Biography (COB): Liu Shan (Gongsi)

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Liu Shan (Gongsi)Liu Shan (1) (Gongsi)
劉禪 (公嗣)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Zhou County, Zhou Prefecture (Presently Zuozhou in Hebei Province)
Lifespan: AD 207 – 271 (64 Years)
Titles: Crown Prince, Emperor of Shu, Lord of Anle, Lord of Peace and Pleasure
Family: Liu Bei (father), Lady Gan (mother), Liu Feng, Liu Li, Liu Yung (brothers), Zhang Fei (father-in-law), Empress Sun (step-mother)

Liu Shan was the second son of Liu Bei, and the only son born from Lady Gan (2). He is first mentioned when he was still an infant when Liu Bei was being chased out of Jing Zhou by Lord Cao, and Zhao Yun saved his life from within enemy lines.

Under the protection of his mother Lady Gan, Liu Shan accompanied his father on his way to Yi Zhou. When Liu Bei proclaimed himself King of Hanzhong in the twenty-fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 219), Liu Shan was designated as the heir, instead of the older Liu Feng.

In the first year of Manifest Might (AD 220), Liu Bei ascended the throne as Emperor of Shu. Liu Shan is appointed as the Crown Prince, and his step-mother Lady Wu is made Empress.

Not long after, Liu Bei dies after the loss of Yi Ling and Liu Shan succeeded the throne as Emperor of Shu. The Empress Sun was made Empress-Dowager, and the late Lady Gan was titled Glorious Empress posthumously. Zhuge Liang took over all matters of state as most of the old ministers had died (3). Because the new Emperor had no consort, the daughter of Zhang Fei was chosen as the new Empress.

In the first year of Beginning Prosperity (AD 223), Liu Shan sent envoys to the Kingdom of Wu to restore relations and make peace. The next two years Liu Shan adopted a policy of isolation, developed agriculture and authorized his ministers to arranged the management of all government affairs, national and local.

In the sixteenth year of [Jian Xing] (AD 238), Liu Shan started to get personally involved in politics. He trusted the eunuch Huang Hao, and kept changing the reign titles over and over again.

In the sixth year of [Jing Yao] (AD 263), Deng Ai and Zhong Hui invaded Shu through Guan Zhong. The Great General Jiang Wei had warned Liu Shan about this, but the Emperor listened to the lies of Huang Hao instead and the army was caught unprepared. Liao Hua, Zhuge Zhan and Jiang Wei fought bravely against the Wei army, but their efforts were useless. After Zhuge Zhan died and Mian Zhu gate was lost, Liu Shan agreed to surrender to Deng Ai.

Liu Shan and his family were sent to Luo Yang by Sima Zhao, and was titled Lord of Anle. When Sima Yan united the land and formed the Jin Dynasty, he conferred the titled of Lord of Peace and Pleasure to Liu Shan.

During his rule, Liu Shan was known as a drunkard and spent much time with his concubines and listened to the caustic tongues of the eunuchs. He ignored the pleas of his loyal ministers and brought ruin to the Kingdom of Shu. Liu Shan died in Luo Yang in the seventh year of [Tai Shi] (AD 271), at the age of sixty-four.

(1) Note from and James: Thanks to a mistranslation on Koei and some other translator’s part there is some confusion as to whether his name is Liu Shan or Liu Chan. His given name () translates to either Chan2 or Shan4. Shan4 means “to abdicate to someone” or “to give up”, while Chan2 is the equivalent of the Japanese word “Zen”, a form of meditation. There are two reasons why Shan4 is most likely the correct name.

1) Though Buddhism-related names are recorded as early as the Hou Han shu (Eastern Han), the usage of Buddhist does not become popular until the Jin dynasty (Zen Buddhism becomes popular even later in time).

2) According to Xiang Chong’s Sanguozhi biography, Qiao Zhou said that it’s fitting that Liu Bei started his own kingdom, because Bei meant “to prepare”, and thus Liu Shan lost it, since “Shan” meant “to give away”. If the later ruler’s name were pronounced “Chan”, this play on words would not have been possible.

Why Chan? Maybe because the “Chan” meaning is more popular today, or perhaps maybe translators couldn’t thing of a reason as to why a child would receive an inauspicious name as “to abdicate”. <return>

(2) When she was pregnant of Liu Shan, Lady Gan dreamed that she was looking up at the sky, and the constellation of the Great Bear had fallen down in her throat. Soon after, she gave birth. <return>

(3) Sanguo yanyi’s memorial of Liu Bei goes even farther. It states that if Liu Shan would prove incompetent as ruler, Zhuge Liang should replace him and assume the throne himself. <return>

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Major Sources: Zhongguo Lishizhu Professor T.Chen (1965 Peking)