Biography (SGYY): Pang Tong (Shiyuan)

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Pang Tong (Shiyuan)
龐統 (士元)
Lived: C. 178–213

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by SlickSlicer

Pang Tong (Shiyuan)

Pang Tong was the nephew of Pang Degong and went by the Taoist name “Young Phoenix.” He was a man of extraordinary appearance and peerless ability. Pang Tong lived in Xiangyang and befriended Sima Hui, a famed scholar of the day. Sima Hui admired Pang Tong so much that he called the man ‘brother’ and frequently invited him and his uncle to his recluse home. Although Pang Tong came from Xiangyang, he fled east when war began to ravage his homelands (1). During this time, Cao Cao, a warlord, had asked another lord, Sun Quan, to surrender. Sun Quan instead decided to ally with Liu Bei against Cao Cao, however. In the southeast, meanwhile, Pang Tong met Lu Su, an officer serving under Sun Quan. Lu Su promptly recommended Pang Tong to Zhou Yu, who Sun Quan had appointed Commander-in-Chief over the navies that would oppose Cao Cao.

1: The specific lines in the novel mentioning Pang Tong are “This Pang Tong was from Xiangyang. And he had gone to the east of the river to get away from the strife.” It is unclear when exactly Pang Tong relocated to the Southlands, though it probably happened around the time when Liu Bei began fleeing from Cao Cao.

Pang Tong had once said to Lu Su, “You must use fire against Cao Cao. But the river is wide and if one ship is set on fire, the others will scatter unless they are fastened together so that they must remain in one place. That is the one road to success.” As Cao Cao slowly came closer to launching an attack on the Southlands, Zhou Yu decided to heed Pang Tong’s old advice. After ruminating over the idea, however, Zhou Yu said to Lu Su, “The only person who can manage this plot is Pang Tong himself.”

Zhou Yu saw an opportunity to carry out Pang Tong’s ruses when Cao Cao sent Jiang Gan as a spy to find out Wu’s plans. In order to trick Cao Cao, Zhou Yu had Pang Tong live, for a time, in a mountain hut. When Jiang Gan landed on the shore near Wu’s encampments, Zhou Yu met him with an angry expression and bade his attendants to send him to a small house nearby Pang Tong’s own. One starry night, while Pang Tong read from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Jiang Gan approached Pang Tong’s small hut and knocked on the door. Pang Tong opened it and, after Pang Tong introduced himself, Jiang Gan remarked, “How often have I heard you talked about! You are famous. But why are you hidden away in this spot?” Pang Tong responded by asking, “That fellow Zhou Yu is too conceited to allow that anyone else has any talent, and so I live here peacefully. But who are you, Sir?” Jiang Gan told Pang Tong his name and Pang Tong welcomed him. The two men then went inside Pang Tong’s residence and sat down to chat.

“With your gifts, you would succeed anywhere,” remarked Jiang Gan after a little while. “If you would enter Cao Cao’s service, I would recommend you to him,” urged Jiang Gan further. Pang Tong then lied by saying, “I have long desired to get away from here. And if you, Sir, will present me, there is no time like the present. If Zhou Yu heard of my wish, he would kill me, I am sure.” Satisfied with Pang Tong’s answer, Jiang Gan and Pang Tong secretly took a boat to Cao Cao’s nearby headquarters. Debarking from the river they had sailed through, Jiang Gan went to see Cao Cao and relate to him the story of Pang Tong. Cao Cao, who held Pang Tong in high esteem, decided to come speak with Pang Tong personally. “Zhou Yu in his youth is conceited, annoys his officers and rejects all their advice: I know that. But your fame has been long known to me, and now that you have been gracious enough to turn my way, I pray you not to be thrifty of your advice,” pleaded Cao Cao. Pang Tong replied, “I, too, know well that you are a paragon of military strategy but I should like to have one look at your disposition.”

Cao Cao then summoned assistants to bring Pang Tong a horse. Pang Tong and Cao Cao eventually came to a hill, where each of them could see the entire landscape. Pang Tong could now see Cao Cao’s docks and the naval formation he had planned. But though he praised Cao Cao’s formation thoroughly, Cao Cao was not satisfied. Said Cao Cao, “Master, I entreat you not to over-praise me, but to advise as to where I can make further improvements.” Pang Tong and Cao Cao then rode to Cao Cao’s naval camp. Here, Cao Cao had many cruisers and battleships that were all lined up in a formation suited for defending the lighter ships, which lay surrounded by the rest of Cao Cao’s armada. Pang Tong surveyed all this and, smiling, he once more commended Cao Cao. “Sir Prime Minister, if this is your method of warfare, you enjoy no empty reputation,” said Pang Tong. Pang Tong then decided to appease Cao Cao more and, pointing to the northern shore, he shouted, “Zhou Yu! Zhou Yu! You are finished. You will have to die.” This all pleased Cao Cao mightily so the two men went back to Cao Cao’s camp to sip wine and talk about warfare.

Once Cao Cao was intoxicated, Pang Tong inquired, “Have you any capable doctors in your army?” Pang Tong then further said, “There is a lot of illness among the marines, and you ought to find some remedy.” It so happened that at this time Cao Cao’s men suffered from illness and Cao Cao felt quite worried about the issue (2). He thus beseeched Pang Tong to give him guidance on the matter.

2: Quite a few sources record information regarding an epidemic affecting Cao Cao’s men and the effect of the disease-harboring marshlands of Jing which also greatly damaged Cao Cao’s forces. Sickness negatively affected both the forces of Cao Cao and Cao Pi. Dr. Rafe de Crispigny also mentions these things in Chapter Seven of his book, Generals of the South.

“Your marine force is divine, but there is a fault with it. The river is wide, and the tides ebb and flow. The winds and waves are never docile. Your troops from the north are unused to ships, and the motion makes them ill. If your ships, large and small, were classed and divided into thirties, or fifties, and joined up stem to stem by iron chains and boards spread across them, then there would be no fear of the wind and the waves and the rising and falling tides,” commented Pang Tong. Cao Cao greatly respected this advice and thanked his guest. “I could never defeat the land of the south without this scheme of yours!” exclaimed Cao Cao. Cao Cao then commanded blacksmiths to chain his ships together.

Pang Tong further told Cao Cao, “I know many bold people on the other side who hate Zhou Yu. If I may use my little tongue in your service, I can induce them to come over to you. If Zhou Yu be left alone, you can certainly take him captive. And Liu Bei is of no account.” Pang Tong was then dismissed. Using guile, he had thus fooled Cao Cao into chaining his ships (which were now all susceptible to a fire attack). Pang Tong now took his leave of Cao Cao, yet on his way he met a man in simple Taoist robe.

The man said to Pang Tong, “You are very bold. The plans of the Southland have all been enacted, and you have proffered the fatal scheme of chaining the ships together lest the flames may not completely destroy them. This sort of mischievous work may have been enough to deceive Cao Cao, but I saw through it all.” Now Pang Tong began to grow fearful at the prospect of the stranger betraying his plan. As Pang Tong turned to look at this man, however, he saw it was his old friend Xu Shu, who had formerly worked as a tactician in Liu Bei’s employ. Xu Shu had been forced to serve Cao Cao because one of Cao Cao’s vassals had forged a letter that was supposedly written by Xu Shu’s mother. This letter stated that Xu Shu’s mother was being held hostage by Cao Cao and would be killed if Xu Shu did not come to work for Cao Cao. Because of Cao Cao’s blackmail and the later discovery that Cao Cao had lied to him, Xu Shu harbored enmity towards Cao Cao and, although nominally in his service, hardly assisted Cao Cao in any substantial way. Xu Shu waited for Pang Tong’s reply.

“It would be a pity if you upset my plan. The fate of the people of all the eighty-one southern counties is in your hands,” said Pang Tong to his old acquaintance. “And what of the fate of these eight hundred thirty thousand soldiers and horse of the north?” replied Xu Shu. “Do you intend to wreck my scheme, Xu Shu?” flat-out asked Pang Tong. Xu Shu had expected this question and said, “I have never forgotten the kindness of Uncle Liu Bei, nor my oath to avenge the death of my mother at Cao Cao’s hands. I have said I would never think out a plan for him, so am I likely to wreck yours now, old friend? But I have followed Cao Cao’s army thus far; and after they shall have been defeated, good and bad will suffer alike. How can I escape?” Pang Tong pondered the question for a little and then instructed Xu Shu to spread rumors of an army led by Han Sui and Ma Teng marching from Xi Liang to attack Cao Cao. With cunning, Pang Tong had thus helped Xu Shu escape Cao Cao’s wrath and assisted in securing the victory for Wu and Shu in the Battle of Chi Bi.

After Liu Bei and Sun Quan beat Cao Cao at Chi Bi, Liu Bei seized land for himself in Jing. But Zhuge Liang greatly angered Zhou Yu on three occasions and Zhou Yu grew very ill because of this frustration. Zhou Yu passed away after an abortive attempt to conquer Yizhou, and Pang Tong went to attend the funeral of his friend. At the funeral, Pang Tong saw Zhuge Liang, the very man who had infuriated Zhou Yu, pouring the libation for Zhou Yu and reading a poem of lamentation. As Zhuge Liang went to leave, Pang Tong approached him and put his hand on Zhuge Liang’s shoulder. “You exasperated literally to death the man whose body lies up there. To come here as a mourner is an open insult to the South Land. It is as good as to say they have no other left,” teased Pang Tong with a smile. Zhuge Liang recognized the truth in this and laughed. The two geniuses went hand-in-hand to Zhuge Liang’s ship and talked for a great deal of time. Before Zhuge Liang boarded his vessel he gave his friend a letter and said to him, “I do not think that Sun Quan will use you as you merit. If you find life here distasteful, then you may relocate to Jingzhou and help to support my master.”

Zhuge Liang then departed to go to Jingzhou and Pang Tong went back to the Southlands. After Zhou Yu had been buried in his native lands, Lu Su was deemed the successor for the position of commander-in-chief. Lu Su objected to this position however and said to Sun Quan, “Zhou Yu was not right in recommending me, for I have not the requisite ability and am unfitted for this post. But I can commend to you a certain able man, conversant with all knowledge, and a most capable strategist, not inferior to old heroes of China. Zhou Yu often took his advice, and Zhuge Liang believes in him. The man’s name is Pang Tong, and he is at hand.”

Sun Quan invited Pang Tong to his palace and after the two greeted each other, Sun Quan asked, “What have you studied, and what are you master of?” Pang Tong anticipated this question and cleverly explained, “One must not be narrow and obstinate; one must change with circumstances.” Sun Quan then asked, “How does your learning compare with that of Zhou Yu?” “My learning is not to be compared with his in the least. Mine is far greater,” replied Pang Tong snidely. This statement however made Sun Quan mad, for he could not stand to hear his friend, Zhou Yu, belittled. Sun Quan also disliked Pang Tong’s looks for, with bushy eyebrows, a turned up nose and a stubby beard, Pang Tong was quite odd on the exterior. Dismissed from Sun Quan’s palace, Pang Tong sullenly came to meet with Lu Su. Lu Su said to him, “I fear you are doomed to constant disappointment here, there is nothing you can hope for, eh?” When Pang Tong remained silent, Lu Su continued, “With your wonderful gifts, of course you will be successful whithersoever you may go. You may take my word for that. But to whom will you go?” Pang Tong said suddenly, “I think I will join Cao Cao.” “That would be hinging a gleaming pearl into darkness. Rather go to Liu Bei, who would appreciate you and employ you fittingly,” replied Lu Su. Lu Su then gave Pang Tong a letter of recommendation, and Pang Tong gleefully zipped off to Liu Bei’s headquarters.

When Pang Tong arrived at Jingzhou City, Zhuge Liang was off inspecting the area. Nevertheless, Pang Tong was received into the household of Liu Bei. Pang Tong saluted Liu Bei but did not bow to him. “You have come a long and arduous journey,” said Liu Bei, a bit disappointed that Pang Tong had not been properly courteous to him. Pang Tong then rudely interrupted saying, “I hear, O Imperial Uncle, that you are welcoming the wise and receiving scholars, wherefore I have come to join your service.” Liu Bei said in response, “The country is decently peaceful now, and unfortunately there is no office vacant. But away to the northeast there is a small magistracy, Leiyang, which needs a prefect. I can allow you that post until there should be something more fitting.” Although Pang Tong thought this welcome poor, he realized that he had no choice but to accept, and so Pang Tong came to Leiyang.

Pang Tong, upon arriving at his new position, found the job to be boring and indulged himself in wine and pleasure, rather than collecting taxes or administering justice. News of Leiyang falling into disorder made Liu Bei’s blood boil and the enraged ruler said to his staff, “Here is this stiff-necked pedant throwing my administration into disarray.” Liu Bei then sent two officers, Zhang Fei and Sun Qian, to speak with Pang Tong. The two inquisitors were welcomed into Leiyang and then ushered into the city hall. Pang Tong, however, decided not to speak with either of them. An official answered the two men instead, saying, “Ever since Tong’s arrival, a hundred days ago or more, he has attended to no business, but spends his days from morn to night in wine-bobbing and is always intoxicated. Just now he is sleeping off a debauch and is not yet risen.” This news incensed Zhang Fei who would have simply removed Pang Tong from his office had not Sun Qian said, “Pang Tong is a man of great ability, and it would be wrong to deal with him thus summarily. Let us inquire into it. If he is really so guilty, we will punish his offense.”

Zhang Fei and Sun Qian then went to the magistracy and summoned Pang Tong before them. Pang Tong came out looking disorderly and drunk, which only further raised Zhang Fei’s ire. “My brother took you for a decent person, and sent you here as magistrate. How dare you throw the affairs of the county into disorder!” growled Zhang Fei furiously. “Where would be the difficulty in dealing with the business of a trifling county like this? I pray you, General, sit down for a while till I have settled the cases,” replied Pang Tong after further questioning. Pang Tong then ordered his clerks to bring in people who wished to settle legal disputes. By afternoon, Pang Tong had finished clearing up the issues of Leiyang that had built up over a hundred days. He had been scribbling rapidly before but now put down his pen and said to Zhang Fei, “Where is the disorder? When I can take on Cao Cao and Sun Quan as easily as I can solve problems like this, what attention from me is needed for the business of this paltry place?”

Zhang Fei was astonished at Pang Tong’s diligence and precision and, rising from his seat, he said, “You are indeed a marvel, Master. I have not treated you respectfully enough, but now I shall commend you to my brother with all my might.” Pang Tong then showed the letter that Lu Su had given him and, after Zhang Fei inquired why Pang Tong had not produced this letter when he first met Liu Bei, Pang Tong replied, “If I had a chance, I would have shown Liu Bei this letter. But is it likely that one would take advantage of a letter of commendation to make a visit?” Zhang Fei next turned to his colleague, Sun Qian, and said to him, “You just saved a wise man for us.” The two inspectors then returned to Liu Bei and told him what had occurred. Liu Bei acknowledged his fault and admitted, “I have been wrong. I have behaved unjustly to a learned person.” Zhang Fei then gave the letter that Lu Su wrote earlier to Liu Bei. Liu Bei looked at the letter, which read: “Pang Tong is not the sort of person to be met with on any day’s march. Employ him in some capacity where great aptitude is required, and his powers will declare themselves. Beware of judging him by his looks, or you may lose the advantage of his abilities, and some other will gain him. This would be a misfortune.” Liu Bei felt sorry for doubting Pang Tong when it was announced that Zhuge Liang had returned.

After the usual salutations, Zhuge Liang asked, “Is Directing-Instructor Pang Tong quite well?” Liu Bei replied, “He is in charge of Leiyang, where he is given to wine and neglects his business.” Zhuge Liang laughed, saying, “My friend Pang Tong has incredible talent and ten times my knowledge. When a person of transcendent abilities is sent to a paltry post, he always turns to wine and laziness out of simple dissatisfaction.” Hearing this, Liu Bei wasted no time in calling forth Pang Tong. When Pang Tong arrived, Liu Bei met him at the foot of the steps of his court and apologized. Liu Bei afterwards commented, “Water Mirror said of the two men, Sleeping Dragon [Zhuge Liang] and Young Phoenix [Pang Tong], that any man who obtained the help of either of them could restore the empire. As I now have them both, surely the Hans will rise again!” Finally, Liu Bei gave Pang Tong the position of Vice Directing Instructor and General. Zhuge Liang and Pang Tong immediately set to work training and organizing the army (3).

3: Pang Tong and Zhuge Liang afterwards both held the rank of ‘Jun Shi Zhong Lang Jiang.’ Later Pang Tong was in charge of the army’s movements into Yizhou and Zhuge Liang held authority over the other half of the army stationed in Jingzhou.

One day a visitor from the West, under the service of Liu Zhang and holding the rank of charioteer, came to visit Liu Bei. This man’s name was Zhang Song and Liu Bei opted to treat him with the utmost respect. Liu Bei held a banquet in Zhang Song’s honor, but at the feast Liu Bei refrained from saying anything about his ambitions to subjugate the West. Zhang Song hoped to press the issue and said after awhile, “How many counties are there in Jingzhou, where you are now, O Imperial Uncle?” Zhuge Liang answered him, also commenting that Liu Bei’s position in Jing was for the most part temporary. “The South Land is large, yet their six territories and their eighty-one counties do not satisfy them. The people are strong and the land is fruitful,” acknowledged Zhang Song. Hearing these words regarding the possible subjugation of the Western lands of Shu, Pang Tong knew where the conversation was going and said, “Our lord, being of the dynastic family, has never occupied a territory of the empire. Those others, rebellious as they are, may indeed seize upon as much territory as they are strong enough to hold. People of reasons do not approve such wrongs…” “Noble Sirs, pray say no more. What virtue have I that I should expect anything from the future?” countered Liu Bei modestly. Liu Bei continued to disapprove of ambitious schemes to conquer the West for the next three days. Zhang Song went back to the Riverlands though, where he convinced the Western ruler, Liu Zhang, to allow Liu Bei to settle in the Riverlands and help Liu Zhang’s army. At the time, Liu Zhang was having problems dealing with another lord named Zhang Lu, so he readily accepted this advice.

Fa Zheng, an emissary of Liu Zhang’s, sent Liu Bei a letter that greatly pleased Liu Bei. Fa Zheng was invited to a banquet and, like Zhang Song, was treated with the utmost respect. The topic of a possible Riverlands expedition was once more brought up. Liu Bei dismissed the topic again but said, “Let me reflect for a time and take advice.” After Liu Bei said this, the banquet was ended not much later.

“You must decide on the matter—not to decide is foolish. You are of high intelligence, my lord, and why do you hesitate?” asked Pang Tong once the party had ended. In response, Liu Bei asked, “What should my reply be?” Pang Tong said, “You know these surroundings—Sun Quan in the east and Cao Cao in the north—and with them you cannot attain your ends. Now before you lies a populous, fertile, and rich land, a base with the greatest possibilities. You have the promise of assistance from two men within, and it seems like a gift of providence. Why hesitate?” Liu Bei realized that Western Yizhou was accessible to him but replied; “Now there are two men in the world as mutually antagonistic as fire and water. My opposite is Cao Cao. He is impetuous and I am long suffering; he is cruel and I am humane; he feigns while I am true. In all particulars I act the direct contrary to him. I refuse to risk the loss of the confidence and trust of the world for a trifling advantage.” (4)

4: Liu Bei is recorded as saying something along the same lines in Pang Tong’s Sanguozhi biography as well.

Pang Tong smiled at these sentiments and his lord’s righteousness, but replied, “My lord’s words are quite in accord with abstract rectitude, but such ideas scarcely suit these days of rebellion. There are other ways of fighting than with warlike weapons, but to adhere too obstinately to the idea of abstract rectitude is to do nothing. One must be an opportunist, annex the weak and attack the willfully deluded, seize the recalcitrant and protect the docile. These were the teachings of the great Kings Tang and Wu. If after you seize the West Riverlands, you reward with righteousness and make of the land a great country, will you be guilty of a breach of trust? Remember this Liu Bei: if you do not take Shu now, another will.” (5) Liu Bei finally relented, realizing the truth of what Pang Tong had said. He replied, “Your words are as jewels. They should be engraved on my very heart.” Liu Bei then organized a march Westwards, ordering Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei, Guan Yu and Zhao Yun to guard Jingzhou while he, Pang Tong, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan went off to the lands of Shu.

5: King Tang of the Shang dynasty, who was born with the name Zi Lu, was considered to be a good ruler in Chinese history. He is said to have ruled from 1617 BC–1588. Pang Tong references King Tang because Tang famously took advantage of the weakness of the faltering Xia dynasty, initiating over 10 wars against this declining faction and eliminating King Jie of Xia in a final victory in 1600. After taking control, King Tang lowered taxes and conscription and thus acted virtuous as a king, despite his scheming and aggressive military policy.

King Wu of Zhou on the other hand was the first king of the Zhou line, and completed his father’s goal of conquering the weakened Shang dynasty. King Wu assembled over 800 dukes at a meeting in Meng Jin to plan for an attack on King Di Xin of Shang. At this time, the Shang government was weakening, so King Wu struck and destroyed the Shang forces at Muye, where his army slaughtered the Shang forces despite being outnumbered. After this fight, the Shang king committed suicide and the Zhou dynasty was proclaimed, a dynasty that was fated to last over five hundred years.

Pang Tong was placed in control as commander of Liu Bei’s whole army, which then consisted of about 50,000 troops. Liu Bei’s expedition began in winter. His armies first met with a force led by Meng Da, another general of the Riverlands who had with him at the time some five thousand soldiers. These troops of Meng Da had been ordered to act as escort to Liu Bei’s army. Through Meng Da, Liu Bei informed Liu Zhang that he had started in his campaign to defend Liu Zhang against Zhang Lu. Liu Zhang then sent orders to the provincial administrators of Shu to entertain Liu Bei’s forces. Liu Zhang himself also went out to visit Liu Bei, commanding an army of 30,000 that carried supplies and wagons laden with other valuable objects. A meeting between Liu Bei and Liu Zhang was to take place at Fucheng. Before Liu Bei’s army arrived here however, Fa Zheng had secretly shown Pang Tong a letter written by Zhang Song. This letter recommending to Liu Bei the idea of assassinating Liu Zhang in the city. “Say nothing about this. After the two Lius have met, there may be opportunities, but this is too early to talk. Any plot would leak out,” advised Pang Tong to Fa Zheng hastily. Thus did Liu Bei remain clueless to the treachery of Liu Zhang’s officers.

Liu Bei’s army continued unmolested to Fucheng, where Liu Bei and Liu Zhang met with each other within the city. After Liu Bei returned to his tent, Pang Tong inquired as to how the meeting went and what Liu Bei’s impression of Liu Zhang was. “He seems to be a very honest man,” said Liu Bei. “He is good enough, but some of his servants are discontented at this turn of affairs, and I would not guarantee there will be no murders. If you took my advice, you would have Liu Zhang assassinated at the return banquet. A hundred ruffians hidden from view, a signal from you, and the deed would be accomplished. All that would be required then would be a rush on Capital Chengdu. No sword need be drawn, no arrow fitted to the string,” suggested Pang Tong. Liu Bei however would not hear of such diabolical scheming and replied, “Liu Zhang is a clansman of my house and has treated me with sincerity. I am a newcomer and so far unknown in this land. Such a deed would be abhorrent to the entire world, and these people would resent it. I will not establish myself by such means.” “The idea is not mine. It originated in a private letter from Zhang Song, who says it will have to be done some time,” noted Pang Tong. At this point Fa Zheng overheard the debate and said, “This is not for ourselves. It is the will of heaven.”

Yet Liu Bei was obstinate. He bluntly stated, “Liu Zhang and I are of the same house, and I would tremble at the notion of harming him.” Fa Zheng urged, “Sir, you are wrong. If you act not as we propose, then Zhang Lu will take Shu in revenge for the death of his mother. What is there for you at the end of your long march? Advance, and success is yours; retreat, and you have nothing. And delays are most dangerous. At any moment your scheme may leak out, and another will reap the profit. This is the day when Heaven smiles on you.” Pang Tong backed Fa Zheng up but Liu Bei continued to refuse such a plan. The next day, another banquet ensued at Fucheng and Pang Tong once again talked about assassinating Liu Zhang with Fa Zheng. “Since our master will have nothing to do with our strategy, we had better set Wei Yan’s sword-play to work and take advantage of the confusion to kill Liu Zhang,” said Pang Tong to Fa Zheng. It so happened that Wei Yan came in shortly afterward with his sword drawn and he offered to fence for everybody’s amusement. Thereupon Pang Tong called forth some armed guards and positioned them near Wei Yan to join in this ‘friendly’ match.

The officers of Liu Zhang stared at the array in bafflement, and wondered why these preparations might be made. But one of them, a certain general of Liu Zhang’s named Zhang Ren, boldly drew his blade and remarked, “An opponent is needed to make fencing a success, so Wei Yan and I will display our skill at the same time.” The two then started fencing, but in the middle of this bout, Wei Yan glanced at Liu Feng, who presently came over to his side with weapon drawn. Soon three commanders from Liu Zhang’s side followed suit and assembled near Zhang Ren.

At this point in time, Liu Bei began to worry that this match might be slowly turning into a brawl between the two forces. Liu Bei took the sword of a lowly servant and cried, “We brothers have perhaps honored our meeting with a little too much wine. There is nothing to say against that, but this is no Hongmen Banquet, where murder was almost done. Put up your swords, or I will slay you!” (6) Liu Zhang then had his servants confiscate the weapons that his generals carried. Disarmed, the officers of Liu Zhang sulkily withdrew from the banquet. When Liu Bei returned to his camp, he blamed Pang Tong for what transpired during the day. “Why did you endeavor to force me into committing a great wrong?” demanded Liu Bei. “There must be no repetition of this!” he ordered. Pang Tong then sighed and retired, depressed that his plot had failed. Shortly after the event, information came that Zhang Lu was preparing a force to attack Jiameng Pass. Pang Tong then went with the rest of Liu Bei’s army to defend the area. At this time, however, Liu Bei learned that his wife, Lady Sun, the sister of Sun Quan, had fled to once more reunite with her brother. He also received news that Cao Cao and Sun Quan were warring at Ruxu. Liu Bei decided to consult Pang Tong on the matter.

6: The Hongmen Banquet was an occurrence that happened prior to the Han-Chu conflict, which was a series of battles between the King of then Western Chu, Xiang Yu, and the man who later founded the Han dynasty, Liu Bang. Liu Bang and Xiang Yu at the time were both fighting against Qin and Liu Bang had entered Qin’s capital Xianyang. This did not go over well with Xiang Yu although Xiang Ba wanted to mediate between the two warlords and present a fight between them from arising. The two met at Xiang Yu’s camp at Hongmen and, during a banquet, Fan Zeng, an advisor under Xiang Yu ordered a general named Xiang Chang to perform a sword dance and attempt to behead Liu Bang. Before Xiang Chang could murder Liu Bang, Xiang Yu’s uncle, Xiang Ba, rushed in to parry Xiang Chang’s blow and prevent the assassination from occurring. Liu Bang’s officer Fan Kuai rushed in and, in the ensuing confusion, slipped away and headed back to his camp.

“The victor of Ruxu, whoever it is, will assuredly possess himself of our region of Jingzhou,” said Liu Bei about the issue. But Pang Tong dismissed the subject and poured out his true feelings regarding the defense of Jiameng, which he deemed to be difficult without reinforcements from Liu Zhang. Said Pang Tong in response to Liu Bei, “You need not trouble about Jingzhou, as I doubt the South Land or the Middle Land will try to take it so long as Zhuge Liang is there. But, my lord, write to Liu Zhang to tell him that you wish to return on account of this threatening danger. It will be a plausible excuse. You may say that on account of Cao Cao’s attack, Sun Quan has sent to you for help, and that as his country and yours are neighbors and dependent upon each other for safety, you cannot refuse. Further, you will assure Liu Zhang that there is no danger of any invasion by Zhang Lu. However, we have too few troops for our purpose and insufficient grain, so you must also urge your relative to send you thirty or forty thousand veteran soldiers and a plentiful supply of food. He will not refuse, and with more soldiers and provisions, our army can do as we please.”

Liu Bei liked this idea and sent a messenger to Chengdu. But Liu Zhang only sent four thousand or so men with little military experience and a paltry sum of grain, along with a letter that angered Liu Bei. Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, “You have hitherto laid too much stress on humanity and righteousness. However, that is all over now, and all affection between you two is at an end. Now it is time to betray Liu Zhang with vengeance.” Liu Bei replied, “Yes. And since that is so, what next?” Pang Tong said, “I have three schemes ready in my mind. You may choose which pleases you. The first, and best, is to send an army forthwith and seize Chengdu. The second is to capture and put to death the two generals of the River Fu Pass. They are the two most famous fighting men in this land. If you give out that you are returning to Jingzhou, they will assuredly come to say farewell. Seize and put them to death, and Fucheng and then Chengdu will be yours soon. The third plan is to drop this role you have been playing, go back to Jingzhou and make a regular invasion. But if you ponder these schemes too long, you will get into such straits that nothing can save you,” replied Pang Tong.

In response, Liu Bei answered, “Of your three schemes, O Instructor, I find the first too summary and the last too slow. I choose the second scheme, which is neither.” Pang Tong’s second scheme involved sending a messenger to Gao Pei and Yang Huai to invite them to a farewell banquet. These two men hoped to eliminate Liu Bei in such a meeting and so they responded to the invitation, though not immediately. On the way down to Fu River, Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, “You have need to be on your guard against those two if they come to bid you farewell. If they do not come, then the Pass must be attacked without delay.” As Pang Tong mentioned this, a violent gust of wind knocked over the leading flag of the army and Liu Bei asked what this portended. “This signifies the coming of a surprise attack. Those two intend to assassinate you, so be ready with defense,” said Pang Tong. At Pang Tong’s behest, Liu Bei put on double armor and readied his hand in case he might need to draw his sword. After this, Pang Tong gave a secret order to the two generals under his command, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, who had accompanied Liu Bei’s army on the Riverlands trip. “However many soldiers come down from the Pass, see to it that none return,” decreed Pang Tong privately.

Soon, Pang Tong’s plan was put into action. The two generals of the Riverlands, Yang Huai and Gao Pei, came to Liu Bei’s encampment, bearing gifts of wine and sheep. Pang Tong stood near his liege as these two men entered the tent, equipped with hidden daggers. Liu Bei presented the two criminals with wine to drink and then said to them, “I have a secret matter to talk over with you.” The troops that escorted Yang Huai and Gao Pei on their mission were now sent away to the midst of the camp. Once they had left Liu Bei shouted, “My generals, lay hands upon these two rebels!” Then two of Liu Bei’s officers, Liu Feng and Guan Ping, rushed into the tent and seized each man. Pang Tong gave Liu Feng and Guan Ping permission to search the captives and the hidden weapons were found. In one swift move, Liu Feng and Guan Ping executed each man. Shortly afterwards, the troops of Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, who had previously been given orders from Pang Tong, also managed to round up all the soldiers who went with Yang Huai and Gao Pei on their assassination mission.

Due to Pang Tong’s foresight, not a single soldier of Yang Huai’s and Gao Pei’s command had opportunity to slip away. Pang Tong announced to these prisoners, “If you will now show the way so that our troops may capture Fu Pass, you shall be rewarded.” The captured troops appreciated the idea of rewards, so that night, the renegade escort troops led Liu Bei’s army to Fucheng. When these men came to Fu they yelled to the guards to open the gate and, hearing the voices of their comrades, the guards of Fu gladly obliged. Liu Bei’s army thus was given entrance into the city and, understanding that they had been fooled, the defenders of the Pass surrendered to Liu Bei. Pang Tong then had the army patrol and protect the pass so as to maintain what had been captured. For the next few days, Liu Bei’s officers celebrated with feasting and parties. At one such event, Liu Bei turned to Pang Tong and said, “This is what one might call a joyful occasion.”

Pang Tong refuted this point however and replied, “To employ warlike weapons in making an attack upon the possession of another is not using them in the best way, nor is the result of such an attack the most proper occasion for rejoicing.” At this point, Liu Bei had become drunk and Pang Tong’s capricious response flustered him. “The success of King Wu of Zhou was celebrated with music. I suppose weapons were not well used on that occasion either. Why do you talk so wide of reason? Why don’t you retire to your lodgings and think about what you just said?” replied Liu Bei furiously. Pang Tong simply laughed and left the table. As the banquet was coming to a close, Liu Bei’s attendants helped their lord to his own chamber. The day after, Liu Bei summoned Pang Tong and apologized for his impoliteness. “I drank too much last night and spoke rudely. Pray forgive me,” requested Liu Bei. Pang Tong seemed to not be angry or hateful to Liu Bei and continued talking in good spirits as usual. “Really I was the only one to blame yesterday,” continued Liu Bei. Pang Tong thought he had erred as well however and said, “We both slipped up. It was not only you, my lord.” Thus the two made amends with one another and were once more on good terms.

In due time, Liu Bei began to ponder his next move and decided it to be an opportune time to attack the city of Luo. Liu Bei took council with Pang Tong once more. Liu Bei’s two generals, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, however, began to bicker. “You two must not quarrel,” said Pang Tong. “There are two camps to be taken and two generals to fight. Take one each and let each lead his own troops. The first to capture his camp shall be held to have rendered the better service and to have acquired the most glory,” finished Pang Tong, setting the stage for a contest between the two officers and thus inspiring each of them to do their best for Liu Bei. Although at the time this seemed to satisfy both parties, Pang Tong still felt wary about Huang Zhong’s and Wei Yan’s competitive nature. “You, my lord, should follow them lest they should squabble on the way,” said Pang Tong to Liu Bei. As a result of Pang Tong’s advice, disaster was prevented and both generals were successful, despite a minor mishap that caused Wei Yan to fall into a trap. Nevertheless, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan were stationed in control of the camps and Wei Yan’s error was forgiven.

Liu Bei asked Pang Tong for advice at this time because Sun Quan had formed an alliance with Zhang Lu. Pang Tong turned to Meng Da and asked, “You are a native of Shu and well skilled in its topography. What can be done to make Jiameng Pass secure?” “Let me take a certain man named Huo Jun with me, and I will defend it myself and answer for its safety,” replied Meng Da. Having eased his lord’s fears, Pang Tong returned to his lodging to rest. Shortly after however, Pang Tong’s doorkeeper told Pang Tong that a visitor had come. Pang Tong went out to receive the guest and saw at his door a giant of a man with short hair and the type of clothing worn by peasants.

“Who may you be, Master?” asked Pang Tong. The visitor ignored the question however and boorishly ambled over to Pang Tong’s sofa, which he lazily reclined on. Pang Tong repeated his query but the guest simply said, “Do let me rest a little. Then I will talk with you about everything in the world.” This man’s response mystified Pang Tong, who thought this man might be a spy. When Pang Tong brought food for the visitor, the stranger ravenously gobbled it all down and then soon after fell asleep. Pang Tong was puzzled and sent for Fa Zheng to come and give him advice on the matter. “Surely it can be no other than Peng Yang,” commented Fa Zheng. When Fa Zheng came to Pang Tong’s house, the visitor jumped up and excitedly greeted Fa Zheng. The two began laughing and cheerfully chatting with one another. Fa Zheng formally introduced him to Pang Tong, who now treated the visitor with all the respect due to an esteemed guest.

Pang Tong asked why Peng Yang had come to his residence and the man replied, “To save a myriad of your soldiers’ lives. I will explain fully when I see General Liu Bei.” Pang Tong thus sent for Liu Bei, who came in to see the visitor. Peng Yang inquired as to how many men Liu Bei had and Liu Bei told him. After hearing this information, Peng Yang said, “As a leader you cannot be ignorant of the lie of the land. Your camps over there are on River Fu. If the river be diverted and the enemy hold your army in front and rear, not a soul can escape.” Liu Bei heeded this advice and garrisoned his officers, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, to block the dams holding back the river current. Peng Yang’s plans thus prevented an attempt by Ling Bao, an officer of Liu Zhang, to divert the river. A banquet was held in honor of Peng Yang.

Not much later, a letter came from Zhuge Liang that read, “I have been making some astrological calculations. This is the last year of the cycle; the bowl of the Dipper is in the western quarter, and the planet Venus approaches Luocheng. The configuration is inimical to leaders, and the utmost caution is necessary.” This letter mimicked an earlier warning by Peng Yang, but Pang Tong was paranoid of Zhuge Liang and thought that his friend had a jealous desire to stop him from continuing his own successful Riverlands campaign. Because of this, Pang Tong opposed Zhuge Liang’s words and said, “I also have made calculations, and I read the signs to mean that the time is favorable for you to get possession of this land, and no evil is foreshown. Therefore be not of doubtful heart, my lord, but advance boldly.” Liu Bei had learned to trust Pang Tong and was won over by his argument.

Pang Tong then asked Fa Zheng what roads led to Luocheng, a city which Pang Tong hoped to capture next. Fa Zheng drew a map for Pang Tong and this was found to be consistent with another one that Zhang Song had previously given to Liu Bei. Fa Zheng also said, “North of the mountains is a high road leading to the east gate. South of the mountains is another path leading to the west gate. Both these roads are suitable for the advance of an army.” Taking into account Fa Zheng’s words, Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, “With Wei Yan to lead the way, I will go along the southern road, while you, my lord, will advance along the high road, with Huang Zhong in the van. We will attack Luocheng at the same time.” “I was drilled as a mounted archer and am accustomed to by-roads, wherefore, O Instructor, I think you should take the high road and let me take the other,” replied Liu Bei. Pang Tong said in response, “There will be opposition on the high road, and you are the best to deal with it. Let me take the by-road. When a soldier goes into battle, he may be killed, or he may be wounded. He accepts whichever is his fate. But should one hesitate because of a dream?” Liu Bei once more could not agree and said, “The real reason of my hesitation is the letter from Zhuge Liang. Wherefore I wish you to remain and guard River Fu Pass. Do you agree to that?”

Pang Tong smiled and simply said, “Zhuge Liang has indeed filled your mind with doubts. The truth is that he is unwilling to let me have the merit of accomplishing a great undertaking alone. That is why he has written such egregious advice to you. Your doubts and hesitations have produced in your mind a false dream, but I see nothing ill-omened. Pray, my lord, say no more, but prepare to set forth.” Liu Bei, seeing how sure his tactician was of the matter, finally decided to march on Luo. Liu Bei and Pang Tong occupied the rear of the army and they went to follow Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, who led the van. At one point in time, Pang Tong’s horse shied and stumbled, tossing Pang Tong from his saddle. Liu Bei leaped off his horse and grabbed the creature’s bridles. “Why do you ride this wretched beast?” asked Liu Bei. Pang Tong was taken aback by his usually faithful horse and said in reply, “I have ridden him a long time, and he has never done this before.” “A shying steed risks a person’s life. Ride my horse, which is thoroughly trained and will never fail you. Give me yours,” ordered Liu Bei.

So Pang Tong exchanged equines with Liu Bei. “I am deeply affected by your kindness, I could never repay you if I suffered death a thousand times,” said Pang Tong. Eventually, Liu Bei and Pang Tong came to a crossroads and Pang Tong went off on his own towards Luo. As Pang Tong came through a road of dark thickets and brambles, it became more and more difficult to advance. Pang Tong began to worry, his heart starting to beat faster and faster as he progressed down the path. Alarmed, Pang Tong stopped his horse and asked if anybody knew the name of the place where they were. One of the recent recruits of Liu Bei reported, “This is called ‘The Fallen Phoenix Slope.’’ Pang Tong shuddered. “An evil omen for me, since Young Phoenix is my Taoist name. There is no luck for me here!” said Pang Tong uneasily.

Now Pang Tong was fully aware of the predicament he was in, so he gave an order to his army to retreat. Unfortunately for Pang Tong, enemy units commanded by Zhang Ren happened to be hidden in ambush. As Pang Tong happened to be riding on Liu Bei’s beautiful white horse, Zhang Ren and his soldiers targeted Pang Tong. The roar of a bomb caught Pang Tong by surprise and all at once missiles that were thick as swarming locusts shot towards Pang Tong. A great deal of arrows wounded the so-called “Young Phoenix.” At Fallen Phoenix Slope, poor Pang Tong perished at the age of thirty-six. In the fateful battle, over half of the soldiers under Pang Tong’s command fell to Zhang Ren’s surprise attack. A somber song was written referring to Pang Tong, a great commander and worthy advisor who had met his end all too soon:

They were two, the Phoenix and the Dragon,
And they would travel far to the west;
But on the road thither
The Phoenix died on the mountain slope.
The wind drives off the rain,
The rain sends off the wind.
It was the day of the Han restoration,
When the west was attained,
But in the attainment
The Dragon was alone.

Copyright © 2006 SlickSlicer. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms