Cheng Yu advised Cao Cao to assume a more definite position. He said, “Illustrious Sir, your prestige grows daily. Why not seize the opportunity to take the position of Chief of the Feudatory Princes？”
“there are still too many supporters of the court,” was the reply. “I must be careful. I am going to propose a royal hunt to try to find out the best line to follow.”
This expedition being decided upon they got together fleet horses, famous falcons, and pediGREe hounds, and prepared bows and arrows in readiness. They mustered a strong force of guards outside the city.
When the Prime Minister proposed the hunting expedition, the Emperor said he feared it was an improper thing to do.
Cao Cao replied, “In ancient times rulers made four expeditions yearly at each of the four seasons in order to show their strength. They were called Sou, Miao, Xien, and Shou, in the order of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Now that the whole country is in confusion, it would be wise to inaugurate a hunt in order to train the army. I am sure Your Majesty will approve.”
So the Emperor with the full paraphernalia for an imperial hunt joined the expedition. He rode a saddled horse, carried an inlaid bow, and his quiver was filled with gold-tipped arrows. His chariot followed behind. Liu Bei and his brothers were in the imperial train, each with his bow and quiver. Each party member wore a breastplate under the outer robe and held his especial weapon, while their escort followed them. Cao Cao rode a dun horse called “Flying-Lightning,” and the army was one hundred thousand strong.
the hunt took place in Xutian, and the legions spread out as guards round the hunting arena which extended over some one hundred square miles.
Cao Cao rode even with the Emperor, the horses’ heads alternating in the lead.
The imperial attendants immediately following were all in Cao Cao’s confidence.
The other officers, civil and military,
lagged behind, for they dared not press forward into the midst of Cao Cao’s partisans.