Sincerity in Generals
For military operations it is essential to strive to win the hearts of heroes, to make the rules of rewards and punishments strict, to include both cultural and martial arts, and to combine both hard and soft techniques.
Press enemies and contain them; lure and entice them. Confuse them and seize them; be humble to make them proud. Be familiar yet distant; weaken them by lending strength.
Sun Ce was the eldest son of Sun Jian. He was described as handsome and full of laughter. He was also a generous and receptive man who could employ people according to their abilities. Thus, his subjects were willing to risk their lives for him. A detractor, in a letter to Emperor Xian likened Sun Ce to Xiang Yu, the general renowned for overthrowing Qin Dynasty. As Xiang Yu was often referred to as the Conqueror of Chu, Sun Ce henceforth became known as the Little Conqueror in popular culture.
To Win the Heart of a General
Between the years AD195 to 200, Sun Ce then broke away from his father's former overlord Yuan Shu and headed into Southeastern China to establish his own power base there. With the help of several capable men, including Zhang Zhao and Zhou Yu, Sun Ce managed to lay down the foundation of the later Eastern Wu, of which his younger brother Sun Quan eventually became the first Emperor of Wu.
It was during this time that Sun Ce met the great general Taishi Ci, then serving the Warlord Liu Yao. This is a story of their meeting and eventual friendship.
A Duel between Heroes
Prior to the battle between Liu Yao, Sun Ce had visited the temple of Liu Xiu the Founder of Latter Hans, with a small contingent of bodyguard, inside enemy territory. It was here that he met Taishi Ci.
“Stay, Sun Ce!” yelled Taishi Ci.
Sun Ce turned. Two horsemen were coming at full speed down the next hill. Sun Ce halted and drew up his little escort right and left, he himself with his spear ready.
“Which is Sun Ce?” shouted Taishi Ci.
“Who are you?” was the reply.
“I, Taishi Ci of Laihuang, come to take him prisoner.”
“Then I am he,” said Sun Ce, laughing. “Come both of you together. I am not afraid of you. If I were, I should not be Sun Ce!”
“You and all your crowd come on, and I will not blench!” cried Taishi Ci putting his horse at a gallop and setting his spear.
Sun Ce braced himself for the shock, and the battle began. Fifty bouts were fought and still neither combatant had the advantage. Sun Ce's commanders whispered to each other their admiration and amazement.
Taishi Ci saw that the spearmanship of his opponent showed no weak point whereby he could gain the advantage, so he decided to resort to guile. Feigning defeat he would lead Sun Ce to pursue. Taishi Ci however did not retire along the road by which he had come, but took a path leading around the hill instead of over it.
His antagonist followed, shouting, “He who retreats is no worthy soldier!”
But Taishi Ci thought within himself, “He has twelve others at his back and I only one. If I capture him, the others will retake him. I will inveigle him into some secret spot and then try.”
So flying and fighting by turns he led Sun Ce, an eager pursuer, down to the plain. Here Taishi Ci suddenly wheeled about and attacked. Again they exchanged half a hundred bouts, without result. Then Sun Ce made a fierce thrust, which his opponent evaded by gripping the spear under his arm, while he himself did the same with his opponent's spear. Neither was wounded but each exerting his utmost strength to pull the other out of the saddle they both came to the ground.
Their steeds galloped off they knew not whither, while the two men, each dropping his spear, began a hand to hand struggle. Soon their fighting robes were in tatters. Sun Ce gripped the short lance that Taishi Ci carried at his back, while Taishi Ci tore off Sun Ce's helmet. Sun Ce tried to stab with the short lance but Taishi Ci fended off the blow with the helmet as a shield.
Then arose a great shouting. Liu Yao had come up with a thousand soldiers. Sun Ce seemed now in sore straits. His twelve followers came up, and each combatant let go his hold. Taishi Ci quickly found another steed, seized a spear, and mounted. Sun Ce, whose horse had been caught by Cheng Pu, also mounted, and a confused battle began between the handful of men on one side and a whole thousand troops on the other. It swayed and drifted down the hill side. However, soon Zhou Yu leading his troops came to the rescue, and as evening drew on a tempest put an end to the fight. Both sides drew off and returned to camp.
To contain, lure and entice an Enemy
After this initial skirmish, Sun Ce’s forces gained the upper hand resulting in Liu Yao’s defeat. The greater portion of his force surrendered, and the number of those slain exceeded ten thousand. Liu Yao himself fled to Yuzhang and sought safety with Liu Biao, Imperial Protector of Jingzhou.
Only Taishi Ci in Jingxian remained defiant in opposing Sun Ce. Taishi Ci had assembled two thousand veterans in addition to his own troops for the purpose of avenging his master. Sun Ce and Zhou Yu on the other hand consulted how to capture him alive.
Zhou Yu planned, “Attack the city on three sides, leaving the east gate free for flight. Some distance off an ambush shall be prepared, when Taishi Ci, his men fatigued and horses spent, shall fall an easy victim.”
The latest recruits under Taishi Ci's banner were mostly hillmen and unaccustomed to discipline. Beside, the walls of the city were pitiably low.
One night Sun Ce ordered Chen Wu to strip off his long dress, leave his arms save a dagger, clamber up the ramparts, and set fire to the city. Seeing the flames spreading, Taishi Ci made for the east gate and, as soon as he got outside, Sun Ce followed in pursuit. The pursuit was maintained for some fifteen miles when the pursuers stopped.
Taishi Ci went on as long as possible, finally halting to rest in a spot surrounded by reeds. Suddenly a tremendous shouting arose. Taishi Ci was just starting when tripping ropes arose all round, his horse was thrown and he found himself a prisoner.
Taishi Ci was taken back to camp. As soon as Sun Ce heard the news, he himself rode out to order the guards to leave the prisoner, whose bonds he loosened with his own hands. Then he took off his own embroidered robe and put it on the captive. They entered the camp together.
“I knew you were a real hero,” said Sun Ce. “That worm Liu Yao had no use for such as you, and so he got beaten.”
Taishi Ci, overcome by this kindness and good treatment, then formally surrendered.
Sun Ce seized his hand and said, laughing, “If you had taken me at that fight we had near the shrine, would you have killed me?”
“Who can say?” said Taishi Ci smiling.
Sun Ce laughed also and they entered his tent, where Taishi Ci was placed in the seat of honor at a banquet.
Taishi Ci remained a loyal and staunch supporter of the Sun family for the rest of his life, feeling an obligation towards Sun Ce for placing such confidence in his abilities. Taishi Ci came to be well reputed amongst his troops and fellow officers and was held in high regard by Sun Quan, younger brother of Sun Ce. During his service under Sun Ce, he rendered invaluable service to the Wu Kingdom.