Biography (SGZ): Deng Ai (Shizai)

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Deng Ai (Shizai)
鄧艾 (士載)

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
translated by Battleroyale

Deng Ai zhi Shizai, was from Yi Yang county Ji Yang Xian. He lost his father when he was young and moved to Ru Nan county after Cao Cao capture Jing Zhou. At twelve years old, Deng Ai accompanied his mother to Ying Chuan county. When young, Deng Ai had a habit of stuttering and thus was given only a lowly post in charge of guarding the farmland. Whenever Deng Ai saw mountainous, swampy or other different types of terrain in the wild, he would imagine himself positioning army camps at strategic positions in the terrain just like an army commander (much to the amusement of his friends). Subsequently, Deng Ai was promoted to be a minor administrative officer. During a trip to the court (to present accounting records), Deng Ai got acquainted with Sima Yi, the Tai Wei of the Wei Kingdom. Sima Yi saw that Deng Ai was a man of talent and transfer him to his department. Deng Ai was soon promoted to the post of Shang Shu Lang.

At that time, the Wei administration intended to embark on agricultural projects in order to boost the army food supplies. Deng Ai was thus dispatched to inspect Chen Xuan, Xiang Xuan and the region to the east till Shou Chun for possibility of implementation of the projects. From his inspection tour, Deng Ai concluded that systematic and large scale irrigation projects would need to be executed in order to maximize land use in those regions and he wrote a report entitled “Ji He Lun” to justify his opinions. In addition, Deng Ai believed that the issue of adequate food supply and the methods of obtaining it were crucial to winning battles. Due to the under-developed farmlands in the newly acquired prefectures (region south of Huai Shui), food supplies for large-scale military maneuvers had to be supplemented by transportation of supplies from other regions. According to Deng Ai’s observation, the number of soldiers used in transportation of supplies often measures more than half of the total number of soldiers mobilized. As such, Deng Ai proposed an alternative solution, which was to cultivate the region around Huai Shui by diverting more irrigation channels to it and reducing those intended for the regions Chen Xuan, and Shang Cai Xuan, which according to Deng Ai, already had fertile topsoil. Through this plan, Deng Ai postulated that after 6-7 years, the food supplies obtained from the Huai river region would be sufficient for the consumption by 100,000 soldiers in a period of 5 years. Sima Yi accepted his proposal and in Zhen Shi 2nd year, large-scale implementation were carried out by the army. As a result of Deng Ai’s proposal, food supplies were sufficient in the region of the Huai River and there was no flood for many years.

Deng Ai was subsequently transferred out of the capital and placed under Wei’s Zhen Xi Jiang Jun, Guo Huai and was promoted to become the governor of Nan An. In Jia Ping 1st year, Deng Ai and Guo Huai repelled a northern incursion by Jiang Wei. Guo Huai wanted to take this opportunity to invade the Qiang tribe but Deng Ai advised against it, citing reason that it was likely Jiang Wei would return for a surprise attack. Guo Huai agreed and dispatched Deng Ai to guard the northern coast of Bai Shui. 3 days later, Jiang Wei dispatched Liao Hua to camp at the southern coast of Bai Shui as a ruse while he himself intended to launch a sneak attack at Tao Cheng. However, Deng Ai saw through his plans and proceeded to occupy Tao Cheng before Jiang Wei, thus forcing him to retreat. Deng Ai was duely promoted to be Duke of Guan Nei, Tao Kou Jiang Jun, and governor of Cheng Yang for his meritorious services.

During this time, in Bing Zhou, the Right Virtuous King or Zuo Xian Wang of the Huns, Liu Bao, managed to unite several Huns tribes. Deng Ai proposed to the Wei court that efforts must be made to disintegrate the Huns to prevent them from being united and growing too strong. According to Deng Ai, effective defense of the northern borders could only be achieved when the enemies were disunited. As such, Deng Ai proposed several strategies aiming to cause disunity in the Hun tribes. In addition, Deng Ai proposed that in different phases, the Qiang and Hu people who had assimilated with the Central Plains people should be segregated and re-educated to reduce crimes and atrocities (which they were blamed for).

Soon after, Deng Ai was transferred to be the governor of Ru Nan. On his appointment, he proceeded to locate the father of an official whom had aided him greatly in his younger days. On realizing that the person had already passed away, Deng Ai showed his gratitude by sending gifts to the widow and securing a job for the son of the official. In the places that Deng Ai toured, barren land was cultivated and the standard of living for the populace and army were high.

When Zhuge Ke retreated to Wu after failing to capture Xin Ching in He Fei, Deng Ai commented to Sima Shi that Zhuge Ke would not survive for long. His reasons were Zhuge Ke was arrogant, did not have the support of the populace and had brought disasters for the people of Wu through his repeated failures in military campaigns. True enough, Zhuge Ke was killed after he returned to Wu. Soon, Deng Ai was promoted to be the governor of Yan Zhou and Zhen Wei Jiang Jun and he proposed to the court for a change in the system of reward.

When Cao Mao ascended the Wei throne, Deng Ai was promoted to the Duke of Fang Cheng. During then, Wuqiu Jian rebelled and Deng Ai executed his messenger. Following that, Deng Ai hastens his troops day and night to reach the city of Yue Jia. His army repaired the bridge and subsequently, the army led by Sima Shi arrived and captured the city of Yue Jia. WenQing was defeated by the Wei’s armies and retreated to Wu Kingdom. At this moment, Wu Kingdom’s Da Jiang Jun, Sun Jun, together with other generals led an army (falsely claimed to number 100,000) intending to cross the river and advance northward. Zhuge Dan dispatched Deng Ai to defend FeiYang but the latter felt that FeiYang was far from the enemies’ forces and positioning his troops there would not be strategically useful. As such Deng Ai repositioned his troops at Fu Ting and managed to repel the northward incursion by Wu. Deng Ai was promoted again to Duke of Fang Cheng Xiang and deputy An Xi Jiang Jun for rendering exemplary services.

At Di Dao, the Inspector of Yong province, Wang Jing, broke the encirclement of the Shu army and forced Jiang Wei to retreat to Zhong Ti. Military officials at the Wei court were of the opinion that Jiang Wei’s army was depleted. However, Deng Ai countered their arguments (based on geographical advantages of the enemies, resources, state of the armies and other factors) and predicted that Jiang Wei would embark on more northern incursions. True to Deng Ai’s prediction, Jiang Wei led a northern expedition aiming for Qi Shan soon after. However, when Jiang Wei got news that Deng Ai was fully prepared, he decided to attack Nan An instead. Deng Ai was defending Wu Cheng mountain and both armies were competing for strategic positions. The armies met at Duan Gu and Jiang Wei was badly defeated. Deng Ai was promoted to Duke of Deng, Zhen Xi Jiang Jun (zhen as in the Chinese character suppress) while his son, Deng Zhong, was promoted to Duke of Ting.

In Gan Lu 2nd year, Deng Ai defeated Jiang Wei at the Great Wall and was promoted to Zhen Xi Jiang Jun (zhen as in the Chinese character conquest). In Jin Yuan 3rd year, Deng Ai defeated Jiang Wei again at Hou He forcing him to retreat to Da Zhong. In the autumn of Jin Yuan 4th year, the Wei Emperor decreed Sima Zhao to lead an southern expedition with the aim of annihilating Shu Kingdom. Deng Ai was dispatched to counter Jiang Wei and prevent him from retreating. Jiang Wei was subsequently defeated by the generals dispatched by Deng Ai and managed to retreat back to Jian Ge. At Jian Ge, Zhong Hui could not defeat Jiang Wei. On seeing this, Deng Ai proposed to lead a score of elite soldiers to attack Fu Xuan via Ying Ping path, which was 100 plus li (1 li = 0.5 km) west of Jian Ge. As the distance between Fu Xuan and Cheng Du (capital of Shu Kingdom) was only 300 plus li, the Shu army was likely to retreat from Jian Ge to defend Fu Xuan. This move would enable Zhong Hui to capture Jian Ge with ease. On the contrary, if the Shu army did not retreat, it would be possible to capture Fu Xuan and possibly Cheng Du, the heart of the Shu Kingdom.

In month of October Jin Yuan 4th year, Deng Ai led his troops and managed to reach Jiang You after traversing 700 li of perilous terrain. The defender at Jiang You, Zhang Miao, surrendered to Deng Ai and Zhuge Zhan had to retreat from Fu Xuan to Mian Zhu. Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan led an army to attack Zhuge Zhan at Mian Zhu but were defeated. Both were badly reprimanded by Deng Ai. Subsequently, Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan led a second attack and managed to serve a crushing defeat to the Shu army. Zhuge Zhan and Zhuge Shang were executed. On hearing that, Liu Shan decided to surrender and he dispatched officials to Deng Ai’s camp bearing his Seal and documents.

On entering Cheng Du, Deng Ai accepted Liu Shan’s surrender and disciplined his troops. As such, there were no instances of plundering and the people of Shu praised Deng Ai for his actions. Many of the Shu officials were reinstated back to their posts, now serving Wei and Liu Shan was duly bestowed a rank of deputy Piao Qi Jiang Jun in accordance to precedents of Eastern Han period. Wei’s soldiers who were killed in action were buried along side with the Shu soldiers who died. Deng Ai commented with an air of arrogance to the ex-officials of Shu that it was fortunate for them to have surrendered to him. If they had surrendered to Wu, it would be likely that they were executed. Also Deng Ai commented that Jiang Wei although a hero, was rendered helpless because of him.

Deng Ai was subsequently promoted to Tai Wei and both his sons were promoted to Duke of Ting for their services. Deng Ai submitted an elaborate plan to Sima Zhao with the objective of pacifying the Wu Kingdom (several important points include giving good treatments to Liu Shan and the population of Shu with intention of setting an example to the people of Wu, letting people of Wu to enter Guang Ling and Cheng Yang, while at the same time making military preparations). Nevertheless, Sima Zhao rejected Deng Ai’s plan and Deng Ai was told to seek permission from higher authorities before any action. Deng Ai was indignant that his plan was rejected. Zhong Hui, Hu Lie and Shi Zuan reported Deng Ai’s actions to the court saying that Deng Ai had intentions rebelling against the court. As such, a court decree was passed down and Deng Ai was arrested, put in a prisoner cart and deported to the capital.

Soon after, Zhong Hui entered Cheng Du and was killed when he launched a rebellion. Deng Ai’s old troops managed to release him en route to the capital. Nevertheless, back at Cheng Du, Deng Ai was killed by Wei Guan and Tian Xu together with his son Deng Zhong. The rest of his sons at Luo Yang were also executed. His wife and grandsons were deported to Xi Yu (western region of China, now the province of Gan Su). In years to come, petitions were submitted to the court regarding the wrongs done to Deng Ai and his family. Subsequently, in Tai Shi 9th year, his descendent was given an official post in the court. Finally, It was also noted that while Deng Ai was stationed at Long Xi, he repaired the fortifications and built new ones. As a result, the civilians and officials in that region were protected from large-scale rebellions by the Qiang tribe during the Tai Shi period.

Copyright © 2002 - 2003 Battleroyale
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi