Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Authored by Morgan Evans
King Wutugu was a huge man of twelve spans who ruled the cave dwelling Wuguo Kingdom in south China. He would not eat grain, instead choosing to eat snakes and other venomous creatures. Wutugu commanded the Rattan Army; an army of soldiers who wore impenetrable rattan armour that was so light it allowed it’s wearer to float across water.
When Meng Huo rebelled against Shu’s authority, he found himself outmatched by Shu’s Prime Minister, Zhuge Liang, and soon came to request aid from Wutugu. After listening to his visitor’s tales of numerous defeats, Wutugu said, “I shall muster all of my men to avenge you.” Meng Huo bowed low to the King and expressed his gratitude. Wutugu summoned two of his generals, Tu An and Xi Ni, gave them command over thirty thousand of the Rattan Army and ordered them to march northeast. When the army reached the River of Peach Flowers they set up camp as the river’s water served as a stimulant to the natives of the region but was poisonous to all others. The army of Shu advanced to meet the Rattan Army, but when Zhuge Liang heard of the poisonous river he camped two miles away, leaving only Wei Yan and his men to hold the riverbank. The next day, Wutugu led his army across the stream. The soldiers of Shu put up a fight but their arrows and crossbow bolts could not pierce the rattan armour and neither could their swords or spears. The Wuguo soldiers easily defeated the Shu soldiers but Wutugu chose not to pursue them.
Meng Huo came to Wutugu to warn him, “This Zhuge Liang is exceedingly crafty. Ambush is one of his favorite ruses, so you should warn your soldiers that on no account should they enter a valley where the trees are thick.” Wutugu replied, “Great King, you speak with reason. I have always heard that the people of the Middle Kingdom are full of wiles, and I will see that your advice is followed. I will go in front to fight, and you may remain in the rear to give orders.” Soon scouts reported that Shu troops had arrived on the bank of the Peach Flowers River and so Wutugu sent Xi Ni and Tu An to engage them. The two generals easily defeated Wei Yan, but did not pursue as they feared an ambush. Wutugu sent more troops across the river and again, the army easily defeated Wei Yan and occupied his camp.
The next day King Wutugu advanced to the captured camp and having consulted with his generals, ordered a general advance. The soldiers of Shu fled before the oncoming army, throwing away their weapons and armour as they went. The soldiers of Shu retreated to their camp but were soon forced to abandon it. Once the enemy camp was occupied, the army advanced once more, driving Wei Yan back in the process. This continued daily, with the Wuguo army defeating the Shu force fifteen times and capturing the enemy’s camp on seven occasions. Wutugu personally led on his entire army but when they came to a thick wood, he ordered the army to halt as he spied flags moving within the trees. The King turned to Meng Huo, “Just as you foretold, the men of Shu like using ambush.” Meng Huo responded, “Yes; Zhuge Liang is going to be worsted this time. We have beaten off his troops now daily for half a month and won fifteen successive victories. His troops simply run when they hear the wind. The fact is he has exhausted all his craft and has tried every ruse. Now our task is nearly done.” Wutugu was greatly cheered and began to feel contemptuous towards his enemy.
On the sixteenth day, Wei Yan once again rallied his troops against the Wuguo army. King Wutugu rode in front of his army on a white elephant. He had on a cap with symbols of the sun and moon and streamers of wolf’s beard, a fringed garment studded with gems, which allowed the plates or scales of his cuirass to appear, and his eyes seemed to flash fire. He pointed at Wei Yan and hurled insults at him, causing the enemy general to flee. Wutugu’s army charged after their enemy and pursued him to Coiled Serpent Valley. Seeing that the hills were bare, Wutugu was confident that there was no ambush ahead and followed Wei Yan into the valley. In the road ahead were scores of black carts, which the Wuguo troops speculated were supply wagons that had been abandoned to allow quicker escape. This urged Wutugu on and he advanced his troops quickly to try and catch up with the fleeing enemy. As the King advanced to the other end of the valley, he could see timber and boulders being rolled down the hill to block the road. He ordered his men to clear the obstruction and then the army continued onwards until they came across a number of wheeled carts. The carts varied in size but were all laden with buring straw and wood. Wutugu became alarmed and ordered a retreat but his men reported that the way back had been blocked with carts containing explosives. Seeing that the valley was devoid of grass and wood, Wutugu calmly ordered his men to find another way out of the valley. As the men searched, Wutugu saw torches being hurled down the mountain side. When the torches landed on the valley floor they ignited fuses leading to bombs planted beneath the ground. The ground heaved with explosions and soon the entire valley was consumed by fire and Wutugu, along with his Rattan Army, was burnt to death.
Copyright © 2004 Morgan Evans
Based on Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms