Fan Zeng - Famous Chinese Ancient Advisor
Fan Zeng (范增; 277 BC – 204 BC) was an advisor to Xiang Yu and an important figure in the Chu–Han contention period of Chinese history.
Starting his career
Fan Zeng was a native of Juchao (居巢; present-day Yafu Street, Juchao District, Chaohu City, Anhui province). He had a keen interest towards military strategy and politics. In 207 BC, when Fan was about 70-years-old, he left home to meet Xiang Liang, who had risen in rebellion against the Qin Dynasty like many others, and was accepted by Xiang as an advisor.
Serving Xiang Yu
After the death of Xiang Liang, Fan Zeng continued serving Xiang's nephew Xiang Yu as an advisor. Xiang Yu respectfully addressed Fan Zeng as his "Second Father" (亚父; Yafu). Since then, Fan Zeng had been actively involved in planning and formulating strategies for Xiang Yu to overcome his rivals. In 206 BC, Fan Zeng followed Xiang Yu as their army entered Guanzhong (heartland of Qin), where Fan noticed that Liu Bang would become a future threat to Xiang Yu. Fan constantly urged Xiang Yu to kill Liu then, but Xiang did not heed his advice.
During the famous Feast at Hong Gate, Fan ordered Xiang Yu's cousin Xiang Zhuang to pretend to perform a sword dance and use the opportunity to kill Liu Bang, who was a guest at the feast on Xiang Yu's invitation. However, Xiang Yu listened to his uncle Xiang Bo, a close friend of Liu's strategist Zhang Liang, and he spared Liu Bang's life, allowing Liu to leave safely. Fan Zeng was furious and exclaimed, "This mean fellow is not worthy of my service. It should be Lord Pei (Liu Bang) who will defeat Xiang Yu and conquer the country."
Retirement and death
In 204 BC, Xiang Yu's forces besieged Liu Bang at the Battle of Xingyang and Liu requested for an armistice. Xiang Yu agreed but Fan Zeng strongly opposed Xiang's decision, telling Xiang that he would regret if he accepted the peace treaty. Xiang listened to Fan and continued attacking Liu Bang. Liu's strategist Chen Ping used a scheme to trick Xiang Yu into believing that Fan Zeng had the intention of betraying him. Xiang fell for the ruse and stripped Fan Zeng off his military power. The angry Fan Zeng made up his mind to leave Xiang Yu and he said, "The final outcome is obvious. Take good care of yourself. Please allow me to retire in peace."
Fan died of illness on his journey home and was buried by Xiang Yu's followers at Pengcheng (彭城; present-day Xuzhou). His tomb is still present today. After Xiang Yu's death and downfall, Liu Bang remarked that it was a pity that Xiang Yu had a capable Fan Zeng to help him, but he did not use Fan well.