Biography (SGYY): Ji Ling

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Ji Ling
(AD ???–199)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Mike Holmes

Ji Ling

Ji Ling was a hardy general under Yuan Shu. He wielded a trident weighing fifty pounds.

In AD 196, Liu Bei sought imperial sanction for an invasion of Huainan, Yuan Shu’s home base. In response, Shu sent Ji Ling with one hundred thousand men to meet the threat at Xuyi. When he got to the battlefield, Ji Ling cursed Liu Bei by calling him a bumpkin and daring him to cross into the land of Yuan Shu.

Liu Bei sent out his brother Guan Yu. Ji Ling met the challenge and battled for thirty bouts, after which the two fighters withdrew. Later, Guan Yu asked to fight Ji Ling again. Xun Zheng was sent out by Ji Ling. “Let’s have Ji Ling out here so we can tell the cock from the chicken,” taunted Guan Yu.

To this, Xun Zheng said, “You are no match for General Ji!” The two men closed and Guan Yu killed Xun Zheng with a single blow. Ji Ling’s army suffered a terrible defeat, and they withdrew to Huaiyin. Ji Ling refused to fight; only sending men to harass Liu Bei’s camp. These were slain, and the two armies were deadlocked.

When Lü Bu attacked Zhang Fei at Xuzhou, Liu Bei had to withdraw. Yuan Shu was delighted and offered fifty thousand bushels of grain, five hundred horses, ten thousand ounces of gold and silver and one thousand rolls of varicoloured silk to Lü Bu if he’d finish Liu Bei off. In response Lü Bu sent his general Gao Shun to attack. By the time he arrived and met up with Ji Ling, Liu Bei had already fled to Guangling.

Gao Shun demanded the gifts from Ji Ling, but Ji Ling merely replied, “You may withdraw for now, I will arrange it with my lord.” Disheartened, Gao Shun withdrew.

Yuan Shu planned to attack Xiaopei, where Liu Bei had been serving Lü Bu. He sent Ji Ling with one hundred thousand men, and Lei Bo and Chen Lan as his deputies. They camped southeast of Xiaopei. They had so many men that at night, the torches lit up the sky and the drums shook the earth.

Lü Bu came to the aid of Liu Bei and Ji Ling wrote a letter accusing him of bad faith. In response Lü Bu invited Ji Ling to his camp.

When Ji Ling arrived at Lü Bu’s camp, he was shocked to see Liu Bei sitting there. He tried to leave, but Lü Bu forced him into a seat.

“You must be going to kill me,” said Ji Ling.

“Of course not,” was Lü Bu’s reply.

“Then you must be going to kill Big Ears (1),” said Ji Ling.

(1) Big Ears signifies Liu Bei; big earlobes were a sign of virtue.

“No,” replied Lü Bu.

“Why are we here then?” asked Ji Ling.

“I am going to satisfy both sides,” replied Lü Bu, “Call this off now!”

“I have a mandate from Lord Yuan,” replied Ji Ling, “to capture Liu Bei. How can this be ‘called off’?”

At this, Lü Bu took his halberd and placed it at the entrance of the camp. He drew his bow and arrow and stood at the entrance of his tent.

“That halberd is one hundred and fifty paces away,” he announced, “If I hit the small side blade with my arrow, you must call the war off. If I miss, you may fight to the death. Whichever side does not agree, I will join with his enemy!” Ji Ling could only agree.

Lü Bu’s arrow hit the mark. Ji Ling was shocked and said, “General, I dare not disobey you, but Lord Yuan will never believe this!”

“Don’t worry,” replied Lü Bu, “I’ll write to him and explain.”

That day, Ji Ling and his men decamped and went home.

When he got back Yuan Shu was furious and wanted to attack Lü Bu at once, but Ji Ling dissuaded him saying, “Lü Bu is too fierce to take on, especially with Liu Bei’s help. He had a daughter though, who has come of age and you have a worthy son, who has also come of age. Why don’t you get them to marry? Then Lü Bu is as good as ours!” Shu agreed.

However, Lü Bu rejected the marriage proposal, put the envoy in bonds and sent him to the capital Xuchang.

When Yuan Shu declared himself emperor, he attacked Lü Bu with two hundred thousand men in seven field armies under Zhang Xun. Ji Ling was put in charge of support. The attack failed and Yuan Shu brought his armies home.

By AD 199, Yuan Shu was ruined. His lust had meant that his treasury and army were weakened. He agreed to go to his brother Yuan Shao and transfer the imperial title to him. For this, they had to go through Xuzhou (2). Ji Ling was put in charge of the advance force.

(2) By this time Lü Bu was dead; he had been executed by Cao Cao, who controlled Xuzhou and had secured the services of Liu Bei.

Cao Cao’s general Liu Bei met them. He sent Zhang Fei into the field. Ji Ling responded and the two clashed for ten bouts.

On the tenth bout Zhang Fei gave a thunderous shout and ran Ji Ling through. Ji Ling fell from his horse and was instantly killed.

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