In the winter of the same year, the second Northern Expedition began, and the Shu army surrounded Chencang, but failed again due to the depletion of military supplies.
In the seventh year of Jianxing (229) of the following year, three northern expeditions began. Zhugeliang sent Chen style, a senior general, to attack the Wudu and Yinping of Wei. Guohuai, the governor of weiyongzhou, led his army to meet the challenge. Zhugeliang came out to build his prestige. Guohuai withdrew his army and Liang took two prefectures. So far, the later Lord ordered Zhugeliang to resume his post as prime minister. However, during these northern expeditions, Li Yan and other key figures of the Dongzhou and Yizhou groups were still missing. I believe Li Yan and his colleagues will certainly have opinions on this.
During Zhugeliang’s Northern Expedition, Li Yan was not idle either. He actively plotted against Mengda, the former general of Shu Han and the supreme General of Cao Wei. In one of his letters, he called on Mengda to surrender with such words: “I am entrusted with Kongming, deeply worried and responsible, and have a good partner.” It can be seen from here that he never forgets his important political position as minister Tuogu with Zhugeliang, and always takes it as his own duty. However, Zhugeliang was not involved in the three northern expeditions before and after Shuhan, which certainly made him very dissatisfied. Therefore, in addition to sending the above-mentioned signals of dissatisfaction, he also launched a counterattack against Zhugeliang’s move to exclude him in another way.
In a letter to Zhugeliang, he “advised Liang to accept Jiuxi and become a knight and King”, which is similar to Sun Quan’s urging Cao Cao to become emperor. However, it is difficult to say whether he wants to put Zhugeliang in the position of public criticism or ridicule Zhugeliang. In any case, Zhugeliang knew that Li Yan’s move was not good, so he made it clear that he would not be fooled:
I was originally a corporal of the East. I was mistaken for the former Emperor. I was a supreme minister. I was rewarded with tens of billions of yuan. Now I have failed to ask for help from thieves, and my confidants have not answered. It is not just that Fang spoiled Qi and Jin, and sat on their own. If Wei and Rui are destroyed, the emperor will return to his former residence and rise up with all the sons. Although ten lives can be accepted, the situation is worse than nine evils! Annals of the Three Kingdoms · Shu Shu · biography of Li Yan.
However, Zhugeliang’s words were somewhat inconsistent. He said earlier that “I was originally an oriental corporal, but mistakenly used it for the former Emperor. I was a great minister, and I was rewarded with tens of billions of dollars”. It seemed that I was satisfied with the current situation of being a great minister. But later, the conversation turned sharply, saying that I was the king and accepted Jiuxi, and I became a vassal with my own “state”, which was the peak that people and ministers could achieve in that era, After rejecting this proposal, Zhugeliang had no idea what his intention was. At the end of the proposal, he said, “although ten lives can be endured, the situation is in the nine evils”, which contradicted his previous satisfied attitude.
Such words came from the mouth of the prime minister Zhuge, which is extremely incompatible with his style that has always been described as “prudent and humble”, but I think this is the true portrayal of his personality and thought. Although he rejected Li Yan’s suggestions, he unconsciously showed his arrogant and even indifferent attitude towards Liu Chan. Chen Shou’s comments on him are quite pertinent:
It is a clear and simple ambition. It wants to look like a dragon or a tiger. It covers the whole world. It wants to cross the border of the mausoleum and shake the universe. And when he thought he had no body, no one was able to cross the Central Plains and compete with the upper kingdom.
— annals of the Three Kingdoms, Shu Shu, biography of Zhugeliang
These words, on the one hand, said that Zhugeliang’s life ambition was “to enter the dragon and the tiger, to spread across the world, to retreat across the border of the mausoleum, and to shake the world”. On the other hand, they said Zhugeliang’s evaluation of himself, showing his high self-esteem and attitude of not being a second person in the world. In fact, Zhugeliang’s life was centered on these words.
In the eighth year of Jianxing (230), general Cao Zhen of Wei attacked Shu on the third road. Zhugeliang refused and immediately prepared to go out for the fourth Northern Expedition in the next year. This time he once again asked Li Yan to lead his troops north to Hanzhong to be restrained by him. Zhugeliang’s response to Li Yan at that time was as follows:
Last year, the minister wanted to march to the west, and wanted to command Lord Ping to supervise Hanzhong. Ping said Sima Yi and other officials set up a new government. I know my humble feelings and want to force me to make profits when I go. This is to show that my son Feng is in charge of Jiangzhou, and to honor his encounter, so as to achieve a temporary task. Annals of the Three Kingdoms · Shu Shu · biography of Li Yan.
At this time, Li Yan said that “Sima Yi and other officials set up a government to create a summon”. Obviously, just as Zhugeliang said, Li Yan was “trying to force his ministers to make profits when he was in action”. However, Li Yan used Sima Yi and other officials to create a summon as an excuse to force Zhugeliang to make profits. He was not just using it as an excuse. He was always angry about Zhugeliang’s failure to enjoy the same treatment when he opened the government. At the moment, he seemed to casually cite such a thing as an example to force Zhugeliang, As a matter of fact, it expressed the condition for him to go north to Hanzhong, that is, to get the treatment that Zhugeliang and Zhugeliang should enjoy. That is to say, like Zhugeliang, he could open a government and select officials.
Of course, Zhugeliang could not and would not allow such a thing to happen, but he also understood that it was not a good thing to have such a long-term stalemate with Li Yan in the face of the strong pressure of the Cao Wei forces. Although Li Yan and he did not give in to each other in the power struggle, they had absolutely no differences on the fundamental point of maintaining the survival of the Shuhan regime. Therefore, he made a compromise and continued to keep the Jiangzhou area to Li Yan; In contrast to his compromise, Li Yan also made a corresponding gesture – “to send 20000 people to Hanzhong”, and accepted the appointment of Zhugeliang as the official of the central capital Protection Bureau, “annals of the Three Kingdoms · Shu Shu Shu · biography of Li Yan”., And changed his name from Yan to Ping. According to the explanation at that time, the word “Ping” roughly means to act orderly and calm down chaos, which is quite in line with the situation at that time.
Li Yan finally went to Hanzhong and worked with Zhugeliang for the first time after Liu Bei’s death. It seemed that Zhugeliang and Li Yan shook hands and made peace.
In the spring of the ninth year of Jianxing (231), under the command of Zhugeliang, the Shu army made its fourth Northern Expedition and went out of Qishan to confront the Wei army. However, Zhugeliang was still unlucky this time. For some time later, he encountered continuous rainstorms, which led to the loss of grain transportation in Hanzhong. Then the whole incident became more dramatic:
Hu Zhong, the commander of the army, was sent to join the army at the level of peace, and called Liang to return; Make a commitment to retreat. When he heard that the army was retreating, he was even more shocked. He said, “if there is enough food for the army, why should we go back?”! If you want to relieve yourself of the responsibility of not doing it, you will show your guilt of not going in. He also said that “the puppet army retreated to lure the thief and fight”. Light up the original and the end of the book before and after it, and smooth the wrong chapters. I’m sorry for my poor feelings.
The reason why this incident is dramatic is that Li Yan, a man with rich political experience and military ability, actually made such a low-level mistake. Just because of the heavy rain, the grain transportation was not continued. He first asked a group of people, such as Hu Zhong, the army commander, Cheng Zhen, to go to the front line to call Zhugeliang to withdraw in the name of the imperial court. Then the LORD said that Zhugeliang’s withdrawal was a trick to lure the enemy. When he heard that Zhugeliang began to withdraw in Hanzhong, But he pretended to be surprised and said, “if there is enough military food, why should we return?” various contradictory loopholes were inconsistent, leading to the final “resignation of poverty and exhaustion of feelings, and the first apology for guilt”.
However, although there is insufficient data on this matter due to the “state does not have a history” of Shu and various reasons, it is not enough for us to make other explanations. Logically speaking, it would be too stupid for a person like Li Yan to make such a low-level mistake. If the purpose of his design of this trap is to “solve the responsibility of not doing what he has done, and highlight the fault of not entering”, how could he not have imagined that his large number of official documents were all held in the hands of Zhugeliang and the later leader, and the “lack of previous and subsequent handwriting” was vividly remembered. His purpose is obviously impossible. It was not the first time for the army to withdraw from the northern expedition of Shu Han. Moreover, the poor transportation of grain due to heavy rain would not cause extremely serious consequences for his political career. Taking such a big risk on such a small problem, and obviously sending his own handle to his opponents and the Emperor to deal with him, was a bit too stupid. If Li Yan is not even aware of this, he will not be wronged at all, because this is not a mistake that should be made by a man with decades of experience in military and political struggle.
However, no matter what the truth of the matter was, Li Yan was eventually demoted as a civilian and defeated in the power struggle with Zhugeliang, which marked that there was no force in the Shuhan regime that could threaten the status of the Jingchu group, and Zhugeliang could no longer find an opponent with enough weight to compete with him, which completely consolidated his status. In the Shuhan regime, even including the emperor, he was the only one who held the strongest real power in Shuhan.