Sanguo Yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by SlickSlicer
Zhuge Dan was an officer of Wei (1) and a cousin of the famous Shu Prime Minister Zhuge Liang. While Zhuge Dan’s illustrious cousin was alive, the Wei government did not trust Zhuge Dan and so he had been assigned to relatively minor military posts. Once Zhuge Liang died, however, Zhuge Dan ascended the ranks of Wei quickly. Guanqiu Jian, an officer of Wei, at one point revolted against Wei with the cities of Xiangcheng and Shouchun. Zhuge Dan was ordered to participate in a campaign against Guanqiu Jian and distinguished himself by seizing the city of Shouchun. Sima Shi, the Wei leader during this campaign, was quite ill during the fight, but before he died he gave Zhuge Dan the title of ‘General who Guards the East.’ In time, Wei also promoted Zhuge Dan to become the Lord of Gaoping and the commander of all Wei troops South and East of the Huai River.
1: Zhuge Dan’s service in Wei is not described much in the novel. Historically he did help put down Guanqiu Jian’s rebellion, which is ironic because Zhuge Dan later rebelled in the same city as Guanqiu Jian. But he also fought against the Wu officer Zhuge Ke in the service of Wei, which is even more ironic because if Zhuge Dan was really the cousin of Zhuge Liang, by fighting against Zhuge Ke he was clashing with his own relative, the son of Zhuge Liang’s brother. The translated version of Zhuge Dan’s Sanguozhi on Empire Divided TK interestingly does not ever state that Zhuge Dan was the cousin of Zhuge Liang.
At the time when Zhuge Dan was at the height of his prestige, Wei was beginning to conquer Shu and Sima Zhao, who had succeeded Sima Shi and obtained a lot of power within the Wei court, started using the Wei Emperor as a puppet. Sima Zhao desired to eventually overthrow Wei, but wanted to figure out which officials supported him. Because of this, he sent an emissary named Jia Chong to speak with Zhuge Dan and try to win Dan over to his side. After Jia Chong praised Zhuge Dan’s services, he was treated courteously and invited to a banquet. Once Zhuge Dan was thoroughly intoxicated with wine, Jia Chong said, “Lately in Luoyang there has been much talk of the weakness and lack of ability of the Emperor. Now General Sima Zhao comes of a family noted for state service for many generations. His own services and virtues are high as the heavens, and he is the man best fitted to take the rulership of Wei. Is this not your opinion?” Zhuge Dan was incensed when he heard what Jia Chong wanted however and replied, “You are a son of Jia Kui of Yu Province, yet you dare speak of rebellion! If the state is on its’ last legs then one ought to stand up for it even to the death!”
Seeing that he couldn’t persuade Zhuge Dan to give up his loyalties to Wei, Jia Chong unhappily returned to his master Sima Zhao. Sima Zhao decided that Zhuge Dan was a threat to his ambition and began to prepare troops to combat him. At the same time, Sima Zhao dispatched a messenger delivering the news that Zhuge Dan had been appointed to be Minister of Works and needed to come to the capital. The messenger that Sima Zhao sent irritated Zhuge Dan, who realized that he was being tricked by Sima Zhao. So Zhuge Dan put the envoy to death. Afterwards, Zhuge Dan rode to the territories Wei held in Yangzhou to speak to an Inspector of Wei, Yue Chen, about the matter. Yue Chen foolishly had raised the drawbridge and close the gates of his city and Zhuge Dan cried, “How dare this fellow Yue Chen treat me thus?” Then 10 of Zhuge Dan’s bravest generals crossed the moat of Yue Chen’s city, scaled the walls and slew all the guards who opposed giving Zhuge Dan entrance. The Imperial Protector of Yangzhou, Yue Chen, was frightened and locked himself up in a tower, but Zhuge Dan himself boldly climbed the building and met with Yue Chen face to face. Zhuge Dan then reproached Yue Chen and screamed, “Your father, Yue Jing, enjoyed the bounty of Wei. Yet you have not sought to repay the kindness of the Ruling House, and instead have the audacity to aid the brigand Sima Zhao!” Before Yue Chen could answer to these insults, Zhuge Dan furiously cut him down.
With Yue Chen dead, Zhuge Dan thus absorbed the troops that Wei held in Yangzhou into his army. He then sent a letter to the capital, Luoyang, detailing the many faults of the Sima family. Gathering the militia south and East of the river Huai, Zhuge Dan prepared for a long war with Sima Zhao. Then Zhuge Dan sent his son, Zhuge Jing, as a hostage to Wu, thus engineering an alliance with Wu’s Prime Minister, Sun Chen, against Sima Zhao. Zhuge Dan thought all was going well with his rebellion, and also thought he had the Wei Emperor’s support. Soon Sima Zhao went to attack Zhuge Dan with the Emperor of Wei, Cao Mao, and the Empress under his command however, and thus the devious minister of the Sima house eliminated the possibility of the Wei Emperor wresting power from him while he was away.
When Guanqiu Jian had revolted against Wei prior to Zhuge Dan’s own rebellion, he had joined forces with a former commander of Wei’s named Wen Qin. Zhuge Dan’s prior occupation of Shouchun forced Wen Qin to flee to Wu, but when he heard that another stand had been made against Wei, Wen Qin sent his troops to assist his former adversary, Zhuge Dan, with his brave sons Wen Yang and Wen Hu. Zhuge Dan, supported by auxiliary troops from Wu and Wen Qin, thus felt confident enough to lead an assault against Sima Zhao, who had come to the South with mighty armies numbering several hundred thousand. In response, Sima Zhao ingeniously had one of his officers carry tons of valuables which were spilled along a road that the forces of Wu passed through, and because of this the Wu allies that Zhuge Dan had were distracted and occupied themselves with gathering up valuables rather than with fighting. Zhuge Dan, without the support of his comrades, was soon overwhelmed by Sima Zhao and forced to retreat into Shouchun. After the Wu general Zhu Yi was routed by Sima Zhao’s armies soon afterwards, Sima Zhao laid siege to Zhuge Dan’s city.
Zhuge Dan was hard-pressed from the start, and soon three retainers of his, Quan Wei, Quan Duan and Quan Yi, all defected to the camp of Sima Zhao. Zhuge Dan became miserable and stubborn as the straits of his forces grew worse. Two of his advisors, Jiao Yi and Jiang Ban, said to him, “The supplies of the city are running low, yet the soldiers we have are many. If Sima Zhao’s siege continues, we will not able to last long, but while your soldiers’ morale is high, you should go to engage the Wei troops with your Wu allies.” Zhuge Dan had been extremely upset with his last defeat at the hands of Sima Zhao however, and he didn’t want to sally out of Shouchun to engage his enemies again. He angrily turned on his loyal officers and shouted, “Why do you tell me to fight when I am set on holding out till the very last? If you suggest such egregious schemes again, I shall have you killed as traitors!” Jiao Yi and Jiang Ban afterwards knew that their lord’s cause was hopeless, so in the middle of the night they too slipped over the walls of Shouchun and went over to Sima Zhao’s camp.
While starvation loomed over the city of Shouchun, Sima Zhao’s soldiers began to construct walls to withstand the flooding that usually occurred in autumn. Unfortunately, the season was dry though, and Zhuge Dan’s last hope of resisting Sima Zhao flickered as soon as he learned that the rivers nearby Shouchun would not overrun his enemies. Wen Qin and other officers of Zhuge Dan grew anxious with their lord’s depression and the lack of rations that their city had. “The northern troops should be sent away in order to save food,” suggested Wen Qin to Zhuge Dan (2). But Zhuge Dan could not be persuaded to have troops leave and exploded with anger at Wen Qin’s suggestion saying, “Is it that you wish to kill me that you propose to send the northern soldiers away?” Zhuge Dan then cruelly murdered Wen Qin and because of this misdeed, Wen Qin’s stalwart sons mutinied against Zhuge Dan and massacred tons of Shouchun’s defenders. Then Wen Qin’s two sons escaped to join Sima Zhao’s soldiers.
2: This quote, with perhaps some slight modifications, appears to have been taken directly from Zhuge Dan’s Sanguozhi biography. And what Zhuge Dan did to Wen Qin afterwards follows what occurred historically. Zhuge Dan probably grew suspicious of Wen Qin when the latter wanted to lead troops out of the city to gather supplies. As many from Zhuge Dan’s camp had betrayed to Wei, Zhuge Dan likely thought that Wen Qin, who might have held a grudge against Zhuge Dan, was going to do the same. Zhuge Dan completely ignored Wen Qin’s advice and had a falling out with him, eventually slaying him out of distrust historically.
Wen Qin’s sons were both given ranks and treated kindly by Sima Zhao, which caused the troops guarding Shouchun to lose the will to continue holding out. “If even the children of Wen Qin have been dealt with generously by Sima Zhao, cannot we surrender and receive the same treatment?” complained several of them. Zhuge Dan heard such statements and was enraged. He started becoming paranoid and began to patrol the city of Shouchun constantly, putting to death anybody who treatened to surrender. The conditions in Shouchun were squalid as Zhuge Dan kept stubbornly resisting and Sima Zhao would not relent with his attack. Finally, as Sima Zhao’s men were assailing Shouchun rigorously, one of Zhuge Dan’s officers named Zeng Xuan treacherously opened the north gate of the city so that Sima Zhao’s troops poured into the city of Shouchun like a vicious torrent. Zhuge Dan, hearing that Wei soldiers had breached the defenses of his stronghold, rode out of the city to try to flee to Wu, but as he reached the drawbridge of Shouchun he was slain by a Wei general named Hu Fen. Many of his followers, specifically the men who made up his guard, were still loyal to Zhuge Dan, and refused to serve Sima Zhao. They, along with all of Sima Zhao’s family, were slaughtered, and thus the last great threat to Sima Zhao’s authority was eliminated.
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Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms