Biography (COB): Xu Shao (Zijiang)

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Xu Shao (Zijiang)Xu Shao (Zijiang)
許劭 (子將)

Comprehensive Officer Biography
Historic Notes in Blue, Author Notes in Green
Authored by Steven Trinkl

Place of Birth: Runan
Served: Served: Liu Yao
Lifespan: AD 150–195

Xu Shao, styled Zijiang, was a man from Runan. He was celebrated as a moral critic. He is most noted for an occasion during which Cao Cao came to him seeking critique, and Xu Shao replied, “In peace, you are an able subject; in chaos, you are a crafty hero!” Thus, Cao Cao became known as the Hero of Chaos.

On one occasion, Xu Shao ventured to Xuzhou and was received warmly by Tao Qian, the Inspector. However, Xu Shao was critical of him and commented to his servants, “Tao Gongzu appears to admire people of my quality, but he is not genuine. Though he treats me generously, he will not always be in so agreeable.” (1) Indeed, things were just as Xu Shao said, as later, Tao Qian would commit acts of negligence and malice, arresting many of the upright and talented gentlemen of the province.

1: Rafe de Crespigny, “To Establish Peace.” The quote, like others, originally comes from Liu Yao’s SGZ biography.

Xu Shao then served as advisor to Liu Yao of Yang province. When Yuan Shu’s associate Sun Ce invaded Dantu, someone suggested that Liu Yao make use of Taishi Ci to oppose him. Liu Yao replied, “If I appoint Ziyi (I), then Zijiang will laugh at me.” This shows the extent to which Xu Shao’s opinions were respected, but it can also show that he was sometimes mistaken, as Taishi Ci ended up being the most capable of Liu Yao’s officers.

I: Ziyi is the style name of Taishi Ci.

When Sun Ce conquered Dantu, Liu Yao was planning on seeking assistance from Wang Lang of Kuaiji. However, Xu Shao dissuaded him thus:

“Kuaiji is very rich and is the desire of (Sun) Ce, and is also cornered against the ocean and cannot be retreated from. It is not as favorable as Yuzhang—to the north lies Yan, to the west is Jing.

“Take the officials and the people with you, send tribute, and contact Cao Cao in Yan. Although Yuan Gonglu is in the way, he is a selfish and cruel wolf or jackal. He will not prosper.

“Once you have court power, Mengde and Jingsheng (II) will certainly send help.” (2)

2: Liu Yao’s SGZ biography.
II: Mengde is Cao Cao’s style name, and Jingsheng is Liu Biao’s.

Liu Yao accepted this advice and sent Zhu Hao (III) to attack Zhuge Xuan at Yuzhang, driving him out. Zhuge Xuan would later be killed by his own men in a mutiny.

III: Zhu Hao (朱皓), styled Wenming (文明), was an officer of Liu Yao.

Ze Rong also came to Yuzhang, but Xu Shao knew the man to be greedy and violent, and warned Liu Yao. Ze Rong ended up killing Zhu Hao and rebelling, but Liu Yao quashed his rebellion, and Ze Rong was killed by the people of the hills.

Xu Shao died in Yuzhang shortly thereafter, however, and with his trusted advisor gone, Liu Yao continued to suffer until his own death two years later. Liu’s family and remaining forces would later be annexed into Sun Ce’s.

Copyright © 2004 Steven Trinkl
A biography assembled using the following sources:
Sanguozhi – Chen Shou with Pei Songzhi’s Commentary
Generals of the South – Rafe de Crespigny