Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by
Place of Birth: Linjiang, Ba Prefecture (Presently Zhong County in Sichuan Province)
Lifespan: AD 175 – Circa 218
Titles: General Who Oppresses the Enemy with Ferocity, Grand Administrator of Xiling
In his youth, Gan Ning was brave and strong; however he did not have any rules and used his skills for assassination and plunder. He originally led a group of youths and terrorized small towns (1). In his twenties however, Gan Ning started reading the classical literature from Zhou dynasty intellectuals.
When Gan Ning was living in Nanyang, he sought to serve Liu Biao, but he was not granted an audience (2). Instead he went to serve Huang Zu, but was never granted a position of importance.
When Sun Quan was attacking Huang Zu, Gan Ning killed Sun Quan’s commander Ling Cao with an arrow attack and was able to hold off Sun Quan’s attack. However, the old Huang Zu did not recognize Xingba’s actions and treated him just as badly as before. Seeking the advice of Su Fei, Gan Ning devised a plot to leave Huang Zu and join Sun Quan.
Gan Ning was recommended to Sun Quan’s service by Lü Meng and Zhou Yu, and was treated very well. On Gan Ning’s advice, Sun Quan marched west again to destroy Huang Zu (3).
Xingba then followed Zhou Yu in the attack on Wulin and Nanjun, and scored many important victories. For this, he was promoted to General Who Oppresses the Enemy with Ferocity.
He later helped Lu Su guard Yiyang against the attack from Guan Yu. When Yunchang heard of Xingba’s approach, he turned away from the attacked and would not cross the river to Yiyang. Sun Quan was greatly impressed with Gan Ning and appointed him as Grand Administrator of Xiling and Commander of Yangxin and Xiazhi County.
Xingba followed Sun Quan on the attacks on Wan and He Fei. When Zhang Liao initiated a surprise raid on the retreating Wu forces, Gan Ning never wavered, and together with Ling Tong defended his troops with courage (4).
Gan Ning was broad-minded, valorous and skilled in strategy. He hated wealth and respected men of ability. His sergeants admired him greatly for always being the first to attack ahead of all others, and they devoted their lives to serving him.
When Xingba died, Sun Quan felt a deep regret for his loss and wept bitterly.
(1) According to SGZ, Gan Ning and his group strapped bells around their waste. Whenever commoners heard the bells, they knew Gan Ning was coming and would either be scared or in other cases they would welcome him with a feast, to prevent their village from being looted. <return>
(2) Liu Biao was the Imperial Protector of Jing Zhou and a renowned scholar of his area along with Chen Xiang, Fan Pang, Kong Yu, Fan Kang, Tan Fu, Zhang Jian and Cen Zhi. Liu Biao was friends with these famous scholars and did not want to hire Gan Ning solely because of his reckless background (See SGYY, Chapter 6). <return>
(3) According to SGZ, Gan Ning’s insight on the situation impressed Sun Quan so much that he put Gan Ning in charge of the war against Huang Zu. Xingba’s reply to Zhang Zhao acknowledges his study of the classics and his ability to apply it to situations. (See Gan Ning’s SGZ Biography by Lady Sun). <return>
(4) Sun Quan’s carriage was retreating from He Fei due to an unsuspected epidemic in the Wu camp. Zhang Liao took advantage of it and tried to kill Sun Quan directly by raiding the carriage. However, Gan Ning was not afraid of Zhang Liao and fiercely opposed him, ensuring the safe retreat of Sun Quan. <return>
Copyright © 2002 – 2003
A Kongming’s Archives Exclusive Production
Major Sources: Zhongguo Lishizhu – Professor T.Chen (1965 Peking)
annotations from Wu Jianxiang dachen nianbiao and Wu Li
Generals of the South – Rafe de Crespigny