CHAPTER 9

Lu Bu Kills Dong Zhuo For Wang Yun;
Li Jue Attacks The Capital On Jia Xu's Advice.
 

The person who collided with the irate Dong Zhuo was his most trusty adviser Li Ru. Li Ru had not fallen in spite of the shock and at once scrambled to help Dong Zhuo to regain his feet and led him inside to the library, where they sat down.

"What were you coming about?" said Dong Zhuo.

"Happening to be passing your gates, I heard that you had gone into your private garden to look for your adopted son. Then came Lu Bu running and crying out that you wanted to kill him, and I was coming in as fast as I could to intercede for him when I accidentally collided with you. I am very sorry. I deserve death."

"The wretch! How could I bear to see him toying with my fair one? I will be the death of his yet."

"Your Graciousness is making a mistake. It is the 'plucked tassel' story over again. But if you remember the banquet of old time where all guests were to tear the tassels of their hats. In that banquet, King Zhuang of Chu made no fuss about the liberties taken with his queen, although the hat-tassel in her hand betrayed the culprit Jiang Xiong. His restraint stood him good stead, for the same Jiang Xiong saved his life when he was hemmed in by the soldiers of Qin. After all Diao Chan is only a handmaid, but Lu Bu is your trustiest friend and most dreaded commander. If you took this chance of making the girl over to him, your kindness would win his undying gratitude. I beg you, Sir, to think over it well."

Dong Zhuo hesitated a long time; he sat murmuring to himself. Presently he said, "What you say is right. I must think over it."

Li Ru felt satisfied. He took leave of his master and went away. Dong Zhuo went to his private rooms and called Diao Chan.

"What were you doing there with Lu Bu?" said he.

She began to weep, saying, "Thy handmaid was in the garden among the flowers, when he rushed in on me. I was frightened and ran away. He asked why I ran away from a son of the family and pursued me right to the pavilion, where you saw us. He had that halberd in his hand all the time. I felt he was a vicious man and would force me to his will, so I tried to throw myself into the lily pond, but he caught me in his arms and held me so that I was helpless. Luckily just at that moment you came and saved my life."

"Suppose I send you to him," said Dong Zhuo.

Stunned, she said in tears, "What have thy handmaid done? The honor of serving only Your Highness could not stand being given to a mere underling! Never! I would rather die."

And with this she snatched down a dagger hanging on the wall to kill herself. Dong Zhuo plucked it from her hand and, throwing his arms about her, and cried, "I was only joking."

She lay back on his breast hiding her face and sobbing bitterly.

"This is the doing of that Li Ru," said she. "He is much too thick with Lu Bu. He suggested that, I know. Little he cares for the Imperial Rector's reputation or my life. Oh! I could eat him alive."

"Do you think I could bear to lose you?" said Dong Zhuo.

"Though you love me yet I must not stay here. That Lu Bu will try to ruin me if I do. I fear him."

"We will go to Meiwo tomorrow, you and I, and we will be happy together and have no cares."

She dried her tears and thanked him. Next day Li Ru came again to persuade Dong Zhuo to send the damsel to Lu Bu.

"This is a propitious day," said Li Ru.

"He and I standing in the relation of father and son. I cannot very well do that," said Dong Zhuo. "But I will say no more about his fault. You may tell him so and soothe him as well as you can."

"You are not being beguiled by the woman, are you?" said Li Ru.

Dong Zhuo colored, saying, "Would you like to give your wife to some body else? Do not talk about this any further. It would be better not to."

Li Ru left the chamber. When he got outside, he cast his eyes up to heaven, saying, "We are dead people, slain by the hand of this girl!"

When a scholar of history reached this episode he wrote a verse or two:

The order was given to journey to Meiwo, and the whole body of officers assembled to add luster to the start. Diao Chan, from her carriage, saw Lu Bu among the crowd. She at once dropped her eyes and assumed an appearance of deepest melancholy. After the cavalcade started and when her carriage had almost disappeared in the distance, the disappointed lover reined in his steed on a mount whence he could watch the dust that rose around it. Unutterable sadness filled his heart.

Suddenly a voice said, "Why do you not accompany the Prime Minister, General, instead of standing here and sighing?"

It was Wang Yun.

"I have been confined to the house by illness these few days," continued he, "so I have not seen you. But I had to struggle out today to see the Prime Minister set off. This meeting is most fortunate. But why were you sighing?"

"Just on account of that daughter of yours," said Lu Bu.

Feigning great astonishment Wang Yun said, "So long a time and yet not given to you!"

"The old ruffian has fallen in love with her himself."

"Surely this cannot be true."

Lu Bu related the whole story while Wang Yun listened, silent, but stamping on the ground as with irritation and perplexity. After a long time Wang Yun said, "I did not think he was such a beast."

Taking Lu Bu by the hand, Wang Yun said, "Come to my house, and we will talk it over."

So they went away together to the house and retired to a secret room. After some refreshments, Lu Bu told the whole story of the episode in Phoenix Pavilion just as it happened.

Wang Yun said, "He seems to have corrupted my little girl and has stolen your wife. He will be an object of shame and ridicule to the whole world. And those who do not laugh at him will laugh at you and me. Alas! I am old and powerless and can do nothing. More pitied than blamed! But you, General, you are a warrior, the greatest hero in the world. Yet you have been put to this shame and exposed to this contempt."

A wave of fierce wrath rolled up in Lu Bu. Banging the table he shouted and roared. His host ostentatiously tried to calm him, saying, "I forgot myself. I should not have spoken like that. Do not be so angry, I pray."

"I will kill the wretch, I swear it. In no other way can I wash away my shame."

"No, no! Do not say such a thing," said Wang Yun, putting his hand over the other's mouth. "You will bring trouble on poor me and my family."

"When one is born great, one cannot be patient for long under another person's domination," said Lu Bu.

"It needs some one greater than the Prime Minister to limit the scope of such talents as yours."

Lu Bu said, "I would not mind killing the old wretch were it not for the relation in which we stand. I fear to provoke the hostile criticism of posterity."

Wang Yun smiled, saying, "Your name is Lu Bu; his is Dong Zhuo. Where was the paternal feeling when he threw the halberd at you?"

"I had been misled if you had not said that," said Lu Bu hotly.

Wang Yun saw the effect of his words and continued, "It would be a loyal deed to restore the House of Han, and history would hand down your name to posterity perpetually fragrant. If you lend your aid to Dong Zhuo, you will be a traitor and your name will be tainted through all ages."

Lu Bu rose from his place and bowed to Wang Yun.

"I have decided," said he. "You need not fear, Sir."

"But yet you may fail and bring upon yourself misfortune," said Wang Yun.

Lu Bu drew his dagger, pricking his arm, and swearing by the blood that flowed.

Wang Yun fell on his knees and thanked him.

"Then the Han sacrifices will not be cut off, and you will be their savior. But this must remain a secret, and I will tell you how the plot shall be worked out."

Lu Bu took leave with great emotion.

Wang Yun took into his confidence two colleagues, Minister Shisun Rui and Imperial Commander Huang Wan.

Shisun Rui said, "The moment is favorable. The Emperor has just recovered from his illness, and we can dispatch an able talker to Meiwo to persuade Dong Zhuo to come here to discuss affairs. Meanwhile we will obtain a secret decree as authority for Lu Bu to lay an ambush just inside the palace gates to kill Dong Zhuo as he enters. This is the best plan to adopt."

"But who would dare to go?" said Huang Wan.

"Li Su, General of the Imperial Tiger Army, would go. He belongs to the same region as Lu Bu and is very angry with the Prime Minister for not advancing him. His going would assure us the plan would be completed."

"Good," said Wang Yun. "Let us see what Lu Bu thinks of it."

When Lu Bu was consulted, he told them that this Li Su's persuasion had led him to kill Ding Yuan, his former benefactor.

"If Li Su refuses this mission, I will kill him," said Lu Bu.

So they sent for Li Su. When Li Su arrived, Lu Bu said, "Formerly you talked me into killing Ding Yuan and going over to Dong Zhuo. Now we find Dong Zhuo means evil for the Emperor and is an oppressor of the people. His iniquities are many, and he is hated by gods and humans. You go to Meiwo, say you have a command from the Emperor to summon the Prime Minister to the Palace. He will come, and he will be put to death. You will have the credit of being loyal and restoring the Hans. Will you undertake this?"

"I also wish to slay him," was the reply. "But I could not find anyone to assist me. How can I hesitate? Your intervention is directly from Heaven."

And Li Su snapped an arrow in twain as register of his oath.

"If this succeeds, what glorious rank will be yours!" said Wang Yun.

Next day Li Su, with a small escort, set out for Meiwo and announced himself as bearer of a decree. He was conducted into Dong Zhuo's presence. After he had made his obeisance, Dong Zhuo asked what the decree was.

"His Majesty has recovered and wishes his ministers to meet him in the Palace to consider the question of his abdication in your favor. That is what this summons means."

"What does Wang Yun think of the scheme?"

"Wang Yun has already begun the construction of the Terrace of Abdication and only awaits my lord's arrival."

"Last night I dreamed a dragon coiled round my body," said Dong Zhuo greatly pleased, "and now I get this happy tidings! I must not neglect the opportunity."

So Dong Zhuo gave instructions to his four trusted generals for the safekeeping of his city. Li Jue, Guo Si, Fan Chou, and Zhang Ji were to guard Meiwo with three thousand troops of the Flying Bear Army. Then Dong Zhuo announced his intention of starting on the morrow.

"When I am Emperor, you shall be Commander of the Capital District," said he.

"Your minister thanks you," said Li Su.

Dong Zhuo went to bid farewell to his ninety-year-old mother.

"Whither are you going, my son?" asked she.

"I go to receive the abdication of Han; and soon you will be the Empress."

"I have been feeling nervous and creepy these few days. It is a bad sign."

"Any one about to become the Mother of the State must have premonitions," said her son.

He left her with these words.

Just before starting, he said to Diao Chan, "When I am Emperor, you shall be Lady of the Palace."

She bowed low thanking him, but she knew and inwardly rejoiced.

Dong Zhuo went out, mounted his carriage, and began his journey to Capital Changan with an imposing escort. Less than ten miles the wheel of his carriage broke. He left it and mounted a horse. Another ten miles the horse snorted and neighed, threw up his head and snapped the reins.

Dong Zhuo turned to Li Su and asked what these things portended.

"It means that you are going to receive the abdication of the Hans, which is to renew all things, to mount the jeweled chariot and sit in the golden saddle."

And Dong Zhuo was pleased and convinced with this answer. During the second day's journey a violent gale sprang up, and the sky became covered with a thick mist.

"What does this mean?" said Dong Zhuo.

The wily Li Su had an interpretation for this also, saying, "You are ascending to the place of the dragon; there must be bright light and lurid vapor to dignify your majestic approach."

Dong Zhuo had no more doubts. He presently arrived and found many officials waiting without the city gate to receive him, all but Li Ru who was ill and unable to leave his chamber. He entered and proceeded to his own palace, where Lu Bu came to congratulate him.

"When I sit on the throne, you shall command the whole armies of the empire, horse and foot," said Dong Zhuo.

That night Dong Zhuo slept in the midst of his escort. In the suburbs that evening some children at play were singing a little ditty, and the words drifted into the bedchamber on the wind.

The song sounded ominous but Li Su was again prepared with a happy interpretation: "It only means that the Lius are about to disappear, and the Dongs to be exalted."

Next morning at the first streak of dawn, Dong Zhuo prepared for his appearance at court. On the way he saw a Taoist, dressed in a black robe and wearing a white turban, who carried in his hand a tall staff with a long strip of white cloth attached. At each end of the cloth was drawn a mouth. ((Forming Chinese characters, implied the name of Lu Bu.)).

"What is the meaning of this?" said Dong Zhuo.

"He is a madman," said Li Su, and he told the guards to drive the fellow away.

Dong Zhuo went in and found all the officials in court dress lining the road. Li Su walked beside his carriage, a sword in his hand. When Li Su reached the north gate of the Palace, he found the soldiers of Dong Zhuo drawn up outside and only the pushers of the palace carriage, a twenty or so, were allowed to proceed further.

When Dong Zhuo arrived near the Reception Hall, he saw that Wang Yun and all the other officials standing at the door were armed.

"Why are they all armed?" said Dong Zhuo to Li Su.

Li Su was silent as he helped push the carriage forward swiftly to the entrance.

Suddenly Wang Yun shouted, "The rebel is here! Where are the executioners?"

At this call sprang from both sides soldiers armed with halberds and spears who attacked Dong Zhuo. He had not put on the breastplate he usually wore, and a spear pierced his breast. He sank down in the carriage calling loudly for his son, "Where is Lu Bu?"

"Here, and with a decree to deal with a rebel," said Lu Bu, as he appeared in front of his "father."

Thereupon he thrust his trident halberd through the victim's throat. Then Li Su hacked off the head and held it up. Lu Bu, his left hand holding his halberd, thrust his right hand into his bosom whence he drew the decree, crying, "The decree was to slay the rebel Dong Zhuo; no other."

The whole assembly shouted, "Live forever! O Emperor."

A sympathetic poet has written a few lines in pity:

The lust of blood awakened, Lu Bu urged the slaughter of Li Ru, who had been the confidant of the murdered Prime Minister, and Li Su volunteered to go in search of him. But just then a shouting was heard at the gates, and it was told them that a household servant had brought Li Ru in bonds. Wang Yun ordered his immediate execution in the market place.

Dong Zhuo's head was exposed in a crowded thoroughfare. He was very fat, and the guards made torches by sticking splints into the body, spilling the corpse's grease over the ground. The passers-by pelted the head and spurned the body with their feet.

Wang Yun ordered a force of fifty thousand under Lu Bu, Huangfu Song, and Li Su to destroy Meiwo. Learning the news of their master, Li Jue, Guo Si, Fan Chou, and Zhang Ji fled west swiftly through the night with their Flying Bear Army to Liangzhou.

When arriving Meiwo, Lu Bu's first deed was to take Diao Chan into his charge. Then they slew every member of the Dong family, sparing none, not even Dong Zhuo's aged mother. The heads of Dong Zhuo's brother Dong Min and his nephew Dong Huang were publicly displayed in the market place. In Meiwo were hidden many young ladies of good family. These were set free. All properties were confiscated. The wealth was enormous---several hundred thousand ounces of gold, millions of silver coins, pearls, gems, silks, velvets, furs, grain stores.

When they returned to report success, Wang Yun rewarded and feasted the soldiers. Banquets were held in the Ministry Hall to which all the officials were invited. They drank and congratulated each other. While the feasting was in progress it was announced that some one had come and was wailing over Dong Zhuo's corpse exposed in the market place.

"Dong Zhuo has been put to death," said Wang Yun, angrily. "Every body is glad to be rid of him, and yet one is found to lament over him. Who is this?"

So Wang Yun gave orders to arrest the mourner and bring him in. Soon he was brought in, and when they saw him all were startled. For he was no other than Imperial Historian Cai Yong.

Wang Yun spoke to Cai Yong angrily, "Dong Zhuo has been put to death as a rebel, and all the land rejoices. You, a Han minister, instead of rejoicing, weep for him. Why?"

Cai Yong confessed his fault, saying, "I am without talent, yet know what is right. I am the man to turn my back on my country and toward Dong Zhuo. Yet once I experienced his kindness, and I could not help mourning for him. I know my fault is grave, but I pray you regard the reasons. If you will leave my head and only cut off my feet, you may use me to continue the History of Han, whereby I may have the good fortune to be allowed to expiate my fault."

All were sorry for Cai Yong, for he was a man of great talents, and they begged that he might be spared. The Imperial Guardian, Ma Midi, secretly interceded for him, saying, "Cai Yong is famous as a scholar, and he can write glorious history, and it is inadvisable to put to death a man renowned for rectitude without consideration."

But in vain, for the High Minister was now strong and obdurate.

Wang Yun said, "Centuries ago, Emperor Wu spared Sima Qian and employed him on the annals, with the result that many slanderous stories have been handed down to us 1. This is a trying period of great perplexity, and we dare not let a specious fellow like this wield his pen in criticism of those about the court of a youthful prince and abuse us as he will."

Remonstrance and appeal being vain, Ma Midi retired. But he said to his colleagues, "Is Wang Yun then careless of the future? Worthy people are the mainstay of the state; laws are the canons of action. To destroy the mainstay and nullify the laws is to hasten destruction."

As was just said Wang Yun was obdurate. Cai Yong whose offense was an expression of gratitude was thrown into prison and there strangled. The people of that day wept for Cai Yong, for they refused to see any offense in what he had done, and death was a harsh punishment.

Those generals---Li Jue, Guo Si, Fan Chou, and Zhang Ji---whom Dong Zhuo had left to guard Meiwo fled when their master was slain and went into the county of Shanxi in Liangzhou Region. Thence they sent in a memorial entreating amnesty. But Wang Yun would not hear of it.

"Four of them were the chief instruments of Dong Zhuo's aggressions. Now though a general amnesty were proclaimed, these men should be excluded from its benefit," said Wang Yun.

The messenger returned and told the four there was no hope of pardon and they could only flee.

Then their adviser, Jia Xu, said, "If we throw away our arms and flee singly, then we shall fall easy victims to any village beadle who may seize us. Rather let us cajole the Shanxi people to throw in their lot with us and make a sudden onslaught on the capital and so avenge Dong Zhuo. If we succeed, we control the court and the empire. There will be enough time to run away if we fail."

The plan was adopted, and they spread abroad the story that Wang Yun intended to massacre the county.

Having thus thrown the people into a state of terror, they went a step farther and said, "There is no advantage in dying for nothing. Revolt and join us!"

So they cajoled the people into joining them and gathered a host equal to one hundred thousand. This horde was divided into four parts, and they all set out to raid Capital Changan. On the way they fell in with a son-in-law of their late chief, Imperial Commander Niu Fu, who marched five thousand troop from Xiliang. Niu Fu had set out to avenge his father-in-law, and he became the van leader of the horde.

As they advanced, the news came to Wang Yun, and he consulted Lu Bu.

"They are a lot of rats," said Lu Bu. "Never mind how many there are of them. Be not in the least anxious."

So Lu Bu and Li Su went to oppose them. The latter was in advance and met Niu Fu. They fought; Niu Fu was outmatched and retired after suffering a slaughter. But unexpectedly Niu Fu returned in a night attack, found Li Su quite unprepared and drove Li Su's force some ten miles, slaying many.

Li Su reported the defeat, and Lu Bu raged at him, saying, "You have sullied my reputation as a warrior and destroyed our fighting spirit."

And Lu Bu put Li Su to death, exposing his head at the camp gate.

Next day Lu Bu advanced his own force and engaged Niu Fu. He overwhelmed Niu Fu and drove him off. That night Niu Fu called in his most trusted man, Hu Chier, to advise him.

Hu Chier said, "Lu Bu is too doughty a fighter for us to hope to overcome him. Our case is hopeless. Our best course is to desert these four generals, secrete their valuables, and leave the army with just a few of our followers."

The plan of Hu Chier was adopted, and the two traitors and some others that very night packed up and made their way out of camp. They were only half a dozen. They came to a river and, while crossing, Hu Chier, tempted by the lust of wealth, slew his companion. Then he went to offer the head of Niu Fu to Lu Bu. Lu Bu inquired into the matter, and when a follower told him the truth, he put the double traitor Hu Chier to death.

Then Lu Bu advanced against the rebels and fell in with Li Jue's force. Without giving them time to form in battle, Lu Bu attacked. Horses curvetting and spears set, the army dashed in irresistibly, and Li Jue, making no stand, fell back a long way. Li Jue took up a position under a hill fifteen miles away and thence sent to call his fellows to council.

Li Jue said, "Lu Bu though brave in battle is no strategist and so not really formidable. I will lead my troops to hold the mouth of the gorge, and every day I will incite him to attack; and when he comes toward me, General Guo Si can smite his rear, after the manner of Peng Yue when he fought against Chu 2. While thus I am alternating attack and retreat, Generals Fan Chou and Zhang Ji will march off in different directions toward Changan. Such an attack at two points must end both Wang Yun and Lu Bu."

They set themselves to carry out this scheme. As soon as Lu Bu reached the hills, a force of Li Jue came out to attack him. Lu Bu made an angry dash toward the enemy who retired up the hills, whence they shot arrows and hurled stones like rain. Lu Bu's troops halted. At this moment the report came that the rear was being attacked and there appeared Guo Si. At once Lu Bu wheeled toward the new enemy, but immediately the rolling drums gave the signal to retire, and Lu Bu could not come to blows with them. As he called in his army, the gongs clanged on the other side and his former opponent Li Jue came to attack his front. But before Lu Bu could join battle, his rear was again assaulted by Guo Si, who in his turn drew off immediately.

Thus Lu Bu was baited till his bosom was near bursting with rage. The same tactics continued for several days. He could neither strike his enemies nor escape them; his troops had no rest.

In the midst of these distracting maneuver, a messenger rode up in hot haste to report: "The capital is in imminent danger from a double attack of Fan Chou and Zhang Ji."

Lu Bu at once ordered a march to save the capital, which became a rout when both his opponents Li Jue and Guo Si came in pursuit. His loss was heavy.

He soon reached Changan and found the rebels there in enormous numbers and the city quite surrounded. Lu Bu's attack had but little effect, and as his temper became more savage under defeat, many of his soldiers went over to the rebels.

He fell into deep melancholy. Then a remnant of Dong Zhuo's adherents still in the city, led by Li Meng and Wang Fang, began to lend aid to the attackers; and by and by they secretly opened the city gate and the besiegers poured in. Lu Bu exerted himself to the utmost but could not stem the tide. At the head of some hundred horse, he dashed over to the Black Lock Gate and called out to Wang Yun, who was on the other side.

"The case is desperate now. Ride with me to a place of safety."

Wang Yun replied, "If I am gifted with the holy spirit of the state, I shall succeed in restoring the tranquillity which I desire; but if I have it not, then I offer my body a sacrifice. I will not quail before dangers. Thank the noble supporters beyond the Pass for their efforts, and bid them remember their country."

Lu Bu urged Wang Yun again and again, but Wang Yun would not leave. Soon flames started up ail over the city, and Lu Bu had to leave, abandoning his family to their fate. He fled to seek refuge with Yuan Shu.

Li Jue, Guo Si, and his fellow leaders gave full license to their ruffians, who robbed and murdered their fill. Many high officers perished. Ministers Chong Fu, Lu Kui, and Zhou Huan, Imperial Commanders Cui Lie and Wang Qi all died in the fighting. In time the rebels penetrated to the inner palace, and the courtiers begged the Emperor to proceed to the Gate of Pervading Peace to try to quell the rioting. At sight of the yellow umbrella, Li Jue and Fan Chou checked their armies, and they all shouted, "Long life O Emperor!"

The Emperor stood by the tower and addressed them, "Nobles, what means it that you enter the capital in this unruly manner and without my summons?"

The two leaders looked up and said, "Dong Zhuo, Your Majesty's Prime Minister, has been slain by Wang Yun, and we are here to avenge him. We are no rebels, Sire. Let us only have Wang Yun, and we draw off our troops."

Wang Yun was actually among the courtiers and at the Emperor's side. Hearing this demand he said, "The plan was made for the benefit of the Throne; but as this evil has grown therefrom, Your Majesty will not grudge losing me. I have brought about evil, and I will go down to these rebels."

The Emperor was torn with sorrow and wavered. But the faithful minister leaped from the wall, crying, "Wang Yun is here."

The two leaders drew their swords, crying, "For what crime was our master slain?"

"His crimes filled the heavens and covered the earth; no tongue can tell them. The day he died was a day of rejoicing in the whole city as you well know," said Wang Yun.

"And if he was guilty of some crime, what had we done not to be forgiven?"

"Seditious rebels, why bandy words? I am ready to die."

And Wang Yun was slain at the foot of the tower.

Having done the loyal minister to death at the Emperor's feet, they proceeded to exterminate also his whole family. Every one mourned.

Then said the ruffians to each other, "Having gone so far what could be better than to make away with the Emperor and complete our scheme?"

The fate of the Emperor will be disclosed in the next chapter.

 

Note

1 Sima Qian and his famed "Records of the Grand Historian", which is considered one of the five foremost beautiful classics of China. "Romance of Three Kingdoms" is one and in the first order.

2 Peng Yue was a general of Liu Bang, the founder of Han Dynasty. Chu, a rival for the empire, was led by Xiang Yu, opponent of Liu Bang.

 

< Back to Chapter 8

Next to Chapter 10 >