Relative of Yuan Shao. Declared himself Emperor, but soon after died.
Wade-Giles: Yüan Shu (Kung-lu)
Simplified Chinese: 袁术 (公路)
Pronunciation: Yuan2 Shu4 (Gong1lu4)
Cantonese (Yale): Yun Seut (Gung-lou)
Cantonese (Jyutpin): Jyun Seot (Gung-lou)
Birthplace: Ruyang, Runan Commandery
(Presently Sang Shui County, Henan Province)
Rank and Titles
General of the Gentlemen of the Rapid Tiger Household; Marquis of Yangdi and General of the Left; Emperor (self-proclaimed; AD 197)
Family and Relationships
Yuan Tang (Grandfather); Yuan Feng (Father); Yuan Cheng (Uncle); Yuan Yao (Son); Lady Yuan (Daughter); Yuan Yin (Nephew); Yuan Shao (Relative); Sun Quan (Son-in-law)
Fact vs. Fiction
Differences Between Fact and Common Fiction
- Yuan Shu did stop sending supplies to Sun Jian during the battles against Dong Zhuo. Later, he reversed this decision and so Sun Jian was never truly damaged by Shu’s with-holding of supplies.
- Yuan Shu did write Lü Bu offering supplies for his attack on Liu Bei in Xiapi, but this occurred after the attack itself, which was prompted by Xu Dan. [SGZ: 7]
- While there is some limited room for debate, it seems the proper name of Yuan Shu’s Imperial State was Zhong 仲, not Cheng 成.
- Yuan Shu’s relation to Yuan Shao is unclear due to a lack of information on Shao’s parentage. What is clear is that Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu are both grandsons of Yuan Tang and thus were either brothers or cousins, depending on the source.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms:
Sanguozhi: Wei 6-7
Hou Han shu: 75
Zizhi tongjian: 59-63, 65-66
Generals of the South: Chapter 2, p 119
Yuan Shu said, “Yuan Shao is our family slave!”
[Learn more about this quote?]
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Yuan Shu was the son of a long line of powerful nobles from the Yuan family. His primary accomplishment during the Late-Han era was rising to eminence as a mighty warlord of the Central Plains. Though forced to re-establish himself at Shou Chun after repeated defeats at the hands of Cao Cao, Yuan Shu would go on to proclaim himself an Emperor. This move, however, was extremely unpopular with his retainers. Eventually Yuan Shu would be defeated following numerous losses.
Yuan Shu started his career off as the Leader of the Imperial Tiger Guard in the Late-Han dynasty. As the holder of this position, Yuan Shu fought to purge the Han dynasty of corrupt and influential eunuchs. When Dong Zhuo took over the capital, Luoyang, Yuan Shu established a base at Luyang. He joined a group of warlords opposed to Dong Zhuo. After conquering Nanyang, Yuan Shu appointed Sun Jian to control his army. Sun Jian then proceeded to trounce Dong Zhuo’s army in battle after battle. Following Dong Zhuo’s retreat from the capital, however, Yuan Shu began to quarrel with his relative, Yuan Shao. Yuan Shu and his ally, Gongsun Zan, fought for a time with Yuan Shao, but both lords were ultimately defeated. In AD 193, Yuan Shu attempted to set up headquarters at Chenliu, but was decisively beaten by Cao Cao in several battles. Yuan Shu succeeded in re-organizing his army after these losses. Soon, he took control of Shou Chun.
With Shou Chun firmly under the control of his mailed fist, Yuan Shu ambitiously set out to seize numerous territories in the Southlands. He eradicated Zhou Xin and his followers. He also conquered Lu Kang’s kingdom. At some point in time, a former ally of Yuan Shu’s, Liu Yao, revolted in Qu’a. Yuan Shu wisely dispatched Sun Ce to fight with Liu Yao. In the next few years, Sun Ce would triumph over Liu Yao as well as other adversaries to the south and east. Sun Ce distanced himself from Yuan Shu, however, and eventually became independent.
Yuan Shu often had set his eyes on Xu Province. Yuan Shu fought for a time with Tao Qian’s successor, Liu Bei, but they became locked in a stalemate. The stalemate ended once Lü Bu attacked Liu Bei’s city of Xia Pi. Forced into a tough situation, Liu Bei faced Yuan Shu again but was defeated. Reluctantly, Liu Bei surrendered to Lü Bu. In AD 196, Yuan Shu decided upon declaring himself Emperor. In AD 197, despite opposition from Yan Xiang, Zhang Cheng and Sun Ce, he did so. In the end, unfortunately, this would prove to be a foolish move that alienated Yuan Shu from other warlords. Many of his vassals also disliked the ill-timed political maneuver.
Because Lü Bu later would kill an envoy of Yuan Shu’s named Han Yin, Yuan Shu attempted another massive invasion of Xu Province. Sadly for Yuan Shu, the attack would fail miserably. It left Yuan Shu’s army in shambles. Later, other opponents such as Cao Cao would capitalize on this weakness. At length, Yuan Shu’s kingdom was assailed and destroyed by Cao Cao. Yuan Shu fled to a small village. He died there of illness.
Fun Fact-During his reign, Yuan Shu changed the name of Jiujiang province to Huainan. Huainan, a name based off of the Huai river that ran through the province in that time, is the name that Koei uses for that area in their Romance of the Three Kingdoms games.