Biography (COB): Liu Bei (Xuande)

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Liu Bei (Xuande)Liu Bei (Xuande)
劉備 (玄德)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Zhou County, Zhou district (Presently Zhuo Zhou, He Bei Province)
Lifespan: AD 161 – 223 (62 years)
Titles: Emperor of Shu, King of Han Zhong, King Zhao Di

Liu Bei was a descendant of Prince Sheng of Zhongshan, a great-great-grandson of the fourth Han Emperor Jing. Liu Bei lived in poverty during his youth, his father passed away while he was still young so he and his mother made a living weaving and selling grass mats and straw sandals. At the age of fifteen, Liu Bei became a pupil of the Han scholar Lu Zhi, along with his friend Gongsun Zan.

During the Yellow Turbans rebellion, he was appointed to the position of Judicial Officer in Anxi County. He did not stay there for long, as he was forced to retire the position after beating a corrupt official with a tree branch (1).

Liu Bei started his military career under Regent Marshall He Jin and sough the patronage of Gongsun Zan. He was appointed as Auxiliary Corps Commanding Officer and Magistrate of Ping Yuan County.

When Cao Cao was invading Tao Qian’s Xu Zhou, Liu Bei moved his armies to rescue the Imperial Protector. In the first year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 196), Liu Bei received recommendations for the rank of General Who Guards the East and was given the title Lord of Yicheng Precinct.

Next, Liu Xuande assisted Cao Cao in capturing Lü Bu alive and was promoted to General of the Left. Around this time, Emperor Xian officially recognized Liu Bei’s relation to the Prince of Zhongshan and styled him “Imperial Uncle.”

Between the third and fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 198 – 199), Liu Bei lost favor with Cao Cao by participating a plot to assassinate him. He first took shelter in Xia Pi, and later in the fifth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 200), Liu Bei sought refuge Yuan Shao.

Liu Bei left Yuan Shao and after reuniting with his brothers Zhang Fei and Guan Yu, he traveled to Jing Zhou, seeking asylum with Liu Biao. Cao Cao pursued Liu Bei, and thus Xuande abandoned his post in Fan Cheng and withdrew to Xia Kou. Later Liu Bei allied himself with Sun Quan of the southlands, setting up a trap for Cao Cao to fall in. At the decisive battle of Chi Bi, Liu Bei successfully retreated to southern Jing while Cao Cao’s navy was destroyed by Zhou Yu.

After the deaths of Liu Biao and Liu Qi, Liu Bei occupied several counties in Jing Zhou. He then married Sun Quan’s sister and was officially made Protector of Jing Zhou.

In the sixteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 211), Liu Bei went to Yi Zhou under the pretense of helping Liu Zhang fight Zhang Lu. At this time, Liu Bei received two recommendations for the posts of Great Minister of War and Commander of the Capital Districts. In the nineteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 214), Liu Bei turned on Liu Zhang and Xuande occupied Cheng Du and the Western Riverlands (2). He assumed Protectorship of Yi Zhou and in the twenty-fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility declared himself King of Hanzhong.

After a series of wars with both Wu and Wei, Liu Xuande, at the urging of Zhuge Liang, proclaimed himself Emperor in April of the AD 221. His last war was fought against the Kingdom of Wu, as an act of revenge after Wu’s successful campaign against Jing Zhou caused the death of Xuande’s brother Guan Yu. Liu Bei was defeated by Sun Quan’s general Lu Xun at Yi Ling, and retreated to Bai Di Cheng (3). On April 24th AD 223, Liu Bei died of illness and was buried in Hui Ling. Liu Xuande was posthumously title King Zhao Di.

(1) In the novel Sanguo yanyi, it was Zhang Fei who beat the Inspector. <return>

(2) The actual text reads: Liu Bei fell out of favor with Liu Zhang. I changed it for literary purposes only. <return>

(3) The text only mentioned Sun Quan, and not Lu Xun, but in this case it would be unfair to attribute the victory to Sun Quan, who was not even present in Yi Ling. <return>

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A Kongming’s Archives Exclusive Production
Major Sources: Beifangshi - Han/Ming Professor E.Lin (1982 Beijing)