In the years around 480 B.C., China was in the last phase of the Spring and Autumn Period. Fu Chai, King of the State of Wu, conquered the states of Yue, Lu and Chi one after another. Then Fu Chai, overweening ambitious, led his army marching into the Northwest in an attempt to conquer the State of Jin in one vigorous effort.
But just at that time, Gou Jian, king of the State of Yue, outflanked Fu Chai and attacked him in the rear. Gou Jian"s army fought one battle after another and arrived in Gu Su, capital of the State of Wu, at last, and took away the big boats of the State of Wu. Gou Jin also sent his troops to occupy the Huai River immediately, thus cutting off Fu Chai"s retreat
The shocking news reached Fu Chai, king of the State of Wu, like a head-on blow to him. So he called his civilian officials and military generals at once to find a way to deal with this serious situation. His civilian officials and military their troops now would mean defeat, and that they would be attacked by both the troops of the Jin army and the troops of the Yue army. But ,if they could defeat the State of Jin, Fu Chai would become a powerful chief of the princes at that time, and it would not be too late for Fu Chai to settle with Gou Jian after that.
Having made this decision, they knew that a pressing matter of the moment was to conquer th State of Jin as quickly as possible. After considering over and over again, they decided to try to defeat the Jin army by a surprise move.
One day towards evening, the king of the State of Wu gave his orders. The officers and men of the whole army ate their fill, and the steeds were well fed with fodder.30,000 officers and men were chosen from the whole army to from three phalanxes, with 10,000officers and men each. The solders in the middle phalanx wore white suits of amour, and carried white flags and white bows and arrows, and they were led by king of the State of Wu Fu Chai himself. The other two phalanxes were led by senior generals. The soldiers in the left phalanx wore red suits of amour, and carried red flags and red bows and arrows. The in dealing with the case, because the empress would certainly blame him and punish him. How could he solve the problem then? He turned the problem over and over in his mind, and finally thought out a "brilliant scheme".
Lai Junchen had a sumptuous feast prepared, and invited Zhou Xing to his home. The two of them urged each other to drink, and they talked while drinking. After the wine had gone round three times, I often come across prisoners who stubbornly refuse to admit they are guilty. I wonder if you have any effective measures." Hearing this, Zhou Xing said,¡隆脌 Get a big vat, scorch it hot with charcoal fire all around, and then let the prisoner come into the vat. Will the prisoner fail to make a confession of his crime?" Hearing this, LaiJunchen nodded his head in approval repeatedly. He then ordered his subordinates to bring a big vat ,and had a charcoal fire lit all around it as Zhou Xing had said. He then turned to Zhou Xing and said," Someone in the rebellion. The empress has ordered me to deal with the case severely. So I beg your pardon, but would you kindly step into the soldiers in the right phalanx wore black suits of armour, and carried black flags and black bows and arrows.The whole army set out at midnight, and arrived at dawn at a place within a LI"s distance of the Jin army. When the day was beginning to break, the soldiers of the Wu army began to beat the drums heavily and their shouting resounded like rolls of thunder.
Awakening from their dreams, the solders of the Jin army were almost stupefied by the imposing manner of the three phalanxes of the Wu army. The white phalanx was like a field covered with flowering rush, the red phalanx was like a burning fire, and the black phalanx was simply like a sea too deep to fathom.
This story comes from Conversations from the States. Later generations often use the set phrase "like fire and flowering rush" to refer to tremendous momentum.