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>>
力拔山兮氣蓋世。
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>>
漢兵已略地,
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

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This is one of the epic battles recorded in the story, “The Romance of 3 Kingdoms”. A frictional version of the official historical record of the 3 Kingdoms.

The author uses this battle to portray the change of fortune for Lord Liu Bei. If you were to remember, he had been defeated and seek refuge for alot of other nobles. This round he fled south to his relative Liu Biao and was given the town of Xin Ye. This is where he went to visit the strategist Zhuge Liang 3 times.

At the time of battle, Zhuge Liang had been in service. Cao Cao started to move his troops south to destroy the other feudal Lords of the south, namely Liu Bei and Sun Quan. He first sent troops to attack Xinye, as it is the nearest town to the north.

He dispatched one of his famous general, Xiahou Dun with a elite calvary of 10000 which is to lead way for Cao Cao’s main force.

Zhuge Liang was new to Liu Bei and his great generals Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun are doubtful of his ability to lead the force. Hence Zhuge Liang needs to gain their respect before they would be able to issue commands to them easily. (you can see that they are very doubtful of him)

As for the historical accuracy of this battle, there was a record of this battle, and the only difference between that record is, there was a officer called Xiahou Lan was captured by Zhao Yun. He pleaded with Liu Bei to spare him. At the battle site, there was many archaeological finds of broken Halberds and ashes of grain were found, which is determined to be from the 3 kingdoms period.

What we can learn from this battle is
1. Never underestimate the opponents you are dealing with, Xiahou Dun thinks Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei are weaklings. This lead to Zhuge Liang’s strategy of “Not to win, only lose” succeed in drawing his forces into the hilly area.
2. Over confidence is a problem that can lead to defeat.

I have attached 3 movies of the battle, it is an Drama based on the story of Romance of 3 Kingdom

Scene 1. The Scene with Cao Cao and his ministers and Xiahou Dun bragging that he will capture Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang
Scene 2: Zhuge Lian issuing the orders for battle, and the reaction of the generals
Scene 3: The Actual Battle itself
Scene 4: The generals returning triumphant. (Only the first 1 minute, the rest are other parts of the story)




This is the extract of the story in the “Romance Of 3 Kingdoms”. This scene happened after the famous battle of Red cliff. In this story, after the battle of Red cliff, Liu Bei started to expand his power to the South of Jing Zhou.

This scene happened at the battle of Chang Sa. At that time the city is govern by a very weak warlord known as Han Xuan. However, the city was able to hold up despite the weak leadership due to the fact that it has a valiant old General called Huang Zhong protecting it.

In this battle, Liu Bei sent his General Guan Yu to attack the city, and you can see the result of their duel. Apparently, the ancient warriors do not like to take advantage of their opponent even in a duel. this is why Guan Yu did not attempt to slay Huang Zhong when his horse stumbled.

However, Han Xuan wanted Huang Zhong to use his excellent ability as the archer to shoot Guan Yu during the duel. However, Huang Zhong wanted to be fair and to return his opponent the favour by deliberately not loading his bow and to only hit the helmet of his opponent.

This angered Han Xuan and he wanted to execute Huang Zhong, which cause his entire army to mutiny and killed him. The rest of the stories tells us how Liu Bei convinced Huang Zhong to join him.

What we can learn in this,
1. Even when faced with a enemy, you should always show grace and not to believe that the ends justify the means. However, this attitude is no longer favored in the business world anymore.

2. Always lead your organsiation in fairness, and learn not to be picky on the faults of the employee. Should Han Xuan showed a bit more grace, I guess his troops would not have executed him. Let say if he is successful in killing the old general, I am sure he wont be able to hold Chang Sa with his remaining generals.

3. Be wary of just listerning to stories, according to History Records, Han Xuan is actually a warlord who loved the people, this battle did not occur, in fact, it was Huang Zhong that convinced Han Xuan to surrender, and they both continue to serve as officers in the Shu Kingdom. In fact the people at Chang Sa built a worship hall in his honour.

Part 1

Part 2

In the last week, we talked about Benevolence as a method of dealing with the warlike and blood thirsty nature of a warrior. The this virtue that i would be describing,  serves a similar purpose to it.

 Politeness is link to courtesy most of the time, and everyone knows the typical Japanese courtesy, and its marked as a trait of the Japanese.  From what i am reading, politeness slowly evolves from a simple set of manners to a elaborate set of ceremonies and actions.
Any respectable man in society has to learn and be accustomed to this.

This is the reason sometimes Asian politeness is viewed as being passed as hypocrisy, or places over emphasis on how one should sit or bow, and how he must walk behaves.

The purpose for such etiquette all voices down to 1 objectives, “The end of all etiquette is to so cultivate your mind that even when you are quietly seated, not the roughest ruffian can dare make onset on your person.” with this,  we can term such politeness into the term “Well seated”. which can be achieve by constant exercise in correct manners, one brings all the parts and faculties of his body into perfect order and into such harmony with itself and its environment as to express the mastery of spirit over the flesh.

But what does “Well seated” has to do with a warrior? Take the traditional tea ceremony as an example (Cha-no-yu).  The calmness of mind, serenity of temper, composure and quietness of demeanour are the first essentials of Cha-no-yu. These are without doubt the first conditions of right thinking and right feeling. The scrupulous cleanliness of the little room, shut off from sight and sound of the madding crowd, is in itself conducive to direct one’s thoughts from the world. The bare interior does not engross one’s attention like the innumerable pictures and bric-a-brac of a Western parlour; the presence of kakémono calls our attention more to grace of design than to beauty of colour. The utmost refinement of taste is the object aimed at; whereas anything like display is banished with religious horror. The very fact that it was invented by a contemplative recluse, in a time when wars and the rumours of wars were incessant, is well calculated to show that this institution was more than a pastime. Before entering the quiet precincts of the tea-room, the company assembling to partake of the ceremony laid aside, together with their swords, the ferocity of battle-field or the cares of government, there to find peace and friendship.

Other then that, the book also talks a bit about Japanese polities and the rational behind their actions which are interesting to note. The following extracts of the books

You are out in the hot, glaring sun with no shade over you; a Japanese acquaintance passes by; you accost him, and instantly his hat is off–well, that is perfectly natural, but the “awfully funny” performance is, that all the while he talks with you his parasol is down and he stands in the glaring sun also. How foolish!–Yes, exactly so, provided the motive were less than this: “You are in the sun; I sympathise with you; I would willingly take you under my parasol if it were large enough, or if we were familiarly acquainted; as I cannot shade you, I will share your discomforts.” Little acts of this kind, equally or more amusing, are not mere gestures or conventionalities. They are the “bodying forth” of thoughtful feelings for the comfort of others.

In America, when you make a gift, you sing its praises to the recipient; in Japan we depreciate or slander it. The underlying idea with you is, “This is a nice: gift if it were not nice I would not dare give it to you; for it will be an insult to give you anything but what is nice.” In contrast to this, our logic runs: “You are a nice person, and no gift is nice enough for you. You will not accept anything I can lay at your feet except as a token of my good will; so accept this, not for its intrinsic value, but as a token. It will be an insult to your worth to call the best gift good enough for you.” Place the two ideas side by side, and we see that the ultimate idea is one and the same. Neither is “awfully funny.” The American speaks of the material which makes the gift; the Japanese speaks of the spirit which prompts the gift

I will be covering Honesty on my next blog post

Benevolence is counted as a princely value, in the Confucian value system, benevolence is usually taught to monarchs and emperors as a value is required of them.

Confucius will say” Let but a prince cultivate virtue  , People will flock to him; with people  come to him lands;  lands will bring forth for him wealth; wealth will give him the benefit of right uses,. Virtue is the root, wealth is the outcome”. “Never has there been a case of a sovereign loving benevolence, and the people not loving righteousness”

In the period of Feudalism, many feudalistic society almost became militaristic, but it is Benevolence which help to spare the people from despotism in its worst kind. It is benevolence to produce humanistic rulers who could form Paternal government, which is different from despotism. The main difference between the 2 is that people in a despotism government tend to obey reluctantly, while the people on the other side obey and submit to their rulers in proud  submission, and they are willing to give their all to the state.

Benevolence can be viewed as tender and mother-like, much in contrast with Rectitude and justice. However, the link between the 2 is that “Rectitude carried in excessive manner brings on stiffness, while benevolence without measure sinks into weakness.

Japanese tend to use the term “Bushi No Nasake” – The tenderness of a warrior, this type of mercy is not from blind impulse,  it is taken with justice in mind and backed with the power to save or kill.

Benevolence bond up in a warrior help to reduce the bloodthirsty, warlike or barbaric side of a warrior, the samurai will agree with the phrase spoken by Mencious “Benvolance brings under it sway, whatever that hinders its power, just like how water quenches the fire.” A benovalent man is always mindful to those who are suffering or are in distress. Which brings this close to sympathy.

One of the more practical depiction is this, One who is familair with Japanese art will remember seeing this painting of a priest riding backwards on a cow.The rider was once a warrior who in his day made his name a by-word of terror. In that terrible battle of Sumano-ura, (1184 A. D.) which was one of the most decisive battle in Japanese history,he overtook an enemy and in single combat had him in the clutch of his gigantic arms. Now the etiquette of war required that on such occasions no blood should be spilt, unless the weaker party proved to be a man of rank or ability equal to that of the stronger. The grim combatant would have the name of the man under him; but he refusing to make it known, his helmet was ruthlessly tom off, when the sight of a juvenile face, fair and beardless, made the astonished knight relax his hold. Helping the youth to his feet, in paternal tones he bade the stripling go: “Off, young prince, to thy mother’s side! The sword of Kumagayé shall never be tarnished by a drop of thy blood. Haste and flee o’er yon pass before thine enemies come in sight!” The young warrior refused to go and begged Kumagayé,

for the honour of both, to dispatch him on the spot. Above the hoary head of the veteran gleams the cold blade, which many a time before has sundered the chords of life, but his stout heart quails; there flashes athwart his mental eye the vision of his own boy, who this self-same day marched to the sound of bugle to try his maiden arms; the strong hand of the warrior quivers; again he begs his victim to flee for his life. Finding all his entreaties vain and hearing the approaching steps of his comrades, he exclaims: “If thou art overtaken, thou mayst fall at a more ignoble hand than mine. O thou Infinite! receive his soul!” In an instant the sword flashes in the air, and when it falls it is red with adolescent blood. When the war is ended, we find our soldier returning in triumph, but little cares he now for honour or fame; he renounces his warlike career, shaves his head, dons a priestly garb, devotes the rest of his days to holy pilgrimage, never turning his back to the West where lies the Paradise whence salvation comes and whither the sun hastes daily for his rest.

Benevolence is the root of Politeness, which i will cover on the next round

According to Confucius, a lack of courage is “Perceiving what is right, but doing it not.” A more positive way to view it is “Courage is doing what is right”, meaning to be caught in all kinds of hazard and dangers.However, these qualities will be useless if there is no clause (“Giri”). People often view death to a meaningless clause as a “dog’s death”.  One of the famous quotes about courage is from the prince of mito “It is true courage to live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die.In the old days Japanese tend to train their children in courage using a “drilling the nerves” approach. Examples of such methods are


1. Depriving them of food or exposure to cold
2. Sending them to strangers with messages to deliver
3. Witnessing public execution etc.

One could easily recall how the Spartan children are trained in the movie 300 upon hearing this.

Another aspect of courage is drawn towards composure, which is a calm presence of mind.  Such tranquility is courage in repose. A warriors mind should be ever serene, even in the heat of the battle. Nothing will actually surprise him, and he is able to keep his mind in the midst of danger.Here are some of the examples quoted in the book


a. Ota Dokan, the builder of the castle of Tokyo, manage to complete a couplet with his assassin before he died.

b. Kenshin, who fought Shingen (These are from the Sengoku or “warring states” period 1521-1573) for 14 years, did a very surprising act to his enemy. When the Hojo prince tried to weaken Shingen (whose provinces are on the mountainous region where salt is scarce) by cutting him from his supply of salt. Kenshin, upon hearing his enemy’s dilemma, and being able to get a supply of salt from his own provinces, wrote a letter to Shingen stating that in his opinion, the prince of Hojo had committed a very mean act. Although they are at war with each other, Kenshin ordered his subjects to furnish Shingen with plenty of salt, saying “I do not fight with salt, but with a sword” 

When such valor reaches its height, it becomes akin to Benevolence, which I would cover in the next entry 

The book tends to build one concept upon the other, the author started his work using Rectitude (Or justice) as the opening virtue.Rectitude, is the power of decided a certain course of conduct in accordance to a reason, without wavering; To die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right. This concept provides the bare structure of the warrior code. For a typical samurai warrior, he is unable to bear with underhand dealings and crooked undertaking, in my opinion the concept of right and wrong can varies from person to person, and as long as there is no particular standard of justice, anyone can decide on his path of actions according to his own reason.

As feudalism developed, when peace settled onto the civilization, the idea of rectitude are illustrated and dramatized , one of the more famous stories is the 47 gishi, or (47 Ronin). These stories are based on events that happened. For users who are interested in the story, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/47_Ronin

There is another concept called Giri, which is often mentioned with rectitude, Giri is a slight variation of rectitude. Giri directly translated is called “Right Reason”. It simple words, it is like a duty that must be performed. Examples of Giri are, what we owed to parents, to superiors, to society at large. It is Giri that is the motivating factor to steer a person towards rectitude. But one may argue that Giri can be a reason for cowardice. Only with Bushido’s emphasis on courage, prevent Giri from being the reason for Cowardice. I would be discussing Courage in the next post