack Guan Yu. He was very old, and I was amazed when he showed me that he could still fight.
Huang Zhong didn’t want to kill Guan Yu, and so when he returned later Han Xuan wanted to execute him. I desperately implored Xuan not to kill him, but he wouldn’t listen. As I sadly watched him raise his sword, I had a sudden idea for an argument to put up, and I rushed to his side. We were on the wall tops, and he was on the side, and so when I accidentally bumped him, he fell off the wall to his doom. Alarmed, I tried to save him, but he had already fallen off. Huang Zhong thanked me for saving his life, but it was not really what I intended.
Even more depressed, I decided there was no other way than to surrender to Liu Bei. As I greeted him, a grand-looking man in Taoist robes looked at me. I immediately wanted to shake hands with him, but he suddenly shouted, “Guards! Execute this man!” Confused, I asked what was the matter when guards grabbed me and held me tight for the axe. Liu Bei quickly asked the man to not kill me. The man replied that I had the looks of a traitor, at which I indignantly stated that I was a very noble man and would never dare hurt my lord. To that, I received a loud and impudent chorus of “Shut up,” including Liu Bei. I sighed, and finally after some conversation, I was spared. I learned later that the man that wanted to execute me was the great Zhuge Liang.
As time went by, I was promoted after many achievements with Liu Bei in attacking certain cities and places. I was treated well by Liu Bei, and in return gave him my loyalty. During that time, I wanted to have a little past time to bide the intervals of peace between battles. I chose planting, and planted many trees and plants in a garden.
Zhuge Liang came around one day to visit the officers, and spotted my garden. I thought he would be impressed at first, but instead he angrily yelled, “Wei Yan you pedant-like warrior! What kind of general would plant flowers like a maiden?” Embarrassed, I said, “Well, I wanted to bide the time, and so I decided to do something a little more elegant than normal.”
Glaring at me, Zhuge Liang ordered me to perform a maiden dance for him and all the soldiers. Sighing resignedly, I hopped and pranced around like a woman. The soldiers laughed and guffawed as I did my little dance. Even Zhuge Liang, with his usual discipline, was giggling heavily. Though the reader would think me to be seething inwardly, I instead was beginning to enjoy dancing, and danced for a long time until finally Zhuge ordered me to stop.
I didn’t want to stop, I cried in my mind, but obeyed just in case I would get in more trouble. Upon entering the house, I decided that after I retire from war, I would become a male dancer.
Many years and events passed. I was in many moods as the varying events came by me. I rejoiced as we made successful captures, and wept (well, maybe not wept, but something close to it) when we lost. I wailed painfully all night when I had heard of Lord Guan’s death, and the deaths of many more to follow, especially Lord Liu’s death.
I have skipped over those parts to get to the real heat of the biography, when Lord Zhuge’s northern campaigns began. I was chosen as a lead commander and was valued highly, if I must say so myself, because of my valor. I slew many on the battlefield, and was a major part of Zhuge Liang’s force.
In one campaign, I had a good idea and urged Kongming to attack Changan directly. Instead, he skipped over my good advice and executed a plan that resulted in him not capturing many cities. I danced at night in my tent to get away from my sorrows.
During one campaign, Lord Kongming got seriously ill, and was in his camp recuperating. I was watching guard vigilantly, and was fearful for Lord Kongming’s health at the same time. Suddenly, a large Wei force approached the camp, and I rushed to Kongming’s side to report, when I spotted a lamp. Seeing Kongming shielding his eyes, I thought it was blinding him, and blew out the lamp. In fact, Kongming was instead trying to see who was coming into the tent. Jiang Wei wrathfully drew his sword and came towards me. Confused, I threw myself on the ground pleading for something that I just blurted out. It turned out I was pleading for another bucket of shrimp, and was surprised at how random the words that I blurt out could be.
Kongming stopped Jiang Wei and told him that it was not my fault and that the time had come for him. He weakly ordered me to engage the Wei troops at once, at which I immediately obeyed, and prepared to lead a force to drive off the Wei forces. However, seeing that they were too strong to overcome, I came up with a plan. I hid all banners, soldiers, mounts, etc. I placed ten good dancers, with me leading them on top of a hill to dance. When the Wei forces arrived, they were confused to see us dancing, and retreated back on fear of foul play.
Smiling, I told everyone to return to what they were doing again, and I rushed back to Kongming. He ordered me to return back to my camp, to which I reluctantly obeyed.
Soon after, I heard Kongming had died. I wept and wailed as piteously as I had done when I heard of Liu Bei’s death. My eyes red and sore the next morning, I wanted to avenge Kongming’s death when I heard the order to retreat. I obeyed, and my camp began the march home.
Before I had reached Chengdu, a large contingent of men suddenly approached me. I quickly conferred with Ma Dai, who was with me at the time, and we mounted our horses to inspect the opposing army. It was in fact Yang Yi of Shu. I inquired, “Why do you oppose me so? We are in Shu together, is that not right?” Angrily, he shouted, “Traitor Wei Yan! How dare you disobey orders and rebel against the Emperor?” I was very confused, and replied, “What are you talking about Lord Yang Yi? Are you mad? I would never dare betray my lord!” “Then how do you explain this!?”, he cried, and threw at my horse’s feet a scroll. I dismounted, picked it up, and read it. It said:
“I, Wei Yan, write to the Latter Ruler this letter about betrayal. After many times being abused by Zhuge Liang, I finally have decided to turn against his followers after his death to avenge my dignity. To do this however, I will need to betray you, and am sorry to do that. But this is a quest to avenge my honor, and so I must do this. I hope you will understand as I crush these pitiful fools that follow that idiot Zhuge Liang.”
Startled, I cried back, “I did not write these lines! First of all, I would never dare betray my lords. Second of all, that is not my handwriting! It is Zhuge Liang’s!” “Prove it is Zhuge Liang’s handwriting!” cried Yang Yi. “Well, his characters are all very sharp and neat, and can be distinguished between mine a lot more. You should know, after many years of campaigning with him,” I retorted. Stunned at my reply, Yang Yi said, “Well, that may be true, and you may have not written this letter. But, uh, it is still, um, well, I still say that these are your thoughts, for Zhuge Liang can, uh, read minds, yea, read minds!” I stared at him, who by the ways looked triumphant, after he spoke his absurd words. “You are a madman Yang Yi.” “I am not! So, you dare insult me and rebel?! Fine! Have some wine!” he spoke as his attendants scurried up to me to offer some wine.
By now, I have been very confused and alarmed at his words, and at these words I was even more mixed up. But being very thirsty, I replied, “Why, uh, thanks. Yes, I’d like to have some wine.” “Ah hah!” cried Yang Yi, “I have proved that you are a traitor! Who will slay him?” Before I could protest, Ma Dai came up behind me and killed me.
And so, now here I am in heaven writing this very honest and sincere autobiography about my life. I am still fuming about how I could’ve fallen into the same trap two times (one time at Jingzhou with Liu Biao, and the second time when I died to Ma Dai’s spear). However, to those who have read Luo Guanzhong’s version of the story, I hope you will not be prejudiced against me, for I was never that horrible. I cannot imagine how ugly I would look if I were like that.
Thus ends my autobiography, which I have truthfully written. I would like to conclude with a few words. I hope that all of you out there do not make the same mistake that I do, and that the moral is always this: “Do not drink more than you can drink.” Good-bye, and good night.
Copyright © 2004 BeefyShu