Battle of Chengpu
The battles of Chengpu 城濮之战 is the first battle of the Chinese history with being described with precision. I.e. including/understanding the description of the military strategy, with in particular of the strategies like “attacking on the two sides” (夹击) and “attracting the enemy towards oneself” (诱敌深入). The battle is described in detail in the Zuo Zhuan.
First stepsIn -633, the State de Chu attacks the State de Song, allied of the State de Jin on which reign the duke Jin Wen Gong 晋文公. The duke of Song asks of the assistance the duke of Jin, and according to the councils of his minister Xian Zhen 先轸, the duke of Jin agrees to bring his assistance to Song. In same time, the principality of Chu is combined with the States of CAD 曹国 and Wei 卫国.
In -632, the duke of Jin decides to tackle the State of CAD first of all, and it obtains there the victory at the price of heavy losses. It captures the duke of CAD and force the principalities of CAD and Wei to disavow their alliance with Chu. Chu side, the king de Chu Chu Cheng Wang 楚成王 orders with its minister Ziyu 子玉 to withdraw his army of Song of fear of entering in conflict with the State de Jin, but Ziyu is obstinated to want to fight battle. Jin side, Jin Wen Gong makes move back the Jin army of 90 miles (perhaps 45 km) (in Chinese: 退避三舍), under the official reason to hold a promise which it had made to king de Chu, who had accommodated it during his exile out of Jin; in fact, the army of Chu occupied a strategically advantageous position, and while moving back of this distance and by forcing the army of Chu to advance, Jin Wen Gong made them lose this advantage.
Plan of the battle
The army of Jin
The measuring unit of the force was then the number of tanks of war (the riders did not exist yet at that time in China, and the infantrymen were neglected or included, as that was also the case at the time feudal European): the army of Jin counted 700 of them.
This army was divided into three troops:
- the army the top 上军, with Hu Yan 狐偃 as principal general and Hu Mao 狐毛 as secondary general;
- the army of the 中军 medium, with Xian Zhen 先轸 as principal general and Xi Zhen 郤溱 as secondary general;
- the army of bottom 下军, with Luan Zhi 栾枝 as principal general and Xu Chen 胥臣 as secondary general.
The army of Chu
The army of Chu, whose force is unknown, was it also divided into three troops:
- the army of the left 左军, with Zixi 子西 as general;
- the army of the 中军 medium, with Ziyu 子玉 as general;
- the army of the right-hand side 右军, with Zishang 子上 as general. This part of the army included/understood troops of the States de Cai and Chen, and constituted the weakest part of the army.
Before the battle, Ziyu saw in dream the god of the river 河神 which says to him: “if you give me your crimped stone hat, I give you the territory of Song”, but Ziyu was due to its hat and refused.
Course of the battle
The fourth day of the fourth month of the year -632, the armies of Jin and Chu meet. First of all, Xu Chen 胥臣 (general as a second of the army “of the bottom” of Jin) attacks the army of line Chu, in fact made up of elements of Cai and Chen, that it vaincq easily.
As regards army “top” of Jin, Hu Mao 狐毛 makes raise two flags and Luan Zhi 栾枝 makes order to fix on the back of the carriages of the branches of tree and to make pretense move back in order to cause a cloud of dust, these two operations with an aim of making accept the enemy whom the armies reprocess. Ziyu does not include/understand the stratagem and orders in Zixi (the army of left of Chu) to attack, which it does. But the Jin army of the medium guided by Xian Zhen 先轸 and Xi Zhen 郤溱 attacks the army of Chu of the medium to prevent it from advancing, while, very blow, the forces of Jin ordered by Hu Mao 狐毛 and Hu yan 狐偃 are turned over and attacked Zixi 子西 on the two sides at the same time, destroying the army of left of Chu. Seul Ziyu 子玉 which had not attacked remains almost unscathed; it decides to flee.
ResultThe armies of Jin invade the camping of Chu, and take the military rations. They have sufficiently to eat for three days.
Ziyu will commit suicide following its defeat.
This victory of Jin will not prevent however in the long run the State de Chu from becoming the uncontested power of the south of China for the Period of Springs and the Falls and the period of the Royaumes combatants.
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