Biography (SGYY): Cheng Lian

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Cheng Lian
Lived: ?–195

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

Cheng Lian

Cheng Lian was a commander serving Lü Bu, widely credited as being one of Bu’s most courageous and able Generals.

In AD 194, Lü Bu launched an invasion against Cao Cao’s province of Yanzhou. Cheng Lian was selected to join the campaign, and the army successfully defeated and took control of all but three of the province’s counties. Cheng Lian, along with Lü Bu’s main force, was then stationed in Puyang. Word soon arrived that Cao Cao was leading a relief force in an attempt to reclaim his lost territory. Lü Bu selected Cheng Lian to meet the relief force and, along with Bu and several other commanders, Lian met Cao’s army in the fields surrounding Puyang. Once the two sides had arrayed their lines, Cao Cao shouted over to Lü Bu, “We have never been enemies. Why have you taken my land?"

“The walled towns of Han,” Lü Bu replied, “belong to all. Why to you alone?”

At that, Lü Bu sent one of his commanders, Zang Ba, forward in single combat against Cao Cao’s Yue Jin, but when Xiahou Dun, another of Cao’s leaders, entered the melee, Cheng Lian joined the rest of Bu’s army in an all out attack on Cao’s forces. Cao Cao’s army was completely routed, and Cheng Lian raced ahead with the rest of Lü Bu’s army to press the slaughter, drawing back Cao’s force some 30 li. Both sides then returned to their respective camps.

After the victory over Cao Cao, Cheng Lian was called to join with the rest of Lü Bu’s commanders to celebrate their success. During the discussion, Chen Gong, Bu’s chief adviser, said: “The west camp is a key position; what if Cao attacks there?”

“We taught him a lesson today,” Lü Bu replied. “He won’t be back that soon.”

“Cao Cao knows something of the art of war,” Gong went on. “We must guard against surprises.”

Lü Bu consented, and selected Commander Gao Shun to lead a relief force to the western encampment. In the early morning, word arrived that, true enough to Chen Gong’s prediction, Gao Shun was fighting with an ambush force of Cao Cao’s for dominancy over the western camp. Lü Bu then split his remaining forces into several groups to relieve Shun, and Cheng Lian was ordered to join with Cao Xing, Hao Meng and Song Xian to attack Cao’s forces from the west. Lian set out immediately and arrived to find Cao Cao attempting to flee the battle. With Lü Bu’s other commanders, Cheng Lian attacked and routed Cao Cao once again, and his entire army consequently retreated. Lü Bu then ordered a return to Puyang.

After the victories of Cao Cao, Cheng Lian joined in several other expeditions against the enemy leader but, after many battles, each side had exhausted their resources and consequently called a truce. Cao retreated to Juancheng, while Cheng Lian joined Lü Bu in moving to Shanyang. Later in the year, word arrived that Yanzhou had been retaken by Cao Cao, who was now moving to attack Puyang. Cheng Lian moved with Lü Bu to defend the city, but when one of its householders, Tian, sealed its gates, Bu was forced to move his army to Dingtao. Cheng Lian took to patrolling the seacoast and gathering crops while stationed at the city with Lü Bu’s other commanders.

In AD 195, reports arrived that Cao Cao was camping his forces 50 li away from Dingtao. Lü Bu went to investigate Cao’s camps and, after returning, called Cheng Lian and the other commanders to council to discuss repelling his attack. Bu said he suspected Cao Cao had an ambush in place in the woods surrounding his camp, to which Chen Gong stepped forward and said, “Cao Cao is full of tricks. Don’t take chances.”

“I am going to burn out his ambush,” Lü Bu replied. He then gathered a force to attack Cao Cao’s position, and Cheng Lian was selected to join in the expedition. The next day, Lian set off with Lü Bu and their forces for the raid.

Cheng Lian soon reached Cao Cao’s camp with Lü Bu. As they were about to commence their attack, loud drums erupted in the air, and a body of enemy troops flashed into view. A score of Cao Cao’s commanders boxed Cheng Lian and Lü Bu in. With Bu, Cheng Lian attempted to cut out an avenue of escape, but an arrow fired by enemy commander Yue Jin pierced him through and killed him. (1)

1: Historically, Cheng Lian wasn’t killed during this battle, but was rather captured and executed at Xiapi just prior to the executions of Gao Shun, Chen Gong and Lü Bu himself. This would place his death at AD 198, not AD 195.

Copyright © 2007 Sam Wrest. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms