Biography (SGYY): Shen Pei (Zhengnan)

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Shen Pei (Zhengnan)
審配 (正南)
Lived: ?–204

Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Dong Zhou

Shen Pei (Zhengnan)

Shen Pei was an advisor to the warlord Yuan Shao (1) when Lu Bu, struggling against Cao Cao, sought a lord to help him and sent to inquire about serving Yuan Shao. Shen Pei warned Yuan Shao “Lu Bu is a savage beast. If he gets possession of Yanzhou, he will certainly attempt to add this region to it. For your own safety you should help to crush him.” So Yan Liang was sent with fifty thousands troops to destroy Lu Bu who, alarmed on hearing this, fled to Liu Bei in Xu (2).

1: The ZZTJ mentions that Shen Pei was from Wei commandery, he had failed to achieve his ambitions under Han Fu due to Shen Pei’s upright conduct. When Han Fu gave his land to Yuan Shao, Shen Pei was made Attendant Official at Headquarters.
2: The SGZ does mention Lu Bu serving Yuan Shao and defeating warlord Zhang Yan in battle but his troops plundering made Lu Bu unpopular. When Lu Bu asked permission to leave, Yuan Shao sent men to kill Lu Bu but they where too scared to carry out the task.

Some time later Liu Bei, having joined forces with Cao Cao against Lu Bu, rebelled and asked for assistance from Yuan Shao who called his advisors together to discuss the issue. Tian Feng urged “Do not raise an army. The people are worn out, and the granaries are empty with these constant wars. Let us rather report the recent victory of Gongsun Zan to the Throne. If that does not reach the Emperor, then memorialize that Cao Cao is hindering the government. Then raise an army: occupy Liyang, assemble a Yellow River fleet in Henan, prepare weapons, send out your various divisions, and within three years you will win all round.” To which Shen Pei replied “I do not agree. The military genius of our illustrious lord having overcome the hordes of the north, to dispose of Cao Cao is as simple as turning one’s hand; it is not a matter of months.” Ju Shou and Guo Tu were also involved and the four advisors argued with Yuan Shao unable to decide what to do until the arrival of Xun You and Xun Shen who both advised to send an army and war with Cao Cao. The matter decided Shen Pei was appointed with Peng Ji as commanding Generals.

When word reached Xu Chang of Yuan Shao’s actions, Cao Cao called his own council where Kong Rong warned that Yuan Shao was too strong, described Shen Pei as one of his skilful strategists but Xun Yu described Yuan Shao’s army as a rabble, calling Shen Pei devoted but stupid (3). Kong Rong was unable to come up with a reply and the Minister of Works (4) marched to oppose Yuan Shao at Liyang where both sides made fortified camp and waited, watching each other for two months in the autumn. Yuan Shao’s camp had problems with Xu You being at enmity with Shen Pei, Zhengnan holding the commanding position of the two and with Yuan Shao unable to make up his mind, they didn’t attack.

3: The ZZTJ has an alternative version with Kong Rong calling Shen Pei a loyal minister with Xun Yu saying Shen Pei was self opinionated and lacked original ideas.
4: Cao Cao’s rank.

Cao Cao was the first to move, leaving a defence force and going to defeat Liu Bei, forcing him to flee to Yuan Shao and forcing Guan Yu to surrender. Cao Cao returned to Liyang where he faced the attack of Yan Liang and after Yan Liang’s initial success, he was killed by Guan Yu. Then Wen Chou was sent and ambushed by Cao Cao, Guan Yu pursuing and killing the Yuan general. Yuan Shao decided to go to Guandu to build a stockade when Shen Pei and Guo Tu came in with the news of Wen Chou’s death, complaining “Again that fellow Guan Yu has been in the battle; he killed Wen Chou. Liu Bei pretends ignorance of him.” Yuan Shao summoned Liu Bei who claimed Cao Cao was trying to get him executed by using Guan Yu and so pacifying Benchu (5) who rebuked his advisors “What he says is sense and you two nearly brought on me the reproach of injuring the good.”

5: Benchu is the style name of Yuan Shao.

Eventually Yuan Shao decided to attack from Guandu, going to Yangwu where Cao Cao met them for battle. Zhang Liao and Zhang He duelled, then Gao Lan and Xu Chu joined in with no advantage to either side so Cao Cao ordered Xiahou Dun and Cao Hong to advance with three thousand men but Shen Pei ordered the legion of crossbowmen on the wings to shoot and the centre archers fire their arrows at the same time, the effect blocking the advance of Cao Cao’s men who then tried to withdraw but Yuan Shao pursued and broke the retreating army. Shen Pei then advised “Now send one hundred thousand soldiers to guard Guandu, and get near Cao Cao’s camp; then build up observation mounds to get a clear view of the enemy, and choose vantage points whence to shoot arrows into the midst of their host. If we can force him to evacuate this place, we shall have gained a strategic point whence Capital Xuchang can be attacked.”

The plan had initial success, the archers and crossbowmen came out commanding the narrow throat through which it was necessary for Cao Cao’s troops to make a sortie, blocking the attempt to destroy the mounds. At the end of ten days, they had build up more than half a hundred mounds, and on the summit of each was a lofty tower, whence the archers could command their opponents’ camp. Cao Cao’s soldiers were greatly frightened and held up their bucklers to keep off the various missiles. From the mounds the arrows flew down like a fierce rain after each roll of drums. The soldiers of Yuan Shao’s army laughed and jeered when they saw their enemies crouching under their shields and crawling on the ground to avoid their missiles. Liu Ye however used catapults to kill the archers on top of the towers, slaughtering a great amount so the archers refused to go back up.

Shen Pei then used sappers to try to dig a tunnel under the walls and into Cao Cao’s camp but Cao Cao spotted the pits made to begin the tunnelling and Liu Ye warned of what Shen Pei had planned so Cao Cao build a deep moat that made the tunnels useless. The months dragged on before Xu Huang attacked a convoy of supplies led by Han Meng and burnt it. Shen Pei warned that “Food is very important for an army in the field and must be defended with the greatest diligence. Wuchao is our main depot and must be carefully guarded.” Yuan Shao assured Shen Pei that his plans were complete so ordered the advisor to go to Yejun, the capital of Yuan Shao’s province of Jizhou and take charge of the supplies, to ensure there was no shortage.

While Shen Pei was in Yejun, he arrested a son and nephew of Xu You’s in a dispatch to Yuan Shao, while also discussing the supply issue,the letter claimed that Xu You had been in a habit of collecting bribes while in Jizhou and that he had allowed his relatives to collect excess taxes. Yuan Shao dismissed Xu You (6), who at the time had discovered Cao Cao was having supply problems and had been trying to persuade Yuan Shao to launch an attack on Xu Chang. Xu You joined Cao Cao and helped him defeat Yuan Shao, informing Cao Cao how to destroy the supplies at Wu Chao and in the following battles; Yuan Shao was heavily defeated and forced to retreat from Guandu (7).

6: The ZZTJ mentions that at this time, a relative of Xu You’s had broken the law and that is why Shen Pei arrested the relative, an action that angered Xu You.
7: The ZZTJ records that two of Shen Pei’s sons were captured and Staff Officer Meng Dai argued “Shen Pei has a position of special authority and he belongs to

a powerful clan. Now that his sons are in the south he will certainly plan to

rebel.” Gou Tu and Xin Pi agreed and so Meng Dai was sent to replace Shen Pei at Yejun. This however was stopped when Yuan Shao asked Geng Ji, an old enemy of Shen Pei who said “Shen Pei is fiercely honest and always respects the examples of the ancients. He could not turn traitor just because his two sons are in the south. Have no doubts.” Shen Pei was not dismissed and the two became friends after that incident.

Yuan Shao had three sons, Yuan Tan, Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang and after Guan Du his wife, Lady Liu, tried to get Yuan Shang, the youngest, installed as heir. Yuan Shao believed Yuan Tan to be harsh and cruel, Yuan Xi as mild and unfit to rule while he considered Yuan Shang to be the most able. His four advisors where split on the issue, Shen Pei and Peng Ji supported Yuan Shang, Guo Tu and Xin Ping supported Yuan Tan but Yuan Shao was unable to decide on an heir even by the time he faced Cao Cao at Canting and was heavily defeated. During the retreat Yuan Shao fell ill so left Yuan Shang and Shen Pei in charge of charge of Yejun. On hearing the news, Cao Cao’s advisors suggested that they should attack but Cao Cao warned “Jizhou is large and well supplied; Shen Pei is an able strategist and it behooves me to be careful. I would rather wait till the autumn when the crops have been gathered in so that the people will not suffer.” On hearing that Liu Bei was threatening Xu Chang, he left to deal with the new threat.

Yuan Shao having recovered from his illness began to think of attacking Cao Cao again but Shen Pei’s was concerned “You are not yet recovered from the fatigues of last year. It would be better to make your position impregnable and set to improving the army.” Yuan Shang was also concerned and offered to lead the army himself to which Yuan Shao agreed, summoning his other sons and his nephew Gao Gan to help. Yuan Shang was defeated in battle and the news caused Yuan Shao to fall ill again and this time, it was clear he was going to die. Lady Liu summoned Shen Pei and Peng Ji so that the issue could be settled. Yuan Shao was unable to speak but was able to indicated Yuan Shang with Shen Pei writing out the dieing leader’s testament (8).

8: The ZZTJ mentions that Shen Pei hadn’t got on with Yuan Tan and accuses Shen Pei’s party of forging Yuan Shao’s will in fear that they would be harmed if Yuan Tan took over.

On the leader’s death, Shen Pei arranged the mourning ceremonies and with Peng Ji, installed Yuan Shang as the new Regent Marshall. (9) Yuan Tan, who had come to fight Cao Cao, consulted his advisors, Guo Tu and Xin Ping, on what to do but was warned that Shen Pei and Peng Ji had already laid their plans. Gou Tu went to meet Yuan Shang and asked for Shen Pei and Peng Ji to help Yuan Tan as advisors but Yuan Shang would only release one. The two advisors drew lots and Peng Ji was sent to Yuan Tan’s camp, Tan went to Liyang to fight Cao Cao but was badly defeated, withdrew into the city. Shen Pei and Yuan Shang only sent five thousand troops that were easily destroyed by Li Dian and Yue Jin, Yuan Tan furious at the inadequate reinforcements. Peng Ji wrote a letter asking for Yuan Shang to come himself to Yuan Tan’s aid but Shen Pei warned “Guo Tu, your elder brother’s adviser, is very guileful. Formerly he left without discussion because Cao Cao was on the border. If Cao Cao be defeated, there will certainly be an attempt on you. The better plan is to withhold assistance and use Cao Cao’s hand to destroy your rival.”

9: Yuan Shao’s rank given by Emperor Xian

Yuan Tan responded by executing Peng Ji and began talking about surrendering to Cao Cao, when news of this reached Yejun, Yuan Shang marched to reinforce his brother, leaving Shen Pei and Su You to guard the city. At first Cao Cao had great success but when the brothers retreated to Yejun, the Yuans were able to hold out so Cao Cao withdrew. Yuan Tan, on the advice of Gou Tu, invited Yuan Shang and Shen Pei to a banquet with the idea to assassinate them and seize what Yuan Tan believed to be his rightful inheritance. Shen Pei however saw through this scheme and advised Yuan Shang to attack immediately. Yuan Shang won the battle and advised to keep pressing the attack by Shen Pei, besieged the elder brother at Pingyuan.

Yuan Tan asked for Cao Cao’s help against the attackers and when Cao Cao crossed the Yellow River, Yuan Shang retreated to Yejun. Fearing Cao Cao would attack, Shang consulted Shen Pei who advised “Send letters to Yin Kai, Commander of Wuan, bidding him camp at Maocheng to secure the road to Shangdang, and direct Ju Gu, son of Ju Shou, to maintain Handan as a distant auxiliary. Then you may advance on Pingyuan and attack Cao Cao.” Once more Shen Pei was left in charge of the Yuan capital, this time with Chen Lin. Cao Cao responded to Yuan Shang’s attack of Pingyuan by sending Cao Hong to attack Yejun, and then advanced to Maocheng where Xu Chu killed Yin Kai moving on to Handan where Zhang Liao shot Ju Gu. Cao Cao then joined Cao Hong at Yejun and began the siege, surrounding the city, throwing up great mounts and starting to build tunnels.

Shen Pei turned all his efforts to the defence of the city, issuing the severest of commands. When he found The Commandant of the East Gate, Feng Li, drunk at his post, he had the guard severely punished. Feng Li resented this and snuck out of the city, offering to tunnel to the Pearl Gate and create an entrance. Shen Pei, since the defection, had taken to going to the wall every night and inspecting the soldiers on duty. On the night of the arranged sapping, he spotted that there were no lights on outside the city and all was quiet, realising Feng Li’s ploy. He ordered his troops to bring up stones and pile them on the cover of the tunnel opening so it was blocked up and the attacking party perished in the tunnel they had excavated.

Cao Cao withdrew to wait Yuan Shang’s attempt to rescue the city, the Regent Marshall camping five miles from Yejun and sent Li Fu in disguise to inform Shen Pei of the arrangements, Yuan Shang would set off a blaze at night for the two armies to attack Cao Cao in a simultaneous attack. Li Fu suggested that since the city was low on food to send the woman, children and old people to surrender and then have the troops follow behind while Cao Cao’s men where surprised. Shen Pei agreed with the plan and had a white flag hoisted on the wall, with the words “The populace of Jizhou surrender!” on it (10).

10: According the ZZTJ, the surrendering population was a scheme to get Liu Fu back to his lines.

However Cao Cao saw through this ruse and ambushed the troops with Zhang Liao and Xu Huang, then as the Yuan troops tried to get back into the city, pressed the attack himself, only withdrawing when a hail of arrows and crossbow bolts resulted in his helmet being struck by a projectile and his crest coming off. Cao Cao then struck at Yuan Shang, capturing the seals and garments of the defeated general as Yuan Shang was forced to flee.

Going back to Yejun, on the advice of Xu You, Cao Cao sent a small number of men to dig a seventeen mile channel from the River Zhang to lead water into the city with the intention of flooding Yejun. Shen Pei saw this but was not concerned as the channel was shallow whereas the river was deep. That night Cao Cao increased the diggers tenfold to deepen the channel to twenty spans and in the morning, the water was flowing like a great stream into the city and adding to the problems of the defenders (11).

11: The ZZTJ mentions that more then half of the population died of starvation.

Xin Pi came along, displaying the seals and garments of Yuan Shang and called upon the people of the city to surrender (12). Shen Pei angrily responded by executing all of the Xin family, around eighty members, that was in the city on the walls where Xin Pi could see them and then cast the severed heads down, causing Xin Pi to weep. One of Xin Pi’s friends inside the city was a gate warden called Shen Rong and he was greatly distressed by the executions. Despite being Shen Pei’s nephew, he sent a secret letter to the besiegers offering to betray the city.

12: Shen Pei is said to have ordered his discouraged troops to “Hold firm and fight to the end! Cao Cao’s army is in trouble and Youzhou [Yuan Xi] is almost here.

There is no cause to worry that we have lost a leader.”

The next day, he opened the west gate and the attacking troops, led by Xin Pi, entered the city. Shen Pei was in the southeast of the city when he saw that the attackers had entered the city so he gathered up horsemen and attacked but was overcome and captured by Xu Huang. As Shen Pei was taken along the road to Cao Cao’s camp, Xin Pi taunted the prisoner, striking him over the head with his riding whip “Murder! Blood drinker! You will meet your death.” But Shen Pei retorted “Traitor! Seller of the city! I am very sorry I was not to have slain you before.”

When Shen Pei was taken before Cao Cao, he was informed that it was Shen Rong that betrayed him, the uncle saying of his nephew “He was always unprincipled; and it has come to this!” Cao Cao asked why Shen Pei had shot so hard at him when he had attacked the city; Shen Pei replied “I am sorry we shot too little.” Cao Cao then asked “As a faithful adherent of the Yuans, you could do no otherwise. Now will you come over to me?” Shen Pei simply stated “Never; I will never surrender.”

Xin Pi, who was present for this, threw himself on the ground and lamented about his family, “Eighty of my people murdered by this ruffian; I pray you slay him, O Prime Minister!” Shen Pei settled the issue of his fate “Alive, I have served the Yuans; dead, I will be their ghost. I am no flattering time-server as you are. Kill me!” Cao Cao, on hearing this, gave the order (13) and Shen Pei was taken to the execution ground where the condemned asked “My lord is in the north, I pray you not to make me face the south.” He knelt facing the north and extended his neck for the final stroke. Out of respect for Shen Pei’s character, Cao Cao ordered him to be buried with honour in the north of the city.

13: The ZZTJ mention an old enemy, Zhang Ziqian, who had surrendered to Wei earlier, laughing at Shen Pei, claiming he had done better then Shen Pei who rebuked the ex Yuan officer “You are a turncoat. I am a loyal minister. Even though I must die, I would never change places with you.” It also mentions Cao Cao wanted Shen Pei to live but with Shen Pei being firm and proud, he would neither bend nor make excuses while the likes of Xin Pi were calling for his head.

One poet wrote about Shen Pei:
Who of all the official throng
In the North was true like Shen Pei?
Sad his fate! He served a fool,
But faithful, as the ancient humans.
Straight and true was every word,
Never from the road he swerved.
Faithful unto death, he died
Gazing toward the lord he’d served.

Copyright © 2007 Dong Zhou. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms