Biography (SGYY): Bao Xin

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Bao Xin
鮑信
(AD ?–192)

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Sam Wrest

Bao Xin

Bao Xin served as Commandant of the Rear Army during the later period of the Han dynasty. Xin earned his rank and fame at the time of the Yellow Scarves uprising, during which he mustered the people of Ju Ping County and distinguished himself fighting against the rebels.

In AD 189, Bao Xin received a messenger sent from Regent Marshal He Jin bearing a decree proposing a march on the capital to kill the Ten Eunuch Attendants, who had been controlling the Han court by various means, unopposed, for years. Bao Xin gladly agreed to the cause and, after mustering his forces, marched on to Luoyang along with various other regional leaders. Xin arrived at the palace to find that the Attendants, as well as a mass of civilians, had been slaughtered by Yuan Shao, his brother Shu, and Cao Cao. (1) In the wild combat that had occurred, however, Emperor Shao and his brother, Xie, had been lost. Bao Xin quickly organised a search party with Wang Yun, Yang Biao, Chunyu Qiong, Zhao Meng and Yuan Shao, and set off in search of the two brothers. Xin found the two dead into the night and, after tearfully exchanging stories, had them provided with fine horses for the return journey back to the palace. The party set off soon afterwards.

1: The Ten Attendants had had He Jin murdered, which is what prompted Jin’s commanders to storm the palace and slaughter the Eunuchs.

Bao Xin had barely advanced a few li when an unknown mass of soldiers came into view, banners darkening the sky and boots creating a mass of dust. Yuan Shao, one of the commanders with Xin, urged his mount forward and demanded, “Who are you?”

A stern voice replied, “Where is the Emperor?”

Emperor Shao dared not speak, but his brother Xie went forward and asked tearfully, “Who comes here?”

“Dong Zhuo, imperial inspector of Xiliang,” was the reply.

“Are you here to protect the Emperor or seize him?” the prince asked.

“Only to protect him,” replied Zhuo.

“Then get off your horse,” the prince said, “The Emperor is here!”

Dong Zhuo hastily dismounted and prostrated himself before the Emperor. Bao Xin and the rest of the party then returned to Luoyang, and Dong Zhuo positioned his army outside of the city’s walls. However, Zhuo’s cavalry would regularly enter the capital and terrorize its inhabitants, causing the people to fear for their livelihood. Dong Zhuo himself would go in and out of the imperial buildings, discarding courtesy and showing no respect to the rules of the palace. Bao Xin, suspecting Zhuo to be potentially treacherous, sought out Yuan Shao and told him Zhuo’s disloyalty would eventually manifest, and urged Shao to have him removed from office. To his appeal, Yuan Shao replied, “With the court but lately stabilized, this is no time for rashness.”

Bao Xin then sought out Minister of the Interior Wang Yun and told him too of his concerns, but Yun merely replied, “This will have to be considered further,”

Frustrated by their reluctance, Bao Xin led his forces out of Luoyang and took refuge in the Mount Tai region. For his service to the Han, Bao Xin was later appointed Lord of Jibei and re-established his headquarters in the province.

Later in AD 189, Dong Zhuo deposed the Emperor Shao and placed his brother Xie on the throne. Zhuo further monopolized all power within the Han court, abused his authority, and terrorized the peoples of Luoyang to the point that all lived in constant fear. Bao Xin’s suspicions of the man had thus proved correct, and Xin became eager to move against Zhuo. In the next year, AD 190, Cao Cao issued a call to arms to dispose of the traitor, to which Bao Xin responded enthusiastically. Xin mustered Jibei’s army and set off for Luoyang with commanders Yu Jin and Bao Zhong. A further 16 lords responded to the call and marched their armies onto the capital. They were:

Yuan Shu, Governor of Nanyang and General of the Rear
Han Fu, Imperial Inspector of Jizhou Region
Kong Zhou, Imperial Inspector of Yuzhou Region
Liu Dai, Imperial Inspector of Yanzhou Region
Wang Kuang, Governor of Henei
Zhang Miao, Governor of Chenliu
Qiao Mao, Governor of Dongjun
Yuan Yi, Governor of Shanyang
Kong Rong, Governor of Beihai
Zhang Chao, Governor of Guangling
Tao Qian, Imperial Inspector of Xuzhou
Ma Teng, Governor of Xiliang
Gongsun Zan, Governor of Beiping, accompanied by Liu Bei, Magistrate of Pingyuan
Zhang Yang, Governor of Shangdang
Sun Jian, Lord of Wucheng and Governor of Changsha
Yuan Shao, lord of Qixiang and Governor of Bohai

Bao Xin and the rest of the various lords arrived at the allied encampments outside Luoyang one after the other, pitching their camps over an area that stretched two hundred li. Bao Xin was then invited to a war council to discuss the alliance’s next move. During which, Wang Kuang, Governor of Henei, said, “In serving this great cause we must first establish a war-ruler and pledge him our strictest obedience. Only then can we march.”

Cao Cao rose in response and said, “Yuan Shao’s family has held highest office for four generations, and many former officers still serve them. As the descendent of distinguished ministers, Shao is most fit to lead our confederacy.”

Bao Xin and the rest of the lords agreed to Cao Cao’s proposal, and Yuan Shao was appointed leader of the alliance. In addition, Yuan Shao’s brother, Shu, was put in charge of supplies, and Sun Jian was placed in the vanguard for the ensuing battle with Dong Zhuo at Si River Pass.

After it was announced Sun Jian would lead the van, Bao Xin became eager to achieve first merit in the war against Dong Zhuo, and so before Sun Jian advanced his army onto Si River, Xin gave his brother, Zhong, command of three thousand troops with orders to attack the pass by side paths. Zhong set off shortly after, and by following the side paths indicated by Bao Xin, was able to arrive at the pass undetected. However, Bao Zhong was met by a fierce commander named Hua Xiong, and was cut down in a battle between the two forces.

Some time later, swift runners brought news to Yuan Shao that Dong Zhuo had advanced his army to guard Tiger Trap Pass. Bao Xin was present at the council when this report arrived, and Cao Cao advised, “Dong Zhuo is positioned at Tiger Trap, intersecting our central corps. We should move half our men to engage him.”

Yuan Shao agreed, and had Bao Xin march his army onto Tiger Trap Pass with Wang Kuang, Qian Mao, Yuan Yi, Kong Rong, Zhang Yang, Tao Qian and Gongsun Zan. Xin set off some time after Wang Kuang, and arrived at the pass to find that Kuang had been defeated by Dong Zhuo’s famous General, Lü Bu. Bao Xin and the rest of the regional lords then combined their forces and attacked Bu the following day and, through fierce fighting, were able to force Bu back in defeat. However, shortly after the victory, the alliance began to deteriorate—many of the lords turned on each other, and many more abandoned the war against Dong Zhuo to return to their home territories. Furthermore, Dong Zhuo burned the capital of Luoyong and moved the Emperor to Chang’an. Surmising he could do no more in the war, Bao Xin gathered his forces and headed back to his own province of Jibei.

In AD 192, Bao Xin received an order from the Han court to join forces with Cao Cao, who was now serving as Governor of Dongjun, to quell an uprising of the Yellow Scarves in Qingzhou. Bao Xin accepted the commission and joined forces with Cao. Their two armies advanced onto Shouyong, where the Scarves had amassed in their hundreds of thousands. Bao Xin led an attack on one of the rebel’s strongpoints and successfully forced his way through, but once his did, Xin was ambushed by a number of the Yellow Scarves and killed in the melee. (2) (3)

2: It is unknown exactly at what point Bao Xin’s commander, Yu Jin, joined Cao Cao. SGYY records that Cao recruited Jin just after the battle at Shouyong, suggesting that he transferred his allegiance only after Bao Xin was killed. Other sources, however, say Yu Jin joined Cao after the war with Dong Zhuo.

3: Historically, the Qingzhou Yellow Turbans initially entered Yanzhou and killed the Chancellor of Rencheng, Zheng Sui, choosing to move on to Dongping after doing so. Liu Dai, the Imperial Inspector of Yanzhou, wanted to attack the rebels immediately, but Bao Xin advised him, “At present the Yellow Turban army numbers in the millions. The local population fear them and the soldiers have no morale to do battle. Thus we are no match for them. I have observed that the bandit host travels with a huge family population without any weapons or grain supplies to speak of. They rely solely on pillage to survive. It would be advisable for us to conserve the strength of our troops, defending in the fortified cities. The bandits will be unable to gain success in battle or siege and hence their power will surely dissipate. Then, selecting elite soldiers and occupying strategic points, we will surely succeed in our advance.”

Despite this advice, Liu Dai still attacked the Yellow Scarves and, true enough to Bao Xin’s prediction, was defeated and killed by the rebels. Upon learning of his death, Bao Xin travelled to Dongjun to enlist Cao Cao’s aid against the Scarves, and also invited Cao to take on responsibilities as Governor of Yanzhou. Bao Xin and Cao Cao then attacked the rebels at Shouyong, during which Bao Xin died in same manner SGYY describes. Cao Cao, who had developed a friendship with Xin, searched frantically for his body, but there was no trace of it. Cao ordered a wooden statue of Bao Xin carved, and held a funeral with the statue in Xin’s place. During the proceedings, those that remained of Bao Xin’s army, as well as Cao Cao and his own soldiers, wept bitterly at the loss of the General.

Copyright © 2005 Sam Wrest
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong