Biography (SGYY): Cheng Pu (Demou)

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Cheng Pu (Demou)
程普 (德謀)
(AD 154–213)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Cheng Pu (Demou)

Cheng Pu, styled Demou, hailed from Tuyin in Youbeiping. Along with Huang Gai, Han Dang and Zu Mao, Pu was one of the first commanders to enter the service of Sun Jian and participated in many of the latter’s first campaigns, including those fought against the Yellow Scarf rebels. Before entering battle, Cheng Pu always wielded a steel-spined spear with a snake headed blade and was greatly gifted not only as a martial combatant, but also in the affairs of military tactics. Known as a handsome and generous man, Cheng Pu was liked by his comrades and peers, and through his many years of service, he grew to be a commander covered with battle-scars.

When Cao Cao, commandant of the Valiant Cavaliers, issued a call to arms against prime minister of the Han Dong Zhuo, Sun Jian was one of seventeen lords who accepted the call. Upon arriving at the coalition’s base, Sun Jian was given command of the vanguard and, with Cheng Pu, set out for Si River Pass immediately. Jian and Pu were met at Si River by a force of fifty thousand soldiers commanded by Dong Zhuo’s general Hua Xiong. Xiong sent his lieutenant commander Hu Zhen out of the pass with five thousand men, but Cheng Pu met him on the field and pierced his throat with a wave of his spear. Sun Jian’s army then charged the pass but were forced to retreat when Si River’s defenders pelted them with stones. The army retreated to Liangdong, where Sun Jian sent one letter to the coalition’s leader, Yuan Shao, to report the victory and another to Shao’s brother, Shu, to request grain.

After some time, no grain shipment was forthcoming from Yuan Shu and Sun Jian’s men were beginning to become uncontrollable (1). Soon after, Dong Zhuo’s commanders Hua Xiong and Li Su attacked the Liangdong encampment and Cheng Pu, unable to fight off both sides of the attack, became separated from Sun Jian. Pu continued his fight with Hua Xiong’s men until morning, when they eventually dispersed. With Huang Gai, Han Dang and a score of men, Cheng Pu set out in search of Sun Jian and found him on a side road from their camp. The four commanders then rounded up their men and headed back to camp, but Cheng Pu was grieve-stricken at the loss of Zu Mao, who had died protecting Sun Jian. (2)

1: Concerning Sun Jian’s request for grain: someone advised Yuan Shu: “Sun Jian is the tiger of the east. If he takes the capital and kills Dong Zhuo, we’ll be facing a tiger instead of a wolf. Deny the grain and watch his army fall apart.” Yuan Shu, persuaded, sent no supplies to Sun Jian.
2: Historically, Zu Mao didn’t die protecting Sun Jian, but rather died of illness some time after the campaign.

Later, Dong Zhuo abandoned the capital of Luoyang and set the city ablaze. Cheng Pu was one of the first commanders to enter the ruined city and, upon Sun Jian’s orders, helped distinguish the fires. While doing so, one of Jian’s troops found a jade seal with the words, “By Heaven’s mandate: long life and everlasting prosperity” inscribed upon it.

Cheng Pu instantly knew the seal to be the Imperial Hereditary Seal, and when asked by Jian, replied: “This is the seal of state. It confirms the devotions of authority from ruler to ruler. Long ago Bian He spied a phoenix perched on a rock in the Jian Mountains. He presented the rock to the King of Chu. They broke it open and found the jade. In the twenty-sixth year of the Qin dynasty, the first Emperor ordered a jade cutter to carve the seal; and Li Si, the first Emperor’s prime minister, personally inscribed those eight words in seal script on its bottom surface. Two years later, when the Emperor was touring the Dongting Lake, high waves engulfed the boat. He threw the jade into the water, and the waves subsided. Eight years after the incident, while in Huayin, the Emperor came upon someone on the road holding out the seal to the royal attendants. ‘I am returning this to His Majesty,’ the man said and then disappeared. The following year the First Emperor died. Later Ziying, grandson of the First Emperor, presented the seal to the Supreme Ancestor. Two hundred years later, when Wang Mang usurped the dynasty, the mother of the dethroned ruler struck two of the rebels, Wang Xun and Su Xian, with the seal and chipped the corner. The break was later filled in with gold. Guang Wu obtained the jade in Yiyang, and it has been transmitted through succeeding reigns until this day.”

“Recently,” Cheng Pu continued, “the deposed Emperor Shao (3) was forcibly taken to the Meimang burial grounds during the upheaval caused by the Ten Eunuchs, and on the way back home he lost the treasured seal. If Heaven has placed it in your hands, it means that the throne is destined to be yours. But now we must not remain in the north too long. Let us return to our homeland southeast of the Yangzi and set our course from there.”

“My thinking exactly,” Sun Jian replied. “Tomorrow I shall take my leave, pleading ill health.”

Thus, Cheng Pu began making preparations for the return journey to Changsha.

3: Emperor Shao, the eldest son of Emperor Ling, succeeded his father as Emperor of the Han dynasty, but Shao was deposed and later killed by Dong Zhuo in favour of his younger brother, Liu Xie.

The next day, Cheng Pu joined Sun Jian when the latter went to notify Yuan Shao of his departure. “I have an ailment that requires my return to Changsha,” Jian said. “I come, my lord, to bid goodbye.”

With a smile, Yuan Shao responded, “I know all about your ‘ailment’. A severe case of ‘royal seal’, is it not?”

Cheng Pu saw Sun Jian’s complexion turning pale. Yuan Shao then brought forth a soldier under Sun Jian, who told of Jian’s taking the royal seal. Sun Jian angrily drew his sword; Yuan Shao did the same. “If you kill him, you are deceiving me!” Shao exclaimed.

Seeing Shao’s generals, Yan Liang and Wen Chou, also drawing their swords, Cheng Pu drew his own weapon in defence of Sun Jian. When the other lords present, however, appealed for the quarrel to cease, Cheng Pu and Sun Jian took to their horses and headed straight for Changsha with Jian’s entire army.

Riding south to Changsha, Cheng Pu and the rest of Sun Jian’s army were forced to pass through Jingzhou, the province under the jurisdiction of Imperial Inspector Liu Biao. While riding through, the army was confronted by commanders Kuai Yue and Cai Mao with a force of ten thousand. “Why do you prevent me from passing?” Sun Jian demanded.

“Why are you, a subject of the Han,” Kuai Yue responded, “carrying off the imperial seal? Leave it with me and you may pass.”

Sun Jian was outraged and ordered Cheng Pu and the rest of his army to do battle. After some time, Liu Biao himself arrived on the scene. An exchange of words was made, and Sun Jian then made directly for a retreating Biao, but Jian rode straight into an ambush. Fearing the worst, Cheng Pu urged his men on and, through heavy fighting, was able to rescue Sun Jian and pull him out of the melee. Jian’s army then retreated back south to Changsha.

While in Changsha, Sun Jian received a letter from Yuan Shu urging him to attack Liu Biao at Jingzhou. Cheng Pu was called to conference with Jian after the latter had read the letter, who asked for his advice. “Yuan Shu is full of tricks,” Pu said, “and not to be trusted.”

“I want revenge, with or without Yuan Shu,” Sun Jian replied, and then ordered a full scale invasion of Jing with Cheng Pu serving as a commander.

Upon arriving at Jing, Cheng Pu made straight for Fankou with Huang Gai and its defender, Huang Zu, fled before the fierce attack. Cheng Pu pursued Zu with the rest of Sun Jian’s army but, unable to find him, made back for camp. (4)

4: Huang Zu had discarded his helmet and horse in favour of mingling with his foot soldiers, which is how Cheng Pu was unable to find the commander.

Several days after the victory at Fankou, Cai Mao arrived to offer battle. Cheng Pu rode out to meet the challenger with Sun Jian. “There’s the brother of Liu Biao’s wife!” cried Jian. “Who will seize him for me?”

Raising his iron-spined spear, Cheng Pu charged forward, bested Cai Mao in just a few clashes and then urged his men on and dealt the Jing army a major defeat. Mao retreated to Xiangyang, which Cheng Pu and the rest of Sun Jian’s army surrounded immediately.

After Cheng Pu’s victory over Cai Mao, Sun Jian assigned Pu to protect his eldest son, Ce. That night, Cheng Pu heard a commotion outside of the tent and went out to find that Sun Jian had been led into an ambush and killed by Jing commander Lu Gong. (5) The whole of Liu Biao’s army arrived to press the advantage soon after, but Pu remained guarding Sun Ce. Whilst doing so, he encountered Lu Gong and, overcome with thoughts of revenge, charged the enemy commander immediately and unhorsed him with a fatal jab of his spear. After regaining Sun Jian’s corpse (6), Sun Ce, who had taken over command of Jian’s army, ordered all military operations with Liu Biao cancelled, and the army soon set off back south to Jiangdu.

5: Sun Jian, hearing Lu Gong’s unit travelling by the east road, had left his own camp with only thirty horsemen without informing the rest of his army. Thus, Jian’s unit was an easy target for Lu Gong’s ambush, and he died from the repeated bolts of arrows and stones fired by Gong’s men.
6: Initially, Sun Jian’s corpse was recovered by the Jing troops and taken back to Xiangyang, but in the melee that had ensued after Sun Jian’s death, Huang Zu was captured alive by Huang Gai. To get his father’s body back, Sun Ce had exchanged the captured prisoner for Jian.

When Tao Qian and his uncle, Wu Jing, had a falling out, Sun Ce moved his family to Qu’e and entered the service of Yuan Shu. As a result of his lord’s entering Shu’s service, Cheng Pu also became a commander in Yuan Shu’s army. When Yuan Shu sent Sun Ce to attack Zu Lang at Jingxian and later to attack Lujiang, Cheng Pu joined Ce in both campaigns, achieving significant merit in the former. (7)

7: In the battle against Zu Lang of Jingxian, Sun Ce was surrounded by Lang’s army and in danger of being killed. Seeing Ce trapped, Cheng Pu mounted and charged alone directly into Zu Lang’s line, yelling loudly and stabbing numerous soldiers with his spear. Zu Lang and his men were so intimidated by his assault that they began retreating, and in this way Sun Ce was rescued. Cheng Pu’s exploits in this battle are only mentioned in historical records, and not in SGYY.

In AD 198, Sun Ce borrowed three thousand troops from Yuan Shu for an attack on Liu Yao, in which Cheng Pu was selected to join. The army first arrived at Ox Landing and was met by Liu Yao’s commander Zhang Ying, but after a fire was started in Ying’s camp by Jiang Qin and Zhou Tai, two local pirates, Ying was swiftly defeated. Following this victory, Cheng Pu joined Sun Ce to survey the enemy’s fortifications. As they were, two mounted warriors approached their position, one shouting, “Which one is Sun Ce?”

“Who are you?” Ce demanded back.

“I am Taishi Ci of Donglai, here to arrest Sun Ce.”

“Here I am!” Sun Ce retorted. “Two of you cannot scare one of me! If I feared you, I would not be Sun Ce!”

Taishi Ci and Sun Ce then charged into single combat, exchanging some fifty bouts that ended in no clear victor. Observing the battle, Cheng Pu quietly marvelled at the display of Taishi Ci’s skill. The two combatants then moved to some nearby hills to resume their combat and Cheng Pu, fearing for Sun Ce’s safety, followed up with his cavalry force and found Ce’s horse whilst doing so. Upon reaching Sun Ce and Taishi Ci, however, Cheng Pu was met by reinforcements of Liu Yao, coming to aid Taishi Ci. Gripping his spear, Pu urged his men on and charged the enemy’s line, battling with Liu Yao’s much larger forces until they reached the Shenting Hills. Once there, reinforcements of Zhou Yu arrived, giving Cheng Pu the numbers he needed to drive the enemy back. The two respective forces then retired to their own lines.

The next day, Cheng Pu joined Sun Ce and several other commands in attacking Liu Yao’s encampments. Approaching their lines, Sun Ce rode forward with a short halberd he had captured in his battle with Taishi Ci, shouting, “Only quick feet saved Taishi Ci!”

Cheng Pu then saw Taishi Ci emerging from his own line with what he recognised to be a helmet of Sun Ce’s, shouting, “And Sun Ce’s head would have been here!”

Taishi Ci then started charging towards their line and Cheng Pu, realising that Sun Ce would respond to Ci’s taunts again, turned to Ce and said, “No need for you, my lord, to bother with him.”

Rousing his mount, Cheng Pu charged at Taishi Ci, who shouted, “You’re not my man! Let’s have Sun Ce!”

Ignoring Ci’s words, Cheng Pu made for him with levelled spear. Their horses crossed and the two warriors fought some thirty bouts, but the contest ended in a draw when Liu Yao called Taishi Ci back. Cheng Pu then rode back to his line and hostilities between the two forces ended for the day.

Following this battle, Cheng Pu joined Sun Ce in attacking Liu Yao at both Moling and Jingxian, forcing Yao to flee to Yuzhang and inciting Yao’s commander, Taishi Ci, to surrender. Cheng Pu and Ce’s army next attacked Yang Baihu at Wujun, and the sheer ferocity of their attack caused Baihu to immediately flee. Baihu retreated to a ford, but Cheng Pu anticipated his line of retreat and engaged him at the site. Through heavy fighting, Pu was able to defeat Yang Baihu and sent him into flight once again. Yang Baihu retreated to Kuaiji, governed by Wang Lang, and Cheng Pu joined Sun Ce in attacking the city immediately. Wang Lang met Ce’s army on the field, and a mutual slaughter between the two forces ensued. Seeing Sun Ce hard-pressed, Cheng Pu moved his forces to the side of Wang Lang and, with Zhou Yu, attacked Lang from a different front, breaking his lines and forcing Wang Lang to flee to the city. Wang Lang was swiftly defeated shortly after this battle, and through these campaigns, Sun Ce and his army had created a firm hold on the territories south of the river, establishing what would become the kingdom of Wu.

By AD 199, the armies of Sun Ce were well trained and his granaries were well stocked. On one occasion, Sun Ce executed Xu Gong, governor of Wujun, on the basis that he had been conspiring with Cao Cao. Shortly after the execution, Cheng Pu was invited to go on a hunt with Sun Ce and several other commanders. During the hunt, Cheng Pu became separated from Sun Ce and quickly called the rest of the commanders to him to form a search party for the young commander. After searching for some time, Ce was found being attacked by two assailants, a third one dead on the ground, but the young commander was badly wounded. Cheng Pu then urged his mount onto the assailants and cut both down, and Pu then had Ce taken back to his home to have his wounds treated. However, Sun Ce passed away some time later and the rule of the Southland passed on to his younger brother, Sun Quan.

In the years following his brother’s death, Sun Quan consolidated his hold on the Southland and extended the kingdom’s borders further south. In AD 202, Sun Quan launched an expedition against Huang Zu of Jiangxia, in which Cheng Pu was selected to join as a commanding officer. The campaign against Huang Zu ended in victory for the Wu army, but because Jiangxia was too far from the Southland to defend, Cheng Pu and the southerners left it unguarded and returned to southern territory to further consolidate their forces.

In AD 207, Cao Cao, now controlling the majority of the north of China, moved an army of more than eight hundred thousand to the Great River, his intention to force the submission or incite the surrender of the Southland. Sun Quan himself was indecisive on what action to take, but Cheng Pu, along with his old comrades Huang Gai and Han Dang, was determined to stand his ground and fight Cao, while Zhang Zhao and a number of civil officials advised surrender. To press his point, Cheng Pu sought out Zhou Yu, one of Sun Quan’s most trusted advisers, with Huang Gai and Han Dang to represent Wu’s military faction. After being received by the General, Cheng Pu began: “Have you heard, Commander, that soon the Southland must lose its independence and be annexed to another power?”

“I have not been so informed,” was Zhou Yu’s reply.

“We have followed General Sun,” Cheng Pu continued, “in the founding of this domain through hundreds of battles, great and small. Thus we have come into possession of the towns and cities of our six districts. What shame we would suffer, what regret, if our lord should heed the advocates of surrender. But we who choose death before disgrace count on you to convince him to muster the troops—a cause to which we dedicate our all.”

“Is there consensus among you, Generals?” asked Zhou Yu.

In response, Commander Huang Gai rose and, striking his palm to his forehead, said hotly, “This shall role before I submit.”

Cheng Pu and the rest of his military personnel echoed Gai’s oath, and Zhou Yu said, “To decide the issue by combat is precisely what I desire. How could I acquiesce in surrender? I beg you, Generals, return. After I meet with our lord, the debate will be settled accordingly.”

Satisfied with Zhou Yu’s response, Cheng Pu led his military faction out of his quarters and returned to his command.

On the morning of the following day, Cheng Pu led thirty of his military officials to the assembly hall to debate the matter of going to war with Cao Cao. His personnel assembled on Sun Quan’s right, while on Quan’s left were a number of civil officials led by Zhang Zhao. Cheng Pu was standing at attention when Zhou Yu arrived. After formal salutations, Zhou Yu argued a series of reasons on as to why the Southland should fight Cao Cao, and rebuked the arguments for surrender that Zhang Zhao and his civil officials proposed. In response to his council, Sun Quan rose and said, “Long, too long, has the traitor sought to remove the Han and establish his own house. Four of those he had to fear—Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu, Lü Bu, and Liu Biao—are gone. I alone remain. One of us—the old traitor or I—must fall. That is my oath.”

Sun Quan then drew his sword and sheared off a corner of the table, declaring, “Any officer or official who advocates submission will be dealt with so!”

Quan then assigned Cheng Pu the rank of second field marshal for the battle with Cao Cao, while Zhou Yu was made first.

Returning home from the assembly, Cheng Pu was unsure of Sun Quan’s choice to make Zhou Yu, who was the junior to himself in both age and experience, commanding officer of Wu’s armies over himself. The next day, when Cheng Pu received a summoning from Zhou Yu to attend a military conference, Pu sent his eldest son, Cheng Zi, in his place to take the measure of Yu’s ability, and excused himself on the pretext of illness. Zi returned later in the day and told Pu that Zhou Yu’s measures were the model of military procedure and Pu, greatly impressed by the young commander’s ability, said to his son, “I mistook Zhou Yu for a coward, a man unworthy to lead. But if he can do this, he is a true general, and I must not show disrespect.”

So saying, Cheng Pu immediately set off to Zhou Yu’s quarters and apologised to the commander upon being received, to which Yu responded graciously. Cheng Pu then returned to his command and began preparing his forces for the war with Cao Cao.

Some time later, Zhou Yu convened to launch a fire attack to completely crush Cao Cao’s armies, and after several weeks planning the attack (8), the southerners decided on a day to attack. Cheng Pu joined Zhou Yu in his tent with Lu Su on the eve of the attack, their intent to attack Cao as soon a southeast wind began blowing to carry the fire to Cao Cao’s ships. Cheng Pu then began to organise the south’s units with Zhou Yu for the ensuing battle with Cao, and Pu was greatly impressed by Zhou Yu’s ability to position his forces with both order and logic. As soon as the wind began blowing, the fire attack was launched by Huang Gai, and Cheng Pu and Zhou Yu led their forces on to completely decimate Cao Cao’s forces, killing hundreds of thousands and sending Cao in headlong flight.

8: The planning of the fire attack against Cao Cao varies from a novel perspective and from historical records. In SGYY, the fire attack is thought up by Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang, while historically, Huang Gai thought the plan up. However, as far as the planning goes itself, Pang Tong falsely entered Cao Cao’s service and advised him to link his ships up to allow the fire to spread, and Huang Gai also pretended to defect to Cao to allow him to carry out the fire attack at the appointed time. On another note, Zhuge Liang is said to have summoned the southeast wind that caused the fire to spread to Cao’s ships in SGYY, but historically, the wind was completely natural.

In AD 208, Zhou Yu launched an expedition against Cao Cao at Nanjun, and Cheng Pu was selected to join the campaign as Yu’s second-in-command. The initial attack on the city varied in success, and so to defeat the northerners, commander Gan Ning was sent to attack Yiling with three thousand men. However, Ning’s force was surrounded upon his arrival at the city, and a military conference was quickly organised to discuss what action to next take. During the proceedings, Cheng Pu said to Zhou Yu, “We must send more men there at once.”

“Our own position is at the centre of things,” Yu replied. “We can’t spare troops. What if Cao Ren attacks us here?”

Commander Lü Meng then spoke up and said, “Gan Ning is one of our top generals. We can’t leave him there.”

“I would go myself,” replied Zhou Yu, “but who would take my place?”

“Let Ling Tong stand in for you here,” Lü Meng said.

Zhou Yu agreed, and Cheng Pu joined the relief force sent to Yiling while Ling Tong remained to defend their position at Nanjun. The army reached Yiling shortly after and the northerners were soundly routed and forced to retreat to Nanjun itself. Zhou Yu then ordered a renewed attack on the city, and gave Cheng Pu command of supervising the rear army while he himself commanded the front. The army went forward, Zhou Yu in its lead, but as Yu entered the gates of Nanjun itself, an ambush of archers sprung up and shot volleys of arrows on Yu’s unit. One arrow hit Zhou Yu himself, and the young commander toppled from his horse. The northern army then surged forward and Cheng Pu, seeing the futility in continuing the fight, raced forward and shouted desperately to his men, “Retreat! Retreat!”

Cheng Pu, with Long Tong, Han Dang and some score of other commanders, then organised a defence to hold off the northern army while commanders Ding Feng and Xu Sheng escorted the injured Zhou Yu back to camp. Both armies then withdrew from the field.

In camp, Cheng Pu went immediately to see Zhou Yu with a medical officer. Upon examining him, the officer said, “The tip was poisoned. There can be no swift recovery. Fits of choler will only reopen the wound.”

With Zhou Yu unfit to continue his command, Cheng Pu took command of the south’s armies and ordered that no one give battle to the northerners. Three days later, enemy commander Niu Jin came to denounce Cheng Pu and his army, but Pu simply ignored the northerner. Jin continued to do so for several days after, but Cheng Pu, fearing that news of such ridicule would worsen Zhou Yu’s condition, did not inform the commander. Based on the condition of Zhou Yu, Cheng Pu decided on a temporary retreat until Sun Quan could be consulted, and the southern army withdrew from their position at Nanjun some time later.

One day, Cao Ren himself arrived at the southerner’s camp demanding combat, but Cheng Pu held fast and would not respond. Pu then received a summoning from Zhou Yu and went to see the injured commander immediately, who said to Pu, “You share military authority with me. Why have you not responded to the northern army’s taunts?”

“Seeing that you were ill from the wound and that the doctor said you were not to be angered,” replied Cheng Pu, “I didn’t report the enemy’s provocations.”

“What is your purpose in refusing to fight?” Zhou Yu asked.

“The commanders,” Cheng Pu answered, “want to take the army back to the south and wait for your recovery before undertaking further action.”

Zhou Yu then sprung from his bed and declared, “A man worthy of the name, who takes his sustenance in the service of his lord, considers it a boon to die on the battlefield, to be sent home wrapped in horsehide. You can’t bring our cause to naught on my account.”

So saying, Zhou Yu then put on his armour and mounted his horse, leaving Cheng Pu in a state of shock at his recovery. Zhou Yu left with a few hundred troops to fight the northern army, but before any engagement was made, Yu toppled from his horse, blood rushing from his mouth. Cao Ren’s men attempted to take advantage of the situation and charged forward, but Cheng Pu, organising a defence with his commanders, swiftly forced them back after short but violent fighting.

Back in camp, Cheng Pu went immediately to Zhou Yu’s tent and, after being received, asked Yu, “Commander, what ails you?”

“It’s a ruse,” Zhou Yu whispered back to Pu.

“How will it work?” Cheng Pu asked.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Zhou Yu replied. “I want them to think I’m dying so that they will drop their guard. Have some of our trusted men pretend to surrender; tell them I have died. Cao Ren is sure to raid our camp this night—but we will have soldiers on all sides ready for them. Cao Ren will be ours in a single roll of the drums!”

“A brilliant plan!” Cheng Pu exclaimed. Pu then left Zhou Yu’s tent and began spreading the word that Zhou Yu had died of his wounds, and each soldier of the southern camp were soon wearing the white colours or mourning.

As predicted, Cao Ren arrived with his army at the south’s camp a short time later, and Zhou Yu’s ambush was sprung. Cheng Pu led his army in a concerted attack on the north’s forces, resulting in Cao Ren abandoning Nanjun and fleeing down the road to Xiangyang. After the victory, Pu regathered his men and set off for Nanjun with Zhou Yu. Upon reaching the walls of the city, they saw a host of flags and banners, and a man calling to them from the tower, “My apologies, Chief Commander. On orders from our director general, I have taken possession of the city. I am Zhao Zilong of Changshan.”

Roused to anger, Zhou Yu attempted to have his men take the city by force, but volleys of arrows shot by Zhao Yun’s men prevented them from doing so. When further news came that Liu Bei’s commander Guan Yu had taken Xiangyang, Zhou Yu cried out, and his wound reopened once again. Cheng Pu was with the commander when he came to, at which point Yu said, “Nothing less than the life of Zhuge Bumpkin (9) will quell my discontent. Cheng Pu can help me retake Nanjun for the Southland.”

However, word soon arrived that Sun Quan had attacked Hefei but was unable to subdue it, and so Zhou Yu withdrew to Chaisang to allow his wound to heal. Cheng Pu was then given command of a large naval force to aid Sun Quan, and Pu set off towards Quan’s position at Hefei immediately.

9: ‘Zhuge Bumpkin’ is a reference to Liu Bei’s adviser, Zhuge Liang.

Upon reaching Hefei, Cheng Pu was personally met by an overjoyed Sun Quan, his spirits lifted at the sight of the veteran general. Pu was then invited to a banquet with the rest of the commanders, at which Sun Quan received a letter from Zhang Liao, Hefei’s defending general. As Quan read it, he said angrily, “Now, Zhang Liao, you go too far! You taunt me to combat knowing Cheng Pu has arrived. But I’ll send no fresh troops against you. I’ll be in the field tomorrow and will give you the fight you’re looking for.”

Quan then issued an order for all armies to leave for Hefei at the fifth watch, and at the appointed time, Cheng Pu mounted and set off with the rest of the south’s forces. The march continued until midmorning, when Zhang Liao’s forces intercepted the army. The opposing sides arrayed their warriors, and enemy commanders Zhang Liao, Li Dian and Yue Jin came forth from the north’s line. Zhang Liao was out first, to which the south’s commander Taishi Ci responded, but the two fought to a draw. Next Yue Jin headed straight for Sun Quan’s position, but commanders Song Qian and Jia Hua blocked his blow to the south’s ruler, and he was soon fleeing back to his own line. Song Qian attempted to pursue Yue Jin, but an arrow shot from Li Dian felled him from his mount, at which point the northern army all pressed forward, headed by Zhang Liao. Seeing Zhang Liao making straight for Sun Quan, Cheng Pu grasped his snake headed spear and charged directly at Zhang Liao, slaying many of his men and sending his forces fleeing back to Hefei. Pu then went directly to Sun Quan and guarded him as they made their way back to their own camp. Sun Quan later ordered a retreat back to Nanxu when Taichi Ci, attempting a night raid on Zhang Liao’s camps, was killed. At the loss of the commander, Cheng Pu, who had once fought to a draw with the warrior, and the rest of the south’s commanders grieved bitterly.

After the Hefei campaign, both Nanjun and Jiangxia were given to the Southland from Liu Bei, and Cheng Pu was appointed as governor of the latter. Pu continued governing the district and serving the kingdom of Wu until AD 213 when, overcome by illness, he died at the age of 53. (10) At the time of his death, Cheng Pu was the eldest commander serving the Southland, having served three generations of the Sun family, and he was often looked at as a mentor by the younger commanders. His death left a void in the ranks of Wu, and he was sorely missed by those serving the kingdom.

10: Cheng Pu’s death is only recorded in historical records, and isn’t mentioned in SGYY.

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong