The Battle of Red Cliff 赤壁之戰
Following Wang Yun’s successful 美人計 No Man May Pass the Hall of Beauties strategem, the irresistible synergistic combination of Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu was torn asunder. Dong Zhuo’s death at the hands of Lu Bu and his conspirators, led to a civil war within Dong Zhuo’s faction. The resulting power vacuum within the Han capital was quickly seized by Cao Cao, who took control of the Han Capital and proclaimed himself as Imperial Chancellor of Han, bestowing upon him immeasurable power over the remnants of the Imperial Han Government.
Within a span of less than a decade after taking control of the Han Capital, Cao Cao successfully unified northern China by vanquishing enemies including Lu Bu, Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu and Liu Biao. Cao Cao then turned his ambitions towards Southern China in his attempt to reunite China with infantry numbering approximately 240,000 men.
However, he faced two main nemesis in his attempts to conquer Southern China.
The warlord Sun Quan controlled the river east of the Yangtze river and the southeastern territories abutting it. He assigned his most able commanders including Zhou Yu, Cheng Pu and Lu Su to command 30,000 seasoned marines to meet Cao Cao’s hordes.
Liu Bei, now based Xiakou sealed an alliance with Sun Quan and sent 20,000 marines, led by Zhuge Liang to combine with Sun Quan’s army. The alliance of Sun Quan and Liu Bei had 50,000 men against the 240,000 led by Cao Cao.
So, the stage was set for the Battle of Red Cliff. And what was at stake?
For Cao Cao, success would mean he would be able to reunite the whole of China and eliminate his two main rivals before they became entrenched in their respective positions. If successful, Cao Cao and his descendants would be able to re-establish the Han Dynasty or dethrone the Han Rulers and place himself and his future successors as the emperors of China.
If Sun Quan and Liu Bei were successful, they would maintain control over the Yangtze river. This would provide a natural line of defense that would give them time to consolidate their respective territories. Thus, they would be able to prevent or prolong the period taken by the Wei Kingdom, led by Cao Cao to reunite China.
With a numerical superiority of almost 5:1, seasoned infantry, capable military commanders and fresh from the euphoria of a highly successful northern campaign, Cao Cao possessed immense advantages. Further, he had the moral and legal right to assume control over Southern China as he was the current Imperial Chancellor of Han.
Could the alliance of Sun Quan and Liu Bei resist the overpowering northern army of the Wei Kingdom led by Cao Cao? Or would Cao Cao reign victorious? We shall see how this decisive battle unfolds, in future posts.