Dong Zhuo of Linyao, alias Dong Zhong Ying, lived around the end of the Eastern Han period. He was a cruel, ruthless and scheming person. He was a governor in King Ling’s time in the Han Dynasty. When King Ling died, his son was made the king, and the eunuchs and the king’s maternal relatives fought for power. He Jin sent for Dong Zhuo to kill the eunuchs in the capital; however, he was killed before Dong Zhuo arrived. At the same time, Yuan Shao massacred the eunuchs, and Luoyang was thrown into a turmoil. Dong Zhuo brought order to the capital when he arrived with his army, and thus became the prime minister of the country. He became the dictator of the country, and was able to replace the young king with King Xian. His ruthlessness brought chaos to the country. Yuan Shao thus called for all governors to rise against Dong Zhuo. The governors voted for Yuan Shao to lead the allegiance. Dong Zhuo, knowing that he was no match for the allegiance, thus burnt Luoyang and forced King Xian to move the capital west to Chang’an. He made himself the king’s advisor, and it was obvious that he intended to become the king himself. Wang Yun made use of a beautiful woman and lured Lü Bu into killing Dong Zhuo. Since then, the country was divided by the different powers, which fought each other incessantly, and it was a long time before China saw peace again.
Dong Zhuo of Linzhao (known as Shanxi today), alias Dong Zhong Ying, lived during the end of the Eastern Han period. People of Shanxi are usually gentle and mild-tempered. However, Dong Zhuo was bad-tempered and far from gentle. He was ruthless and scheming, like the great schemer Mao Zedong.
He rose to high power and was made a governor during King Ling’s time in the Han Dynasty. When King Ling died, the young prince Shao succeeded the throne. However, as he was very young, King Shao was unable to control the eunuchs at all; the power struggles between the eunuchs and the king’s maternal relatives weakened the power of the court.
Empress Dowager He interfered and administered state affairs behind a bamboo screen then. Her relative He Jin was made the admiral of the three armies. Yet, even He Jin had not enough power to fight against the eunuchs. He thus called for Dong Zhuo to come to the capital to fight the eunuchs. This was as dangerous as one letting a wolf into his house. When Dong Zhuo received this order, he thought, “This is my chance!” Therefore, he deployed his army to Luoyang, but delayed as much as possible. He ordered his army to proceed at slow speed, such that he could benefit from the conflict between the eunuchs and the king’s relatives.
If the eunuchs were beaten, he could concentrate on tackling the king’s relatives; if the king’s relatives lost the power struggle, he could fight the eunuchs when he entered the capital. Therefore, although he seemingly obeyed orders to come to the capital, he was actually looking for a chance to seize the power himself in doing so.
Had he reached Luoyang sooner, He Jin might not have been killed. Dong Zhuo might have purposely leaked the news that He Jin was onto the eunuchs, such that the eunuchs would kill He Jin first. At the same time, Yuan Shao killed more than 2,000 eunuchs and the eunuchs thus failed in the political struggle. Luoyang was in turmoil. Dong Zhuo seized the opportunity to enter Luoyang and calmed the political turmoil.
Dong Zhuo was an opportunist; he wasn’t concerned with the good of the nation but his own power. Therefore, he pronounced himself prime minister, and replaced the young king with King Xian.
A totally useless emperor like King Xian gave Dong Zhuo the chance to seize all the power for himself. He was cruel and ruthless and used his power to abuse the people. His ruthlessness spread through the country, and the people and court officials were all terrified of him.
Yuan Shao thus called for all magistrates to unite and fight against Dong Zhuo and kill him. Everyone voted for Yuan Shao to be the leader of the union. Dong Zhuo, realizing that he was losing out, burnt Luoyang and forced King Xian to move the capital west to Chang’an. He then pronounced himself chief advisor to the King, and it became obvious that he wanted to seize the throne for himself. It was then that Wang Yun used a woman’s beauty to gain tactical advantage.
Wang Yun’s maid, Diao Chan, was one of the most beautiful women in the Three Kingdoms period. Wang Yun wanted to bring order to the chaotic country. However, Dong Zhuo was a ruthless and scheming person. How could he be gotten rid of so easily? Furthermore, there was Lü Bu at his side.
Lü Bu was a famous general during the Three Kingdoms period. He sought the patronage of Dong Zhuo and became his godson. Dong Zhuo’s power grew even stronger with Lü Bu under his wings, and no one could stand against him. Lü Bu was fearless, and even Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were no match for him.
Diao Chan saw her master brooding and asked, “ Master, what’s on your mind? I am willing to help you in whatever is troubling you if I am able to be of help.” Wang Yun replied, “ You are just a woman; how could you help me?” However, on second thought, he decided to use Diao Chan’s beauty as bait.
He invited Lü Bu to dine at his house and asked Diao Chan to offer a toast to Lü Bu. Lü Bu saw Diao Chan and fell head over heels in love. Wang Yun promised to marry her to Lü Bu, seeing that Lü Bu was crazy over her beauty. Wang Yun then invited Dong Zhuo to dine at his house, and asked Diao Chan to sing and dance for Dong Zhuo. He told Dong Zhuo that she was his daughter, and gave her to Dong Zhuo, who was also crazy over her beauty.
When Dong Zhuo brought Diao Chan home, Lü Bu was overjoyed, for he thought his godfather had arranged a marriage for him. However, he found out at the ceremony that Dong Zhuo himself wanted to marry Diao Chan. He was very angry, but there was nothing he could do, for Dong Zhuo was his godfather and held the power.
Diao Chan waited till Dong Zhuo was out and met Lü Bu in the garden. There were only the two of them, and Diao Chan cried, “ My father wanted to marry me to you, but your godfather took me for himself when I came here. What am I to do?” Lü Bu was furious and could not bear with it anymore.“ Don’t you cry. I’ll get you out. I won’t live anymore if I can’t get you out of here,” he said.
Dong Zhuo came back and saw this scene of Diao Chan crying in Lü Bu’s presence; he thought that Lü Bu had taken advantage of Diao Chan and tried to use Lü Bu’s weapon to kill his godson. Lü Bu managed to escape. Diao Chan worked to sow discord between Dong Zhuo and Lü Bu, causing Lü Bu to eventually kill Dong Zhuo. Wang Yun’s snare was thus successful.
Thereafter, each warlord occupied a part of the country and fought for the ruling power. Everyone wanted to become the emperor and tried to wipe out the others. The Han Dynasty was thus thrown into chaos.
A verse in critique says:
At the end of the Eastern Han, many traitors arose.
Each utilized his skills
Trying to singlehandedly cover the sky.
Dong Zhuo saw his chance and seized political power.
He replaced the emperor with another,
Intending to lay his own hands on the throne.
Yet he died an unfortunate death.
At the end of the Eastern Han, many traitors arose. There were many treacherous warlords at the end of the Eastern Han period.
Each utilized his skills/ Trying to singlehandedly cover the sky. Each of them tried to use his scheming abilities to “cover the sky,”that is, to kill the emperor and take the throne for himself.
Dong Zhuo saw his chance and seized political power. Dong Zhuo thus took the opportunity and seized the power himself.
He replaced the emperor with another, / Intending to lay his own hands on the throne. / Yet he died without realizing his plan. He overthrew the emperor and seized the throne, but he was not destined to enjoy the power. He was killed by Lü Bu, and his corpse was burnt by the people, who hated him for his ruthlessness. It was said that Dong Zhuo weighed more than 300 pounds. How much fat and oil do you think was in his body? His corpse burnt for three days. Hence it was said that he died an unfortunate death.
Another verse says:
His chance success did not last long;
On the contrary, it brought his descendants painful deaths.
Dong Zhuo was sly and scheming, and so were his associates.
His unforgivable sins brought disaster to the country and its people,
And all that went to the grave with him was his lunacy and his karma.
This fool was deluded and insatiably greedy.
The cycle of cause and effect will make him realize his mistakes.
His chance success did not last long. Dong Zhuo’s success in seizing power at any cost did not last long, for it was only by chance that he gained power which did not belong to him.
On the contrary, it brought his decedents painful deaths. This bad karma he sowed resulted in all his descendents’ painful deaths.
Dong Zhuo was sly and scheming, and so were his associates. Dong Zhuo was malicious and sly as a fox, and so were his associates. They made use of each other.
His unforgivable sins brought disaster to the country and its people. He brought chaos to the country and made the people suffer greatly, and such sins are unforgivable.
And all that went to the grave with him was his lunacy and his karma. He had behaved like a lunatic, and his karma would remain with him always.
This fool was deluded and insatiably greedy. His ignorance made him mistake wrong for right and vice versa. His insatiable greed resulted in his relentless seeking for wealth and fame, wanting to seize the throne at all costs.
The cycle of cause and effect will make him realize his mistakes. In the end, he will realize his mistake when he suffers the karmic effect of his own wrongdoings.
[The End of “A Critique of Dong Zhuo”]