Thursday, October 16, 2008

Three Qins

The Three Qins refer to three of the 19 principalities created by Xiang Yu in the aftermaths of the collapse of Qin Dynasty in 206 BC. Now "Three Qins" is another name for Shaanxi Province in China.

Originally, according to the pledge made by Mi Xin, , Qin proper should have been given to Liu Bang, because Liu entered Qin proper first. However, Xiang Yu, jealous and fearful of Liu's accomplishment, effectively exiled Liu by giving him the Principality of instead. Xiang instead divided Qin proper into three principalities, which he awarded to three former Qin military leaders:

, given to Qin general , who had been forced to surrender to Xiang, occupying modern central Shaanxi;
, given to Zhang Han's deputy Sima Xin , occupying modern northeastern Shaanxi;
, given to Zhang Han's assistant Dong Yi , occupying modern northern Shaanxi.

Xiang, however, either did not realize or ignored that the people of Qin despised Zhang, Sima, and Dong, for having been sole survivors of Xiang's massacre of Qin forces that Zhang had surrendered to Xiang.

In autumn 206 BC, Han forces, led by Liu's general Han Xin, made a surprise attack against the three Qins and easily conquered them. Sima and Dong surrendered quickly. Zhang was sieged in his capital of Feiqiu for nearly a year, and finally committed suicide in summer 205 BC. Feiqiu then surrendered.

Shaanxi Guoli

Shaanxi Guoli was a football club in the People's Republic of China. Their home stadium was Jiaodaruisun Stadium.

Founded on February 28, 1996, they played nine seasons in the Chinese football leagues until they went bankrupt and were removed from the Chinese Football Association Jia League in 2005 by the Chinese Football Association.

Their best finish was ninth place in 2001 in the Chinese Football Association Jia League.

Battle of Xingshi

The Battle of Xingshi was a failed invasion of Shu Han by Cao Wei, and it was one of the most important and yet most understated battle in the Three Kingdoms era. The battle is named after the location where the battle occurred, and Xingshi refers to Xingshi Mountain , located to the north of present day Oceanic County, inside the present day Changqing National Nature Reserve.


In the power struggle between Cao Shuang and Sima Yi, the latter enjoyed much greater fame due to the successful defensive campaign against Zhuge Liang. Cao Shuang desperately needed a great military victory to boost his fame to match that of Sima Yi, and Cao Shuang's protégés Deng Yang and Li Sheng suggested to him that launching a campaign against Shu Han was the way. Despite strong oppositions, Cao Shuang believed that this was viable, especially when Jiang Wan, the Shu Han commander withdrew his main force from Hanzhong to Fu County in October, 243. Cao Shuang and his protégés concluded that with numerical superiority, Cao Wei could easily take Hanzhong before Shu Han reinforcements could arrive, and it not completely destroy Shu Han, the taking of Hanzhong along would be sufficient enough to boost the support, popularity and fame of Cao Shuang's camp. As it turned out, Cao Wei had greatly underestimated the enemy.


The three traditional passages from Hanzhong to Guanzhong were all valleys in the Qinling Mountains. Meridian Trail in the east is the longest, totalling more than 330 km, with its northern end located to the south of Chang'an. The southern half of the valley was called Zi Valley and the northern half was called Wu Valley. The rugged local terrain provided numerous spots that were perfect for ambushes, and whoever sets up ambushes could easily completely annihilate the opposing side travelling in the valley, and thus this longest route was also the most dangerous. However, if Shu Han was on the offensive, it could easily threaten Chang'an by taking this route, and that was the exact suggestion Wei Yan proposed to Zhuge Liang in the latter’s . The 235 km long Baoxie Trail located in the west had the best road condition among all three traditional passages, with the northern half called Xie Valley and the south half Bao Valley. The southern end of the Baoxie Trail was located around 25 km north of Hanzhong, while its northern end was located 15 km to the south of present day Mei County of Shaanxi. In the center of Baoxie Trail , another valley called Winnowing Basket Valley branched out westward, and then turned northward, eventually ending near Chencang , a strategic stronghold that would be threatened if Shu Han was on the offensive. If Cao Wei was on the offensive and took the initiative by going out actively engaging the enemy, the good road condition would mean that Shu Han could deploy their defensive force quicker and stop the attack before Cao Wei force could get out of the valley.

The 210 km long Tangluo Trail in the center was the shortest among all three, and it got its name from the geographical locations at its ends. The southern end was located next to the Tangsui River in the present day Oceanic County of Hanzhong, and the northern end was located in the Luo Mountain to the west of present day Zhouzhi County. Hence, the southern half was called Tang Valley and the northern half was called Luo Valley. Cao Shuang had committed a grave strategic blunder when he selected this central route to attack Shu Han because despite being the shortest, the road condition was the poorest among all three routes. More importantly, among the three traditional passages, Tangluo Trail had the longest section without any water source. As a result, the logistic problem crippled the invasion force, with many if not most of the packing animals of Cao Wei force died of thirst before even get out of the valley. Cao Shuang was forced to mobilize tens of thousands of draftees as coolies to carry supplies, and many of them met the same fate of the packing animals. Consequently, morale plummeted and resentment of Cao Shuang’s rule not only drastically increased among the troops he commanded, but also back home in Cao Wei.

Order of battle

Cao Wei order of battle:
*Senior General Cao Shuang – Commander-in-chief
**General Subduing the West Xiahou Xuan – Deputy commander-in-chief
**Inspector of Yong State Guo Huai – Vanguard
Shu Han order of battle:
*Senior General Stabilizing the North
**General Protecting the Army
*Senior General Fei Yi

The battle

In March, 244, Cao Shuang promoted Xiahou Xuan as the General Subduing the West , taking command of more than seventy thousand troops, and inspector of Yong province Guo Huai was named as the vanguard of the invasion force. Cao Shuang led another force totaled more than seventy thousands subsequently joined Xiahou Xuan and Guo Huai’s force, and begun the march toward Hanzhong via Tangluo Trail. Cao Shuang’s protégés Deng Yang and Li Sheng participated in the invasion as his staff. The primary target of the Cao Wei invasion force was the Yangping Pass, located to the west of the present day Wuhou Town of Mian County of Shaanxi.

Senior General Stabilizing the North was in charge of defending Hanzhong for Shu Han, but his force totalled less than thirty thousand. Facing absolute numerical inferiority, some Shu Han commanders suggested to concentrate on defending Han City and Yue City (. Wang Ping rejected the idea because the reinforcements was too far away and it would take time to arrive, and it would cause disaster for Shu Han if the enemy was allowed to passed through Yangping Pass unopposed. Therefore, the enemy must be stopped by taking geographical advantage of local rugged terrain. General Protecting the Army Liu Min was ordered to take up positions in Xingshi Mountain, and to plant an array of flags over a hundred mile to fool the enemy into believing that the opposing Shu Han force was much greater than it actually was. Wang Ping himself would personally lead an army behind to prevent possible separate assaults by Cao Wei force from Gold Valley , located to the east of Xingshi Mountain. As Wang Ping had correctly predicted, by April, 244, the enemy advance was successfully checked at the Xingshi Mountain and the enemy’s supply begun to run out as their supply line was over extended and nearly all of their pack animals were dead. Senior General Fei Yi of Shu Han, meanwhile, was on his way to Hanzhong with reinforcements from Chengdu. The counteroffensive of Shu Han was about to be launched against the overstretched Cao Wei invasion force.

Cao Shuang’s staff officer Yang Wei realized the danger and begged Cao Shuang to abandon the campaign and retreat immediately, but Deng Yang objected and argued with Yang Wei despite his lack of any military knowledge. Yang Wei could not convince either and furiously claimed that Deng Yang and Li Sheng were playing lives of hundred thousands, as well as the fate of Cao Wei, and they should be decapitated. Cao Shuang was obviously very unhappy with such suggestions and turned down both. The Grand Tutor Sima Yi, who opposed the campaign from the very beginning, could no longer ignore the dangerous situation and wrote to Xiahou Xuan to inform him about the impending disaster, and warned him that Xiahou Xuan himself was well aware that years ago, Cao Cao almost suffered a total defeat in the struggle against Liu Bei for Hanzhong. Shu Han force was in firm control of Xingshi Mountain, which prevented Cao Wei force from continuing pushing forward, and if another Shu Han force cut off the retreating route of Cao Wei force, they would not even be able to live to regret it. Xiahou Xuan finally realized the dangerous situation they were in after getting Sima Yi’s letter, and finally managed to convince Cao Shuang to give the order to retreat, albeit the latter did so reluctantly.

Fei Yi, however, would not let the Cao Shuang retreat easily, and led his force around the Cao Wei force and blocked their retreat. Shu Han force setup defensive positions in the places where they enjoyed absolute geographical advantage over Cao Wei forces: the three ridges in the Luo Valley: Shen Ridge , Ya Ridge , and Watershed Ridge . Cao Shuang and his officers were barely able to escape back to Guanzhong after their forces suffered a devastating casualties that exceeded over a hundred thousand, though many had died before the retreat had even begun due to thirst, hunger and illness. Rumor has it that ever since the battle, even the people of the Republic of China era would see ancient soldiers in bloody uniforms in the Luo Valley in the windy dark nights, because the roaming ghosts of the soldiers killed seventeen centuries ago was still attempting to return home. For his victory, Fei Yi was awarded the rank of Chengxiang Marquis , and stayed in Hanzhong until September 244 when he returned to Chengdu. In contrast, the prestige and popularity of Cao Shuang dropped sharply, which helped to lead his eventual downfall in the power struggle against Sima Yi.


The Battle of Xingshi was one of the most important yet most understated battles in the Three Kingdoms era. The lack of participation of the principle figures of the time such as Zhuge Liang and Jiang Wei caused many authors to put much less emphasis or even ignore the battle in their works in comparison to other battles occurred in the Three Kingdoms era. In reality, the battle had profound impact in the history in that it postponed the unification of China for decades due to the heavy loss Cao Wei had suffered: because soldiers drafted from the peasantry, the heavy loss meant that no labors were available to tend the farmland. In order to tend farmlands and help the widows and orphans resulted from the defeated campaign, at least a hundred thousand soldiers from the Tuntian army was reassigned back to their agricultural roles. These troops never returned to the active service again as they were needed to remain as farmers and as a consequence, the total number of Cao Wei troops decreased by a quarter, dropping from eight hundred thousands at its peak to six hundred thousands, a number that was not exceeded until the time of the War of the Eight Princes, over half a century later.

The drastic loss of troops also caused to another important severe consequence in that Cao Wei was no longer able to suppress the rebellions of minorities in the north like it used to . From that point on, the smaller rebellions of minorities in the north would cumulated into a formidable force that eventually overthrown the Chinese rule in the northern China seven decades later during the Jin Dynasty . Despite being relatively unnoticed in literature, Chinese historical military strategists highly credited the battle, for example, Liu Ji in his work titled “The Unexpected Strategies of a Hundred Battles” 《百战奇略》 classified this battle as the classical example of “retreating wars” , meaning that if your enemy held the absolute geographical advantage and you were already having trouble to carry on the fight, a rapid retreat was the only viable option.

Battle of Wuzhang Plains

The Battle of Wuzhang Plains is a famous standoff between the kingdoms of and in 234 A.D. during the Three Kingdoms period of China. The battle is part of the fifth and last of the led by Shu statesman Zhuge Liang, who fell ill and died during the standoff.


In the spring of 234, Zhuge Liang led 300,000 soldiers through Xiagu Pass after three years of preparation since his last northern expedition. At the same time, Zhuge Liang sent an emissary to the allied Eastern Wu, hoping that Wu would attack Wei at the same time. In April, the Shu forces reached the Wuzhang Plains near the Wei River and made camp there. The Wei commander, Sima Yi, well prepared for such a move with a 400,000-strong army, built a fortified position on the southern bank of the Wei River.

The battle

Initial clashes

Guo Huai suggested that Sima Yi should form a position in the plains' north, since Zhuge Liang would likely strike there. Sima Yi agreed, and sent Guo Huai to set camp there. Shu forces attacked the Wei camp there while it was being built, but Guo Huai was able to repel them.


Sima Yi would not engage the Shu forces, instead trying to make the Shu forces to retreat through . Zhuge Liang understood the problem, and implemented Cao Cao's tuntian system to keep his troops fed.

The Shu army awaited an agreed offensive by Wu for the moment to strike. However, Sun Quan's armies in the were defeated by Cao Rui and succumbed to an endemic disease. Thus the stalemate remained in place and continued for hundreds of days. Shu forces tried to engage the Wei forces several times, but Sima Yi kept his place and would not meet the enemy.

Once Zhuge Liang sent women's clothes to Sima Yi, suggesting that he was a woman for not daring to attack. The Wei officers were enraged by this, but Sima Yi would not be provoked. To appease his officers, Sima Yi asked the Wei Emperor Cao Rui for permission to engage the Shu forces. Cao Rui, understanding the situation, sent his advisor Xin Pi to Sima Yi telling the Wei forces to be patient.

Death of Zhuge Liang

In an attempt to engage the Wei forces, Zhuge Liang sent Sima Yi an emissary urging him to battle. Sima Yi, however, would not discuss military matters with the emissary, instead inquired about Zhuge Liang's tasks. The emissary replied that Zhuge Liang personally manages matters both big and small in the military, from military tactics to meals for the night, but he consumes very little. Sima Yi then told an aide that Zhuge Liang would not last long.

In August, Zhuge Liang fell sick due to exhaustion and his condition became worse everyday. The news reached Shu Emperor Liu Shan, who sent Li Fu to ask Zhuge Liang for Shu's future plans. Zhuge Liang replied that Jiang Wan could take his position after he dies, and should Jiang Wan fall Fei Yi could take over. When asked about Fei Yi's successor, Zhuge Liang fell silent. Li Fu then returned to the capital.

Zhuge Liang also gave instructions on how the Shu forces should withdraw back to Hanzhong: Yang Yi and Fei Yi would lead the forces while Jiang Wei and Wei Yan would guard the rear; if Wei Yan disobeyed, the Shu forces were to leave without him. In the early autumn of 234, Zhuge Liang died at the age of 54.

The Shu retreat

Following Zhuge Liang's death, the Shu forces quietly withdrew from their camps while keeping Zhuge Liang's death a secret. Sima Yi, convinced by the locals that Zhuge Liang had died, gave chase to the retreating Shu forces. Jiang Wei then had Yang Yi turn around and pretend to strike. Seeing this, Sima Yi feared that Zhuge Liang only pretended he was dead to lure him out, and immediately retreated. Common folklore tells of a double, or a wooden statue, that was dressed as Zhuge Liang, driving Sima Yi away in this incident. In any case, word that Sima Yi fled from the already dead Zhuge Liang spread, spawning a popular saying, "A dead Zhuge scares away a living Zhongda" , referring to Sima Yi's courtesy name. When Sima Yi heard of such ridicule, he laughingly responded, "I can predict the living, but not the dead."

News of Zhuge Liang's death was withheld until the Shu army had reached the safety of the Baoye valley to return to Hanzhong. Sima Yi, fearful that the announcement was false and merely another opportunity for Zhuge to demonstrate his talent for ambuscade, hesitated to pursue. Only after his inspection of the empty Shu encampment did he resolve that pursuit was appropriate, but after reaching Baoye and deciding the advance could not be supported with supplies, the Wei army returned to the Wei River.


Conflict between Wei Yan and Yang Yi

Wei Yan, dismayed that the Shu forces are retreating "over the death of one man", collected his men and rode ahead of the main army and razed the gallery road behind them to prevent the main army from returning home. Yang Yi, who held a personal grudge against Wei Yan, sent the emperor a letter accusing Wei Yan of treason; Wei Yan did the same against Yang Yi. Emperor Liu Shan asked Dong Yun and Jiang Wan for their opinions, and both were suspicious of Wei Yan. Liu Shan then sent Jiang Wan to lead a force of imperial bodyguards north to cope with the disorders.

Later, Yang Yi led the main army through the mountains despite the loss of the gallery roads and confronted Wei Yan's detachment at Nangu Pass . There, Wei Yan sent troops to attack Yang Yi while Yang Yi commanded Wang Ping to resist Wei Yan. Upon meeting, Wang Ping scolded Wei Yan, "His Excellency so lately died that his body is not yet cold; how dare you act this way!" Hearing this, Wei Yan's forces scattered, knowing their commander was in the wrong. Wei Yan, along with his sons and a few followers, fled to Hanzhong. Yang Yi sent Ma Dai to give chase, and soon Ma Dai chopped Wei Yan's head off and sent it to Yang Yi. Yang Yi then ordered the execution of Wei Yan's family to the third degree.

Jiang Wan was about ten '''' away from the Shu capital Chengdu when he heard news of Wei Yan's death, so he returned.

Long-term influences

After Zhuge Liang's death Jiang Wan took his post, but Jiang Wan was more interested in domestic matters than military expansion. Thus the death of Zhuge Liang ended a huge strategic threat to Wei and the Wei court soon began development of ambitious public works.

Sima Yi's success and subsequent rise in prominence paved the way for his grandson Sima Yan's foundation of the , which would eventually bring an end to the Three Kingdoms period.

In popular culture

Ever since the beginning of the ''Dynasty Warriors'' series on the Playstation 2, the Battle of Wu Zhang Plains has always been one of the final stages of the game.

Battle of Tong Pass

The Battle of Tong Pass was a battle between Cao Cao and the forces of from March to September of 211 during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms era in China. This battle was initiated by Cao Cao's western expansion, which triggered uprisings from Guanxi. Nonetheless, Cao Cao repelled the Guanxi armies led by men such as Ma Chao and Han Sui, and established a hold of Guanzhong.


Before the , Ma Teng controlled a sizable army in the northwestern frontiers of China which threatened the North China Plains controlled by Cao Cao. When Cao Cao finished his in 207, he wished to turn south to invade Liu Bei and Sun Quan; so to avoid being attacked from behind, Cao Cao made Ma Teng an imperial officer and summoned him to , which Cao controlled. Ma Teng's household was effectively a hostage to prevent Ma Teng's son, Ma Chao, from attacking.

Cao Cao's southern expedition did not go well; however, as he was defeated by the combined forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei at the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208. He soon turned his attention west instead, with the intention to invade Guanzhong. In March 211, Cao Cao sent Zhong Yao to attack Hanzhong, controlled by warlord Zhang Lu, while sending Xiahou Yuan to rendezvous with Zhong Yao's forces. Gao Rou cautioned Cao Cao against such a move, saying that sending massive armies west could draw suspicion from the forces of Guanxi and cause them to revolt. However, Cao Cao paid no heed to his cautions.

As predicted, the forces of Guanxi began suspecting an assault from Cao Cao, and soon Ma Chao, Han Sui, Hou Xuan, Cheng Yin, Yang Qiu, Li Kan, , Liang Xing, , and collected their strengths and marched into Tong Pass. Their army consisted of a mixture of Han Chinese, Qiang, and soldiers. Many counties of the area joined the uprising, and the civilians had to escape into Hanzhong by the way of the Ziwu Valley .

In response, Cao Cao had Cao Ren defend against the invading forces and issued orders that they must refrain from engaging the enemy.


In July, Cao Cao himself left the capital to lead his troops against Ma Chao, while leaving his son Cao Pi to defend his headquarters in . In August, his troops arrived at Tong Pass where the standoff between his forces and the Guanxi forces was taking place. As the standoff dragged on, more and more Guanxi reinforcements came to Tong Pass, but Cao Cao seemed gleeful at every instance of enemy reinforcements. When asked by his officers why he was so happy when the enemy was gaining numbers, he replied "The road to Guanzhong is long, and if the barbarians defended themselves along the treacherous terrain, we cannot conquer them in one or two years. But now that they all assembled here in this uneasy alliance, it will be much easier to extinguish them. That is why I am happy."

Cao Cao gave the Guanxi forces an impression that a frontal assault was imminent, but on the other hand, he sent Xu Huang and to travel north and cross the Yellow River via the Puban Crossing to the west with four thousand men and pitch camp there, in order to circumvent Tong Pass. A month later, Cao Cao's main force followed, while Cao Cao and Xu Chu guarded the rear. When Ma Chao got word of Cao Cao's manoeuvrer, he led roughly ten thousand men to give chase. Arrows poured down on the rearguard, but Cao Cao was in no hurry. Seeing that the situation became dire, Xu Chu helped Cao Cao onto a boat, but the ferryman was shot dead. Xu Shu then used a saddle to shield arrows with his left hand, and paddled the boat with his right. Ma Chao's men kept on firing arrows on Cao Cao's boat even though it had sailed for miles. It was then Ding Fei , a general under Cao Cao, gave the command to release the livestock. Seeing this, the pursuing army, being mostly herders, gave up on the chase and went for the horses and oxen instead. It was through these efforts that Cao Cao safely crossed the river.

Cao Cao's force then regrouped with Xu Huang's, and marched south along the river. The Guanxi armies then moved their defenses accordingly along the river. Cao Cao prepared decoy troops to distract the defenses while setting up a pontoon bridge that would allow his forces to complete the circumvention of Tong Pass. At night, a portion of Cao Cao's forces crossed the river and set camp there. It was shortly attacked by Ma Chao, but he was repelled by Cao Cao's ambushes.

As the battle dragged on, Ma Chao attempted a ceasefire where he requested the lands west of Wei River, but Cao Cao rejected. Ma Chao would try to engage Cao Cao's men at his newly established camp, but Cao Cao defended well and would not bite the bait. In an attempt to negotiate, Cao Cao, Han Sui, and Ma Chao came together bringing no one but their close guards. Ma Chao had hoped that, with his strength, he could capture Cao Cao and force him to agree to their terms, but he had heard of the prowess of Cao Cao's bodyguard, so he asked, "is the Tiger Marquis with you today?" Cao Cao pointed at Xu Chu who glared at Ma Chao, and Ma Chao dared not make a move.

To avoid attrition, the generals of the Guanxi armies agreed to cede territories and send their sons to Cao Cao as hostages in exchange for peace. Cao Cao's strategist Jia Xu suggested that he could pretend to accept the terms, and then turn the allied forces against each other. Cao Cao agreed, and arranged for an armistice. Han Sui was sent by the Guanxi armies as the representative. He was once a friend of Cao Cao, and when they met, they did not talk about military affairs but instead recollected their youths in the capital, occasionally clapping their hands and laughing amiably. When the meeting was over, Ma Chao demanded to know what Cao Cao said, but Han Sui responded that it was nothing much. Ma Chao became suspicious of Han Sui from there on. A few days later, Cao Cao sent Han Sui a letter with certain words smudged out as if Han Sui did it himself. Ma Chao saw this letter and thought Han Sui was collaborating with Cao Cao, and did not trust Han Sui any more.

To capitalize on this suspicion, Cao Cao set the time for a final clash between the two forces. First, he challenged the allied forces with lightly armoured soldiers, then surrounding the allied forces with heavy cavalry in both flanks. The allies were routed and many of their commanders were killed in battle. Han Sui and Ma Chao fled to Liangzhou and Yang Qiu to Anding . Cao Cao emerged victorious.


The forces of Guanxi were unable to collect again in a coalition and their strengths were greatly weakened after this battle. Of the remnants of the coalition, Yang Qiu soon surrendered, Han Sui was defeated by Xu Huang and Zhang He, and only Ma Chao was actively causing trouble for Cao Cao.

After Cao Cao's main army retreated due to an uprising back home, Ma Chao attacked the prefectures of Longxi with the forces of the western tribes and the prefectures took their lead from him, except for the city of Jicheng . When he Jicheng, Ma Chao killed the Inspector of Liangzhou, Wei Kang , occupied the city and controlled Wei Kang’s forces. He called himself the General Who Conquers the West and took over the governance of Bingzhou and the military matters of Liangzhou. The deputies who served under Wei Kang, Yang Fu, Jiang Xu , Liang Kuan , Zhao Qu and others plotted against Ma Chao. Yang Fu and Jiang Xu in Licheng and Ma Chao left Jicheng to quell the uprising, but he was not successful. Meanwhile, Liang Kuan and Zhao Qu closed the gates to Jicheng and Ma Chao could not return to the city. He had little choice but to seek refuge with Zhang Lu in Hanzhong.

Later, Cao Cao had Ma Teng's household executed for Ma Chao's uprising. Only Ma Chao and his cousin Ma Dai remained in his once great family.

In ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''

In the novel ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'', Chapters 58 and 59 are dedicated to this battle.

Cao had lured Ma Teng into the capital and had him killed because Ma Teng had plotted to assassinate Cao. To avenge for his father's death, Ma Chao led a coalition of dissidents against Cao Cao. Together with Han Sui, Ma Chao set off for Chang'an and conquered it easily. Having conquered Chang'an they advanced towards Tong Pass. Cao Cao then immediately dispatched Cao Hong and Xu Huang with 10,000 troops to Tong Pass to defend the pass with specific orders not to engage the enemy for ten days.

On the ninth day Cao Hong could no longer put up with the insults and taunts shouted by Ma Chao and his army and therefore led a contingent of troops out of the pass to fight Ma Chao's forces without permission. Xu Huang came out to help Cao Hong but the two of them were no match for Ma Chao who successfully took the pass. Cao Cao led troops personally to recapture Tong Pass but failed when Ma Chao defeated many of Cao Cao's top generals such as Yu Jin and Zhang He. Ma Chao then directly attacked Cao Cao. Cao Cao, in a bid to escape, cut off his beard and threw away his robe to avoid being identified by Ma Chao's troops before being rescued by Cao Hong and Xiahou Yuan.

In order to cut off Ma Chao's supplies lines, Cao Cao led troops to cross the river but Ma Chao was prepared and ambushed him instead. Xu Chu, Cao Cao's bodyguard, protected Cao, who would have otherwise perished there. Later Ma Chao was challenged to a duel by Xu Chu. The duel was a draw but the subsequent battle forced Cao Cao to retreat. In the days ahead, Ma Chao harassed Cao Cao's troops and gave them no chance of setting up camps. Cao Cao established a camp anyway, in a short amount of time, using the cold weather and the river water to construct an ice fortress. Knowing that it would be very difficult to defeat a valiant general like Ma Chao, Cao Cao accepted his adviser Jia Xu's proposal to pretend to make peace with Ma Chao and at the same time attempt to turn Ma Chao and Han Sui against each other. Slowly the two men were driven apart. Ma Chao thought that Han Sui had collaborated with Cao Cao against him and tried to kill Han Sui, but only managed to chop off Han Sui's hand. In the ensuing confusion, Cao Cao launched an attack on his confused enemies and overcame them.

In popular culture

The Battle of Tong Gate is one of the playable stages in the ''Dynasty Warriors'' series for the Playstation 2. If the player is on the Wei side and follows history and novel by making Han Sui defect, it is an easy victory.

Battle of Mount Dingjun

The Battle of Mount Dingjun took place in year 219, during the prelude to the Three Kingdoms period of China. The battle was fought between the kingdoms of and . The Shu victory at Mount Dingjun was a major stepping stone to the later conquest of Hanzhong, after which Liu Bei proclaimed himself Prince of Hanzhong.


In 217, Liu Bei led a force upon Hanzhong, which was under the control of Cao Cao. His force met with resistance led by Xiahou Yuan at Yangping Pass . The confrontation dragged on for more than a year until one night, Liu Bei set fire to the barbed fence around Xiahou Yuan's camp at the foot of Mount Dingjun. Alarmed by the attack, Xiahou Yuan sent Zhang He to defend the eastern corner of the camp, while he guarded the south. Liu Bei's main force pressed against Zhang He, outmatching the latter. Xiahou Yuan had to dispatch a fraction of his own troops to Zhang He's rescue.

Accompanied by drums, the division led by general Huang Zhong then descended upon Xiahou Yuan's dwindling force. The battle became a rout and Xiahou Yuan was killed in battle.

In fiction

''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''

In chapter 71 of the historical novel The ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms'' by Luo Guanzhong, Xiahou Yuan had his camp set up on Mount Dingjun, so he can easily see the Shu camp at the bottom of the mountain. Huang Zhong moved his camp nearer and nearer to Xiahou Yuan's camp every few days.

Later, Xiahou Yuan came up with a strategy to lure Huang Zhong and capture him. He sent Xiahou Shang to Huang Zhong's camp, challenging Huang Zhong to come out and fight him. However, Chen Shi, Huang Zhong's subordinate, volunteered to fight Xiahou Shang. Xiahou Shang feigned defeat and retreated. Chen Shi would not give up and pursued Xiahou Shang, but fell into an ambush set by Xiahou Yuan and was captured. Xiahou Yuan was not very happy as he had expected to capture Huang Zhong and not some subordinate general. Later, Xiahou Shang was captured by Huang Zhong in battle.

Xiahou Yuan decided to release Chen Shi in return for Xiahou Shang, which Huang Zhong agreed. The next day, at the frontline, where the prisoners were exchanged, Huang Zhong fired an arrow at Xiahou Shang and wounded Xiahou Shang. Xiahou Yuan was furious and wanted to fight Huang Zhong but was stopped by Zhang He. Xiahou had no choice but to return to his camp and defend firmly.

At the advice of Fa Zheng, Huang Zhong moved his forces to Mount Tiandang, a nearby mountain with a higher peak. Xiahou Yuan could not tolerate Shu forces having the vantage point, and decided to attack Mount Tiandang. Huang Zhong, however, kept his forces back and did not engage the Wei troops.

Later, Fa Zheng saw that Xiahou's forces were dispirited. Fa Zheng then signaled Huang Zhong to attack Xiahou Yuan. Xiahou Yuan could not respond in time and was killed by Huang Zhong, who cleaved Xiahou right beneath the shoulders. This battle is also known as a good example in the Chinese classic ''Thirty-Six Strategies'', strategy four: "Wait at Leisure for the Exhausted Enemy". The victory consolidated Huang's position as one of the Five Tiger Generals.

Beijing opera

The battle is also famously reenacted in the Beijing opera scene, based on the ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''. It was said that the actor acting as Xiahou Yuan would get a red envelope for his performance during Chinese new year, since it is considered bad fortune to be "killed" on stage at that time of the year. Notably, China's first film, ''The Battle of Dingjunshan'' , was a recording of the Beijing opera depicting this battle.

Video games

The battle is one of the stages in the ''Dynasty Warriors'' for the Playstation 2. If the player is on the Shu side. Xiahou Yuan will be a prominent enemy, doubling his stats. Likewise, this is done for Huang Zhong if the player is on the Wei side.

Battle of Han River

The Battle of Han River is a battle during the Hanzhong Campaign fought between Liu Bei and Cao Cao in 219, one year prior to the official beginning of the Three Kingdoms period in China. The battle was the last major engagement in the campaign, where Liu Bei emerged victorious and declared himself the King of Hanzhong.


Liu Bei had just won the Battle of Mount Dingjun. Cao Cao mourned the loss of Xiahou Yuan, so he led a large army to attack Liu Bei's encampment south of the . Then Liu Bei sent Zhao Yun and Huang Zhong to Han Shui. Huang Zhong and Zhang Zhu went to burn Cao Cao's supplies, and Zhao Yun would stay at camp with Zhang Yi unless they did not return.


Huang Zhong was suppose to go and burn the supplies of rice Cao Cao had at North Mountain. They marched in the night, and at sunrise they saw the mountains of grain. Just as the horsemen began starting the fire, Zhang He and his troops arrived. When Cao Cao heard of this he sent Xu Huang from the rear, and Huang Zhong was surrounded. Zhang Zhu and some troops tried to escape but he was intercepted by Wen Ping. They were both surrounded, and when Huang Zhong did not return to camp at noon, Zhao Yun went to look for him.

Zhao Yun told Zhang Yi to guard the camp carefully, and have arches and crossbowmen on both sides on the base. Zhao Yun dashed to the foot of North Mountain to find Huang Zhong surrounded. He rescued Huang Zhong, but then they quickly surrounded him. Cao Cao and his army went in pursuit. Zhao Yun fought his way to the main camp, but when he heard that Zhang Zhu was wounded and fell behind he went back to rescue him.

When Zhang Yi heard that Cao Cao's army was in pursuit of Zhao Yun, and was headed towards the main camp he thought they should bar up the gates and while they make preparation. But as soon as Zhao Yun returned to camp he ordered all flags and banners dropped, all drums silenced, and the gates to be left open completely. He stationed all his archers and crossbowmen in a covered area outside, and he stood in front of the gates. Fearing an ambush, Cao Cao ordered his men to retreat. As his men began to retreat Zhao Yun ordered his men to beat the drums as loudly as they could, and rain arrows down on Cao Cao's troops.

Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong, and Zhang Zhu closed down on the retreating Wei army. They rushed toward the River Han, and in confusion many were pushed in to the river and drowned. Meanwhile Meng Da and Liu Feng arrived and burned all the supplies at North Mountain.


Liu Bei came and inspected the battlefield and exclaimed, "Zhao Yun has valor through and through". He ordered a celebration to late that night honoring Zhao Yun. From then on, Liu Bei’s army called Zhao Yun “The General with Courage of a Tiger" .

Modern references

This battle is playable in ''Dynasty Warriors 5 Extreme Legends''. Zhao Yun and Huang Zhong follow very different paths even though they have the same level.