Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by LuXunMaster102
Tian Feng, styled Yuanhao, served lord Yuan Shao as one of his main advisors. When Han Fu, the Imperial Protector of Jizhou, submitted to Yuan Shao, he was given the high-sounding title of General Who Demonstrates Grand and Vigor Courage in Arms (1). However, the true administration of Jizhou was given to four of Yuan Shao’s confidants, including Tian Feng. Full of anger and chagrin, Han Fu left Jizhou and took refuge with the Governor of Chenliu, Zhang Miao.
1: Han Fu surrendered as a result of Pang Ji’s (advisor of Yuan Shao) plan. In accordance with Pang Ji’s stratagem, Yuan Shao urged Gongsun Zan to make a joint attack with him on Han Fu. When Jizhou was conquered, the two united factions were supposed to have divided the land. However, contrary to his promise, Yuan Shao then secretly wrote a letter to Han Fu warning him of Gongsun Zan’s imminent assault. Han Fu then surrendered Jizhou to Yuan Shao to gain his protection.
When Yuan Shao waged war against Gongsun Zan, his scouts brought him encouraging information concerning a battle they were near winning. Eager to witness his army secure Gongsun Zan’s defeat, Yuan Shao rode out with General Tian Feng and a few guards to watch the battle. However, the tide of the battle had changed swiftly. One of Gongsun Zan’s generals, Zhao Yun, had cut a hole through Shao’s army and Gongsun Zan’s soldiers were swarming through. Tian Feng then said to his endangered master, “Sir, take refuge in this empty building here!” Yuan Shao replied, “The brave one rather faces death in the battle than seeks safety behind a wall!” Shao’s statement brought new vigor to his troops, who ultimately routed Gongsun Zan’s forces. Eventually, Yuan Shao brought an end to Gongsun Zan.
Though he had deposed of Gongsun Zan, Yuan Shao still had Cao Cao to reckon with. Liu Bei then sent a letter to Yuan Shao requesting his aid against Cao Cao. Thereupon, Yuan Shao assembled his officers and civil officials to consider the proposal. Tian Feng advised against it, saying, “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.” However, the other advisors of Yuan Shao, Shen Pei and Guo Tu, differed in opinion and advocated for Yuan Shao to immediately prepare for war. Only Ju Shou, another strategist of Yuan Shao, agreed with Tian Feng. Upon hearing his advisors fierce dispute, Yuan Shao remained indecisive. Suddenly, Xun Chen and Xu You arrived, and Yuan Shao asked for their opinion on the issue. They both replied, “Send! Your armies are numerous enough and strong enough. You will destroy a traitor and help the dynasty.” Yuan Shao consented to their advice and prepared an army to set forth. However, winter delayed the war.
When Cao Cao sent his army of 200,000 to attack Liu Bei’s Xuzhou, thus leaving Xuchang unprotected, Tian Feng urgently advised Yuan Shao to seize the opportunity and take the defenseless Xuchang. At that time, however, Yuan Shao’s youngest son (2) had been diagnosed with scabies. Yuan Shao was so distressed about his son’s illness, that he refused to take any action upon Cao Cao’s Xuchang. Upon hearing the woes of his lord, Tian Feng struck the ground with his staff and exclaimed, “It is such a pity! Just as a unique opportunity resents itself, everything is spoiled by the illness of a child.”
2: Yuan Shang was Yuan Shao’s third and youngest son (that has been historically recorded). In the novel, Yuan Shao favored Yuan Shang the most out of all of his children because he considered him the brightest.
Ultimately, Cao Cao’s army crushed that of Liu Bei’s. Being defeated, Liu Bei took refuge with Yuan Shao, where he was treated well and held in high regards. Yuan Shao had long desired to attack Xuchang (3), and asked Liu Bei of his opinion. Liu Bei stated that Yuan Shao would fail in his duty to the dynasty if he neglected the opportunity to attack Cao Cao. However, Tian Feng at once opposed the plan, saying, “When Cao Cao attacked Xuzhou and Xuchang was unprotected, you let the opening slip by. Now that Xuzhou has been captured, and their soldiers are flushed with victory, it would be madness to attempt it. It is necessary to await another chance.” Yuan Shao grew angry and told Tian Feng, “You fellows who cultivate literature and despise war have made me miss a lot!” Tian Feng bowed his head and said, “Neglect your servant’s wise words, and you will fail in the field.” Yuan Shao was insulted, and therefore wanted to execute Tian Feng. Liu Bei, however, dissuaded Yuan Shao from taking that course, and thus Tian Feng ended up in jail.
3: Yuan Shang had recovered from his aforementioned ailment.
When Yuan Shao mobilized his army of 700,000 men towards Guandu, Tian Feng attempted to remonstrate with Yuan Shao from his prison cell, advising him to not be so hasty in attacking Cao Cao. Pang Ji said to Yuan Shao, “Why does this Tian Feng utter ill-omened words? My lord is sending forth an army in the cause of humanity and justice.” Upon listening to Pang Ji’s slander, Yuan Shao was going to execute Tian Feng, but changed his mind when many of his officers persuaded him to do otherwise. However, he was not content, and stated, “I will punish Tian Feng when I return from conquering Cao Cao.” However, Cao Cao crushed Yuan Shao’s army. All of Shao’s soldiers lamented, “Had he but listened to Tian Feng, we had not met this disaster!”
Yuan Shao remorsefully said, “I did not hearken unto Tian Feng, and now my soldiers have been beaten and I was nearly lost. How can I return and look him in the face?” When Pang Ji’s reinforcements caught up with Yuan Shao’s defeated army, Yuan Shao said to Pang Ji, “I disregarded Tian Feng’s advice and have brought myself to defeat. Now shall I be greatly ashamed to look him in the face.” This tribute to Tian Feng roused the jealousy of Pang Ji, who replied, “Yes; when he heard the news of your defeat, though he was a prisoner, he clapped his hands for joy and said, ‘Indeed, just as I foretold!’” Angered, Yuan Shao wrote a letter ordering the execution of Tian Feng.
Meanwhile Tian Feng’s gaoler told him that Yuan Shao had been defeated and congratulated him for his brilliant foresight. The gaoler added, “Imperial Protector Yuan Shao has been defeated and is on his way back. He will treat you with redoubled respect.” However, Tian Feng knew otherwise, stating that if Yuan Shao had won, he would have pardoned him. Unfortunately, since he had lost and was subjected to shame, Yuan Shao would put him to death. Tian Feng’s words proved to be true. Upon receiving the letter commanding the execution, Tian Feng slit his throat in prison.
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Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms