Battle of Xiaoting
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (March 2009)|
|Battle of Xiaoting|
|Part of the wars of the Three Kingdoms period|
|Kingdom of Wu||Shu Han,
Tribal people in Wuling
|Commanders and leaders|
|Lu Xun||Liu Bei,
|50,000||amounted to 43,000 (40,000 infantry and 2-3,000 cavalry) plus several tens of thousands Wuling barbarian|
|Casualties and losses|
|Battle of Xiaoting|
|Battle of Yiling|
The Battle of Xiaoting, also known as the Battle of Yiling and the Battle of Yiling and Xiaoting, was fought between the kingdom of Wu and the state of Shu Han in 222 CE during the early Three Kingdoms period. The battle was most significant for the decisive Wu victory, which halted the Shu invasion and preceded the death of Shu's emperor Liu Bei in Baidicheng.
- 1 Background
- 2 The battle
- 3 Aftermath
- 4 Order of battle
- 5 In fiction
- 5.1 Opposition to Liu Bei's decision to go to war
- 5.2 Huang Zhong's death
- 5.3 Guan Xing killing Pan Zhang
- 5.4 Gan Ning's death
- 5.5 Zhao Yun killing Zhu Ran
- 5.6 Lady Sun's death
- 5.7 Historicity
- 5.8 Lu Xun's encounter with Zhuge Liang's Stone Sentinel Maze
- 6 Modern references
- 7 References
Guan Yu's death and the fall of Jing Province
In 219, Sun Quan's general Lü Meng invaded and annexed Liu Bei's territory in Jing Province. Guan Yu, the general appointed by Liu Bei to defend Jing Province, was captured after his defeat and executed. Liu Bei was enraged by the sudden attack because Sun Quan was formerly his ally, and also due to his close relationship with Guan Yu.
In 220, Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian to abdicate in his favour, effectively ending the Han Dynasty and establishing the state of Cao Wei. A year later, Liu Bei declared himself "Emperor of Shu Han" in Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing). Sun Quan had not declared himself emperor yet then, but his state (a kingdom), was known as Wu. In 221, Liu Bei planned to attack Wu to retake Jing Province and avenge Guan Yu. However, many of his subjects, including Zhao Yun, opposed his decision, but Liu Bei ignored them.
Zhang Fei's death
As Liu Bei mobilised his troops in preparation for the attack on Wu, another of his generals, Zhang Fei, was assassinated by his subordinates Fan Qiang and Zhang Da. Zhang Fei was growing impatient with the preparations for war, so he imposed strict deadlines on Fan Qiang and Zhang Da, but his subordinates failed to meet the time limit. Zhang Fei disparaged them before warning them that they would be executed under military law if they foundered again. Out of fear, Fan Qiang and Zhang Da killed Zhang Fei while he was asleep, cut off his head, and defected to Wu.
Liu Bei was overwhelmed with grief over the loss of two of his generals who had accompanied since the beginning of his military exploits. Zhang Fei's death hardened his decision to attack Wu for revenge. Again, many of Liu Bei's subjects, including Zhao Yun and Qin Mi, attempted to dissuade their lord from attacking Wu but Liu dismissed their advice. Eventually, Liu Bei departed from his capital Chengdu with a large army and advanced towards Jing Province on both land and water (along the Yangtze River). He left his chancellor Zhuge Liang and crown prince Liu Shan to defend Chengdu.
Initially, Wu forces underestimated the enemy's tenacity due to their superiority in numbers. As the advancing Shu army captured regions including Zigui, Wu County, Mount Ba and Mount Xing, Wu forces that set out from their fortifications to engage the enemy were nearly all annihilated. The initial defeat made Sun Quan decide to adopt Lu Xun's strategy and appoint the latter as Grand Viceroy (the de facto commander-in-chief of Sun Quan's forces).
Wu forces realised that the Shu troops were better versed in warfare in mountainous terrain as they were mostly ground troops. Thus, they decided to abandon their defences at certain territories and retreat to vital positions and defend them instead. After that, they would hold on to those positions and wait for an opportunity to launch a counterattack.
Retreat and stalemates
In January, Shu naval forces led by Wu Ban and Chen Shi captured Yiling. Liu Bei built his headquarters in Zigui but did not stay there for long as his forces continued to make progress and push further into the heartland of Wu. In February, the Shu vanguard broke through enemy lines at Yidao and defeated the Wu defenders in engagement outside the city. The Wu general Sun Huan, who was guarding Yidao, retreated with his remaining troops into the city and held on to their positions until a stalemate was reached.
Meanwhile, the main Shu force led by Liu Bei reached Xiaoting and was unable to push any further as Wu forces led by Lu Xun held on firmly to their positions. With no further retreat by Wu forces, both sides reached at stalemate at Xiaoting.
Falling morale of the Shu army
As Shu troops ventured further into Wu territory, their supply lines from Chengdu lengthened and supplies took longer to arrive. They also became gradually weary and tired from battle. The terrain became flatter and the Shu infantry lost its advantage in mountainous terrain. Liu Bei deployed his troops in over 50 camps along the 350 km line from Wuxia to Yiling on the southern bank of the Yangtze River. His vanguard army was isolated 150 km away at Yidao. Wu forces thought that it was the best time to launch their counterattack but Lu Xun ordered them to hold on.
By March, most of the Wu forces have evacuated from mountainous terrain and held up in their fortifications on flat terrain. Summer soon arrived and the sweltering heat killed several plants and shrubs. Liu Bei's forces camped at Yiling were directly next to a forest so the heat became even more unbearable. Some Shu soldiers were affected by heatstroke. By then, the Shu army's morale had fallen significantly as compared to at the start of the campaign, as the troops were now weary and suffering from the intense heat.
Liu Bei planned an ambush which turned out to be a failure. He deployed 8,000 elite troops to lie in ambush in nearby valleys and sent Wu Ban to lead a weaker force to challenge and lure Wu forces out of their fortifications into the ambush. However, Lu Xun saw through Liu Bei's ruse and ordered his troops to ignore taunts from the enemy. It was said that he even ordered his troops to put wax into their ears. The failure of the ambush caused the Shu army's morale to plummet even lower.
Burning of the camps
Shu troops were suffering from the summer heat as the stalemate, which began in March, continued to progress. Liu Bei decided to shift his camp into the nearby forest for shade and shelter from the heat even though his adviser Ma Liang opposed his decision.
In July, Lu Xun knew that the time was ripe for the counterattack. He ordered saboteurs to encircle Liu Bei's camp by travelling on water with the navy. Once they were behind Liu Bei's camp at Yiling, the saboteurs set the camp on fire. The woods gradually became a fiery inferno within hours as wildfires fuelled by dead plants and dry air erupted everywhere. As Shu soldiers rushed towards the Yangtze River for water to put out the fires, Wu archers lying in ambush shot them down. Shu forces attempted a counterattack, but Wu forces led by Pan Zhang broke through the lines they reformed and made retaliation impossible.
The Shu navy fared slightly better by barely managing an orderly retreat. Cheng Ji, a Shu official, personally led a group of men to cover the navy as it withdrew. Wu marine forces caught up with the rear guard of the Shu navy and engaged in battle. Cheng Ji and his men were surrounded by the Wu vanguard force but they managed to hold on by sinking the smaller enemy boats. However, they were eventually outnumbered when the bulk of the Wu navy arrived and were all killed.
Shu forces lost over 40 of their original 50 camps on the 350 km line to a rockslide at the Ma'an Hills. Liu Bei attempted to reform and regroup his remaining forces at the hills to make a last stand. However, his troops were split up before they could regroup as one. The Wu general Zhu Ran led an army of 5,000 to disrupt the lines and prevent Liu Bei from reforming. Lu Xun personally led an attack on Shu forces together with Xu Sheng and Han Dang, and succeeded in preventing Liu Bei from making his last stand. The entire Shu army was nearly wiped out at the Ma'an Hills.
Liu Bei's escape and death
The remaining camps of the Shu army were set ablaze by retreating Shu soldiers to hinder Wu forces' pursuit. Meanwhile, the isolated Shu vanguard force at Yidao was also completely destroyed by Wu forces. Huang Quan managed to escape together with his deputy Pang Lin and 318 horsemen to the northern bank of the Yangtze River, where they were cut off from the rest of the Shu army, and eventually they decided to surrender to Wei.
Liu Bei fled to Zigui with Wu forces hot on his heels and the demoralised Shu troops were unable to hold their ground and kept retreating. During the withdrawal, Wang Fu, the Shu official in charge of Jing Province, was killed in the ensuing battle, but his death bought time for Liu Bei to continue retreating. Xiang Chong, who was stationed at Jing Province, managed to regroup the surviving Shu troops and lead them on an orderly retreat without them suffering any further great losses.
Xiang Chong also led Liu Bei safely to Yufu (present-day Fengjie County, Chongqing) and managed to repel any further attacks by pursuing enemy forces. Liu Bei was impressed with Xiang Chong and promoted him to the rank of Viceroy. Eventually, reinforcements from Jiangzhou led by Zhao Yun arrived and a stalemate was reached before Wu forces retreated on their own accord, thus ending their counterattack. Of all the Shu commanders who participated in the battle, most of them were killed and only the naval commanders Wu Ban and Chen Shi managed to return safely.
The Battle of Xiaoting sealed the fate of Shu as a large portion of its armed forces were destroyed in the battle. Ever since then, Shu's military was not as powerful as it once was. After Liu Bei's death, Shu was ruled by the chancellor-regent Zhuge Liang on behalf of the new emperor Liu Shan. Zhuge Liang sought to make peace with Wu and restore their alliance. This was achieved in 223.
On the other hand, the Battle of Xiaoting allowed Wu to establish its control over Jing Province after the victory. Lu Xun rose to fame for his role in the battle, and his victory marked the beginning of an illustrious career that led to his appointment as chancellor of Wu more than 20 years after the battle.
Order of battle
Size of armies
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2011)|
Liu Bei personally led the bulk of Shu's army out for the campaign, with his force amounting to more than 100,000. He was supported by his allies, the tribes along the five creeks further south of Jing Province, amongst them, the strongest was the Wuling tribal king Shamoke, who commanded warriors numbering tens of thousands; while the forces of Wu was anticipating a probable invasion from the state of Wei, and had the army split: the Wu forces in Xiaoting amounted to about 50,000.
The events before, during, and after the Battle of Xiaoting are mentioned in chapters 81-84 of the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi) by Luo Guanzhong, in which some fictitious stories were included, and actual events largely exaggerated, for dramatic effect.
The following are some notable events related to the battle, as described in the novel:
Opposition to Liu Bei's decision to go to war
Liu Bei planned to go to war with Sun Quan to avenge Guan Yu and retake Jing Province, but his decision was opposed by many of his subjects. The first person who attempted to dissuade Liu Bei was Zhao Yun, but Liu ignored Zhao and gave orders to prepare for war. Following that, several officials came to see the chancellor Zhuge Liang and urge him to stop Liu Bei, so Zhuge brought them along to meet Liu and advise him against his decision, but Liu Bei refused to accept their advice. Just as Liu Bei was preparing for war, Qin Mi opposed his decision to attack Sun Quan, and Liu Bei was so angry that he wanted to have Qin executed, but Zhuge Liang intervened and Qin was spared. Zhuge Liang then submitted a memorial to Liu Bei, explaining why they should not go to war with Sun Quan, but Liu Bei threw the memorial to the ground after reading and exclaimed, "My decision is final. There is no need to advise me against my decision anymore!"
The historical text Sanguozhi did not mention anything about Zhuge Liang opposing Liu Bei's decision to go to war with Sun Quan. However, it did state that Zhao Yun and Qin Mi attempted to dissuade Liu Bei. The Yun Biezhuan mentioned that Zhao Yun advised Liu Bei against attacking Sun Quan, but Liu ignored him and proceeded with his campaign. Qin Mi's biography in the Sanguozhi stated that Liu Bei had Qin thrown into prison when the latter urged him not to attack Sun Quan on the grounds that the circumstances were unfavourable to them. Qin Mi was released from prison later.
Huang Zhong's death
The Shu general Huang Zhong participated in the campaign against Sun Quan even though he was already over 70 years old at that time, but he was still fit and strong nonetheless. He slew Pan Zhang's subordinate Shi Ji (史蹟) and defeated Pan in an engagement on the first day. On the second day, while pursuing the retreating Pan Zhang, he fell into an ambush and was surrounded by Sun Quan's generals Zhou Tai, Han Dang, Ling Tong and Pan. He was hit by an arrow fired by Ma Zhong. Guan Xing and Zhang Bao saved him, but he died from his wound that night in camp. Liu Bei mourned his death. Since the Battle of Xiaoting historically took place between 221-222, by the novel's account, Huang Zhong's year of death should be around that time.
Guan Xing killing Pan Zhang
In one of the early engagements, Guan Xing encountered the Wu general Pan Zhang, who captured his father Guan Yu in an ambush during the Battle of Maicheng. In his eagerness to avenge his father, Guan Xing pursued Pan Zhang into a valley but lost his way inside. Night fell and Guan Xing wandered around for hours until he found a small house inhabited by an old man, and he requested for food and lodging for the night. Inside the house, Guan Xing saw his father's portrait on the wall. Later that night, Pan Zhang also found his way to the house and asked to stay there. Guan Xing saw Pan Zhang and shouted at him. Just as Pan Zhang was about to walk out of the door, he encountered Guan Yu's ghost and was petrified. Guan Xing caught up with Pan Zhang, killed him, dug out his heart and placed it on the altar as a sacrifice to his father's spirit.
Pan Zhang's biography in the Sanguozhi stated that he died in 234 — more than 10 years after the Battle of Xiaoting. His cause of death was not specified though. Besides, Guan Yu's biography mentioned that Guan Xing served as a civil official in Shu after reaching adulthood (around the age of 19) and died a few years later while in office.
Gan Ning's death
The Wu general Gan Ning was down with dysentery around the time of the Battle of Xiaoting, but he still participated in the battle regardless of his illness. He was resting when he heard that enemy forces were approaching, so he quickly mounted his horse and prepared for battle. He encountered a group of barbarian warriors led by Liu Bei's ally, the tribal king Shamoke. He saw that the enemy force was too large and decided to withdraw without fighting. While retreating on horseback, Gan Ning was hit in the head by an arrow fired by Shamoke. He fled, with the arrow still embedded in his head, reached Fuchi (富池; in present-day Yangxin County, Hubei), sat down under a big tree and died. Dozens of crows on the tree flew around Gan Ning's body. When Sun Quan heard of Gan Ning's death, he was deeply saddened and ordered Gan Ning to be buried with full honours.
No details were given on Gan Ning's cause and time of death in his biography in the Sanguozhi. Gan Ning's death was briefly stated as follows: When Gan Ning died, Sun Quan deeply lamented his death.
Zhao Yun killing Zhu Ran
Liu Bei retreated under the protection of Guan Xing and Zhang Bao after his camps were set on fire by the Wu forces, and he was pursued by the enemy while withdrawing. At a critical moment, Zhao Yun showed up and blocked the attacks from the Wu soldiers. Zhao Yun encountered the Wu general Zhu Ran during the battle and he killed Zhu and covered Liu Bei as the latter headed towards Baidicheng.
The Yun Biezhuan stated that Zhao Yun did not participate in the Battle of Xiaoting. Zhao Yun previously urged Liu Bei not to go to war with Sun Quan (see the section above) but Liu ignored his advice and proceeded with the campaign. Liu Bei ordered Zhao Yun to remain behind and put him in charge of Jiangzhou (江州; within present-day Chongqing). When Zhao Yun learnt that Liu Bei had been defeated by Wu forces at Zigui (秭歸), he led a force to Yong'an (永安; within present-day Chongqing) to help Liu Bei, but the Wu forces had already retreated.
Zhu Ran's biography in the Sanguozhi stated that he died in 249 at the age of 68 (by East Asian age reckoning), about 27 years after the Battle of Xiaoting. Besides, Zhu Ran outlived Zhao Yun, who historically died in 229.
Lady Sun's death
News of Liu Bei's defeat in the battle reached his ex-wife Lady Sun, who had returned to Sun Quan's territory in Wu. After hearing rumours that Liu Bei had been killed in battle, Lady Sun ventured out to the bank of the Yangtze River, where she faced the west and cried before drowning herself in the river.
Nothing was recorded in history about what happened to Lady Sun after she left Liu Bei and returned to Sun Quan's territory.
Lu Xun's encounter with Zhuge Liang's Stone Sentinel Maze
- (權將陸遜大敗劉備，殺其兵八萬餘人，備僅以身免) Fu Xuan's Fu Zi explicitly pointed out that the casualty rate was 80,000 on Liu Bei's side.
- (說先主起兵東征。趙雲諫曰： ... 遂不聽趙雲之諫，下令起兵伐吳；) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 81.
- (當下孔明引百官來奏先主曰： ... 次日，先生整兵要行。學士秦宓奏曰： ... 孔明聞知，即上表救秦宓。其略曰： ... 先主看畢，擲表於地曰：「朕意已決，無得再諫！」) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 81.
- (雲別傳曰： ... 孫權襲荊州，先主大怒，欲討權。雲諫曰：「國賊是曹操，非孫權也，且先滅魏，則吳自服。操身雖斃，子丕篡盜，當因衆心，早圖關中，居河、渭上流以討凶逆，關東義士必裹糧策馬以迎王師。不應置魏，先與吳戰；兵勢一交，不得卒解也。」先主不聽，遂東征，留雲督江州。) Yun Biezhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 36.
- (先主旣稱尊號，將東征吳，宓陳天時必無其利，坐下獄幽閉，然後貸出。) Sanguozhi vol. 38.
- (卻說章武二年春正月， ... 言訖，不省人事，是夜殞於御營。 ... 先主見黃忠氣絕，哀傷不已，敕具棺槨，葬於成都。) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 83.
- (建安二十四年， ... 明年卒，...) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
- (原來關興殺入吳陣，正遇讎人潘璋，驟馬追之。 ... 早被關興手起劍落，斬於地上，取心瀝血，就關公神像前祭祀。) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 83.
- (嘉禾三年卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
- (子興嗣。興字安國，少有令問，丞相諸葛亮深器異之。弱冠為侍中、中監軍，數歲卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
- (卻說甘寧正在船中養病，聽知蜀兵大至，火急上馬，正遇一彪蠻兵，人皆披髮跣足，皆使弓弩長鎗，搪牌刀斧；為首乃是番王沙摩柯，生得面如噀血，碧眼突出，使兩個鐵蒺藜骨朵，腰帶兩張弓，威風抖擻。甘寧見其勢大，不敢交鋒，撥馬而走；被沙摩柯一箭射中頭顱。寧帶箭而走，到得富池口，坐於大樹之下而死。樹上群鴉數百，圍繞其屍。吳王聞之，哀痛不已，具禮厚葬，立廟祭祀。) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 83.
- (寧卒，權痛惜之。) Sanguozhi vol. 55.
- (雲正殺之間，忽遇朱然，便與交鋒；不一合，一鎗刺朱然於馬下，殺散吳兵，救出先主，望白帝城而走。) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 84.
- (先主不聽，遂東征，留雲督江州。先主失利於秭歸，雲進兵至永安，吳軍已退。) Yun Biezhuan annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 36.
- (年六十八，赤烏十二年卒，...) Sanguozhi vol. 56.
- ([建興]七年卒，追謚順平侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 36.
- (時孫夫人在吳，聞猇亭兵敗，訛傳先主死於軍中，遂驅車至江邊，望西遙哭，投江而死。) Sanguo Yanyi ch. 84.
- Chen, Shou. Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Luo, Guanzhong. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi).
- Pei, Songzhi. Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
- Sima, Guang. Zizhi Tongjian.