Biography (SGYY): Man Chong (Boning)

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Man Chong (Boning)
滿寵 (伯寧)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Morgan Evans

Man Chong (Boning)

Man Chong, styled Boning, was a scholar from Shanyang who was recommended into Cao Cao’s service by Liu Ye. When Man Chong joined Cao, he recommended the services of Mao Jie, who was given office.

When Cao Cao was summoned to rescue the Emperor from the clutches of Li Jue and Guo Si, Man Chong accompanied him. It soon became apparent that the ruined city of Luoyang could no longer function as the capital, so the court officials and the Emperor were moved to Xuchang. On the way there, the convoy was intercepted by Yang Feng and Han Xian (1) along with the General Xu Huang. Xu Chu was sent against Xu Huang but neither man could gain an advantage so both sides drew off. At their camp, Cao Cao summoned his advisors and said to them, “The two rebels themselves need not be discussed; but Xu Huang is a fine general, and I was unwilling to use any great force against him. I want to win him over to our side.” Man Chong volunteered to carry out this task, saying, “Do not let that trouble you. I will have a word with him. I shall disguise myself as a soldier this evening and steal over to the enemy’s camp to talk to him. I shall incline his heart toward you.”

1: Yang Feng and Han Xian had saved the Emperor from Li Jue and Guo Si, but soon found themselves redundant when Cao Cao’s army arrived and left the capital.

During the night, Man Chong made his way to the enemy camp and entered the tent of Xu Huang and said, “You have been well since we parted, old friend?” Xu Huang stared at him for a while and then said, “You are Man Chong of Shanyang? What are you doing here?” Man Chong replied, “I am an officer in General Cao Cao’s army. Seeing my old friend out in front of the army today, I wanted to say a word to him. So I took the risk of stealing in this evening, and here I am.” The two men sat down to continue their conversation and Boning said, “There are very few as bold as you on earth. Why then do you serve such as your present chiefs, Yang Feng and Han Xian? My master is the most prominent man in the world—a man who delights in wise people and appreciates soldiers as everyone knows. Your valour today won his entire admiration, and so he took care that the attack was not vigorous enough to sacrifice you. Now he has sent me to invite you to join him. Will you not leave darkness for light and help him in his magnificent task?” Xu Huang considered the offer for a long time and then said with a sigh, “I know my masters are doomed to failure, but I have followed their fortunes a long time and do not like to leave them.” Man Chong replied, “But you know the prudent bird selects its tree, and the wise servant chooses his master. When one meets a worthy master and lets him go, one is very reckless.” Xu Huang rose and said, “I am willing to do what you say.” Man Chong then asked, “Why not put these two to death as an introductory gift?” but Xu Huang refused to do so, “It is very wrong for a servant to slay his master. I will not do that.” Boning agreed with him, “True. You are really a good man.” That night, Xu Huang took a few of his horsemen and deserted to Cao Cao. Yang Feng and Han Xian attacked Cao Cao later that night and were utterly defeated. When the cavalcade reached Xuchang, Man Chong was made Magistrate of Xuchang as reward for his good service.

Man Chong was later tasked with spying on Yuan Shao. (2) When he returned to the capital he went to present his report to Cao Cao who was with the Imperial Uncle, Liu Bei. “Gongsun Zan has been completely defeated by Yuan Shao.” Man Chong began, “They were at war, and Gongsun Zan got the worst of it, so he acted on the defensive, building a high wall about his army and on that erecting a high tower, which he called the Yijing Tower. Therein he placed all his grain, one hundred thousand carts total, and took up his own quarters. His fighting troops passed in and out without ceasing, some going out to give battle, others returning to rest. One of them was surrounded and sent to ask Gongsun Zan to rescue him. Gongsun Zan said, ‘If I rescue him, hereafter everyone will want to be helped and will not exert himself.’ So Gongsun Zan did not go. This disgusted his soldiers, and many deserted to the enemy so that his army diminished. He sent letters to the capital to crave help, but the messenger was captured. He sent to Zhang Yan to arrange with him for a two-pronged joint attack, and those letters with the plans also fell into Yuan Shao’s hands. The plans were adopted by Yuan Shao, who gave the signals agreed upon. Thus Gongsun Zan fell into an ambush, lost heavily, and retreated into the city. There he was besieged, and a subterranean passage was pierced into the tower where he lodged. The tower was set on fire, and Gongsun Zan could not escape. So he slew his wife and little ones and hanged himself. The flames destroyed the bodies of the whole family. Yuan Shao has added the remnants of the vanquished army to his own and so become yet stronger. His brother Yuan Shu in the South of River Huai, however, has become so arrogant and cruel that the people have turned against him. Then Yuan Shu had sent to say he would yield the title of Emperor, which he had assumed, in favour of Yuan Shao. Yuan Shao demanded the Imperial Hereditary Seal also, and Yuan Shu promised to bring it in person. Now Yuan Shu has abandoned River Huai and is about to move to the North of Yellow River. If he succeeded, the two brothers will control adjoining regions and be dangerous.” Liu Bei was deeply saddened by the story. (3)

2: Yuan Shao had declared war on his rival warlord, Gongsun Zan. Each controlled large regions with large populations and so the victor would pose a serious threat to Cao Cao.
3: Liu Bei and Gongsun Zan were old friends who had lived together while they were students. Gongsun Zan had loaned troops to Liu Bei on a previous occasion and had gained rank for him.

When Cao Cao attacked Liu Biao, a messenger from Yuan Tan arrived named Xin Pi. Xin Pi had come to propose his master’s surrender and request aid in the war with Yuan Shang. (4) Man Chong was against giving aid, saying, “You have led your armies here for a special purpose. How can you abandon that and go to assist Yuan Tan?” but Cao Cao chose to instead follow the advice of Xun You who advised aiding Yuan Tan. (5)

4: Yuan Tan and Yuang Shang were the sons of Yuan Shao. After their father’s death, the two sons fought for the territory.
5: Xun You said, “This is how I regard it. Since there is universal trouble, in the midst of which Liu Biao remains quietly content with his position between the River Zhang and the River Han, it is evident that he has no ambition to enlarge his borders. The Yuans hold four regions and have many legions of soldiers. Harmony between the two brothers means success for the family, and none can foresee what will happen in the empire. Now take advantage of this fraternal conflict and let them fight till they are weakened and have to yield to our Prime Minister. Then Yuan Shang can be removed, and when the times are suitable, Yuan Tan can be destroyed in his turn. Thus peace will ensue. This present combination of circumstances is to be taken advantage of to full measure.”

In AD 219, Liu Bei invaded Hanzhong. Cao Cao wanted to send the entire army of Wei against him. However, Sima Yi advised against this and suggested sending an able speaker to Sun Quan to incite him to take the Jingzhou region back from Liu Bei by force. (6) While Liu Bei’s army was defending against Wu’s attack, Cao Cao could then re-take Hanzhong. Man Chong was selected for this task. He was well received and taken to see Sun Quan, to whom he presented Cao Cao’s letter. Boning said to Sun Quan, “Wu and Wei have no fundamental quarrel, and their dissension has been brought about by Liu Bei. My master sends me to covenant with you for an attack on Jingzhou, while he goes against Hanzhong. This double attack being successful, the conquered regions can be divided between us two, and we can both swear to respect each other’s territory.” Sun Quan read the letter and then sent Man Chong to the guest house while a banquet was prepared in his honour. Boning was then sent back to the capital with Sun Quan’s agreement for the joint attack (7). Soon afterwards, Sun Quan sent letters to the capital suggesting that Cao Ren’s army at Fancheng should attack Jingzhou in order to draw Guan Yu’s army away and then Wu would attack. Cao Cao approved this strategy and sent Man Chong to act as advisor to Cao Ren.

6: Jingzhou had long been an issue between Wu and Shu. Sun Quan had wanted to retake the area by force on many occasions but hadn’t from fear of invasion by Cao Cao.
7: Although he made this agreement, Sun Quan also sent a messenger to Jingzhou to propose an alliance by marriage with Shu. However, Guan Yu refused the proposal.

Liu Bei heard of the movements against Jingzhou and ordered Guan Yu to attack Fancheng in a pre-emptive strike. When news of Guan Yu’s approach reached Cao Ren he was inclined towards defence. Man Chong agreed with this course saying, “Guan Yu is brave and cunning and not one to be met lightly. I think defence is best.” but the second in command, Zhai Yuan, and General Xiahou Cun convinced Cao Ren to go on the offensive. Man Chong was left in command of Fancheng’s defences while Cao Ren went out to repel Guan Yu. Cao Ren’s army was defeated by Guan Yu and in the battle, both Xiahou Cun and Zhai Yuan were killed. Guan Yu gained possession of Xiangyang while Cao Ren retreated to Fancheng. Cao Ren said to Man Chong, “Neglecting your advice, I lost soldiers, two generals, and the city of Xiangyang. What am I to do now?” Man Chong replied, “Guan Yu is very dangerous, too brave and skilful for us to try to defeat. We had better remain on the defensive,” At this time news came that Guan Yu was crossing the river to attack. Cao Ren’s General, Lü Chang, wanted to attack but Man Chong told him, “You cannot do any good,” and again advised defence. Cao Ren allowed Lü Chang to go against Guan Yu but when the battle began, many of the Wei soldiers ran away in fear of Guan Yu. The army quickly retreated to the safety of Fancheng. Cao Ren wrote a letter to Cao Cao asking for reinforcements and so Yu Jin and Pang De were sent with seven armies to aid Fancheng. Shortly after the reinforcements arrived, the autumn rains started and a heavy downpour came on that lasted for several days. Guan Yu had his troops dam the outlets of the River Xiang until the waters were very high and then he had the dams opened. The reinforcements had camped in the middle of a valley and stood no chance against the flood attack. Yu Jin surrendered to Guan Yu while Pang De was eventually captured and executed.

Fancheng now stood as an island with waves breaking against the walls. The force of the water was causing the city walls to give way and the efforts to strengthen them seemed to be in vain. Cao Ren and his generals began to plan an evacuation of the city but Man Chong opposed this: “Though the force of these mountainous waters is great, we only have to wait ten days or so, and the flood will have passed. Though Guan Yu has not assaulted this city, yet he has sent another army to Jiaxia, which indicates he dares not advance lest we should fall upon his rear. Remember, too, that to retire from this city means the abandonment of everything south of the Yellow River. Therefore I decide that you defend this place.” Cao Ren saluted Man Chong saying, “What a tremendous error I should have committed had it not been for you, Sir!” The defences of the city were strengthened with hundreds of archers and crossbowmen stationed on the walls. After ten days the flood came to an end just as Man Chong had predicted. Xu Huang was dispatched from Xuchang with fifty thousand soldiers to aid Fancheng while the Wu forces attacked and captured Jingzhou. Guan Yu was captured and executed by Wu shortly afterwards thereby relieving the siege of Fancheng.

In AD 228 three armies were dispatched in a campaign against Wu based on the surrender of the Wu general Zhou Fang. Man Chong was charged with assisting the army led by Jia Kui. The campaign failed when the main army, led by Cao Xui, were led into a trap by Zhou Fang and completely defeated. Months later, it was Man Chong who bore news to Cao Rui that Sun Quan had declared himself Emperor and was preparing to attack Wei.

In AD 234, while Sima Yi battled against Zhuge Liang at Wu Zhang Plains, Wu invaded the north. Man Chong accompanied Cao Rui’s main army to He Fei in order to repel the invasion. Man Chong led the leading division of the army towards Lake Chaohu where he saw a fleet of Wu battleships. He quickly returned to the main army and advised an immediate attack: “The enemy think we shall be fatigued after a long march, and so they have not troubled to prepare any defence. We should attack this night, and we shall overcome them.” Cao Rui agreed and gave orders for the attack. Man Chong was to attack from the east bank while Zhang Qiu was charged with attacking the enemy ships with fire. The double attack was a complete success and the army of Wu fled without striking a blow. Lu Xun was forced to withdraw his army while Man Chong was left to oversee He Fei.

Man Chong served Wei until his death, serving under three generations of the Cao family.

Copyright © 2004 Morgan Evans
Based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong