Historical Tales: 12—Japanese and Chinese - Charles Morris

The Siege of Sinching

When the great dynasty of the Hans, which had held supreme rule in China for more than four hundred years, came to an end, it left that country divided up into three independent kingdoms. The emperors who had once ruled over all China found themselves now lords of its smallest division, while the kingdom of Wei included the largest and most populous districts in the realm. A war for supremacy arose between these three kingdoms, which ended in the kings of Wei becoming supreme over the whole empire and establishing a new dynasty, which they named the dynasty of Tsin. Of this war we have only one event to relate, an interesting example of Chinese fortitude and valor.

Shortly after 250 A.D. an army of the Han emperor, led by a general named Chukwoko, settled down to the siege of a small walled town named Sinching, held by three thousand men under the command of a leader named Changte, whose fortitude and energy alone saved this place for the king of Wei.

For ninety days the siege went on, the catapults of the besieging force playing incessantly upon the walls, which, despite the activity of the garrison, were in time pierced in many places, while several gaping breaches lay open to the foe. Changte had defended the place vigorously, no commander could have done more, and, as no sign of a relieving force appeared, he could with all honor have capitulated, thrown open the gates, and marched out with such dignity as the victorious enemy would permit.

But this was not the view of his duty held by the valorous soldier. He was one of the kind who die but do not surrender, and in his extremity had recourse to the following ruse. He sent word to Chukwoko that, as the place was clearly untenable, he was willing to surrender if he were granted ten days more of grace.

"It is a law among the princes of Wei," he said, "that the governor of a place which has held out for a hundred days, and then, seeing no prospect of relief, surrenders, shall not be held guilty of dereliction of duty."

Chukwoko gladly accepted this offer, being weary of his long delay before this small post, and quite willing to save his men from the perils of an assault. But, to his astonishment, a few days later he saw fresh bulwarks rising above those which had been ruined by his engines, while the breaches were rapidly repaired, new gates replaced those that had been destroyed, and Sinching seemed suddenly to regain the appearance it had presented three months before. Inside the walls a new spirit prevailed, the courage of the bold commander reanimating his troops, while the sentinels on the ramparts shouted messages of disdain to the besieging force.

Indignant at this violation of the terms of the agreement, Chukwoko sent a flag of truce to the gate, demanding angrily what these proceedings meant, and if this was Changte's way of keeping his word.

"I am preparing my tomb," replied the bold commander. "I propose to bury myself under the ruins of Sinching."

The tomb remained untenanted by the daring commandant. The long-delayed relief appeared, and Chukwoko was obliged to make a hasty retreat, with the loss of half his army. It is safe to say that in the pursuit Changte and his faithful three thousand played a leading part.