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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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A tale of noun, noun, and possibly a third noun, this AAR follows the rise and/or fall of the Later Song Dynasty as it does this thing, that thing, and a third thing. This paragraph may or may not be a work in progress. But basically, I'm writing a narrative/history AAR in MEIOU starting from the Red Turban Rebellion. Stick around!

Table of Contents

Prologue

-----


Han Lin'er
1351 - 1365

The Road to War (Jan - Sep 1356)
Bamboo (Sep 1356 - Jul 1357)
Right Action (Sep 1357 - Jul 1358)
Right Intention (Jul 1358 - Oct 1359)
We Four Rebels (Oct 1359 - Nov 1361)
Mindfulness (Nov - Dec 1361)
Just Cause (Dec 1361 - Oct 1363)
Black and White (Oct 1363 - Jan 1364)
Elegy (Jan 1364 - Sep 1365)

-----

State of the World - 1365

-----


Regency Council
(Wangdue Sengge)
1365 - 1372

Machinations (Sep 1365)
Apostasy (Sep - Nov 1365)
Maneuvers (Nov 1365 - Jun 1372)

-----


Han Kaiwang
1372

The Gathering Storm (Jun - Jul 1372)
Thunder (Jul - Dec 1372)
Cloudburst (Jan 1373)

-----


Zhao Wangyi
1373 - 1428

Repose (Jan 1373 - Sep 1374)
Foreign Developments (Sep 1374 - Jun 1379)
Conversations (Jun - Dec 1379)
Kids (Dec 1379 - Jul 1382)
Loss (Jul 1382 - Nov 1387)
State of the World (Nov 1387 - Jan 1406)
War (Jan - Mar 1406)
Peace (Mar 1406 - Feb 1414)
Final Years (Feb 1414 - Feb 1432)

-----


Zhao Wongwai
1432 - 1447

Marching Onward (Feb 1432 - Jul 1436)
Crumbling Defenses (Jul 1436 - Nov 1437)
New Beginnings (Nov 1437 - Jul 1447)

-----


Zhao Dewang
1447 - 1468

State of the World (Jul 1447 - Oct 1468)

-----


Zhao Mei
1468 -

Plum (Oct 1468 - Aug 1470)
New Horizons (Aug 1470 - Dec 1482)
[URL="http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?568032-Pine-Bamboo-and-Plum-A-Song-AAR-(MEIOU)&p=14451948#post14451948"]Uncharted Waters (Dec 1482 - Oct 1497)
[/URL]
-
Yiqi and Fei 1 (1475 - 1491)
Yiqi and Fei 2 (1491 - 1504)
-
First Steps (Oct 1497 - Dec 1511)
Fire and Fury (Dec 1511 - Oct 1512)

-----
Appendices
Dialects of Chinese (1365)
Dialects of Chinese (1836)






(Original rambling intro):
Hi all, and welcome to my (first!) AAR. I've wanted to write an AAR for some time, and after a few false starts and not much progress, my most recent game is becoming (what I, modestly, think will be) a good story. So here I am. I'll be playing Song, a Chinese rebel faction from the MEIOU mod's 1356 campaign. I'm mostly concerned with plot and plausibility, so no “Song owns half the world” type stuff... but that doesn't necessarily mean I can't have an empire on which the sun never sets. ;)

House rules: No cheating, no save-reloading, all settings normal except lucky nations off (the mod uses modifiers and improved AI to handle this.) That said, I'll probably (read: definitely) mod in more events/decisions/etc as the game progresses, but I'll do my best to ensure my flavor mods don't make the game easier, and in fact may make it harder. Plausibility is the goal, and just as I won't scramble across the world for a Mali province bordering one of Portugal's and westernize three times in five years, I won't mod in “Your people think you're totally awesome!! -50% stab cost, +10% legit, -5 badboy” either.

(Also I promise I don't abuse parentheses/slashes like this in the AAR proper.)

Just want to lay out a few quick things about MEIOU so those unfamiliar with it can follow the action easier. At game start, all the Chinese rebel nations get huge buffs to manpower/income while Yuan gets a big debuff and added revoltrisk. MEIOU added this to properly simulate the civil war (otherwise Yuan would conquer all the revolters in Year 1 and then promptly blob across Eurasia), and the buffs eventually go away. If a Chinese nation occupies/controls a same culture group province owned by Yuan or another Chinese nation, after a mttt it will get a timer to defect to its occupier. The timer goes away if the owner initiates a siege on it, and if it's defected already, winning a siege within a year or two will revert it to the previous owner. Also all the Chinese nations periodically get cores on adjacent Chinese provinces, and since the Chinese cultures all share the same group, the cores never fade. (Certain Chinese nations also got -10 bb/year, but I removed this.)

And finally, EU3 can't handle Chinese naming conventions. Ingame, everyone is Firstname # Lastname. In reality, family names precede surnames, rulers governed under an era name (Hongwu) they chose upon ascension, family (Zhu) and dynasty (Ming) names were different, and on death they were awarded temple (Ming Taizu) and posthumous (his was 11 words) names. There were no regnal numbers because names were never repeated. Also, the map is at times anachronistic (e.g. Shanghai wasn't a city, Beijing wasn't “Beijing.”) I'll do my best to follow naming conventions for characters but please don't hate me if/when I mess up. Locations will be referred to exclusively by their ingame names for clarity's (and my sanity's) sake.

Sorry to talk your ears off before I even start, but I'm done now. I'll probably edit this post into a table of contents when it becomes useful. Prologue will be up once I format it. Thank you for reading, and hope you enjoy!

Edit1: I'll make this post more coherent when the ToC becomes necessary, but just to explain the title: Pine, bamboo, and plum are the Three Friends of Winter, so-named because they can flourish in that season. "Bamboo [...] is a symbol of survival in adversity. Pine [...] symbolizes survival through difficult circumstances. Plum [...] stands for both the purity of the scholar as well as beauty amid harsh conditions. Plum, bamboo, and pine taken together evoke the Confucian virtue of maintaining one's integrity even in the most adverse conditions."
 
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Prologue: Tipping Point
1. The right to rule China is granted by the Mandate of Heaven.
2. There can be only one legitimate ruler of China.
3. The right to rule is contingent on the virtue of the ruler and his good performance as a steward for Heaven.
4. If the Mandate is lost, the will of Heaven will only be known by the working out of the imponderable force of events in human history.



The Zhizheng Emperor has reigned as Emperor of the Great Yuan for twenty-three years. That reign may soon come to an end.


The year is 1356, and the Yuan Empire is in chaos. The bloated military, necessary to maintain order across the vast empire, steals funding away from every other enterprise of state. Institutional discrimination places more and more wealth and power in the hands of Mongol officials and aristocrats. Dikes along the Grand Canal crumble in disrepair, allowing the Yellow River to pour over its banks unchecked. Thousands drown or starve each year, and thousands more die to the resultant plagues. But the Son of Heaven does nothing. Instead, he invests yet more power in bureaucrats and regional warlords, weakening his grasp on the throne.

Some years past, Han Shantong, a member of the White Lotus Buddhist sect, began an insurrection by proclaiming himself the descendent of the last emperor of the Song Dynasty. The Zhizheng Emperor dispatched an army under the Mongol official Toktoghan to quell the incipient rebellion. Yuan forces quickly arrested and executed Han Shantong. Toktoghan proved a masterful commander of men, defeating the White Lotus rebels at every turn. It seemed the revolution would swiftly meet its end.

But Zhizheng knew that coups led by such men deposed the emperors before him. Paranoid, he dismissed Toktoghan from his command and ordered him banished, just as victory over the insurgents seemed assured. The decree outraged the general's men, who deserted in incredible numbers. Despite Toktoghan's willingness to accept his fate, he was later found dead in his camp, the victim of Yuan assassins.

Rebellions operating under the pretense of the White Lotus Society rose up across the country. Calling themselves the Red Turban Army, they captured swaths of territory throughout the Middle Kingdom. The rebel front quickly splintered into cliques, ostensibly united against Zhizheng, but also focused on regional--and presumably total--dominance of the Middle Kingdom.

Those rebellions survive to this day, and the Great Yuan seems powerless to stop them. But it is only a matter of time until the armies arrive.


Song under Han Lin'er
The son of rebel leader Han Shantong, Lin'er was chosen by the White Lotus Society to become the next emperor. But due to the rise and subsequent fragmentation of the Red Turban movement, his ascension is now far from guaranteed. Still, he maintains a strong presence on the Yangtze Delta and enjoys some support from the Red Turban leaders. His followers claim him to be a descendent of the last Song emperor and the Maitreya Buddha incarnate. However, his professed Buddhism does not endear him to the Chinese people.

Ming under Zhu Yuanzhang
As a teenager, Zhu Yuanzhang lost his entire family to plague after the Yellow River flooded their village. Destitute, he pledged himself to a Buddhist monastery that was later destroyed by a Yuan army. He joined the growing Red Turban Army in revolt, and his rise through the ranks was meteoric. In time, he discarded his Buddhism and transformed the war from a power struggle into a holy enterprise, fighting to uphold Confucian values and to restore the Han people to government. Yuanzhang now operates out of Nanjing, fully independent of Xu Shouhui, and thousands flock to join him each month.

Tianwan under Xu Shouhui
As founder and leader of the Red Turbans, Xu Shouhui seized much of southeast China and declared himself the Zhiping Emperor of Tianwan Dynasty. However, he quickly lost control of his generals, and now is one of many competing for power.

Dahan under Chen Youliang
An ambitious Red Turban general. Formerly subordinate to Xu Shouhui, Chen Youliang has proclaimed an empire of his own, the Great Han.

Khanates encroach on Yuan lands in the west, scornful of Zhizheng's claim to be Great Khan. A small rebel clique styled Daxia has come to power in the region near Tibet. He Zhen, a Mongol bureaucrat in the south, has pledged his support to Han Lin'er. The salt merchant Zhang Shicheng controls the mouth of the Yellow River and Shandong Peninsula, calling his realm Zhou Chao. Further north, Korea has established its independence and Jurchen warlords await their chance to pour into Yuan lands.

With the bulk of the Yuan Army battling khanates in the west, the Red Turbans consolidate their power and bide their time. But this fragile peace will not last. The stage is set for war to erupt in the Middle Kingdom. All that is needed is the spark...
 

morningSIDEr

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Very good graphics, a great choice of nation which seems to promise plenty of war and a very good introduction. Defeating Yuan and the other rebel states, even with your current buffs, should prove a real challenge. Exactly what I like to see in an AAR, I'm very much subscribed.
 

unmerged(271387)

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Subscribed since i love MEIOU,no wonder i did an aar as well.Love Meiou
 

damienreave

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Down with Ming!

Good luck and consider me subscribed.
 

Ashantai

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A wonderful start! I love your graphics and your first post. Consider me subscribed!
 

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Chapter 1: The Road to War


Red leaves west of the village reflect evening rays,
Yellow reeds on a sandy bank cast early moon shadows.
Lightly stirring his oar,
Thinking of returning home,
He puts aside his fishing pole and will catch no more.
“Fisherman” by Wu Zhen*, ca. 1350.

As winter passes and spring begins to bloom, a sense of tranquility pervades the streets of Hangzhou. The people's spirits rise with every degree of temperature and day of peace. Soldiers, markedly more organized than even a year prior, filter in and out of the city, either on leave from the northern defenses in Anhui or returning to them. The downtown marketplaces regain their characteristic bustle. Old men sit around tables on street corners playing weiqi and sipping warm sorghum liquor. Mothers scold their children for misbehaving. “Why, when your father comes home from up north and hears what you did...”

The mood in the provincial courthouse, repurposed by Han Lin'er into his quasi-government's headquarters, is not so light. At the moment, the Zhizheng Emperor's armies are busy pacifying the Chagatai hordes in the far west. But the Yuan will move against the rebels soon enough. Lin'er knows he has precious few months in which to prepare for the inevitable; any day after the monsoon season, Zhizheng's forces could be on his doorstep. So Lin'er wastes no time getting to work.


With the Red Turban factions exercising only de facto control over their territories, people are free to travel between the rebel provinces and Yuan proper as they please. For good or ill, this means information flows through all parts of China quite freely. Reports show the Yuan outnumber Lin'er and his ally, Zhu Yuanzhang of Ming, three to one. However, popular opposition to Mongol rule means the Red Turbans can tap relatively large manpower pools. Lin'er institutes a conscription policy to further bolster the Song reserve and funnels all his revenue into outfitting more troops. He also instructs his generals to concentrate more on offensive tactics, but this upsets nobles on the northern frontier of Song territory and their protests cause a loss of stability.


Most Mongol bureaucrats fled north when the rebellions began, but Lin'er manages to locate a Wu treasurer who is quickly put to work rebuilding the local tax collection system. Some days later, a Tibetan holy man by the name of Wangdue Sengge comes to the courthouse to offer his services. He says very little about himself or his beliefs, but his brilliance is clear. Han Lin'er invites him to stay, dismissing his other advisors' protests. They're suspicious of the man's motives, and the Confucians in the group decry admitting a Tibetan to the inner circle, but Lin'er is firm. He holds vague notions about spreading Mahayana Buddhism in stabler times, and sees Wangdue as the potential vehicle for his message.

Already counting Ming an ally, and with He Zhen a vassal under Song, Lin'er dispatches diplomats to the other provinces in revolt to unite them against the Yuan. Tianwan and Dahan accept, although they do so with great hubris; having both claimed the Mandate of Heaven, they send decrees “solemnly pledging to defend their loyal dukes from the Mongol barbarians.” Daxia politely declines. Curiously, they believe their position on the outskirts of the empire is enough to protect them from reprisal. The diplomat to Zhou is refused an audience with Zhang Shicheng, an outrageous gesture by a salt merchant who styles himself a king.


The Confucius Temple in Nanjing, built in 1034. 19th century painting.

A meeting of the four factions' leaders is called in Nanjing. After the customary pleasantries, discussion quickly turns to strategy. It is agreed that war should be declared preemptively, while the Zhizheng Emperor remains bogged down in the west. Negotiations for a four-way alliance, however, fall through. Zhu Yuanzang is open to the idea, but neither Dahan nor Tianwan back down on their claims to the Mandate of Heaven. Dahan's brash Chen Youliang draws the line in the sand, claiming Ming as his protectorate and threatening consequences should Tianwan meddle in “imperial” affairs. Yuanzang remains silent, but Lin'er can't help but notice the man smirk. The conference is canceled before relations between the factions can be further spoiled.

Throughout much of the summer, rumors spread like plague. First that Chagatai cavalry are routing the Yuan armies, then that the khanate has been utterly defeated. Korean patriots have apparently risen up to reclaim the rest of the peninsula; news of their success or failure is equally mixed.

But one report filters in consistent as the seasons: Ming plans to go to war on its own, then demand the factions follow their command. Eventually it comes to be taken as a certainty in the court. “Never,” Lin'er announces to his advisors. “I won't have it. I'd rather we fight alone than be forced to end the war prematurely by a sheet of paper. Send men to Nanjing, infiltrate their barracks, their court, whatever it takes. I want to know when Yuanzhang declares war before Yuanzhang does.”

Then, on September 8, 1356, a Song rider brings word to Han Lin'er's court: it is done. Ming troops are on the march.


Knowing Yuanzhang's diplomats must have already set out to request the factions join “Ming's” war, Lin'er acts quickly. He announces his own war against the Zhizheng Emperor, calling Dahan and Tianwan into the conflict under his leadership. The Ming envoy arrives, sure enough, the very next day. He refuses to believe the “coincidence” until Lin'er shows him the written decree. The envoy is politely sent away, and since Song's declaration predated his arrival, the alliance with Ming remains valid. Dahan and Tianwan quickly send their replies. Tianwan whinges at length about Song's war leadership clause, but nevertheless accepts. Dahan's chit is decidedly briefer: “Although we are surprised to hear you refuse to follow the Great Han Emperor and his loyal duke Zhu Yuanzhang into battle, we wish you luck in your endeavor.” Despite the tiresome diplomacy necessary to deal with these two nominal empires, military access is secured between the four factions and the Song Army goes on the warpath.


Lin'er calls his generals to the provincial courthouse before they depart for a brief strategy session. As they gather around the table, he considers "general" may be a long stretch of the imagination. The fighting to now has been sporadic, disorganized, messy. When choosing his leaders, Lin'er had little to gauge the men on save fighting ability. After all, his armies are mere militias, drawn from the farmers and fishermen who live in Song territory. And after dealing with courtly types for the past year, these men who gather around the table now appear as an association of brawlers.

“Securing the eastern half of Anhui Province,” he begins, “is your top priority. Even if it means abandoning the north. Without it, we are cut and we will die.” He pauses and again looks the men over. Most stare at him blankly, either uncomprehending or just itching to be on the battlefield. One younger man, however, glances away from Lin'er and cracks a smile.

“Those of you not going to Anhui will march south and occupy Fujian Province. Pacify a territory, then continue along the coast to the next. The First Army will remain in Fujian until November, then proceed north to the outskirts of Tianwan territory to meet the Yuan armies.”

Lin'er searches for something inspirational, something motivating to say, the sort of words that raise mens' spirits, yet he can't seem to find the...

“That is all.” The commanders, shrugging and mumbling, stand and filter out of the room.

“Except you.” Lin'er motions for the thoughtful one to come forward. Seeing him in better light, he appears not older than twenty. Fresh-faced and sharp, but clearly peasant stock just the same. “Tell me, earlier. What did I say that so amused you?"

“W-well it... Imperial Majesty, I-I didn't mean--”

“Dispense with that. 'Sir' is quite enough.”

“It was just... Sir, when you spoke of being cut at Anhui, it reminded me of a proverb my weiqi** master taught me. 'Even a fool connects the peep.'”

Lin'er smiles, and the nervous young man's shoulders relax. “You play? That's good. It develops a sense of balance in the mind. What is your name, soldier?”

“Jibi Zhenghu, Sir.”

“Zhenghu, as a weiqi player, what do you think I meant by my statement? Viewing the map as a board, I mean.”

“Well... we hold the north. The Yuan have no hope of saving their territory below without breaking through our line first. The only...” He trails off, not seeming unsure of what to say but whether to say it. Lin'er nods for him to continue. “You mean the Ming. They cut in one move and our northern group is dead.”

Lin'er chuckles. “Continuing the metaphor to the end. Very well, then. You are to be my eyes and ears on the front. Link up with the First Army and report what you believe to be important; I feel I can trust your judgment."

The boy bows and sets off to rejoin his group. Lin'er sits back down at the head of the table. Weiqi is very much like war, he muses to himself, in that one must balance local tactics with global strategy. But in weiqi, you have only one opponent, and you know who he is. In war, it is not uncommon to see more players join a game in progress and begin placing stones at will.

-----
* Wu Zhen was an artist during the Yuan period. Little-known during his lifetime, he was later recognized as one of the Four Yuan Masters. His work inspired the Southern School art movement in Song and Yue. The fisherman was a common motif in Wu Zhen's work, representing the gentleman-scholar marginalized under Yuan rule.

** Weiqi, known in Japan as "go," is a game played by placing stones on a gridded board. The objective is to use the stones to enclose more territory than one's opponent. "Even a fool connects the peep" refers to a situation where one player has two stones separated by a single space. The opposing player will not play directly between them without support; such a move would be suicide. Instead, he could play one space to the side of this gap. If the first player does not respond by closing the gap, the second can play there with very strong shape and effectively cut his opponent's strength in half.
 

unmerged(227184)

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Thank everyone for your kind words! I'll do my best to live up to expectations. :)

I might need to experiment some with style to find the right mix of narrative and history for me... overall, I'd like to paint the history in broad strokes but develop the characters in some detail. I don't want the characters to force me to certain POVs though. We shall see!

Also I'm sorry for being a tease about the war; originally Jan-Sept was three lines in my notes and five screenshots, but my characters kind of got away from me. But since this war will define the entire game, I think it's justified. (I promise the next update won't begin "As war looms on the horizon, Han Lin'er goes shopping for his grandmother's birthday." Next update, fighting!)

Edit: Ok, this describes my approach to storytelling better. Without getting too insufferable-faux-literary-critic on y'all, I draw a lot of inspiration from my favorite author (well... duh), Thomas Pynchon. One of the things I love about his style is it's very influenced by cinema. Among other things, this manifests in the way he uses point of view like a camera, panning, cutting, and zooming at will. So rather than distinct points of view separated by chapter/section breaks, it shifts in place, tone, and scope as necessary, like a movie. I'm not going to go all wacky postmodern in this (...although... :p) but that's basically what I want to capture once I find the right voice.
 
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Stuyvesant

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You picked an interesting setup, from a time that I know little about. I like the atmosphere of the graphics, the history sections and the character sections. I'll tag along for the ride. :)
 

Ashantai

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Excellent update! The graphics and writing is all very good, and it's a very interesting time period indeed!
 

JKNUBZ

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This is looking super-promising, love AARs by folks who know a lot (more than me) about the period/region they're writing about. Also, quality writing. Will be following.
 

PrawnStar

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*Subscribes*

It's a game starting point I'm not familiar with and I like the style.
 

Derahan

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Very interesting start, would like to see where this is going :happy:
 

LordTempest

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Brilliant writing, beautiful graphics, and a great start so far. I don't follow many EUIII AARs for some reason, but I'll be sure to follow this one!
 

morningSIDEr

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Interesting stuff. Very good that you declared war before being simply made a member of a Ming led coalition. Now then, hopefully you can do well from this war.
 

unmerged(227184)

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Chapter 2: Bamboo


Harsh autumn wind has come to the south,
Sweeping stone and wood furiously.
Among the plants, only bamboo fears not,
Standing erect against the wind for many rounds courageously.
-Zheng Xie, 18th century.

The Mandate of Heaven is something of a tautology. Uniting the Middle Kingdom demonstrates possession of the Mandate, because without the Mandate, one cannot unite the Middle Kingdom. To the people, the current success of the Red Turbans indicates the Yuan Dynasty has lost the favor of Heaven. And whoever conquers the Yuan and unites China will necessarily possess it. Thus, it matters little to ordinary people which faction wins, whether it be Song, Ming, or any other. In fact, if the Zhizheng Emperor crushes the Red Turbans and reestablishes Yuan hegemony, it will be taken as proof that he managed to regain the Mandate, and he will again be accepted. Legitimacy begets victory, and victory begets legitimacy.

With this in mind when the war started, Han Lin'er had envisioned himself working from Hangzhou to establish some form of Song jurisdiction over his territories. He thought his militias could secure the frontier while he curried favor with the populace, winning them over to his side through sound governance and economic prosperity. But the latest report from the front shakes his confidence in this approach.

4/4/1357
My Lord,
When last I wrote, my view of the situation on the front was cautiously optimistic. Although the Zhizheng Emperor quickly forced a concession of defeat from the Chagatai hordes, his forces took months to march on our lands. And despite the First Army's failure to move north until February, our superior numbers were able to break the siege on Tianwan's capital in Hankou.


Now, I do not have such confidence. The emperor commits more troops to the area every day. Yuan lays siege to our holdings in Anhui Province and controls a full two-thirds of the Tianwan Empire. By last count, the Great Yuan have moved forty thousand men to our region, and rumors suggest there may be more on the way.

But if we are to lose this war, I believe it will be due to our own armies rather than Yuan's. Our sieges in the east are reduced to three thousand men, with Ming forces standing by to resume them in Zhu Yuanzhang's name should we fail. The commanders prefer to do nothing. They quarter the First Army in allied Hankou while the Yuan surround us; a decisive Song attack could cripple a portion of the enemy forces, but combined, they are unbeatable.

I do not presume to doubt your judgment in appointing these men to lead us. However, I feel their leadership of the guerrilla actions two years ago did not prepare them for this. They do not understand the tactics of conventional warfare. None of us do. We are peasants and fishermen, merchants and laborers. We are not generals or soldiers.

Any advice or guidance would be invaluable. The men may yet rise to the occasion if only they knew how to proceed.

Your Loyal Servant,
Jibi Zhenghu


Han Lin'er has read the letter three times now. He hold it a few more minutes, then puts it with a pile of other assorted paperwork on his table. Resigning himself, he scribbles a sentence on a blank sheet of rice paper and stamps it with his official seal.

“Wangdue,” he calls into the next room, “could you come here a moment?” The Tibetan shuffles into the room, ledger and brush still in hand. Lin'er knows better than to have Wangdue begin the spread of Buddhism until peace is achieved. In the mean time, however, the man has proven more than capable serving as a minister of the state. And unlike many of Lin'er's other advisors, Wangdue is blunt and brief, almost to the point of disrespect. But in these times, pragmatic concerns outweigh the imposition of courtly etiquette.

“Yes?”

“Have a rider dispatch this to the First Army immediately. In a few days, I'll be able to--”

Wangdue, cocking an eyebrow, cuts him off. “Is this wise?” He gestures at the note, as if it isn't obvious what he means.

“Perhaps not. But it is necessary.”


“You don't belong on the front. Our hopes of a new Song Dynasty rest on your... continued existence. Without an adult heir, or any heir at all for that matter, your line goes extinct with your death, as does everything we have built.”

Lin'er considers disputing the “our” and “we,” but decides against it. “There is no alternative. I trust you can manage the state in my absence.”

“Of course. Just remember what your life means before you attempt any daring heroics.” Wangdue rolls up the letter and walks away, then turns back. “You spend too many nights working in this courthouse. Before you depart, it would be prudent to... enjoy your wife's company. For the good of the people, of course.”

Lin'er laughs at hearing this from the holy man. “Don't worry. I plan to.”

Han Lin'er arrives in Hankou on the 20th and finds the situation to be exactly as Zhenghu described it. The commanders tell Lin'er they thanked Heaven when his note was read to them, and admit they said nothing out of fear of reprisal. “Consider this your warning,” he tells them. “In the future, an honest confession of incompetence will be handled with grace. But any who attempt to conceal their incompetence will be dealt with mercilessly.” The discussion ends there. Lin'er takes command of the First and dubs it the White Lotus Army. Overruling the boy's protests, he assigns five thousand men to Zhenghu and orders him to Anhui Province to reinforce and take command of the siege of Tongling.

What follows will be known as one of the greatest military campaigns in Song's history: The Jiachi March.

The marked black stones are trapped in a jiachi (“net”) by white. At first glance it appears black might be able to survive, but if she plays at F 16, white responds at G 16 and he cuts off her escape. The same principle holds for the other two “escape” routes. White's line above the marked group prevents black's other stones from intervening. With no black reinforcements below or to the right, white has total dominance of the region and black's marked group is unequivocally dead.*

The commanders had foolishly stationed the entire army in Hankou, and with much of Tianwan's farmland under occupation, many Song troops starved alongside Hankou's residents. So when Han Lin'er begins his campaign, his twenty-four regiments have barely seventeen thousand men between them. The Yuan military hold a staggering numerical advantage: ten thousand in western Tianwan, twenty-one thousand in northern Song, and another sixteen thousand marching down from the Yuan capital. Yet these armies are divided, and they lack effective leadership. Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, Lin'er goes on the offense, and he begins in a most unusual way: by marching south.

Lin'er knows that if the scattered Yuan armies link up, their numbers will make them unbeatable. By moving south to Changsa, he exploits the relatively short distance to the first small Yuan camp in Tianwan. His armies eliminate their paltry three thousand before they can retreat, and he continues north.


The remaining imperial forces in Tianwan order a retreat with the White Lotus Army only days behind them. Lin'er catches them outside the city of Nanyang, but a huge force of Mongol cavalry ride down toward the city from the north. Lin'er outflanks the inexperienced commanders in Nanyang and annihilates the full seven thousand just days before the main force arrives. Hearing their comrades have been utterly defeated, the Mongol force turns northeast and instead rides for Ming-occupied territory; the Song men all hoot and cheer when they see the cavalry fade out on the horizon. And, in a coincidence only Heaven could engineer, word comes that Jibi Zhenghu's forces captured the vital southeast part of Anhui Province just hours before the White Lotus Army's victory at Nanyang.




The runner also brings news from the capital: Lin'er's wife is with child. She is due to give birth within a month. “At that moment,” he later writes, “I felt as if the Supreme Buddha himself had appeared and declared me Emperor of the Middle Kingdom. I do believe it was the happiest day of my life.” But the revelry is short-lived. On the outskirts of Yuan territory, and with eighteen thousand enemy troops still laying siege to western Anhui, Lin'er camps his armies for the night and they march at dawn.


Lin'er advances on Anhui Province, and the two Yuan regiments quickly retreat to join the main force. Meanwhile in the north, the Ming attempt to isolate the Mongol cavalry division that had threatened to attack Lin'er at Nanyang, but the Mongols charge west in a bid to break free. Two Song regiments in northeastern Anhui continue the siege in Lin'er's name despite thirteen thousand Ming troops claiming the region as theirs.

As the White Lotus Army liberates northern Anhui, it seems as if the final objective of the Jiachi March is just within reach. Lin'er's brilliant maneuvering allowed him to crush the scattered Yuan battalions in the west, then cut Zhizheng's Mongol cavalry off from reinforcing Anhui. And just like a jiachi trap in weiqi, he gave Yuan's Anhui army ample breathing room but no actual escape route. Emboldened by these victories, praised daily by his men for his genius, he lets pride cloud his judgment and commits an enormous error.

After having defeated ten thousand Yuan soldiers with under one thousand casualties of his own, Han Lin'er considers the war in the south won and makes the mistake of marching directly on the main Yuan army in Anhui. However, word travels faster than Lin'er's armies, and scouts report the bulk of the enemy forces now move on Jibi Zhenghu's position. They leave a token resistance: not enough to threaten the White Lotus Army, but enough to delay them until Zhenghu's unit is wiped out.


Lin'er hastily changes direction, hoping to avert a Yuan attack on Tongling and save the boy's life. But he won't reach the city for three weeks, and the Yuan continue their advance. Lin'er gives his own horse to the White Lotus Army's best rider and dispatches the man to warn Zhenghu. But the boy will have almost no time to prepare for the impending attack, and he commands a force only half the size of his enemies'. Lin'er can't help but fear for the men in Tongling, and he prays that sending Zhenghu to siege the city didn't condemn the boy to death.

-----
*By convention, weiqi diagrams assume black plays first, and their descriptions assume black is female and white is male. Weiqi, as a game essentially about balance, has deep ties with daoism. As such, the players' assigned genders correspond to the yin and yang.