This is the third part of a translation of the story 鴻門宴 (The Feast at Hong Gate) from 史記 (Records of the Grand Historian). You can view the full original text of 史記 here.
The next morning Liu Bang went with a hundred or more cavalry to see Xiang Yu at Hong Gate, and apologised, saying:
“You and I used lethal force to attack Qin;
you fought to the north of the river, and I fought to the south of the river;
but I had not expected that I would be able to enter the Pass first to conquer Qin,
and that I would be able to see you again here.
Now there are petty rumours, causing differences between you and me.”
Xiang Yu said: “That is what your Left Minister of War Cao Wushang said;
otherwise, how would it come to this?”
On that day, because Liu Bang was there, Xiang Yu drank with him.
Xiang Yu and Xiang Bo sat facing east.
Ya Fu sat facing south.
Ya Fu is Fan Zeng.
Liu Bang sat facing north, and Zhang Liang sat facing west.
Fan Zeng winked several times at Xiang Yu, holding up the Jade Crescent he was wearing to show Xiang Yu three times;
The 玉玦 signifies the ending of a friendship.
Xiang Yu was silent and did not respond.
Fan Zeng stood up, and left to find Xiang Zhuang, saying to him:
“Xiang Yu’s concern for others cannot be broken; go in as if to toast his longevity;
when the toast is finished, request permission to do a sword dance,
and thereby strike Liu Bang in his seat, killing him.
Otherwise, we will all be taken captive.”
So Xiang Zhuang went in a proposed a toast; when the toast was finished, he said:
“My Lord, you are drinking with Liu Bang, yet there is nothing fun in the camp, so please let me perform a sword dance.”
Xiang Yu said: “Alright.”
When Xiang Zhuang drew his sword and began dancing, Xiang Bo likewise drew his and began to dance;
he [Xiang Bo] constantly used his body to shield Liu Bang, so Xiang Zhuang was unable to strike.
At this, Zhang Liang went to the camp gate and saw Fan Kuai.
Fan Kuai said: “What of today’s business?”
Zhang Liang said: “An emergency. Just now, Xiang Zhuang drew his sword and danced, his goal being Liu Bang.”
Fan Kuai said: “That is an emergency! I request to go in take the same fate as him [Liu Bang].”
Fan Kuai means that he will protect Liu Bang or die trying.
Fan Kuai thereupon took his sword and shield and went into the camp.
Two guards with halberds tried to stop him entering;
Fan Kuai tilted his shield and struck them, and the two guards fell to the floor;
Then Fan Kuai went in, opening the door curtain and standing on the west side;
he stared with rage at Xiang Yu, his hair on end, eyes bulging;
Xiang Yu held his sword and knelt, saying: “Who is our guest?”
Zhang Liang said: “This is Liu Bang’s bodyguard Fan Kuai.”
Xiang Yu said: “Warrior! Have a goblet of wine.”
Fan Kuai was given a goblet of wine.
Fan Kuai expressed thanks, stood up and drained the cup.
Xiang Yu said: “Have some pork shoulder.”
Thereupon he was given a raw pork shoulder.
Fan Kuai put his shield on the ground, put the pork shoulder on it, used his sword to slice it up, and ate it.
Xiang Yu said: “Warrior, can you drink more?”
Fan Kuai said: “I do not flee from death – how could I decline a goblet of wine!
The King of Qin has the heart of a monster; he kills as if he cannot kill enough, and punishes as if he fears being bested;
夫 is used to introduce an opinion.
the world rebels against him.
King Huai of Chu said to his generals: ‘Whoever is first to break Qin and enter Xiangyang will be King of the Guanzhong Plain.’
Now Liu Bang is the first to conquer Qin and enter Xianyang,
yet does not to dare to occupy and use it in the slightest;
he sealed the government stores, and sent his army back to Ba Shang to await the arrival of the King.
He therefore sent generals to guard the Pass, to prevent the movement of looters and other irregularities.
He toiled and was meritorious in this way, yet was not bestowed with the reward of a title;
and now we hear the news that you wish to execute a man of merit.
That is the pay-back for the man who destroyed Qin!
I believe these are not the actions of a king!
Xiang Yu had no response, saying: “Sit.”
Fan Kuai sat with Zhang Liang.
As soon as he had sat, Liu Bang rose to go to the toilet, and thus beckoned Fan Kuai out.