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The Battle of Yao

In winter, in the twelfth month, on Jimao, Chong'er, marquis of Jin, died. On Gengchen, they were conveying his coffin to place it in the temple at Quwo, when, as it was leaving Jiang, there came a voice from it like the lowing of an angry bull. The diviner Yan made the great officers do obeisance to the coffin, saying, "His lordship is charging us about a great affair. There will be an army of the west passing by us; we shall smite it, and obtain a great victory."

Now Qi Zi had sent information from Zheng to Qin, saying, "The people of Zheng have entrusted to my charge the key of their north gate. If an army come secretly upon it, the city may be got. Duke Mu of Qi consulted Jian Shu about the subject, and that officer replied, 'That a distant place can be surprised by an army toiled with a long march is what I have not learned. The strength of the men will be wearied out with toil, and the distant lord will be prepared for them;—does not the undertaking seem impracticable? Zheng is sure to know the doings of our army. Our soldiers, enduring the toil, and getting nothing, will become disaffected. And moreover, to whom can such a march of a thousand li be unknown?" The earl, however, declined this counsel, called for Mengming, Xiqi, and Boyi, and ordered them to collect an army outside the east gate. Jian Shu wept over it, and said, "General Meng. I see the army's going forth, but I shall not see its entry again." The earl sent to say to him, "What do you know, you centenarian? It would take two hands to grasp the tree upon your grave!" Jian Shu's son also went in the expedition, and the old man escorted him, weeping and saying, "It will be at Yao that the men of Jin will resist the army. At Yao there are two ridges. On the southern ridge is the grave of the sovereign Gao of the Xia dynasty; the northern is where king Wen took refuge from the wind and rain. You will die between them. There I will gather your bones." Immediately after this the army of Qin marched to the east.

In spring, the army of Qin was passing by the northgate of [the royal city of] Zhou, when the mailed men on the right and left of the chariots [merely] took off their helmets and descended, springing afterwards with a bound into the chariots,—the 300 of them. Prince Wangsun Man was still quite young; but when he saw this, he said to the king, 'The army of Qin acts lightly and is unobservant of propriety;—it is sure to be defeated. Acting so lightly, there must be little counsel in it. Unobservant of propriety, it will be heedless. When it enters a dangerous pass, and is heedless, being moreover without wise counsel, can it escape defeat?

When the army entered Hua, Xian Gao, a merchant of Zheng, on his way to traffic in Zhou, met it. He went with four dressed hides, preceding 12 oxen, to distribute them among the soldiers, and said [to the general], "My prince, having heard that you were marching with your army, and would pass by his poor city, ventures thus to refresh your attendants. Our poor city, when your attendants come there, can supply them, while they stay, with one day's provisions, and provide them, when they go, with one night's escort." At the same time he sent intelligence of what was taking place with all possible speed to Zheng.

The earl of Zheng, [on receiving the tidings], sent to see what was going on at the lodging houses which had been built for the guards of Qin, and found there bundles all ready, waggons loaded, weapons sharpened, and the horses fed. On this he sent Huang Wu to decline their further services, and say to them, "You have been detained, Sirs, too long at our poor city. Our dried flesh, our money, our rice, our cattle, are all used up. We have our park of Yuan as Qin has that of Ju. Suppose you supply yourselves with deer from that to give our poor city some rest." On this Qi Zi fled to Qi, while Feng Sun and Yang Sun fled to Song. Mengming said, "Zheng is prepared for us. We cannot hope to surprise it. If we attack it, we shall not immediately take it; and if we lay siege to it, we are too far off to receive succour. Let us return." The army of Qin then proceeded to extinguish Hua, and returned.
[Xian] Zhen of Yuan said to the marquis of Jin, "[The earl of] Qin, contrary to the counsel of Jian Shu, has, under the influence of greed, been imposing toil on his people;—this is an opportunity given us by Heaven. It should not be lost; our enemy should not be let go unassailed. Such disobedience to Heaven will be inauspicious;—we must attack the army of Qin." Luan Zhi said, "We have not yet repaid the services rendered to our last lord by Qin, and if we now attack its army, this is to make him dead indeed!" Xian Zhen replied, "Qin has shown no sympathy with us in our loss, but has attacked [two States of] our surname. It is Qin who has been unobservant of propriety;—what have we to do with [former] favours? I have heard that if you let your enemy go a single day, you are preparing the misfortunes of several generations. In taking counsel for his posterity, can we be said to be treating our last ruler as dead?"

The [new marquis] instantly issued orders [for the expedition]. The Jiang Rong were called into the field on the spur of the moment. The marquis [joined the army], wearing his son's-garb of unhemmed mourning, stained with black, and also his mourning scarf. Liang Hong was his charioteer, and Lai Ju his spearman on the right. In summer, in the 4th month, on Xinsi, he defeated the army of Qin at Yao, took [the commanders], Boli Mengmingshi, Xiqi Shu, and Boyi Bing, prisoners, and brought them back with him to the capital, from which he proceeded in his dark-stained mourning garb to inter duke Wen, which thenceforth became the custom in Jin. Wen Ying [duke Wen's Qin wife] interceded for the prisoners, saying, "In consequence of their stirring up enmity between you and him, [my father], the earl of Qin, will not be satisfied even if he should eat them. Why should you condescend to punish them? Why should you not send them back to be put to death in Qin, to satisfy the wish of my lord there?" The marquis acceded to her advice.

Xian Zhen went to court, and asked about the Qin prisoners. The marquis replied, 'My father's widow requested it, and I have let them go." The officer in a rage said, 'Your warriors by their strength caught them in the field, and now they are let go for a woman's brief word in the city. By such overthrow of the services of the army, and such prolongation of the resentment of our enemies, our ruin will come at no distant day." With this, without turning round, he spat on the ground.

The marquis sent Yang Chufu to pursue after the liberated commanders; but when he got to the He, they were already on board a boat. Loosing the outside horse on the left of his chariot, he said he had the marquis's order to present it to Mengming. Mengming bowed his head to the ground, and said, "Your prince's kindness in not taking the blood of me his prisoner to smear his drums [See Mencius, I. Pt. I., vii. 4], but liberating me to go and be killed in Qin;—this kindness, should my prince indeed execute me, I will not forget in death. If by your prince's kindness I escape this fate, in three years I will thank him for his gift."

The earl of Qin, in white mourning garments, was waiting for them in the borders of the capital, and wept, looking in the direction where the army had been lost. "By my opposition to the counsel of Jian Shu," he said, "I brought disgrace on you, my generals. Mine has been the crime; and that I did not [before] dismiss Mengming [from such a service] was my fault. What fault are you chargeable with? I will not for one error shut out of view your great merits."


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