Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Lü Meng, styled Ziming, was from Fupo in Runan. In his youth he went south of the River to stay with his older sister’s husband, Deng Dang. Deng Dang was a military officer under Sun Ce and on several occasions went to fight the Shanyue. Lü Meng was about 15 or 16 years of age then, and he followed Deng Dang in secret to attack the bandits. When Deng Dang found out, he was shocked; despite much remonstration he was unable to stop Lü Meng from going. Upon their return, Deng Dang told Lü Meng’s mother about it. She was furious and was about to punish Lü Meng. Meng said, “One cannot stay poor forever. But if by chance I gain merit and honour in something, fortune and prestige would come. As they say, ‘if you don’t go deep into the tiger’s den, how can you hope to catch a tiger cub?’” His mother was moved by his words and relented.
It chanced that there was one officer under Deng Dang who looked down on Lü Meng because of the latter’s youth. He said, “What can this nestling do? [Having him in the army] is no different than having a piece of meat around to feed a tiger with.” On a different day, he met with Lü Meng, and insulted him again. Lü Meng, infuriated, unsheathed his sword and killed the officer, after which he fled to the home of Zheng Zhang, an elder of his village. Later, he turned himself in to colonel Yuan Xiong, who mentioned his story to Sun Ce. Sun Ce had Lü Meng come see him, and was very impressed by him. As such, he had Lü Meng his personal officer.
A few years later, Deng Dang died, and Zhang Zhao recommended Lü Meng to take on Deng’s position. Lü Meng was thus appointed Major of a Separate Command. When Sun Quan assumed leadership, he wanted to merge the troops of those officers who had a small command and minimal expenses. Thereupon, Lü Meng borrowed money in secret in order to outfit his soldiers in bright new clothing and accessories. On the day of a military inspection, he had them in an impressive array when they did their exercises. Upon seeing this, Sun Quan was greatly pleased, and increased Lü Meng’s command. Lü Meng later followed Sun Quan in the conquest of Danyang, and for his merits he was appointed Colonel who Pacifies the North and designated Chief of Guangde commune.
He then participated in the campaign against Huang Zu. Huang Zu ordered his Chief Commander Chen Jiu to repel them by leading the navy forth. Lü Meng, leading the vanguard, personally cut off Chen Jiu’s head. Commander and soldier alike, morale boosted, pressed on and besieged the city. When Huang Zu heard of Chen Jiu’s death, he fled the city. [Sun Quan’s] army pursued him and captured him. Sun Quan remarked, “The success of this campaign is based on the swift capture of Chen Jiu.” Thus he made Lü Meng General of the Interior who Crosses the Fields, and award him ten million cash.
In the same year, Lü Meng also defeated Lord Cao at Wulin, and besieged Cao Ren at Nanjun. When Xi Su, a general from Yizhou, defected to Wu with his troops, Zhou Yu petitioned for Xi Su’s troops to be added to Lü Meng’s command. Lü Meng, however, heaped praises on Xi Su’s valour, and argued that since Xi Su had come to join them from afar, courtesy dictates that it is better to increase his command rather than to take it away from him. Sun Quan agreed with him and returned the troops to Xi Su.
Zhou Yu then sent Gan Ning to march ahead and take Yiling. Cao Ren sent a division of his forces to attack Gan Ning, who, in desperation, dispatched a messenger to request reinforcements. All the other commanders thought that they did not have enough soldiers to split up [to save Gan Ning], but Lü Meng said to Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu, “Leave Ling Gongji [Ling Tong] here, and I shall go with you sirs to lift the siege. The current situation would not hold on for too long, and I will guarantee that Gongji can hold this place for ten days.” He also persuaded Zhou Yu to sent a separate force of three hundred to block the narrow trails with firewood, so that should the enemy flee that way, their horses could be taken. Zhou Yu followed his advice. The army made battle on the very same day it arrived at Yiling, and killed over half of the enemy. The rest of the enemy forces sought to escape by night, but ended up at the firewood-blocked road. The horsemen dismounted and fled on foot. The [Wu] army pursued them and captured three hundred horses before taking them back on boats. Thereupon, with their strength and morale doubled, they [the Wu army] built a garrison on the other side of the River in order to oppose Cao Ren. Cao Ren retreated eventually, and they occupied Nanjun and pacified Jingzhou. Upon Lü Meng’s return, he was appointed Lieutenant-General, and designated Chief of Xunyang commune.
When Lu Su succeeded Zhou Yu’s position, he went to Lukou and passed by Lü Meng’s fort. Lu Su had thought little of Lü Meng. Some said to Lu Su, “General Lü [Meng]’s honour is on the rise by the day, and he should not be treated contemptuously. Sir, you should go pay him respect.” Thus Lu Su went to see Lü Meng. After the men were merry with wine, Lü Meng asked Lu Su, “Sir, you have now been entrusted with the grave responsibility to be neighbours with Guan Yu. What sort of strategies do you have in mind, just in case of the unexpected?” Lu Su said carelessly, “I’ll do whatever the situation calls for.” Lü Meng said, “Although the East and the West are one family now, Guan Yu is in reality like a bear and a tiger. How can plans not be prepared ahead of time?” At that, he came up with five strategies for Lu Su. Lu Su rose from his seat and walked over to Lü Meng’s, and patted his back, saying, “Lü Ziming, I had no idea that you are so advanced in tactical abilities and knowledge!” After that, he paid homage to Lü Meng’s mother, and departed a close friend of Lü’s. (1)
1: Jiangbiao Zhuan: Earlier on, Sun Quan said to Lü Meng and Jiang Qin, “You gentlemen are now independently responsible for important affairs, and should spend time studying in order to improve yourselves.” Lü Meng said, “In the military, we are plagued by many duties, and I fear we wouldn’t have extra time to read books.” Sun Quan said, “Did I say I wanted you to research the Classics in order to become a erudite? I only want you to study so that you have a taste of the different situations in history. You said you are busy, but can you be busier than me? When I was young, I read through the Odes, the Book of History, the Book of Rites, the Zuo Commentaries, the Tales of the States, and only the Book of Changes I did not study. Since I’ve taken up leadership, I’ve studied the Three Histories as well as military classics of different authors, and I feel that I have benefited greatly from it. The two of you have bright minds, and once you try to learn something, you will understand it. So why not do it? I suggest that you quickly take up Sun Tzu, the Six Stratagems, the Zuo Chronicles, the Tales of the States, and the Three Histories. Confucius said, ‘I would not eat the whole day, not sleep the whole night, and try to think; but nothing good would come out of it. It would be better for me to study.’ Emperor Guangwu, even when out on the field, was never seen without a scroll in his hands. Mengde [Cao Cao] also says that he is fond of learning though he is old. Would you alone not seek to improve yourselves?” From that point on, Lü Meng began to study in earnest, and would never tire of his efforts. Eventually, the amount of things that he studied exceeded that of long-time scholars.
In later times, Lu Su went to replace Zhou Yu’s position, and he dropped in at Lü Meng’s and conversed with him, and he was often won over by the latter’s arguments. Lu Su patted Lü Meng’s back, saying, “I had always thought that you, younger brother, are simply a man of military prowess, but now, your learning is broad and deep, and you are hardly the same old Ah-Meng of Wu!” Lü Meng replied, “Once you part with a gentleman for three days, you should view him with new eyes. The plans you, older brother, proposed today can hardly make you a Marquis Rang (I). Now you, older brother, are replacing Gongjin, who is difficult to match. Furthermore, you will be neighbours with Guan Yu—that man is fond of studying though he is advancing in age, and is able to recite the Zuo Chronicles from memory. He is an upright person with the air of a hero; however, he is haughty of nature and likes to belittle others. Now that we stand in opposition to him, we need to have some sort of plan or another to prepare for the worse. ” Thereupon, he drew up three plans for Lu Su, who received them humbly and guarded them secretly. Sun Quan would often sigh and say, “Of those who went and improved themselves after they are grown men, none could match Lü Meng and Jiang Qin. Though they enjoy great wealth and honour already, they humbled themselves and applied to studying, taking pleasure from historical books, upholding the virtuous ways by viewing wealth lightly. Their conduct is worthy of recommendation! Now we have them as the core officers of the state—what more can I ask for?”
I: Marquis Rang of the Qin state during the Warring States period was responsible for assisting the Prince of Qin build the state up to the military giant that it was.
At that time, Lü Meng was stationed right next to Cheng Dang, Song Ding, and Xu Gu. Those three generals died, leaving only sons and younger brothers of a tender age. Sun Quan thus ordered their former troops reassigned to Lü Meng. Lü Meng declined, stating that since Xu Gu and the other two had exerted their fullest for the good of the state, and thus although the junior members of their family were still young, [what they had left behind] should not be given away. Lü Meng wrote several times to Sun Quan before Sun Quan accepted his point. Lü Meng also chose teachers to instruct them [the sons of the deceased generals]. This is an indication of how much he cared for them.
Wei sent Xie Qi of Lujiang to be the Minister of Agriculture of Qichun, and to build farming colonies in the fields of Wan. He would often raid the Wu border. Lü Meng had someone try to lure him over, but he would not be taken. Thus Lü Meng, having waited for the right moment, launched a surprise attack, and Xie Qi retreated. His officers Sun Zicai, Song Hao, among others took their families and defected to Lü Meng. After that, Lü Meng went with Sun Quan to repel Lord Cao’s attack at Ruxu. On several occasions he proposed brilliant plans to Sun Quan. He also urged Sun Quan to build forts on all sides of the harbour, and therefore the Wu defences were very well-prepared. Lord Cao retreated, being unable to penetrate the defences. (2)
2: Records of Wu: Sun Quan was about to build the forts, but the generals all opposed the idea, saying, “We either land and hit the enemy on solid ground, or we wet our feet and board the naval ships [to fight]. What good are those forts for?” Lü Meng said, “An army has its times of strength and weakness, and there is no such thing as sure victory. If we encounter the enemy suddenly, and their infantry and cavalry are pressing on, we wouldn’t have time to get to the water, let alone boarding the ships.” Sun Quan said, “Let it be so.” And thus he had the forts built.
Lord Cao sent Zhu Guang to be Grand Administrator of Lujiang, and to build a fort at Wan and expand the farmlands there. He also sent spies to connect with the leaders of bandits in the Poyang area and influence them to coordinate with the northern army from behind the borders. Lü Meng said, “The fields in Wan are fertile, and once they have a harvest, their troops there would increase. A few more years and Cao Cao’s establishment there would be complete. We should strike early.” And so he submitted a report on this. Thus Sun Quan marched towards Wan in person, and summoned all the generals there to him and asked for advice. (3)
3: History of Wu: All the generals urged him to build earthen mounds and increase the supply of siege weaponry. Lü Meng, however, suggested, “If we want to make siege weaponry and earth mounds, it would take us many days. By that time, the city defences would have been raised and outside help arrived. Then it would be too late for us. Furthermore, we had come here taking advantage of the high water level of the river, and if we stay here too long the water level would drop, and retreat would be difficult. I am very worried about that. My view of this city is that it can’t be very well-defended. So if we besiege it now, attacking from all sides in full morale, we can take it in no time at all. After that, we can retreat back on the waters. This is the way of sure success.” Sun Quan accepted this plan.
Lü Meng thus recommended Gan Ning to be in charge of storming the city walls, and lead the attack up front. Lü Meng himself backed him up with an elite force. Early in the morning they advanced the attack, and Lü Meng personally beat the war drums. The soldiers, morale raised, stormed the walls in great ferocity, and by lunch-time the city was taken. When Zhang Liao arrived at Jiashi and heard that the city was lost, he retreated. Sun Quan, to honour Lü Meng’s contribution, made him Grand Administrator of Lujiang, and put under his command all the captured men and horses. He furthermore awarded him six hundred men from the agricultural colony in Xunyang and thirty officers. Lü Meng was on his way back to Xunyang while the bandits in Luling rose in rebellion. None of the generals sent to subdue them were successful. Sun Quan said, “Even a hundred regular ferocious birds cannot match one osprey (II).” And he sent Lü Meng forth again to fight them. Once Lü Meng arrived there, he killed the instigator of the rebellion, and the rest of the captives he set free.
II: The osprey, being one of the most respected birds in Chinese culture, is often used to represent a high-achieving person or someone of great power. The saying “Even a hundred regular ferocious birds cannot match one osprey” is a proverb referring to someone whose is far more talented than everyone else in his class.
At that time, Liu Bei commanded Guan Yu to guard the lands of Jing and maintain their sovereignty. Sun Quan ordered Lü Meng to go west and take the three commanderies of Changsha, Lingling, and Guiyang. Two of the commanderies saw the tide of times and submitted to Lü Meng upon receiving a letter from him, but the Grand Administrator of Lingling, Hao Pu, alone held his city and did not surrender. By that time, Liu Bei had already gone to Gong’an from Shu personally and sent Guan Yu to contend for the three commanderies. Sun Quan was then at Lukou, and commanded Lu Su lead ten thousand men to hold off Guan Yu at Yiyang. An urgent order was also despatched to Lü Meng, summoning him to abandon Lingling and return quickly to reinforce Lu Su.
Before that time, Lü Meng had passed by Ling city when he was on the way to Lingling after taking Changsha. There he met and took along with him one Deng Xuanzhi of Nanyang, who was an old friend of Hao Pu’s. Lü Meng planned to use Xuanzhi to trick Hao Pu. When he received the letter from Sun Quan requesting his retreat, Lü Meng did not announce it, but instead, he summoned all the generals that night and instructed them to attack the city in the morning. He then turned and said to Xuanzhi, “Hao Zitai [Hao Pu] knows that there is such a thing as loyalty and righteousness, and clearly he would want to abide by them. However, he doesn’t understand the times. The General of the Left [Liu Bei] is now besieged by Xiahou Yuan at Hanzhong. Guan Yu is in Nanjun, but my liege is already heading thither himself. Most recently, we took over the main fort of Fan and saved Ling, and the enemy was routed by Sun Gui. These are all events happening before our eyes, and good sir, you have witnessed them yourself. Right now, they [Shu’s forces] are completely frustrated and cannot even save themselves where they are, so how could they spare strength to keep their hold in this place? On the contrary, our soldiers are fresh and battle-ready, and each man thinks of naught but fighting for honour. The reinforcements sent by my liege are also on the way already.
“What Zitai is doing now is thus hoping against hope for help, while his life hangs by a thread. This is just like a fish in a drying pond hoping for the waters of the Yangtze and the Han Rivers—it’s clear that this wishing is in vain. If Zitai is completely certain that he could unite the hearts of his soldiers and officers, and maintain the defences of this isolated city, he might be able to survive just a bit longer and hope for reinforcements to arrive; but I have already calculated our strength carefully before besieging this place, and I know that in no time the city will fall. What good would it do for him [Hao Pu] to lose his life when the city falls? And would it not be tragic for his white-haired mother to be killed as well? My guess is that he here doesn’t have access to outside information, and is thus mistaken about the possibility of aid and acts thus in this mistaken way. Good sir, do go and see him and let him know the right way of action.”
Thus Deng Xuanzhi went to see Hao Pu and told him what Lü Meng had said. Hao Pu became fearful and assented to [surrendering]. Xuanzhi then left first to report back to Lü Meng, and Hao Pu went after him. Lü Meng had ordered four generals ahead of time to take one hundred men each, and to take the city gates as soon as Hao Pu leaves the city. A short while later, Hao Pu came out of the city, and Lü Meng went up, held his hand and took him into the boat with him. After the salutations, he brought out the letter [from Sun Quan], showed it to Hao Pu, and clapped his hands and laughed. As soon as Hao Pu saw the letter, he realized that Liu Bei was in Gong’an and Guan Yu was in Yiyang, and he was mortally ashamed. Thereupon, Lü Meng left Sun Jiao in charge of the affairs there, and on the same day he led his troops towards Yiyang. Later, Liu Bei requested a peace treaty, and Sun Quan returned Hao Pu and others to him, and drew the border at the Xiang River and gave Lingling back to him. Xunyang and Yangxin were given to Lü Meng as fief.
The army returned and went on to attack Hefei. After the retreat had commenced, they were ambushed by Zhang Liao and others. Lü Meng and Ling Tong defended Sun Quan with their lives. When Lord Cao sent a great force out of Ruxu again later, Sun Quan made Lü Meng the chief controller of the army. He held the forts that they had built earlier on, and placed ten thousand strong crossbows on them in order to hold out against Lord Cao. Thus, Lü Meng defeated Lord Cao’s vanguard even before they were able to dig in. Lord Cao retreated. For this, Sun Quan appointed Lü Meng Keeper of the Left Army, and General of Tiger Might.
At the time of Lu Su’s death, Lü Meng was garrisoned at Lukou, and so the ten-thousand strong unit—men and horses—of Lu Su’s was placed under Lü Meng’s command. Lü Meng was also appointed Grand Administrator of Hanchang and given as fiefs Xiajun, Liuyang, Hanchang, and Zhouling. In that position, he shared a border with Guan Yu, and knew that Guan Yu was a man of military ambition and had plans to annex their land. Furthermore, since Guan Yu was situated upriver from Wu, the balance of power then could not be maintained for long. Originally, Lu Su among others had proposed to keep [friendship with Guan Yu] since Lord Cao was still alive and danger [from the north] was still eminent, and they thought it was better to cooperate with Guan Yu and fight against a common enemy. Lü Meng submitted a secret plan, saying, “Have the General Caitiff-Conqueror [Sun Jiao] guard Nanjun, Pan Zhang stationed at Baidi, Jiang Qin lead ten thousand men patrolling the River and reinforcing points opposing the enemy’s strongholds, and me push forward to Xiangyang for the state—then, what reason would we have for worrying about Cao Cao, or for depending on Guan Yu? On top of that, Guan Yu and his liege are haughty and are given to ways of deceit, changing their minds all the time, and we cannot treat them as a close friend. The only reason why Guan Yu had not tried marching east is because of my Liege’s brilliance and because of me and other generals’ being still alive. Once we are gone, he will easily take over our land by a simple show of might.” Sun Quan agreed greatly with him. He then brought up in passing the idea of taking Xuzhou. Lü Meng replied, “Now that Cao Cao is far away in Hebei and has newly routed the Yuan’s, he is too busy garnering the support of those in Youzhou and Jizhou to care about the east. I’ve heard that the forces guarding Xuzhou are unworthy of mention, so if we are to go there, they would be subdued without question. However, the geography up there is such that the land is all well-connected by roads, and swift cavalry can easily ride from here to there. Should you, my liege, take Xuzhou today, in ten days Cao Cao would be there to contest for the land. Even if we leave seventy or eighty thousand men there to guard it, we would still have to worry about it. The better plan is to take out Guan Yu and hold the length of the River in its entirety, so that we can be in a position to expand our holdings strategically.” Sun Quan thought especially highly of this advice. When Lü Meng replaced Lu Su and first got to Lukou, he doubled the diplomatic efforts to befriend Guan Yu.
Later, Guan Yu attacked Fan, and left troops behind to guard Gong’an and Nanjun. Lü Meng submitted a petition saying, “Guan Yu is attacking Fan and yet he left a large contingent behind. This must be because he feared that I would have designs on his land behind him. Since I am known to be sickly, I wish to take a part of the troops with me back to Jianye on the excuse of a sick leave. Once Guan Yu hears of it, he would definitely recall all his reserve troops and have them go to Xiangyang. At that time, our forces can sail up the River day and night and swiftly attack the emptied city—this way, we can take over Nanjun and capture Guan Yu.” He then spread word that he was deathly ill, and correspondingly Sun Quan issued an unclassified edict summoning him back [to Jianye], and plotted in secret with him. Guan Yu, indeed, believed them, and removed part of the forces in Nanjun to assist the army at the frontlines in Fan. Wei sent Yu Jin to save Fan, but Guan Yu captured Yu Jin and his command—men and horses numbering tens of thousands. Guan Yu then claimed that they were short on supplies and seized the grains at Xiangguan without permission [from Wu]. On hearing that, Sun Quan mobilized his men, and sent Lü Meng to move ahead of the main forces. When Lü Meng arrived at Xunyang, he hid his crack troops in small boats disguised as merchants, and had men in commoner dress row the boats day and night up the river toward the guard posts Guan Yu set up on the banks of the river. Immediately they overcame all the guards and took them captive, which was the reason why Guan Yu did not hear anything about this. They then arrived at Nanjun, and Shi Ren and Mi Fang surrendered. (4)
4: History of Wu: General Shi Ren was holding them off at Gong’an. Lü Meng ordered Yu Fan to persuade him [to surrender]. When Yu Fan arrived at the city gates, he said to the gatekeeper, “I wish to have a word with your general.” Shi Ren would not meet with him. So Yu Fan wrote him the following letter, “A man of wisdom prevents disaster before it has a chance to arise, and an intelligent one prepares against calamities that would come in the future. Only when you know success from failure can you live as a man; and in knowing about circumstances that would lead to life or death that you can have good fortune, averting the bad. When our army arrived, your messengers did not have a chance to be dispatched, and the beacons could not be lit in time. If this isn’t destined by Heaven, it must be that there are spies among you. General, you have been blind to the tides of fortune before they came, and when the time came, you were unable to deal with it. Alone you attempt to guard this helpless city, refusing to surrender; should you fight to your death your ancestral temples would be destroyed and your line ended. For that you would be mocked by all men in ages to come. General Lü of Tiger Might is about to go straight to Nanjun and cut off all routes of return. Once the roads are blocked, you will become geographically cut off from the rest of the state. Should you attempt to flee, you would be not able to escape. Should you surrender then, you will seem faithless then. I personally feel uneasy for you, and beg you to think carefully of your current situation.” When Shi Ren got the letter, he wept and surrendered. Yu Fan said to Lü Meng, “These are soldiers of trickery. We should take Shi Ren along with us, and leave some of our men to guard the city.” Thus they took Shi Ren along to Nanjun. Mi Fang, Grand Administrator of Nanjun, was preparing to hold out against the invaders from within the city, but once Lü Meng showed him Shi Ren, he surrendered.
Records of Wu: Earlier on, there was a fire in the city of Nanjun, and much military accessories were destroyed. Guan Yu reproached Mi Fang for that, and Mi Fang became fearful of him from then on. Hearing that, Sun Quan approached him, and Mi Fang secretly agreed to defect. When Lü Meng attacked the city, he came out of the city with beef and wine and surrendered.
Thus Lü Meng entered the city and captured the all the families of Guan Yu and his subordinates. He consoled them all, and issued an order that no soldier should disturb the homes in the cities or ask them for anything. There was a soldier under Lü Meng’s own command, a man from Runan, who took a rain shawl from a peasant household in order to cover the state-issued armour. Even though the armour was public property, Lü Meng took this to be an offence of military law, and the rules must be upheld even though the man was a fellow villager of his. Thus he wept and had the soldier beheaded. All trembled within the camps, and none dared as much as pick up abandoned items at the roadside. From dawn ’til dusk Lü Meng had his close officers visit the elders in the city, and ask about their needs. To the sick he gave medicine, and to those who were hungry and cold he bestowed clothes and food. As for the money and treasures stored in Guan Yu’s residence, he had them sealed and kept under close guard in waiting for Sun Quan’s arrival. When Guan Yu was on his way back, he sent several messengers to seek news from Lü Meng. Lü Meng would always treat the messengers handsomely, and take them around the city. All the families would come out and ask for news and give them letters to take with them. When Guan Yu’s messengers returned, everyone in the camps would go to them in secret and learn that their families were not only safe and sound, but were treated even better than in previous times. Therefore, Guan Yu’s officers and soldiers lost the will to fight, and once Sun Quan approached, Guan Yu fled to Mai city, knowing that he had no more support. All the way west to Zhangxiang, everyone left Guan Yu and surrendered. Sun Quan had Zhu Ran and Pan Zhang lay an ambush on the way, and captured Guan Yu and his son. Thus Jingzhou was taken.
Sun Quan made Lü Meng Grand Administrator of Nanjun and Marquis of Chanling. He awarded him a hundred million cash and five hundred catties of gold. Lü Meng insisted on declining the award, but Sun Quan would not have it. However, before the noble title was formalized, Lü Meng was taken ill. Sun Quan was in Gong’an at that time, so he took Lü Meng into the inner palace for care, and recruited doctors from all parts of the realm to treat him. An edict was issued stating that he who was able to treat Lü Meng’s illness would be awarded one thousand gold. Whenever Lü Meng required acupuncture treatment, Sun Quan would feel sad for him and on several occasions wished to go and see his complexion. However, fearing that he would disturb him, he punched a hole in a wall and watched Lü Meng through it from outside. When he saw that he could eat a bit of food, Sun Quan would become glad, and spoke happily to his attendants. Otherwise, he would sigh, and not be able to sleep at night. When Lü Meng seemed to be improving, Sun Quan granted a general amnesty to all in Lü Meng’s honour, and all the officers rejoiced and congratulated him. However, the illness then took a turn for the worse, and Sun Quan went to visit him personally, and ordered Taoist priests to pray under the stars for Lü Meng’s life. Lü Meng eventually died in the inner palace at the age of 42. Upon his death, Sun Quan was grief-stricken, and fasted in mourning of him. Before his death, Lü Meng had carefully stored all the gold and treasures ever awarded to him, and ordered that, on the day of his death, the keeper of the store were to return all of it to the state. He also willed to keep funeral expenses to a minimum. When Sun Quan heard about it, his grief doubled. (5)
5: Jiangbiao Zhuan: Sun Quan had a big feast at Gong’an, but Lü Meng declined the invitation on the account of his illness. Sun Quan smiled and said, “The capturing of Guan Yu should be credited to Ziming’s plans. Now that the great accomplishment has been attained, can he be sad and sick while the awards have not been given out yet?” Thus he increased the number of Lü Meng’s drummers and horn-blowers, both mounted and unmounted. He also personally picked out officers to add to the Office of the General of Tiger Might, and granted him the banners and honours of the two commanderies of Nanjun and Lujiang. After Lü Meng went and paid his respect to Sun Quan, he returned to his camp with much fanfare, with a large contingent going before him and surrounded by drums and horns honouring him.
When Lü Meng was younger, he did not apply himself to reading and writing, and usually dictated letters orally. Thus Cai Yi, Grand Administrator of Jiangxia, often filed complaints against him for some business of his unit. Lü Meng, however, did not bear a grudge. When the Grand Administrator of Yuzhang, Gu Shao, died, Sun Quan asked Lü Meng to recommend a replacement. Lü Meng recommended Cai Yi as a dutiful and responsible officer. Sun Quan laughed and said, “Are you trying to be like Qi Xi (III)?” And he appointed Cai Yi to that position. Gan Ning had been violent and fond of killing, and often acted in contrary to Lü Meng’s wishes or disobeyed Sun Quan’s orders. Sun Quan was angry at him. Lü Meng would always speak on Gan Ning’s behalf, “Since the world has not been settled and fighters like Gan Ning are hard to come by, it would be best to tolerate him.” And so Sun Quan treated Gan Ning well, and eventually he proved to be a worthy officer.
III: Qi Xi was a chief minister of the state of Jin during the Spring and Autumn period. When he retired from his position, the Marquis of Jin asked him to recommend a replacement for his position. The first man that Qi Xi recommended was Jie Hu, his long-time enemy.
Lü Meng’s son Lü Ba inherited his noble title, and was given 300 households for the purpose of guarding the grave, as well as an extra 50 qing of farmland. After Lü Ba died, his elder brother, Lü Zong inherited the marquisate. After Zong’s death, his younger brother Lü Mu was heir.
Once Sun Quan was having a discussion with Lu Xun about Zhou Yu, Lu Su, and Lü Meng. Sun Quan said, “Gongjin was bold and dashing, and both in courage and intelligence was not equaled by any other. Thus he defeated Mengde and expanded into Jinghzou. His achievements are lofty and difficult to match—but you have now matched them. In the past, Gongjin invited Zijing to come to the east and introduced him to me. When I first talked to him at a banquet, he already outlined for me the way to build an empire. This was one great thing about him. Later, when Mengde became emboldened by his capturing Liu Zong, and boasted that he leading hundreds of thousands of naval and infantry troops here, I invited all the generals to inquire into their opinion, but no one was able to draw up a plan. However, when Zibu [Zhang Zhao] and Wenbiao [Qin Song??] both proposed that we should send an emissary and respectfully invite [Cao Cao] in, Zijing immediately argued against it, and urged me to call Gongjin here quickly and give him control over the forces in order to repel [Cao Cao]. This was the second great thing about him [Lu Su]. His strategies were miles better than those of Zhang [Yi] and Su [Qin] (IV). Although he later persuaded me to lend land to Xuande, which was a shortcoming of his, it’s not enough to overshadow the two great points about him. The Duke of Zhou (V) said to never require anyone to completely possess all strengths and abilities, and so I forget about his shortcomings and value his strengths, often comparing him to Deng Yu (VI). Then, there’s Ziming—when he was younger, I had thought that he was only someone who did not fear extreme hardships and who was determined and courageous. However, when he was older, he applied himself to studying, and became quite knowledgeable. His plans and tactics were uncommonly excellent and were second only to those of Gongjin’s. It’s just in speech and style that he was unable to match Gongjin. In his planning to capture Guan Yu, he was better than Zijing. Zijing had responded to my letter once, ‘At the beginning of empire-building, there are always those whom one wants to get rid of. Guan Yu is not of concern.’ This is simply Zijing being unable to do the task and saying bold things to cover himself. I forgive him that and was not harsh on him. In his commanding troops, though, he had never missed anything in building camps, and his men would never violate his orders, and were of such good discipline that they wouldn’t pick up lost items by the roadside. The way [Lu Su] did things was certainly also commendable.”
IV: Zhang Yi and Su Qin were two renowned lobbyists of the Warring States period. One drew up plans for the state of Qin to annex the other six states, and the other persuaded the six states to unite against Qin’s aggression. Together, their plans shaped the political environment of the later Warring States.
V: The Duke of Zhou, Ji Dan, of the beginning of the Zhou dynasty was known as one who was able to employ men of talent for the building up of the new kingdom.
VI: Deng Yu was one of the most important advisors of Emperor Guangwu of the Eastern Han, who often consulted him on both military and domestic affairs. After the reunification of the empire, Deng Yu was named the first of the 28 commanders who aided in the establishing of the dynasty. He was also famous for his virtuous conduct.
My [Chen Shou’s] comments: When the Lord Cao, in his position as Prime Minister of Han, took the emperor into his power and wiped out enemy after enemy, and manifested his majesty in the Eastlands having freshly conquered Jing city, no one doubted the certainty [that he would be unbeatable]. However, Zhou Yu and Lu Su alone maintained the view that [Wu] should be independent. This makes them stand out among common men—they indeed are rare talents! Lü Meng was not only brave, but also full of strategies and able at employing military tactics. His tricking of Hao Pu and capturing of Guan Yu were the most brilliant strokes. Though at first he had killed unnecessarily without thinking about the consequences, at the end he managed to discipline himself, showing that he has the capacity of being a core minister of the kingdom. How can he be considered solely a military officer? Sun Quan’s commentary notes their respective strengths and weaknesses properly, and thus I have included it here.
Copyright © 2004
Translated from Chen Shou’s Records of the Three Kingdoms annoted by Pei Songzhi