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The siege of Fei-ch’iu (206-205 BC) was the final stage in Liu Bang’s conquest of the kingdom of Yong, the first stage in his eventual creation of the Han dynasty. Liu Bang had been a senior commander in the rebel alliance that had overthrown the Qin dynasty, and had been the first rebel to occupy the Qin heartland. He had expected to be made king of this important area, but Xiang Yu, the overall commander of the rebel forces, made Liu Bang king of Han, the area to the south and south-west of Qin. Qin itself was split into three kingdoms – Yong, Sai and Di.
Xiang Yu’s settlement didn’t last for long. In the summer of 206 Liu Bang decided to conquer Qin, starting with a surprise attack on Yong. Zhang Han, king of Yong, advanced towards the invaders, but was defeated at Ch’ents’ang. He then retreated to Haochih, where he suffered a second defeat, and then back to his capital at Fei-ch’iu.
Liu Bang led an army to Fei-ch’iu, and began a siege of the city. This siege lasted into the summer of 205 BC, but Liu Bang’s early successes convinced the kings of Sai and Di to submit early in the year. Liu Bang then launched an attack on Xiang Yu’s heartland of Chu, capturing his capital of Pengcheng. The tables were soon turned – Xiang Yu returned from a different campaign and inflicted a heavy defeat on Liu Bang, destroying his army. Liu Bang managed to escape, but most of his men were lost.
After this setback Liu Bang returned to Fei-ch’iu, which was still holding out. He decided to flood the city, and ordered the construction of a number of canals to bring water to the city. Faced with this unorthodox approach, the defenders of Fei-ch’iu decided to surrender. Zhang Han committed suicide before the city fell. The fall of Fei-ch’iu allowed Liu Bang to complete the conquest of Yong, and with it the former heartland of the Qin. This gave him a strong base which helped him recover from a series of defeats later in the war.
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