Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Morgan Evans
King Meng Huo became the ruler of the Five Valley Region in the south of China following the death of King Shamoke at the battle of Yi Ling. He wore a golden, inlaid headdress, his belt bore a lion’s face as clasp, his boots had pointed toes and were green, and he carried at his waist a pair of swords chased with pine amber. The King made his home in the Three Rivers City, deep in the Silver Pit Ravine.
In the sixth month of AD 223 he sent one of his generals to the Shu capital, Chengdu, to request the return of fifty thousand soldiers that Shamoke had loaned to Shu for their campaign against Wu at Yi Ling. The general was kept waiting for fifteen days before seeing Shu’s Prime Minister, Zhuge Liang, who gave the ‘Nan Man’ ambassador gifts of gold and silk as compensation for the fifty thousand soldiers. Meng Huo was unhappy with the gifts and the poor treatment his general had received.
Soon afterwards, a messenger arrived from the Wei Emperor Cao Pi asking Meng Huo to lead an army of one hundred thousand men against the Shu territories; Yizhou, Yongchang, Zhangge and Yuesui, as part of a five fold attack (1). Meng Huo readily agreed and assembled the army as requested. However, when the army reached its destination, they saw Shu soldiers led by Wei Yan marching through the region. The Shu army would appear for a while and then disappear as they marched to and fro. Meng Huo became suspicious of this behaviour and withdrew his army.
1: The first army consisted of Qiang tribesmen from the Xianbi State in Liandong, who were tasked with attacking Xiping Pass. The second army were from Wu and were to attack the Three Gorges. Meng Da led the third army against Hanzhong, while Cao Zhen led the fourth army against Yangping Pass.
In AD 225, Meng Huo aligned himself with the Shu General, Governor of Jianning, Yong Kai, and invaded the four southern territories of Shu. The Governor of Zangge, Zhu Bao, and the Governor of Yuesui, Gao Ding, quickly submitted to the invaders but Wang Kang of Yongchang, aided by his deputy Governor, Lü Kai, refused to yield (2). Meng Huo, using the three former Shu generals as guides, launched an all-out attack on Yongchang but the city did not fall (3). Soon, reports came that Zhuge Liang had personally led a force of five hundred thousand men to Yizhou in order to stop Meng Huo’s rebellion. Yong Kai, Gao Ding and Zhu Bao, each with fifty thousand men, went to oppose the Shu Prime Minister’s advance. Yong Kai and Gao Ding were captured within days but were released by Zhuge Liang. However, the Shu Prime Minister successfully turned the rebels against each other and Gao Ding killed Yong Kai and Zhu Bao. Gao Ding then surrendered to Zhuge Liang and was made Governor of Yizhou.
2: Historically, Meng Huo was Han Chinese rather than non-Han. Of those who rebelled against Shu, it was Gao Ding who was the leader of the rebelling tribe. Meng Huo incited other tribes to rebel after Gao Ding was killed.
3: The defence of Yongchang was impressive considering that no army was garrisoned there.
When King Meng Huo heard how Zhuge Liang had disposed of the three rebels, he summoned the leaders of the Three Ravines, Jinhua Sanjie, Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan. When they arrived, he said to them, “Zhuge Liang of Shu and his Grand Army has invaded our country, and we must exert our united strength to drive out the invaders. You three must lead your forces, and whoever conquers the enemy shall be chief of chiefs.” The three leaders marched out an army of one hundred and fifty thousand to stop the enemy army but the Shu army easily defeated them. Zhao Yun killed Jinhua Sanjie while Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan were captured and subsequently released.
Scouts soon reported to Meng Huo that the three chiefs had failed and he became very angry. He quickly gave orders for the army to march and soon they encountered the troops of Wang Ping and Guan Suo. Meng Huo rode to the front of his army, looked at the enemy and then turned to his generals and said, “It has always been said that Zhuge Liang is a wonderful strategist, but I see that is false. Look at this array with its banners all in confusion and the ranks in disorder. There is not a weapon among all the swords and spears better than ours. If I had only realized this before, I would have fought them long ago. Who dares go out and capture a Shu general to show them what sort of warriors we are?” Mangya Chang rode forth and engaged Wang Ping who quickly fled. Meng Huo ordered his troops to pursue the fleeing Shu soldiers, and just as they caught up, an ambush sprung up. Meng Huo, with some of his generals, fought his way out and made for the Brocade Mountains. As they got there, Zhao Yun confronted them and the King was forced to flee deeper into the mountains while his followers were captured. The flight continued into a valley, but Meng Huo soon found that the path was too narrow for horses and so he had to continue his escape on foot. As he crawled up the mountains, Wei Yan captured him.
The King was taken to the Shu camp where Zhuge Liang was waiting with food and drink. Meng Huo was asked why he had rebelled, to which he replied, “The two River Lands belonged to others, and your lord took it from them by force, and gave himself the title of Emperor. My people have lived here for ages, and you and your cohorts invaded my country without the least excuse. How can you talk of rebellion to me?” Zhuge Liang then asked if Meng Huo would submit, to which the King replied, “Why should I submit? You happened to find me in a narrow place. That is all.” “If I release you, what then?” asked the Shu Prime Minister. “If you release me I shall return, and when I have set my army in order, I shall come to fight you again. However, if you catch me once more, I will submit.” replied Meng Huo. The King’s bonds were removed and he was given a horse and a guide in order to return to his own camp.
When Meng Huo reached the River Lu, he fell in with some of his leaders who asked him how he had escaped. The King lied to them, saying, “They confined me in a tent, and I broke out in the night. I slew more than ten guards and ran. And then I met one of their sentries, killed him, and that is how I got this horse.” The subordinates did not doubt him. Meng Huo regrouped his troops and summoned Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan to him. Once all were assembled, the King addressed them: “I know Zhuge Liang is too full of ruses for us to conquer him in a fight; we should only fall victims to other base devices. However, we must remember that his soldiers have marched far and the weather is sultry, which are factors in our favour. Besides, River Lu is our rampart. We will have boats and rafts on the south side, and we will build a mud wall. With such good defences we can afford to wait and see what the enemy intends.” The gathered tribesmen approved and the plan was carried out. The mud wall was built and strengthened by turrets that contained large bows, crossbows, arrows and stones. With huge amounts of supplies and the new defences, Meng Huo felt safe and began to enjoy himself. While enjoying some wine, he said to his followers, “If I attempt to oppose Zhuge Liang, I shall certainly fall a victim to some wile of his. However, my waiting policy is a safe one. With our defences, and the river to back them, we can wait for the heat to overcome these men of Shu, who cannot stand the hot season. They will have to retreat, and then we can harass them. And we will capture this Zhuge Liang.” He laughed at this thought but one chief advised caution as the Shu army could cross the river at a shallow point at Shakou. Meng Huo replied, “You belong to these areas. Do you not know that I want the enemy to try to get across there? Why, they will all perish in the water. (4)” The chief was concerned that the natives may reveal the river’s secrets, but Meng Huo said, “Do not be so anxious. Our own people will not help the enemy that far.” Just then scouts reported that Ma Dai’s army had crossed the river and seized the Jiashan Gorge, which was along the tribe’s supply route. Meng Huo feigned indifference and said, “This sort of fellow is not worth talking about.” He then dispatched Mangya Chang with three thousand troops to reopen the supply route.
4: During the day, the heat caused the river to emit a deadly gas. The river could only be crossed safely at night.
Soon the army returned to tell Meng Huo that the enemy general had killed Mangya Chang. Dongtu Na volunteered to lead a new army against Ma Dai and was given three thousand troops. After he had left, Meng Huo sent an army led by Ahui Nan to guard Shakou. Before long, Dongtu Na returned to tell the King that the enemy was too strong. Meng Huo became angry and shouted, “You are a traitor! I know Zhuge Liang was good to you, and that is why you would not fight.” The King ordered Dongtu Na’s execution but relented when many chiefs interceded. Instead, Dongtu Na was beaten with one hundred strokes of the heavy staff. Many of the chiefs disagreed with Meng Huo’s actions and they proposed to the beaten chief that they should slay the King and take his head to Zhuge Liang. Dongtu Na led over a hundred men to kill Meng Huo, but the two generals guarding the intoxicated ruler checked the mob, suggesting taking the King prisoner and handing him over to Zhuge Liang.
Soon Meng Huo was brought before Zhuge Liang who asked, “You said once before that if you were captured again, you would give in. Now will you yield?” Meng Huo refused saying, “This capture is not your work, it is the work of these minions of mine who want to hurt me. I will not yield on this. I am a Man (5), and so I am not wholly ignorant of war. If you, O Minister, let me return to my ravines, I will muster another army and fight a decisive battle with you. If you capture me again, then I will incline my heart and yield. I will not go back on my promise again.” Zhuge Liang loosened Meng Huo’s bonds and warned, “If you refuse to yield next time you are captured, I shall hardly pardon you. Remember, I have never failed yet. I have never failed to win a battle or to take a city I have assaulted. Why do you Mans not yield?” Meng Huo said nothing. After taking some refreshments, Meng Huo and Zhuge Liang rode around the camp together. The King observed the defences, the piles of supplies and the heaps of weapons. After the inspection Zhuge Liang said, “You are silly not to yield to me. You see my veteran soldiers, my able generals, my stores of all kinds and weapons. How can you hope to prevail against me? If you will yield, I will inform the Emperor, and you shall retain your kingship, and your sons and grandsons shall succeed as perpetual guardians of the Man country. Do you not think it would be well?” Meng Huo replied, “If I did yield, the people of my valleys would not be content. If you release me once more, I will see to it that my own people keep the peace and bring them round to unanimity of feeling, and then they will not oppose any more.” At dusk Meng Huo took his leave.
5: The term ‘Man’, in this sense, means barbarian or non-Han Chinese. ‘Nan Man’ means ‘Southern Barbarian’.
However, when Meng Huo returned to his camp he had Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan killed and their corpses thrown into a gully. The King sent men loyal to him to guard the most important strategic points, while he marched an army to fight Ma Dai. When he reached Jiashan Gorge, the enemy was not there as they had withdrawn the previous night, so he returned to the ravine. Meng Huo called his brother, Meng You, to discuss matters and said to him, “I know all the details of the enemy’s force from what I saw in their camp.” Meng You was then given instructions and sent to the Shu camp with a hundred soldiers bearing gifts of gold, jewels, pearls and ivory. Soon afterwards, two men arrived to inform Meng Huo that the gifts had been accepted and that the King should attack the Shu camp at the second watch, while Meng You would assist from within. Meng Huo was greatly pleased that his plan had worked and immediately prepared thirty thousand troops in three divisions. The King addressed the chieftains: “Let each army carry the means of making fire, and as soon as they arrive let a light be shown as a signal. I am coming to the main camp to capture Zhuge Liang.”
The King’s army crossed the River Lu at sunset and soon reached the main camp where they met no opposition. The main gate was open so Meng Huo, with one hundred generals, rode straight in only to find the camp was deserted. He rode to the main tent where he found his brother and the one hundred escorts all unconscious (6) and realised that he had been the victim of a ruse. The unconscious men were picked up and then Meng Huo started to return to the main army. Just then drums started to beat all around them so the tribal warriors became frightened and ran. Wang Ping gave chase and each way Meng Huo tried to escape, a Shu general appeared. The King abandoned everything, making a desperate rush for the River Lu. As he reached the riverbank he saw a boat manned by his own people and so jumped on board, but he was immediately seized and bound. Meng Huo suddenly realised that the men on board were not his own soldiers, but Ma Dai’s troops in disguise. The King was once more brought before Zhuge Liang, who laughed at the prisoner and once again asked him to yield. Meng Huo again refused to submit, saying, “I am a prisoner owing to the gluttony of my brother and the power of your poisonous drugs. If I had only played his part myself and left him to support me with soldiers, I should have succeeded. I am the victim of fate and not of my own incapacity. No, I will not yield. Minister, if you will let me and my brother go, we will get together our family and clients and fight you once more. If I am caught that time, then I will confess myself beaten to the ground, and that shall be the end.” Zhuge Liang agreed and so Meng Huo and Meng You were released. The two brothers thanked the Prime Minister and then went away.
6: In return for their gifts, Meng You and his men were rewarded with wine. The wine was drugged and incapacitated the men immediately.
When Meng Huo reached the River Lu, he saw that the Shu army had captured his defences and as he passed the camp he saw Ma Dai who said, “Next time you are caught, you will not escape.” The King continued on to his own camp, which he found in the possession of Zhao Yun. The Shu general said to Meng Huo, “Do not presume on the kindness of the Prime Minister because you have been generously treated.” The King grunted and passed by until he reached the frontier hills where he encountered Wei Yan. “We have got into the inmost recesses of your country and have taken all your defensive positions. Yet you are foolish enough to hold out. Next time you are caught, you will be quite destroyed. There will be no more pardons.” shouted the Shu general. Meng Huo and his men ran away with their arms over the heads.
Meng Huo was upset by his three captures and as soon as he had reached his home, the Silver Pit Ravine, he sent gifts to the Eight Nations, the Ninety-Three Sees and other Man clans in order to borrow weapons and troops. Soon the King had amassed an army of one hundred thousand warriors. The Shu army heard of Meng Huo’s preparations and so advanced across the West Er River and built three large stockades along the bank. The King soon made his advance and as he got close, he took ten thousand warriors against the first stockade. Meng Huo was an intimidating sight clad in rhinoceros hide and mounted on a red ox and as soon as he saw his enemies, he hurled abuse at them. However, the Shu army would not come out to fight and after days of taunting, the tribesmen’s vigour started to wane.
One day, Meng Huo took his troops up to the stockades and found them to be empty; there were no soldiers, all was in confusion and the supplies had been left behind suggesting that the Shu army had withdrawn in haste. Meng You suggested to the King that this was only a ruse, but Huo said, “I think that Zhuge Liang has important news from the capital that has made him leave without his baggage train like this. Either Wu has invaded or Wei has attacked. They left these lamps burning to make us think the camps were occupied, but they ran away leaving everything behind. If we pursue, we cannot go wrong.” The King ordered his army to pursue and he led the army himself until the came to the bank of the West Er River where they saw camps on the other side of the river. Along the bank stood a wall of cloth. Meng Huo said to his brother, “This means that Zhuge Liang fears lest we may pursue. That is only a temporary halt, and they will retire in a couple of days.” He then had camps set up while some of the men retrieved bamboo with which to make rafts. One day the wind was blowing violently when fires suddenly broke out, fuelled by the winds. As the fires raged the Shu army attacked and scattered the tribesmen forcing Meng Huo to flee for his former camp. As he reached it, he encountered a troop led by Zhao Yun and instead had to seek refuge in the mountains but then he found himself under attack from Ma Dai. He fled desperately into a valley but could see smoke rising from the north, west and south. Only the east was clear so Meng Huo headed that way.
As he came out of the valley, the King saw a few horsemen escorting a carriage, and as he drew closer he saw that the carriage contained Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang laughed and said, “So King of the Mans has got here! You have been defeated. I have waited for you a long time.” Meng Huo angrily turned to his followers and said, “Thrice have I been the victim of this man’s base wiles and have been put to shame. Now chance has sent him across my path, and you must attack him with all your energy. Let us cut him to pieces and those with him.” As Meng Huo and his men charged forward they all stumbled and fell into pits that had been prepared by Shu. One by one the captives were pulled out of the pits and bound. The prisoners were then escorted to the Shu camp.
Wei Yan brought Meng Huo before Zhuge Liang who shouted, “What can you say now? You see you are in my hands again.” The King replied, “I am again an unfortunate victim. Once more I have blundered into your net, and now I shall die with unclosed eyes.” Zhuge Liang ordered the prisoner to be beheaded but Meng Huo showed no fear, he simply turned to his captor and said, “If you freed me only once more, I would wipe out the shame of all four captures.” The Shu leader smiled and asked the King why he was still defiant. “Though I am what you call a barbarian, I would scorn to employ your vile ruses. That is why I remain defiant. If you catch me again, I will incline my heart to yield and I will give everything in my ravine to reward your army. I will also take an oath not to cause any further trouble.” was the reply. Zhuge Liang agreed, so the King thanked him and left.
Despite many of the chiefs having surrendered to Shu, Meng Huo was still able to gather an army of several thousand men. Soon he met with Meng You who was bringing an army of his own to avenge the King. The brothers embraced weeping, then related their stories of capture and subsequent release. Meng You said, “We cannot stand against the enemy. We have been defeated several times. Now I think we had better go into the mountains and hide in some dark gully where they cannot find us. Those soldiers of Shu will never stand the summer heat. They must retire. I know a valley away southwest from us called ‘Bald Dragon Ravine’, and the King, Duosi, is a friend of mine. Let us take refuge with him.” Meng Huo agreed and sent Meng You to make arrangements. Soon, Duosi came out with his soldiers to welcome the King, who explained his predicament. Duosi said, “O King, rest content. If those men from the River Lands come here, I will see to it that not one goes home. And Zhuge Liang will meet his death here too.” Meng Huo was intrigued as to why Duosi was so confident, and so Duosi explained that there were only two roads into the ravine; one was easy to travel along while the other was narrow, infested with venomous creatures and the water was undrinkable due to all four water springs and their streams being poisonous. That path was also rife with malaria. Duosi proposed that the easily traversable road be blockaded so that the Shu army would have to travel the dangerous path instead. Meng Huo was greatly pleased: “Now indeed I have found a place to live in. Even Zhuge Liang’s wonderful cunning will be of no avail. The four springs alone will defeat him and avenge my army.”
Soon scouts reported to Meng Huo that the Shu armies were advancing along the treacherous path and showed no ill-affects from it’s natural defences (7). The King said to his men, “We will fight one fierce battle with these troops of Shu and die therein. We cannot wait calmly to be put into bonds.” The tribesmen of the valley were all given a huge feast to urge them to fight to the death. As this great feast was taking place, the King of Twenty-one Ravines, Yang Fang, arrived with an army of thirty thousand troops, supported by his five sons. Meng Huo rejoiced exceedingly, saying, “This addition to our forces shall surely bring us victory.” Yang Fang brought thirty dancing maidens into the camp to entertain the banqueters and bade his sons to bring wine for Meng Huo and Meng You. As the hosts raised their cups, Yang Fang’s sons seized them and made them prisoner. Duosi tried to run but was captured by Yang Fang. “One sympathizes with one’s own as a rule. We are both chiefs and have been friends. I know not why you should injure me.” Meng Huo said. “I had to repay Zhuge Liang the Minister for his compassion on me and my people, and there was no way till you rebelled. Why should I not offer up a rebel in propitiation?” replied Yang Fang. The prisoners were then taken to the Shu camp.
7: Zhuge Liang had been aided by Meng Huo’s eldest brother, Meng Jie. Meng Jie had given the Shu army with an antidote to the water’s poison and a leaf that provided immunisation against Malaria.
Zhuge Liang asked if Meng Huo would yield, but he replied, “It is not your ability, but the treachery of my own people that has brought me to this. If you wish to slay, slay. But I will not yield.” He then suggested, “My fathers have long held the Silver Pit Ravine, and the three rivers and the two forests are their ramparts. If you can take that stronghold, then will I and my heirs forever acknowledge your power and yield.” Zhuge Liang agreed, saying, “I am going to liberate you once more and you may put your army in order if you will and fight a decisive battle. But after that, if you are my prisoner and are still refractory and unsubmissive, I shall have to exterminate your whole family.” Meng Huo, Meng You and Duosi were all released.
They hastened home to the Silver Pit Ravine where Meng Huo gathered his family and addressed them: “I have been put to shame by the leaders of Shu many times, and I have sworn to take revenge for the insults. Has anyone any proposal to make?” The King’s brother-in-law, Chief Dalai, suggested acquiring the aid of King Mulu of the Bana Ravine. King Mulu was famed for his command over animals, and he led an army of thirty thousand men. Meng Huo approved this plan and had Dalai make arrangements while Duosi was charged with defence of the city of Three Rivers.
Within a short time, a few soldiers came to Meng Huo reporting that Shu had captured the city of the Three Rivers and that King Duosi had been killed. The Shu army had now advanced to the mouth of the Silver Pit Ravine and Meng Huo was greatly distressed. The King’s wife, Lady Zhurong, wanted to go out and fight the Shu invaders and so the King rose, bowed to her and then gave her command of fifty thousand troops. When she returned, she brought two captured Shu generals with her; Zhang Ni and Ma Zheng. A great banquet was held in Lady Zhurong’s honour and during the feast she ordered the two prisoners to be executed, but Meng Huo intervened saying, “Five times has Zhuge Liang set me at liberty. It would be unjust to put these to death. Confine them till we have taken their chief, then we may execute them.” The next day scouts reported that Zhao Yun was offering a challenge so Lady Zhurong again went out to give battle. This time she was unsuccessful and was captured by Ma Dai. A messenger from Shu came to propose an exchange of prisoners: the two Shu generals for the King’s wife. Meng Huo readily agreed to the trade, promptly setting his two captives free. When his wife returned home, he greeted her with a mixture of happiness and anger.
Meng Huo was exceedingly when King Mulu’s army arrived and he bowed low to the visitor. The King explained to Mulu all that had happened and Mulu promised to avenge Meng Huo’s defeats. The very next day, Mulu rode out his white elephant and went to battle against the Shu army followed by his pack of wild animals and his warriors. The Shu soldiers could not withstand the onslaught from Mulu’s beasts and were forced to flee back to the Three Rivers City. The next day Meng Huo accompanied Mulu and went out to face the Shu soldiers again. The King pointed out Zhuge Liang to Mulu saying, “ That is Zhuge Liang. If we can only capture him, our task is done.” Mulu cast a spell summoning the wind and signalling his beasts to attack, but with the wave of his fan, Zhuge Liang turned the wind back. From the ranks of the Shu soldiers burst huge horrible fire-breathing animals that chased off Mulu’s wild creatures (8), sending the tribesmen into confusion. The Shu army attacked in full, capturing the Silver Pit Ravine and driving Meng Huo and his clan into the hills. King Mulu was killed in the melee.
8: The Shu animals were merely wooden carvings, each operated by ten soldiers.
During the night, the King and his followers came up with a scheme to capture Zhuge Liang; Chief Dailai would take Meng Huo and his family in bonds to the Shu camp, pretending that he had turned against them and made them prisoner. When they got close enough to the Shu Prime Minister, they would then kill him. The next day they went to the Shu camp but when Dailai walked into the main hall, Zhige Liang called out, “Let my strong captors appear!” Shu soldiers who had been waiting in hiding leapt out and took the entire party prisoner. Zhuge Liang said, “Did you think your paltry ruse would deceive me? Here you are a second time captured by your own people and brought before me that you might surrender. The first time I did not hurt you. But now I firmly believe this surrender is part of a plot to kill me.” The prisoners were searched and their concealed weapons were found. Zhuge Liang said to the King, “Did you not say that if your family were taken prisoners you would yield? How now?” Meng Huo replied, “We have come of our own will and at the risk of our lives. The credit is not yours. Still I refuse to yield. If you take me a seventh time, then I will turn to you and never rebel again.” Zhuge Liang agreed saying, “Well, your stronghold is now destroyed. What have I to fear?” He ordered the Kings bonds to be removed and then allowed them to leave.
Meng Huo soon fell in with his defeated soldiers but while there were thousands of them, over half were wounded. The King restored order and then said to Chief Dailai, “Whither can we go? Our stronghold is in the hands of the enemy.” Dailai suggested requesting aid from King Wutugu of the Wuguo Kingdom and his Rattan Army (9). Meng Huo went to the Wuguo Kingdom and met with the cave-dwelling Wutugu who agreed to help. Wutugu summoned an army of thirty thousand rattan-armoured soldiers and marched them northeast to the River of Peach Flowers where they camped to wait for the Shu army. When the Shu army arrived they were quickly driven back by the fierce rattan-clad warriors. Meng Huo was cautious and warned Wutugu, “This Zhuge Liang is exceedingly crafty. Ambush is one of his favourite ruses, so you should warn your soldiers that on no account should they enter a valley where the trees are thick.” Wutugu replied, “Great King, you speak with reason,” said Wutu Gu. “I have always heard that the people of the Middle Kingdom are full of wiles, and I will see that your advice is followed. I will go in front to fight, and you may remain in the rear to give orders.”
9: The Rattan Army were known as such due to the impenetrable rattan armour they wore.
Shortly afterwards the Shu soldiers led by Wei Yan came to give battle, but once again they were driven back by Wutugu’s soldiers. The Wuguo soldiers crossed the river in large numbers and Wei Yan came to meet them but fell back after a short fight. After ensuring that it was safe, the Rattan Army occupied the camp that Wei Yan had abandoned. The next day Wutugu ordered a general advance that scattered the soldiers of Shu, allowing the new enemy camp to be captured. Each time the tribesmen engaged Wei Yan, he would give a short fight and then flee towards a white flag in the distance, giving up his camp in the process. Having captured seven different Shu camps, the tribesmen pursued until they came to a thick wood where they saw flags moving about behind the trees. “Just as you foretold, the men of Shu like using ambush.” said Wutugu to Meng Huo. The King replied, “Zhuge Liang is going to be worsted this time. We have beaten off his troops now daily for half a month and won fifteen successive victories. His troops simply run when they hear the wind. The fact is he has exhausted all his craft and has tried every ruse. Now our task is nearly done.”
On the sixteenth day Wei Yan again retreated from the Ratten Army. Meng Huo remained at the camp while Wutugu lead the pursuit. Soon a group of soldiers came to the King and told him, “King Wutu Gu is fighting a great battle and is about to surround Zhuge Liang in the Valley of the Coiled Serpent. But he needs help. We are the natives of the local ravines, and we ourselves had no alternative when we yielded to Shu. But now we have returned to your allegiance and are willing to come to help Your Majesty.” Meng Huo, with his clan and the troops who had just come to him, marched to Coiled Serpent Valley but when he got there he saw destruction. King Wutugu, along with his army, had been incinerated by Zhuge Liang (10) and Meng Huo realised that he had been tricked again. As he gave orders to retire, two bodies of Shu troops began to attack. The King made a stand against the enemy but suddenly a great shouting arose and the King’s clansmen were made prisoner by their own men who had nearly all been disguised Shu soldiers. Meng Huo galloped away and got into the hills were he came across Zhuge Liang in a small chariot. The King continued his flight but was soon stopped and made prisoner by Ma Dai.
10: While the rattan armour was impenetrable, it was very dry and therefore vulnerable to fire.
Upon their return to the Shu camp Meng Huo was brought before Zhuge Liang. His bonds were removed and he was taken into a side tent for refreshment with many of his clan along with Lady Zhurong, Meng You and Chief Dailai. While they were eating and drinking, a messenger appeared and said to Meng Huo, “The Prime Minister is ashamed and does not wish to see you again, Sir. He has sent me to release you. You may enlist another army if you can and once more try a decisive battle. Now you may go.” Instead of leaving, the King began to weep and said, “Seven times a captive and seven times released! Surely there was never anything like it in the whole world. I am not entirely devoid of a sense of propriety and rectitude. Does he think that I feel no shame?” He then fell to his knees and with his followers, crawled to Zhuge Liang’s tent where he said, “O Minister, you are the majesty of Heaven. We people of the south will offer no more opposition.” Sighing, Zhuge Liang asked, “Then you yield?” Meng Huo replied, “I and my children and grandchildren are deeply affected by your all-pervading and life-giving mercy. Now how can we not yield?” A banquet was held where Zhuge Liang confirmed Meng Huo’s kingship and all restored all places that Shu had captured (11). The tribesmen were so overjoyed by their captor’s generosity that they all went away celebrating. A shrine was erected to Zhuge Liang and peace spread across the land. Many people sent gifts to the Shu army.
11: When questioned on his decision to hand the land back to Meng Huo, Zhuge Liang explained, “There are three difficulties. To leave foreigners implies leaving a guard for them: There is the difficulty of feeding the guard. The Mans have lost many of their relatives. To leave foreigners without the guard will invite a calamity: This is the second difficulty. Among the Mans, dethronements and murders are frequent, and there will be enmities and suspicions. Foreigners and they will be mutually distrustful: This is the third difficulty. If I do not leave our people, I shall not have to send supplies, which makes for peace and freedom from trouble.”
When the celebrations were completed, the Shu army returned home. Meng Huo accompanied them to honour their departure, but as they reached the River Lu a fierce storm rose up preventing the army from continuing. Zhuge Liang consulted Meng Huo as to what this storm meant. Meng Huo replied, “Wild spirits have always troubled those who would cross this river. It is necessary to propitiate them with sacrifices. In the old days when malicious spirits brought misfortune, they sacrificed humans to the number of seven sevens and offered their forty-nine heads. They also slew a black ox and a white goat. Sacrifice thus, the wind will subside and the waters come to rest. The same used to be done to secure a plenteous harvest.” Zhuge Liang refused to sacrifice human lives, instead making balls of flour in the likeness of human heads and filling them with the flesh of oxen and goats. When night fell, Zhuge Liang conducted a ceremony and read a prayer. Many present, including Meng Huo and his followers, wept during the ceremony. Soon the storm dissipated and the army was free to resume its march.
As the army passed through Yongchang, Meng Huo was allowed to leave. He was ordered to be diligent in his administration, maintain good control, and soothe and care for the people left to him to govern and to see to it that agriculture was promoted. He took his leave with tears rolling down his cheeks. Meng Huo kept his promise to Zhuge Liang and ruled in the manner he had been entrusted to (12).
12: Among the southern tribes people, there was a version of this tale where Meng Huo captured and released Zhuge Liang seven times.
Copyright © 2004 Morgan Evans
Based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong