Chapter 12 – City Under Siege
‘Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.’
In all cities, the factors that hold strategic significance include thick and high city walls, deep moat to protect the city, easy to guard, difficult to attack, and the ability to use the few to defeat the many; therefore, even Sun Tzu, who was able to lead military operations with extraordinary skill, still said that besieging a city was to be the last resort. Translated by foxs
Oftentimes these few famous military quotes were hanging on the edge of Kou Zhong’s mouth, he even had comprehensive and profound experience on it. In the battle of Jingling, he was the defender of the city, but in this battle of Liyang, he was on the attacking side.
If he had a choice, he would advise Dou Jiande to only besieging without attacking, but the problem was that Li Shiji was well prepared, the city had enough provisions to last for a year or a half. The next problem was that if the enemy’s reinforcement came to help them, with the enemies inside and outside the city clamping down on them, they would sink down from taking the initiative to becoming passive.
After researching the situation and deliberating, they decided to adopt the strategy of surrounding the city from all sides, taking turn day and night to attack violently, in order to break the enemy’s fighting spirit and physical strength. In the luring-the-enemy surprise-attack battle outside the city of Liyang, they wiped out up to ten thousand men of the enemy troops, which greatly weakened the strength of the standing army guarding the city. Their remaining number was no more than twenty thousand men. To firmly defend a city of such size, Liyang must deploy all its soldiers. In other words, Dou Army could rest, while Tang Army did not have this good luck. Thus the crucial nature of the battle outside the city was clear.
This time Dou Jiande was determined to capture Liyang. Reinforcement troops were continuously coming from Shouchun and Xucheng. Up to this moment, the total military strength already surpassed one hundred and fifty thousand men, constantly increasing the pressure on Liyang’s defenders. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
All heavy equipment was well prepared, because to make a breakthrough over the enemy’s deep moat and tall rampart, it would be absolutely impossible to rely only on infantry, cavalry, and regular saber, sword, bow and arrows. Therefore, they must rely on siege equipment. In terms of supplies and organization, the preparation must be adequate, especially since they were launching round-the-clock offensive, all aspects of the requirement were more stringent.
In the first place was the construction of a moveable observation platform, the ‘nest car’ and the ‘tower car’, which enabled them to see the situation inside the city from higher elevation, or to release arrows to aid the offensive.
After understanding the enemy clearly, the attack must follow. The first step in the siege war was ‘crossing the trench’. Only by successfully crossing the city of Liyang’s moat would the siege equipment, as well as the suicide squad – had the chance to approach the city wall and unleash the siege battle. Both Dou Jiande and Liu Heita were old hands in besieging a city. As soon as the battle started, they immediately cut off the water source to the moat, to carryout the ‘stopping up the water source, opening the sluice gate when the water is shallow’ method. After the water became shallow, they bagged dirt and transported stones, by filling up carts with dirt and rocks and pushed it directly into the moat, to let these commonly referred to as shrimp toad carts forcefully filled the moat and made it flat.
‘Filling the trench’ was followed by ‘taking over the city walls’ battle, and in this kind of situation, ‘wooden donkey’ was essential. Wooden donkey was a large cart on four wheels, the roof was pointy and slanting, forming a roof-ridge-like huge wooden structure, unafraid of bows and arrows, and did not fear stone strike either. It was covered in chemically treated cowhide, not easy to burn, under which nearly a hundred soldiers could hide. It has an amazing efficacy as a shield in besieging a city. Translated by foxs
As they got close to the city walls, it was the moment where all kinds of siege equipment would come handy: flying tower, ramming vehicle, ladder cart, battlement cart with hook, fire car, skyscraper, cloud ladder and giant wooden log to batter the city gate, all with ten-thousand-jun-thunderbolt momentum, to climb the city walls, to knock against the wall, to ram the gate, to climb over the city wall by all means, and then when they obtained steady foothold on top of the city walls, they would progressively expand the gap to make a breakthrough, to consume the enemy’s willpower and defensive strength.
Kou Zhong and Liu Heita rode side by side at the front line conducting this bitter besieging-the-city battle, Dou Jiande stayed on a command platform, a temporary structure that was built comparably far from the city, conducting the overall situation of advance and attack and retreat and defend using bugle horns and battle drums.
The difference between this battle and the battle of Jingling was that in the past, Du Fuwei carried out the ‘opening one corner’ strategy, by keeping one way out of the siege, to give the army-civilian inside the city an opportunity to escape. This time, however, Dou Jiande heavily besieged the city, in an attempt to wipe out all officers and soldiers inside the city, to prevent Li Shiji and Li Shentong from running away to Weihui and reorganizing their forces. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
However, no matter how adequate Dou Jiande’s preparation was, their resources were, after all, limited; therefore, Dou Jiande concentrated his main force to attack the east gate, so that the scale of the attack on the three other gates was much smaller; their goal was only to control the enemy, to prevent them from breaking out the siege and run away.
Under the illumination of the torches inside and outside the city, Liyang defenders, who had been enduring several days and several nights, never-stopped violent offensive – were already weary, and it showed.
Three times Kou Zhong had personally charged up the city walls, beheading over a hundred of the enemies, but in the end he was still forced to get out of the city again by Li Shentong, Xu Shiji [sic], and a group of martial art masters on the enemy’s side who risk their life to fight him. Just now he returned to the camp to rest for two sichen, this moment his spirit and physical power has recovered completely, so he donned his armor and got on his horse, waiting for the moment the city would be broken. Translated by foxs
He sat high on the Thousand-Li Dream’s back, Wuming was perching proudly on his left shoulder, his tiger-eyes were flashing brightly, yet his mind was tranquil like the moon in the well, as he swept his gaze over the enemy and us, two sides’ you die, I live desperate attack and defense battle.
‘Boom! Boom! Boom!’
The battering ram crashed against the city gate, one strike at a time, seemingly representing the strength of Liyang’s troops being eroded one bit at a time, while for the each bit of weakening of the enemy, the attackers also had to pay a heavy price.
Outside the city, several wooden donkeys and tower cars have been burned to ashes by the enemy’s fire-arrows, some were still blazing, sending out clouds of thick smoke covering the sky and screening the air.
Inside the city, many places caught fire as well; smoke and fragments of fire filled the atmosphere, to pay tribute to the fireballs shot by the stone-throwing machines, which made the soldiers and people inside the city rushing about endlessly trying to deal with it. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Arrows and stones were flying like locusts back and forth from both inside and outside the city, continuously increasing the number of the departed spirits who sacrificed their life in this pitiless war. In here, compassion and mercy practically had no place to stand.
Kou Zhong more and more felt that war is just like a game of chess, and that it must be in this kind of callous mind that one could achieve results, to have the right frame of mind to conduct the advance and retreat of his side’s men and horses.
The Dou Army besieging the city was like a large number of ants ignoring their own life and death, climbing the ladder, scaling the wall, to attack the enemy at the top of the wall. The defenders were relying on the high walls to stake their life to hold back the enemy, to put the enemies trying to climb the wall to an end in the battlements or under the wall.
The close-range combat showed that the attack and defense battle was entering its climax.
It was the third wave of offensive that the Dou Army launched tonight. In the previous two, the Tang Army defending the city cast lime, slugs, boiling oil, and rocks toward the Dou Army, crushing their desire to break the city. This time evidently their resources and supplies were depleted, so that the defensive force greatly differed from the previous ones, they were no longer able to move one step ahead to prevent the battering cart to directly strike the east gate.
Before each attack, Dou Jiande always offered Li Shiji and Li Shentong a chance to surrender, but each time he was categorically refused.
Shaking his head, Liu Heita said with a sigh, “Li Shiji is lost!”
Kou Zhong looked up to where Li Shiji’s command banner was standing, indeed he did not see Li Shiji and Li Shentong’s figures anymore. Nodding in agreement, he said, “Watch out, they might take advantage of the moment when the city is broken is break the siege and escape.” Translated by foxs
Liu Heita looked back at the thousand-man elite cavalry waiting behind him in tight formation. Laughing coldly, he said, “How could it be that easy?”
And then he shouted his order. The remaining more than a hundred ladder carts, battering cars, and two units of troops armed with huge shields, bows and arrows, standing on either side of the cavalry, each unit numbered five thousand infantrymen, started to move toward the east gate under the command of the battle drums.
The sturdy east gate finally gave in, it collapsed inside into the gateway, raising a cloud of dust and wood fragments covering the gate.
On the besieging troops’ side, the morale was greatly aroused, their shouts shook the heaven, completely drowning the noise of the battle and the sound of clashing weapons. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Liu Heita’s countenance changed, he shouted, “Back off!”
The bugle horn was sounded, the squad in charge of the battering cars pulled back in panic, but they were already a step too late.
Only Kou Zhong understood the reason why Liu Heita’s countenance changed; it was because they made a mistake in estimating the timing of the breaking of the gate. It goes without saying that the enemy was secretly moving away the sand and stones and iron carts blocking the gateway and strengthening the resistance of the city gate, so that the gate was easily broken. It should be noted that according to the original plan, the moment the city gate was broken, the battering cars must withdraw immediately, the construction battalion was in charge of clearing away the obstacle inside the gateway, to let the infantry charging into the city first, and finally Liu Heita and his cavalry troops would march straight in unchallenged to attack. But this moment the fact appeared to be inconsistent with their estimation, so that although the Dou Army side occupied the superior position, in term of time they still had no room to advance or to retreat.
Sure enough, inside the city the gongs were struck, a large number of enemy’s cavalry charged out from inside the city, killing everybody in sight indiscriminately; they divided themselves into several groups, breaking the siege toward four sides, eight directions. The wailing of the construction battalion responsible for clearing the fortifications of the gate shook the heavens, as they scattered in all directions to run for their lives, which increased the opportunity for the enemy riders to escape even more. The battlefield situation outside the east gate was in total chaos, enemy and us difficult to tell.
Making prompt decision, Liu Heita bellowed, “Brothers! Charge!”
Together with Kou Zhong at the front, he paid no attention to the enemies swarming violently out of the city; concentrating the forces, the sound of the one-thousand-man cavalry hoof beats rumbling, they charged straight into the open east gate.
Kou Zhong let out a shrill whistle. He commanded his darling Wuming to fly up to the sky, while unleashing the man and horse as one technique, spurring his beloved colt Thousand-Li Dream to charge ahead rapidly. Translated by foxs
Behind him, Dou Jiande promptly transferred the troops to encircle and intercept, to prevent the enemy from breaking the sieges and running away.
The infantry on both sides, under the command of two other high-ranking military officers, surged toward the east gate like two waves of raging tide. The battle was intense.
Kou Zhong was the first to arrive. The Moon in the Well chopped to the left and hacked to the right, the vortex of energy shot out, those who blocked him, none was not hacked by him that both the weapon and the person were thrown out and fell to the ground. He was valiant and unstoppable. With the cooperation of Liu Heita and the elite troops, the enemies who were rushing out of the gate were forced back into the city.
After killing even-he-did-not-know-how-many men, suddenly he felt the pressure was greatly reduced. Turned out he had successfully passed through the gateway and was already inside the city. He saw in the city the crying and the shouting were ear-splitting, with flames springing up everywhere, dense smoke and fire fragments covering the air and illuminating the sky. The City of Liyang was like a jar of blood of the Asura’s hell, soldiers and civilians, mixed with the old, the weak, women and children scattered in all directions. The tragic and severe atmosphere was like doomsday approaching; a spectacle too horrible to endure.
On top of the city wall, inside the city, even more intense close-range, hand-to-hand combat was unfolding. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong and Liu Heita’s mighty cavalry division stepped into the main street of the east gate, without yielding a singe cun, they attacked the enemy defending the city and went deeper into the city. Behind them, Dou Army’s infantry burst in like a tide. The enemy’s great momentum has already gone.
The cruel city battle was in full swing all-around, the thick city wall has completely lost its function to defend the city.
Suddenly a group of nearly three hundred Tang soldiers was coming straight at them. The leader was precisely Li Yuan’s younger brother, Li Shentong, whose martial art skill was considered to be the first or second best among the Li Clan.
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Why don’t I see Shiji Xiong? He is not scared and went into hiding, is he?”
The Thousand-Li Dream carried him lurching forward, the Moon in the Well slashed like a flash of lightning.
Li Shentong’s pair of eyes was bloodshot, the long sword in his hand swiftly poked forward, he roared, “Even if I die, I will have you, Kou Zhong, accompany me on the road.” Translated by foxs
The saber and the sword clashed, the two were severely shaken at the same time.
In the blink of an eye the two sides’ men and horses crossed weapons in a tangled battle. Li Shentong’s men were like being swallowed by a tide by Kou Zhong’s side, they were no longer able to maintain their formation.
Knowing that he was going to die, Li Shentong unleashed his swordsmanship; divinely brave, difficult to block. In that blink of an eye, he already launched more than a dozen sword strikes toward Kou Zhong from the horseback; each sword strike was a mutual-destruction move. Even with Kou Zhong’s ability, it was still quite strenuous to parry.
Although fighting at close quarters in the midst of magnificent army with thousands of men and horses, Kou Zhong’s mind was still as tranquil as the moon in the well; he was well aware that after the fierce battle defending the city for the last several days, Li Shentong’s wear and tear was substantial, he was like an arrow at the end of its flight.
Suddenly the personal guards behind Li Shentong were thrown into a complete mess. Liu Heita appeared from behind Li Shentong’s back, the long saber, emitting powerful whistling noise, swept across the back of his neck. If Li Shentong was hit by the blade, surely his head would be separated from his body.
Kou Zhong flipped his strong wrist, he added more power to shock Li Shentong’s sword and sweep it away, so that he was unable to move his sword to block the attack behind him. But Li Shentong was outstanding as well; he hurriedly dropped down to crouch by the horse’s neck, evading Liu Heita’s sure-kill saber by a hairsbreadth. foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Liu Heita shouted coldly, his broadsword made an about-turn, using the back of the blade he fiercely knocked the horse’s head. Without uttering a single groan, the horse’s four legs went weak, it dropped on its knees on the ground, and then collapsed on its side, so that Li Shentong and his warhorse rolled on the ground together.
Just the instant he lost his balance and fell to the ground, Kou Zhong leaned over and stretched out off the horseback, fast as lightning the Moon in the Well pricked out, it hit the vital acupoint on Li Shentong’s flank.
Li Shentong jerked back as if he was struck by lightning. In one fluid motion Kou Zhong grabbed the armor on his back, and picked him up from the ground. Kou Zhong’s tiger-body sitting straight on the horseback, he shouted loudly, “Li Shentong has been captured alive by me; those who surrender will live, those who resist will die!”
The shout was drowning the sound of battle all around, it spread widely throughout the entire battlefield at the eastern part of the city.
Coming to Kou Zhong’s side, Liu Heita shouted in support, “Those who lay down their weapons and surrender will not die.”
The sound of clashing weapons gradually subsided. The Tang Army in the city saw their commander-in-chief being captured, their will to fight disappeared completely, one after another they abandoned their weapon and surrendered.
The Dou Army unceasingly flooded into the city, putting the City of Liyang under control. Translated by foxs
Kou Zhong put Li Shentong, helpless and humiliation across his face, his acupoint was sealed – down, and handed him over to a Dou solder to be bound and taken into custody. How could he not sigh with sorrow inwardly, thinking about how in the past Li Shentong’s awe-inspiring authority spread to the eight directions, yet today he was reduced to be a prisoner?
Under Liu Heita’s direction, the high-ranking military officers entering the city split up to lead their respected soldiers to go deep into the city, to call the other defenders of the city to surrender.
Under escort of a group of warriors, Kou Zhong and Liu Heita rode slowly side-by-side into the main street of the east gate, heading toward the Dudu Fu [commander-in-chief mansion/seat of government] in the middle of the City of Liyang. Group after group of cavalry and infantry walked past them on both sides, clearing the way for them.
Liu Heita excitedly said, “This time we can capture Liyang, it all thanks to Xiao Zhong’s skillful execution of the wonderful strategy, by wiping out the enemy’s main force, ruthlessly dampening the enemy’s morale. The next target we want to capture the most is not Luoyang, but the Li Family’s stronghold Tongguan. Not only it is the thoroughfare into the Guanzhong plain, as well as the barrier east of Chang’an, it also controls the Yellow River’s Feng Ling Du. If Tongguan fell, Li Clan’s days of showing off their might can be counted on one’s fingers; I want to see how far Li Yuan can spread his might?” foxswuxia.wordpress.com
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Don’t Li Dage feel that this time we won a very tragic battle?”
Stunned, Liu Heita said, “Why is Xiao Zhong thinking about this aspect? Since ancient times, in any battle where a city is being besieged, injuries and deaths are hard to avoid. Liyang is Li Clan’s most important strategic point outside the Pass. Liyang fell, Weihui is difficult to protect. Li Clan’s only choice right now is to attack Luoyang, while advancing we could attack, retreating we could defend.”
Kou Zhong was about to respond, a group of riders galloped over, the young general leading the troops reported, “The remnant of the enemies retreated and are defending the governor’s mansion, they determined to resist stubbornly.”
Enraged, Liu Heita said, “Those guys are unable to differentiate good from bad; surround the Dudu Fu heavily for me, I want to see how long they can last.”
The young general added, “According to the surrendering soldiers, Li Yuan’s youngest daughter Princess Xiuning ought to be inside the Dudu Fu.”
“What?” Kou Zhong blurted out.
 Giles, Lionel, M.A. (translator), Sun Tzu on the Art of War, Allandale Online Publishing, 2000, England.