Biography (SGYY): Fu Tong

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Fu Tong
(AD ?—222)

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

Fu Tong

Fu Tong was a general serving the Riverlands during the Emperor Liu Bei’s reign.

Following the death of Guan Yu at the hands of the Southland, Liu Bei mobilized a great mass of his army, some seven hundred and fifty thousand, to extract revenge on the south. Fu Tong was posted as commander’s aid for the expedition. In the seventh month of the first year of Zhangwu (1), the great army mobilised. After advancing onto Xiaoting, the Shu army scored victory after victory, defeating many of the south’s most renowned generals. The army’s reputation so intimidated the southerners that they wept aloud day and night.

1: AD 221, Huangchu 2nd year by Wei’s calendar.

Previously, the Riverlands army had camped in the plains for the expedition against the south, but come summer, the weather became scorching hot and the army faced difficulties in getting water. Consequently, Liu Bei commanded the army to move into the lush hills, near the mountain streams, and deferred the attack until autumn. Fu Tong was in charge of the fourth camp on the southern side. One night, as dusk fell, Chunyu Dan, a subordinate commander serving the Southland, attacked Fu Tong’s camp. Fu Tong immediately mounted and charged the enemy lines, heading straight for Chunyu Dan who, realising he was no match for Tong, attempted to flee. Fu Tong pursued Dan hotly, killing over half of his men, but before Tong could reach Chunyu Dan himself, Xu Sheng and Ding Feng, two generals serving the Southland, struck from either side, and Tong returned to his camp. Fu Tong’s organised defence so intimidated the southerners that they surmised they would never defeat the Riverlands army directly.

Sometime after Chunyu Dan’s assault on his camp, Fu Tong spotted fire rising in the north shore encampments. At the first watch a south-east wind sprang up sharply and several other Shu encampments went up in flames. Fearing the worst, Fu Tong mounted immediately and, with his forces, went to secure the safety of Liu Bei. Tong found Bei west of his camp and joined forces with him. Pursued by southern troops, Liu Bei and Fu Tong, who had now been joined by general Zhang Bao, came to Saddle Hill. Fu Tong urged Bei to the top of the hill. A tumult welled up from bellow as Lu Xun, the chief commander of the southern forces, surrounded the hill with a massive contingent of men. Fu Tong charged the contingent and fought to control the pathway up as Liu Bei continued moving. Fu Tong guarded Liu Bei for the remainder of the night.

The following day the Southlanders set fires around the hill. Some of Liu Bei’s men scurried away in disorder, leaving him in extremity, but before Lu Xun’s forces could take advantage of the situation, Guan Xing, a Riverlands general, led a few riders up the hill, killing a score of southern soldiers. “The flames press closer,” he said, “we must move on. Make haste to Baidi, Your Majesty, where we can regroup.” Liu Bei said, “Who will take the rear?” to which Fu Tong volunteered. As darkness fell, they made their way down the hill, Fu Tong guarding Liu Bei. The southern commanders pursued them eagerly. At Liu Bei’s order, Fu Tong and the rest of the commanders discarded their surcoats and armour, burning them to clog the road and prevent pursuit. They were continuing west when Zhu Ran, a southern commander, led a company from the riverbank to block their way. Both Zhang Bao and Guan Xing fell back from the flurries of arrows shot at them. More shouts from behind told Fu Tong that Lu Xun was bringing up the main army .

As dawn broke, Fu Tong was the only commander left to protect Liu Bei. Suddenly, a great uproar could be heard, and Zhu Ran’s ranks began to disintegrate. Zhao Yun was leading a band of men through to rescue Liu Bei. Hearing of Zhao Yun’s arrival, Lu Xun began to retreat—Zhu Ran, however, did not receive the order and was later killed by Zhao Yun. “I may be safely out of it,” Liu Bei said, “but what about my commanders and men?” “The enemy is too close,” Zhao Yun said, “We cannot delay. If Your Majesty will enter Baidi and rest, I will go back to relieve the commanders.” Consequently, Liu Bei continued onto Baidi with a retinue of little more than one hundred.

Fu Tong continued to guard the rear and, with barely any men under his command, was surrounded by the southern forces. Ding Feng shouted to him, “Countless Riverlands troops have fallen. Thousands have surrendered. Your lord, Liu Bei, has been captured. Your force is spent; your situation, extreme. A quick submission is advisable.” But Fu Tong shouted back an angry rebuke: “No Han general would ever submit to the dogs of Wu!” Raising his spear, he rode forward, leading his men in a strenuous last effort. He fought more than a hundred bouts, driving and thrusting back and forth, but he could not break free. With a deep sigh, Fu Tong said, “Then it is over.” Blood welled up in his mouth; he died in the heat of battle. Liu Bei wept inconsolably when he learned of his death. A later poet left these lines in Fu Tong’s praise:

By Yiling, Shu met Wu in heavy strife;
Then Lu Xun burned the western legions out.
“Dogs of the south” was Fu Tong’s final curse:
This general of Han did his title proud.

Copyright © 2004 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong