Biography (COB): Pang Tong (Shiyuan)

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Pang Tong (Shiyuan)Pang Tong (Shiyuan)
龐統 (士元)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by SlickSlicer

Lifespan: AD 179–213
Birthplace: Xiangyang
Titles: “Young Phoenix” (Nickname); Attendant Official: Attendant Official; General of the Gentleman of the Household Masters of the Army: General of the Gentleman of the Household Masters of the Army
Relations: Pang Degong (uncle); Pang Lin (brother); Pang Huan (cousin); Pang Hong (son)

Pang Tong was born in Xiangyang and was styled Shiyuan. His uncle, Pang Degong, gave Pang Tong the Taoist nickname, Young Phoenix. Pang Tong befriended both Sima Hui and Zhuge Liang in his youth. After failing to obtain rank in the Southlands, Pang Tong joined Liu Bei. Soon after, he was appointed as an Attendant Official and was given a position as an assistant to the prefect of Leiyang. Although Pang Tong was said to have cared for the elderly and the common folk, he nevertheless governed Leiyang County poorly. Eventually, he was dismissed by Liu Bei.

In the past, Pang Tong had traveled as an envoy to Wu and was greatly admired by several members of the Wu court. One person who thought particularly highly of Pang Tong was Lu Su. When Lu Su heard of Pang Tong’s apparent failings as a magistrate, he wrote to Liu Bei saying, “Pang Shiyuan’s talent is much more than one who governs several miles. Make him a member of your personal staff and he will no doubt find his feet.” Later, Liu Bei’s advisor, Zhuge Liang, approved Lu Su’s suggestion. After surmising that Pang Tong was a man of great aptitude, Liu Bei decided to appoint both Pang Tong and Zhuge Liang to positions as Masters of the Army (1). The two men would henceforth share responsibilities of military administration, discipline and strategic planning.

1: They were actually given the rank of Generals of the Gentleman of the Household Masters of the Army but since that particular title, along with many other Han ones are rather wordy, I decided to simply abbreviate it.

When Cao Cao invaded Hanzhong, the lord of Shu, Liu Zhang, did not know what to do. One of Liu Zhang’s officials, Zhang Song, advised Liu Zhang to invite Liu Bei to come to the Riverlands and help with Liu Zhang’s problems. Liu Zhang agreed with this advice and sent Fa Zheng with 4,000 soldiers to request assistance from Liu Bei. Several generals of the Riverlands (2) objected to this plan, however. When nothing could change the mind of Liu Zhang, Fa Zheng came to Jing to talk to Liu Bei.

2: The province of Yizhou is sometimes called Shu and sometimes referred to as the Riverlands. One of the most notable protesters to Zhang Song’s plan was Wang Lei of Guanghan. Wang Lei went so far as to hang himself upside down from the gates of Chengdu to protest Liu Bei coming into Liu Zhang’s land.

Now this Fa Zheng harbored traitorous thoughts against his liege, and secretly hoped to defect to Liu Bei’s forces. Upon arriving in Jing, he said to Liu Bei, “With your bravery and skill you can take advantage of Liu Zhang’s lack of energy. Zhang Song is like the arms and legs to that province and he would gladly support the overthrow of its’ ruler. With his help you can seize Yi province as easily as you can turn your hand.” In response to this comment, Liu Bei solicited advice from Pang Tong. Pang Tong quickly said, “Jing Province is in disorder and ruins, the people and the property are all exhausted. In the East there are the Suns and in the North there is Cao Cao. You will find it hard to obtain your ambitions here. Yizhou, meanwhile, has a population of nearly a million households, the soil is fertile and the people are wealthy. If you can obtain this treasure for yourself then your great designs may be achieved!”

Liu Bei was a man of virtue and not one to act to gain a small advantage over his adversaries. His reply to Pang Tong was: “There are two men in the world as mutually antagonistic as fire and water. My opposite is Cao Cao. He is impetuous and I am long suffering; he is cruel and I am humane; he feigns while I am true. In all particulars I act the direct contrary to him. If I take a small benefit from treachery now, yet lose the honor of my name, what good is that?” Pang Tong then said, “In times of disorder, one must be able to adapt to changing circumstances. If you take advantage of opportunities presented to you now you will be taking over from the weak and attacking the stupid, and what you seize by rebellion you may hold with obedience. Men of the past have always respected this. Once Yizhou is taken, you can give Liu Zhang a generous fief. If you do not conquer Yi province now though, Liu Zhang will simply fall to someone else.” (3)

3: “Seize by rebellion and hold by obedience” was a saying of the ancient statesman Lu Jia and a reference to the actions of King Tang of the Shang dynasty and King Wu of the Zhou dynasty. These two rulers revolted against weak leaders. When they later governed well the territory they had won through treachery, they won the hearts of their people.

Finding truth in this advice, Liu Bei left Guan Yu, Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang to hold Jing province while he, Pang Tong and others marched to Liu Zhang’s territory. Pang Tong and Zhuge Liang were then given the responsibility of controlling the movement of Liu Bei’s armies in their respective positions. After meeting with Liu Zhang, Liu Bei was dispatched to Jiameng Pass to deal with the threat of Zhang Lu, the warlord of Hanzhong who was presently dealing with an invasion of Cao Cao’s. Liu Bei had no desire to assault Zhang Lu though, and instead secretly hoped to snatch up the lands of his benefactor, Liu Zhang.

Pang Tong gave Liu Bei three different strategies on how to wrest Yizhou from the clutches of Liu Zhang. “The first plan I suggest is to gather your best soldiers, march night and day to Chengdu, and afterwards launch a surprise attack on the city. Liu Zhang is not a fighting man and he will quickly surrender should a large army come to threaten him. My next ploy is to go forward to Boshui Pass, where Yang Huai and Gao Pei, two notable officers, are in command. I have heard that these two generals objected to the idea of inviting you into Yizhou. Send an envoy to them with the message that Jing is in danger and that you must retreat immediately. They will no doubt be pleased with this and will come to you with a small escort. Then you may arrest them, take over the forces they command and from there turn against Cheng Du. Finally, you could also go back to Bodi, join up with the forces of Jing and then scheme to one day return to take Yizhou. This would be, in my opinion, the worst plan you could utilize,” said Pang Tong.

Out of these three policies, Liu Bei approved the middle one and then requested reinforcements from Liu Zhang. When Liu Zhang only sent a paltry sum of troops and supplies, Liu Bei pretended to be enraged and rallied his troops to turn against Liu Zhang. Liu Bei summoned Gao Pei and Yang Huai of Boshui and had them arrested and murdered. He then combined their forces with his own and rushed forward to assault the city of Luo, which at that time was held by Liu Zhang. Liu Bei besieged the city for over a year. Unfortunately, Pang Tong was killed by a straw arrow while leading an attack on the city. Tong’s son, Pang Hong, would later become the governor of Fu. Pang Tong’s brother, Pang Lin, however, would sometime later surrender to Wei. Pang Tong was mourned for by both Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei after he died, for his military advice had always been sound and decent.

Copyright © 2006 SlickSlicer. All Rights Reserved.
Based on factual historic sources.