Biography (SGYY): Cai Mao (Degui)

Home | Forum | SimRTK | History | Games | Graphics | Writing | Products | Links | Site Map

Cai Mao (Degui)
蔡瑁 (德珪)
Lived: ?–208

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Dong Zhou

Cai Mao (Degui)

Cai Mao was from Xiangyang, he became a famous man and helped Liu Biao with Jingzhou’s administration along with Kuai Liang and Kuai Yue. When Sun Jian was returning home from the Coalition, Yuan Shao asked Liu Biao to stop Sun Jian then take the Imperial Seal (1) so Cai Mao went with Kuai Yue and ten thousand troops to bar the way.

1: Sun Jian had found the Imperial Seal in a well at Luo Yang but refused to hand it over to the leader of the Coalition, Yuan Shao and left the alliance of lords.

Sun Jian sent out Huang Gai with his iron whip and Cai Mao responded with his sword, after a few bouts Huang Gai struck a blow on the armour just above Cai Mao’s heart. Cai Mao fled and with a sudden attack, Sun Jian’s men broke through Liu Biao’s force.

Liu Biao appeared and after an exchange of words about the Seal, Liu Biao withdrew but as Sun Jian continued on his march, he was ambushed while Cai Mao and Kuai Yue now came upon Sun Jian’s force while in pursuit. Sun Jian lost half his force but managed to escape to the Southlands.

Sun Jian and Liu Biao were now open enemies and so when Yuan Shu suggested that he attacked Yuan Shao and Sun Jian attacked Liu Biao, the Governor of Chang Sha agreed (2). Cai Mao’s sister, Lady Cai, had got married to Liu Biao in the meantime before news of Sun Jian’s preparation’s reached Liu Biao.

2: Yuan Shu had been denied grain from both Yuan Shao and Liu Biao thus his suggestion.

Huang Zu was sent with a large force to guard the banks but he was driven back to Xiangyang where he claimed Sun Jian’s army was too strong. Kuai Liang advised that since their recently defeated troops had no heart for fighting, that they should fortify their position while seeking aid from Yuan Shao. Cai Mao said “A stupid move! The enemy is at the city gates: Shall we fold our hands and wait to be slain? Give me troops and I will go out and fight to the finish!”

Given ten thousand troops, he marched out to the Xian Hills to face the invaders, engaging Cheng Pu in a duel. After a few bouts, Cai Mao fled and his army was slaughtered by Sun Jian’s men and their corpses filled the countryside. When he returned to Xiangyang, Kuai Liang urged Liu Biao to put Cai Mao to death under military law, claiming the defeat was due to his obstinacy but due to the recent marriage, Liu Biao was unwilling to put Cai Mao to death.

After Sun Jian was lured into a night ambush and killed by Lu Gong, Cai Mao led one of three armies out of the city, throwing the Southland army into confusion. Sun Jian’s body was given to his eldest son Sun Ce in exchange for the captured Huang Zu and the invaders returned home.

After Cao Cao defeated Yuan Shao at Guan Du, he turned his attention to the threat of Liu Bei in Ru Nan, defeating the Imperial Relative and driving him to the Han River. Liu Bei sent Sun Qian as an envoy to see if Liu Biao would take him in. Being of the same clan, Liu Biao was inclined to take in his struggling relative but Cai Mao raised an objection to the plan.

“No, no! Liu Bei first followed Lu Bu, then he served Cao Cao, and next he joined himself to Yuan Shao. And he stayed with none of these, so that you can see what manner of man he is. If he comes here, Cao Cao will assuredly come against us and fight. Better cut off this messenger’s head and send it as an offering to Cao Cao, who would reward you well for the service.”

Sun Qian was unmoved by the threat and answered back “I am not afraid of death. Liu Bei, the Princely One, is true and loyal to the state and so out of sympathy with Lu Bu, or Cao Cao, or Yuan Shao. It is true he followed these three, but there was no help for it. Now he knows your chief is a member of the family, so that both are of the same ancestry, and that is why he has come far to join him. How can you slander a good man like that?” Liu Biao bade Cai Mao to be silent, prompting Cai Mao to sulkily leave the audience. Liu Bei was accepted into Jingzhou.

Liu Bei helped defend against Cao Cao, deal with the Yuan sons diplomatically and defeat the bandits Zhang Wu and Chen Sun. This prompted Liu Biao, during a banquet, to comment on Liu Bei’s heroics but mentioned that he feared the borders with the lands of Yue, Wu and Shu with the lords Sun Quan and Zhang Lu being threats from those lands.

Liu Bei reassured Liu Biao “But I have three bold generals, quite equal to any task you can set them. Send Zhang Fei to keep ward on the southern border of Yue, Guan Yu to guard the city of Guzi against Zhang Lu in the west, and Zhao Zilong holding the Three Gorges will protect you from Sun Quan. Why need you grieve?”

Liu Biao was happy with the plan but Cai Mao was not, complaining to his sister “Liu Bei is putting his troops in such commanding positions all round the region. That is the danger.” Lady Cai warned her husband that Liu Bei was well liked by some in the army and that he should be sent away from the city on some mission, mentioning others believed the same.

Liu Biao then was given a handsome horse, called the Dilu horse, as a gift by Liu Bei but he returned it when Kuai Yue told him that the horse was cursed, and then he sent Liu Bei to the border town of Xinye (3). Liu Biao summoned Liu Bei to a private dinner where he confessed “My first wife, of the Chen family, bore me a son Liu Qi, my eldest. He grew up virtuous but weakly and unfitted to succeed me in my office. Later I took a wife of the Cai family, who bore me a son named Liu Zong, fairly intelligent. If I pass over the elder in favor of the younger, there is the breach of the rule of primogeniture. But if I follow law and custom, there are the intrigues of the Cai family and clan to be reckoned with. Further, the army is in the hollow of their hands. There will be trouble, and I cannot decide what to do.”

3: Liu Biao’s SGZ mentions him as narrow mind and suspicious, it also mentions that he met Liu Bei with great formality but did not trust him didn’t give him important matters. Liu Bei’s SGZ claims that Liu Bei was met as an honoured guest, gave him troops and supplies then stationed him in Xinye but when distinguished people went to meet Liu Bei, Liu Biao got suspicious.

Liu Bei replied, “All experience proves that to set aside the elder for the younger is to take the way of confusion. If you fear the power of the Cai faction, then gradually reduce its power and influence, but do not let doting affection lead you into making the younger your heir.”

Liu Bei then confessed he was saddened at his lack of achievement and his growing girth, Liu Biao attempted to reassure him and, with the wine getting the better of Liu Bei, let slip “If I only had a starting point, then I would not be afraid of anyone in a world full of fools.” Realising what he had said, Liu Bei left pretending to be drunk but Lady Cai had listened to the whole thing behind a screen. She warned her husband “I happened to be behind the screen just now and so heard the words of Liu Bei. They betray scant regard for other people and mean that he would take your territory if he could. If you do not remove him, it will go ill with you.”

Liu Biao made no reply so Lady Cai went to her brother Cai Mao who decided to slay Liu Bei then tell Liu Biao. Cai Mao found some soldiers to do the deed but on arriving at the guest house where Liu Bei had been staying, they found he had returned to Xinye (4). Cai Mao decided to write a poem on one of the partitions (5) and informed Liu Biao of the poem, claiming Liu Bei wrote it and his sudden departure was suspicious.

4: Yi Ji had warned Liu Bei of Cai Mao’s plot.

5: Cai Mao’s Poem:

Too long, far too long I have dreamed life away,
Gazing at scenery day after day.
A dragon can never be kept in a pond,
He should ride on the thunder to heaven and beyond.

Cai Mao’s scheme failed as Liu Biao quickly calmed down, remembering that Liu Bei was not a man who wrote verses and realised somebody sought to sow discord between him and Liu Bei. When Cai Mao reminded him that the soldiers waited for his order, Liu Biao claimed there was no hurry so Cai Mao consulted his sister who reminded him that there would soon be a great gathering at Xiangyang where they could arrange something.

The next day Cai Mao petitioned Liu Biao that since there had been many fruitful harvests that Liu Biao should go to the Full Harvest Festival at Xiangyang as encouragement for the people. Liu Biao refused on account of old troubles returning but suggested his sons go, Cai Mao claimed that due to their youth, they might make mistakes so Liu Biao recommended Liu Bei go in his stead.

The delighted Cai Mao wasted no time in summoning Liu Bei who arrived with an escort containing three hundred troops and Zhao Yun. Cai Mao met them at the boundary of the city; he was most affable and courteous to the guests. The next day, Cai Mao met Kuai Yue “This Liu Bei is the villain of the age and if left alive will certainly work harm to us. He must be got rid of now.”

Kuai Yue warned “I fear you would forfeit everybody’s favor if you harmed him,” but was reassured by Cai Mao’s claim “I have already secretly spoken in these terms to the Imperial Protector, and I have his word here.” Cai Mao had assigned his brothers for the task ahead “Cai He is posted on the road to the Xian Hills from the east gate; Cai Zhong and Cai Xun are on the north and south roads. No guard is needed on the west as the Tan Torrent is quite safeguard enough. Even with legions, Liu Bei could not get over that.”

Kuai Yue noted that Zhao Yun never left Liu Bei’s side so they might expect the attack, advising that “We will tell Wen Ping and Wang Wei to invite all the military officers to a banquet at one of the pavilions outside the city, and Zhao Zilong (6) will be among them. Then will be our opportunity.”

6: Style name of Zhao Yun.

Zhao Yun went to the banquet and Liu Bei’s escort was sent to the guest house, then Cai Mao perfected his preparations as his men surrounded the residence Liu Bei was hosting in like a ring of iron. Yu Ji however warned Liu Bei of the plot so he fled on his Dilu horse through the west gate before the wardens could stop him. The wardens told Cai Mao who went in pursuit with five hundred men to find that Liu Bei had crossed the Tan Torrent (7). Cai Mao asked why Liu Bei had fled and on Liu Bei’s question on why Cai Mao tried to harm him, Degui replied “I have never thought of such a thing. Do not listen to what people say to you.” Liu Bei spotted Cai Mao fitting an arrow to his bowstring so fled with Cai Mao wondering what spirits aided his foe. As he returned to the city, he met Zhao Yun and the rest of Liu Bei’s escort who had realised something was wrong. Zhao Yun asked why Cai Mao had gone after Liu Bei, the reply being that it was his duty to do so, when Degui was asked where Liu Bei had gone, he said through the west gate but that he had not seen Liu Bei.

7: Liu Bei, with river to the front and pursuers behind, plunged into the stream and his horse, in a tremendous leap managed to get to the other bank.

Liu Bei and Zhao Yun managed to return to Xinye from where they sent Sun Qian to inform Liu Biao of Cai Mao’s actions. Liu Biao was furious and ordered Cai Mao to be put to death, despite Lady Cai’s plea’s but Sun Qian stepped in “If you put Cai Mao to death, I fear Uncle (8) Liu Bei will be unable to remain here.” Cai Mao was reprieved but was dismissed with a severe reprimand.

8: Reference to Liu Bei being named an Imperial Uncle by Emperor Xian.

Liu Biao lost one of his senior generals, Huang Zu when Sun Quan invaded so Liu Qi, fearing Lady Cai might kill him offered to guard Jiangxia, so getting out of harms way and was accepted. Liu Biao soon fell seriously ill so summoned Liu Bei, confiding his sons to Liu Bei’s guardianship and asking him to administer Jingzhou when he died. Word reached Liu Biao that Cao Cao was attacking the region so Liu Bei left to deal with the invasion, Liu Biao’s testament naming Liu Bei guardian and Liu Qi as his successor.

Lady Cai was greatly angered by this arrangement so closed the inner doors against all and had her partisans, led by Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, guard the outer gates. When Liu Qi from Jiangxia came to see his father, Cai Mao refused admittance “Your father sent you to guard Jiangxia. Such a very responsible post should by no means have been quitted without orders. Suppose it was attacked, what might not happen? If your father sees you, he will be very angry, and it will make him worse. That would be most undutiful, and you should return to your command at once.” Liu Qi returned to his post and Liu Biao soon died.

Lady Cai and her partisans forged a testament naming the fourteen year old Liu Zong as lord of Jingzhou before they published news of his death (9). Liu Zong assembled the officials and asked “My father has passed away, and my elder brother is at Jiangxia. More than that, our uncle is at Xinye. You have made me lord, but if my brother and uncle come here with an army to punish me for usurping the lordship, what explanation can I offer?”

9: Liu Biao’s SGZ mentions: In the early days, Liu Biao as well as his wife loved their younger son, Liu Zong, dearly and they intended to appoint him as the family’s successor. Liu Biao’s generals, Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, supported that decision and as a result, Liu Biao’s eldest son, Liu Qi, was sent away to Jiang Xia to take over as its Grand Administrator. At that time, Liu Zong, under the support of Cai Mao and some others, became the official family’s successor and as a result, both Liu Qi and Liu Zong developed a strong sense of hatred for each other.

The GOS mentions that Liu Zong’s relationship with the Cai’s was due to marriage with Lady Cai’s niece.

Only Li Gui replied “You speak well. Now hasten to send letters of mourning to your brother and ask him to come and take his inheritance. Also call upon Liu Bei to come and assist in the administration. Then shall we be safe against our enemies---Cao Cao on the north and Sun Quan on the south. I consider this the most excellent plan.” Cai Mao replied harshly, “Who are you to speak thus wildly and oppose the testament of our late lord?”

Li Gui abused Cai Mao “You and your party have fabricated this testament, setting aside the rightful heir. Now the whole region is in the hands of the Cai family. If our dead lord knew your doings, he would slay you!” For this, Cai Mao ordered Li Gui be put to death but when Liu Zong heard of Cao Cao’s advancing army, he called his advisors, including Cai Mao, and was advised by Fu Xuan, Kuai Yue, Wang Can and Lady Cai to surrender so sent Song Zhong as secret messenger to Cao Cao but he was captured by Liu Bei and the news of Liu Biao’s death, the succession and the impending surrender came out.

Liu Bei was forced to leave Fancheng, taking the people of the city with him but on arriving at Xiangyang, Cai Mao ordered the guards to fire on those outside the walls but Wei Yan opened the gates, calling Cai Mao a traitor. Zhang Fei wished to attack Cai Mao but was checked by Liu Bei who, on seeing the soldiers clash, decided to withdraw.

When Cao Cao summoned Liu Zong, Wang Wei proposed attacking Cao Cao with a sudden attack; Liu Zong asked Cai Mao his opinion. As well as calling Wang Wei an evil counsellor, Degui said ““You are mad! You know nothing and understand nothing of destiny,” Wang Wei responded with “Cai Mao is the betrayer of the country, and I wish I could eat him alive!” The quarrel waxed on until Cai Mao wanted to kill Wang Wei, but Kuai Yue managed to broker peace between the them.

Cai Mao went with Zhang Yun to Fancheng to see Cao Cao and being of instinct specious and flattering, told Cao Cao “There are fifty-thousand of horsemen, one hundred fifty-thousand of footmen, and eighty thousand marines. Most of the money and grain are at Jiangling. The rest is stored at various places. There are ample supplies for a year.” He also claimed “The ships, of all sizes, number seven thousands, and we two are the commanders.” Cao Cao gave Cai Mao the rank of Lord Who Controls the South, and Supreme Admiral of the Naval Force, also promising Liu Zong would be kept as Imperial Protector of Jingzhou (10).

10: When asked by Xun Yu why he treated two such self-seekers and flatterers so generously, Cao Cao explained “Do I not know all about them? Only in the north, where we have been, we know very little of war by water, and these two men do. I want their help for the present. When my end is achieved, I can do as I like with them.”

Liu Zong, reassured by Cao Cao’s promise, surrendered his seals with the populace, led by Cai Mao welcoming their new lord with incense, many getting rewarded. Liu Zong however was given the rank Imperial Protector of Qingzhou, despite Liu Zong’s protests and while he travelled to his new post, Liu Zong was killed alongside Lady Cai by Yu Jin (11).

11: The ZZTJ mentions Liu Zong also received a fief as a full marquis. Cao Cao also mentions Liu Zong’s surrender to Sun Quan in a letter in an attempt to get Sun Quan to also submit; combined with lack of evidence of an assassination in the SGZ; it would seem that Liu Zong wasn’t killed by Yu Jin in history.

Sun Quan formed an alliance with Liu Bei and opposed Cao Cao at Chi Bi. Cao Cao sent the Wu commander, Zhou Yu, a letter but it was destroyed and the messenger executed without the letter being read. Greatly angered, Cao Cao ordered an immediate attack led by Cai Mao; the Wu navy sailed out to meet them.

Gan Ning offered a challenge that Cai Xun, Cai Mao’s younger brother, accepted but as he approached, Gan Ning shot him then pressed forward, his crossbowmen keeping up a heavy discharge. The flanks, led by Han Dang and Jiang Qin joined in the attack, slaughtering the inexperienced northern sailors until Zhou Yu considered it prudent to withdraw.

Cao Cao restored order and sent for the defeated leaders, reproaching them “You did not do your best. You let an inferior force overcome you.” Cai Mao defended himself “The Jingzhou marines have not been exercised for a long time, and the others have never been trained for naval warfare at all. A naval camp must be instituted, the northern soldiers trained, and the Jingzhou force drilled. When they have been made efficient, they will win victories.” Cao Cao replied “You are the Supreme Admiral. If you know what should be done, why have you not done it? What is the use of telling me this?”

Cai Mao and Zhang Yun then organised a naval camp on the river bank, establishing twenty four Water Gates, with the large ships outside as a sort of rampart, and under their protection the smaller ships went to and fro freely. At night when the lanterns and torches were lit, the very sky was illuminated, and the water shone red with the glare. On land the smoke of the camp fires could be traced for one hundred miles without a break.

When Zhou Yu saw this, he was struck with great fear so the next day he took a small squadron to spy on the Wei navy in an attempt to learn their strength. On seeing the camp and finding everything so admirable, he remarked “How well and correctly built is that naval base!” On learning that Cai Mao and Zhang Yun were the admirals, he responded “They have lived in the south a long time, and are thoroughly experienced in naval warfare. I must find some means of removing them before I can effect anything.”

Cao Cao sent a friend of Zhou Yu’s, Jiang Gan to act as a spy and to persuade Zhou Yu to surrender. While with his friend, Jiang Gan spotted a letter from Cai Mao and Zhang Yun to Zhou Yu “We surrendered to Cao Cao, not for the sake of pay but under stress of circumstances. Now we have been able to hold these northern soldiers into this naval camp but, as soon as occasion offers, we mean to have the rebel’s head to offer as a sacrifice to your banner. From time to time there will be reports as occasions serve, but you may trust us. This is our humble reply to your letter.”

When Zhou Yu remarked in his sleep that he would soon have Cao Cao’s head then while Gan was pretending to sleep he overheard a messenger telling Zhou Yu “Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, the two commanders, said that they cannot execute the plan in a hurry.” Jiang Gan later that day left the camp and told Cao Cao who immediately sent for Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, asking them to attack Wu at once. When Cai Mao responded that the troops were not yet sufficiently trained, Cao Cao said “The soldiers will be well enough trained when you have sent my head to Zhou Yu, eh?”

Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, having no idea what he meant, where dumbfounded and remained silent as they had nothing to say so Cao Cao bade the lectors to execute them. Later Cao Cao realised he had been tricked into executing his admirals by Zhou Yu, who had faked the evidence of their treachery, but he explained to his dismayed troops that the two admirals had been executed for being remiss, meanwhile Zhou Yu was delighted to get rid of his main cause of concern. The execution is mentioned in a poem:

No one could stand against Cao Cao,
Of sin he had full share,
But Zhou Yu was more treacherous,
And caught him in a snare.
Two commanders to save their lives,
Betrayed a former lord,
Soon after, as was very met.
Both fell beneath the sword.

Copyright © 2007 Dong Zhou. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms