Biography (SGZ): Zhuge Liang (Kongming)

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Zhuge Liang (Kongming)
諸葛亮 (孔明)
(AD 181-234)

San Guo Zhi Officer Biography
Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Jack Yuan

Sanguozhi Scroll 35 Shu 5
Zhuge Liang | Zhuge Qiao —>

Zhuge Liang had the style Kongming and was from Yangdu in Langya. He was a descendant of Zhuge Feng, who had been the Colonel Director of Retainers during the Han. His father Zhuge Gui, styled Jungong (1), was Commandery Assistant in the last days of the Han. Zhuge Liang was orphaned early. His uncle Zhuge Xuan was appointed Grand Administrator of Yuzhang by Yuan Shu and took Zhuge Liang and his younger brother Zhuge Jun with him. Then the Han Court reviewed the appointment and sent Zhu Hao to replace Zhuge Xuan. Because Liu Biao was an old acquaintance of his, Zhuge Xuan went to serve him. After his uncle’s death, Zhuge Liang tilled the fields, delighting in reciting the Ode to Liangfu. He was eight chi tall and frequently compared himself to Guan Zhong and Le Yi. At the time no one would acknowledge that he had such ability. Only Cui Zhouping of Boling and Xu Shu of Yingchuan, who were friendly with Zhuge Liang, regarded that it was indeed as he said.

I: Editor’s Note: While conducting research one will often find Zhuge Gui’s zi entered as Zigong (子貢), not Jungong (君貢). The translation of Jungong, however, remains true to the original text of Sanguozhi.

At the time the Former Lord [Liu Bei] garrisoned Xinye. Xu Shu visited him and was greatly admired by him. He said to the Former Lord: “Zhuge Kongming is a slumbering dragon. Don’t you, my general, wish to see him?” The Former Lord said: “Please bring him here.” Xu Shu said: “You can only approach this man yourself, and not impose him to come. You should respectfully visit him.” Subsequently the Former Lord went to call on Zhuge Liang and only encountered him on the third visit. The Former Lord asked him quietly: “The Han monarchy is ineffectual, wicked ministers have seized power and the emperor suffers in the elements. I have not made an appraisal of my own moral and material strength, but I wish to propagate the great righteousness throughout the Empire. However, I am short of wisdom, which is why I have suffered defeat and fallen to where I am today. Yet my ambition has not diminished. What strategy do you think I should employ?” Zhuge Liang replied: “Since Dong Zhuo, heroes have risen and those who occupy provinces and commanderies are too numerous to name. Compared to Yuan Shao, Cao Cao was lacking in prestige and followers. Yet Cao Cao was able to conquer Yuan Shao and shift from weakness to strength. This is not only due to opportunity but also to the man’s strategy. Today Cao Cao has absorbed followers in the millions and coerced the Son of Heaven to command the lords. This cannot be openly contested with him. Sun Quan occupies Jiangdong, with a history of three generations already. The terrain is difficult, the commoners obedient and men of worth serve him. He can act as an ally and we shouldn’t conspire against him. Jingzhou encompasses the Han and Mian rivers in the north and comprises all the resources to the Southern Sea. It is linked to Wu and Hui in the east and leads to Ba and Shu in the west. This is a province of military consequence, yet its ruler cannot hold it. This is Heaven’s gift to you, my general. Can you have no thoughts to taking it? The terrain of Yizhou is difficult and boasts thousands of miles of fertile virgin earth. It is the land of Heaven, hence Gaozu established his empire from there. Liu Zhang is fatuous and weak, and Zhang Lu is at his north. The commoners are well-off and the state prosperous, yet Liu Zhang knows nothing of solicitude and the wise and able officers wish for an enlightened lord. General, you are a descendent of the imperial clan, and famed throughout the Empire for your honour. You enlist heroes with all your resources and wish for worthy men as a thirsty man for water. You should occupy Jing and Yi, secure their strategic points, pacify the Rong peoples of the west, tend the Yi and Yue peoples of the south, ally with Sun Quan without and administer the state within. When there is a shift within the Empire, then an elite general should be commanded with the army of Jingzhou against Wan and Luo. Yourself, my general, should lead the troops of Yizhou out through the Qin Valley. Won’t the commoners then welcome you with baskets of food and pitchers of wine? If you can achieve this then the quest for hegemony will have succeeded and the house of Han can be restored.” The Former Lord said: “Excellent!” Subsequently he grew closer to Zhuge Liang by the day. Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and others were displeased and the Former Lord explained to them: “With Zhuge Liang, I am like a fish in water. I hope that you won’t say anymore on this matter.” Then Guan Yu and Zhang Fei said no more.

Liu Biao’s son Liu Qi also admired Zhuge Liang a great deal. Liu Biao, influenced by his second wife, was fond of his young son Liu Zong and not of Liu Qi. Liu Qi often wanted to confer with Zhuge Liang on a way to protect himself but Zhuge Liang always refused. Then Liu Qi visited a garden with Zhuge Liang and the two ascended a tower together. As they were enjoying themselves drinking, Liu Qi had someone remove the stairs and said to Zhuge Liang: “Today we are not sitting on Heaven above nor Earth below. The words from your mouth will reach only my ears. Can we converse now?” Zhuge Liang replied: “Does my lord not remember Shen Sheng, who met danger within the palace, whilst Zhong Er retained his security by fleeing?” Liu Qi experienced an sudden understanding and secretly planned his flight. By chance Huang Zu had just died and there was an opportunity to escape. Subsequently Liu Qi took the position of Grand Administrator of Jiangxia. Soon afterwards, Liu Biao died; Liu Zong heard that Duke Cao [Cao Cao] was coming on campaign and sent an emissary requesting to surrender. The Former Lord heard of this at Fan and led his followers south. Zhuge Liang and Xu Shu accompanied him. They were pursued and routed by Duke Cao, who captured Xu Shu’s mother. Xu Shu farewelled the Former Lord, pointed to his heart and said: “Originally I had intended to assume the undertaking for hegemony with you, my general, relying on this heart of mine. Yet now I have lost my elderly mother, this heart is in turmoil and of no use to your cause. Please allow me to part from you here.” Then he went to see Duke Cao.

The Former Lord reached Xiakou and Zhuge Liang said: “The situation is desperate, allow me to request reinforcement from General Sun with your authority.” At the time Sun Quan had led his army to Chaisang and was observing who would triumph and who would fall. Zhuge Liang persuaded Sun Quan saying: “All domains within the seas are in turmoil. You, my general, have raised troops to occupy Jiangdong and Liu of Yuzhou [Liu Bei] has also gathered his followers south of the Han, contesting the Empire with Cao Cao. Today Cao Cao has pacified great disorders, establishing peace in most areas. He has conquered Jingzhou and his prestige resonates to the four seas. Yuzhou [Liu Bei] has fled to this place because his heroes haven’t had an opportunity to exercise their might. If you, my general, calculate that you can manage the situation with your power; if you can oppose the Middle Kingdom by rallying the host of Wu and Yue, then it would be best to break off relations with Cao Cao in advance. If you cannot oppose him, then it would be best to demobilise the troops, discard your armour and submit to the north. At present you are seemingly compliant on the exterior, yet making indecisive plans within. You take no action in this critical situation, on the very eve of disaster!” Sun Quan said: “If it is as you, sir, say, then why hasn’t Liu of Yuzhou submitted?” Zhuge Liang said: “He is as Tian Heng, the heroic warrior of Qi, who defended justice and refused to be dishonoured. Moreoever, Liu of Yuzhou is a descendant of the imperial clan and a hero of his generation. Followers go to him as the rivers go to the ocean. If he is unsuccessful, then it is for the will of Heaven. He can never be subordinate to Cao Cao.” Sun Quan was furious and said: “I cannot take all the lands of Wu, a host of one hundred thousand and offer it for the rule of others. I have made up my mind! Other than Liu of Yuzhou there is no one who can oppose Cao Cao. But Yuzhou was recently been defeated. Can he still combat this menace?” Zhuge Liang said: “Even though Yuzhou’s army was defeated at Changban, the dispersed soldiers who have returned, in addition to Guan Yu’s elite marines, number ten thousand. The soldiers of Jiangxia assembled under Liu Qi also number no less than ten thousand. The host of Cao Cao have travelled from afar, and are weary and improvised. I have heard that to pursue Yuzhou, light cavalry travelled more than three hundred miles in a day and a night. This is what was meant in the phrase ‘when the bolt of the powerful crossbow reached its target, it could not pierce even the thin silk of Lu.’ Hence The Art of War warned against such action: ‘in a forced march of fifty miles, the commander of the van will probably fall.’ Moreover, the men of the north are untrained in naval warfare. Also, even though the people of Jingzhou have given in to Cao Cao, they were coerced by force and have by no means genuinely submitted. Today you can truly command your fierce generals in leading tens of thousands of soldiers and working in full cooperation and unity of purpose with Yuzhou, Cao Cao’s army will surely fall. After Cao Cao’s army is defeated, he will surely return to the north, the strength of Jing and Wu will increase, and a tripartite will form. The time to decide triumph or fall is today.’ Sun Quan was greatly pleased, and subsequently sent Zhou Yu, Cheng Pu, Lu Su and others with marines numbering thirty thousand, accompanying Zhuge Liang to pay respects to the Former Lord and to join forces to oppose Duke Cao. Duke Cao was defeated at Red Cliffs, and led his army back to Ye. The Former Lord then absorbed Jiangnan and made Zhuge Liang Army Advisor General of the Gentlemen of the Household, superintending the three commandieries of Lingling, Guiyang and Changsha, and collecting local taxes for military purposes.

In the sixteenth year of Jian’an [211], Liu Zhang, Governor of Yizhou, sent Fa Zheng to call on the Former Lord to attack Zhang Lu. Zhuge Liang and Guan Yu maintained peace in Jingzhou. The Former Lord turned on Liu Zhang and besiege him from Jiameng. Zhuge Liang, with Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun and others led the followers upstream, then separated to pacify the various commanderies and prefectures, and besieged Chengdu with the Former Lord. After Chengdu was pacified, Zhuge Liang was made Army Advisor General, administering the affairs of the office of the General of the Left. On the Former Lord’s outings, Zhuge Liang would maintain peace in Chengdu and ensure the flow of provisions and troops. In the twenty-sixth year [221], the Former Lord’s subordinates advised him to take the honoured title of emperor but he declined. Zhuge Liang advised him: “In the past Wu Han and Geng Chun and others urged the Second Progenitor [Liu Xiu, Emperor Guangwu of Han] to ascend the imperial throne but the Second Progenitor declined on four occasions. Then Geng Chun suggested: ‘The heroes Under Heaven are eager, in anticipation of their hopes. If you do not heed the counsel of the advisors, then the noblemen will seek other lords, without any need to follow you, my duke.’ The Second Progenitor saw the wisdom of Geng Chun’s words and agreed. At present the Cao clan has usurped the Han and the Empire is without a sovereign. You, great king, are the leading descendant of the Liu clan, and the rightful successor to its revival. Now is the opportune moment to ascend the imperial throne. The noblemen who have accompanied you, great king, for these years of hardship, all wish to attain the minor merits Geng Chun described.” The Former Lord then ascended the imperial throne, and conferred on Zhuge Liang by edict the role of Lieutenant Chancellor: “Our clan has suffered misfortune, so We now solemnly assume imperial sovereignty. We will be conscientious in Our duties and dare not become easy and complacent. We wish to maintain peace for the commoners, but fear that We cannot provide it. O Lieutenant Chancellor Zhuge Liang, you will understand Our wishes, and unreservedly remedy Our faults, aid Us in propagating the immense radiance to enlighten the Empire. You must apply yourself to this task.” As Lieutenant Chancellor, Zhuge Liang became Intendant of the Affairs of the Masters of Writing, with insignia bestowed. After the death of Zhang Fei, Zhuge Liang was assigned as Director Colonel of Retainers.

In the third year of Zhangwu [223]—spring, the Former Lord was on his deathbed at Yongan and summoned Zhuge Liang from Chengdu to entrust the future to him. He said to Zhuge Liang: “Your ability is ten times that of Cao Pi and you will surely be able to maintain the state and complete the great undertaking. If the heir [Liu Shan] can be assisted, then assist him. If he lacks ability, then you may supplant him.” Zhuge Liang wept and said: “Your subject will do his utmost and dedicate his unwavering loyalty until death.” The Former Lord then issued a decree to instruct the Latter Lord: “You should undertake the affairs of state concurrently with the Lieutenant Chancellor and regard him as you regard your own father.” In the year of Jianxing [223], the Latter Lord issued an edict to enfeoff Zhuge Liang as Marquis of Wuxiang and to establish the Lieutenant Chancellor’s department to administer the affairs of state. Soon afterwards, Zhuge Liang was also assigned as Governor of Yizhou. All affairs of state, whether large or small, were decided by him. At the time the commanderies of Nanzhong revolted together. Zhuge Liang considered that since the state had recently experienced a loss, it was not beneficial to mobilise the troops. Hence he sent an emissary to visit Wu to establish closer relations.

In the spring of the third year of Jianxing [225], Zhuge Liang led the host to campaign in the south and by that autumn, the revolts had been pacified. Military resources were acquired from the conquered territories and hence the state became more prosperous. Then Zhuge Liang administered the army and began drills in preparation for a great offensive. In the fifth year [227] he led the generals north to garrison at Hanzhong. Before setting out, he presented a memorial to the Latter Lord: “The Former Emperor [Liu Bei] perished before he was able to complete his undertaking and today the Empire is divided into three. Yizhou is exhausted; these are truly grave and critical times. Yet the subjects who defend Your Majesty continue to make unremitting efforts in Court, and the loyal and spirited soldiers continue to fight unwaveringly outside it. Doubtless it is because they remember the favouring treatment of the Former Emperor and wish to repay their debt to Your Majesty. Indeed Your Majesty should widen your sagely audience to propagate the virtues of the enlightened Former Emperor and to advance the spirit of the resolute officers. Do not devalue yourself nor employ false pretenses to impede the way of honourable remonstrance.

The imperial palace and government offices are one entity and promotion, demotion, praise, criticism, should all be exacted equally. If there are malicious criminals or loyal benevolents, their punishment or reward should be relegated to the competent authorities, in order to demonstrate Your Majesty’s just and enlightened governance. There should not be favouritism resulting in differing laws within and outside court. The Palace Attendants and Gentlemen in Attendance Guo Youzhi, Fei Wei, Dong Yun and others are all benign and honest men whose thoughts are loyal and upright. Hence the Former Emperor chose to leave them with Your Majesty. In my humble opinion, consult them on affairs in the palace, large or small, before taking action. This will surely be beneficial in the avoidance of faults and omissions. The general Xiang Chong is kind and fair by nature, and has extensive knowledge of military affairs. He has been tested and the Former Emperor commended him as able. Hence the host recommended him for the post of Controller of the Centre. In my humble opinion, consult him on all matters of the army. Doing so will promote harmony in the ranks and render both superiors and inferiors content in their positions. To associate with worthy subjects and dissociate from the petty, this was the reason for the progress of the former Han. To associate with the petty and dissociate from worthy subjects, this was the failing of the later Han. When the Former Emperor was alive, on every occasion he conversed with this subject on the topic, there were none when he did not lament the emperors Huan and Ling. The Palace Attendants, Master of Writings, Chief Clerk and Advisor to the Army are all devoted and unwavering men to the death. It is my hope that Your Majesty should embrace and trust them; then the prosperity of Han shall be long indeed.

This subject was originally a cloth-clad commoner, tilling his fields in Nanyang. I begged only to secure personal safety in chaotic times and not to be known amongst the lords. The Former Emperor, undaunted by this subject’s lowliness, visited my thatched hut on three occasions to consult with this subject on affairs of historical magnitude. This subject felt indebted by his kindness, and hence accompanied and served him. Later came defeat and I received assignment amidst defeat and danger. That was twenty-one years ago. The Former Emperor knew that this subject was prudent, which is why he entrusted the great undertaking to me on his deathbed. Since I received his testament, I have been anxious day and night lest the Former Emperor’s will be not realised or that his glory be dimmed. Hence I crossed the Lu in the fifth month, venturing into the barren wilderness. Now that the south has been pacified and the armoury of manpower and weaponry are full, we should lead the three armies to secure the Central Plain in the north. Contributing my utmost, we shall exterminate the wicked, restore the house of Han and return to the old capital. Such is this subject’s duty in repaying the Former Emperor and affirming allegiance to Your Majesty.

Henceforth the judgement of political affairs and suggestion of loyal counsel shall be the responsibility of Guo Youzhi, Fei Wei and Dong Yun. I hope that Your Majesty shall give this subject the task of suppressing the bandits and restoring the Han. If I should not succeed, then punish this subject’s crimes and inform the spirit of the Former Emperor. If they do not offer enlightened and virtuous counsel, then censure Guo Youzhi, Fei Wei, Dong Yun and the others, and make their faults public. Your Majesty should be self-reflective and adopt upright practice, heed wise counsel and profoundly pursuing the testament of the Former Emperor. This subject has received sagacious benevolence and is grateful beyond words. On the eve of my departure afar, I shed tears before this memorial, scarcely knowing what I have said.”

Then Zhuge Liang left, garrisoning Mianyang.

In the sixth year of Jianxing [228], Zhuge Liang declared that he would march through the Xie Gorge to take Mei. He sent Zhao Yun and Deng Zhi as decoys to occupy Ji Gorge and the great Wei general Cao Zhen led his armies to oppose them. Zhuge Liang personally led the armies to besiege Qishan; the ranks were ordered, discipline severe and authority apparent. The three commanderies of Nan’an, Tianshui and Anding all revolted from Wei to Zhuge Liang, sending shockwaves through Guanzhong. Emperor Ming of Wei [Cao Rui] travelled west to maintain peace in Chang’an and commanded Zhang He to oppose Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang sent Ma Su to lead the armies as vanguard, and the latter battled Zhang He at Jieting. Ma Su contravened Zhuge Liang’s plan of strategic deployments and employing unsuitable tactics, was completely defeated by Zhang He. Zhuge Liang had conquered more than a thousand households in Xixian and after returning to Hanzhong, executed Ma Su as an apology to the host of officers. Zhuge Liang presented a memorial to the Latter Lord: “This subject has relied on his feeble abilities to undertake an infeasible assignment and command the three armies. I have been unable to maintain stern authority or vigilance from the offset, resulting in the blunder at Jieting and the ill-disciplined loss at Ji Gorge. The fault is in my lack of moral measure in granting authority to the generals. This subjects’ wisdom is not adequate to ascertain the benevolence or malevolence of others. This subject should be held responsible according to the regulation of punishing defeated commanders in the Spring and Autumn Annals. I request to be demoted three ranks as punishment for my blunders.” The Latter Lord then made Zhuge Liang General of the Right, undertaking the affairs of the Lieutenant Chancellor, with the same responsibilities as before.

In the winter, Zhuge Liang marched through San Pass again and surrounded Chencang. Cao Zhen opposed him and Zhuge Liang withdrew after provisions were exhausted. The Wei general Wang Shuang led his cavalry in pursuit and battled Zhuge Liang; he was defeated and beheaded. In the seventh year [229], Zhuge Liang sent Chen Shi to besiege Wudu and Yinping. Guo Huai, Inspector of Yongzhou, contemplated leading his men to attack Chen Shi but Zhuge Liang personally advanced on Jianwei. Guo Huai withdrew and the two commanderies were pacified. An imperial edict was issued to Zhuge Liang: “The blunder at Jieting was caused by Ma Su. Yet you chose to cast responsibility on yourself and since We did not wish to defy your wishes, We followed your resolution. Last year you were glorious on campaign; you killed Wang Shuang. This year on campaign, Guo Huai was alarmed into flight; the Di and Qiang surrendered and two commanderies were recovered. Your might pacifies brutality and your exploits are renowned. Today All Under Heaven is not at peace and the source of malevolence hasn’t been eliminated. You have accepted a great assignment and the weight of the state. Yet you belittle and depreciate yourself; this is not the way to propagate grand and glorious achievements. Today your position as Lieutenant Chancellor is restored. Please do not refuse it.”

In the ninth year [231], Zhuge Liang marched out from Qishan once more. He used ‘wooden oxen’ [one-wheel carts] to transport grain but after provisions were exhausted the army retreated. He battled the Wei general Zhang He and killed him with arrows. In the spring of the twelfth year [234], Zhuge Liang led all the armies from Xie Gorge and used ‘flowing horses’ [amphibious supply vehicle] for supply. He occupied the Wuzhang Plain of Wugong and faced Sima the King Xuan [Sima Yi] at Weinan. Zhuge Liang was perennially concerned that supply of provisions would be severed and thus render his objectives to be unfulfilled. Hence he portioned troops to undertake military agricultural colonies [tuntian] as the basis for a long-term garrison. Those assigned to farming were scattered among the residents of the Wei riverbank. The commoners were safe within their walls and the troops did not engage in private ownership. The armies opposed each other for more than a hundred days. In the eighth month of that year, Zhuge Liang became seriously ill, and died in camp at the age of fifty four. After the army had retreated, King Xuan surveyed the barracks of Zhuge Liang’s encampment and said: “Indeed he was a genius of the Empire!”

Zhuge Liang’s last wishes were to be entombed at Mount Dingjun of Hanzhong, for his tombstone to be erected according to the topography, for his tomb to be only large enough to fit a coffin, to be clad in everyday clothes and for there not to be any tomb items included. Imperial edict decreed: “ Sir, you alone are able in civil and martial affairs by nature, enlightened and truthful. You supported Us in administering the state and revived the ailing monarchy, employing your wisdom to pacify chaos. You organised the army and not a year went by without a campaign. Your prowess and valor resonated throughout the Empire and you devoted meritorious service in the last days of the Han. Your goodness can be compared to that of Yi Yin and Duke Zhou. Yet before the great undertaking was completed, you have been snatched away by illness. Hence We are heartrendingly sad. To propagate your virtues, elucidate your merits, you are bestowed posthumous appellation. This is as manifestation to future generations, as eternal record in the volumes of history. Now an envoy with insignia, the General of the Gentlemen of the Household of the Left, Du Qiong, has been sent to bestow on you, Sir Lieutenant Chancellor, the seal of Marquis Zhongwu. If your spirit learns of this, it too will feel the distinction for this special honour. Dead and gone! Dead and gone!”

Earlier, Zhuge Liang had memorialised to the Latter Lord: “This subject has eight hundred mulberry trees and fifteen hectares of land, more than enough to clothe and feed my relatives. When this subject is out on assignment, my clothing and food are provided for by the bureaucracy. This is the sole benefit of my post; there are no other sources of income. On the day this subject dies, in accountability to Your Majesty’s kindness, my family shall have no extra yarn nor property than is needed.” And after his death, it was as he had said.

Zhuge Liang was ingenious by nature. The innovation of the mechanised crossbow and construction of ‘wooden oxen’ and ‘flowing horses’ were both his ideas. His deductions on the art of the war and creation of the eight disposition plan grasped the essentials of their subjects. Zhuge Liang’s discussions, teachings, correspondence and memorials are all worth examination and have been compiled in an alternate anthology.

In the spring of the sixth year of Jingyao [263], a temple was ordered to be erected for Zhuge Liang by edict. In the autumn, Zhong Hui of Wei, the General who Campaigns in the West, campaigned against Shu. Reaching the Han valley, he paid his respects at Zhuge Liang’s temple and forbade his soldiers from reaping straw, grazing livestock, cutting wood or picking fruit in the vicinity of Zhuge Liang’s tomb grounds. Zhuge Liang’s younger brother Zhuge Jun reached the position of Colonel of the Chang River. Zhuge Liang’s son Zhuge Zhan succeeded to his noble title.

Contents to the Anthology of Sir Zhuge: 1. Establishing Governance 2. On Administration 3. Southern Campaign 4. Northern Expedition 5. On Planning 6. On Discipline 7. Synthesis (First) 8. Synthesis (Second) 9. Miscellany (First) 10. Miscellany (Second) 11. Compositions 12. Military Essentials 13. On Supply 14. Correspondence with Sun Quan 15. Correspondence with Zhuge Jin 16. Correspondence with Meng Da 17. Dismissal of Li Ping 18. Legal Diktat (First) 19. Legal Diktat (Second) 20. Civil Orders (First) 21. Civil Orders (Second) 22. Military Orders (First) 23. Military Orders (Second) 24. Military Orders (Third) There were twenty four volumes, together numbering 44’112 characters.

The subjects Chen Shou and others speak: “When this subject was assigned as a gentleman, Xun Xu, the Palace Attendant appointed as Supervisor of Writings and Marquis of Jibei; and He Qiao, the Prefect of Writings and Marquis of the Imperial Domain submitted a memorial and gave this subject the task of sorting through the affairs of the former Lieutenant Chancellor of Shu, Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang supported his imperilled state, relied on the obstacles of the terrain and refused to submit as vassal. Yet regardless of the good or bad of his comments, they are still recorded. Hence your subjects have categorised Zhuge Liang’s comments without repetition into twenty four volumes, the titles of which are as above. This is truly the enlightened virtue of the Great Jin, whose aegis is without frontier and is without equal since antiquity.

In his youth Zhuge Liang excelled beyond his peers and had the airs of an epic leader. He was eight chi tall and had an appearance of majesty. His contemporaries surmised that he was out of the ordinary. In the chaos of the end of Han, he accompanied his uncle Zhuge Xuan to seek refuge in Jingzhou and personally worked the fields without any wish to be known. At the time the General of the Left Liu Bei surmised that Zhuge Liang had exceptional talent and called on him on in his thatched hut three times. Zhuge Liang also deeply respected Liu Bei as a prominent hero. He reposed full confidence in Liu Bei and their friendship developed profoundly. When Emperor Wu of Wei [Cao Cao] campaigned south in Jingzhou and Liu Zong surrendered the province, Liu Bei lost power, his followers were few and the ground had shifted under him. Zhuge Liang was twenty-seven years of age at the time. He subsequently proposed a brilliant plan and personally went as emissary to Sun Quan to request aid from Wu. Sun Quan admired Liu Bei and seeing Zhuge Liang’s dignity, respected him also. Immediately he sent thirty thousand men to aid Liu Bei. Because of this Liu Bei battled Emperor Wu and greatly defeated his army. Taking advantage of victory to conquer the enemy, Liu Bei pacified all of Jiangnan. Later Liu Bei also took Yizhou in the west and after it was pacified, Zhuge Liang was made Army Advisor General. When Liu Bei took the honoured title of emperor, he appointed Zhuge Liang Lieutenant Chancellor and Intendant of the Affairs of the Master of Writing. When Liu Bei died, his heir was still young and it was Zhuge Liang who decided all affairs large and small. Then he allied with Wu externally and internally pacified the Yue in the south. He established various laws and policies, reorganised the army and ingeniously constructed tools all to intricate detail. The laws were stern and enlightened; there were no malevolents who did not receive punishment nor benevolents who did not receive recommendation, which effectively removed the wicked from civil office. Each man impelled themselves on, with high moral standard and the social custom was that of profound respect for all.

In his time, Zhuge Liang’s long-cherished wish was to advance as a dragon or tiger, ranging over the four seas; and to withdraw to gallop across the world, resonating throughout the universe. He was in the knowledge that on his death, there would be no one to lead the march on the Central Plain and to oppose Wei. Hence he fought continuously and on many occasions demonstrated his prowess. Zhuge Liang’s gift was in organising the army and his failing was in brilliant strategy. His ability at administering the state was superior to his military planning. Moreover, many of his enemies were men of heroic prominence and had numerical superiority. The situation of each advance was different so even though Zhuge Liang marshalled his men each year, he never attained any conquests. In the past Xiao He had recommended Han Xin and Guan Zhong had raised the Prince Cheng Fu, both emphasising their strong points without associating other spheres. Perhaps Zhuge Liang’s political ability can be compared to that of Guan Zhong and Xiao He but among his contemporaries there were no men as Han Xin or the Prince Cheng Fu. Hence the meritorious undertaking amounted to little. Perhaps this is because the will of Heaven has its course, and can be forced with neither wisdom nor strength.

In the spring of the second year of Huanglong [234], Zhuge Liang commanded the armies out of Wugong and partitioned troops to establish military agricultural colonies as the basis for a long term garrison. In the autumn of that year, he died from illness. The commoners memorialised him, and discussed his deeds. The way Dry Poplar intoned Duke Zhao, or the way the people of Zheng sang the praises of Zi Chan, cannot even be compared with the reminiscence of the commoners of Liang and Yi for Zhuge Liang’s words which can be heard even today. Mencius once said: ‘To ease the commoners, put them to work; even though they are tired, they will not feel resentment. Use capital punishment to protect the commoners, and even though they die, they will not feel hatred.’ It is indeed as he said. Some analysts may criticise Zhuge Liang for his inadequate literary talents, and be excessively verbose in doing so. In the humble opinion of this subject, Jiu You was a great man of worth and Duke Zhou was a sage. Consulting the Classic of History, Jiu You’s discussion of strategy was simple and mediocre whilst Duke Zhou’s decrees were comprehensive and thoughtful. Why is this? This is because Jiu You conversed with Shun and Yao whilst Duke Zhou held discussions with his followers in order to stay in touch. Likewise, the target of Zhuge Liang’s discussions were always common men, hence his writings were always profound. His teachings and testament, always frankly and openly reveal his conclusions on a subject. From these one can understand his reasoning and can fill in gaps of the present.

This subject contemplates Your Majesty following in the footsteps of the ancient sages, high-minded and without resentment. Hence the slanders of former states are all recorded without abridgement to demonstrate our way of magnanimity. This subject Chen Shou writes with reverence and awe, in trepidation of committing a capital crime. The Marquis of Yangping, Chancellor and subject—Chen Shou, submits this on the day of guisi, the first day of the second month of the tenth year of Taishi [274].”

Appraisal: As the Chancellor of the State, Zhuge Liang pacified the commoners, elucidating proper behaviour and the moral standard. He simplified the administration and established timely, just policies; speaking frankly and sincerely. In dealing with the loyal and useful, he would reward them even if he felt enmity against them. In dealing with the criminal and heinous, he would dispense punishment if they were friends or relatives. In dealing with those who confessed and truly repented, he would be merciful even if their crimes were serious. In dealing with those who were glib-tongued and deceitful, he would be punitive even if their crimes were trivial. A benevolence no matter how minute would be rewarded. A malevolence no matter how slight would be castigated. In all affairs his administration was precise and penetrating, organising from the fundamentals, serving needs according to the true situation. He detested most the practise of deception. In the finality, all within the state esteemed him. Even though the legal system was severe, none despised him because his justice was fair and open. It can be said that he was exceptional in administration and the like of Guan Zhong and Xiao He. Yet year after year he marshalled the army and never attained success, probably because flexibility of strategy was never his forte.

Copyright © 2002 Jack Yuan
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi
All Rights Reserved