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Zhuge Liang produces arrows, part one (三國演義 第四十六回)

This is the first part of a translation of a famous story from Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義).

Zhou Yu (周瑜), a general, is trying to find a reason to have his advisor Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮) executed, as he fears Zhuge Liang’s great intelligence, and sets an impossible task with this goal in mind. However, the ever-cunning Zhuge Liang comes up with an ingenious plan to outsmart Zhou Yu.

(The story is an excerpt from Chapter 46 of Romance of the Three Kingdoms).

Part 1 · Part 2 →”)

次日,聚眾將於帳下,教請孔明議事。 The next day, the generals were assembled in the command tent, and Zhuge Liang was summoned to discuss matters.

孔明欣然而至。 Zhuge Liang went contentedly.

坐定,瑜問孔明曰: Once all had taken their seats, Zhou Yu asked Zhuge Liang:

「即日將與曹軍交戰,水路交兵,當以何兵器為先?」 In a few days we will battle with Cao Cao's navy; for fighting on the water, which weapons are most important?

孔明曰:「大江之上,以弓箭為先。」 Zhuge Liang said: "On large rivers, bows and arrows are most important."

瑜曰:「先生之言,甚合吾意。 Zhou Yu said: "What you say is very similar to my opinion.

但今軍中正缺箭用,敢煩先生監造十萬枝箭,以為應敵之具。 But currently our army is short of arrows, may I request that you supervise the production of one hundred thousand arrows, to be used against the enemy?

此係公事,先生幸勿推卻。 This is for the public good, so I trust that you will not refuse.

」孔明曰:「都督見委,自當效勞。 Zhuge Liang said: "If the Commander entrusts it to me, it is proper that I serve him.

敢問十萬枝箭,何時要用?」 May I ask, these one hundred thousand arrows - when are they needed by?

瑜曰:「十日之內,可辦完否?」 Zhou Yu said: "Within ten days - can it be completed?"

孔明曰:「操軍即日將至,若候十日,必誤大事。」 Zhuge Liang said: "Cao Cao's army will be here in a few days; if we wait ten, it would be a huge mistake."

瑜曰:「先生料幾日可辦完?」 Zhou Yu said: "In how many days do you estimate it can be completed?"

孔明曰:「只消三日,便可拜納十萬枝箭。」 Zhuge Liang said: "I need only three days, and will then present you with one hundred thousand arrows."

瑜曰:「軍中無戲言。」 Zhou Yu said: "In the military one does not joke."

孔明曰:「怎敢戲都督!願納軍令狀:三日不辦,甘當重罰。」 Zhuge Liang said: "How would I dare to joke with the Commander? I am ready to receive the military order; if in three days I have not managed it, I am willing to be punished severely."

瑜大喜,喚軍政司當面取了文書,置酒相待曰: Zhou Yu was very pleased, and called in the military and civilian secretaries and had the official documents done right there; he then had wine brought out and said:

「待軍事畢後,自有酬勞。」 "Once this matter is completed, and you will be rewarded."

孔明曰:「今日已不及,來日造起。 Zhuge Liang said: "Today it is already too late; I will start production tomorrow.

至第三日,可差五百小軍到江邊搬箭。」 On the third day, you might dispatch five hundred soldiers to the riverside to move the arrows."

飲了數杯,辭去。 After drinking a few cups, he took his leave.

魯肅曰:「此人莫非詐乎?」 Lu Su said: "Is this person deceiving us?"

瑜曰:「他自送死,非我逼他。 Zhou Yu said: "He has sent himself to death; I did not force him.

今明白對眾要了文書,他便兩脅生翅,也飛不去。 It was clear, in front of the assembled, that he requested the official order; even if he were to grow a pair of wings, he could not fly away from this.

我只分付軍匠人等,教他故意遲延,凡應用物件,都不與齊備。 I will just order the craftsmen and so on to delay him; commonly used items will not be ready.

如此,必然誤了日期。 This way, he is certain to go past the deadline.

那時定罪,有何理說?公今可去探他虛實,卻來回報。」 Then when he is convicted, what reason is there to criticise it? You might go and investigate the situation now, and come back and report."

肅領命來見孔明。 Lu Su accepted the orders and went to see Zhuge Liang.

孔明曰:「吾曾告子敬,休對公瑾說,他必要害我。 Zhuge Liang said: "I have told you previously, do not tell my secrets to Zhou Yu; he certainly wishes to harm me.

不想子敬不肯為我隱諱,今日果然又弄出事來。 I did not expect that you would be unwilling to keep my secret; today, sure enough, more problems arose.

三日內如何造得十萬箭? How can I make one hundred thousand arrows in three days?

子敬只得救我!」 You will have to rescue me!

肅曰:「公自取其禍,我如何救得你?」 Lu Su said: "It was you who brought about this calamity yourself, how can I save you?"

孔明曰:「望子敬借我二十隻船,每船要軍士三十人,船上皆用青布為幔,各束草千餘個,分布兩邊。 Zhuge Liang said: "I hope that you can lend me twenty boats, with thirty soldiers on each; on every boat should be fixed blue cotton and more than a thousand bales of straw, attached to both sides.

吾自有妙用。 I have a cunning plan.

第三日包管有十萬枝箭。 On the third day I assure you that I shall have one hundred thousand arrows.

只不可又教公瑾得知;若彼知之,吾計敗矣。」 But you must not let Zhou Yu know again; if he knows about this, my plan will fail."

肅應諾,卻不解其意,回報周瑜,果然不提起借船之事; Lu Su agreed, but did not understand the plan; he want back to report to Zhou Yu and as promised did not mention the loan of the boats;

只言孔明並不用箭竹翎毛膠漆等物,自有道理。 he only said that Zhuge Liang clearly wasn't using bamboo, feathers, glue and so on; he had his own way.

瑜大疑曰:「且看他三日後如何回覆我!」 Zhou Yu was very suspicious and said: "For the time being let's wait until three days have passed and see how he responds!"

卻說魯肅私自撥輕快船二十隻,各船三十餘人,並布幔束草等物,盡皆齊備,候孔明調用。 The story continues: Lu Su privately set aside twenty light, fast boats, each one with over thirty people, as well as the cotton and straw bales: all of it was prepared, and he allocated it to Zhuge Liang.

第一日卻不見孔明動靜; However, on the first day he did not see any sign of activity from Zhuge Liang;

第二日亦只不動。 on the second day he did not move either.

至第三日四更時分,孔明密請魯肅到船中。 Early on the morning of the third day, Zhuge Liang secretly requested Lu Su to board one of the boats.

肅問曰:「公召我來何意?」 Lu Su asked: "What intention do you have inviting me here?"

孔明曰:「特請子敬同往取箭。」 Zhuge Liang said: "I invited you specially to come and get the arrows with me."

肅曰:「何處去取?」 Lu Su said: "Where will we get them?"

孔明曰:「子敬休問,前去便見。」 Zhuge Liang: "Do not ask; you will see."

遂命將二十隻船,用長索相連,逕望北岸進發。 Thereupon he ordered the twenty boats to be linked together with ropes and set out for the north bank.

是夜大霧漫天,長江之中,霧氣更甚,對面不相見。 That night thick fog filled the air, and on the great river the fog was especially thick; nothing could be seen out in front.

孔明促舟前進,果然是好大霧! Zhuge Liang urged the boats forward - it certainly was thick fog!

Part 1 · Part 2 →”)