Biography (COB): Lu Su (Zijing)

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Lu Su (Zijing)Lu Su (Zijing)
魯肅 (子敬)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Translated & Authored by

Place of Birth: Dong Cheng County, Linhuai Commandery(Presently Huining in Jiangsu Province) (1)
Lifespan: AD 172 – 217 (45 Years)
Titles: Colonel Who Displays Firmness, Grand Administrator of Hancheng, Lieutenant–General
Family: Son, grandson (both served Wu)

Lu Su was handsome, outstandingly brilliant, and generous in helping others and giving relief to the sick and poor. He was well known and respected in his area, as a filial son he lived with and took care of his aged mother. Lu Su came from a respected family in Xu Province, and they were probably merchants who prospered during the Eastern Han (2).

Lu Su first met Zhou Yu when the latter passed by Lu Su’s house and asked for grain. Lu Su had two large storages of grain, and he let Zhou Yu pick the food he needed. Zhou Yu was notably impressed with Lu Su and they soon became friends. At this point Yuan Shu offered Lu Su the position of Prefect of Dong Cheng, Lu Su did not seem interested in that position though, and he left Xu Province to go south of the Yangzi (3).

However Lu Su was not pleased with his arrival in Qua at the headquarters of the Sun clan. And after the death of Sun Ce in AD 200, Lu Su was tempted to leave for the north (4). However, Zhou Yu urged Lu Su to stay and serve Sun Quan. Zhou Yu also advised Sun Quan to visit Lu Su personaly, which he did. Lu Su and Sun Quan discussed the affairs of the Empire and Sun Quan was very impressed (5). Sun Quan restored Lu Su’s wealth and position and even though Lu Su held a minor rank, he was appointed as Sun Quan’s personal assistant.

Sun Quan resumed the war against Huang Zu which his brother had started, and he conquered Jiangxia Province. Not long after, Liu Biao, the Imperial Inspector of Jing Province, died in Xiangyang. Sun Quan sent Lu Su as his envoy to express condolences to Liu Biao’s sons Liu Qi and Liu Zong, and to make secret contact with Liu Bei. On his way to Xiangyang, Lu Su heard about the succession of Liu Zong and the subsequent surrender to Cao Cao. He turned around and met up with Liu Bei directly after the massacre at Chang slope (6). Lu Su convinced Liu Bei to go south and establish headquarters at Fankou. Together with Zhuge Liang, Lu Su headed back to Sun Quan’s headquarters to report. Lu Su and Zhuge Liang explained the situation to Sun Quan, and Lu Su urged him to consult Zhou Yu, who was on a mission in Poyang (7).

Zhou Yu planned the defense of Jing Province against Cao Cao in cooperation with Liu Bei. The mission was a success and Cao Cao was driven back past Jiangling. After the battle however, Zhou Yu needed to deal with Liu Bei, and granted him temporary refugee in southern Jing. Around AD 210, Zhou Yu died and he recommended Lu Su as his successor in a letter to Sun Quan (8). Lu Su was appointed as Colonel Who Displays Firmness, with four thousand troops of Zhou Yu under his command, and with headquarters in Jiangling.

Liu Bei went to Sun Quan to request more teritory, and Lu Su urged Sun Quan to allow Liu Bei to borrow Nan Commandery (9). Soon after, Liu Bei moved into Nan Commandery and Sun Quan assigned Lu Su as the Grand Administrator of Hancheng Commandery. The new Commandery of Hancheng formed a boundary between Cheng Pu in Jiangxia and Liu Bei in Nan. He took up headquarters at Lukou, was promoted to Lieutenant–General, and given command of ten thousand troops.

After the death of Cheng Pu, Lu Su temporarily transferred to the north where he took part in the recapture of Huan city in Jiangling province in AD 214. A year later, Sun Quan sent Zhuge Jin to ask Liu Bei to return Nan Commandery. Liu Bei had not only taken Nan Commandery, but also moved into the southern commanderies of Lingling, Guiyang and Chang Sha. However Liu Bei had no intention of returning Nan to Sun Quan, and refused to accept Sun Quan’s move into southern Jing (10).

The re–occupation of Jing was well thought–out plan, Lu Su stayed at his headquarters in Lukou, while Lü Meng moved his force into the south. Liu Bei’s Grand Administrators of Changsha and Guiyang surrendered, and the seige of Lingling began. At this time Liu Bei sent reinforcements to Guan Yu in Gongan. Sun Quan moved his forces into Lukou, and Lu Su headed out with his army to intercept the relief force from Liu Bei. With trickery, Lü Meng took Lingling without a struggle and the forces of Sun Quan were now in a better position to deal with Liu Bei. Sun Quan granted Liu Bei the Commandery of Lingling as a token of peace, but he kept both Guiyang and the larger part of Changsha Commandery.

In the twenty-second year of Rebuilt Tranquility (AD 217) , Lu Su died of natural causes. Sun Quan personally attended the funeral and paid his respects to Zijing’s family.

Lu Su was a pleasant, scholarly man who was praised for his ability to predict the outcome of situations. His predictions of the segregation of China, the control of Jing, the rise in rank of Sun Quan, the influence of the Yangzi and the quarrelling in the north all came true. Lu Su’s position was taken over by Lü Meng, and one of his sons held rank in Wu, as did his grandson (11).

(1) de Crespigny notes in Generals of the South, Chapter four, that at this time, the Commandery of Xiapi was renamed to Linhuai. It was later changed back to Xiapi. Linhuai was in the area between the Huai and Yangzi rivers. <return>

(2) The SGZ biography of Lu Su does not mention any earlier civil or military appointments in his family. Since Lu Su was rich in resources and a known scholar, we may presume that he comes from a merchant family. See also note 4 below. <return>

(3) It is possible that Lu Su was forced to leave Xu Province in the same way as Bu Zhi had. It seems however, that Lu Su was still in a comfortable position when he left for the lands south of the Yangzi. When he left, he brought three hundred men along with him, including armed men who could protect Lu Su and his entourage from bandits or provincial troops under command of Yuan Shu. <return>

(4) It is unclear why Lu Su was not welcomed by Sun Ce, but I do have a few theories. As he demonstrated before, Sun Ce’s actions and thoughts are based on Confucianist ideals. In the class based society of China, merchants were considered the lowest class, since they profit from other people’s work. It could be that sun Ce did not pay Lu Su a great deal of respect because of this. Lu Su was keen on using his wealth to establish himself, and it is possible that Sun Ce was not too pleased with that. Another possibility is that Sun Ce was too busy at time, and could not be bothered to personally entertain another scholar. Whatever the reason, Lu Su did not have any reason for staying with the Sun clan after the death of Sun Ce, and wanted to return north. <return>

(5) Lu Su said to Sun Quan: “As I see it, the house of Han cannot rise again, and Cao Cao will not be removed in a hurry. The best plan for you is just to hold the east of the Yangzi, like one foot of a tripod cauldron, and watch the battles of the empire from a distance. In the north, they will have plenty of things to worry about. Take advantage of the fact that they are preoccupied, attack Huang Zu and force him away, then go on to attack Liu Biao, and follow up to hold the full length of the Yangzi. When you have achieved that, you can take title as Emperor or King and you can plan to take over the whole of China. This was the method of Emperor Gao of Han.” <return>

(6) When Cao Cao took Jing Province from Liu Zong, he drove out Liu Bei and his entourage. For one reason or another, Liu Bei added thousands of civilians to his group during his exodus. But their force was slow and Cao Cao easily caught up with them, seriously diminishing Liu Bei’s forces. <return>

(7) The discussion took part in two turns, at first Zhou Yu was not present and Lu Su supported the views of Zhuge Liang, while Zhang Zhao and others opposed it. After that discussion, Lu Su told Sun Quan to wait for Zhou Yu and ask for his advise. Sun Quan did so and Zhou Yu presented his own plan to oppose Cao Cao. For more on this debate, See Zhou Yu’s biography, notes 12, and 13. <return>

(8) Generals of the South, one account of the letter to Sun Quan reads: “Lord Cao is in the north, and our borders are not at peace. Liu Bei is lodging here, and that is like feeding a tiger´┐Ż Lu Su is loyal and energetic, and in dealing with affairs he has no match; he can take my place. When a man is dying, he speaks with total truth. If you can accept what I say, my death will not be useless.” <return>

(9) Lu Su was only the one who supported this view. Both Zhou Yu and the senior officer Lü Fan had argued to Sun Quan that Liu Bei should not be given any more land. Sun Quan however, was compelled to take the advise of the more cautious and perhaps more reasonable Lu Su. Without Zhou Yu, Sun Quan now relied on his personal assistant Lu Su. <return>

(10) There is a good deal of debate on wether or not Sun Quan allowed Liu Bei to borrow Nan, or that he gave it to Liu Bei. At the news of Liu Bei’s refusal to return Nan Commandery, Sun Quan said: “This is borrowing and not returning.” Obviously Sun Quan had expected Liu Bei to return the teritory, or else he would not have reacted this way. Zhou Yu and Cheng Pu were the ones who took and defended Nan Commandery from Cao Cao, I therefore see no reason to believe that Sun Quan would simply hand over Nan if he did not expect it to be returned at some point. Nan was vital for Sun Quan’s operations north of the Yangzi, and military action to retrieve it was a most logical choice on the side of Sun Quan. <return>

(11) At first Lu Su did not think highly of Lü Meng because of his uncultured behavior. At the urging of Sun Quan however, Lü Meng started to study the classics of literature. One day Lu Su was passing by Lü Meng’s headquarters and saw him studying. Lu Su praised him for his efforts and Lü Meng responded with a quote from one of the classics. Lu Su was impressed and paid respects to Lü Meng’s mother. <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