So what was the battle of Gaixia?
The battle of Gaixia was the decisive battle that marked the beginning of the Han Dynasty. If you have read my last post on chinese history you will recall that the Han dynasty preceded the 3 Kingdoms. While the Three Kingdoms period was an age of famine, strife and civil war, the Han dynasty was the complete opposite. It was a time of peace and prosperity and technological advancement.
The inception of the Han dynasty though was bloody. When the Qin Dynasty, the first dynasty of China disintegrated in the face of rebellion (just like every other dynasty), the nation was left with two major factions vying for power, both of which formed from the rebel forces.
Xiung Yu of the Chu and Liu Bang of the Han both had ambitions to become China's next
It was a pretty even fight with victories and defeats on both sides until Xiung decided to besiege Bang. Bang's leading general Han Xin promptly responded by not supplying Bang with reinforcements. Ah the joys of politics. Fortunately he had another strategist on his side. While Xiaung Yu was laying siege to Bang's fortress, Han general Zhang Liang assualted Xiaung's supply lines. Eventually, Xiaung lifted the siege and agreed to a peace treaty.
Little did he know that he was falling for Liu Bang's lies. Bang had set up ambushes along the road back to the Chu capital. The treaty was a trap.
In the chaos, Han forces captured Xiaung's wife. There they took her into Xiaung's own military nightmare. A canyon filled with traps and an army positioned to pounce on Chu forces.
The correct military decision for Xiaung would have been to leave her but Xiaung was soo emotionally overwhelmed that he marched his army into the obvious trap in order to rescue his wife. That battle was the battle of Gaixia. I won't bother to go into depth with the strategies employed, it was very one sided. Han forces had the advantages of morale, were well provisoned and had the higher ground and had encircled the Chu. The Chu were hungry and tired and outnumbered.
|See all the black on that pic? That's the Han forces, numbering 300000 men. The Chu forces, shown in white numbered only 100000 men.|
Xiaung's forces were decimated. Xiaung tried to escape and made some progress, but eventually Han cavalry caught up to him and demanded his surrender. Xiaung refused, he would not let himself be captured alive. Xiaung cut his own throat, preferring death to surrender.
Without the opposition of Xiaung, Liu Bang became the first Han Emperor. While the battle was completely one sided, it is important to note the strategies that were employed before the battle which set it up so completely in Han favor. Firstly, Xiaung made his decision to fight solely on emotion; he wanted his wife back. Secondly, Chu supply lines were under constant harassment whereas the Han supply lines were untouched.
But thirdly and most of all, the Chu forces were maneuvered into the trap by the deceit of the enemy. It comes to me as no surprise when I remember that all of these principles are fundamental tenets in Sun Tzu's Art of War.
As the Chinese Master of war says, "The victorious warrior wins first and then goes to war".