So my first question on this page regarding Zhang Liao's amazing accomplishment at Hefei was never answered, that's okay since it may have come off as an attack. I'll rephrase it. How would such a feat be done? Such as what tactics would he use? And is there the possibility that it was truthfully over-exaggerated much like other generals' grand feats
I have about 500 unanswered questions in my inbox, so anything that I don’t respond to is probably something I just haven’t gotten to yet.
Zhang Liao’s achievement at Hefei is hard to believe. But there’s no evidence to suggest Chen Shou’s text is false. There are no alternate accounts (even from Wu) that provide a different story. And the way people responded to this incident provides support for its authenticity.
Before making his campaign against Sun Quan in 217, Cao Cao made a special trip to Hefei, walked around the battlefield, and spent a lot of time there just taking it all in in silence.
Cao Pi treated Zhang Liao with special honor that he didn’t give to anyone else, even Cao Ren. He built Zhang Liao’s mother a palace and ordered that she be received with a special ceremony. When Zhang Liao went to pay his respects at Cao Cao’s tomb, Cao Pi personally greeted him and grilled him all about the battle. He later made the survivors from Zhang Liao’s charge his personal bodyguards. When Zhang Liao was ill, Cao Pi personally visisted him and shared his special emperor meals.
There is even a memorial from Cao Pi discussing it:
“During their service at Hefei, Liao and Dian, with only 800 men, routed 100,000 soldiers, such accomplishments have not occurred since ancient times. Up until now the enemy has not recovered their spirits, it is to be said that these two men were the claws and teeth of this country.”
On the other side of things, Ling Tong’s SGZ talks about how all of his soldiers were killed and he himself was badly wounded. Chen Wu died. The soldiers of Song Qian and Xu Sheng tried to flee. The list goes on.
There is a mountain of evidence attesting to the authenticity of Chen Shou’s account of Hefei. It does seem hard to believe (as Cao Pi himself said) but all of the evidence supports it.
And there exist no alternate accounts (even from propagandists like Xi Zuochi). There is no contrary evidence. In the face of all this, there’s no legitimate reason to doubt Zhang Liao’s achievement.