The Dajing military camp was based in Liangzhou at Mount Song, in the middle of a gravelly desert. The site was that of an old battlefield, and one day General Ta Siha led his troops farther into the desert on routine surveillance.
As far as his eyes could see the landscape was barren, spotted here and there with low scrub and disturbed only by wisps of yellow dust.
Suddenly a huge mountain reared up from the ground, eventually blocking out the sun. As it rose before them, the terrified soldiers and their startled horses could hear a tremendous crackling and thunderous roars.
General Ta was just as frightened as his men, particularly when he noticed that the mountain was advancing towards them.
It approached so quickly that there was no hope of escape. So the men leaped off their horses, formed a tight circle, closed their eyes, and waited for the worst.
Seconds later they were enveloped in pitch darkness. The men and their horses were knocked to the ground and tossed around mercilessly by this dark force for quite some time. But eventually all was calm once again.
The entire troop of thirty-six men emerged covered in blood with little pebbles embedded in their skin, some half an inch deep. When they turned to look at the departing mountain, it was already dozens of miles in the distance.
That evening they returned to the Dajing base camp and reported this phenomenon to the chief of staff, Ma Chenghu.
Ma laughed at General Ta, saying, "That wasn't a mountain! It was just a freak windstorm. You'd all be dead now if it had really been a mountain.
"This sort of windstorm occurs quite regularly out there during the