In the first month of the first year of Han (206 BC), Liu Pang became king of Han ruling over Pa and Shu. He gave Zhang Liang a hundred yi of gold and two pecks of pearls, all of which Zhang Liang presented to Hsiang Po. Liu Pang also sent rich gifts to Hsiang Po through Zhang Liang with a request for Hanchung, and since Hsiang Yu agreed Liu Pang obtained this district.
When Liu Pang set off to his kingdom, Zhang Liang accompanied him as far as Paochung before he was told to return. He advised Liu Pang saying, “Why not burn the plank road through the mountains? This would show the world you have no intention of marching east again and reassure Hsiang Yu.” Liu Pang, having sent him off, went on, destroying the plank road on his way.
Upon his return to Hann, Liang found that King Cheng had not been allowed to go there but had been taken east by Hsiang Yu, because Zhang Liang was on the side of Liu Pang. He told Hsiang Yu, “Liu Pang has destroyed the plank road and has no intention of coming east again.” He also informed him of the revolt of the King of Chi. Then Hsiang Yu set his mind at rest about Liu Pang in the west, and led an army north against Chi. He would not let King Cheng go, however, but made him a marquis and then had him killed.
Zhang Liang fled to join Liu Pang, who by then had marched back and conquered the three states of Chin. Zhang Liang, made a marquis, went east with the army of Han to attack Chu.
At Pengcheng the Han army was defeated and Liu Pang retreated to Hsiayi. Unsaddling his horse to squat on the saddle, he said, “I mean to give up all the land east of the Pass to someone who will make common cause with me. Can you suggest anyone?”
Zhang Liang stepped forward and said, “Ying Pu, king of Chiuchiang, is an able Chu general who hates Hsiang Yu. Or there is Peng Yueh, who has rebelled with the king of Chi. Both men would serve in this emergency. Of your own generals, Han Hsin alone is capable of great things and can play an independent part. If you mean to give up this territory, give it to these three men. Then Hsiang Yu can be defeated.”
Liu Pang sent Sui Ho to win over Ying Pu and another envoy to make alliance with Peng Yueh. And when the king of Wei rebelled, he dispatched Han Hsin against him with an army. So he conquered Yen, Tai, Chi and Chao. And the final overthrow of Chu was thanks to these three men. Zhang Liang’s health was poor and he never commanded an army, but in his capacity as an adviser he was constantly with the king.
In the autumn of the fourth year of Han, Liu Pang pursued Hsiang Yu to south of Yangchia; then, being worsted in battle, he entrenched himself in Kuling, but the other commanders failed to come to his aid. Only when he acted on Zhang Liang’s advice did the reinforcements come.
In the first month of the sixth year of Han, fiefs were given for outstanding services. Zhang Liang had never distinguished himself in battle, but the emperor said, “The strategies you planned in your tent won battles for us a thousand li away – that is your achievement. Take a choice of any thirty thousand households in Chi.”
Zhang Liang answered, “After I rebelled at Hsiapi I met you at Liu. Heaven sent me to you, and I am glad that some of the plans I proposed proved useful. I shall be satisfied with the district of Liu as my fief. I cannot accept thirty thousand households.” So Zhang Liang was made marquis of Liu at the same time the others were enfeoffed.
As for the old man who met him on the bridge at Hsiapi and gave him ‘The Patriarch Lu Shang’s Art of War’, when Zhang Liang went north of the Chi river with the emperor thirteen years after their meeting, he found a yellow stone at the foot of Mount Kucheng which he took away and worshipped. After his death this stone was buried with him and during the summer and winter sacrifices men sacrificed to the stone too.
The Grand Historian (Sima Qian) comments: Most scholars deny the existence of ghosts and spirits, but admit that marvels take place. The story of Zhang Liang’s meeting with the old man who gave him the book is certainly a strange one. It was surely the will of Heaven that Zhang Liang was so often able to save the first emperor of Han when he was in trouble. The emperor said, “When it comes to scheming in the commander’s tent to win a battle a thousand li away, I am no match for Zhang Liang.”
Reflections: By his conduct, Zhang Liang showed that he was a Junzi and a follower of the Huang Lao tradition. His strategies help save the king several times. Liu Pang became the first Han emperor.
What you have read here may differ from what has been taught in universities or heard from talk shows by distinguished speakers from established institutions in the UK. Daoists played a big role in helping Liu Pang found the Han dynasty and administered the empire just as much as the Confucians did. In case the particular history professor still gets it wrong and mislead his students, parts of the Great Wall of China were in existence before the Chin Empire. The warring states were still under the Zhou rule. The Han emperor did not follow the Chin’s way to distribute land to appease his brothers and followers – it was the established Ancient way. Remember the Zuhou?
One has always respected the level of professionalism shown in the UK. The professionals there have always been reliable and respectable. It sucks when you hear professors talking on the net or the world radio about Han history, quoting the Records of the Historian and two out of three getting it wrong most of the time because of their bias. One very much favors the first Chin emperor and the other the Confucians. Do some homework beforehand please. Or read the next entry on Zhang Liang on why the Confucians were not the ones who helped the crown prince maintained his position. Just do not rewrite Han history as you deem fit. We are talking to the world at large. Have some integrity and respect for the listeners.
Next – Zhang Liang, the Daoist
Credits: All excerpts were taken from Records of the Historian as translated by Yang Hsien-Yi and Gladys Yang, and published by The Commercial Press, Limited, Hong Kong. (1975 edition)