Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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General Geng Gong -- An Epic Returning in the History of China  

Geng Gong didn’t have as extraordinary achievements as marshals Wei Qing and Huo Qubing, who had led tens of thousands cavalries to fight and win.


However, Geng and his hundreds of soldiers’ story was also a glorious chapter in official documents of the Han Dynasty, about remarkable braveness and loyalty.


They had been attacked, enclosed and isolated in a remote city for over a year, by largely outnumbered and aggressive enemies, but they achieved the final success. 

A Brave General From A Military Family and His Mission 

Geng Gong was born into a military family, his uncle was an important and contributive marshal who assisted Emperor Liu Xiu reestablished the Han Dynasty.


Geng lost his father when he was a kid and was brought up by his widowed mother; then he joined the army, just like his uncle and father.


At that time, Liu Xiu’s son, another good emperor, had already ascended to the throne.


A few decades ago, when Wang Mang, Liu Xiu and other uprising armies were fighting against each other, the Huns (Xiongnu) and other nomadic regimes took over some places in the west part of China.


After Emperor Liu Xiu reestablished the Han Dynasty, he didn’t try to take back those lost land through wars, since he felt his priority was to recover the economy.


After Xiu’s son inherited the throne, an extraordinary diplomatic named Ban Chao and a great general, together, persuaded or defeated most of those nomadic regimes and made them comply to the Empire Han again.


But the remaining regime of the Huns didn't surrender and escaped far away.


Gradually, Han recovered dominance to those lost lands, and reset government agencies. Geng Gong was a senior officer there, together with hundreds of soldiers, garrisoned a military site, where was a very important strategic passage.  

Fighting with the Huns in A Small City

In the year 75, after the main force of Han succeed in the war and marched back home, the Huns who had escaped, came back. 


They sent 200, 000 cavalries to attack the military site that Geng Gong and three to five hundred soldiers were protecting.


Geng applied poison on arrows, but he told the Huns that Han’s arrows had magic; whoever was shot by his magical arrow would be suffered pain that was worse than death.


So, when Huns’ soldiers were shot, their skin started to fester quickly and the wound kept expanding; these unusual injuries totally scared the Huns, so they retreated.


That night, Geng led all of his hundreds of soldiers raided the Huns’ base and achieved big success. The commander of the Huns then left. 


But Geng knew that they would come back soon.


So he moved to a bigger and stronger site nearby, which was easier to defend; he then further strengthened defensive mechanism there.


Soon, the King of the Huns led more soldiers march back, and attacked Geng more intensely. 


However, Geng’s excellent commands and his warriors’ braveness and strong will, with the help of advanced weapon, they successfully protected the city. 

Then the Huns enclosed this site and cut off upstream of the only river there. 


Geng and his army soon had no water supply; later they even had to squeeze horse dung to quench their thirst.


But sometime later, luckily, Geng found a rich spring in their city, after he sincerely prayed to heaven.


Afterwards, he led his people standing on their city wall and sprayed water to the Huns, which again made their enemy felt the Han army was magical and protected by celestial. 


Largely Increased Enemies and Losing of Resourses 

But the Huns didn’t give up; Geng and his army were still enclosed in their city.


Then, Han's current emperor departed. At the same time, another nomadic regime betrayed Han and complied to the Huns; they allied their troop and started to attack Geng together.


Fortunately, the queen of this rebelled regime was from the Empire Han; she secretly provided Geng many useful military information and some food. 


However, her supply was far from enough. After months of intense fights, Geng kept losing warriors and resources; they even boiled their armors that were made of animals’ leather to eat.


Then the Huns sent a messenger to surrender Geng; they promised him the most honorable title, countless money and beautiful women.


Geng dragged the messenger into their city wall, killed and grilled him in front of the Huns, showing that he and his warriors only loyal to the Empire Han, and were willing to sacrifice for their country. 


Impressed Emperor and The Overdue Rescue

Months later, the grandson of Liu Xiu ascended to the throne, and everything was settled to dust in the Han’s central government. 


The emperor was quite touching after hearing what happened in this remote city; so he sent 7000 soldiers to expel the Huns and rescue Geng.


This army of Han successfully defeated allied troop of the Huns and the rebelled regime, recovered and further strengthened Han’s dominance in this area.


It was already in the year 76. 

Some people in this rescue army doubted if Geng and his soldiers were still alive; since the city that Geng has been protecting was located in the north of the Tianshan Mountains, a series of magnificent and gigantic mountains that were covered by snow, with the average altitude of 4000 meters.


In addition, Geng only had few hundreds of soldiers in the beginning; after over a year of intensive fighting with such outnumbered cavalry troop of the Huns, they were quite unlikely to stay alive. 


Crossing of Magnificent Snow Mountain to Save Geng Gong

But a general named Fan strongly believed that Geng Gong would definitely hold onto his mission. 

Then he led 2000 soldiers, tramped over the tremendous snow mountain in the winter, and finally arrived at the military site that Geng and his warriors had been defending independently for more than a year. 


No one had wrote down what they had experienced crossing such a gigantic mountain under harsh weather in about 2000 years ago; when they finally met Geng, all of those brave soldiers burst into tears.

(Snow on Tian Shan Mountain the cavalry troop of Han Dynasty crossed to save general Geng Gong)

There were only 26 people left in this city, including General Geng Gong.


They finally could go home, summoned by their emperor, after having successfully completed their mission.


Together with the rescue army, they again crossed the Tianshan Mountains. The horrible weather and many dangerous encounters, as well as some attacks from the Huns, many people died on their way home. 


In the end, only Geng and his other 12 soldiers arrived in a big city that connected Han’s central and northwest area, the most important gate on the Silk Road, skinny and shabby.  

The head of that city, also the most honorable commander of this big city, was extremely touched and served those 13 heroes to change and bath.


They were then welcomed home and rewarded by their emperor. 


Final Wars with the Huns 

A decade later, brother of Emperor Liu Zhao’s queen, another great commander named Dou Xian, led Han’s troop defeated the rest of the Huns for several times. 


Within this honorable troop, the most contributing marshals were Geng’s descendants.


In the year 91, Dou Xian’s army achieved a big and final success defeating the Huns on the Altai Mountains; those remaining Huns who refused to surrender fleed westward and never showed up in historical documents of the history of China again. 


The former powerful, huge Xiongnu Empire (the Huns) that had large-scale first class cavalry troop, disappeared forever; they were defeated by the Han Empire’s brilliant marshals, as well as common warriors, like General Geng Gong and his soldiers. 


Not only could they defend their country and defeat powerful enemies, but also had the capability of holding fast to their faith in extremely harsh circumstances.

Ending of the House of Geng


The House of Geng had several accomplished and remarkable marshals, they pledged their loyalty to the Han Empire for the next two hundred years.


At the end of the Han dynasty, Geng’s clan tried their best to fight against a powerful warlord who grounded Liu Xie, the last emperor of the Han Dynasty. 

But they failed, most of their members were sentenced to death.


This famous and contributive House of Geng, perished with the dynasty that they pledged to protect, after giving up all of those honorable titles and countless money that overlord provided them.


Just like their ancestors, they always chose loyalty over wealthy, no matter what it would cost them. 

(Statue of General Geng Gong under foot of Tian Shan he and his soldiers crossed)