Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Morgan Evans
Pang De, styled Lingming, was from Nan’an. He gained fame serving under Ma Teng during the campaign against the Qiang.
Following the battle of Chibi, Ma Teng was summoned to the capital, Xuchang, to receive the title ‘General Who Subdues the South’ in preparation for a campaign against Wu. Ma Teng left Pang De with his son, Ma Chao, to guard Xiliang. One night, Ma Chao had a dream that he was lying in a snowy plain while tigers were biting him. This dream worried him and Pang De confirmed that it was an evil omen: “Meeting with tigers on a snowy plain is a very inauspicious subject to dream about. Assuredly our lord is in trouble at the capital.” At that moment, Ma Dai arrived bearing news that Ma Teng had been killed along with other members of Ma Chao’s family for their part in a plot against Cao Cao. Only Ma Dai had escaped. The Xiliang army was gathered in preparation for an attack on the capital and the day before the army was to move, Ma Teng’s sworn brother, Han Sui, arrived to pledge his aid. Han Sui led eight divisions under eight commanders—Yang Qiu, Cheng Yin, Hou Xuan, Liang Xing, Cheng Yi, Li Kan, Ma Wan, and Zhang Han, while Pang De, along with Ma Dai, led the Xiliang troops. The army numbered in total two hundred thousand men and they marched first against Chang’an.
The army quickly surrounded Chang’an and lay siege to the city for ten days without success. Pang De proposed a plan: “Since the land about the city is barren and the water bitter, the people must have communication with the country around in order to live. Further they have no fuel. Ten days of siege must have exhausted the supplies in the city, wherefore if we relax for a time...well, you will see. We shall capture the city without moving a finger.” Ma Chao approved and gave orders for the army to retire. As soon as the army had retreated, Zhong Yao, the Governor of Chang’an, gave orders for his men to bring in firewood and water. While the Chang’an troops were out gathering supplies, Pang De snuck into the city. That night, during the third watch, Pang De killed Zhong Jing, the Governor’s brother, and flung open the west gate. The Xiliang army attacked in full capturing the city and forcing Zhong Yao to flee to the safety of Tong Pass.
The Xiliang army then marched on Tong Pass, which Cao Cao had reinforced with ten thousand men under Cao Hong, Cao Ren and Xu Huang. Each day, the Xiliang troops would hurl insults at the defenders to try and draw them out but the defenders would not move. This continued until the ninth day when a trap was set for the defenders. Many of the troops were told to set loose their horses and lie on the grass as if asleep. Seeing the men in a relaxed state, Cao Hong came out to attack with Xu Huang close behind, and they fell straight into the ambush. Ma Dai rushed out to attack from the front while Pang De and Ma Chao came from either side. Pang De chased after Cao Hong until Cao Ren came to save the fleeing general. Both Caos fled and so Pang De and Ma Chao captured the Pass. Hearing of the defeat, Cao Cao himself brought an army from the capital and built a huge stockade near the Pass.
As the Xiliang army rode out to confront the Wei army, Pang De and Ma Dai flanked Ma Chao. After a short exchange of words, Ma Chao rode out to slay Cao Cao with Pang De and Ma Dai in support. Cao Cao was terrified and threw away his red robe and cut off his beard in order to disguise himself amongst his troops. The Wei army were scattered and forced to retreat into their stockade.
After a few days, twenty thousand Qiang tribesmen came to reinforce the Xiliang army. Three days after that, even more Qiangs came. Ma Chao guarded the main camp while Han Sui, with Pang De as the van leader, led an attack against Wei. As Pang De’s horsemen charged towards the enemy, they fell into pits that had been dug in preparation for them. Pang De climbed free and killed many soldiers as he fought his way out of danger. Knowing that Han Sui was also in trouble, Pang De made his way to aid him but encountered one of Cao Ren’s generals, Cao Yong. After a short fight, Pang De cut down the Wei general, took his steed and rescued Han Sui. Cao Cao’s army pursued hard, but Ma Chao arrived with reinforcements and drove the enemy back.
A night raid on the Wei camp was planned. Ma Chao led the attack while Pang De and Ma Dai acted in support. Cao Cao had expected the raid and so Ma Chao fell into a trap. Pang De and Ma Dai rescued their leader but Cheng Yi was killed in the ambush. Shortly afterwards, Ma Chao was challenged to a duel by Cao Cao’s bodyguard, Xu Chu. The Xiliang army marched out with Han Sui in command of the centre while Pang De and Ma Dai commanded the wings. During the duel, Cao Cao sent Xiahou Yuan and Cao Hong to attack Ma Chao but Pang De and Ma Dai ordered their horsemen to attack. A fierce battle ensued in which Cao Cao lost more than half of his soldiers.
Cao Cao and Ma Chao negotiated peace and the Wei troops began to withdraw to the east side of the river. Han Sui and his army defected to Wei and plotted to kill Ma Chao. Ma Chao discovered the plot and confronted the defector just as Wei troops attacked in full. Pang De and Ma Dai rushed to aid Ma Chao but soon after the rescue, Ma Chao became separated from the party and was injured by a crossbow bolt. Pang De and Ma Dai again rescued him and fled to Lintao, on the northwestern frontier, where they took refuge with the Qiang tribes (AD 211).
For the next two years, Pang De aided Ma Chao in re-conquering the West Valley Land until only Jicheng remained. Eventually, the city surrendered and Ma Chao executed the Governor, Wei Kang. Yang Fu, Jiang Xu, Zhao Ang and Yin Feng all rebelled and so Ma Chao beheaded Zhao Ang’s son, Zhao Yue.(1) Ma Chao, Pang De and Ma Dai marched to Licheng to oppose Jiang Xu and Yang Fu, leaving Liang Kuan and Zhao Qu to guard Jicheng. When Ma Chao’s army reached Licheng, Zhao Ang and Yin Feng attacked them from the rear, and a Wei army led by Xiahou Yuan arrived forcing Ma Chao to retreat to Jicheng. When they reached the city, Liang Kuan and Zhao Qu would not open the gates as they had also rebelled. The two rebels hacked up Ma Chao’s wife, Lady Yang, along with his three sons and other family members, and threw their corpses down from the city walls. With Xiahou Yuan’s army in pursuit, Ma Chao, Pang De and Ma Dai were forced to flee but by the time they cut their way through the enemy, only sixty of their men remained.
1: Zhao Yue was in Ma Chao’s army and Zhao Ang had expected his son to be killed.
At the fourth watch they came to the south gate of Licheng. In the darkness, the gate guards thought that the returning troops were their own and so opened the gates. The small force entered the city and slaughtered every person they encountered from the south gate to the centre of the city. When they reached the residence of Jiang Xu, Ma Chao went inside and killed Jiang Xu’s aged mother. They then went to the houses of Yin Feng and Zhao Ang and killed all within.
The next day, Xiahou Yuan’s army marched on Licheng and so Ma Chao fled to the west. They soon came across Yang Fu’s army. Ma Chao attacked from the front while Pang De and Ma Dai attacked the rear. Yang Fu was seriously wounded and his seven brothers were all killed. Ma Chao’s force was decimated and only consisted of himself, Pang De, Ma Dai and five horsemen. The horsemen were allowed to leave. The three men went to Hanzhong and offered their services to Governor Zhang Lu, who gladly accepted them.
A messenger arrived from Liu Zhang of Yizhou seeking aid in repelling the invading Liu Bei. Ma Chao set out with twenty thousand men to attack Jiameng Pass and capture Liu Bei. Pang De was ill and could not take part in the expedition, so he remained in Hanzhong. Ma Chao eventually defected, joining Liu Bei and aiding him in conquering Yizhou.
In AD 215, Cao Cao marched his armies south in an attack on Hanzhong and easily captured the Yangping Pass and scored an initial victory at Nanzheng. Zhang Lu’s best generals had been defeated and killed, so Pang De was summoned and given a force of ten thousand troops, which he camped three miles from the city of Nanzheng. With the camp secured, Pang De rode out and challenged the enemy. Zhang He came out and fought but retired after only a few bouts. Xiahou Yuan came out next but he too retired quickly. Xu Huang did the same thing and then finally Xu Chu rode out and fought fifty bouts before retiring. Pang De showed no signs of fatigue or fear (2).
2: Cao Cao remembered Pang De from the battle at Tong Pass and wished to win him over. Zhang He, Xiahou Yuan, Xu Huang and Xu Chu had all been ordered to fall back after a few bouts.
The next day, Xu Huang came out to challenge Pang De but was easily routed. Pang De followed up with an all out attack and captured the enemy camp. He was greatly pleased to find large quantities of supplies within the camp and sent a messenger to Zhang Lu informing him of the victory. A great feast was held that night in celebration. During the second watch, the camp was attacked from three directions; Xu Chu and Xu Huang in the centre, Zhang He from the left and Xiahou Yuan from the right. No defence could be made and so Pang De mounted his horse and fled for Nanzheng. Pang De was summoned before Zhang Lu and was threatened with execution for his failure (3). Zhang Lu begrudgingly agreed to give Pang De another chance. Pang De retired full of resentment.
3: Cao Cao allowed Pang De to take the Wei camp so that he could sneak a soldier into Nanzheng when Pang De retreated. The soldier then bribed Zhang Lu’s advisor, Yang Song, into telling his lord that Pang De had deliberately lost the battle as he was in league with Cao Cao. This is why Zhang Lu wanted to execute Pang De.
The next day Cao Cao attacked Nanzheng and Pang De went out to give battle. Xu Chu came out to meet him but quickly fled. As Pang De gave chase, Cao Cao halted and called out, “Pang De! Why not surrender?” Pang De wanted to capture Cao Cao and so continued his pursuit, but he and his followers fell into ditches that had been dug by the Wei soldiers. Pang De was dragged from the pit and made prisoner. Cao Cao dismounted and removed Pang De’s bonds asking, “Do you surrender?” Pang De thought of the ill treatment he had recently received from Zhang Lu and surrendered. Cao Cao helped him mount a horse and then they retired to the Wei camp.
The siege on Nanzheng was intensified and Zhang Lu eventually surrendered. With Hanzhong captured, Cao Cao planned on the conquest of Yizhou but was forced to march his army away to meet the threat of Wu at Ruxu. Xiahou Yuan was left to defend Mount Dingjun while Zhang He was to guard Mount Mengtou Pass.
When Cao Cao launched his assault on Ruxu, he split the army into five forces, each consisting of one hundred thousand men. One of these forces was placed under Pang De’s command (4). Pang De’s army encountered the Wu army under Chen Wu, which was soon reinforced by Zhou Tai and the Wu commander, Sun Quan. With aid from Li Dian, Pang De isolated and surrounded the Wu force. Seeing this, Cao Cao sent Xu Chu to cut Sun Quan’s army into two halves and keep them separated. Zhou Tai helped Sun Quan to break out and then Lü Meng’s reinforcements rushed Sun Quan away. However, Pang De still had Chen Wu isolated and pursued him into a valley where he killed the Wu general. Just then, Wu’s reinforcements under Lu Xun arrived and the Wei army was forced to retire. After a month, Sun Quan and Cao Cao negotiated peace and withdrew back to their respective capitals.
4: The five commanders were Pang De, Xu Huang, Cao Cao, Zhang Liao and Li Dian.
Liu Bei captured Mount Dingjun in AD 219 and led an attack on Hanzhong. Cao Cao personally led an army from the capital with Pang De accompanying him, but they were defeated and forced back to the Xie valley. The next day Pang De led the army back out of the valley and he encountered a Shu force led by Wei Yan. Pang De went out to fight against the enemy general, but fires broke out in the Wei camp and scouts reported that Ma Chao had seized the camps. With no choice but to advance, the Wei soldiers drove Wei Yan’s army back and then turned to liberate their camps from Ma Chao. However, Wei Yan doubled back and fired an arrow at Cao Cao that wounded him in the lip and knocked him from his horse. Wei Yan charged at Cao Cao to finish him off but Pang De intercepted the Shu general shouting, “Spare my lord!” Pang De drove Wei Yan off and then escorted Cao Cao back to the recaptured camps. After receiving treatment for his injury, Cao Cao ordered a full retreat and charged Pang De with guarding the rear.
Later that year, Guan Yu struck out from Jingzhou, capturing Xiangyang and laying siege to Cao Ren at Fancheng. Cao Cao assigned Yu Jin the task of leading the reinforcements and Yu Jin asked if any general present would lead the van. Pang De immediately volunteered saying, “I will give my poor services for what they are worth! I will capture this fellow Guan Yu and bring him as an offering before your standard.” Cao Cao was glad that Pang De had volunteered and said to him, “That fellow Guan Yu has a great reputation, and in the whole empire he has no rival. He has not met his match yet, but now you are going, he will find his work cut out for him.” Pang De was made General Who Corrects the West and Leader of the Van.
The two men began to prepare the seven armies that had been placed at their command. However, Cao Cao summoned Pang De and ordered him to yield his seal as Leader of the Van. “O Prince, I was just about to show Your Highness what I can do. Why do you reject my services?” asked Pang De. “I do not doubt you, but Ma Chao is now in the west, and your brother also; both in the service of Liu Bei. I myself have no doubts, but what about the troops? What can I do?” (5) Pang De took off his headdress and knocked his head on the floor until blood covered his face. “Since I surrendered to you, O Prince, I have experienced much kindness, so that I would undergo any sufferings to show my gratitude. Why does Your Highness doubt me? When my brother and I were at home together, his wife was a wicked woman, and I slew her while I was drunk. My brother has never forgiven me, but is permeated with hate for me. He swears never to see me again, and we are enemies. For my old master, Ma Chao, I have profound contempt. He is bold, but only that, and was in a pitiable and dejected state when he found his way to the west. Now, like me, he serves his own master, but our friendship is at an end. How could I think of another after your kindness to me?” Cao Cao raised Pang De from the ground saying, “I have always known what a noble man you are, and what I said just now was to satisfy the feelings of other people. Now you can strive to win fame. If you do not turn your back on me, I shall not on you.”
5: The two marching commanders, Dong Heng and Dong Chao, objected to Pang De’s command of the van and complained to Yu Jin. Dong Heng said, “Sir General, the expedition you lead is for the relief of Fancheng, and it can confidently expect victory. But is it wise to place such as Pang De in command of the van? Pang De was once under the command of Ma Chao. He had no alternative but to surrender and fight for Wei. But his former chief is now in high honour in Shu, one of the Five Tiger Generals, and his own brother Pang Rou is there, too, as an officer. To send Pang De as Leader of the Van just now seems like trying to extinguish a fire with oil. Would it not be well to inform the Prince of Wei and ask him to exchange this man for another?” Yu Jin had agreed with them and had asked Cao Cao to remove Pang De as Leader of the Van.
Pang De took his leave and returned to his house, where he ordered a coffin to be made. He then invited all his friends to a banquet, and the coffin was set out in the reception room for all to see. Drinking to them, Pang De said, “The Prince of Wei has been generous to me, and I have pledged to show my gratitude to the death. I am about to go out against this Guan Yu, and if he does not die at my hands, then I will die at his. I will not return leaving my task unachieved.” He then called in his wife, Lady Li, and their son Pang Hui. He then said to Lady Li, “I have been appointed Leader of the Van of this new expedition against Guan Yu, and my duty bids me seek death or glory on the battlefield. If I die, our son is in your special care. Alas, the child has been born ill-starred, and when he grows up he will have to avenge a father.” His wife and son wept as they said their farewells.
The coffin was placed in the train of the army and Pang De addressed his officers: “I will fight to the end with Guan Yu. Place my body therein if I fall in combat. And if I slay him, then will I bring his head in this coffin as an offering to our Prince.” Then out spoke his five hundred veterans saying, “If you are like this, O General, then we also will follow you to the end.” The vanguard then marched for Fancheng. A messenger arrived with an edict from Cao Cao warning Pang De of Guan Yu: “This Guan Yu lacks neither cunning nor valour. You are to be most cautious in engaging him. If you can conquer, then conquer; but if there is any doubt, remain on the defensive.” Pang De read the edict and then said to his officers, “How highly does our Prince regard this fellow Guan Yu! But I think I shall be able to take the keen edge off his thirty-year reputation.”
When the van arrived at Fancheng, Pang De drew up his army ready for battle. He took his place at the front of his army, sat mounted on his white charger wearing a black robe with a silver helmet below a black flag that read ‘Pang De, of Nan’an Corrector of the West’. Next to him was the coffin and his five hundred veterans stood behind him. From the Shu ranks, a general shouted, “Turncoat! Traitor!” Pang De asked his men who this man was, and they replied that it was Guan Yu’s adopted son, Guan Ping. Pang De shouted back at Guan Ping, “I have an edict from the Prince of Wei to take your father’s head. You are but a weakling and I will spare you, but call your father!” Guan Ping rushed forward and Pang De went out to meet him. The two fought thirty bouts with no clear advantage so both men drew off to rest.
Soon a voice bellowed from the enemy lines, “Come quickly and be slain!” Pang De knew that this was Guan Yu, so he rode out and shouted, “The edict from the Prince of Wei tells me to take your head. In case you disbelieve it, here is the coffin ready to receive it. If you fear death, come down from your horse and surrender!” Guan Yu replied, “I hold you for a simple fool. What can you do? It is a pity to stain my blade with the blood of such a rat.” The two warriors rode forward and they fought a hundred bouts. As they fought, they did not tire, instead the battle became more intense, mesmerising the on-looking armies. Both sides began to worry for their respective champions and the gongs sounded the retirement for both men. When he got back to his own line, Pang De said, “People say that Guan Yu is a mighty man of war. Today I really believe that.” Yu Jin suggested retiring in order to blunt Guan Yu’s spirit, but Pang De would not hear of it: “You are the King of Wei’s chief general, don’t be chicken hearted! Tomorrow I will fight again and to the death. I swear I will never give way.”
The next day, both men went out to fight again. Neither spoke, they simply engaged each other and fought. After fifty bouts, Pang De pulled his horse away and fled, letting his sword drag behind him. Guan Yu went in pursuit with Guan Ping following behind. Guan Yu roared out, “Traitor! You want to use the ‘trailing-sword trick’, but here I am, never afraid of that (6).” However, Pang De was only pretending to use that tactic and he was actually fitting an arrow to his bow. He suddenly swung his horse around and fired the arrow at his pursuer. Despite a warning shouted by Guan Ping, Guan Yu could not fully avoid the arrow and it struck him in the left arm. As Pang De came forward to follow up on his advantage, the gongs sounded from his side signaling for him to draw off. When he returned to his own side, he asked why the gongs had sounded. Yu Jin replied, “Because of our Prince’s warning. Though Guan Yu was wounded, I feared some trick on his part. He is very cunning (7).” Pang De replied, “I should have killed him if you had not done that!”
6: The ‘trailing-sword trick’ was a move where a general would feign flight from the battlefield, luring his unsuspecting opponent in. When the enemy was in range, the general would swing his horse about and stab the pursuer. This was a very effective move and many generals met their end by it.
7: Yu Jin had actually sounded the retreat out of jealousy because he feared that Pang De would slay Guan Yu and would therefore receive all of the glory.
Pang De wasted no time in renewing his challenge, but when Guan Yu did not come out to fight, Pang De had his soldiers hurl insults at the enemy general. After ten days, there was still no response and so Pang De consulted Yu Jin. “Evidently Guan Yu is helpless from the effects of that arrow-wound. We ought to advance all our seven armies against him while he cannot act and destroy his camp. Thereby we shall relieve Fancheng.” said Pang De. Yu Jin again chose caution and refused to move his army. Despite Pang De’s protests, Yu Jin led his armies to a new camping ground behind the hills three miles north of Fancheng while Pang De was sent to camp in a valley to the rear. In his new camp, Pang De could do nothing.
After several days of heavy rain, Army Inspector Cheng He came to see Pang De, warning that the army was in great danger from flooding. He also warned that the Jingzhou troops had moved to higher ground and had begun preparing boats. Yu Jin had ignored his warnings, but Pang De said, “What you said is excellent. If Yu Jin will not move camp tomorrow, I myself will do so.” That night there was a great storm and as Pang De sat in his tent, he heard a huge roar that seemed to shake the earth. Greatly alarmed, he went out to see what the noise was and saw huge waves of water rolling in from every side. The waters in the camp were rising quickly and so Pang De, Yu Jin and several other officers rushed up the hills to safety.
As the sun rose, Guan Yu and his soldiers approached in large boats. Yu Jin had only fifty or sixty soldiers left and so he surrendered to the enemy general. Pang De was on a hillock with Dong Heng, Dong Chao, Cheng He and his five hundred veterans, but none of them had armour. Seeing the enemy approaching, Pang De went out to meet him but Guan Yu’s archers killed more than half of his troops. Dong Heng and Dong Chao pleaded with Pang De to surrender, but he raged at them saying, “I have received great kindness from the Prince. Think you that I will bow the head to any other?” He then cut down both men and shouted, “Anyone who urges surrender shall be as these two!” The remaining men made a desperate effort to drive off the enemy and they held the hillock until mid-day. Guan Yu then redoubled his efforts and rained down stones and arrows on Pang De’s men, who fought hand-to-hand against the attackers. Pang De cried, “The valorous leader fears death less than desertion; the brave warrior does not break faith to save his life! This is the day of my death, but I will fight on to the last. And you, General, should fight to your end too.” Cheng He fought on valiantly until he was struck by an arrow and fell into the water. His death prompted the soldiers to yield to Guan Yu.
However, Pang De still fought on and he leapt upon one of the enemy boats, slashing at the marines and killing ten of them. The other enemy soldiers were terrified and jumped overboard to get away from him. With one hand, Pang De attempted to manoeuver the boat to Fancheng, but his boat was struck by a raft and overturned. He struggled in the water until he was pulled aboard a boat and captured by the enemy general Zhou Cang.
Pang De was brought before Guan Yu but he did not kneel and his eyes burned with pride and anger. “You have a brother in Hanzhong, and your old chief was Ma Chao, also in high honour in Shu. Would you not join them?” asked Guan Yu. “Rather than surrender to you, I would perish beneath the sword,” cried Pang De. He reviled his captors without ceasing until Guan Yu sent him to his death. Pang De stretched out his neck for the execution and was beheaded. Guan Yu ordered Pang De’s body to be honourably buried.
When Cao Cao heard of Yu Jin’s surrender and Pang De’s execution, he sighed and said, “Yu Jin followed me faithfully for thirty years, but in the end, he was unequal to Pang De.”
Copyright © 2004 Morgan Evans
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong