Zāng Hóng, appellation Zǐyuán, was a Guǎnglíng Shèyáng man. His father Mín served as Internal Cadet-General of the Xiōngnú, and Administrator of Zhōngshān and Tàiyuán, and wherever he was he was famed. (1)
- Xiè Chéng’s Hòuhànshū states: Mín had talent in handling affairs, and so entered government, becoming a prominent Hàn official. He began as a Xúzhōu Advisor and was enlisted to the office of the Excellency of the Masses, became Magistrate of Lúnú, and Jìzhōu nominated him as outstanding and unusual. He was promoted to Inspector of Yángzhōu and Administrator of Dānyáng. At the time there were alarms on the border and raiding by the Qiāng and Hú. The three offices nominated him as able and transferred Mín to Internal Gentleman-General of the Xiōngnú. He attacked the bandits with distinction, and was summoned and appointed a Consultant, and returned to the capital. He met Grand Commandant Yuán Féng. Féng asked him about the Western Protectorate’s various states, social customs, peoples, and economy and farming. Mín answered that the Western Protectorate was originally thirty-six states, was later divided into fifty-five, eventually becoming over a hundred states. He said which states were large and small, the roads and distances, the population numbers, the social customs, geography, local plants and animals, rare treasures and famed products, what was similar with the Central States. In all cases his hand answered clearly and his hand drew a map of the terrain. Féng was impressed by his ability, and sighed and said: “Though Bān Gù composed the Xīyùzhuàn ‘Report of the Western Protectorate,’ how could he do better than that?” Mín was transferred to Cháng River Colonel, and ended as Administrator of Tàiyuán.
Hóng’s body and face were tall and imposing, unique among men, and he was nominated for office as Filial and Incorrupt and became a Cadet. At the time from the Three Bureaus of Cadets were selections to fill vacancies as county chiefs. Zhào Yù of Lángyé became Chief of Jǔ, Liú Yáo of Dōnglái became Chief of Xiàyì, Wáng Lǎng of Dōnghǎi became Chief of Zīqiū, and Hóng became Chief of Qiū. At the end of the reign of Líng-dì he resigned his post and returned home. The Administrator Zhāng Chāo invited Hóng to become his Merit Officer.
Dǒng Zhuó killed the Emperor , endangering the State Altars. Hóng said to Chāo: “Your family, wise governor, has received state favor for generations, and you and your brother command great prefectures. Now the Ruling House is in danger and the treacherous minister has not yet been punished. This is the time for righteous heroes of the realm Under Heaven to repay the state’s favor. Now your prefecture borders are secure, and the officials and the people are safe and prosperous. If you beat the drums [of war], you can raise twenty thousand men, and with them exterminate the traitors to the state and become a foremost exemplar to the realm. This is a great act for justice.”
Chāo agreed with this, and with Hóng went west and arrived at Chénliú to meet his elder brother Miǎo and make plans. Miǎo already had the same intentions. They gathered at Suānzǎo. Miǎo said to Chāo: “I have heard that you, younger brother, have become a prefecture administrator, but do not yourself execute the government and maintenance of authority and grace, but rely on Zāng Hóng. Who is this Hóng?”
Chāo said: “Hóng’s ability and wisdom is greater than mine, and I deeply favor him. He is an unusual hero within the Seas.”
Miǎo then summoned and met Hóng, spoke with him and was greatly impressed with him. Therefore he introduced him to Liú Gōngshān [the Inspector of] Yǎnzhōu and Kǒng Gōngxù [the Inspector of] Yùzhōu, and both became close and good friends with Hóng.
Then they established an altar, to swear an oath of alliance together. All the provincial and prefecture leaders deferred to one another, one daring take the lead, and so they all nominated Hóng. Hóng therefore ascended the altar, grasped the sacrificial platter, smeared blood on his lips and made the oath: “The House of Hàn suffers misfortune, Imperial rule has lost control, the traitor minister Dǒng Zhuó seizes advantage of quarrel to do harm, disaster reaching up to the highest levels and oppression flowing down to the common people. All fear the State Altars shall be destroyed and all within the Four Seas overturned. Inspector of Yǎnzhōu Dài, Inspector of Yùzhōu Zhòu, Administrator of Chénliú Miǎo, Administrator of Dōng-jùn Mào, Administrator of Guǎnglíng Chāo, and others together unite righteous troops, to together resolve the state’s troubles. Everyone in our alliance, must be of one heart and join our strength to be dedicated subjects, and even in the face of lost heads and spilled blood must never harbor second thoughts. Those who break this Oath, shall both lose their lives, and have no descendants. May Heaven and Earth and the Spirits of the Ancestors all bear witness to this!”
Hóng spoke these words with fervent spirit and tears flowing down. All those who heard, even to the lowest servants and soldiers, there were none who were not moved. Everyone thought to do their utmost. (1) Shortly afterward, none of the armies advanced, and food supplies were exhausted and the group scattered.
- (1) Your servant Sōngzhī comments: At the time of this oath there was only Liú Dài and others totally to five men and no more. Wèishì Chūnqiū includes Liú Biǎo and several other men, which are all untrue. Biǎo defended and occupied the Jiāng and Hàn and never once left his borders. How could he have been with Hóng atop the Altar and swear the oath of alliance?
Chāo sent Hóng to meet with Marshal-in-Chief Liú Yú to make plans, but at that time there was the trouble of Gōngsūn Zàn. When he arrived at Hèjiān, he found the soldiers of the two provinces Yōu and Jì in battle, and could not complete his mission. Yuán Shào met Hóng and was also deeply impressed with him, and they became inseparable friends. At the time Inspector of Qīngzhōu Jiāo Hé died, and Shào sent Hóng to command Qīngzhōu and comfort its people. (1)
- (1) Jiǔzhōu Chūnqiū states: During Chūpíng [190-193] Jiāo Hé was appointed Inspector of Qīngzhōu. At the time heroes were all rising up, Yellow Scarves were violently plundering. Hé sought to join the Alliance and enter the capital region, but did not provide any defenses for his people. He led his army along the river west. Before long the two Lords Yuán and Cáo with General [Dǒng] Zhuó at Xíngyáng and were utterly defeated. The Yellow Scarves then spread and slaughtered and destroyed towns and cities. Hé could not resist them. Though the army’s weapons were good and the troops numerous, he did not set up spies or scouts and was afraid whenever he heard any rumor of [enemy] movement and as soon as he saw bandits he fled, never once meeting dust clouds [of enemy advance] with banners and drums. He wished to build an iceberg trap in the river so that the bandits would not be able to cross, made prayers to spirits, asking to be certainly victorious when leading troops. Diviners were always to his front, and shamans never left his side. Though in court his pure rhetoric reached the clouds, out in the field he was muddled and confused and did not know what to do. The province therefore was desolate, and everything was in ruins.
Hóng was at the province for two years, and all the bandits fled away. Shào sighed [in admiration] at his ability, and transferred him to Administrator of Dōng-jùn, governing at Dōngwǔyáng.
When Tàizǔ besieged Zhāng Chāo at Yōngqiū, Chāo said: “We can only rely on Zāng Hóng. He will come rescue me.”
Everyone believed Yuán and Cáo were at peace, and Hóng was serving under [Yuán] Shào, so he would certainly not break the alliance and invite disaster to come from afar to them.
Chāo said: “Zǐyuán is a righteous hero of the world Under Heaven, and to the end will not turn his back on me. I am only afraid he will meet some prohibition and be kept from reaching us and that is all.”
Hóng heard of this, and indeed went barefoot and weeping, gathering the soldiers under his command, and also went to Shào to ask for soldiers and horses, seeking to go rescue Chāo, but Shào to the end would not permit him. Chāo and his clan were then exterminated. Because of this Hóng was furious at Shào and cut off relations and communication. Shào led troops to besiege him, but after a year had not overcome him. Shào ordered Chén Lín of the same hometown as Hóng to write a letter to Hóng to inform him of the dangers of the situation and remind him of his duties and loyalty.
There is always nostalgia after setting out whether dreaming or awake. It is fortunate enough to meet along the way, but if we choose separate paths, we cannot meet again, and this is unfortunate and sad. That is what is my heart!
Days ago I received your letter explaining the advantages and disadvantages of my position, explaining the potential disasters and joys, and the public and private interests. The reason I have not promptly replied is because my learning is meager and my talent little, and insufficient to answer your scolding. It is also because you my friend are at ease with your master, your house in the east, while I am the enemy.
That you should handle these affairs for another, though that is called showing loyalty and inner devotion, it is as if you have drifted away to the guilty, your sweet words become offensive, you lose your way and cannot help, so how can you sympathize with others? Moreover, with your great talent and knowledge of of ancient ways, how can you play a fool beside a highway and not understand my thoughts!
All that you have said on and on, I already know. Your words are without meaning and inner feeling, and are only to avoid disaster. If we must argue at length, debating right and wrong, then I say that the standards of right and wrong are different throughout the world, so to lay it out is to make things more unclear, and to not speak is no loss.
Besides, hurtful words announcing the intention to end relations are not something I can bear to use, so with paper and pen I give but one answer, and hope that you from afar may ponder my heart, know my intentions, and that they will never change. So I send a letter, citing classics ancient and modern, in diverse and muddled six pages. Even though I originally desired not to speak, this turned out to be impossible!
I am a petty fellow, but happened to receive appointment, unworthily oversaw a great province, and received extensive favor. I do not happily raise a blade in answer today! Every time I ascend the city walls to lead troops, I look to your master’s flags and drums, recall my old friend’s suffering, draw the bow and hold the arrow, and cannot but have tears flow down my face. Why? For the sake of my former master, I can have no regrets. The favor your master showed me was beyond compare. At the beginning of my appointment, I swore I would do great works to the end, and together serve the Imperial household. How can I know the Son of Heaven’s suffering? My home province met invasion, my commander’s leader faced a danger as great as at Yǒulǐ. Chénliú was overcome and I planned to lead relief troops, but my plans were held back, and I disgraced my loyal and filial name, as if a staff had beaten my back, and I failed my friend.
Considering these two opposing circumstances, I cannot but act against my will. The loss of my reputation as loyal and filial when compared to the righteous way toward one’s friends cannot be of the same severity, and the degree of relation is different. Therefore I must restrain my tears and break relations. If I could compel your master to have some pity for an old friend, show consideration for those who stay and restraint for those who go, not oppress friends who leave, trust in punishment for his assistants, then I would not follow the example of Jìzhá and would not fight today. How did it come to this?
In the past Zhāng Jǐngmíng personally ascended the altar and smeared blood on his lips [to swear alliance], resigned and left, and was sent to convince Governor Hán [Fù of Jìzhōu] to resign his authority, and so your master obtained the territory. But afterward, he acknowledged a Court-appointed master [Lǚ Bù], received fief and was transferred, and in that time, before he could understand what was happening, he suffered death and disaster. (1)
- (1) Your Servant Sōngzhī comments that Yīngxióngjì says: Yuán Shào sent Zhāng Jǐngmíng, Guō Gōngzé, Gāo Yuáncái, and others to speak with Hán Fù and convince him to yield Jìzhōu. So in the achievement of convincing Fù to abdicate, Jǐngmíng also served in that achievement. The matter of the others is unclear.
Lǚ [Bù] Fèngxiān punished [Dǒng] Zhuó and then came to seek asylum, asked for troops but did not obtain them, and was forced to flee for what crime? He was attacked and barely escaped death.
Liú Zǐqí respectfully served for a long time, resigned but was not permitted to go, feared authority and missed his kin, and so lied to beg for release. He could be said to have loyal and filial intentions, and one without intentions to claim hegemony. But he was beaten to death and unfairly eliminated. (2)
- (2) Your Servant Sōngzhī comments Gōngsūn Zàn memorialized a list of Shào’s crimes that said: “Shào and former Tiger-Fang General Liú Xūn together raised troops. Xūn was still active, but for a small quarrel he killed Xūn. This was Shào’s seventh crime.” It is possible that this could be Zǐqí.
Though I am not able, and can never from the beginning know the end, or from the small know the large, or guess your master’s intentions, but how can it be said that those three deserved death, or that their punishments were appropriate?
He desired to unite the east of the mountains, increased the troops beneath him, but he feared and doubted warriors and could not control them, so he abandoned the Imperial commands to establish his own rule, welcoming the righteous, but those who sought to leave him were killed, all for your master’s benefit, and not for the sake of the aspirations of those wandering heroes. Therefore I learn lessons from past men who were surrounded and exhausted and fought to the death, and though I am foolish I still have heard the words of superior men.
This was truly not my intention. It was your master that forced this. For all this I must renounce my state and people, and give orders to defend this city. This is why I must depart from the way of the superior man, and why I must not follow the ways of an enemy state. Therefore I must thus wrong your master and be attacked for this long time. Yet you cite this doctrine of righteousness to advise me. Is this not saying one thing and meaning another, and not the manner by which a superior man faces calamity?
I have heard that righteousness is not turn one’s back on one’s kin, that loyalty is not to abandon one’s lord and ruler. Because I took the eastern leader [Zhāng Chāo] of my home province as my kin, and as a prefecture officer I supported him in calming the altars of state, with one move I achieved two gains of acting loyal and filial. What was wrong with that? Yet you wish that I would forget my origins and abandon my kin, and only take your master as my lord.
In how your master has treated me, in age he could be my elder brother, and in affection he could be my good friend, but our ways separated so I took my leave. To calm one’s lord and kin can be said to be obedient.
But by your words, one should gather up stores and give one’s life like Wǔ Yuán and not cry out at the Court of Qín. If you are only seeking to avoid misfortune, then who knows if your words have any real meaning.
Or perhaps you see the city’s siege has not been resolved, and no relief troops come, and have feelings toward your relatives by marriage, worry about your status, believe in asking for surrender and living without purpose and surpassing perseverance with morality and then fall.
In the past Yàn Yīng did not surrender and thought only of his drawn blade, while the Southern Historians did not falsify records to save their own lives. Therefore their appearances were recorded in portraits and their names were passed on to later generations. Moreover I depend on the firmness of these metal-hard city walls, the strength of these excellent soldiers and people, these supplies gathered over three years, and believe I have supplies to last one year to relieve poverty and repair deficiencies. To be happy in this world, one does not need to build a house or plow the fields! I only fear the autumn wind will blow up dust, so that [Gōngsūn Zàn] Bógūi’s horses will come south, or Zhāng Yáng’s and [Zhāng] Fēi-Yān’s strength will cause trouble, and so your northern officers will report urgent problems in the counties, and the trusted aides beg to turn back, and that is all.
Your master should know our officials and people, turn back his banners and withdraw his officers, and manage his troops back at Yè. How is it suitable that he should follow his anger for so long and cruelly press on beneath our city walls? You ridicule me, stating that I am depending on the Black Mountain [bandits] for rescue, which is like desiring to ally with the Yellow Headscarves! Moreover, Fēi-Yān’s followers have received Imperial commands now.
In the past Gāo-zǔ [Liú Bāng] defeated Péng Yuè at Jùyě. Guāng-wǔ [Liú Xiù] founded his base at Lùlín. From there they could fly up like a dragon and achieve their Imperial designs. If one can assist one’s master in great change, then what is there to doubt! So I personally believe in the ruler’s seals and letters and follow in their examples.
Enough Kǒngzhāng! You may seek advantage outside, but Zāng Hóng has received his orders from his lord and kin. You my friend may bow to the Alliance Leader. Zāng Hóng thinks of [the Emperor] at Cháng’ān. You say I will die and my name be lost, but I laugh that you will be without name whether in life or death. How sad! Previously we were together but now we must part. Strive on, strive on! What more is to be said?
Shào saw Hóng’s letter and knew he had no intention of surrendering, so he added more troops and pressed the attack. Inside the city the food supplies were exhausted, and outside there was no chance for rescue. Hóng knew he could not escape, so he called his officials and troops and said to them: “Yuán is unprincipled, his intentions are disloyal, and moreover he did not rescue my prefecture’s leader. I for my principles cannot but die, but now there is no reason for you sirs to share this misfortune! Before the city falls, you may all take your wives and children and go.”
The officials and officers and troops and people all wept and said: “You wise governor and Yuán originally had no quarrel, but now for the sake of the prefecture leader appointed by our Court you have encountered harm. How can your people bear to abandon you!”
At first there were rats and leather and sinew to boil, but afterward there was nothing that could be eaten. The Registrar found that the inner kitchen had three dòu of rice, and asked for a portion to make gruel. Hóng sighed and said: “How can I eat this alone?” He made a thin gruel and shared it with everyone, and killed his favorite concubine to feed his officers and troops. The soldiers all wept, and none could look up to face him. Altogether seven to eight thousand men and women laid down and died, but none left or rebelled.
The city fell, and Shào captured Hóng alive. Shào personally met Hóng and brought him into his tent, gathered all the officers in a meeting to see Hóng, and said: “Zāng Hóng, how could you turn against me like this? Today will you at last submit?”
Hóng was lying on the ground but his eyes were angry and he said: “The Yuán served Hàn and in four generations had five Excellencies. They can be said to have received favor. But now when the Imperial Household is weak, none of them have the intention of supporting it, and instead intend to take advantage of the situation, harboring evil intentions, killing the loyal and able to install their treacherous authority. I personally saw you call Zhāng [Miǎo of] Chénliú your elder brother, so my former master [Zhāng Chāo] was also your younger brother. He joined his strength together with yours to serve the state in removing evil. How could you hold your armies back and watch him be slaughtered and destroyed? All I regret is that I do not have the strength to raise my blade again to avenge the world Under Heaven. What is this talk of submission?”
Shào originally favored Hóng and hoped to force his surrender and pardon him. Seeing that Hóng was this determined, he knew he could not be employed, and so killed him. (1)
- (1) Xú Zhòng’s Sānguópíng states: Hóng was kindhearted and world famous for his righteousness. He sought to rescue his former lord from danger. This feeling is enough to make anyone sympathize, and this righteousness is enough to encourage the weak. However Yuán was also a close friend, installed him in the province and prefecture, and though their relationship was not that of master and servant, he was the Alliance Leader and had received their trust, and should not have been betrayed. Yuán and Cáo were at peace, and both sides sought to assist the Imperial House. Lǚ Bù rebelled without reason, his intentions were to rebel and create chaos, but [Zhāng] Miǎo and Chāo without authority installed Bù as provincial Governor. By the Imperial laws, they were all criminals. That Lord Cáo punished them and that Yuán did not rescue them was not without reason. Hóng should not have asked Yuán for troops and should not have blamed him. If Hóng did not have sufficient planners or strength, he could have sought out other powers to ask help for the rescue. If his plans and strength were not enough to assist in matters, then it would be better to not just observe the quarrel but die with Chāo. Why should he swear to defend the city to the end and be inflexible, dying himself and exterminating his own people, failing to establish any achievement? How tragic!
Hóng’s fellow townsman Chén Róng from youth was a scholar, personally admired Hóng, and had followed Hóng as Deputy of Dōng-jùn. Before the city fell, Hóng sent him out. When Shào gave the order at the meeting, he saw Hóng was about to die, and rose up and said to Shào: “General, you have begun a great work, desiring to remove evil for the world Under Heaven, but now you first execute a loyal and righteous man. How can this be Heaven’s Will?”
Shào was ashamed, and sent his attendants to lead him out, and said: “You are not Zāng Hóng’s peer. Why do you act in vain?”
Róng replied: “To be benevolent and righteous there are standards. Those who follow them are superior men. Those who turn their backs against them are petty men. Today I would rather with Zāng Hóng on the same day die, than with you General on the same day live!” So he too was killed.
Those seated around Shào, there were none who did not sigh in amazement. They said to one another: “How could he in one day kill two heroes!”
Before this, Hóng sent two Majors out to beg help from Lǚ Bù. When they returned, the city had already fallen, so they both charged into battle and died.