War between Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu
|War between Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu|
|Part of the wars at the end of the Han dynasty|
|Commanders and leaders|
Dian Wei †
Cao Ang †
Cao Anmin †
Zhang Xiu |
Deng Ji (POW)
|War between Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu|
The war between Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu was fought between the warlords Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu between 197 and 199 in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. It concluded with Zhang Xiu's surrender to Cao Cao.
In 196, the warlord Cao Cao led his forces into the ruins of the old imperial capital, Luoyang, where he met Emperor Xian, the figurehead Han emperor who had been held hostage consecutively by the warlords Dong Zhuo, Li Jue and Guo Si since his coronation in 189. He had only escaped from Chang'an in late 195 after being held hostage by Li Jue and Guo Si since Dong Zhuo's death in 192. Cao Cao treated the emperor respectfully and escorted him from Luoyang to his own base in Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan), which became the new imperial capital.
In the meantime, Li Jue and Guo Si's power bloc in Chang'an and the Guanzhong region started to weaken and break up – especially after Emperor Xian's escape. Zhang Ji, a former ally of Li Jue and Guo Si, led his followers out of the Guanzhong region into Jing Province, which was governed by the warlord Liu Biao. In an attempt to establish a foothold in Jing Province, Zhang Ji led his men to attack Rang County (穰縣; or Rangcheng 穰城; present-day Dengzhou, Henan) but was killed by a stray arrow in battle. Instead of taking revenge against Zhang Ji's followers, Liu Biao took pity on them and made peace with Zhang Ji's nephew and successor, Zhang Xiu. He also gave Zhang Xiu and his followers control over Wancheng (宛城; also known simply as Wan 宛; in present-day Nanyang, Henan) in northern Jing Province.
Battle of Wancheng
Sometime between 5 February and 6 March 197,[a] Cao Cao led his forces to attack Zhang Xiu. When his forces reached the Yu River (淯水; now known as the Bai River 白河; flowing through parts of present-day Henan and Hubei), Zhang Xiu surrendered without putting up a fight. Cao Cao was so pleased that he threw a banquet for Zhang Xiu and his followers. During the banquet, Dian Wei, a military officer under Cao Cao, stood guard beside his lord and held a giant battle axe whose blade was one chi long. Zhang Xiu and his followers did not dare to look up when they toasted to Cao Cao.
Cao Cao stayed in Wancheng for more than 10 days after receiving Zhang Xiu's surrender. During this time, he became attracted to Zhang Ji's widow[b] and took her as his concubine. Zhang Xiu, feeling outraged and humiliated, plotted revenge against Cao Cao. Cao Cao heard about Zhang Xiu's unhappiness and he planned to have Zhang Xiu assassinated.
Earlier on, Zhang Xiu's adviser, Jia Xu, suggested to his lord to ask Cao Cao if he could station his troops at a higher location near Cao Cao's camp. Following Jia Xu's advice, Zhang Xiu also asked Cao Cao: "My troops have too few chariots and they are too heavy. Can I let my troops wear heavy armour?" Cao Cao did not suspect anything and he approved Zhang Xiu's requests.
At the time, Zhang Xiu had a close aide Huche'er (胡車兒; or Huju'er), who was known for his exceptional courage. Cao Cao was so impressed by Huche'er that he gave him some gold as a gift. As Zhang Xiu already knew that Cao Cao wanted to have him assassinated, he thought that Cao Cao was trying to bribe Huche'er to be the assassin, so he quickly launched a preemptive surprise attack on Cao Cao's camp.
As Cao Cao was totally caught off guard by Zhang Xiu's attack, his forces suffered a disastrous defeat – especially when Zhang Xiu had already planned out the attack and deployed his troops near Cao Cao's camp. Cao Cao had no choice but to retreat, with only a few horsemen accompanying him. Dian Wei remained behind with about a dozen of his men to cover Cao Cao's retreat. All of them were eventually overwhelmed by Zhang Xiu's forces and killed in battle. During his escape, Cao Cao injured his face and foot when his horse, Jueying (絕影), threw him off its back after being hit by arrows. Cao Cao also sustained an arrow wound in his right arm. Cao Ang, Cao Cao's eldest son, gave his horse to his father to help him escape. Cao Ang and Cao Cao's nephew Cao Anmin (曹安民) were both killed by Zhang Xiu's forces later.
Battle of Wuyin
As Cao Cao and his remaining forces retreated to Wuyin County (舞陰縣; southeast of present-day Sheqi County, Henan), Zhang Xiu's forces continued to attack them along the way. Only Yu Jin, a colonel under Cao Cao, managed to lead his unit on an orderly retreat towards Wuyin County and make his men stay together despite suffering many casualties and losses. When Zhang Xiu's forces eased off their attacks, Yu Jin regrouped his men and they marched to Wuyin County in a dignified manner even though they lost the battle.
Before reaching his destination, Yu Jin learnt that the Qingzhou Corps (青州兵), an elite unit in Cao Cao's army composed of former Yellow Turban rebels, had taken advantage of the chaos to pillage villages along the way. He then led his men to attack and punish the Qingzhou soldiers. Some Qingzhou soldiers managed to flee to Wuyin County, meet Cao Cao, and falsely accuse Yu Jin of committing the atrocities they were responsible for. When Yu Jin reached Wuyin County, instead of going straight to meet Cao Cao and explain himself, Yu Jin immediately went to set up defensive fortifications around Cao Cao's camp because he knew that Cao Cao, given his wisdom, would not believe the Qingzhou soldiers' lies so there was no rush for him to explain himself. He also thought that it was more important to strengthen their defences in case Zhang Xiu attacked again. Yu Jin was proven right; Cao Cao also praised and rewarded him for his efforts.
At Wuyin County, Cao Cao managed to rally his remaining troops to hold their ground and fend off a final wave of attacks by Zhang Xiu's cavalry. After failing to defeat Cao Cao at Wuyin County, Zhang Xiu retreated to Rang County (穰縣; or Rangcheng 穰城; present-day Dengzhou, Henan), where he met up with Liu Biao. Cao Cao broke down in tears when he heard of Dian Wei's death, and later had Dian Wei's body retrieved and buried in Xiangyi County (襄邑縣; present-day Sui County, Henan). He returned to his base in Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) after that.
Battles of Ye, Huyang and Wuyin
After Cao Cao left Wuyin County (舞陰縣; southeast of present-day Sheqi County, Henan), many counties in two commanderies – Nanyang and Zhangling (章陵; around present-day Zaoyang, Hubei) – rebelled against him and defected to Zhang Xiu's side. When he sent his cousin Cao Hong to lead troops to attack and recapture those counties, Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao's forces defeated Cao Hong and forced him to retreat to Ye County (葉縣; southwest of present-day Ye County, Henan). During this time, Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao's forces attacked Cao Hong at Ye County several times but Cao Hong managed to defend his position.
Sometime between 28 November and 26 December 197,[c] Cao Cao launched another campaign against Zhang Xiu and personally led his forces to Wancheng (宛城; in present-day Nanyang, Henan). At the bank of the Yu River (淯水; now known as the Bai River 白河; flowing through parts of present-day Henan and Hubei), he held a memorial service to mourn the people who lost their lives in the previous campaign against Zhang Xiu. During the ceremony, he wept inconsolably and touched the hearts of everyone present at the scene.
Liu Biao sent Deng Ji (鄧濟), a military officer under him, to lead troops to occupy and guard Huyang County (湖陽縣; southwest of present-day Tanghe County, Henan). Cao Cao later led his forces to attack Huyang County, conquered it, and took Deng Ji as a prisoner-of-war. He then followed up by attacking Wuyin County and succeeded in capturing it too.
Battle of Rangcheng
Cao Cao returned to his base in Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) sometime between 26 January and 23 February 198[d] after his second campaign against Zhang Xiu. Between 24 April and 23 May,[e] he launched a third campaign and led his forces to attack Zhang Xiu at Rang County (穰縣; or Rangcheng 穰城; present-day Dengzhou, Henan). Between 22 June and 21 July,[f] Liu Biao sent reinforcements to assist Zhang Xiu and attempt to block Cao Cao's army from the rear.
Around this time, Cao Cao received intelligence that Tian Feng, an adviser to his rival Yuan Shao, had suggested that Yuan Shao should take advantage of Cao Cao's absence from Xu to launch an attack on the imperial capital, seize Emperor Xian, and bring him to his base in Ye (鄴; in present-day Handan, Hebei). Upon hearing this, he immediately lifted the siege on Rang County and prepared to return to Xu. However, he could not retreat as Zhang Xiu came to intercept him, so he ordered his troops to retreat carefully while ensuring that their camps were always linked so that they could back each other up in the event of an enemy attack. Cao Cao wrote a letter to his adviser Xun Yu, who was stationed in Xu: "Even though the enemy has travelled several li in a day to catch up with me, I have a plan to deal with them. When I reach Anzhong, I will definitely defeat Zhang Xiu." When he reached Anzhong County (安眾縣; in present-day Dengzhou, Henan), Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao's forces occupied the strategic locations in front and behind, trapping him and his forces in between. Cao Cao then ordered his troops to secretly dig underground tunnels and transport their supplies and heavy equipment back to Xu under the cover of night, while he and his remaining troops hid themselves and waited in ambush.
In the morning, when Zhang Xiu received news that Cao Cao's camps were empty, he thought that Cao Cao had fled so he wanted to lead his troops in pursuit. However, Jia Xu, his adviser, warned him not to pursue Cao Cao and predicted that he would lose if he did. Zhang Xiu ignored him and went ahead. Just as Jia Xu foresaw, Zhang Xiu fell into Cao Cao's ambush and was soundly defeated. When Zhang Xiu came back after his defeat, Jia Xu told him to attack again and predicted that he would win this time. Zhang Xiu said, "I didn't listen to you earlier, which resulted in my defeat. Now that I have lost, why should I attack again?" Jia Xu replied, "Changes have taken place. You'll win if you swiftly attack now." Zhang Xiu heeded Jia Xu's advice and attacked Cao Cao again. He won the battle the second time.
After the battle, Zhang Xiu asked Jia Xu: "When I led my best troops to attack Cao Cao while he was retreating, you predicted I would lose. When I led my troops to attack Cao Cao again just after he defeated me, you predicted I would win. Your predictions turned out to be accurate. But why is it that your predictions seem so counter-intuitive?" Jia Xu replied, "It's easy to understand. General, you may be skilled in warfare, but you're still no match for Cao Cao. When Cao Cao withdrew his forces, I knew he would personally lead his rearguard to cover his retreat. Even though your troops are well-trained, Cao Cao is better than you as a military leader, and his troops are as equally well-trained as yours. Therefore, I knew you would lose. When Cao Cao first attacked you and decided to retreat halfway even though he didn't make any mistakes, I believed something must have happened in his base. After he defeated your pursuing forces, he would lower his guard and hastily retreat. His officers will then take command of the rearguard. They may be brave, but they are no match for you. Therefore, I knew you would win them even though you're leading a group of soldiers who have just been defeated." Zhang Xiu was very impressed with Jia Xu's analysis.
Cao Cao returned to his base in Xu (許; present-day Xuchang, Henan) sometime between 20 August and 18 September 198.[g] When Xun Yu asked Cao Cao how he knew he would definitely defeat Zhang Xiu when he wrote the letter to Xun Yu earlier during the battle, Cao Cao replied: "The enemy wanted to prevent me and my men from retreating. In doing so, they were forcing us to fight for our lives. That was when I knew we would definitely win."
Zhang Xiu's surrender
In 199, when Cao Cao and Yuan Shao were about to clash at the Battle of Guandu, Yuan Shao sent a messenger to meet Zhang Xiu and propose an alliance between them against Cao Cao. Zhang Xiu wanted to agree, but his adviser Jia Xu told Yuan Shao's messenger, "I say 'No, thank you.' to Yuan Benchu. He can't even accommodate his own brother. What makes him think he can accommodate talents from around the Empire?"
A shocked Zhang Xiu turned to Jia Xu and asked, "Why do you have to say this? What will become of me now?" Jia Xu replied, "Why don't you submit to Cao Cao?" Zhang Xiu asked, "Yuan Shao is powerful while Cao Cao is weak. Besides, I'm also Cao Cao's enemy. What will happen if I submit to him?" Jia Xu replied, "That's why it is better for you to submit to Cao Cao. He controls the Empire in the name of the Emperor. This is the first reason why you should submit to him. Yuan Shao is militarily more powerful. You have less troops than him, so even if you join him, he won't regard you highly. Cao Cao has less troops. If you join him, he'll be delighted. This is the second reason why you should submit to him. A man who aspires to become a great ruler will be more willing to put aside personal enmities and make his virtues known to people. This is the third reason why you should submit to Cao Cao. I hope you won't have any more doubts." Zhang Xiu heeded Jia Xu's advice and led his forces to surrender to and join Cao Cao.
Zhang Xiu surrendered to Cao Cao sometime between 6 December 199 and 3 January 200.[h] When Zhang Xiu showed up, Cao Cao came out to welcome him, held his hand, and hosted a banquet in his honour. Apart from recommending Emperor Xian to enfeoff Zhang Xiu as a marquis and appoint him as General Who Spreads Martial Might (揚武將軍), Cao Cao also arranged for one of his sons, Cao Jun, to marry Zhang Xiu's daughter. Zhang Xiu fought on Cao Cao's side during the Battle of Guandu against Yuan Shao and was promoted to General Who Defeats the Qiang (破羌將軍) for his contributions.
In popular culture
The Battle of Wancheng is featured in Koei's video game series Dynasty Warriors as a playable stage and the highlight of Dian Wei's story mode. If the player is not playing as Dian Wei, Dian Wei makes his last appearance in that stage and does not appear again in the subsequent stages. In Dynasty Warriors 7, after Cao Cao's escapes from the castle, he attacks Zhang Xiu with Xiahou Dun and Xu Chu and ends up gaining Jia Xu in his ranks. If Zhang Xiu is defeated by Cao Cao, it is not known if he was killed by Cao Cao or retreated from the battle.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that the Battle of Wancheng took place in the 1st month of the 2nd year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 5 February to 6 March 197 in the Gregorian calendar.
- Zhang Ji's widow is called "Lady Zou" (鄒氏) in the 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that this campaign took place in the 1st month of the 2nd year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 28 November to 26 December 197 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that this event took place in the 10th month of the 3rd year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 26 January to 23 February 198 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that this event took place in the 3rd month of the 3rd year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 24 April to 23 May 198 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that this event took place in the 5th month of the 3rd year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 22 June to 21 July 198 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that this event took place in the 7th month of the 3rd year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 20 August to 18 September 198 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Sanguozhi recorded that this event took place in the 11th month of the 4th year of the Jian'an era in Emperor Xian's reign. This month corresponds to 6 December 199 to 3 January 200 in the Gregorian calendar.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 62.
- (張濟自關中引兵入荊州界，攻穰城，為流矢所中死。荊州官屬皆賀，劉表曰：「濟以窮來，主人無禮，至於交鋒，此非牧意，牧受弔，不受賀也。」使人納其衆；衆聞之喜，皆歸心焉。濟族子建忠將軍繡代領其衆，屯宛。) Zizhi Tongjian vol. 62.
- (張濟自關中走南陽。濟死，從子繡領其衆。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (太祖南征，軍淯水，繡等舉衆降。) Sanguozhi vol. 8.
- (太祖征荊州，至宛，張繡迎降。太祖甚恱，延繡及其將帥，置酒高會。太祖行酒，韋持大斧立後，刃徑尺，太祖所至之前，韋輒舉斧目之。竟酒，繡及其將帥莫敢仰視。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- Sanguo Yanyi ch. 16.
- (太祖納濟妻，繡恨之。太祖聞其不恱，密有殺繡之計。計漏，繡掩襲太祖。) Sanguozhi vol. 8.
- (吳書曰：繡降，用賈詡計，乞徙軍就高道，道由太祖屯中。繡又曰：「車少而重，乞得使兵各被甲。」太祖信繡，皆聽之。繡乃嚴兵入屯，掩太祖。太祖不備，故敗。) Wu Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 8.
- (傅子曰：繡有所親胡車兒，勇冠其軍。太祖愛其驍健，手以金與之。繡聞而疑太祖欲因左右刺之，遂反。) Fu Zi annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 8.
- (二年春正月，公到宛。張繡降，旣而悔之，復反。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (後十餘日，繡反，襲太祖營，太祖出戰不利，輕騎引去。韋戰於門中，賊不得入。兵遂散從他門並入。時韋校尚有十餘人，皆殊死戰，無不一當十。賊前後至稍多，韋以長戟左右擊之，一叉入，輒十餘矛摧。左右死傷者略盡。韋被數十創，短兵接戰，賊前搏之。韋雙挾兩賊擊殺之，餘賊不敢前。韋復前突賊，殺數人，創重發，瞋目大罵而死。) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (魏書曰：公所乘馬名絕影，為流矢所中，傷頰及足，并中公右臂。) Wei Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (世語曰：昂不能騎，進馬於公，公故免，而昂遇害。) Shiyu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (公與戰，軍敗，為流矢所中，長子昂、弟子安民遇害。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (從至宛，降張繡。繡復叛，太祖與戰不利，軍敗，還舞陰。是時軍亂，各間行求太祖，禁獨勒所將數百人，且戰且引，雖有死傷不相離。虜追稍緩，禁徐整行隊，鳴鼓而還。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (未至太祖所，道見十餘人被創裸走，禁問其故，曰：「為青州兵所劫。」初，黃巾降，號青州兵，太祖寬之，故敢因緣為略。禁怒，令其衆曰：「青州兵同屬曹公，而還為賊乎！」乃討之，數之以罪。青州兵遽走詣太祖自訴。禁旣至，先立營壘，不時謁太祖。或謂禁：「青州兵已訴君矣，宜促詣公辨之。」禁曰：「今賊在後，追至無時，不先為備，何以待敵？且公聦明，譖訴何緣！」徐鑿塹安營訖，乃入謁，具陳其狀。太祖恱，謂禁曰：「淯水之難，吾其急也，將軍在亂能整，討暴堅壘，有不可動之節，雖古名將，何以加之！」於是錄禁前後功，封益壽亭侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 17.
- (太祖退住舞陰，聞韋死，為流涕，募閒取其喪，親自臨哭之，遣歸葬襄邑， ...) Sanguozhi vol. 18.
- (公乃引兵還舞陰，繡將騎來鈔，公擊破之。繡奔穰，與劉表合。公謂諸將曰：「吾降張繡等，失不便取其質，以至于此。吾知所以敗。諸卿觀之，自今已後不復敗矣。」遂還許。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (公之自舞陰還也，南陽、章陵諸縣復叛為繡，公遣曹洪擊之，不利，還屯葉，數為繡、表所侵。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (魏書曰：臨淯水，祠亡將士，歔欷流涕，衆皆感慟。) Wei Shu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (表將鄧濟據湖陽。攻拔之，生禽濟，湖陽降。攻舞陰，下之。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (三年春正月，公還許，初置軍師祭酒。三月，公圍張繡於穰。夏五月，劉表遣兵救繡，以絕軍後。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (獻帝春秋曰：袁紹叛卒詣公云：「田豐使紹早襲許，若挾天子以令諸侯，四海可指麾而定。」公乃解繡圍。) Xiandi Chunqiu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (公將引還，繡兵來，公軍不得進，連營稍前。公與荀彧書曰：「賊來追吾，雖日行數里，吾策之，到安衆，破繡必矣。」到安衆，繡與表兵合守險，公軍前後受敵。公乃夜鑿險為地道，悉過輜重，設奇兵。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (會明，賊謂公為遁也，悉軍來追。乃縱奇兵步騎夾攻，大破之。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (太祖比征之，一朝引軍退，繡自追之。詡謂繡曰：「不可追也，追必敗。」繡不從，進兵交戰，大敗而還。) Sanguozhi vol. 10.
- (詡謂繡曰：「促更追之，更戰必勝。」繡謝曰：「不用公言，以至於此。今已敗，柰何復追？」詡曰：「兵勢有變，亟往必利。」繡信之，遂收散卒赴追，大戰，果以勝還。) Sanguozhi vol. 10.
- (問詡曰：「繡以精兵追退軍，而公曰必敗；退以敗卒擊勝兵，而公曰必剋。悉如公言，何其反而皆驗也？」詡曰：「此易知耳。將軍雖善用兵，非曹公敵也。軍雖新退，曹公必自斷後；追兵雖精，將旣不敵，彼士亦銳，故知必敗。曹公攻將軍無失策，力未盡而退，必國內有故；已破將軍，必輕軍速進，縱留諸將斷後，諸將雖勇，亦非將軍敵，故雖用敗兵而戰必勝也。」繡乃服。) Sanguozhi vol. 10.
- (秋七月，公還許。荀彧問公：「前以策賊必破，何也？」公曰：「虜遏吾歸師，而與吾死地戰，吾是以知勝矣。」) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 63.
- (是後，太祖拒袁紹於官渡，紹遣人招繡，并與詡書結援。繡欲許之，詡顯於繡坐上謂紹使曰：「歸謝袁本初，兄弟不能相容，而能容天下國士乎？」) Sanguozhi vol. 10.
- (繡驚懼曰：「何至於此！」竊謂詡曰：「若此，當何歸？」詡曰：「不如從曹公。」繡曰：「袁彊曹弱，又與曹為讎，從之如何？」詡曰：「此乃所以宜從也。夫曹公奉天子以令天下，其宜從一也。紹彊盛，我以少衆從之，必不以我為重。曹公衆弱，其得我必喜，其宜從二也。夫有霸王之志者，固將釋私怨，以明德於四海，其宜從三也。願將軍無疑！」繡從之，率衆歸太祖。) Sanguozhi vol. 10.
- (冬十一月，張繡率衆降，封列侯。) Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (繡至，太祖執其手，與歡宴，為子均取繡女，拜揚武將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 8.
- (官渡之役，繡力戰有功，遷破羌將軍。) Sanguozhi vol. 8.
- Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
- Luo, Guanzhong (14th century). Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo Yanyi).
- Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
- Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.