The following is depicted in Luo Guan Zhong
's epic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms
. The epic is based on a historical period called the Three Kingdoms Period
during 2nd and 3rd century AD
Cao Cao flees Luoyang and establishes the coalition
As the Han Dynasty of China began to crumble during the Later Han period, control slipped from one group to another. Around the year 184 AD, Dong Zhuo (Tung Cho) seized control of the government. He was declared Prime Minister and deposed the rightful Emperor Pien for the emperor's half-brother Hsien, the Prince of Chen-liu.
Dong Zhuo's first attempts to depose Pien caused the noble Yuan Shao to leave the capitol. Zhuo, trying to appease Shao gave the latter control of Pohai (Bohai). After the emperor was deposed, the minor noble Cao Cao attempted to assassinate Dong Zhuo. Cao failed and was forced to flee to the east.
While in the city of Chenliu, Cao Cao began to gather his relatives and their troops. He was building an army for the express purpose of defeating Dong Zhuo. Unfortunately Cao would not be strong enough to defeat the entrenched and nominally rightful rule of Dong Zhuo, and Cao was forced to ask for help.
His messengers went out across China and many Governors and Prefects joined the struggle. Though Cao Cao had assembled the coalition, due to his low rank, he was not in the position to lead it. So leadership of the armies was given to Yuan Shao, whose family had been important in the empire for centuries.
Yuan Shao immediately appointed his brother Yuan Shu as the Chief of the Commissary and sent Sun Jian (Sun Chien) to attack Dong Zhuo's positions at Ssushui Pass.
Battle at Ssushui Pass
The leader Pao Hsin was dispatched after Sun Jian in order to lend support to the Jian's troops. Pao Hsin though was afraid that Sun Jian would achieve victory and fame, and thus hurried his troops to battle. Arriving at the pass before Sun Jian, with his troops exhausted and not at all ready to fight, Pao Hsin still attacked. Hsin's troops were defeated and Hsin himdelf was killed. Now Sun Jian was forced to fight alone. When he arrived at the pass, Sun Jian defeated the few forces that sallied from the pass, but was not able to break through the heavy fortifications. So he retired his army to Liangtung to await further help from Yuan Shao. Meanwhile Jian sent a request to Yuan Shu for the supplies needed to feed the troops and horses.
Again Sun Jian's attempts to defeat the enemy were damaged; when Yuan Shu, fearing the potential strength of Sun Jian should Jian take Luoyang (Loyang), refused supplies. So Sun Jian's troops and horses went hungry. When moral had become horrible and the troops weak, the forces of Hua Xiang (Hua Hsiung) sallied from the pass and defeated Sun Jian. Jian was forced to flee for his life and would have been captured if not for the diversionary tactics of one of his officers.
When news of the defeat reached the coalition, the family of Pao Hsin was strongly reprimanded.
Though it should be noted that Yuan Shu saw no reprimands for his actions.
The assembled officers were at a loss as to what their next move was to be. A large part of their forces had been defeated and the invigorated Hua Xiang was leading his forces forward to engage the coalition troops.
First victory for the coalition
Two minor officers, Yu She and Pan Feng, volunteered to fight, but both leaders and units were slaughtered. The coalition forces were greatly disturbed. None could beat Huan Xiang's forces because of the fighting prowess of Xiang himself. Finally a nearly unranked official spoke up. This officer, Guan Yu, stated that he would beat the enemy. Though Yuan Shu spoke badly of Guan Yu, requesting that Yu be expelled from the command tent for speaking before his betters, Cao Cao upheld Yu's right to fight the enemy.
Barely moments after Guan Yu had left the tent to fight, word of victory was heard. When Guan Yu returned, Yuan Shu again berated the victorious leader, this time for flaunting his skills before his betters. Cao Cao again stood up for Guan Yu, but was forced to send Yu and his brothers Liu Bei (Liu Pei) and Zhang Fei (Chang Fei) from the tent in order to quiet Yuan Shu's anger. Cao would later send presents to the three brothers as apology for Shu's words and as reward for the deed committed.
Victory at Ssushui Pass
The coalition forces used this time to advance back to the pass, but as could be seen they were not working as a full team. Many nobles seemed to be letting their own ambitions interfere with the goals of the campaign.
The armies of coalition found Lu Bu (Lu Pu) to now be in command of the pass. Bu, the legendary warrior slew any leaders who went before him. Constantly he would ride nearly to bowshot of the coalition encampment to ridicule his enemies. Finally though, the three brothers were allowed to fight Bu. Though it took all three; Zhang Fei, then Guan Yu, then Liu Bei, fighting at once, Bu was finally forced to flee back to the pass. As the brothers chased Bu, they saw the standard of Dong Zhuo fluttering from the pass. Chang Fei, making for the standard was repulsed only through the enemy's heavy use of stones and arrows from their guarded position.
Still it was a great victory. Yuan Shao, upon hearing the full report, dispatched Sun Jian to attack the forces in the pass. Sun Jian first went to Yuan Shu to confront the Chief Commissar about the previously denied supplies. When Yuan Shu executed those who had given him the advice, Sun Jian left to prepare for battle. While Jian was arranging his troops, Dong Zhuo's officer Li Jue (Li Ts'ui) snuck down into Jian's camp. He offered Jian a tie of marriage between the two families. Dong Zhuo hoped this would cause Sun Jian to leave the coalition. Jian's reply though revolved around killing nine generations of Zhuo's family.
Dong Zhuo abandons Luoyang. The coalition retakes the capitol
When Dong Zhuo heard the reply, coupled with the defeat of Lu Bu, he decided to abandon the imperial capitol Luoyang and flee to Chang An (Changan). Driving the people of Luoyang towards the west, Dong Zhuo burned the capitol behind him.
The allied lords advanced quickly as soon as Ssushui Pass was abandoned. Cao Cao alone followed Zhuo's armies, but was defeated. Very few men managed to escape with Cao.
Sun Jian reached Luoyang first and established camp in the still burning city. His men put out the fires and brought the remaining populace under control. While he camped that night, Sun Jian's troops found the Hereditary Seal in a nearby well. A spy in Jian's camp reported this information to Yuan Shao who confronted Sun Jian. The confrontation did not end well, and Sun Jian departed for his home in Chang Sha (Changsha) with the seal still in his possession.
The returning Cao surveyed the new situation sadly. Delays, intrigue and other mistakes had cost them all the great victory. Now Sun Jian was gone; Cao's heart left him and he gave up all hope in the coalition. Taking his troops, he departed. Gongsun Zan (Kungsun Tsan) was the next to depart, taking the three brothers with him. Yuan Shao tried to stay and continue to command the depleted coalition, but after two prefects in the group attacked each other, even Shao gave up and departed. The coalition was broken.
Though Cao's coalition achieved a few victories, and managed to push Dong Zhuo out of the east, it never succeeded in its true goal. Zhuo still held the emperor and thus true power in China. And so the coalition, after all the loss of life and the struggles, had failed.
Note :: All names in parentheses () are alternate spellings, or in some cases familiar names that are used very often in the novel.