Served Shu. Highly trusted by Liu Bei. Fourth of the Five Tiger Generals.
Wade-Giles: Chao Yün (Tzŭ-lung)
Simplified Chinese: 赵云 (子龙)
Pronunciation: Zhao4 Yun2 (Zi3long2)
Cantonese (Yale): Jiu Wan (Ji-lung)
Cantonese (Jyutpin): Ziu Wan (Zi-lung)
Min-Nan: Tio In (Cu-liong)
Birthplace: Zhen Ding, Chang Shan Prefecture
(Presently Zheng Ding in He Bei Province)
Rank and Titles
General of the Standard (AD 208; Before Chi Bi); Lieutenant-General (AD 208; After Chi Bi); General of the Flying Army (AD 212); General of Tiger Valor (Hu Wei Jiang Jun; AD 219; Nickname); General Who Protects the Center (AD 222); General Who Conquers the South (AD 222); Marquis of Yongchang (AD 222); General Who Guards the East; General of the Centre Army (AD 227; Demotion); Marquis of Shunping (AD 261; Posthumous); One of the ‘Five Tiger Generals’
Groups and Associations
Five Tiger Generals of Shu ƒ
Family and Relationships
Ma Yunlu ƒ (Wife); Zhao Guang, Zhao Tong (Sons)
Fact vs. Fiction
Differences Between Fact and Common Fiction
- Zhao Yun never served Yuan Shao.
- Zhao Yun left Gongsun Zan along with Liu Bei, and from that point, remained in his service.
- Zhao Yun did not slay Zhu Ran at Yiling.
- Zhao Yun did not battle with or slay Zhu Zan.
- The story in which Zhao Yun’s wife pricks him with a pin, causing in his death, is based on Chinese opera.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms:
Sanguozhi: Shu 6
Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Chapter 71
Responding to Zhang Yi during battle with Cao Cao, Zhao Yun said, “Do not bar the gates. Have you never heard of my exploit at Dangyang, when I laughed at Cao Cao’s many legions? Now that I have an army at my back and generals to help, what is there to fear?”
Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Chapter 81
When Liu Bei decided to attack Wu, Zhao Yun said, “The real rebel was not Sun Quan, but Cao Cao. Now it is his son who has usurped the Imperial Throne and called forth the anger of gods and humans. You should first aim at the Land Within the Passes by camping on the River Wei, from which to attack the rebel. After that the loyal people in the East of the Passes will cart their grains and herd their horses to welcome your army. If you leave River Wei out of consideration in order to fight Wu, your military force will be engaged, and could you disengage it quickly in case of necessity? It is worth reflection.”
Zhao Yun (Zilong) was said to be about 6’ 2’’ in height. Zhao Yun held office in his hometown county of Changshan until in AD 191 at the age of 23 he decided to serve as an officer under Gongsun Zan in preference to Yuan Shao who was also a powerful warlord near his home region (he decided to serve Gongsun Zan because he believed him to be more righteous). He met Liu Bei while under Gongsun Zan’s command. Liu Bei respected Zhao Yun. Yun led Liu Bei’s cavalry unit when Liu Bei was sent by Zan to aid Tian Kai against Yuan Shao. Zhao Yun later left Gongsun Zan’s forces, as he was unimpressed by his attitude, to attend his elder brother’s funeral.
After about 6 years of absence during which time his activities were unknown, Zhao Yun reappeared in AD 200 where, in the city of Ye, he met Liu Bei when the latter was on the run after having been defeated by Cao Cao. Zhao Yun recruited a small band of men for Liu Bei to command.
In AD 207, Xiahou Dun attacked Liu Bei at Bowang. Zhao Yun competed in the battle and managed to capture and recruit the enemy general, Xiahou Lan.
In AD 208 Cao Cao assembled an army and marched south to take Jingzhou. Liu Cong, younger son of Liu Biao and the then leader of Jing, yielded. Liu Bei was forced to flee and headed towards Jiangling. Cao Cao sent 5000 elite light armoured cavalry after Liu Bei. Liu Bei was caught up with and routed at Changban. He then deserted his family and infantry and fled with Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun and the cavalry. A short time afterwards, Zhao Yun turned back into the enemy’s location and managed to locate Liu Bei’s wife and son and safely escorted them back to Liu Bei. He was rewarded with the rank of ‘General of the Standard’. (It is interesting that the daughters were captured by the enemy whereas the wife and son escaped. I surmise that is likely that the daughters would have initially been together with the wife and son. I would say this because it seems unlikely that the mother would have been with her son yet apart from her two daughters. I would think the mother would allow none of her children to escape her sight. I therefore believe that the enemy captured the entire family first and that is when the daughters were separated from the mother and son. I believe then that Zhao Yun arrived on the scene and attacked the enemy contingent holding the wife and son. I am making another logical assumption that Zhao Yun would not have saved the mother and son while simply leaving the daughters behind. My overall conclusion therefore is that Zhao Yun did indeed encounter enemy troops when he rescued the wife and son. There is no proof that he did encounter enemy troops or not, however the above is my view.)
After the battle of Chi Bi, Cao Cao was forced to withdraw the bulk of his forces from most of Jingzhou. Zhao Yun played an important role in capturing the four southern districts of Jingzhou for Liu Bei. Zhao Yun was thus given the post of ‘Governor of Guiyang’.
Before Liu Bei left for Yi province, he moved Zhao Yun to Gong’an. He instructed Zhao Yun to discipline the servants of Lady Sun, whom were causing trouble among the locals. Zhao Yun succeeded in his mission and Liu Bei left Gong’an in Zhao Yun’s hands when he departed to Yizhou.
In AD 212 Liu Bei ordered Zhuge Liang to bring reinforcements to aid his conquest of Yizhou. Zhuge Liang brought Zhao Yun and Zhang Fei with him and headed towards Jiangzhou. After they all conquered Jiangzhou (Yan Yan’s territory), the three generals split apart. Zhao Yun led his own contingent of troops along the more southern route and conquered Jiangyang and Jianwei on his path to Chengdu. (Zhao Yun is one of only three men to be mentioned by name as part of the reinforcements and thus his role was clearly major). Zhao Yun was given the rank of ‘General of the Flying Army’ after Yizhou was fully conquered.
At this time, Liu Bei’s advisers were keen on handing the people’s houses to Liu Bei’s generals. Zhao Yun begged to differ and presented a sound argument to Liu Bei which was accepted.
In AD 219 during Liu Bei’s attack on Han Zhong, after Huang Zhong defeated Xiahou Yuan, Cao Cao amassed a large army to retake Han Zhong. Zhao Yun, at 51 years of age, was alongside Huang Zhong to defend against this threat. Huang Zhong took his own troops and most of Zhao Yun’s in an attempt to raid Cao Cao’s supplies. When Huang Zhong did not return by the specified time, Zhao Yun took his few remaining troops to investigate. After a short time he ran into the frontline of Cao Cao’s main force. Zhao Yun fought for a short time, but being vastly outnumbered was eventually encircled. After having forced his way through Cao Cao’s army, Zhao Yun decided to turn back to rescue his subordinate officer, Zhang Zhu, who had fallen behind. Retreating back to camp Zhao Yun was tailed closely by Cao Cao’s main force. The size of the enemy force convinced Zhao Yun that it was impossible to hold out for long by shutting the gates. He therefore devised the strategy of opening the gates and silencing any noise. Cao Cao’s army, fearful of an ambush, retreated. Zhao Yun proceeded to surprise Cao’s army from behind with arrows. As a result of this feat, Zhao Yun was nicknamed as ‘General of Tiger Valour’ by the army from then on. (It is important to note that this was not an official rank given by Liu Bei but rather a nickname bestowed on Zhao Yun by the Shu army. This is a clear sign that Zhao Yun was deeply respected by his men. His ability therefore must have been beyond the average general. Most generals are not on record for this kind of honour.)
In AD 222, Zhao Yun objected to Liu Bei’s campaign against Wu. Zhao Yun was therefore not directly used in the ensuing conflict. He was instead given charge of Jiangzhou (a local territory that Yan Yan previously controlled).
After Liu Bei’s death, Zhao Yun was promoted to ‘General Who Guards the East’ and was moved to Ba (a territory located in the east close to Wu) to defend against the possibility of a Wu invasion since relations were rocky at the time.
In AD 228 during Zhuge Liang’s famous northern campaign to take Mei, Zhao Yun was a chosen to act as a decoy. To the end he was given a small force and instructed to confront a much more powerful enemy army led by the famous Wei commander, Cao Zhen. Zhao Yun realised he was outmanned and decided to pull back. Zhao Yun himself guarded the rear during the retreat, thus protecting his men and saving supplies at risk to himself. Zhuge Liang, offered to reward him and his men for their performance but Zhao Yun declined the honour and insisted that since it was a defeat, rewards should not be given. Zhuge Liang admired his integrity.
Zhao Yun died in AD 229 at the age of about 61.
Personal Conclusion: In my opinion it would be clear that Zhao Yun’s accomplishments were not only the mark of a very capable general but also that of a hero. His rank was low throughout his career, however his achievements and his roles were major. There is definite proof that Zhao Yun was used in major positions in every campaign upon joining Liu Bei in AD 200. His low rank is therefore a point of confusion. I read in Han Dang’s SGZ bio that his (Dang’s) rank was low due to his generosity in giving other generals his captive soldiers. Apparently rank was partially calculated according to how many enemy soldiers the general and his soldiers captured during the various battles. Han Dang gave his captive enemy soldiers to other generals and hence they advanced much quicker in rank than he did. It is possible that a similar situation applied to Zhao Yun. This is just speculation however Zhao Yun’s selfless nature would support this.