The Battle Of Gaixia was one of the last battle in the Chu-Han Contention that which led to the suicide of Xiang Yu, which resulted to the forming of the Han Dynasty for Liu Bang.

Before this battle, the Kingdoms of Chu and Han has fought for supremacy for a long period of war. The King of Chu, Xiang Yu, was one of the best warrior commanders in history. However, his brutality as well as his inablity to listen to his advisors and his lack of attention to supply lines, cost the Chu army to lose much effectiveness in battle. He himself did not lost much of the battles he participated in, but tactically, he was suffering a defeat.

Chu started with a much stronger position than Han, but as time goes by, more and more nobles and support went to the Han side.. Forcing Xiang Yu to go sign a peace treaty agreeing to divide the Chinese empire between the Chu and the Han.

As the treaty was signed, the soldiers of Chu were overjoyed about the peace. Liu Bang had a commander named Han Xin, who wanted very much defeat Xiang Yu to prove that he was a better general. And forces Liu Bang to ignore the peace treaty hence bringing forth this battle.

At the beginning of the battle, Han Xin wanted to ensure that Xiang Yu never returned back to his capital at Peng Cheng. and his plan was to lure the Chu Army into the valley at Gaixia where escape is harder. So as the Chu army was faced with surprised attack and ambush. But Xiang Yu when faced with this, knows the main traps are in the valley, ordered his troops to keep going on the main road back to Pan cheng. Unfortunately, his wife that travelled with him was captured and brought deep into the valley, so Xiang Yu had to send the bulk of his troop back, and he personally led 100 000 man to rescue his wife.

When they got to her, they were trapped deep inside the valley of Gaixia. That is the beginning of Han Xin’s plan called 十面埋伏 (Ambushed from 10 sides). Han Xin initially fought with Xiang Yu Face to face, then he retreated… as Xiang Yu was pursuing him, he was ambushed again and again. The ambushed lowered the morale of his troop further. The soldiers were trapped in the canyon… It was then Han Xin’s second plan called 四面楚歌 (Surrounded by Chu Songs) started. he got the captured Chu soldiers play hometown tunes on the hills all around.. Causing Xiang Yu to think that he has lost his entire kingdom to Han.. The songs made the Chu Army homesick, and destroyer their morale further… Most of the troops deserted. Leaving Xiang Yu with 800 men left swearing to fight till the end..

Eventually the wife of Xiang Yu committed suicide blaming herself for the lost of her husbands kingdom… lowering his morale further. Although Han Xin’s tactics work, his tactics also created for himself an very persistent and mobile army. Allowing them to manoeuvre easily and avoid detection. The 800 men broke through the encirclement in the valley of Gaixia, and fled the battlefield. They were left with about 100 when they escaped.

After Han Xin discovered that they had escaped, he was shocked. So Liu Bang ordered 5000 elite calvary to pursue Xiang Yu. But as he we in an unfamiliar territory. He tried to ask for directions back to Chu, and the locals deliberately misdirected him, tricking him into a swamp (most people thinks that is frictional).

In the end, the chased him to Wu River, where the remaining Chu soldiers made a last stand. and were killed to the very last man… Xiang Yu could have escaped, but he was too proud to do so.. so in the end, he made his last stand, killing around 100 enemy soldiers. After being seriously wounded.. he slit his own throat.

Lessons from the story. I guess there was many lessons one could learn from this
1. Always be ready for Good advice. Initially, if Xiang Yu were to listen to his adviser (Namely Fan Zheng). Perhaps he would have successfully killed Liu Bang before the contention started.
2. When in battle, do not bring your wife to the field.. Actually it was a big wonder for me why would he allow his wife to go to battle, I am sure “虞姬” (the name of his wife) is not a warrior princess. (At least as depicted in the operas)
3. One should not start a battle or war just to prove that he is “smarter” (Eg Han Xin)
4. Always learn to be kind, do not be known for your brutality. It is believed that the people are not in favour of Xiang Yu, claiming him to be a Tyrant and a mass murderer. Hence willingly gave him the wrong direction
5.If you are stuck in a battle, and you know its a lost clause. You should try to escape. Liu Bang had suffered many losses, but he would rather escape than to make a last stand.. leaving him to be the winner in the end. Most people believe that Xiang Yu would have been able to help Chu fight if he had escaped.

This battle has a significant effect in Chinese culture.
1. There was a Pipa piece called 十面埋伏. Trying to capture the atmosphere of that battle
2. 四面楚歌 became a idiom. describing a situation where one was surrounded with no allies to turn to.
3. There is a Beijing Opera piece called “Song Of Gaixia” 垓下歌 which dramatised the last night Xiang Yu spent with Yu Ji. The song goes (extracted from Wikipedia)

<<Xiang Yu>>
lì bá​ shān​ xī qì​ gài ​shì​時不利兮騅不逝。
shí bù ​lì​ xī​ zhuī​ bù shì​騅不逝兮可奈何!
zhuī bù shì​ xī​ kě​ nài ​hé​虞兮虞兮奈若何!
Yú xī Yú​ xī​ nài​ ruò​ hé​
<<Xiang Yu Piece>>
My strength plucked up the hills,
My might shadowed the world;But the times were against me,
And Dapple runs no more;When Dapple runs no more,
What then can I do?Ah, Yu, my Yu,
What will your fate be?”Dapple” is the nickname of his horse
<<Yu Ji>>
Hàn​ bīng​ yǐ​ lüè dì​四面楚歌聲。
sì ​miàn ​chǔ ​gē​ shēng​大王義氣盡,
dài​ wang​ yì ​qì jìn​賤妾何聊生
jiàn qiè hé​ liáo ​shēng​
<< Yu Ji performing a sworddance>>
The Han army has
conquered our land;We are surrounded by
Chu songs;My lord’s spirits
are low;Why then should
I live?

This is the pipa piece